Scientific Name: Brachypelma smithi
Common Name: Mexican Red-Knee
Authority: F.O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1897
Adult Size: Approximately 6 inches
Experience Level: Beginner
Disposition: Non-aggressive but known to kick urticating hairs when disturbed.
Type: Terrestrial, likes to burrow
Distribution: South-western Mexico
Habitat: Savannah, scrubland
Heat & Humidity Requirements: 75°, 65-75% humidity. Though this is a desert species, they spend their days underground in their much cooler burrows, venturing out at night to hunt.
Enclosure Set-Up: For adult tarantulas, I like to use Breeding Boxes by Exo-Terra. Depending on your available space either the medium (11.8 inches long x 7.7 inches wide x 5.7 inches high) or large (16.3 inches long x 10.4 inches wide x 5.8 inches high) will do. These boxes are sturdy, stackable and have great ventilation. They also feature convenient doors on the lid for feeding so that you don’t necessarily have to take off the entire lid.
For substrate I use about 1-2″ of EcoEarth by Zoo Med. This is a loose coconut fiber substrate, now used very often by tarantula keepers. Despite this being a burrowing species, I have had very good luck keeping them for 20+ years by just providing a hide. The substrate does allow the spider to “redecorate” its enclosure how it seems fit and believe me, it will!
For a hide I will either use a piece of cork bark or a hollowed out half log. Even though tarantulas get most of their moisture from the food they eat, I also always provide a shallow water dish. There are many decent ones available at pet stores but I find that the caps on larger spice bottles work best.
Special Notes: Brachypelma smithi is one of the best beginner tarantulas available on the market today. In 1985 they were added to the Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) treaty. Because of this wild caught specimens are no longer legal. Captive bred spiderlings are available from most dealers at reasonable prices. This is a very long-lived species with females known to live in excess of 25 years! This beautiful tarantula is particularly stunning right after a molt, where the black looks like velvet and the orange is very bright. Because this species readily flicks hairs, it is very common to see them with bald abdomens. When they are nearing a molt the bald area darkens up as you can see the replacement hair forming under the “old” skin.