How to keep a Red Knee Tarantula

The Mexican Red Knee Tarantula originates from the scrubland, deserts and forests of Mexico. They are terrestrial by nature, residing in burrows in the ground and as a result, aren’t particularly impressive webbers. As an adult they are black in colour with red-orange stripes on their legs, a nice contrast, making them one of the more attractive and well-known tarantulas.

Although they’re docile by nature, it isn’t recommended to do much handling as tarantulas aren’t very tolerant and can flick hairs. These can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable, particularly when they get into the eyes, and pose an additional risk if breathed in.

Housing

The Mexican Red Knee is a decent sized tarantula and requires space and depth of substrate for burrowing. It is best to keep them in a minimum of a 60x45x30cm terrarium, though they are also commonly kept in similar sized plastic containers with good ventilation. As they are from arid regions a sand/soil mix is recommended or an earthy dry substrate such as ProRep’s Biolife Desert. This is still low humidity but tends to hold well if burrowed in – qualities that should be considered in any alternatives. 

Your tarantula will most likely make its own burrows but extra decor such as cork tubes, cork pieces, branches and vegetation can help to create shelter and a more natural setting as well as one that the tarantula can feel secure in.

Heating and lighting

Tarantulas do not require any special lighting, though you may decide to use a small LED to create night and day periods as well as aid plant growth if you are choosing a live planted environment. They do however need to be kept warm with a cooler side and warmer side for regulation. The warmer side of the enclosure should sit around 26C – which can usually be reached with a heat mat. Any heat source needs attaching to the relevant thermostat to ensure the temperature doesn’t exceed this and to keep your pet safe. An accurate digital thermometer should be used at all times. 

The cooler end of the enclosure can remain around 20C or slightly lower and at night, all temperatures can drop to 15C or lower. This is a natural drop experienced in a wild habitat and again creates day/night periods.

Humidity

The humidity in the enclosure should be around 50 – 60% – measured with an accurate digital hygrometer. This should be fairly easy to reach without too much intervention but may require spraying every now and then if it falls too low. This will also help to keep the substrate good enough to hold its structure. 

Raise the humidity particularly when the tarantula is moulting for ease of getting out of the old moult. Moulting can be a worrying process if you haven’t seen it before, with the tarantula flipping on its back to crawl out of the moult. As you can imagine, during this time, it can appear that they are dead! You can also provide a shallow water dish to help in humidity and keep your tarantula hydrated. 

Contrary to popular belief, as long as the dish is shallow, invertebrates are able to get out and this will not pose a risk, though for small juveniles and spiderlings the dish should be very small (e.g a bottle cap). A dish is always recommended over a sponge which can harbour bacteria. With the warmth and humidity combined, mould is also a risk in your environment and needs to be removed when visible. You can also add springtails; tiny ‘clean up crew’ which will eat mould and not bother your tarantula.

Diet

Your tarantula will feed solely on live food such as crickets, locusts, mealworms and cockroaches and these should be provided 1-2 times a week depending on the meal. Food doesn’t require additional supplementation. It is important that any uneaten live food is removed if it has been in for a while, particularly when moulting, as your tarantula can be vulnerable to the live food eating them!

Species profile

  • Scientific name – Brachypelma hamorii 
  • Adult Expected Size – Leg span of around 5 inches
  • Habitat – Scrubland, deserts and forests of Mexico, preferring burrowing in sandy substrate. Terrestrial living.
  • Required Enclosure Size – 60 x 45 x 30cm or equivalent sized container.
  • UV Lighting – Not required
  • Expected Lifespan – Males: 5 – 8 years / Females up to 20+ Years
  • Temperature Gradient – 20 – 26C
  • Humidity Levels – 50 – 60%
  • Feeding – Live food such as crickets, locust, mealworms and cockroaches
  • Handling – Docile temperament though handling isn’t recommended as they aren’t very tolerant and can flick hairs.


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