Genus Poecilotheria Care
General Care - Maintenance of the Genus Poecilotheria
Poecilotheria is a genus of the family Theraphosidae, containing 14 species of arboreal tarantula. They are native to Sri Lanka and India and are known for their colorful markings, speed, and potent venom compared to other tarantulas. Depending on the species of Poecilotheria, female adults can range from 6-10” in leg span, with the males being slightly smaller. Poecilotheria is roughly translated from Greek meaning "Colorful Beast".
Poecilotheria Species Listing
Poecilotheria fasciata (Latreille, 1804) — Sri Lanka
Poecilotheria formosa (Pocock, 1899) — India
Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica (Smith, 2004) — India
Poecilotheria metallica (Pocock, 1899) — India
Poecilotheria miranda (Pocock, 1900) — India
Poecilotheria ornata (Pocock, 1899) — Sri Lanka
Poecilotheria pederseni (Kirk, 2001) — Sri Lanka
Poecilotheria regalis (Pocock, 1899) — India
Poecilotheria rufilata (Pocock, 1899) — India
Poecilotheria smithi (Kirk, 1996) — Sri Lanka
Poecilotheria striata (Pocock, 1895) — India
Poecilotheria subfusca (Pocock, 1895) — Sri Lanka
Poecilotheria tigrinawesseli (Smith, 2006) — India
Poecilotheria uniformis (Strand, 1913) — Sri Lanka
Poecilotheria Housing - Climate
Like most tarantulas, Poecilotheria are easily housed without much supplementary lighting or heating. Many species are very sensitive to light and bright light sources should be avoided. The temperature range for all Poecilotheria species is 72-80F with P. rufilata and subfusca preferring the lower end of the range. All Poecilotheria require high humidity within 70-90%. This can be provided by misting the cage walls every two to three days and making sure the substrate stays moist. Poecilotheria can be housed in a cage that is at least 1 x 1 x 2 times the leg span of the tarantula. Caging for spiderlings can be as simple as a baby food jar. The cage should always included 1-2” of moist substrate, a hide, and a shallow water dish. Tarantulas are highly adaptive and the cage can be decorated as you see fit.
Poecilotheria Food - Water
Poecilotheria are great feeders and will eat just about anything they can catch. Common feeders used are crickets, roaches, and flies. Poecilotheria should be fed once a week. A feeder half the size of the tarantula ,not including the legs; or two to three adult crickets for sub adults/adults is adequate. Water should be provided for tarantulas over 2", in a shallow dish as large as the tarantulas body. Many arboreal tarantulas will also drink droplets off the cage wall.
Poecilotheria Molting - Growth
Periodically tarantulas will stop eating for weeks or months at a time, become less active, and hide more. These are all signs of an upcoming molt. During the process the tarantula will flip on to its back before shedding its old skin. After it has shed its skin, the tarantula will be soft and supple and will need time for the new skin to harden before being fed or moved. It is very important that no lose feeders are in the cage while a tarantula is molting, as this is a very vulnerable time for the animal.
Poecilotheria Sexing - Breeding - Reproduction
Sexing of tarantulas is no simple matter. It is best done by looking for the Spermathecae in female tarantulas, and it can easily be seen on most tarantulas larger than 2” by examining the shed skin in the area between the upper book lungs. If a Spermathecae is present, the tarantula is female. Most species of Poecilotheria can be visibility sexed as sub-adults as the male commonly have a darker folio line on the abdomen than the females. Breeding of the genus Poecilotheria is fairly simple and normally very easy. It is best to start with an adult female that has molted within the last three months. After the male has built a sperm web, he can be introduced to the female’s cage. Both will start drumming with the palps. The female normally allows the male to mate without aggression, returning to her hide after the act. The pair can be kept together should the female not react aggressively and space allows it. Within 20 to 30 days the female will begin to web a mat that she lays the eggs on. She will roll this into a ball and keep it with her at all times, turning it often to keep the eggs from sticking to another. After another 25-30 days, the eggs will have developed to embryo stage two or “eggs with legs”. These embryos require no food and are not very mobile. At this time you may want to remove the egg sack from the mother for incubation. After their first molt the small spiderlings will look like most normal spiders and are ready to be fed and are moving on their own.
Communal Care of Poecilotheria
It is possible to keep most species of Poecilotheria in a communal tank. In their natural environment living space is few and far between, and more than one tarantula may share it's living space with another. People have been making this work in captive tanks too. But a few key points must be followed. It is best to start your tank with a number of spiderlings in a smallish tank with very few hiding areas. If territories are developed by individual tarantulas they will defend them and see their bothers and sisters as prey. The most communal of the Poecilotheria are P. rufilata and P. regalis, P. ornata and P. striata can be raised communally but these two species should be separated before the sub adult stage, as these species will become aggressive with one another.
While the genus Poecilotheria is a beautiful and interesting tarantula, they should only be kept by experienced keepers. While they would rather hide than bite, a bite from these spiders should not be taken lightly, and effects of a bite can include: nausea, fever, muscular cramps/spasms for up to two weeks after the bite. It is never recommended to handle these tarantulas. Nevertheless, these beautiful spiders have been made the monsters of many internet stories. With proper tools and care I have found them to be no more, if not less aggressive, than many other tarantulas in the hobby.
Author: Zachary Titus
Poecilotheria metallica (bark) - © Soren Rafn [CC-BY-SA-3.0]