Black tarantula with red coloring on its legs

Tarantula Species: The Different Types of Tarantulas and Where They Live

Tarantulas are an extremely diverse species, more so than popular culture portrays them to be. In fact, there are actually 1040 different types of tarantulas. They can be found on every continent, except for Antarctica. And they are generally grouped into three categories: arboreal (tree-dwelling), terrestrial (shallow burrower), or fossorial (deep burrower).

The Different Types of Tarantulas

If you search online, you’ll quickly discover that there are many different estimates of how many tarantula species are out there. Some estimates claim there are just over 850 tarantula species. Others say there are around 900. Still others say there are close to 1000.

According to the World Spider Catalogue, as of August 2022, researchers have identified 1040 distinct tarantula species.

This extraordinarily diverse family of spiders (affectionately referred to as “Ts” by tarantula keepers) can be found on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. Unlike many other spider families, however, tarantulas only thrive in warmer climates, and are not endemic to regions where the temperature tends to dip down drastically in the winter.

In general, you can think of tarantulas as being endemic to regions throughout the coffee belt. In fact, many of the countries that produce the highest amounts of coffee also host an incredible number of tarantula species.

Where Do Tarantulas Live? Arboreal, Terrestrial, and Fossorial Tarantula Species

Ok. So tarantulas come from almost every country along the coffee belt. But where do they prefer to live in those regions? You might be surprised to discover that, unlike other spiders, tarantulas don’t spin complex webs to hang out on.

Generally, tarantulas are divided into three groups: arboreal, terrestrial, and fossorial. And yes, you can find pet tarantula species in each of these groups. As mentioned in a previous article, tarantulas kept in captivity need to have 4x their size in enclosure space. How that size is oriented depends on whether the tarantula species you’re keeping is arboreal, terrestrial, or fossorial.

Here are some of the most popular tarantula species from each of these groups.

Arboreal Tarantula Species

Arboreal species need an enclosure that’s 4x their size in vertical space. When setting up your arboreal T’s habitat, be sure to provide plenty of thick, vertically-oriented cork bark and branches for your tarantula to nest in.

Goliath Pink Toe

Scientific Name: Avicularia braunshauseni

Origin: South America – Brazil

Size: Up to 8 in.

Temperament: Docile, somewhat skittish

Lifespan: Female = 10-12 years; Male = 3-4 years

Humidity requirements: 80%

Introduced into the U.S. tarantula hobby scene in the ‘90s, this T is richly colored, and is one of the largest members of its genus. Although docile, it tends to be skittish. Goliath Pink Toe tarantulas are a great display T.

Martinique Pink Toe

Scientific Name: Caribena versicolor

Origin: Caribbean, Martinique

Size: Up to 6 in.

Temperament: Docile but bold

Lifespan: Females=11-12 years; Males = 2-3 years

A relatively docile species with a milder venom, the Martinique Pink Toe is known to be bold, sometimes jumping out of its enclosure while its keeper is trying to feed it or spot clean. Should this happen to you, there’s no cause for concern. Your T will usually jump off you right away, preferring its branches to your arm.

Sapphire Ornamental

Scientific Name: Poecilotheria metallica

Place of Origin: Nallamala Forest, India

Size: 6 in.

Temperament: Defensive and flighty. This species is not for beginners.

Lifespan: Females=12-15 years; Males=3-4 years

One of the most sought-after species among hobbyists, the Sapphire Ornamental is a relatively docile species, for an Old World tarantula. A fascinating T to watch through each of its moltings, you’ll observe drastic color changes from boring gray to vibrant blue, with white and yellow markings. 

Pro Tip: This species prefers to live behind bark and in deep crevices in large trees. Be sure to provide yours with lots of vertical structure and plenty of dark spaces.

Darth Maul Tarantula 

Scientific Name: Psalmopoeus victori

New World

Size: 5.5 in.

Temperament: Not for beginners. Defensive. Fast. Aggressive when provoked.

Lifespan: Females=10-12 years; Males=2-3 years

Humidity Requirements: 70-80%

Place of Origin: Veracruz, Mexico

The Darth Maul Tarantula is something of a newcomer to the hobby, but has obvious appeal. However, it’s not for beginners. Unusual among New World tarantulas, this tarantula species has no urticating hairs on its abdomen. Because of this, it can be very defensive and aggressive, and even has the ability to hiss at you if you upset it.

Brazilian Jewel

Scientific Name: Typhochlaena seladonia

New World (dwarf)

Size: 2 in.

Temperament: Docile and calm, but not for beginners.

Lifespan: Unknown

Humidity: 75-85%

Origin: Brazil

This dwarf tarantula species is extremely rare, but is considered by many to be the most beautiful tarantula species. They display a rainbow of vibrant colors, including various shades of reds, pinks, blues, greens, yellows, and more. However, they are not a T for beginner keepers.

Brazilian Jewel slings and juveniles are very sensitive to housing and husbandry mistakes when young. Their steep price tag tends to be an additional deterrent to many keepers, averaging over $500 per sling!

Blue dwarf tarantula

Terrestrial Tarantula Species

Terrestrial tarantula species also need an enclosure that’s 4x their size, however, theirs should be oriented horizontally. When setting up your terrestrial T’s habitat, be sure to provide a hide, and perhaps even create a starter burrow. Branches, plants, or even leaves and decorations are a great way to provide additional anchors for your T’s webbing.

Arizona Blonde

Scientific Name: Aphonopelma chalcodes

Origin: Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California

Size: 6 in.

Temperament: Docile and calm

Lifespan: Females=25+ years; Males=10-14 years

Origin: Southwest U.S.A.

The Arizona Blond is a staple species in the hobby, and you’d be hard pressed to find a “top 10” list that doesn’t also include this one. They’re extremely docile and very tolerant of husbandry mistakes, making them a perfect starter for beginner T-keepers. Although handling isn’t recommended for any species, the Arizona Blond tolerates it much better than almost any other tarantula species out there.

Green Bottle Blue

Scientific Name: Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens

Origin: Brazil and Paraguay

Size: 6 in.

Temperament: Calm, but bold. 

Lifespan: Females=12-14 years; Males=4 years

The Green Bottle Blue (GBB) is another staple in the tarantula keeping hobby. They display a beautiful array of colors all throughout their lifespan, and create extensive webbing that’s fascinating to observe. Be sure to include plenty of structures within the enclosure to serve as anchor points for the webbing. The GBB is known to throw a defensive posture, so by no means should you attempt to handle it.

Mexican Red Knee

Scientific Name: Brachypelma hamorii

Place of Origin: Mexico

Size: 6 in.

Temperament: Docile and calm

Lifespan: Females=25-30+ years; Males=2-5 years

Humidity: 70-85%

Probably the most famous of all the tarantula species, the Mexican Red Knee starred as the mother species in the hit 90s film “Arachnophobia.” Despite its role on film, however, it’s one of the most docile, and therefore most often handled species. They generally don’t get annoyed or defensive, and therefore rarely throw their urticating hairs. A great species for beginner and experienced T-keepers alike.

Guatemalan Tiger Rump

Scientific Name: Davus pentaloris

Place of Origin: Mexico, Guatemala, Panama

Size: 4.75 in

Temperament: Skitting and nervous. Prone to throwing urticating hairs.

Lifespan: Females=10-11 years; Males=3-4 years

The Guatemalan Tiger Rump is an incredible display tarantula. However, it is very skittish and prone to throwing its urticating hairs, so be sure to disturb it as little as possible and keep it in a low-traffic area of your home. Fortunately, when startled, this species calms down very quickly, and will likely re-emerge shortly after hiding.

Chaco Golden Knee

Scientific Name: Grammostola pulchripes

Place of Origin: Paraguay

Size: 6.5 in.

Temperament: Docile and calm. Great for display. Great for beginners.

Lifespan: Females=15-20 years; Males=3-4 years

Another common tarantula among beginner T-keepers, the Chaco Golden Knee is often compared to the Mexican Red Knee for being one of the most docile tarantula species. It’s also a great display T since it loves sitting out in the open. Chaco’s tend to be quite active, and will continually rearrange their burrows until they feel all is as it should be.

Fossorial Tarantula Species

Fossorial tarantulas are burrowers, often spending the bulk of their lives in the burrows and tunnels they construct. As a T-keeper, you should offer your fossorial tarantula species 4x its size in horizontal space, but with the emphasis on deep substrate rather than on providing branches and structures.

Vietnam Blue

Scientific Name: Chilobrachys dyscolus

Origin: Burma, Malaysia, Myanmar

Size: 5.5 in.

Temperament: Very fast. Very nervous. Very defensive.

Lifespan: Females=11-12 years; Males=2-4 years

This tarantula is not recommended for beginners. It’s very fast, very nervous, and very defensive. Like all tarantulas, its bite is venomous. This one’s bite results in effects that don’t take immediately, but when they do, they pack a punch. The Vietnam Blue also tends to be nocturnal, seldom venturing outside its burrow and then only late at night.

Peruvian Black & White

Scientific Name: Cyriocosmus ritae

Origin: Brazil

Size: 2 in.

Temperament: Docile and calm.

Lifespan: Females=7-10 years; Males=2-3 years

Another dwarf species, the Peruvian Black & White is a beautifully colored species. Unlike some of the other fossorials on this list, however, it’s an opportunistic burrower. If you’d like to view your T more often, you can offer it less substrate and more branches and other structures for its extensive webbing. It has a fantastic feeding response, but should only be fed small insects like pinhead crickets.

Cobalt Blue

Scientific Name: Cyriopagopus lividus

Origin: Burma, Myanmar, Thailand

Size: 5.5 in.

Temperament: Very defensive. 

Lifespan: Females=10-12 years; Males=3-4 years

The Cobalt Blue is one of the best-known and most highly sought species in the hobby, but it is not for beginner T-keepers. If you’re looking for a beautiful display T, look elsewhere. Cobalt Blues are extremely reclusive, spending most of their time in their burrows and only coming out late at night. They’re also very defensive and highly likely to throw a defensive pose if they feel threatened.

Golden Blue Leg Lagoon

Scientific Name: Harpactira pulchripes

Origin: South Africa

Size: 5 in.

Temperament: Pretty chill, but still defensive.

Lifespan: Females=10-12 years; Males=2-3 years

The Golden Blue Leg Baboon gets its name from its range of colors, showing shades of brown, orange, and gold on its body, and blue legs. Although laid back, as far as Baboon Ts and other Old World tarantulas go, they are still not recommended for beginner keepers. It should be noted as well that they’re illegal to keep in captivity in South Africa.

Philippine Tangerine

Scientific Name: Orphnaecus philippinus

Origin: Philippines

Size: 14cm-15cm

Temperament: Fast, nervous, and defensive.

Lifespan: Females=22-12 years; Males=2-4 years

The Philippine Tangerine – often referred to as the Orange Baboon Tarantula (OBT) – is a stunning tarantula species that many T-keepers love for their fast eating response. Generally more mellow tempered than other Baboon tarantulas, OBTs prefer to run and hide when they feel threatened, and will usually only throw a defensive pose if it feels it has no other option. As with the Peruvian Black & White, you can either provide the OBT with deep substrate, or provide a little less substrate with plenty of branches and structures on the surface so it can web more extensively.

Takeaway: Tarantulas are a diverse family of spiders, consisting of 1040 distinct species. They can be found on every continent, save Antarctica, and make their habitat in the coffee belt, along the equator. Although a large family, they are typically divided into three groups: arboreal, terrestrial, and fossorial. 

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