There are over 800 different recognised species of tarantula, so you might think that choosing the best tarantula pet would be a challenging exercise.
Fortunately, despite so many different types of tarantula being available to pet owners, only a fraction of these are readily available from reptile shops. Further species may be sourced from hobbyist breeders, which are often the best source of tarantulas, due to their wider range and more reasonable prices.
How to Choose the Best Pet Tarantula
In order to choose the best pet tarantula there are a number of factors that you should consider:
Your Level of Experience
Possibly the most important factor when selecting a species of tarantula as a pet is how much experience you have. Is this your first tarantula, or do you have experience of caring for more common species – and are now looking to upgrade to something a little more “exciting”?
Due to the diversity of tarantulas on the market, there are species for all experience levels. The best pet tarantulas for beginners will normally be quite docile in nature, therefore minimizing the chances of you getting bitten. Such spiders can often be held safely, or at the very least will make routine maintenance far safer for you.
The best tarantula pets for beginners also tend to be slow moving, for similar reasons of practicality. Fast-moving tarantulas can be far more difficult (and stressful!) to look after, so a gentle “plodder” is unlikely to present any nasty surprises when their cage is opened.
They also tend to be quite forgiving of a wide range of captive habitats, in contrast to some more advanced species that are rather more fussy. They typically obtain a modest size of some 5-6” across the legs, making them an impressive specimen without needing a overly large cage.
For more experienced keepers, however, who may have gained a reasonable amount of experience with “beginner” tarantulas, you may be looking to move onto something a little more challenging; something larger, or faster moving, or more aggressive for example.
Be honest with yourself, and carefully consider what your experience level. A beginner tarantula keeper purchasing a more “advanced” species of tarantula such as an Usambara Orange Baboon or a Goliath Birdeating spider may find they have bitten off more than they can chew.
These same species, however, can make fantastic pet tarantulas for those with more experience.
The Reason for Buying a Pet Tarantula
Why are you looking to buy a pet tarantula in the first place? Many first-time tarantula keepers are looking for a species that is impressive in appearance but can be easily and safely handled.
For enthusiasts who are looking to create an incredible “zoo exhibit” cage, where they can observe their specimens going about their daily lives in naturalistic conditions, many of the more common tarantulas (such as the Chilean Rose Hair) may be quite a dull option. Far better to opt for something more active and colorful such as an Indian Ornamental.
Alternatively there are those species that will barely be seen, but have become popular as more experienced keepers enjoy the challenge of keeping a new (and potentially fiesty) species, and learning more about their habits.
So consider why you’re looking to buy a tarantula in the first place to help you select the best tarantula pet for your needs.
The Budget That You Have Available
Tarantulas can vary widely in price, with some baby tarantulas of more common species costing less than a cup of coffee. At the other end of the scale, larger, rarer or more colorful species can cost $100 or more.
It is therefore a good idea to consider how much you’re willing to pay for your tarantula. Consulting price-lists, or forums with a “for sale” section can be a good idea of getting your eye in, and deciding just how much each species is likely to cost you.
The last thing you want to do is to make your mind up on a particular type of tarantula, only to find that such a specimen will cost you several times you original budget.
In general, tarantulas suitable for beginners tend to be much cheaper to buy than more “advanced” species.
How Much Patience You Have in Sourcing a Tarantula
Some tarantulas are much easier to find than others in the pet trade. For example, you’re unlikely to have too many problems when looking for a Honduran Curly Hairor even a Mexican Red Knee, while others may require patience until a suitably sized specimen becomes available.
As an alternative, adult specimens of the stunningly-colored Greenbottle Blue tarantula are only rarely made available, and can be expensive when they do reach the market.
What is the Best Tarantula Pet?
Now that we’ve discussed how to select a suitable tarantula for your own personal situation it makes sense to look at some of the best species for you to consider.
The following species generally meet all the requirements for a “first time” tarantula; they tend to be easy to care for, mid-sized, docile and easy to care for. Most (but not all) are reasonably simple to source from most reptile shops, so you’re unlikely to have to do too much shopping around to find a specimen.
Rose Haired Tarantula
Arguably the most common species of tarantula kept today, the Chilean Rose Haired tarantula is deserving of it’s popularity. Growing to around 5” in legspan, this ground-dwelling spider is one of the most docile species available and can be safely held by keepers of all experience levels.
Typically brown in color, some specimens have a beautiful pink or purple sheen to the carapace, while the less-common “Red Color Form” – often shortened to RCF – is a beautiful bright reddish/ginger.
The rose hair is easily kept by even beginners, requiring only the most basic level of care and feeding. In many ways, the Rose Hair is the best tarantula pet on the market, ideal for even the least experienced tarantula keeper.
Honduran Curly Haired Tarantula
Almost tying with the Rose Hair in terms of being the best tarantula pet, the Honduran Curly Hair is superficially very similar in appearance.
It attains a similar size to the Rose Hair and is typically clothed in dark brown hairs. On closer inspection, however, you will realize why is so-called. The body is covered in paler hairs that have a distinctly “curly” appearance. They look almost like they’ve just been to the salon.
The Curly Haired tarantula is similarly easy to keep, can be safely handled and is generally almost as easy to find as the Chilean Rose spider. For a new tarantula keeper looking for the best species to start with, either of these two would make the ideal starter tarantula.
What’s more, they’re both frequently available as adults for very reasonable prices, which means you won’t have to save up for too long before bringing home your very first pet tarantula.
Mexican Red Knee Tarantula
The Mexican Red Knee is possibly the “best known” tarantula available in the hobby. It is the species that many people think of when you mention tarantulas – being primarily black in color but with those bright yellowy/orange patches on it’s legs.
Part of the reason why this species is so well-known is that it was one of the original species of tarantula kept, and is known for being very docile indeed, making it ideal for handling. Like the previous tarantulas mentioned, it also tends to be quite forgiving in terms of captive conditions.
If there is a weak point to the Mexican Red Knee then it is the fact that this species is now considered an endangered species. So popular was it as a pet that thousands of this slow-growing tarantula were caught in the wild, leading to perilous numbers remaining.
It is now listed in CITES, meaning that wild-caught specimens can no longer be imported. All the Mexican Red Knees that you’re likely to come across in the hobby are consequently captive bred. When you realize that this species is quite slow growing – females may take five years to reach maturity – then it is little surprise that this species can be expensive.
If you’ve got the budget available, the Mexican Red Knee can make a great pet tarantula, having all the benefits of the two aforementioned species, just be aware that you’ll need to spend more on buying your tarantula.
Other Grammostola Species
The Chilean Rose Haired tarantula mentioned above is a member of the Grammostola genus. As it turns out, this genus contains a number of other species, many of which are similarly-sized and equally docile. One such example is the Brazilian Black, though of course there are other species.
While other Grammostola species are less-frequently encountered they can still make excellent pets. When visiting exotic pet stores in your region, therefore, keep an eye out for any species with a Latin name that begins with “Grammostola”. Do you due diligence before bringing any species home as a pet, but you’re likely to find that they make ideal pet tarantulas.
Pink Toed Tarantulas
Lastly, the New World Pink Toes tarantulas can make excellent pet tarantulas for anyone looking for something a little “different”.
Unlike any of the other species highlighted above, Pink Toes are arboreal (tree-dwelling) tarantulas which therefore require slightly different care. Their cage needs to provide vertical surfaces such as cork bark which they can climb on, for example.
The Avicularia genus is huge, with a wide range of different species within it. Possibly the best-known and most popular of these is Avicularia avicularia.
These tarantulas can be a little more “flighty” that the “plodders” already discussed, which means that more care must be taken when handling them. On the other hand, the more commonly-available species tend to be very unlikely to bite, and can offer something a little bit “different” for the beginner.
For those people trying to convince their family to let them have their first tarantula, there is also something to be said for how “cute” Pink Toes look. Clothed in long black hairs, but with pink hairs towards the end of each leg, many people find these tarantulas quite visually appealing.
If the idea of a big brown tarantula has failed to win your argument, you may find that suggesting one of these fluffy little fellows helps to swing the argument in your favour!