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ATS Care Sheet


Basic Tarantula Care: Chilean rose (Grammostola cala) (ed note: soon to be Phrixotrichus cala, may become synonymous with G. spatulata)
Environment:
An ideal container for an adult is a plastic box with a lid, around a foot or so square and eight inches tall. Some ventilation should be provided, along with a water dish. You can put spongue in the water dish to keep crickets from drowning in it, or make bridges with such as strips of acetate. Misting is not necessary for this species. Temperature should be at least 70 degrees, and preferably 75 to 80. Do not keep in direct sun, but some indirect light is important. Screened tops are not recommended, as the spider may catch its claws in the screen and wind up losing a leg. Also, do not use spiny plants or rocks for decoration, as they pose hazards for a falling animal. Vermiculite (available from plant nurseries or garden stores) is a preferred substrate, although some use peat (microwave for a few minutes to kill off mite eggs) or orchid bark (I don't recommend this, as it tends to breed mites and flies, but some like it), or even potting soil, sand, or various combinations. If your medium does not get wet, you will have much less trouble with unwanted growths, so don't use an overly large water dish (which will also drown more crickets) because the T may tip it over from time to time. This species does not require much in the way of humidity.

Food: A wide variety of food may be taken, but crickets are most commonly used, and may be purchased from pet shops, bait shops, or in quantities of 500 or 1000 by mail from cricket farms. Feed at least a few a week, or as many as your spider will take. Do not leave uneaten prey in with the spider. Remove cricket remains or they may infest the container with mites. If you use wild-caught insects, do not collect from areas that have been treated with pesticides. Do not feed spiny insects, and most recommend avoiding wild cockroaches. Pinky mice are a possibility, but this species generally is not a voracious eater and they are not necessary.

Handling: Members of this species are relatively slow-moving and tend to be quite amenable to handling. Do not do so with the spider very high off the ground, as they can easily be fatally injured by even a short fall.
Selection: Mature male tarantulas of this species are usually brighter-colored, and are rangier with longer legs. The first pair of legs will have hooks on the third segment from the end, and the palps (the leg-like, shorter appendages up by the head ) will have enlarged ends. Mature males have very short life-spans, while mature females can go on for many years.
Do not buy a spider that is sluggish, especially if it is crouching with its legs curled under it at all, a sign of imminent death. Watch also for missing legs or any sign of bleeding (spider blood is blue).

Molting: Tarantulas molt frequently before maturity, as often as every few weeks when very young. Adult females usually molt once a year, although Chilean rose spiders have been known to skip years. Males die after the molt that brings them to sexual maturity. This species grows very slowly. When the spider is approaching a molt, it will stop feeding. However, this species in particular is notorious for stopping feeding for very long periods of time, as long as a year, for no clear reason. In any case, a pre-molt animal will often develop a dark shiny patch on its abdomen, which is apparently related to the old exoskeleton separating and the hairs on the new one showing through. When the spider begins to molt, it will turn over on its back. This is the only time a tarantula naturally turns over on its back, including when dying (they die with their feet curled underneath ). Do not touch an animal that is molting, as it will be in a very fragile state and can be easily killed. It will take several hours, and you should not handle the animal for a week afterwards or try to feed it, until the new exoskeleton is completely hardened. Also, any crickets in the container with the spider while it is molting may kill it.
Molting is the most hazardous time for a spider. A tarantula that has trouble molting may even die, or at least lose a leg. If your tarantula loses any part of a leg for any reason at any time, grab it with a pair of forceps by the uppermost leg segment and force it to autotomize (throw off) the leg, or it will very likely bleed to death. If it is not bleeding, it may be okay, but sometimes it starts later. If the break is up at the very top, it can close the wound and survive, and the leg will probably regenerate over the next molt or two. If a break occurs elsewhere and the spider is bleeding, and you do not want to force autotomy; you can try nail polish, "liquid skin," or silicone rubber to close the break, or the spider will most likely die. If you need to perform such "surgery" on your animal, put it in the refrigerator for twenty minutes first, this won't hurt it but will slow it down and it will be easy to work with.
If you leave town for awhile, your tarantula should do fine as long as it has adequate water and heat. They can go for a month easily without food, or even longer. They also can tolerate being quite cold for several days or perhaps even more, but the metabolic slowdown may cause problems with digestion if the animal has recently fed. This is not recommended but of course may happen by accident.

Other resources: "Arachnomania!" by Philip de Vosjoli, is an inexpensive book available at many pet shops, that is relatively useful, although far from ideal. TFH books, with the exception of this one and ones by Ann Webb and Barbara Reger, are generally of little use and are dangerous to rely on. "Keeping and Breeding Tarantulas" by Ronald Baxter, is pretty good, somewhat more expensive, has wonderful plates and is available only by mail order from certain arthropod dealers. "My Aunt Rose," self-published by Rino Mascarino, is an interesting, entertaining and informative little book on the Chilean rose. (213) 227-6566. The American Tarantula Society publishes a bi-monthly 40 page Forum that is available from arachnologist editor Dr. Robert Gale Breene III, at PO Box 3594, South Padre Island, TX 78597. (phone (210) 233-5009, email 71024.2662@compuserve.com)


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