Native to the Southwestern U.S. and parts of Mexico, desert blond tarantulas are common in the pet trade. They are generally easy to care for and docile, making good pets for first-time tarantula owners. Still, like any tarantula, they might defend themselves if they feel threatened. The females are tan in color while the males have black legs and a red abdomen. As pets, desert blond tarantulas require housing that mimics their natural habitat as well as live prey.
Common Names: Desert blond tarantula, western desert tarantula, Arizona blond tarantula, Mexican blond tarantula
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
Adult Size: Roughly 5-inch leg span
Lifespan: Up to 30 years (females), 5 to 10 years (males)
Desert Blond Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
In the wild, these tarantulas dig long, deep burrows; they produce a silk-like thread to use as a covering over the entrance. The silk not only entraps prey, but it also helps to reinforce the burrow. As pets, desert blond tarantulas usually remain in the open and are fun to watch as they dig and climb, though they are mostly active at night. They are quiet and solitary animals that should be housed alone. They also should be kept away from other household pets to avoid stress and injury.
Desert blond tarantulas are typically restful and easygoing animals. Plan to spend a few hours on feeding and cleaning per week, and then just enjoy watching your spider. Some are comfortable with gentle handling, though they should never be squeezed or jostled. It's also important to sit on the floor when you handle your spider, as even a drop from a few feet can be seriously damaging to this animal.
But like other tarantulas, these spiders do have a venomous bite. They are also able to flick barbed hairs from their abdomens at perceived threats, which can cause skin irritation and be very damaging if they get in your eyes. So you should always wash your hands after handling your tarantula or anything in its enclosure.
Tarantula venom is toxic and will cause a reaction that's similar to a bee sting in most people. However, some people with allergies might have more serious reactions and should seek immediate medical attention.
Desert blond tarantulas have a leg span that stretches around 5 inches across. The female spiders have slightly larger bodies than the males.
A 5- to 10-gallon plastic or glass tank with a secure top that has ventilation is suitable for desert blond tarantulas. As a general rule, the length of the tank should be three times the spider’s leg span, the width should be two to three times the leg span, and the height should be about a foot. Avoid very tall tanks, as these spiders do climb and can be injured if they fall from a great height.
It’s best to keep the tank between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though as desert dwellers these tarantulas are fairly hardy to temperature fluctuations. A humidity level between 65 and 70 percent is ideal, which can be measured using a hydrometer.
Within the tank, add cork bark, half a hollow log, half a small clay flower pot on its side, or something similar that the spider can use as shelter.
Specific Substrate Needs
Three or more inches of peat moss, soil, or vermiculite can be used as a substrate. Plan to change the substrate roughly every four to six months.
What Do Desert Blond Tarantulas Eat & Drink?
Feed your desert blond tarantula live crickets and other insects, such as mealworms and roaches. As a general rule, the insect should be smaller than the spider’s body. The crickets should be gut-loaded (fed nutritious foods), so that nutrition passes on to your spider.
Adult tarantulas usually eat once or twice a week while juveniles can eat every day or two. Consult your vet for the proper quantity and frequency to feed for your particular spider. To feed, simply drop the live prey near your spider. Remove any unwanted food after 24 hours, as it can begin to stress the spider.
Also, always keep a shallow dish of fresh water in the enclosure. Make sure your spider can get in and out of the dish easily, as deep water can be a drowning hazard. Refresh the water daily.
Common Health Problems
As pets, desert blond tarantulas are typically very hardy and don’t often have health problems as long as they’re kept in the proper environment.
A natural occurrence that some new owners might mistake as a health problem is the spider’s molting process. This is when tarantulas shed their old exoskeleton and form a new one. During the process, the spider might become very lethargic and lose its appetite. It might even roll onto its back with its legs curled, appearing dead.
The whole molting process can take a few weeks. Don’t handle your spider during this time, as this can damage the fragile new exoskeleton. Likewise, refrain from feeding live prey until the exoskeleton hardens. If you think the molt is abnormal or taking too long, consult an exotic pet veterinarian.
Tarantulas need exercise like any animal to keep them in good body condition and help prevent illness. However, they don't require an excessive amount. As long as their enclosure is sufficiently sized, they should be able to get the physical activity they need.
Desert blond tarantulas groom themselves via their molting process. And they generally don't require any help from you during this time. Just make sure their environment is at the proper temperature and humidity to keep them comfortable.
From month to month, your main cost for a desert blond tarantula will be its diet. Expect to spend between $5 and $10 on average. You can lessen this cost by raising crickets yourself rather than purchasing them from a pet store. For periodic substrate changes, as well as replacing anything that's worn in the enclosure, plan to spend around $10 to $20. Also, don't forget to budget for routine veterinary care and emergencies.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Desert Blond Tarantula as a Pet
Desert blond tarantulas are interesting pets to keep. They're also quiet, don't take up much space, and don't need a lot of attention. However, if you want a very active pet, they probably won't be right for you. And you must handle them with care due to their defense mechanisms.
Similar Spiders to the Desert Blond Tarantula
If you're interested in pet tarantulas, check out:
Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that can be your new pet.
Purchasing or Adopting Your Desert Blond Tarantula
You might be able to find a desert blond tarantula at a pet shop, but it’s better to go through a reputable breeder or rescue group. That way, you’ll be more likely to get adequate information on the animal’s health and history. Expect to pay around $50 on average, though this can vary based on factors such as age. Also, females generally cost more because they live longer.
Check with local exotic animal veterinarians to find a good tarantula breeder or rescue organization. The main benefit of going to a breeder is you’ll probably have a wider selection of younger animals. Always try to see the animals in person before bringing one home. Note whether the spider appears to be in good body condition and alert, and ask to see it eat if possible (as appetite often correlates with health). Finally, to avoid becoming an accidental breeder yourself, keep multiple tarantulas housed individually.
Does the desert blond tarantula make a good pet for kids?
Desert blond tarantulas can be good pets for kids who understand their handling limitations. The children also must be comfortable with feeding live prey.
Are desert blond tarantulas hard to take care of?
Desert blond tarantulas are generally low-maintenance pets, requiring feedings each week and periodic substrate changes.
Does the desert blond tarantula like to be held?
These spiders have a generally docile demeanor, and some are comfortable with gentle handling. However, they will never be cuddly or tame pets.
Tarantulas: Terrible or Terrific! Cornell University
Tarantula Spider Bite Information. Mount Sinai Health System.
When Your Pet Has Eight Legs. University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine