Rose Hair Tarantulas or Chilean Rose Hair

Filed Under: General Care

Capable of calmly walking over the hands of screaming, squirrelly kids without being fazed, the Chilean rose hair or rose hair tarantula (Grammastola rosea) is one of the calmest and hardiest tarantulas in the pet trade. This particular spider can be a wonderful ambassador to introduce people to the wonderful world of invertebrates (animals without a backbone). The rose hair tarantula’s natural habitat is the desert and scrub regions of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. The name actually comes from the smattering of pink hairs that typically cover the carapace (middle body section), while the base color may be a gray, brown or black color.

The rose hair tarantulas have an average adult leg span of 3 to 5 inches in length. Females tend to be larger than the males. The females also have a significantly longer lifespan than the males, possibly reaching 20 years, as compared to the average 4 to 5 years for a male.

All tarantulas molt their exoskeleton, which is actually a process known as ecdysis, as they grow. Essentially ecdysis is a process by which the old stiff cuticle is replaced with a new soft cuticle that allows for growth until it hardens. The first sign of ensuing ecdysis is usually a change to a darker-than-normal color. The spider typically becomes motionless while the new cuticle is secreted beneath the old one and part of the old cuticle is resorbed. Ecdysis will actually be facilitated by the formation of a fluid between the old and the new cuticle, which is resorbed just prior to the opening of the cuticle, leaving the space filled with air. The hormone ecdysone is released and causes the tearing of the seam between the carapace and the sternum. Movements from the spider will actually enlarge this tear which will continue over the opisthosoma (abdomen). Further movement by the spider will eventually free the legs. Once the spider is free, it will stay in its hiding place to “blow up” itself making the new cuticle as large as possible. The entire process of ecdysis may take one or more hours. Males are unable to molt following maturity while females can continue to undergo the process. Many a beginning keeper has looked in their tarantula habitat to find what they thought was a dead tarantula that is actually an old exoskeleton.

Sexual maturity typically occurs after approximately 7 molts or approximately at 4 years of age for a rose-hair female. Females tend to have more molts before maturity than males.

Like many spiders these tarantulas are solitary animals except at breeding and should be housed singly. When housed together they may become very territorial and the largest spider may decide to have the others on the menu within the captive environment.

These spiders are also nocturnal in nature. Rose hair tarantulas are not very active arachnids and therefore do not require large enclosures. A 5-gallon aquarium or small plastic container of a similar size is sufficient in size for housing. These spiders do not require full-spectrum lighting so ambient light or a regular fluorescent bulb is sufficient. These spiders prefer an ambient temperature from 75 to 83°F. When the room temperature is less than ideal, a small heating pad may be provided to one side of the enclosure. Supplement heat sources can be strong desiccators and should typically be avoided unless extreme room temperatures occur.

A variety of substrates work well for rose hair bedding and include: peat moss, potting soil, horticultural vermiculite, orchid bark, and coconut fiber bedding. Garden soil should be strictly off limits! Typical garden soil may have a heavy load of environmental contaminates to control bugs and weeds which may well be detrimental to the health of your spider. The substrate should be moist but never wet. A good mix is approximately one quart of room temperature tap water to 4 quarts of potting soil that is mixed well. You just want the soil to retain its shape when squeezed. The bedding should be at least several inches deep allowing the tarantula to burrow. If the spider spends time hanging from the side of the enclosure rather than standing on the substrate it is probably because it does not like the substrate or the moisture level you are using. If the tarantula does not accept the substrate after a couple of weeks it is probably best to change. During ecdysis, a higher humidity is required.

Being nocturnal, several hiding spots should be provided around the enclosure, especially if one side is heated, so the pet may choose the most comfortable temperature settings.

The diet of a tarantula is typically crickets, grass-hoppers, beetles, moths, mealworms, cockroaches and pinky mice. When crickets are fed, it is best to “gut-load” the crickets by providing high-quality greens and vegetables to the crickets before feeding them to the tarantula. Gut-loaded the crickets are better hydrated and provide more nutritive value. Typically these pets should be fed two weekly feedings with one to three food items. Uneaten prey should be removed after one day. Food must usually be fed live. Dead prey may be rejected or go unnoticed. Prey may also be dusted with a vitamin/mineral powder prior to feeding. During feeding, the opisthosoma may increase up to two times its original volume.

Tarantulas are at their most vulnerable when they are molting. During the time of molting the spider may not eat for days to weeks. Prey may possibly injure a molting tarantula, especially crickets, and therefore should be removed when the pet does not have the appetite for them. Handling during this period may also cause injury so it is best to leave them alone during the molting process until such time that the cuticle has hardened.

A shallow dish of clean water should always be provided. The dish should be smaller than the spider. To ensure spiderlings (baby spiders) don’t drown, a cellulose sponge may be used to provide moisture in the enclosure. Just make sure the sponge is prevented from becoming moldy.

Although rose hair tarantulas are mellow and calm, a handler should allow the spider to come to them and walk calmly on their hand before lifting them from their enclosure. When a spider rears up and shows its fangs, they are warning you that they are not in the mood to be handled. In this state, the spider should not be restrained for they can bite, although typically this is a rare occurrence. Spider bites can be painful, with localized burning, itching and swelling, often compared to a bee sting.

Tarantulas also have urticating hairs located on the dorsal opisthosoma which are used in self-defense as well. When the spider is threatened, it will flick the hind legs releasing these abdominal hairs which are barbed and typically aimed at the face of the attacker to allow for the spiders escape. These barbs can facilitate deep penetration and can cause significant irritation to the skin, eyes and nose.

References:
http://www.ucalgary.ca/~schultz/roses.html

Johnson-Delaney, Cathy. "Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook for Veterinarians". 2005. Zoological Education Network. Pp. 98-3 through 98-16.

Spiess, Petra. “A Rose Without Thorns”. Pet Product News. February 2008. P. 125.

Topics: exotic pets, spiders, tarantulas

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