Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula: Care, Habitat & Cost

Tarantulas are some of the best beginner spiders. Many are known for their gentle behaviors and docile personalities.

One of the best beginner species is the Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula.

Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas are extremely tolerant, laid back and easy to care for. These spiders are also not dull when it comes to looks. Their large black bodies, brown hairs and distinctive red-knees make them stand out.

Did you know there are actually 2 different types of Red-Knee Tarantula?

There are lots of interesting things to learn about this species! Keep reading to learn all about them and how to care for one.

RELATED: Pink Toe Tarantula Care Sheet & Species Guide

Quick Overview
Common Name Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula
Scientific Name Brachypelma smithi or Brachypelma hamorii
Family Theraphosidae
Range Tropical forests and deserts of Mexico
Size 5-6 inch legspan
Color Dark brown or black in color with vivid reddish orange knees
Lifespan 5-10 years (males), 20-25 years (females)
Husbandry Simple
Diet Insects
Tank Size 20-gallon
Temperature 75°F to 80°F
Humidity 60% to 70%
Price $70 to $150

Species Overview

Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula

There are actually two different spiders that share the name Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula.

They were originally believed to be the same species because at first glance they look almost identical.

However, it was later determined that the “Mexican Red-Knee” (Brachypelma smithi) is a distinct sister species of the Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula (Brachypelma hamorii)!

Brachypelma smithi is known as the Mexican Red-Knee and was the first to be discovered. These spiders are native to the Pacific coast of Mexico, the south portion of Guerrero and in the Balsas River basin.

Brachypelma hamorii was originally misidentified as a Mexican Red-Knee. They can be found in Sierra Madre Del Sur mountain ranges and the Western sections of the Sierra Madre Occidental.

Both species belong to the same genus, Brachypelma and have distinct reddish-orange knees.

All current members of Brachypelma live in Mexico and are known as the “red leg” group of Tarantulas.

Unfortunately, members of this genus have populations that are declining and are at risk of extinction.

Luckily this doesn’t extend to pet species. Captive breeding populations of Mexican tarantulas are flourishing. You will not have any trouble finding this species for sale from nearby breeders or exotic expos.

The Mexican Red-Knee is extremely popular as a beginner spider because of their easygoing nature, unique appearance and simple husbandry.

Many beginners don’t know that they are a burrowing species and like to spend most of their time underground. They are also a relatively large spider, reaching 5-6 inches.

Many keepers also report that this species does great with calm handling sessions.

Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula Care

Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula Care

Most spiders have very simple care needs and the same is true for the Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula. They don’t need extremely large enclosures, their diet is simple, and you won’t have to spend a lot of money to keep them happy.

Enclosure

You will be able to keep a Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula in a 20-gallon glass side-opening tank.

This enclosure is usually big enough for one single adult, which is ideal as these spiders should not be housed together. This is not a social species. Some Mexican Red-Knee spiders have been known to eat other Tarantulas.

These tarantulas do not live in trees so a tall enclosure is not necessary. Tall tanks can actually be dangerous as they can hurt themselves falling. More floor space to burrow in should be a priority for these spiders.

Aim to find a tank that is roughly 30″ x 12″ x 12″.

Mexican red-knee tarantula habitat setup:

  • Tank: 20-gallon glass (side-opening).
  • Substrate: 4 inches of a peat moss and vermiculite mixture.
  • Décor: Plants, logs, clay pots, and sticks.
  • Temperature: 75-80°F.
  • Humidity: 60-70%.

Habitat Setup

Your Mexican Red-Knee spider will be very easy to care for in terms of lighting and setup.

These spiders don’t actually require lighting at all! Some keepers will use room lighting or an LED bulb to help their spider get a sense of light cycles.

What these tarantulas do need is a heat source.

Since these spiders are used to the high temperatures in Mexico, they will need their enclosure to be pretty warm. Generally, their tank will need to be kept between 75°F and 80°F.

This can be achieved by using a heat mat under one third of the enclosure and regulating it with a thermostat. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperatures, especially during setup. High heat, 90°F and above, can quickly kill a spider.

Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas will need relatively high humidity, usually between 60-70%. This can be achieved by placing a water bowl inside the enclosure. You can also add moss and mist your tank to raise humidity.

These spiders will also appreciate a lot of hiding places in their enclosure.

You can use plants, logs, clay pots, and sticks to decorate the tank. Make sure to leave space between the décor for them to create their burrows and spin their webs.

Substrate

The substrate you choose will be important because the Mexican Red-Knee is a burrowing spider.

Generally, keepers use a mix of peat moss (50%) and vermiculite (50%).

You want to create a mixture that holds humidity, without being too wet. It should also be soft enough to break any fall, and sturdy enough to contain burrows.

Your substrate mix should be at least 4 inches thick and not tightly packed. You will only need to replace this substrate once per year or if you notice any fungal growth.

Avoid using substrates like bark with large sharp pieces of wood, or sand.

Lifespan

The lifespan of a Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula is relatively long when compared with other pet species. For example the popular jumping spider lives for just a few years.

However, Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula lifespan depends highly on gender.

You can expect females to live 20-25 years, with some living up to 30.

Males live for 5-10 years, sometimes less than half that of females. Males will grow until they are breeding age, mate with a female and then die soon after. Occasionally they are even eaten by the female.

Bite

The Mexican Red-Knee is a type of New World Tarantula like the Greenbottle Blue.

New World species are known for their reluctance to bite when faced with a threat. They are much more likely to simply run away when faced with a threat. However, they do have an interesting defensive behavior.

These spiders have urticating hair on their abdomens. They are able to fling this hair at predators. Urticating hairs can get stuck in skin and cause an annoying itchy rash.

These behaviors and their general tame nature make them a wonderful pet species.

Many keepers prefer New World species as pets because of their reluctance to bite.

Diet

In the wild Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas are known to eat invertebrates, small mammals and even reptiles. Luckily you won’t have to feed them reptiles as pets! Most pet tarantulas are fed a diet consisting solely of insects (similar to a Leopard Gecko).

You can feed cockroaches, crickets, locusts, caterpillars and most feeder insects.

Some keepers suggest getting insects from the wild, but this is generally not recommended. Wild insects can carry parasites or be exposed to pesticides that can hurt your spider.

Instead, you can purchase most insects for fairly cheap at pet stores or even breed your own.

When it comes to a feeding schedule, the Mexican red-knee tarantula won’t need to be fed very frequently. The amount and frequency you feed will depend mainly on their age.

Adults should be fed 1-3 times per week.

Spiderlings will need to eat 4-5 times per week, since they are still growing.

You can feed your spider as many live insects as they will accept per feeding. This is usually 4-5 crickets or cockroaches but can be as little as 1 or 2. Once your spider is done eating, remove any leftover insects that are running around.

Molting

The molting process can be frightening for new Mexican red-knee tarantula keepers.

A molting tarantula will lie on its back and remain relatively still for long periods of time. It can look like it is seriously ill or dying.

You may notice that your tarantula stops eating or grows a bald spot on their abdomen that gets darker if they are getting close to a molt. They may also grow duller in color and cover their enclosure in webbing.

They are extremely vulnerable during this time and should not be handled, fed or moved in any way.

It is important to ensure their humidity is correct to ensure a proper molt. Dry conditions of less than 60% humidity can make shedding more difficult.

Molting can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as 24 hours.

After they shed, they need to be left alone for a few more days as their fresh exoskeleton is very soft during this time.

Younger spiders molt much more frequently than adults, sometimes as frequently as 1-2 times per month.

Appearance

Brachypelma hamorii

Size

The Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula is relatively large. If you take into account their legs, they are usually around 5 or 6 inches across. Females can grow larger than males, but this size difference is generally very slight.

This species was given its common name based on appearance, so you can probably guess what it looks like!

What gave these spiders their name is their unique reddish-orange knees.

Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas have red patches on the patella of each of their legs. They will sometimes have red or orange sections further down their legs as well. They also have a black abdomen with brown or red bristly hairs and a tan cephalothorax with a black square in the middle.

At first glance the two types of Mexican Red-Knees are almost identical.

This is actually what caused the initial confusion and what made scientists believe the two species were one.

Upon close inspection you will see some differences in their chelicera (i.e. mouthparts)

When viewed from directly above, the Brachypelma hamorii have two distinct pinkish-brown bands on their chelicerae, whereas Brachypelma smithi does not.

Male vs Female Differences

It can be very hard to tell the difference between male vs female Mexican red-knee tarantulas.

Females are usually slightly bigger than males, but this is not often noticeable enough. Size isn’t a great way to determine their gender.

For a beginner it is best to ask the breeder.

A breeder can examine the spiderling’s molt and know their gender. The only accurate method is to examine the shed exoskeleton (molt). Females have reproductive structures present on their shed exoskeleton and experienced keepers may be able to spot them.

The other more concrete way to tell the difference is simply to wait.

If your spider makes it past the 10-year mark, its likely a female. Male Mexican Red-Knee Spiders only live between 5 and 10 years.

Scientific Name

The scientific name for Mexican red-knee tarantulas is not particularly straightforward.

There are actually 2 species that are known as the “Mexican Red-Knee”.

Both spiders were first believed to be the same species because they look almost identical. However, after extensive investigation, it was determined that they are distinct sister species!

When most people discuss Mexican Red-Knee spiders they mean Brachypelma hamorii.

Brachypelma smithi is known as the Mexican Red-Knee and was the first to be discovered.

Both species are part of the Brachypelma genus. This genus comprises 21 different species of Tarantulas that are all native to Mexico.

Are Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas Friendly?

The Mexican red-knee tarantula is about as friendly as a spider can be.

While spiders are not known to form friendships with their keepers, they can learn to accept and tolerate gentle handling.

You will find this species on most “best spiders for beginners” lists and for good reason. Keepers love their easygoing personality and docile nature.

Pros Cons
  • The Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula is well known as one of the best beginner spiders for people that are new to the hobby.
  • They are a slow-moving, docile species that are known to tolerate handling very well. This usually makes newer keepers feel comfortable interacting with them.
  • Their simple dietary needs, straightforward setup and low maintenance requirements mean they are a cheap pet.
  • They are very reluctant to bite and will often choose to run away instead.
  • This species is also relatively long-lived and females can live for 30 years.
  • If you want a spider that you will see moving about their enclosure often, they are not the best choice. In fact, you may not even see them a lot of the time if they are hiding out in a deep burrow.
  • Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas are burrowing spiders that will spend lots of time underground in their enclosure.
  • Almost all tarantulas have the ability to flick itchy defensive hairs at predators. You may find yourself with an irritating rash if you get hit by their urticating hairs.
  • They are generally not recommended for very young children as they need calm, gentle handling.

Price

Spiderling

The Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula is actually considered vulnerable in the wild. Habitat loss in coastal areas and a decline in males has resulted in declining populations.

Their populations have been fragmented and heavily declining for the past few decades.

Thankfully, this species is very far from declining in the pet trade,

You can find Mexican red-knee tarantulas for sale pretty much anywhere spiders are being sold.

The price of Mexican red-knee tarantulas depends on age. Older established spiders will cost more than hatchlings. You may be able to find a spiderling for as little as $60-$70, but an adult may be up to $120.

Females are also more expensive because of their lifespans. You can expect to pay up to $150 for an adult female.

Interesting Facts

  • Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas have red patches on the patella of each of their legs. They will sometimes have red or orange sections further down their legs as well.
  • There are actually two different spiders that share the name. However, it was later determined that the “Mexican Red-Knee” is a distinct sister species of the Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula.
  • Captive breeding populations of these tarantulas are flourishing. In the wild they are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and a decline in males.
  • The Mexican Red-Knee is a type of New World Tarantula. They are known for their reluctance to bite when faced with a threat. They are much more likely to simply run away.
  • These spiders are ambush predators that spend most of their time in burrows waiting for prey to get stuck in their webs.
  • They have a hard exoskeleton that doesn’t grow with them. They need to shed this exoskeleton as they get bigger. This shedding process has many names but is commonly known as molting.

Summary

What gave these tarantulas their name is their unique reddish-orange knees. They will sometimes have red sections further down their legs as well.

It is hard to deny that the Mexican red-knee tarantula is a pretty perfect pet spider.

They are beautiful, slow, docile and will tolerate handling.

Not only are they some of the most docile spiders, they also have very easy husbandry needs.

For their enclosure use a 20-gallon tank with four inches of substrate for them to burrow. Their humidity and heating requirements are not complicated and you will have no problem feeding them a diet of insects.

If you are considering a pet tarantula, the Mexican Red-Knee is an ideal species…

Nigel Robert

Nigel Robert

Nigel is the managing editor at More Reptiles. He is a lifelong reptile lover, biologist and wildlife consultant who brings a decade of experience working in reptile conservation and consultancy. He joined our team in 2020 and when he’s not reviewing reptile care sheets, he’s out looking for reptiles in the wild! Nigel is dedicated to herpetology and conserving wildlife which is why he is a member of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Zoological Association of America, iNaturalist and the Nature Conservancy.

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