Mexican Redleg Tarantula: Species Profile

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Mexican redleg tarantula

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The Mexican redleg tarantula, also known as the red-legged tarantula, is a large, ground-dwelling spider that’s native primarily to western Mexico. It’s closely related to the Mexican red-knee tarantula. Mexican redleg tarantulas have a dark abdomen, and the second joint of their legs is a reddish color—hence their name. As pets, they are known for being easygoing spiders, and they are relatively easy to care for. Their housing takes up minimal space, and their diet is fairly straightforward. 

Species Overview

Common Name: Mexican redleg tarantula, red-legged tarantula

Scientific Name: Brachypelma emilia

Adult Size: Leg span of around 5 to 6 inches

Life Expectancy: Males live around five years while females can live up to 30 years.

Mexican Redleg Tarantula Behavior and Temperament

Mexican redleg tarantulas are one of the most docile spiders in the pet trade, which is why they are quite popular among arachnid keepers. These spiders rarely bite, though it's important to note their bite is venomous and typically will cause local pain and swelling. (Some people can have more serious allergic reactions, such as trouble breathing.) But like other tarantulas they possess urticating hairs, or sharp bristles, on their abdomens that they can flick at a perceived attacker if they feel threatened. These hairs can cause pain, inflammation, and rashes on a person’s skin, and they can do serious damage if they get in your eyes. So it's important to wash your hands well after handling your spider or anything in its environment.

These spiders don't need socialization with humans. But thanks to their docile demeanor, many Mexican redleg tarantulas are relatively calm when being handled. If you wish to handle your spider, do so gently and carefully. And keep the handling sessions short to avoid causing any stress to the spider. It’s ideal to sit on the floor when handling, as an accidental fall from even a few feet can seriously injure a spider. Moreover, keep any other household pets away from your tarantula to avoid potential injuries.

Mexican redleg tarantulas can be an excellent choice if you're looking for a pet that is quiet and doesn't require lots of attention. Plan to spend a few hours per week on feedings and cleaning. Otherwise, you simply can enjoy watching this interesting animal. Tarantulas mostly maintain a restful demeanor except for when they are hunting their prey. When they hunt, they might follow the prey around for a little while before pouncing. Or they might hold still and then quickly pounce once the prey crosses in front of them.

Housing the Mexican Redleg Tarantula

Tarantulas aren't social creatures, so they typically should be housed alone in their enclosure. A 5- to 10-gallon aquarium works well for a Mexican redleg tarantula. The width should be two to three times the spider’s leg span, and the length should be three times the leg span. A height of around a foot is fine, as these spiders generally don't climb. A larger tank isn’t necessarily better, as this can make it difficult for the spider to find its prey. Make sure the tank has a securely fitting screen top for airflow.

Because these spiders like to burrow, provide 4 to 6 inches of peat moss, chemical-free soil, or vermiculite as bedding on the bottom of the tank. Also, add pieces of wood or cork bark, a half hollow log (often available at pet stores), half of a small clay flower pot, or other materials that could work as a hideout for your spider. 

The tank humidity level should be around 65% to 70%, which can be measured with a hygrometer. If necessary, you can raise humidity by spraying the tank with clean water from a spray bottle.

Moreover, the tank temperature should be around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 30 degrees Celsius). It’s ideal to create a thermal gradient in the tank with one side that’s warmer than the other. To achieve this, place a heat mat or ceramic heat emitter on one side of the tank, keeping that side around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Regularly measure the tank temperature with a thermometer.

In general, plan to do a full cleaning of the enclosure every four to six months where you change all the bedding and wipe down the surfaces with mild soap and water. Also, make sure to remove any uneaten food within 24 hours to help keep the environment sanitary.

Food and Water

Live crickets will typically be the primary food in your pet Mexican redleg’s diet. But these spiders also can eat mealworms, waxworms, roaches, and other insects. And adults can have the occasional pinkie mouse. The general rule is the size of the food should be smaller than the tarantula’s body. 

Most owners feed their Mexican redlegs twice a week simply by dropping the prey into the tank near the spider. It’s often best to feed in the evening when the spider is more active. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate quantity and variety to feed your spider, as this can vary with age and size. 

Also, always provide a small, shallow dish of water in your spider’s enclosure that you refresh daily. Make sure your spider can easily get in and out of the dish to prevent drowning. 

Common Health Problems

Tarantulas are typically hardy pets that rarely display health problems. In fact, the biggest threat to their health is an accidental fall from a great height. A fall can cause serious internal injuries and often ends up being fatal. So this is why it’s critical that your spider’s tank has a secure lid and that you are very careful with handling. 

Dehydration also is a possibility for your Mexican redleg if its enclosure isn’t humid enough. These spiders generally take in most of their hydration from their prey and environment, not by drinking water. If your spider appears slightly shriveled or is lethargic, check the humidity level and mist the tank if it’s too low.

Furthermore, like other tarantulas, Mexican redlegs will go through molts—shedding their old exoskeleton and growing a new one. This is a stressful process that can take several weeks to complete. Your spider likely will lose its appetite prior to molting, and during the process, it might roll onto its back with its legs curled up. Don’t feed your spider during the molting process, as live prey can injure it while its new exoskeleton is hardening. Also, don’t handle the spider during this time. Wait until your spider is acting normally again before resuming its regular routine. In adult tarantulas, molting generally takes place annually. However, Mexican redlegs have been known to miss molts, which is typically not a cause for concern.

Purchasing Your Mexican Redleg Tarantula

Mexican redleg tarantulas are legal to keep in most areas, but it’s important that you acquire a captive-bred animal. To protect the species, there are laws that prohibit the removal of wild spiders from their habitat for the pet trade, but illegal smuggling still exists. So it’s best to go to a reputable breeder that can assure you the tarantula was captive-bred. You also can go to a rescue organization. Due to their popularity, it’s fairly easy to find a breeder or rescue with these tarantulas. You can ask a local exotic animal veterinarian to recommend a good seller. Expect to pay around $100 to $200 on average.

Make sure the seller can give you thorough information on the spider’s origin, age, gender, and health. When selecting a spider, avoid any that appear hunched, shriveled, or have their legs curled under them. Ask to see the spider eat if possible. It should move quickly when hunting its prey.

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