Pet tarantulas aren't for everyone (especially if you have a fear of spiders). But for some, a spider's quiet demeanor and the fact that they are relatively easy to care for makes them a perfect arachnid companion. Pink toe tarantulas (otherwise known as Antilles tree spiders) get their name from the popular pinkish-orange toes that sprout off of furry black legs. Native to South America, these fast-moving, yet docile, creatures make the perfect first pet for conscientious spider lovers who will keep both their environment and their prey in tip-top condition.
Common Name: Pink Toe Tarantula
Scientific Name: Avicularia versicolor
Adult Size: The pink toe tarantula has a leg span of 3 1/2 to 5 inches.
Life Expectancy: Female pink toe tarantulas live up to 10 years, while males live slightly less.
Difficulty of Care: Intermediate. They rarely bite, but they are quick and jump when startled.
Pink Toe Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
Pink toe tarantulas are arboreal (they live in trees), making them extremely agile in nature. They rarely bite but can jump out of your hands and flick their hairs at you if they feel threatened. When they get nervous or scared, pink toes may spray fecal matter as a defense mechanism. (Yuck!) If this happens, back away and give your spider time alone.
Handling your pink toe helps acquaint it to you, the owner, and its new surroundings. But do so gently and while sitting on the ground. Due to their quick nature, a startled spider may react by jumping. The fall won't be as hard or as far if you're closer to the ground. And don't pin down your spider to hold it still or handle it after molting. Its new exoskeleton will be extremely soft and sensitive.
Housing the Pink Toe Tarantula
Pink toe tarantulas need a taller tank than other terrestrial species for ample room to climb. A 10-gallon tank with a secure side opening works best. Since tarantulas spin their webs up high, a side opening prevents damage to the web every time you go to feed it. Make sure the opening, or lid, is escape proof, too. A free-range tarantula is not only in danger of being hurt (or killed), but it's likely to scare a neighbor if it's found.
The tank should contain 2 to 3 inches of peat moss or soil (free of fertilizers or pesticides), as well as logs, branches, and live plants for climbing. Peruse pet stores for reptile or bird accessories that work well for pet tarantulas too. Decorative gardening items and clean yard scraps also make great playscapes for spiders.
Pink toes can share their captive home with others of the same species, but solitary housing removes the threat of cannibalism—a situation that can occur in tight quarters or with poor husbandry.
A hardy species of tarantulas, pink toes can tolerate a wide temperature range from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, in ideal conditions, the enclosure shouldn't fluctuate lower than 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher than 82 degrees Fahrenheit. So unless you live in a climate that stays this warm year round (and you don't have air conditioning), a supplemental heat source is crucial. Under-tank heaters and basic reptile heat lights provide the correct amount of ambient heat needed for warming a tarantula cage.
To mimic your spider's native environment of Costa Rica or Brazil, humidity levels of 65 to 75 percent also need to be maintained. In fact, keeping the humidity level high is one of the most important and difficult parts of owning a pink toe tarantula. Accomplish this by adding a sponge soaked in water to the cage. Then, follow it up by misting the cage with a spray bottle every two to three days. Not only does this provide humidity for your pet, but it also benefits the live plants in the enclosure.
Food and Water
Spiders love crickets and other large insects, making pet ownership a two-part project since you'll need to keep and feed crickets alongside your arachnid. Adult pink toes tend to eat a few crickets every three to 10 days and young spiders need similar nourishment every two to five days. But the appetite of your tarantula lies mainly in the hunt, making it essential to feed it live and spry crickets. (Note: If you catch your own crickets, assure they haven't been dining on pesticide-laden plants.) And adult tarantulas—being opportunists—occasionally devour a pinky mouse or small lizard as a treat.
Feed your tarantula at night and make sure to remove any uneaten food or remains 24 hours after feeding (especially if was fed a mouse or reptile). This practice maintains the health of your spider's environment and removes any foreign objects that may eventually cause it undue stress.
Your tarantula's habitat must also have a clean water source, separate from any humidity-creating devices. Place a few small water bowls throughout the enclosure and make sure to clean them and provide fresh water daily.
8 Tips for Keeping Tarantulas as Pets
Common Health Problems
Tarantulas, in general, rarely fall ill in captivity. Yet, any change in behavior such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or pacing can be a sign that something is wrong. An unkempt habitat, parasites, or dehydration can cause sickness in a spider. But usually correcting the underlying cause (like cleaning the tank or maintaining better care practices), quickly remedies the situation.
Some spider owners mistake the molting cycle for a sickness, especially when a tarantula is belly-side up in its cage. But before an actual molt happens, it is natural for a spider to seem off, as it's preparing not only to shed its skin, but also cast off the lining of its mouth, respiratory organs, stomach, and sexual organs. Allow several weeks for this process to complete itself and take care with your new-skinned tarantula. Eventually, it will go back to its normal behavior pattern.
Choosing Your Pet Pink Toe Tarantula
A once abundant spider in pet shops, the availability of pink toe imports has declined since the 1990s. However, today, spider enthusiasts stateside breed and sell these creatures to pet owners. You can source them online from reptile dealers like Backwater Reptiles or contact your local pet store for a regional source.
Are Pink Toe Tarantulas Poisonous?
While it's rare for a pink toe to ever bite a human, it is not an impossible encounter. And if it does, the venom in a pink toe tarantula seldom causes a systemic reaction. Temporary, localized swelling and a bite mark may be all that presents itself. However, if you or someone in your family is allergic to spider bites, call your doctor if bitten. Swelling due to a histamine reaction can cause excessive inflammation, respiratory distress, or anaphylactic shock.
Similar Species to the Pink Toe Tarantula
If you’re interested in pet tarantulas, check out these three tarantulas, which might also be good pets:
Otherwise, check other tarantulas that can be your new pet.