Other common names: Red Knee Tarantula; Mexican Orange Knee Tarantula
Scientific name: Brachypelma Smithi
The Mexican Red Knee Tarantula is a terrestrial species from the Pacific side of Mexico, which lives in scrublands and deserts.
In 1985, Brachypelma Smithi was listed as endangered by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) because the wild-caught specimens shipped for the pet market were decreasing in size. However, captive bred Mexican Red Knee Tarantulas are now widely available, and the species is a popular beginner tarantula.
Appearance / health:
A full grown Red Knee can be up to and over 5 inches. They are primarily black with bright orange to red colors on their body, especially in the leg joints, thus giving it its name.
Behavior / temperament:
The Red-kneed Tarantula is one of the most docile species available in captivity. They may rear up when agitated and will even occasionally flick urticating hairs, but after a short display, they will usually just walk away. These tarantulas make wonderful pets especially for beginners.
Spiderlings can live in a clear plastic container with air holes. Adults can live in a 5 to 10-gallon tank. Floor space is more important than height.
Humidity should be kept between 75-80%. Substrate should be about 2-3 inches of peat moss, potting soil, or eco earth (bed-a-beast). Water may be provided in a shallow dish that’s changed frequently. Provide hiding spots such as cork bark, half buried plant pots, tree bark, etc.
The Red Knee Tarantula feeds voraciously on large insects, and adults can be fed an occasional pinkie mouse.
The male should be introduced to the female when he starts making a sperm web. He will approach the females burrow and lure her out by tapping and vibrating his legs. The pair should be separated at the first sign of female aggression. The male will then lunge at the female and grab a hold of her fangs and move the female to an upright position to give himself access to the female for mating. The male will insert either the left pedipalp, right pedipalp, into the female and inject the fertilizing fluid. After mating, egg sac will likely appear between two and eight months later and the spiderlings will emerge after about 90 days. Keep an eye on the female and the egg sac, as it has been noted that females are likely to eat their own egg sacs.
Nice temperament, good display spider, Gorgeous beginner species, voracious eaters, docile species
irritating hairs, feeder crickets escape
shallow drinking dish, proper humidity level, hide, shredded coconut bark
Along came a spider...
To many people, the tarantula is a strange little creature, filled with fear and nightmares. But to my daughter, a strange little creature in her own right, they are the ideal pet.
Ashley acquired her tarantula—she named him Spike—in the summer of 1999 when she was only 10 years old. She immediately fell in love with her somewhat furry friend (that’s right, tarantulas have hair on their bodies).
Taking care of Spike was second nature to Ashley. She loved to let him crawl on her arms, and he seemed to love doing it!
Dinner time was quite an adventure. Ashley trapped crickets in the yard and watched in fascination while Spike performed his ‘dinner dance’ prior to pouncing on and devouring his victim. He only needed feeding a couple of times a week, so Ashley never grew tired of his antics. Unfortunately, this is where the story turns bad.
It just so happened that the year she had Spike was also a year with an enormous cricket infestation in our city. This was a good thing when she could find crickets in our yard, but it turned out to be a bad thing when our own supply of crickets dried up. Ashley captured a few crickets that were covering the walls of a gas station and fed them to Spike. She had no idea that the gas station had sprayed the crickets with a slow-acting poison. Within a few days, Spike was dead. It was a lesson in life—never feed your pets with food you don’t find on your own land or purchase in a store.
My daughter truly enjoyed her time with her pet tarantula, and I’m glad she had the experience—even if it creeped me out a little.
Tarantulas can make an outstanding pet for an owner who is fascinated by nature. They require a good home (an aquarium about twice their leg span with a couple of inches of organic potting soil, a piece of driftwood, a pre-made burrow, and a water source will suffice) that is kept sufficiently warm to mimic their natural habitat. They also require insects to eat, a steady hand, and a love of all living things (except maybe crickets)..
From ElliotWoods Sep 14 2015 1:08PM
Stunning aspect, vivid colors, fairly docile, but often hidden
The Mexican Red Knee tarantula is a beautiful bug. Their rust-colored, intensely colorful markings make them much more aesthetic than most spiders. A female can live for over 30 years, although males live much shorter lives (mine is a male, and I think he's about 7), which makes the red-knee a sort of heirloom pet - you can pass your spider onto your children, if you want. Most of these spiders are very docile, and can be held fairly easily - although they don't love it, and if you hold them too frequently or too roughly, you'll soon be covered with rashes from your tarantula's urticating hairs.
There are some difficulties with the Mexican red-knees. First, if the spider is vexed, it'll frequently shoot urticating hairs (bristles that cause irritating reactions on the skin). If you know you're very sensitive to urticating hairs, don't go for a Mexican red-knee, as they are extremely prone to using these as a weapon. Second, these are burrowing tarantulas. My spider spent a lot of time in a den he dug, which made him slightly less fun for kids..
From vintners Aug 10 2015 12:47PM
Along came a spider (and a big one, too)
When I was in my early teens, I went through the phase very common to young men where I was infatuated with creepy-crawlies. (I guess that was the “Goth” phase, before there was such a thing as Goths.) Snakes, scorpions and- perhaps the creepiest of them all- spiders.
It seems strange to me now, but at the time I wanted nothing more than a pet tarantula. And, to my parents’ great credit, they humored my wishes and allowed me to get one.
I have owned a number of animals over the years, but I have to say that a tarantula was probably the most unique “pet” ownership experience of all. Unfortunately, it was not an entirely good experience, and I would urge anyone contemplating the purchase of a tarantula to read this review thoroughly and think long and hard before proceeding.
There are many types of tarantulas but the one that I owned was a red-legged tarantula. This is one of the more common types for private ownership, and also happens to be one of the most beautiful. It is covered with a thick shaggy fur from head to toe. The legs are symmetrically banded with fur of different colors, ranging from red to brown to black. It is not the largest arachanid in the world but it is plenty big- when its legs are outstretched in full walking mode, it is the size of a handspan for a teenage hand.
Despite its fearsome appearance, the red-legged tarantula is perfectly harmless. In fact, it’s a good bet that this furry little guy does less damage to the planet than you or I do. He eats live crickets, which may sound barbaric, but is no more so than any common housecat that will happily drag in a mouse or bird.
The tarantula is not as active as one might think. Like a pet scorpion, he will tend to spend much of his time curled up in a ball in the corner of a terrarium. This makes sense when you think about the fact that in the wild, the tarantula is a burrow-dweller who lives in a little hole that he digs for himself.
However, when he rises from his slumber and stretches out his many legs before proceeding on a ramble about his terrarium, the tarantula is an awesome sight indeed. His legs are actually longer than they appear. He will often test the boundaries of the terrarium, stretching himself high alongside the glass. The tarantula’s movement has an other-worldy quality to it. He moves with an exaggerated slowness, chosing exactly where to place each one of his many segmented legs. He moves each one of them at the same time, and one can only watch in mute fascination as this amazing creature operates eight segmented legs in perfect harmony, moving around the terrarium and crossing over objects with the agility of a Land Rover.
The tarantula eats crickets. Those who read my review of the scorpion that I owned will know that crickets are not ideally suited to be kept in the house. Crickets eat discarded vegetable scraps and pieces of lettuce, and those items will quickly molder and give off a stale-sock smell that will soon permeate the entire house, regardless of how often their terrarium is cleaned.
The tarantula’s terrarium, too, will need frequent cleaning. His steady diet of crickets will leave a host of drained cricket husks scattered across his cage. Letting these dried cricket shells accumulate is not sanitary for the tarantula and probably for the homeowner, as well.
Leaving aside the maintenance issues, there are several more fundamental reasons why I would advise against owning a tarantula.
The first reason is that the vast majority of people find tarantulas to be utterly terrifying. Even if you are not among that camp, I think it is a principle of responsible pet ownership that you don’t allow your pet to do anything that would disturb other members of the house or even your neighborhood. And many people find tarantulas to be the living embodiment of terror. It can create a deep sense of unease even among people who don’t live in your house to know that there is a tarantula somewhere in the neighborhood- one that might escape, no matter how securely it is kept.
It is hard to overstate the level of discomfort that most people have with tarantulas. Many friends and family will simply not visit your house if they know that a tarantula resides there. Later in life, I spoke with a friend of mine involved in the movie business. I asked him why no horror movies were made with tarantulas as the theme, because they were so scary. He told me that most people find tarantulas to be so utterly terrifying that they would not even go see a movie that was based on giant spiders. That should tell you something about how 99% of the world views these animals.
Another issue that goes against owning a tarantula is that spiders are not really “pets.” I think that the ownership of animals can be divided into three broad categories: owning animals for food (livestock), owning animals as part of a zoo collection, and owning a pet.
Owning a pet implies that there is some sort of bond between master and animal. There is a connection, a kinship. And that is just not possible with spiders. A spider won’t curl up next to you in bed while you are reading a novel, and it won’t play fetch. It can be looked at, nothing more. I think that is an argument for keeping these magnificent creatures solely in the realm of our nation’s zoos, as part of larger collections that showcase the amazing world of arachanids.
The final reason- and again, this will be familiar to anyone who read my review of owning a scorpion- is that I think there is something fundamentally unfair about keeping a wild animal in a glass cage. We understand this when it comes to keeping dolphins or Orca whales at Seaworld. But I think the same principle applies to less sentient creatures as well.
I don’t know if a tarantula has the mental capacity to feel “happiness” and I wouldn’t presume to guess. But I believe that all animals- great and small- have a sort of consciousness, a state of being. They know when they are in their element and they know when they are not. I don’t know what tarantulas do for “fun” but I’m pretty sure that they are more happy when they are in their own element, surrounded by their own kind, doing their own thing- whatever that is.
Ultimately, you come to the conclusion that you can’t call yourself an animal lover if you deprive an animal- even as one as unsympathetic as a tarantula- of his right to live that kind of life, merely for your own amusement.
So my advice is this: if your kids come to you asking to have a pet tarantula, suggest an alternative. Plan a road trip to one of the amazing zoos that we have. If you live anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard, the Bronx Zoo in New York City has one of the best arachnid collections on the planet. It would be worth a day or two drive to get there. Your kids will see more and learn more than they ever would by keeping a hapless (but harmless) bug alone in a glass cage.
And knowing that there is not a tarantula in your house will let you sleep more soundly, too..
From DoggieTail May 9 2015 11:11AM