The Goliath birdeater is a common name given to the species Theraphosa blondi. They are the largest species of spider in both mass and size. However, they rank second behind the huntsman spider in leg span. They are an impressive species to both watch and keep, but they are considered a tarantula only for those with more experience. Theraphosa blondi is sometimes confused for another tarantula, Theraphosa stirmi, or the burgundy birdeater. Visually, they are very similar and are often mistakenly sold interchangeably by pet stores that lack the proper knowledge or care to correctly identify them. Because of this, we recommend prospective Goliath birdeater tarantula owners find a reputable breeder to purchase from.
Introduction to the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
The Goliath birdeater is native to the upland rainforest areas of northern South America, such as Suriname, Guyana, French Guinea, and parts of Brazil and Venezuela. They are a nocturnal, terrestrial species, living in deep burrows in marshy areas. The females have a lifespan upwards of 25 years in captivity, while the males' average lifespan is between 3 and 6 years.
As mentioned before, they are a very large species, having a diagonal leg span with the potential to reach between 10 and 11 inches. Imagine this creature easily taking up the size of a dinner plate!
Behavior & Temperament
The Goliath birdeater is one of the only known tarantulas capable of making a "hissing" noise if threatened. They can be fast, and they can be defensive, which is why this particular species isn’t the best choice for those looking to just dip their toes into the hobby. As a New World species, the Goliath birdeater has a body full of urticating hairs, which can be kicked off in a heartbeat if necessary. In comparison to other New World species, the Goliath birdeater’s hair is more potent, with the capability to irritate the skin and eyes, even causing blisters if the reaction is severe. Some keepers wear gloves for added protection if they have to poke around inside the enclosure.
Goliath birdeater tarantula venom is still considered mild and not exactly medically significant, though the bite is painful enough to cause most people to be leery about handling these tarantulas. The adult birdeater has a set of inch-long fangs that grow and regrow with every molt. The puncture alone is enough to cause pain, with or without the presence of venom. They are also capable of delivering a venomless bite, known as a dry bite.
With this information, it is not suggested to handle your Goliath birdeater. There is no sort of enrichment or enjoyment your tarantula derives from the experience, and it just adds a bit of unnecessary danger for you and your spider. The use of tongs during feeding when your tarantula needs to be moved is HIGHLY recommended.
Many keepers will suggest purchasing a spiderling from a breeder when dealing with this species, simply because it allows you to become acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of your Goliath birdeater. Even as a spiderling, the birdeater has a voracious appetite, and with the proper feeding and keeping, it has the potential to grow up to 4 inches in a year.
As an adult, an enclosure with the dimensions similar to a 20-gallon long aquarium is adequate, but bigger isn’t necessarily bad when it comes to your Goliath birdeater. The Theraphosa blondi is a species that enjoys its moisture. A water bowl is necessary for your pet, with overflow into adequate substrate to allow for the proper humidity levels between 80 and 85 percent. The substrate should be damp, but not soaking wet. Even though the humidity inside the enclosure should be higher, ventilation is absolutely necessary to keep the air from becoming stagnant. A temperature between 75 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit is fine for this species, and minor fluctuations will not harm your tarantula. These can all be monitored with the proper equipment, such as hygrometers and thermostats. If your goal is to keep a Goliath birdeater tarantula that can grow large and live a long time, proper temperature and humidity are vital.
Plastic enclosures allow for easier modification, but many opt for low-lying glass enclosures for their own viewing pleasure. This species will burrow when given the correct amount of substrate. A mix of about 4 or more inches of organic soil, coco fiber and peat moss can help keep your birdeater happy, while adding hiding spots and décor for the necessary security that this species needs. A half-buried piece of cork bark or wood can start the entrance of a burrow and also help reduce your spider's stress.
Birdeaters are rather messy eaters, so it is important to take time to remove and spot clean any remaining food boluses and potential mold growth.
Goliath Birdeater Tarantula Diet
The Goliath birdeater tarantula allegedly earned its name because when it was first sighted, it was eating a bird. Despite the name, birds are not the primary prey for the Goliath birdeater. Food sources vary, as this spider is an opportunistic eater with a hearty appetite. It will readily snatch up any insects thrown its way. Common feeder insects for Goliath birdeater tarantulas, such as Dubia roaches, live crickets, mealworms and others, are easy to purchase and keep or even breed. That being said, some keepers do offer smaller vertebrates like mice, lizards and other reptiles to their birdeater. Many will say to keep prey items high in calcium or fat away from your tarantulas, but as an occasional substitute in a varied diet — and as long as they are appropriately sized for your pet — shouldn’t cause any problems.
A water dish for your Goliath birdeater is also vital — placing it in a corner where it can be overfilled and away from where your tarantula has made its personal home is the best decision. Your pet will also drink from it, so keep it clean and free of debris.
With as much growing as a Goliath birdeater tarantula spiderling experiences in its first year, molting is a process you’ll find yourself becoming more and more familiar with. Molting is relatively frequent until your birdeater matures, with the males dying off not too long after reaching sexual maturity, and the females continuing on for years afterward, albeit much slower than before. You do not want to keep your birdeater dry, especially during a molt, as it can cause multiple issues and even death to your tarantula during this sensitive time.
Lethargy and refusal to eat are two very common symptoms of an upcoming molt. Be sure to remove any live feeders that may be inside your birdeater’s enclosure during this time, as the tarantula will be very vulnerable during the process, as well as for a few days afterwards until its exoskeleton hardens back up.
If you see that your tarantula appears weak, has lost weight or has curled its legs beneath itself, it could be a sign of illness. Reaching out to a knowledgeable veterinarian or experienced keeper is of the utmost importance for your tarantula’s wellbeing.
Keeping this species may seem daunting at first, however, with the proper experience and know-how, the Goliath birdeater tarantula is a very interesting and rewarding specimen to add to any collection. As always, research is very important, as is taking care and precaution when dealing with these beautiful creatures.
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