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.
Common Names: Mexican redleg tarantula, red-legged tarantula
Scientific Name: Brachypelma emilia
Adult Size: 5 to 6 inches across
Lifespan: 5 years (males), up to 30 years (females)
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 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 or other animals. 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.
Mexican redleg tarantula bites are venomous. The venom typically causes a local reaction similar to a bee sting, but some people with allergies can have more serious reactions and should seek immediate medical care.
Mexican redleg tarantulas generally have a leg span of 5 to 6 inches across. The females tend to be slightly larger than the males.
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.
In the tank, 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.
Specific Substrate Needs
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.
What Do Mexican Redleg Tarantulas Eat & Drink?
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 when kept in the proper environment. In fact, one of the biggest threats 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.
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 normal 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.
Like any animal, tarantulas do need some physical activity to stay at a good weight and remain healthy overall. As long as they have an enclosure that gives them sufficient space to move around, they should get all the exercise they need.
Molting is essentially how Mexican redlegs groom themselves. They typically don't require any help from you outside of making sure their environment is at the right temperature and humidity level and keeping live prey away from them.
On a monthly basis, your primary cost for a Mexican redleg will be its diet. Expect to spend between $5 and $10 on average. You can even save some money by raising crickets yourself to feed your spider, rather than purchasing them from a pet store. Periodic substrate changes can range between $10 and $20. Also, make sure to budget for veterinary care.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Mexican Redleg Tarantula as a Pet
Mexican redlegs make for interesting pets. They’re quiet, and they don’t take up a lot of space. Plus, they don’t require an excessive amount of maintenance. But if you want a cuddly or a very active pet, they probably aren’t right for you.
Similar Tarantulas to the Mexican Redleg
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Purchasing or Adopting Your Mexican Redleg Tarantula
Due to their popularity as pet tarantulas, it’s fairly easy to find Mexican redlegs. Look for a reputable breeder or rescue organization, which should be able to give you information about the animal’s history and health. That way, you can be fairly certain you won’t be bringing home a sick or pregnant spider. Expect to pay around $100 to $200 on average, though this can vary based on factors such as the animal's age and sex.
A local exotic animal veterinarian might be able to recommend a good seller. The main benefit of going to a breeder is it often will have a wider selection of younger animals. Make sure the seller can give you thorough information on the spider’s origin, age, sex, and health. When selecting a spider, avoid any that appear hunched, look shriveled, or have their legs curled under them. Ask to see the spider eat if possible. It should move quickly when hunting its prey. To avoid accidentally becoming a breeder yourself, house your spiders individually.
Does a Mexican redleg tarantula make a good pet for kids?
Mexican redlegs can be interesting pets for kids to keep, as long as they remain out of reach of children who don't understand their handling.
Are Mexican redleg tarantulas hard to take care of?
Mexican redlegs are fairly easy to maintain, with their primary needs revolving around regular feedings and periodic cleanings.
Does a Mexican redleg tarantula like to be held?
Some Mexican redlegs can be comfortable with gentle handling, though they never will become truly tame pets.