The curly hair tarantula has a round body covered with long bristles that have a slight curl—hence the spider's common name. Most of the bristles are a dark brown to black color, but some are golden. This gives the spider an overall bronze sheen. Curly hair tarantulas are ground-dwelling, burrowing spiders native to Central America. And many are bred in captivity for the pet trade.
These spiders are generally calm, hardy, and easy to care for, making them ideal for those who are new to raising tarantulas as pets. They require housing that mimics their natural habitat, along with live prey. And, while some people do handle their tarantulas, they are mostly hands-off pets.
Common Names: Curly hair tarantula, wooly tarantula
Scientific Names: Tliltocatl albopilosus (formerly Brachypelma albopilosum)
Adult Size: 5 to 6 inches long (including its leg span)
Lifespan: 8 to 10 years on average in captivity (females), 4 years (males)
Curly Hair Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
These tarantulas make extraordinarily mellow and quiet pets. You might even find them boring if you expected a lively animal. A curly hair tarantula will move around its enclosure and might even rearrange some of the items you provide, such as pieces of bark. But for the most part, your spider will sit in a restful state unless it is hunting its prey.
However, curly hair tarantulas are easily spooked, so you should keep any handling to a minimum. Some spiders won't mind sitting on your hand or arm, as long as you handle them very calmly and gently. It's best to sit on the floor when handling these animals in case they do get scared and try to flee. A fall from even a few feet can seriously injure or kill them.
If they feel threatened, curly hair tarantulas also might use their defense mechanisms. They can kick hairs off their abdomens that irritate a person's skin and cause damage if they get in your eyes. That's why it's very important to wash your hands well (and don't rub your eyes) after handling a tarantula or anything in its enclosure. And while they're generally docile, curly hair tarantulas also might use their venomous bite to defend themselves.
Keep pet tarantulas away from any other animals in the house, as well as children who might inappropriately handle them. Curly hair tarantulas are solitary animals and shouldn't even be housed with other spiders of their own species. Expect to spend a few hours per week on feedings and cleaning. And then simply enjoy observing this interesting creature.
The venom of a curly hair tarantula's bite typically causes a local reaction in people that's similar to a bee sting. However, some people with allergies to the venom can have more serious reactions and should seek immediate medical care.
Curly hair tarantulas have a leg span of around 5 to 6 inches across. Their body itself is about 3 inches long.
A 5- to 10-gallon tank with a secure, ventilated lid is suitable for curly hair tarantulas. These tarantulas aren't big climbers, so ground space is more important than height. The width of the tank should be roughly two to three times the leg span of the spider, and the length should be around three times its leg span. A height of around a foot is sufficient.
Keep the tank between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a heating pad under the tank to maintain the appropriate temperature, which you should monitor regularly with a thermometer. Keep the tank out of direct sunlight. Moreover, this tarantula needs a humidity level in its tank that's around 65 to 70 percent, which you can measure with a hygrometer. If you need to raise the humidity, mist the tank with clean water in a spray bottle.
Remove any uneaten prey after 24 hours to keep the enclosure clean. Also, monitor for mold growth, which can occur due to the humidity. If you notice any mold starting to grow on the bedding, remove that portion immediately. Expect to do a full change of the bedding every four to six months.
Specific Substrate Needs
Add a layer of at least 3 inches of peat moss, chemical-free potting soil, or vermiculite to the bottom of the tank. Another option is coconut husk bedding, which is available at many pet stores. Then, add pieces of cork bark, a hollow log, or even half of a small clay flower pot to serve as a hiding spot for your spider.
What Do Curly Hair Tarantulas Eat & Drink?
Curly hair tarantulas eat live crickets, roaches, waxworms, and other insects. The insects should be no larger than the size of your tarantula's body. You also can give adult tarantulas the occasional pinky mouse. Young tarantulas generally will need feedings every two to five days while adults eat roughly once a week, though this can vary. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate variety and quantity of food to give to your particular animal.
Simply drop the prey into the enclosure near your spider. It’s recommended to do the feedings in the evening when the spider is more active and ready to eat. Just be sure to remove unwanted prey within 24 hours, or it actually can stress your spider.
Curly hair tarantulas get most of their hydration from their food. But you still should provide a shallow dish of water in the enclosure. Make sure the spider can easily climb in and out of the dish. Refresh the dish with clean water daily.
Common Health Problems
Tarantulas typically don’t face many health problems when kept in the appropriate environment and fed the right diet. But if your spider has become lethargic or isn’t eating, consult your veterinarian to help you figure out the root cause.
More often than not, those behaviors are a sign that your spider is getting ready to molt—a perfectly normal occurrence. During a molt, a tarantula sheds its exoskeleton and forms a new one. And many spiders molt while lying on their backs with their legs curled up, which some owners who aren’t familiar with the process can mistake for a spider dying. The actual molt is complete in a few hours, but the entire process can take weeks. The new exoskeleton must harden to become protective for the spider. However, if you think your spider’s molt is taking longer than it should or otherwise seems abnormal, discuss this with your vet. Also, during a molt, don't feed live prey, as it might damage the fragile new exoskeleton.
Like any animal, curly hair tarantulas need physical activity to stay healthy. But they don't require an excessive amount. As long as the tarantula's enclosure is sufficiently sized, your pet should get the exercise it needs.
The way tarantulas essentially groom themselves is via molting. And as long as you maintain the right temperature and humidity in their environment—and keep live prey away from them—they shouldn't need any further assistance from you. Also, don't handle your spider during the molting process, as this can damage the fragile new exoskeleton.
Your primary monthly cost when keeping a curly hair tarantula will be its diet. Expect to pay around $5 to $10 per month, though you often can decrease this cost by raising crickets yourself rather than purchasing them from a pet shop. Occasional substrate changes and replacing other worn items in the enclosure can run around $10 to $20. Also, don't forget to budget for veterinary care and emergencies.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Curly Hair Tarantula as a Pet
Curly hair tarantulas make for interesting and quiet pets. They don't require a lot of maintenance, and they take up minimal space. However, as tarantulas they certainly won't be cuddly or tame pets. Plus, they're not very active animals for those who prefer lots of excitement.
Similar Tarantulas to the Curly Hair Tarantula
If you’re interested in pet tarantulas, check out:
Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that can be your new pet.
Purchasing or Adopting Your Curly Hair Tarantula
You sometimes can find this species at pet stores. But it’s often easier to go through a reputable breeder or exotic pet rescue group. Reputable sellers should be able to give you information on the animal's history and health. Expect to pay between $20 and $50 on average, though this can vary based on factors such as the animal's age. Also, females typically cost more because they have a longer lifespan.
A local exotic animal veterinarian might be able to direct you to a good seller. The main benefit of going to a breeder is you'll likely have a wider selection of younger animals. Ask to visit with the animals before taking one home. Make sure the tarantula you choose is alert and in good body condition. A dull or shriveled appearance can indicate disease. If possible, ask to see the spider eat. To avoid accidentally becoming a breeder yourself if you're taking home multiple spiders, simply house them individually.
Does a curly hair tarantula make a good pet for kids?
A curly hair tarantula can be a good pet for children who understand its handling restrictions and are comfortable with feeding live prey.
Are curly hair tarantulas hard to take care of?
Curly hair tarantulas are fairly low-maintenance pets, requiring regular feedings and periodic cleanings.
Does the curly hair tarantula like to be held?
Some curly hair tarantulas can be comfortable with gentle handling. The species is generally docile but does spook easily.
Tarantulas: Terrible or Terrific! Cornell University
Tarantula Spider Bite Information. Mount Sinai Health System.
When Your Pet Has Eight Legs. University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine