Goliath Bird-eating Spider
Goliath Tarantuala, Goliath BirdeaterFamily: Theraphosidae Theraphosa blondiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley
What's big, fast, hairy and has an attitude? The Goliath Bird-eating Spider!
The Goliath Bird-eating Spider Theraphosa blondi is truly one of the most magnificent beasts in the invertebrate world. It is one of the world's largest species of spider and its impressive size makes it a popular species in most collections. Unfortunately, it is rarely bred. Most specimens that are available are imported from the wild.
This hairy coffee-colored beast is unmistakable. The Goliath Tarantuala is a very stocky with a broad carapace, thick legs, a large abdomen and a leg span that can be up to 12" (30.5 cm). With such a large frame, it is no wonder that It lives in the ground and not in trees. Both the Goliath Bird-eating Spider and its equally gigantic cousin, the Pink-footed Goliath Tarantula Theraphosa apophysis, are burrowing tarantulas whose extreme size and bulk prevents them from climbing well.
The sheer size of these spiders definitely attracts attention but they are not the friendliest critters. The Goliath Bird-eating Spiders are aggressive and will attack. They are quick and nervous, and will make a hissing noise if they feel threatened by rubbing the bristles on their legs. Their hissing can be heard up to 15 feet away.
The Goliath Bird-eating Spider is a solitary animal and needs to be house alone. Being a big bulky burrow-dweller, it should be offered a large enclosure with deep, damp substrate. Although this setup allows minimal interaction by the keeper, it does provide the proper conditions for keeping this giant of the spider world healthy. They can be observed at night under a red light as they explore their enclosure for food.
For more Information on keeping Tarantulas, see:
Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets
Habitat: Distribution/BackgroundThe Goliath Bird-eating Spider Theraphosa blondi was described by Latreille in 1804. They are found in Venezuela, Suriname, French Guyana, and Brazil. Other common names they are known by are Goliath Tarantuala and Goliath Birdeater.
Description This hairy coffee-colored spider is truly unmistakable. The Goliath Birdeater is large and very stocky with a broad carapace, thick legs, and a large abdomen. It is a terrestrial species and has evolved to this large, heavy body type living in the humid burrows of the tropical forests of South America. The leg span is usually up to about 10" (25 cm) but can be up to 12" (30.5 cm).
Though the male and female are very similar, a mature male will be more slender and long-legged. They mature at about 10 years and can live for up to 25 years.
The Goliath Tarantuala Theraphosa blondi and the Pink-footed Goliath Tarantula Theraphosa apophysis are the largest species of tarantula in the world. They are burrowing species. The largest species in the world live in the ground and not in trees (or house rafters). Their extreme size and bulk prevents them from climbing well.
Large tree-dwelling species of tarantulas found in Trinidad are probably Avicularia species. These tarantulas are also large and fuzzy, but nowhere near the size of their giant Theraphosa cousins.
Food and FeedingThere is a tendency by keepers to feed their large, aggressive species lots of live mice. We suggest feeding the Goliath Bird-eating Spider a diverse diet consisting of adult crickets, grasshoppers, Tenebrio larvae, and only occasional feedings (once or twice a month) of mice. This variety more closely mirrors the diet of this tarantula in nature and will keep them healthy.
HousingAs a very large species, the Goliath Bird-eating Spider should be kept in a large enclosure. Use at least a 30-gallon terrarium or the largest plastic sweater box. A substrate of peat moss or cypress mulch works well. A large shelter should be offered in the form of a cork bark "cave" or a half-buried clay pot.
Though they are found in humid tropical forest areas, in captivity it is best to maintain them on the dry side and spray them once or twice a week. A large diameter flat dish with fresh water should be available at all times.
Temperature and humidity requirements:
This species can be maintained at about at 78° to 82° F with a moderate humidity level.
Cage CareA good habit to get into is cleaning up any uneaten prey items the day after feeding your tarantula as decaying organic matter commonly attracts mites, fungus, mold and other potentially harmful organisms into the enclosure. If your pet has recently molted, remove uneaten prey items immediately. Newly molted tarantulas are vulnerable until their exoskeletons hardens.
Behavior The Goliath Bird-eating Spiders are very aggressive and best housed singly. They are quick and nervous. They make a hissing noise if they feel threatened by rubbing the bristles on their legs. It can be heard up to 15 feet away. They will also rear up to fling their abdominal hairs and will try to bite when stressed.
Handling The Goliath Tarantuala is aggressive and defensive. It should not be handled under any circumstances. Its urticating hairs are some of the most irritating of all spiders and its bite can cause damage from the size of the fangs. We suggest using a paint brush or other tool to corral the Goliath Bird-eater when moving it from enclosure to enclosure for cleaning, maintenance, or for breeding attempts.
Reproduction Mature males are slender and long-legged compared to females and they have no tibial hooks for mating. For successful reproduction, females should be established in a large terrarium with at least 10-12" of substrate. A burrow can be started for them and the females will quickly finish this work and establish a deep burrow in the enclosure. This deep, secure burrow may be the first important step to successfully breeding this species.
An adult males should be carefully introduced into the female's enclosure after he has produced a sperm web. The male can be protected with a piece of cardboard or other tool if he is to be used for further breeding attempts.
Once mating occurs, the female should be fed more heavily with a variety of prey items. The Goliath Bird-eater Spider will lay about 50 eggs that hatch in six to seven weeks. The spiderlings will stay in the nest until their first molt, and then be on their own.
Diseases: Ailments/TreatmentsTarantulas are generally quite hardy and adaptable if they are provided with the right environment. A few signs that may indicate that your pet is not acting or feeling normal are a loss of appetite, lethargy, looking overly skinny, or pacing the enclosure.
A tarantula on its back is probably not sick. Most tarantula species flip onto their backs during molting. Though this is a very stressful and delicate time for tarantulas, if the humidity and warmth levels are correct, they will molt their exoskeleton, roll over, harden up, and within a week or two be ready for their next meals.
One of the most common reasons for your pet to demonstrate unusual behavior is due to a molting period. As they outgrow their existing skin all tarantulas regularly go through an extensive molt, shedding their entire skin as well as the linings of their mouth, respiratory organs, stomach and sexual organs.
The process starts well before the actual molt. For several weeks prior to shedding they will be growing a new skin under their old one. During this time it is not unusual for a tarantula to get quite lethargic and even stop eating. There may also be lots of web spinning activity as they prepare to molt.
When they begin to molt, they lay on their backs with their legs up in the air looking as if they are dead. Be sure not to disturb your tarantula when you see this. The shedding process goes quickly and smoothly as long the environment has adequate humidity.
Once they have shed, their new skin is pale and very soft. The amount of time it takes for your pet to fully recover and be back to eating well will vary from a day or so up to several weeks depending on its size. Smaller spiders recover much quicker than larger ones.
- Other Problems
Other problems are usually the result of some type of environmental stress. There may be a drop in the temperature of the enclosure, there may be parasites, or the tarantula may just not be comfortable with the depth of its hiding place. These things can be easily adjusted or changed, or you can try moving your pet to a new enclosure.
Availability The Goliath Bird-eating Spider has been bred in captivity and is sporadically available as spiderlings. Unfortunately, many "collectors" have single specimens. Healthy females and mature males often do not get together in a timely manner.
Several breedings have occurred in Europe and there is no doubt that in the early days many wild-caught specimens dropped egg sacs that were successfully hatched. As with many rare species, hopefully the future will see the production of many healthy spiderlings for the hobby.
- Animal-World Resources: Reptiles, Amphibians, and Land Invertebrates
- Russ Gurley, Tarantulas and Scorpions in Captivity, Living Art Pub, Serpent's Tale NHBD , 2005
- Samuel D. Marshall, Tarantulas and Other Arachnids, Barron's Educational Series; 2nd edition 2001
- Russ Gurley, Color Guide to Tarantulas of the World I, Living Art Publishing 1994
- Philippe de Vosjoli, Arachnomannia, General Care and Maintenance of Tarantulas & Scorpion, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1991
- John G. Browning, Tarantulas. T.F.H Publications, 1989
- R. Conniff, "Tarantulas: Earth Tigers and Bird Spiders", National Geographic, Sept. 1996, pp. 98-115.