This is a Care Sheet dedicated to the Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula, a medium-large sized specie from Argentina, Paraguay & Uraguay. This is also a Standard Care Sheet applicable to most Terrestrial Tarantula Species.
This Care Sheet is based on books, articles and information that I have gathered and my personal opinion, observations and experiences dealing with this specie. Some information may be incorrect or insufficient. This care sheet is, and will always be a work in progress. If the reader finds any misinformation and have any corrections or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment so I may address your concerns.
Grammostola Pulchripes Care Sheet
(Chaco Golden Knee)
This species is one of the best species suitable for any beginner tarantula owner. The reason for this statement is because G. Pulchripes (formerly G. Aureostriata) has a very pleasing demeanour. They have a docile, calm and hardy nature which are essential characteristics for a starter tarantula.
Chaco Golden Knee Tarantulas can easily be identified by the striking golden stripes on each knee. They can grow leg spans up to 8 inches measured diagonally, which makes them more desirable for beginners. They also are the fastest growing of the Grammostola genus and have a lifespan of over 5 years for males and over 15 years for females. And unlike most beginner tarantula species which has very little activity, this specie will keep itself busy. These little critters are mini-bulldozers.
Choosing your tarantula:
It is advisable for 1st time tarantula keepers to talk to someone who owns tarantulas before getting one. Research about the tarantula you want and never hesitate to ask questions.
Keeping of this species is fairly easy. Spiderlings, or often referred to as "Slings" are more suitable for beginners, because slings will almost never bite, the mere size of your hand is enough to intimidate them. By the time your tarantula is juvenile-sized, you will already have an idea of its personality.
If you are getting adult specimen then a female is recommended since they live longer and grow larger than the males. Males, after reaching maturity will have the tendencies to turn aggressive and defensive, this is because mature males aim on securing a mate. Males will also have about a year or two left to live after reaching maturity.
It is also wise to check the health and temperament of a potential tarantula. Adult tarantulas should have abdomens bigger than its carapace or cephalothorax. How it stands or walks will also give you an idea of the tarantula’s health; healthy tarantulas should stand and walk on the tips of their toes like ballerinas, their abdomens shouldn’t be dragged on the substrate (ground) when they walk. Looking at the back of the abdomen will also tell you about their temperaments. Hair-flickers will have bald spots on their abdomens. This specie rarely flicks. A tarantula’s temperament can be checked by gently touching the back of its abdomen or hind legs with a paintbrush/stick, if it simply walks away, then it can be handled, if it runs away, then it might be a little nervous or skittish so exercise caution if you want to handle this tarantula, if it raises its fangs and its 1st and 2nd pairs of legs, then its aggressive. The latter reaction is known as the threat posture, any tarantula that is sporting this position will readily strike. They shouldn’t be handled. If a tarantula turns towards the point where you made contact, it might be hungry or irritated.
Sexing Tarantulas is a very tricky business. Even experts have a hard time sexing a tarantula. A male tarantula could easily be taken for a female if it gets too big.
Male tarantulas have smaller bodies and the tips of their pedipalps (short leg-like appendages located next to the fangs) will look like boxing gloves. Also males of this specie will develop tibial hooks or spurs on their 1st legs when they reach maturity (tibial hooks are not present in some of the species). These hooks are used mainly to hold the female’s fangs while mating.
Housing / Enclosure:
This is a terrestrial specie, floor space is more important than height.
To avoid ants, you can coat the legs of the table where you keep your enclosures or the bottom part of the sides of the enclosures with a generous amount of petroleum gel. Just wipe clean and reapply every month or as needed. A swarm of ants can easily kill your tarantula. There are also other methods to avoid ants but from my experience, petroleum gel works best.
1. Feed your tarantula before rehousing or transferring it to a new enclosure. Tarantulas will not eat for days when transferred to a new enclosure. They need time to acclimate to the new environment.
2. Do not feed your tarantula for a few days to a week after rehousing or transferring it.
3. If your tarantula stops being inactive or starts pacing around the enclosure or keeps on sticking to the sides of the enclosure, it is a sign that the tarantula is uncomfortable with the enclosure. You may need to change the whole enclosure or provide it with dryer substrate.
Organic potting soil, coconut fibre mulch, peat moss or any combination of 2 or more of these will be ideal. Perlyte or vermiculite can optionally be added to help retain humidity.
Moist your substrate with water and squeeze out the water, if the substrate holds the shape after its squeezed then it is perfect. Never use wood shavings as they are highly abrasive and may contain oils that may be toxic to your tarantula, particularly oils from cedar.
Substrate should be replaced twice or thrice a year. To treat substrate, simply pour a generous amount of boiling water on it and let it sit for 10 minutes before draining. Another way is to put dampen the substrate and put it in an oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Most pet shops sell blocks of substrate. They are simple to use, affordable, and since they are heat treated to compress, they are sterile. All you need to do is soak the blocks in water and wait a few minutes, then break them off and squeeze the water out. If possible, use fresh substrate rather than recycled "treated" substrate.
Note: Be sure that your substrate can retain water and hold humidity, but be sure your enclosure will not be overly damp as tarantulas don’t like wet substrate.
Tip: Always have dry substrate handy. If your tarantula is rejecting your substrate, try adding a layer of dry substrate over the damp one.
Décor and Accessories:
Slings may need a hide depending on the size of the enclosure.
Adult and juveniles will need a hide if they are kept in a larger enclosure. A hollowed bark is perfect since it provides both shelter and climbing spots for your tarantula. For this specie, it is recommended to set the hollowed log horizontally. If flora should be added, use fake ones. Real plants will attract mites and other pests. Leave the real plants to the hardcore experts. Also, do not put too much flora since this will only create hiding spots for the prey. Rocks are also optional to add beauty, just be sure that there are no sharp edges. Other accessories may be added as décor.
Caution: In setting up your enclosure, be sure that everything will stay into place. Things that might get knocked down or fall or roll out of place could potentially hurt and kill your tarantula. Remember that this specie likes to dig. Accessories should be rooted in place.
Feeding, Watering and Maintenance:
Slings can be fed a pinhead cricket or baby roach twice (or more often if desired) a week. As your tarantula grows, its prey should also grow with it. A good sized pray would be a prey roughly the same size as the tarantula’s abdomen. Enclosures shouldn’t be permitted to dry out. Your tarantula needs the humidity to keep its lungs clean and to help it breathe. Use a spray bottle and lightly mist one side of the enclosure. Be sure that the other half is dry, and be sure not to hit the tarantula when you are misting as this will only annoy them. Smaller slings will drink from the substrate or from dews forming as the water condenses. Larger slings will need a small and shallow water dish, be sure that the water dish will not be easily flipped over. An obligatory rock or stones should be in the middle of your dish, so in the likelihood that your tarantula falls, it will have something to climb on to to avoid drowning. A water dish should always have clean water. Uneaten prey (for more than 24 hours) should be taken out, as well as insect shells and leftovers (food boluses/balls) to avoid mold and attracting mites.
Juvenile and adult tarantulas can be fed bigger prey and any leftovers, shells and uneaten prey should be removed. A water dish should always be filled with clean water. For humidity, you can either spay one side of the enclosure with water or you can pour as small amount of water to one side of the substrate. If you notice mites or mold, it is best to replace your substrate.
Prey items may include crickets, meal worms, roaches, maggots and wingless fruit flies. Avoid feeding your tarantula items caught in the wild as they may be infected with disease or toxic substances from insecticides and pesticides. Larger species can be fed an occasional pinky mouse for variety. Do not feed your tarantula mice on a regular basis, the excess calcium will cause some molting problems for your tarantula.
The enclosure, water dish, spray bottle and accessories may be washed using water only. A gentle dishwashing liquid mixed with a lot of water may be used but be sure that the item being washed is rinsed thoroughly.
Since the Chaco Golden Knee is somewhat of a digger, you may need to level the substrate every once in a while if you desire.
Note: If your tarantula refuses to eat a prey, remove any uneaten prey after 24 hours and wait for 3 days up to 1 week before trying to feed it again. Aside from attracting mites and other parasites, the tarantula might be desensitized by the presence of the prey and would stop eating. Tarantulas rely on sudden movements to detect prey, if you leave prey in the enclosure for long periods of time, they might get used to a lot of movement and may entirely ignore the prey.
Lighting and heating:
Tarantulas are nocturnal creatures, thus they do not need lighting. Direct sunlight or any source of bright light is highly discouraged. A UV bulb can be used for display cases but must not be left on for a long period. Only switch it on when you’re viewing and switch it off when you’re done.
In tropical areas, heating is not needed. Room temperature will do quite well. However, in areas where winter season is applicable, a large room heater can be used during winter. Basking lights are highly discouraged because it can dry out the enclosure and the tarantula may not sense the heat and die. Heating pads that stick to the bottom or side of the tank are also discouraged. Tarantulas cannot sense hot spots and may die of dehydration.
Generally, whatever temperature you are comfortable with works fine for your tarantula. Tarantulas are more susceptible to heat than cold.
Tarantulas (depending on the specie) can be handled on an occasional basis for them to get used to being handled. Regular handling is strongly discouraged as this can stress out your tarantula.
If you must handle your tarantula be gentle. Terrestrial or ground tarantulas should be handled close to the floor to avoid serious injuries in case your tarantula jumps or falls. When you are handling your tarantula, be sure you are handling it where it can’t run or hide in case it escapes. Be sure to always test your tarantula’s temperament before handling it. It is also important not to breath/blow air on your tarantula as this can spook them and cause them to jump/run.
The best way to handle your tarantula (after temperament testing) would be to place your hand flat on the substrate and gently prod your tarantula on its hind legs or abdomen and let it walk to your hand. You can also let your tarantula climb over the tank and let it walk on your hand.
Another way to handle your tarantula is by using a smaller deli cup and placing it on the substrate and let your tarantula walk into the cup by touching your tarantula’s hind legs or abdomen with either by paintbrush (or pen) or your hand. This method can also be used for aggressive species.
The last method is called the pinch-grab method. This is done by placing your thumb and your index finger between the tarantula’s 2nd and 3rd legs while applying a little pressure and picking the tarantula up. This method is highly discouraged.
There is also another and safer way of doing picking up your tarantula. While using your thumb and middle finger to grip the tarantula between its 2nd and 3rd legs, you can also place your index finger on top of the chelicerae to secure the fangs. . This method should only be used if you are going to treat your tarantulas for injuries/dehydration.
Tarantulas are arthropods thus they undergo a process called molting. As a tarantula grows they need to rid themselves of their old and tightening exoskeleton in order to grow. As the tarantula grows larger it will shed less often. This is a very critical state since after your tarantula molts it will be defenseless because their exoskeleton and their fangs are soft and needs time to harden. Handling a tarantula in pre-molt and post-molt is also highly discouraged. Wait for a week after your tarantula molts.
Pre-molt is recognizable when your tarantula’s color is getting dull and a black patch is visible on the back of its abdomen. During this state, your tarantula is most likely to refuse meals as they are growing new fangs (tarantulas will shed everything, including their fangs). They will refuse to eat for a week up to a few months depending on their size. This is normal.
During a pre-molt, your tarantula might be somewhat irritable, it is best to leave it alone. Just be sure that you provide it with plenty of water as this is their only source of sustenance. It is also important not to handle your tarantula while it is in a pre and post molt stage. This is because your tarantula needs all the energy it can to successfully molt and to recover from a molt. Handling your tarantula in a pre or post molt stage will only expend precious energy it needs to molt and recover.
Molts should be taken out immediately to avoid mold.
Preventing illness is best achieved by giving the tarantula the appropriate habitat and keeping the enclosure free from mold, mites, leftovers, molt and other parasites. Mold can form on their book lungs (which are located on the underside of their abdomens) and cause breathing problems. A sick tarantula should be moved to a Tarantula ICU for a week or until it has fully recovered.
If you find that your enclosure has mite infestation, immediately remove your tarantula and inspect it for any mites that are clinging on it. Here is where the pinch-grab method can prove to be useful. Using a damp paper towel or cotton swab, gently wipe away any mites sticking to your tarantula. Pay close attention to areas between the legs, joints, underside, around the mouth and be particularly careful when dealing with the booklungs. Clean out your enclosure and wash everything, throw out the substrate and replace with new substrate. To avoid contaminating other enclosures or tarantulas, always wash your hand after dealing with contaminated enclosures or tarantulas.
Treating your Tarantula’s Injuries:
If your tarantula falls or gets injured in any manner, you should watch it carefully. Look for a semi-clear milky white-ish substance oozing out of your tarantula. This is blood. Tarantula blood does not clot so wounds should be treated immediately to avoid excessive bleeding. Wounds can easily be treated by using a cue-tip and dabbing either water-based glue or liquid band aid directly into the wound. Be careful to only apply treatment of the wounded area as excessive glue or band aid can cause movement restrictions for your tarantula (especially if you are treating wounds in the leg and joint areas). Also take caution in treating wounds that are in the abdomen, be careful not to glue/band aid the anus, spinnerets, book lungs or the epigastric furrow. Lightly injured tarantulas can be kept in their enclosures while seriously injured tarantulas should spend at least a day to recover in an ICU.
Simple Tarantula Anatomy:
A dehydrated tarantula is easily recognizable if its abdomen is slightly wrinkled or deflated. Apply treatment immediately. Using a medicine dropper or small syringe (without the needle), simply but very gently use the pinch-grab method and flip your tarantula over and drop water directly to its fangs (do not drown your tarantula, just a few drops). Then place your tarantula in an ICU until it is regained health.
Building a Tarantula ICU:
Building a tarantula ICU is fairly easy. All you need is a deli container (with air holes on the top and sides) a little bigger than your tarantula patient, a water dish and plenty paper towels. Just line the bottom and the sides of the enclosure with slightly damp (with water) paper towels, be sure that the sides are cushioned with paper towels before placing your tarantula in it. Place the water bowl with clean water inside and you're done.
Treating Bites and Flicked Hairs:
Tarantulas will rarely bite. Their common order of defense is to: run away, then flick hairs, then go on a threat posture and will bite as a last resort. Generally, tarantula bites will not send you to the hospital unless you are allergic to their venom. A bite will cause some irritation, numbness and pain for a few hours up to a day or two. Tarantula venom may be insignificant but tarantula bites still hurt due to mechanical damage. Tarantula venom is only lethal in most "old world" tarantulas. Don’t give your tarantula any reason to bite you. Tarantula venoms are mainly neurotoxic enzymes mixed with digestive enzymes.
Tarantulas have two different types of bites. Dry and wet. Dry bites are bites that don't carry venom while wet bites are bites spiked with venom. Venom is an expensive biological weapon, it takes lots of energy and time to make and therefore only used in the most dire of circumstances. A threatened tarantula will bite and inject venom while a bite intended for eating will most likely lack venom, unless if the prey is struggling too hard.
Flicked urticating hair or bristles can cause minor itching and irritation on your skin. You can use an adhesive tape to remove most of the hair before washing your skin with soap and water. If flicked hair gets into your eyes, nose or mouth, it might get very irritating. Wash the affected area thoroughly with water. Call a doctor if irritation persists.
Breeding: (Soon to be Added)