A spider's quiet demeanor, minimal space requirements, and relative ease of care can make it a great option for an exotic pet. Pink toe tarantulas, sometimes referred to as Antilles tree spiders, get their name from their pinkish-orange toes that sprout off of furry black legs. Native to South America, these fast-moving, agile creatures live in trees where they spin elaborate webs. As pets, they require housing that mimics their natural habitat, along with live prey. And while some people do handle their spiders, these animals are more for your enjoyment as you watch their interesting behaviors.
Common Name: Pink toe tarantula
Scientific Name: Avicularia versicolor
Adult Size: Leg span of 3.5 to 5 inches
Life Expectancy: Up to 10 years (females generally live longer than males)
Pink Toe Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
As pets, pink toe tarantulas are quiet animals and will spend much of their time sitting in a restful state in their enclosure. In general, the most activity you'll see from them is when they're hunting their live prey, such as crickets, at feeding time. Expect to spend a few hours each week on feedings and keeping the enclosure clean.
These tarantulas can share an enclosure with others of the same species, though they don't necessarily need the company. Solitary housing removes the threat of cannibalism, a situation that can occur when the spiders are living in tight quarters or are otherwise stressed. Likewise, it's best to keep your tarantula away from any other pets in the household, as they could injure one another.
While some owners prefer not to handle their spiders, others enjoy it. And if you do it calmly and gently, the spider typically won't mind sitting on your hand or arm. However, pink toe tarantulas do tend to be skittish and might try to jump out of your hands if they're startled. This is why it's important to handle your spider while sitting on the ground. If it does accidentally fall, it will be less likely to get hurt. A fall from even just a few feet can cause serious injury or even be fatal to a spider.
Moreover, a pink toe tarantula might bite if it feels threatened. The spider does have toxic venom that typically causes a local reaction of redness, swelling, and pain similar to a bee sting. However, some people who are allergic to the venom can have more serious reactions, such as difficulty breathing, and should seek immediate medical care.
8 Tips for Keeping Tarantulas as Pets
Housing the Pink Toe Tarantula
An enclosure with some height is necessary for these tree-dwelling spiders. A 10-gallon tank with a secure side opening can work well. Because pink toe tarantulas spin their webs up high, the side opening prevents damage to the web any time you need to open the enclosure for feedings or cleaning.
The tank should contain 2 to 3 inches of peat moss or soil (free of fertilizers and pesticides) at the bottom, as well as small logs, branches, and live plants for climbing. Peruse pet stores for reptile and bird accessories—especially the natural branches—as these often work well for pet tarantulas to climb on.
Pink toes can tolerate a wide temperature range from around 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, ideally the enclosure temperature should be between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Under-tank heaters and reptile heat lights can provide the correct amount of ambient heat. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer in the tank.
In the wild, pink toes live in humid climates, so it's important to maintain a humidity level between 65 percent and 75 percent in your spider's enclosure. In fact, keeping the humidity level high can be one of the most difficult parts of having a pink toe tarantula. To raise humidity, you can add a sponge soaked in water to the bottom of the enclosure, as well as mist the enclosure every two to three days with clean water in a spray bottle. Not only will this provide humidity for your pet, but it also will benefit any live plants in the enclosure. Monitor the humidity level with a hygrometer.
To keep the enclosure clean, remove any uneaten prey after 24 hours. Also, monitor for mold growth, which can occur in a humid environment. Immediately remove any portions of the peat moss or soil bedding that start to grow mold. And expect to do a full change of the bedding roughly every four to six months.
Food and Water
Spiders love crickets and other insects, making pet ownership a two-part project because you'll need to keep and feed live crickets alongside your arachnid. The crickets should be gut-loaded (fed nutritious foods) prior to giving them to your spider.
Dropping live prey into the bottom of the enclosure should whet your spider's appetite, whereas the spider might ignore dead insects. Adult pink toes generally eat a few crickets every three to 10 days, and young spiders need similar nourishment every two to five days. You also can give an adult tarantula the occasional pinky mouse or small lizard as a treat. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for the appropriate amount and variety to feed your particular animal.
It's recommended to feed a tarantula in the evening when it's more active and ready to eat. Leave the prey in the enclosure overnight, but be sure to remove anything that is uneaten within 24 hours. Prey left in the enclosure that your tarantula doesn't want can actually stress the spider.
Finally, your tarantula's habitat must always have a clean water source. Place a few small, shallow water bowls throughout the enclosure, and wash and refill them daily.
Common Health Problems
Tarantulas are generally hardy animals that don't face many health problems in captivity. But you still should monitor for any changes in behavior, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or pacing in the enclosure. These can indicate a potential health issue, and you should consult a veterinarian who specializes in tarantulas as soon as possible.
Some owners mistake the spider's molting cycle for sickness. Molting takes place when a spider sheds its exoskeleton to form a new one. Before a molt, a spider might lose its appetite and seem a little sluggish and dull. Many spiders molt while lying on their backs with their legs curled up, which can alarm owners who aren't familiar with the process. The actual molt only takes a few hours, but then the new exoskeleton needs time to harden and become protective. The whole process is typically over in a few weeks, and your spider should resume its normal behavior. If it hasn't, or if the molt seems to be more difficult or taking longer than normal, consult your veterinarian.
Purchasing Your Pink Toe Tarantula
Pink toe tarantulas are legal to keep in most areas, though certain local laws and landlord regulations might restrict them. You might not find a pink toe at a typical pet store. So instead look for a reputable breeder or exotic pet rescue organization. A local exotic veterinarian might be able to direct you to a good seller. Expect to pay between $20 and $40 on average.
The seller should be able to give you thorough information on the spider's origin and health. Make sure you learn its age and gender. When selecting your spider, look for one that is alert and moves quickly. Avoid any that are hunched with their legs curled under them. Also, ask to see the spider eat, if possible.
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