The Curly Hair Tarantula
A very good first pet tarantula
This is based on my experience with my recently deceased pet of 8+ yrs, my female curly hair tarantula- "Stitch". I obtained her in the spring of 2001 from a captive breeder out of California called Spider Patch. I highly recommend them for their knowledge, healthy animals and even giving you an actual birth certificate of your animal with your shipment. They deliver what is promised on their website from size, price etc.
The Honduran curly hair or woolly tarantula is from the well known family of Brachypelma. This family species includes the Mexican red knee & red legs and all three are considered hardy and docile tarantulas. This species along with the popular and easily available Chilean rose hair are very easy to take care of and rewarding pets for a beginner.
Size & Appearance
The curly hair is exactly its name sake. The brown caraspace(mid section), abdomen & legs are brown with light brown to blonde curly hairs covering the body. Viewing it in a certain light gives the appearance of "glowing curls". When I got Stitch, she was 5 wks old and had a leg span of about 1". At her death, her leg span was easily 6", I considered her a large tarantula.
Stitch's enclosure was a 10 gal aquarium with a locking screen lid, although she had never attempted to climb the sides like my past chilean rose would, you still wouldn't want to risk the possibility of escape. She has a bedding made of vermiculite covering about 3 inches, a shallow water dish, a hiding place which was a decorative half log and a few artificial plants for scenery. Most ground dwelling and burrowing tarantulas are set up the same way.
Heating, Lighting & Humidity
The main heat source I used was an undertank heating pad on the non water side of the tank and it kept the temp between 75-80 degrees, the perfect temp for this species. I put the stick on thermometer on the "hot side". The temperature would vary a few degrees from side to side. No addtional lighting is required because tarantulas unlike lizards don't need to bask or have a UV ray requirement to survive. The humidity should stay between 60-70% and can be checked with a stick on indicator. I usually would spray the tank once a day and between that and the water dish it would stay constant.
Curly hair tarantulas, like most will feed on small insects. I fed mine mostly different size crickets, depending on the spider's size and I would sprinkle the food with a vitamin supplement. A lot of people deem this unnecessary but after keeping all of the lizard pets that I've had, it became a habit and it can't hurt.. The main thing is if you catch them outside you have to be sure they are non pesticide specimens or it will kill your spider. The pet store is the safest bet. While they are young they will readily eat once a week, between 5-7 crickets. As they grow older I would still offer once a week but usually they won't accept. I would put a dozen in the tank at a time along with a food source for the prey such as potato or fruit and also a piece of egg carton for a hiding place. This way the crickets won't attack the spider and she can hunt and eat at will. I would watch to see how many she has eaten and not leave them all in if she shows no interest.
This is a subject that is most debated, "to hold or not to hold"?? I personally think handling is not a good idea and not because of them harming you but of you harming them. A drop of even a few inches will kill a tarantula or at least injure it badly so why risk it. If you want some interaction with your pet then place your hand into the tank and prod the spider gently to walk onto your hand. I would do this when cleaning her tank so I could put her into something else but not walk around the house with your spider or try to get it to walk from hand to hand. Spiders have very poor eyesight so she will think your hand is just some uneven walking surface and not a threat. If you actually pick her up, grasping between the legs, she will think she is getting eaten and go into a paralysed state, why stress out your spider. I've always viewed a tarantula like a fish, just observe its behavior and leave a lone.
Molting & Sexing
Molting is the most stressful time in a tarantula's life but the most exciting for a pet owner to observe. They will turn completely upside down with their legs outspread and lay motionless for hours. During that time if you are lucky enough to see, she will split her body down the middle and a new spider will emerge from the old skin. They carry their skeletons on the outside so as they grow they become too large for their skin. The new spider will be a slightly larger twin of itself except for a softer body and white fangs. The body will harden and the fangs will blacken over the next several days. Don't offer food during this period because the tarantula is defenseless. Once they begin moving freely and the fangs are blackened then you can offer some food. Spiders will molt several times when they are young and once a year or less when they become adults.
Usually by the 2nd or 3rd molt, at least that's how it was with Stitch and my former chilean rose male, you will know the sex of your spider. If you have a male the appearance will be a lot more noticable. The addomen will be smaller, legs will be longer and the overall body be slender instead of plump and rounded. The small set of legs (pedipalps) will develop rounded extensions, like boxing gloves, used for mating. The first set of legs will also bear hooks that are used to keep the females fangs trapped while they mate. A female will look pretty much the same, that's why I would give it a few molts before you decide. After the male has his maturing molt his life is almost over. He will go through a mating preparation process and die shortly after, anywhere from 6 months to 1 yr. The female will live anywhere from 5-10 yrs. Stitch nearly made the 10 yr mark. Some species such as the mexican red knees, the females could last 25-30 yrs. The males are always shorter.
I've always been fascinated by tarantulas and I enjoyed the nearly 9 yrs that I spent with Stitch. My former chilean rose male, Samson only lived a few years so I didn't get so lucky with him. Curly hairs are slightly more expensive than chilean rose haired but a lot less than the mexican red knees. I highly recommend giving this spider a look.