Chilean rose tarantula: (Grammostola rosea, Grammostola porterii)
Chilean rose taratulas are a medium sized tarantula (body 7.5cm, leg span 15cm) from southern Peru and northern Chile, on the edges of the Atacama dessert. This docile spider ranges in colour from grey, through pink to a vibrant copper red. Females are thought to live from about 20 to 40 years. As with most tarantulas, males live shorter lives, sometimes due to their expiring a few months after maturation, often through becoming a post coital snack for the female. Males have smaller bodies and longer legs. Females remain pretty much in or around their burrows throughout their lives, whereas males roam around when adult, looking for a female. Although a burrowing spider in the wild, captive Chilean rose tarantulas rarely construct viable burrows, although they do appreciate somewhere dark to hide. In captivity they feed almost entirely on crickets and other insects (from which they derive most of their water) although larger spiders will eat the occasional small mouse.
Adult Chilean roses require an arid environment. They appear to despise damp substrate and should never be misted. However very young spiderlings do require some humidity. Their substrate must be regularly dampened or they will quickly desiccate and die. This is thought to be due to the exoskeleton taking time to “toughen” and become waterproof. As they age the substrate can be allowed to become progressively dryer. As they grow a suitably sized water bowl can be introduced. Too big and the young spider will fall in and drown. Adults, whilst liking it dry, do require a water dish for occasional drinking.
Chilean rose tarantulas are probably one of the easiest tarantulas to handle because they are fairly slow moving and rarely bite, giving plenty of warning first. If they do bite it is usually a dry bite (no venom injected) and in the extremely rare cases where venom has been injected it has proved to be the equivalent of a bee sting.
HOWEVER people can be allergic to bee stings and you would not know if you were allergic to a spider bite until after you had been bitten. And who wants those big fangs stuck in them anyway? As with most new world tarantulas the biggest risk is from urticating setae (the hairs). These either brush off the spider when handled or are rubbed off on cage appointments or by the spider itself. They penetrate the skin causing irritation, which can be quite severe in rare cases. Getting these hairs in the eyes requires hospital treatment. So NEVER rub your eyes after handling a tarantula or anything it has been in contact with and as with all animals ALWAYS wash your hands after handling.
The biggest risk when handling any tarantula is to the spider itself. Any fall of more than a couple of inches is potentially fatal. They are delicate creatures and can rupture internally and externally. A lost limb may well heal and eventually regrow but a ruptured body, whilst sometimes treatable, is more often fatal. Even a regrown limb can cause the spider problems with later moults. All in all it is best NOT to handle tarantulas, you don’t get any irritation or bites and they stay alive.
The Chile rose is probably the hardiest species in the hobby as well. The environment they come from is dry, very hot during periods of the day and very cold during periods of the night. The can tolerate quite wide ranging temperatures in the short term. Generally the normal household temperatures in the UK are sufficient for a Chile rose and no additional heating is required. Obviously if you keep the spider in an unheated room throughout the winter a heat mat would be required.
For spiderlings we use coir as a substrate. It can retain some moisture for raised humidity and is light weight so will not bury delicate spiderlings. For larger individuals and adults I prefer to use a more natural looking substrate, something like Lucky Reptile red clay sand bedding or desert Bedding and construct a more natural looking terrarium. That is only my preference however, you may prefer something a bit more utilitarian and that’s fine. The only thing I would point out is that if the substrate is too damp the spider will spend all of its time on the side of the enclosure to keep of it.
For hides you can use whatever you like from broken plant pots to fancy resin hides, it’s up to you, the spider just wants a dark hole to hide in. I would avoid anything too heavy and unstable though, you don’t want it to crush the spider if the enclosure gets knocked.
Chile rose tarantulas are notorious for stopping feeding as adults. They are reputed to have not fed for up to two years, although the longest I have experienced is just over 6 months. This can worry less experienced owners a bit. If you have an adult female and she looks in good condition I wouldn’t worry if she stops feeding for a while. If you have a youngster and it stops feeding it is probably getting ready to moult.
We feed all our spiders weekly. If the following week there are stiil insects in the pot we remove them and stop feeding. Generally the spider will moult within two weeks. With larger spiders you can see the new skin growing through exposed areas of the old skin (it goes darker), however this is not obvious on smaller spiderlings and keeping track of the feeding habits is a must. Do not leave crickets in with the spider whilst it is moulting. Often the spider will delay the moult in the presence of crickets etc. and when it finally does begin the process the crickets have an easily accessible meal whilst it is incapacitated. Following a moult the spider will remain soft and vulnerable for quite a while, so don’t feed for at least a week.
As with all our animals our Chilean rose tarantulas are captive bred, normally in this country and are not taken from the wild population. There are lots of reasons for this but the two most important to us are wild animals are likely to have parasites and/or infections and we have no control over how they are harvested. It could have been done responsibly, a controlled amount of individuals taken from an area that is then left to recover before more are taken or as is often the case, a businessman could have paid locals peanuts to collect as many as possible in a short period of time leading to the critical reduction in numbers of a species in a locality that may never recover. Always buy captive bred animals, they are generally more expensive but worth it.