This complete guide to the gooty sapphire tarantula is packed with facts and information to help you decide if this 8-legged pal is right for you.
- What are gooty sapphire tarantulas?
- gooty sapphire tarantula appearance
- Are gooty sapphire tarantulas poisonous?
- How big do gooty sapphire tarantulas get?
- Are gooty sapphire tarantulas good for beginners?
- gooty sapphire tarantula temperament
- Are gooty sapphire tarantulas aggressive?
- Caring for a gooty sapphire tarantula
- gooty sapphire tarantula lifespan
- How to find a gooty sapphire tarantula for sale
- Is a gooty sapphire tarantula right for me?
A gooty sapphire tarantula is one of the most venomous Old World tarantula species. Due to their toxicity, nervous disposition, and highly specialized care needs they are best left to experienced spider keepers. But for the right owner they can offer something completely unique.
What are gooty sapphire tarantulas?
Gooty sapphires are an Old World tarantula species, famous for their dramatic yellow and blue coloring. Broadly, Old World means ‘not native to North or South America’. In fact, their name holds the details of this tarantula’s origins. The first individual described was caught in the Indian town of Gooty in the early 20th century. But this is only half the story. It is now thought that one Gooty had arrived in town by train, because they have only been discovered in a small region of forest 60 miles east of there since!
A gooty sapphire tarantula is also known as a
- sapphire gooty tarantula
- gooty ornamental tarantula
- peacock tarantula
- peacock parachute spider
- blue sapphire tarantula
- and by their Latin name, Poecilotheria metallica, or just P. metallica.
They belong to the Poecilotheria group of tarantulas. So they are sometimes called pokey tarantulas too. But this nickname covers any of the 15 species in this group (and it is technically a misnomer, since the syllable ‘Poec’ is pronounced ‘peace’ not ‘poke’). In the wild, gooty sapphire tarantulas are critically endangered due to destruction and disturbance of their habitat. But in captivity they have become popular and are widely available for sale.
Gooty sapphire tarantula appearance
Gooty tarantulas are famous for their exotic coloring. Their main body color is blue, not because of blue pigment, but due to special lamellated hairs on their exoskeleton. Lamellated means ‘scaly’. The scaliness of those hairs disrupts how light is reflected from their surface, so that blue wavelengths dominate. In fact, the hairs themselves are not blue at all! Because of this, how intensely blue a gooty sapphire looks will depend partly on how the light is hitting them. Beside their blue areas they also have a white fractal pattern running down the center of their back, and vivid yellow patches at some of the joints on their legs (which are the result of yellow pigment).
How big do gooty sapphire tarantulas get?
Gooties are a relatively quick growing tarantula species. A female gooty sapphire ornamental tarantula can achieve a diagonal leg span of up to 8 inches. Their body can reach 2.5 inches long. Males are slightly smaller, and reach full size slightly faster than females.
Are gooty sapphire tarantulas poisonous?
It’s more accurate to say that they are venomous. Venomous animals use their bite to deliver toxins, whereas poisonous animals are toxic when they are eaten. But semantics aside, yes, gooty sapphires are venomous, and very much so! Unlike tarantula species which rely on a venomous bite and flicking tiny irritating hairs from the sides of their abdomen to repel threats, gooties rely solely on their venomous bite as their only form of defence. To make it as effective as possible, they have adapted to produce a very powerful venom. Bites produce:
- moderate to severe pain
- muscle cramps
- and headaches.
Their bites are deeply unpleasant, but historically they haven’t been considered among the most dangerous. However, some members of the spider community have recently reported ‘hot bites’ from P. metallica. That is, bites with extreme and long lasting results. So it could be that some breeding lines are more venomous than others.
Gooty sapphire tarantula temperament
Gooty sapphires are frequently described as being more nervous and skittish than other tarantula species. A lot of owners report that they prefer to spend their time hidden away, and experienced spider keepers recommend providing tank furnishings that make this very easy for them. Like all tarantulas, their hunting instincts are triggered by the movement of live prey. So you’re most likely to see them in motion when you feed them. This species is also known for their strong dislike of bright light. So you might see more of them if they’re kept in indirect light.
Are gooty sapphire tarantulas aggressive?
Gooties are nervous and defensive, but they are not often described as aggressive. They have a characteristic pose they tend to adopt, with their four frontmost legs pointing directly forward, and their four back most legs pointing directly backwards. This creates a narrow, flattened outline, which they use to hide in crevices. If disturbed, they are also one of the fastest species, and their first thought is usually to run away. In other words, they prefer to avoid confrontation if at all possible, and faced with it anyway their first thought is usually to run. In fact this species is so non-aggressive that it is one of the few which can live communally in small groups without immediately attempting to kill and eat each other.
Caring for a gooty sapphire tarantula
Gooty sapphires are native to warm deciduous forests. Replicating that environment at home makes them one of the more complex tarantula species to keep. First time owners ought to do a lot of reading around the subject to prepare, and speak to experienced owners who can mentor them through it.
Some things you will need to provide include:
- An appropriately sized, adequately ventilated tank. Tarantulas of all species find lots of space stressful rather than liberating. Rather than placing a juvenile spiderling in a tank big enough to accommodate them as an adult, experts recommend housing them in a tank that’s just big enough, and rehoming them every few molts. Since they are arboreal, their tanks should be taller than they are long, and include something that mimics a hollow tree trunk.
- Humidity of 65-75%. This species originated in rainforests and needs much higher humidity than we usually have in our homes. Gooty owners use hydro-clay balls beneath the substrate, or mist the tank with distilled water to introduce humidity. Overdo it, and there’s a risk of introducing algae, fungi, and bacterial growth into your tank. Underdo it, and your tarantula will have difficulty shedding. Getting it right demands constant monitoring!
- Temperature of 78-82f. Again, this is higher than most of us keep our homes at, so you’ll need to provide your gooty with their own personal heat source. Since they dislike the light from lamps, a heat pad attached to one side of the tank is preferable.
- Fresh water and a live diet. There’s no escaping that normal tarantula feeding habits are triggered by the movement of live prey. You can buy live crickets, cockroaches and wax worms at pet stores to feed your tarantula.
- Occasional cleaning out. Tarantulas prefer to be undisturbed, and gooties will gradually construct webbing around their favorite resting spots, to make their habitat ‘just so’. However, they still need their habitat clearing of leftover food on a regular basis, and once a year they need it fully emptied and scrubbed.
Gooty sapphire tarantula lifespan
Male and female tarantulas have very different life expectancies. Males usually die not long after reaching maturity – between three and four years old. Females on the other hand can live for 12 to 15 years. Sexing gooties is usually done by examining the exoskeleton left behind from their final molt. During their lifetime, health problems of tarantulas include:
- Parasitic infections.
- Problems with molting. Including being partially ‘trapped’ in their old exoskeleton.
- Dyskinetic syndrome, a poorly understood disease which start with erratic, uncoordinated movement, and usually ends in death.
Are gooty sapphire tarantulas good for beginners?
No, gooty sapphire tarantulas are not usually recommended for beginners. The main reasons being
- Their skittish nature…
- …. Combined with their speed…
- And their potential for delivering extremely painful and dangerous bites.
Looking after tarantulas is a skill, and requires an understanding of how tarantulas behave and respond to stimuli. It’s best to learn some of this understanding from a slower, more docile, less dangerous species, so that the consequences of making mistakes are less severe. Gooty tarantula husbandry also demands a commitment to maintaining an environment which is quite dissimilar to the usual conditions inside our homes – for example warmer, and more humid. It’s a good idea to start with a species that is tolerant of normal room temperature and humidity.
How to find a gooty sapphire tarantula for sale
At the time of writing, 1 inch spiderlings (known as slings) sell for around the $100 dollar mark in the US. At this size, they can even be safely shipped by mail. It’s a good idea to order from a breeder who is recommended within the spider keeping community, or purchase from someone you meet in person at a hobbyists’ convention. A good breeder will be concerned about who they are selling this species to. Older spiders sell for more, and mature females are particularly sought after, sometimes swapping hands for hundreds of dollars.
Is a gooty sapphire tarantula right for me?
Gooty sapphire tarantulas are best suited to experienced tarantula keepers, who have a clear idea of what they’re getting themselves into. Unlike species which need very little day to day care, you’ll need to be around to make sure their tank stays at the right temperature and humidity. But you’ll need to be patient about not seeing much of your spider outside of mealtimes. This arachnid generally prefers to keep itself to itself, but when they are active you’ll be rewarded with one of the most visually beautiful species available to own. And even occasional glances add up, when you’re looking after them for 15 years!
Do you already have a gooty sapphire tarantula? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section down below. What kind of habitat do you have set up for them, and do you know if they’re male or female yet?
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Draper & Trim. Dyskinetic syndrome in tarantula spiders. Veterinary Nursing Journal. 2018.
Foelix et al. Structural Colors in Spiders. Spider Ecophysiology. 2012.
Gupta. Tracking the elusive metallic spider. Down To Earth. 2014.
Hsiung et al. Spiders have rich pigmentary and structural colour palettes. Journal of Experimental Biology. 2017.
Marnell. Tarantula and Hermit Crab Emergency Care. Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animals Practice. 2016.
Molur et al. Poecilotheria metallica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008.
Pellett et al. Tarantula husbandry and critical care. UK-Vet Companion Animal. 2015.