Mexican Red Kneed Tarantula

Brachypelma smithi

Order: Araneae

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Diet Requirements

  • 1 x gut-loaded cricket per week

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Usually very docile and easy to handle; may kick urticating hairs if threatened. Some people may be sensitive to the urticating hairs, which are a mechanical irritant, rather than a chemical one. Gloves are recommended for handlers, and no public touching.


Potential Messaging

Acquisition Information

Comments from the Rating System

  • Roger Williams Park Zoo: Females are best

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Pacific and western Mexico

Physical Description

Like all arachnids, Mexican red-kneed tarantulas have an exoskeleton, two main body parts, eight multi-jointed legs, two pedipalps (food-handling appendages), and two chelicerae (mouth parts). All arachnids lack antennae and wings. These tarantulas have black bodies with reddish-orange patches on the joints of their legs and around the edge of the cephalothorax. There are eight light-sensitive eyes located on the top surface of the cephalothorax. Females are noticeably larger than males, reaching a leg span of up to 6 inches. This is a slow-growing species, taking up to 10 years for them to reach adult size.

Life Cycle

Once a male tarantula reaches maturity, he will leave his burrow to find a female. When approaching a burrow, the male will tap and vibrate his legs to lure the female out. If the female is receptive, she will allow the male to mate with her. If she is not receptive, she will see him as a food source. Even after breeding, if the male does not leave quickly enough, he may be in danger of the same fate. After mating, the female will lay up to 1000 eggs, which will hatch roughly 1-2 months later. Females can live up to 30 years, males usually around 5.


Mexican red-kneed tarantulas are solitary and territorial. They live in burrows and build platform webs (webs spun on the ground). Their burrows provide relatively constant temperature and humidity, as well as safety from predators. With each molt (the regular shedding of the exoskeleton) urticating hairs develop on the abdomen. These hairs and can be kicked off by the tarantula onto a predator where the hairs then embed into the other animal’s skin or eyes, causing irritation.

Threats and Conservation Status

For many years, Mexican red-kneed tarantulas were misidentified as a desert species. Due to their popularity as pets and this misguided information, many pet tarantulas suffered from inadequate humidity. If you are considering a tarantula as a pet, make sure to research the species, be able to provide adequate husbandry needs, and acquire one from a reputable captive bred source. In the wild, they are over-collected for the pet trade and threatened by habitat loss.

Did you know…

  • Tarantulas don’t breathe the same way we do. They have lungs called book lungs. Instead of inhaling and exhaling, oxygen transfer is passive, occurring when air flows over the book lung. This process causes tarantulas to lose water through evaporation. It is critical that humidity levels remain relatively high in their environment to prevent dehydration. This means that even a mildly dehydrated tarantula may have a difficult time moving to find a water source.




Contributors and Citations

  • Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, San Jose