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Choosing a tarantula for all the Wrong Reasons

by Lucian "Luc" Ross

I think one of the biggest mistakes made by many new to the hobby is the acquisition of a tarantula for all the wrong reasons and rarely does a week go past that I do not receive several emails from first-time hobbyists asking for advice on choosing a "good" Poecilotheria species.

I do realize that it is impossible to determine a first-time hobbyists ability to keep and maintain such tarantulas as African and Far Eastern species and I know several people that started out in the hobby maintaining Poecilotheria, Theraphosa, Hysterocrates, etc. All have raised many tarantulas to maturity and have done so very well with few mistakes along the way. Then, there are those that started by maintaining some of these more "glamorous" species and failed miserably and caused the death of many beautiful tarantulas trying to be part of the "in" crowd of arachnoculture.

Several months ago, I received an email from a person new to our hobby in which he asked me which of the following Poecilotheria would be the "best" species to get as his first spider, Poecilotheria rufilata, P. formosa, or P. subfusca? After a quite long reply in which I explained the work and caution involved in maintaining such species as any of the Ornamentals, and making suggestions on starting off his collection with one or more species of Avicularia, he included in his next reply that he wanted to keep a species that the real hobbyists kept!

This is a belief fostered by many new hobbyists entering the arachnocultural community for the first time. Many actually becoming defensive or feeling insulted that someone would suggest that they not start with a Theraphosa blondi, Haplopelma lividum, or Poecilotheria ornata.

These new hobbyists are entering the hobby with the belief that unless they maintain one or several of the high-priced rarer species that they'll not be considered part of the "real" arachnocultural community and no one will take them seriously.

The days of suggesting Grammostola rosea, Aphonopelma seemanni, Brachypelma albopilosum, and Avicularia avicularia, are almost over as a suggestion towards a new keeper of maintaining such a species as one of those listed is more than likely to result in offending the new hobbyists and sever further communication!

The worst thing about such opinions is that the new hobbyists deprives him/herself of experiencing some of the most fascinating and wonderful tarantulas in the hobby and as in any discipline, it is necessary to build a firm and knowledgeable foundation by beginning with tarantulas that are not a threat to the new hobbyist in order for the hobbyists to interact and observe the lifestyles of these fascinating arachnids.

Then, after gaining some experience with these species, the hobbyists can advance to those tarantulas kept and maintained by those with a greater degree of experience. They will possess a firm foundation that will allow them to knowledgeably and responsibly maintain tarantulas of genera such as Poecilotheria, Hysterocrates, Haplopelma, or Theraphosa that do require a more thorough knowledge of keeping techniques, skills, and behaviors.

The main thing that new hobbyists need to understand is that it is necessary to both, the keeper and the kept, that the keeper develop his/her skills by initially keeping and interacting with species that are generally considered to be easier to maintain and work with than some of the more demanding species such as Poecilotheria ornata or Pamphobeteus fortis.

And remember, most of those $100.00 tarantulas are actually less glamorous and interesting than the $10.00 species!

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