Wild Chilean rose tarantulas originate in the deserts and dry grasslands of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. They feed on insects, worms, small lizards, and even small mammals, and they range in color from light grey to a subtle pink to a vibrant rose.
Chilean rose tarantulas are easy to find in pets stores. In fact, this species of spider is widely distributed in North America due to not only the cheap export of wild-caught spiders but also the proliferation of spiders through captive breeding by hobbyists. For the beginner spider keeper, this species makes a superb pet, as its docile demeanor and low level of maintenance require very little effort from its owners.
Common Name: Chilean rose tarantula, rose hair tarantula, Chilean fire tarantula
Scientific Name: Grammostola rosea
Adult Size: Leg span of 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches
Life Expectancy: In captivity, females live up to 20 years; males live 2 to 5 years
Chilean Rose Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
Chilean rose tarantulas who are handled too often can become aggressive or fussy and may raise their front legs to alert you of a potential bite. They also have spine-like hairs on their abdomen that contain a mild venom. These hairs get ejected from their body) when they feel threatened. Called urticating hairs, they can cause an irritating rash on human skin.
This nocturnal spider has a reputation for being calm and submissive. However, the moody nature of this arachnid sometimes makes it appear otherwise. In addition to their typical normal burrowing and tunneling, Chilean rose tarantulas are known for tank redecorating behaviors. These can include filling their water bowl with dirt, unearthing plants, and creating bathroom corners.
Housing the Chilean Rose Tarantula
Chilean rose tarantulas require little space, a feature that makes them coveted by beginner keepers. A small 5- to 10-gallon tank or terrarium is usually suitable. As a general rule, the width of the tarantula's habitat should be three times wider than its leg span and only as tall as the spider is when standing on end.
The enclosure should be escape-proof, preferably with only a side opening; because tarantulas like to hang upside down at the top of the tank, this will prevent the spider from falling each time you need to service the tank. Also, hanging out in the top of the cage is potentially dangerous for this species, as a fall could cause its eggshell-like abdomen to split open, resulting in death.
Your spider's environment should include a hiding space made from a hollowed-out log, a piece of clean driftwood, or a comparable accessory found in pet stores. Cork bark or half of a small, clay flower pot can also be used for a shelter. Artificial plants (or live ones for advanced keepers) provide good additional coverage, helping your pet tarantula to feel calm and safe.
The bedding that lines the floor of your spider's tank allows it to burrow, while also lessening the harshness of the smooth glass or plastic floor. Two to three inches of peat moss, soil, vermiculite, or shredded coconut husk can be used as a substrate. Try to pick a material that can be tamped down. A touch of water may be added to achieve a perfect consistency, but choose a material that will dry out quickly should the water bowl spill. Wet substrates are sure to make a tarantula anxious.
Being desert dwellers, this species of arachnid is very hardy and less sensitive to heat fluctuations; warm desert days and cold desert nights are the norms in their wild habitat. Usually, any temperature that makes you comfortable will also suit your tarantula. Additionally, Chilean rose tarantulas dislike humidity and may become agitated should they discover a damp spot in their cage. Maintaining a dry environment (but not parched) is critical to the proper husbandry of this desert species.
Food and Water
Chilean rose tarantulas favor live crickets and other large, pesticide-free insects as their prime food source. So feeding them correctly also means keeping pet crickets alongside your spider and providing them with a diet that will maximize the nutrient intake to your tarantula. Adult tarantulas usually eat only once or twice a week, whereas immature spiders can be fed more often.
Some keepers suggest giving a full grown-spider the occasional pinky mouse, however, the calcium in the mammal's bones may overwhelm the nutrient needs of the spider. So, supplementing with this food source in captivity is not recommended.
Occasionally, a Chilean rose tarantula will go through a period of fasting, depending on its dietary needs. Should your spider go longer than a few weeks without food or present with a shriveled abdomen, consult your exotics vet to make sure your spider is not injured, dehydrated, malnourished, or stressed. A small water bowl placed inside your pet arachnid's enclosure and changed out daily should keep it sufficiently hydrated. Take care to avoid spills when refreshing it.
Common Health Problems
If your spider tends to climb walls, act erratic, or spend most of its time at the top of its cage, something is off, and it could be as simple as too much humidity in the environment. Maintain the perfect range of 65 to 70 percent humidity by using a relative humidity meter or gauge.
All tarantulas go through periods of molting. This is often a stressful time for your spider. It may not eat, and it may remain still for long periods of time; it may even turn over and lie on it's back. If this happens, do not be alarmed. Your tarantula is not dead; it's just going through a natural but precarious growth process, which if disturbed, could prove fatal. Once the molt is completed, you must refrain from handling your pet for an additional few weeks, as it's new skin had not hardened and is at risk of tearing. Any damage will be permanent and potentially fatal.
Purchasing Your Chilean Rose Tarantula
Purchasing a Chilean rose tarantula from a pet store is acceptable as long as you assure this new pet has been kept in superb conditions. It is wise, however, to search out a breeder as they are usually more conscientious than retail stores. Also, buying from a breeder assures you're not supporting an industry that is depleting this species in the wild.
Note that most pet stores sell only the short-lived males because long-lived females are much more expensive. Once mature, male spiders will search for a female to mate with and if one is unavailable, it will die soon after its first year. You can identify a male tarantula by its enlarged pedipalps (the second pair of legs from the front). If you want a very long-lived pet or want to eventually breed them, begin by purchasing a healthy female.
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