Other common names: Hispaniolan Giant Tarantula
Scientific name: Phormictopus cancerides
The Haitian Brown Tarantula is a terrestrial, burrowing species which is native to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. It is a nocturnal tarantula, and emerges from its burrow under logs and rocks to feed on insects, rodents and small lizards.
The Haitian Brown is a handsome, large and desirable species for advanced invert keepers. However, it is known to be an aggressive tarantula, with a painful venom, and is considered to be a display species only.
Appearance / health:
The Haitian Brown Tarantula may grow as large as nine inches in size. Although blue as spiderlings, adults exhibit purple or bronze coloration. Some Haitian browns may be dull in color, while others appear more vibrant.
Behavior / temperament:
Haitian Brown Tarantulas are a defensive and aggressive species. They will not hesitate to flick hairs at any perceived threat. If flicking the hairs off its abdomen doesn’t work, and it still feels threatened, it will not hesitate to begin biting. Because of their aggressive temperament, it’s not recommended for beginners. These make great display pets for more advanced and expert keepers.
A large cage is needed to house an adult. A 15-20 gallon tank will be suitable. Floor space is more important than height. Young tarantulas and spiderlings may live in clear plastic containers until large enough to be placed in the adult enclosure.
The Haitian Brown Tarantula should be kept at temperatures of between 22-28 °C which can even decrease under 20 °C in the night. The difference between temperature during the day and the night is important if one wants to breed this species.
A diet of four to six crickets every two weeks is recommended.
awesome display spiders, beautiful purple sheen, intense appetites
formidable fangs, cute little sling, defensive spiders, bluish colored sling
My Brown Haitian Tarantula
During my first year at college, my roommate and I did not get on-campus housing. This was both a blessing and a curse. We were placed in off-campus apartments, close to campus – a blessing because we were less supervised and a curse for the same reason. One of the many decisions I made, which I would not have been able to make, was to pursue my fascination with animals and purchase a brown Haitian tarantula from a pet store. It was early 1982, there was no Internet, I did no homework (other than asking the pet store employee a few basic questions) and I came back to surprise my roommate, Bob, with our new pet. We are great friends today. Back then, it was still a big question mark.
I did my best to take care of Caesar (was he male?) and I did purchase one of those small eight by five inch booklets “all about” tarantulas in an effort to do my best to care for it properly. I had the ten-gallon terrarium set up with a warming lamp and I think I had a heated rock (thirty-two years ago!) together with stones, a sandy area, and ending in a small area with water.
So, do tarantulas make good pets? Like any other pet, it depends on whether or not you are willing to care for it and what you expect to get in return, right? Obviously, a tarantula is not going to crawl up your chest and cuddle up under your chin! And this brings up an interesting point. To this day, I am shocked to hear that most people believe tarantulas are poisonous. They are NOT, tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, and there is NO record of a tarantula ever causing a human fatality, anywhere! But, if you own a tarantula, you can (as I did) misinform people that they are indeed extremely poisonous while you let it crawl all over your arms and hands. You do come across very brave, as well as crazy. It is also fun to see the extent of arachnophobia in some people – I’ve had some relatives, well over 200 pounds, that refuse to enter my apartment, even if Caesar was in his terrarium. Caesar also made a faint hissing sound sometimes… and that added to the fun of tormenting others!
Now, some species of tarantulas – including the brown Haitian, do have significant fangs and if you are bitten – you will know it! Caesar bit me once… it was entirely my fault, my hand was in his space while there were crickets (his meal of choice) bouncing around and I deserved it. I am just glad I didn’t hurt him from being startled. Note that, like a bee sting, some people can be allergic to the venom of a tarantula – so in that rare case, if you happen to be allergic, you’d need to get to an emergency room. For the allergy, not because you might die! A great way to find out how aggressive your spider is: when you first handle him, wear a pair of gloves thick enough to fend off those fangs until you are comfortable enough to go barehanded. Typically, a tarantula will “rear back” prior to biting (kind of stand up on it’s rear legs) giving you some notice of a bite and you may have time to pull away.
But I digress. Other things to know about brown Haitians (and tarantulas in general) are that they are extremely fragile, so they must be handled with extreme care. If one were to drop from even a couple of feet, it would shatter this invertebrate’s exoskeleton, killing it instantly.
I fed my Caesar almost exclusively insects, mostly crickets, because they are easily purchased at most pet stores, and because he liked them. Other than that, it’s important to make sure clean water is available; I also had a small, clean, wet sponge inside – I must have read that somewhere?
If you want your tarantula to survive, you must keep the terrarium very clean. Tarantulas poop… they are very small (round) poops, but nonetheless they attract parasites and mold that will kill your spider very quickly. If you are not up to cleaning his home regularly, don’t make this investment! It is just money and a tarantula down the drain. What a waste that is.
In the end, I could not keep Caesar. My mother refused to allow me to keep him in HER house after my first year in college. So, he was adopted by a friend who did take good care of him and for several years, I did get updates. Lesson learned!
Now we have the Internet so DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Learn everything, good and bad, about a potential pet! It is the only fair thing to do for everyone involved, especially the pet, and it avoids heartbreak down the road.
Best of Luck, Boston John.
From BostonJohn Sep 26 2014 12:25PM
These are big, feisty, awesome display spiders for sure!
If you're looking for something large (6-8" or bigger), but aren't quite in the market for one of the more well known T. blondi "goliath" species, this is a great alternative. P. cancerides are very hardy, and easy to take care of. They start out as bright blue spiderlings, and turn into brown adults with a hint of purple that's visible only after a molt. Mature males will be very purple after their ultimate molt.
If you want something with a little more color, P. cancerides does have a color variant known in the hobby as Phormictopus sp. 'Purple.' It's a variation of P. cancerides that is intensely purple, and is only found in one certain locale in the world, but is now being captive bred in the tarantula keeping hobby.
P. cancerides are very, very defensive. Though they are New World, and possess urticating hairs, these spiders would much rather charge and bite than flick. They should definitely not be handled.
P. cancerides also have intense appetites and will eat almost anything and everything you offer them. They are relatively fast growing, and very active, and once about 3" in size, they prefer to stay visible most of the time, making them great display spiders..
From HeartlandInvert Jul 14 2014 3:02PM