Chilean Rose Tarantula

Chilean Rose Tarantula

Latin Name Grammostola rosea    Order: Araneae     Family

Overview

The Chilean rose-haired tarantula is the hardiest of tarantulas and is easy to find in human care and is one of the most common found in ambassador animal situations. Although it has a reputation for being docile (calm), it varies in temperment widely from individual to individual. However, this species is one that may typically be presented by hand, in the hands of the right handler. Every spider is an individual, and their body language and comfort levels should be respected in regards to hand presentations as they may becomes stressed, nippy, or even flick hairs.

Hairs on the abdomen have been modified to serve as defense weapons. They possess sharp tips with microscopic barbs. When threatened, the tarantula will use its back legs to kick off a cloud of hairs at its attacker. Understanding tarantula stress behavior and body language is critical to managing both the welfare of this species and keeping handlers safe. Some people may be severely allergic to the hairs of this species to the point of anaphylaxis or even resulting in death. 

All tarantulas have a certain amount of venom. Although most people are not affected by this species, some people may be allergic to its venom, or just more sensitive, making it a dangerous situation. 

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

This tarantula is found in the deserts and scrubland of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Longevity

In the Wild males 3-10 years, females 15-20 years; Under human care: males less than 2 years,

females 20 or more years (average is 12 years). 

In most tarantula species the female will live for twenty years or more, but the male may survive only the few years required to reach maturity. Once the male has fulfilled the biological function of mating, it usually will die of natural causes or the female may eat him. The male’s lifespan is further shortened by the stress of captivity. 

Ecosystem Role

Considered an invaluable aid in destroying harmful, crop-eating insects.

 

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Tarantulas are solitary, terrestrial, and long-lived (females live longer than males).
  • Rose Hairs should be housed in containers that are wider than they are tall, with more floor space than height. 
  • These are agile spiders which may try (successfully) to climb the sides of their enclosures, so a lid is necessary.
  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: We house them in a 10 gallon aquarium with substrate on the bottom. We offer at least one hide area and have plastic plants in the tank. A secure fitting lid is important, as they can climb. 
  • They should have a shallow dish of fresh water available to them at all times

Life Cycle Natural History Relevant Information 

  • Nocturnal
  • Chilean rose tarantulas can grow to be up to 5 inches long.
  • Sexual maturity is reached anywhere from 3 to 10 years of age. A female spider can lay up to 3,000 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs take two to three weeks to hatch.
  • Spider droppings consist mostly of uric acid crystals and are usually dry and chalk-like. 

Habitat

  • This species is from arid climates, so substrate should be kept relatively dry.
  • They should have access to several different hides. 

Temperature, Humidity, Light Cycles

  • Temperature: average temperature of around 23°C/73°F, with warmer and cooler areas to allow thermoregulation.
    • Brandywine Zoo: RH tarantulas are kept at room temperature in a room maintained at 75-80°F
  • Humidity: humidity should not be allowed to get too high. 70% or less in sufficient. Spraying the exhibit once per week should help maintain this. Damp, soggy enclosures are to be avoided. However, extra humidity may be necessary during molting.
  • Light: regular, 12 hour light cycle in the room they are kept in should be fine. No additional, dedicated UV light housing/fixture is necessary. 

Substrate: 

  • Coconut fiber (EcoEarth) or vermiculite can be used as a substrate. They seem to prefer drier substrates.
  • This is a burrowing species, so substrate should be deep enough to allow for burrows. Alternatively provide plenty of hides. 
  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: While we typically house them on eco-earth soil, we will alternate with repti-bark or similar beddings. If you purchase the compressed bedding (Ecoearth/cocoa fiber) that needs to be soaked, try to make it a couple day ahead of time. They do not like the soil when it is excessively damp.

Social Housing/Colony Management

  • Solitary.
  • They are aggressive towards each other, even females will fight if left in the same enclosure. Female will also eventually eat the males if left too long together.
  • The male develops tibial spurs or “mating hooks,” and swollen tips on both pedipalps which contain a chamber where sperm is stored as well as a syringe-like instrument used to insert semen into the female. A male must leave the safety and security of the burrow and wander around until he finds a female in her shelter. The female leaves chemical signals called pheromones in the silk that lines her shelter.  
    • The male begins a courtship display that varies from species to species. If receptive, the female responds with a display of her own, usually by tapping her feet on the ground. She then turns to face the male and opens her fangs, exposing the genital opening at the bottom of her abdomen. The male uses his first set of legs (mating hooks) to grab the female’s fangs, pushing her upwards allowing him to release his sperm, fertilizing the female. The male will then attempt a hasty retreat, usually escaping his lethal (deadly) mate. 
    • The gestation period is 6 weeks. The female constructs an egg sac and lays a large number of eggs (from 80 to over 1000). She will carry the egg sac around with her and aggressively guard it against any intruders until the spiderlings emerge.  

Other General Housing Requirements or Management information

Diet Requirements

Diet in the Wild 

  • In the wild, Chilean rose tarantulas eat grasshoppers, beetles, moths, woodlice, millipedes, other spiders, and other arthropods.They cannot swallow solid food.
  • Unlike other most other spiders, tarantulas do not catch prey in webs. They stalk and attack their prey.

Diet under human care

  • This species may go weeks in between meals.
  • Brandywine Zoo: offered 3 crickets once per week. Uneaten crickets were removed after 24 hours. 

Veterinary Concerns

  • RH tarantulas are covered with hair over their entire body which serves as sensory input. Some hairs contain temperature or smell receptors. Others detect airborne vibration or act as itchy irritants to potential predators- some people are highly allergic to these hairs. Hairs can be flicked off the tarantula’s back as a defense mechanism when stressed, and they are barbed and will work their way into skin causing itching, irritation and eye damage. Allergic reactions are not uncommon and can be fatal. 
  • Hairs flicked off by the tarantula will not grow back and the tarantula must wait until its next molt to replace them. 
  • Molting occurs more frequently as juveniles but typically every 1-2 years as adults. Tarantulas will become lethargic and may even look deceased when going through a molt. They should not be touched during this process and after the molt as their exoskeleton is very fragile and moving them could injure or kill them. 
    • Brandywine Zoo: our mature RH tarantula molted every two years, usually sometime between over the fall or winter. 
  • This species would rather retreat than bite so poses little threat for humans or pets. Bee sting-like bite with mild to moderate pain, redness and swelling at site.

Enrichment & Training

Enrichment

Behavioral Relevant Information

  • The Rose Haired Tarantula has also become known as a “wanderer”. That is to say that unlike many tarantula species, who dig a burrow and never stray far except to molt or hunt, the Rose Hair is more likely to travel far and wide, seeking cover where it is to be found.
  • This species will make “web carpets” in their environment, but does not spin suspended webs strong enough to hold their own weight.
  • RH Tarantulas are burrowers that function by smell, touch and vibration.
  • There are eight tiny eyes located on top of their bodies, but the eyes don’t see very well; mostly, they just detect changes in light and dark. 
  • This nocturnal species typically finds a shelter to web itself into at dawn.

Environmental Enrichment 

  • The tarantula should not be able to climb too high, because it can fall and injure itself.
  • Provide hides, such as a half-log, half of a flowerpot, cork bark, or coconut shells.
  • This species likes to dig burrows, so providing deep enough substrate that will hold its form (not collapse on itself) when digging is a great option for permanent environment or optional in dig boxes. 

Behavioral Enrichment 

  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: We will rotate in different plastic plants and hide boxes.

Schedule 

  • Note frequency/enrichment schedule for this species at your institution

Other Enrichment Resources 

Training

Behaviors Trained

Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement 

Other

Colony or Breeding Management

  • This species is solitary and should only be co-housed in breeding situations.
  • Chilean rose-haired tarantulas reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years of age. Mating season is in September and October.

Individual Identification

  • Males are longer and slimmer than females with smaller abdomens; females larger and heavier.
  • The sex of the spider cannot be determined until after the final molt when it reaches sexual maturity.

Programmatic Information

Messaging Themes

  • They are very calm animals, and will only attack when provoked. For this reason, this species is one of the most common spiders kept as a pet. However, there are concerns about the sustainability of this species in the pet trade. 
    • Because of the wide-spread collection of this species from the wild for the pet trade, increasing regulation in the future is probably inevitable in order to protect it from becoming threatened and/or endangered. There are a number of other tarantula species in the world that are currently protected, and several more may be in the future. There are a few laws in effect now, but this is an area mostly unregulated at the present time

Threats and Conservation Status

  • IUCN status: not listed; CITES Appendix: not listed 
  • The tarantula’s biggest enemy is the pepsis, a spider-hunting wasp that is smaller than the tarantula, but can paralyze it with just one sting. The tarantula is then fed alive to the wasp’s larvae.

Interesting Natural History Information

  • Like all tarantulas, they have tiny hairs all over their bodies that are very sensitive to vibrations, so they are able to feel for their prey. 
  • In order to kill its prey, the tarantula spears the animal with its long fangs to poison it. Next, the tarantula crushes the prey in its mouth and adds a special fluid in order to reduce the prey to a pulpy mush that the spider can suck up.
  • Their digestive system is designed to deal with liquid food only. Their venom interferes with the prey’s nervous system (neurotoxin) or by breaking down the body’s tissues (cytotoxin). To digest its prey, it vomits a mixture of digestive enzymes onto its food, breaking the tissue down into a liquid that can then be sucked up through the spider’s mouthparts. 

Did you know…

  • The jaw of a tarantula is different from other spider jaws; tarantula jaws move up and down while other spiders’ jaws move side to side.

Handling & Presentation Tips

  • A very short fall for an invertebrate can be fatal.
  • They can also be displayed in a small to medium clear plastic tank that allows visitors to see from all sides without concern of agitating them or if you have a more sensitive tarantula.
  • Zoo New England, Stone Zoo: different individuals can have greatly varying handle-abilities.
  • Natural Science Center of Greensboro: do not allow volunteers to handle

Use Guidelines

  • Seneca Park Zoo: good spider for holding
  • Handling time: In general, limiting handling seems to be a wise approach. Be attentive to signs of irritation in the tarantula – shedding urticating hairs, increasing movement usually means that the animal is agitated and should not be handled.
    • Nashville Zoo: no more than 30 minutes at one time and no more than once per day. 
    • Fresno Chaffee Zoo: will allow multiple presentations in one day (as many as four) but the length of time the tarantula can be handled at each presentation is typically 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Brandywine Zoo: up to 2 times per day, cannot be used for programs on three consecutive days in a row. Can be presented in hand or in a carrier. 
    • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: handle in short, 10 minute intervals with a limit of three times per day. Can be presented in hand or in a carrier. 
  • Molting: After the tarantula molts, it should be given some “time off” from handling. No handling the week after molt is a good guideline, but some institutions will rest their tarantulas for longer than that. 
    • Fresno Chaffee Zoo: no handling of tarantulas for 2 weeks after a molt
    • Zoo Atlanta: no handling for 3 weeks after a molt.

Public Contact and Interaction Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: this is a non-touchable species. 

Transportation Tips

  • Gauge the animal’s behavior before removing it from the enclosure. Handlers should be aware of what a full defensive position looks like in this species.
  • Describe or share photos of your carrier setup
  • Note any changes you may make for seasonal transportation 

Crating Techniques

  •  How do you set up your carrier/crate for transporting this species safely and comfortably

Temperature Guidelines

  •  What temperature ranges can this animal be used outdoors? Any restrictions for travel that are temperature specific? How long can they be used at each temperature?

Acquisition Information

  • Recently, there has been some concern that tarantulas are entering the pet trade from unsustainable collection from the wild. However, this is not well documented but nevertheless if captive bred specimens are available, that would be preferable.

 Look for specialty/exotic rescues such as:

Resources

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • AZA Program Animal Listserv
  • ZooAmerica
  • Brandywine Zoo
  • Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium
  • Fresno Chaffee Zoo
  • Nashville Zoo

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