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Scorpions Print E-mail

Scorpions - How to care for Scorpions

Welcome to the Scorpion keeping section.

Introduction to Scorpions

Scorpions are fascinating, ancient creatures which, regardless of their country of origin all share the same morphology (look the same) with the now famous curled up stinging tail and large front claws.

All scorpions contain a sting in their tail and the strength of the venom varies incredibly between species. The ones kept as pets tend to have the weakest stings and it can be compared to something like a wasp sting or hornet sting - still not something you want to be stung by!

Asian Hissing Scorpion There are a few scorpions such as the Australian Androctonus australis which can prove fatal and should be avoided at all costs. If you intend keeping scorpions as pets make sure they are the safe ones.

There are around 1400 - 1500 hundred known species of carnivorous scorpions in the world, mostly they come from desert regions and tropical rainforests but they are also found in cooler climates including the UK.

Left: Asian Hissing Scorpion

Scorpions are often referred to as insects, this is not actually the case. In reality all Scorpions belong to a group of mostly terrestrial (land living) creatures officially classified as Arachnida (sub group Scorpiones). The Arachnid group also contains the order Araneae (spiders), Uropygi (whip scorpions), Amblypygi (tailless whip scorpions) and Solifugae (sun spiders) as well as one or two other orders which are less kept by the hobbyist.

The scorpions which are commonly kept as pets tend to be from tropical rainforests as these are the largest, most impressive and generally speaking less venomous types. Most of the 'pet scorpions' live for several years in captivity, 5 years+ not being uncommon.

Commonly kept pet scorpions include the Emperor or Imperial Scorpion (Pandinus imperator) which is native to tropical forests of West Africa and can also be found lurking deep inside termite mounds. It is a jet black monster which can reach 6+ inches long! Thankfully this species is fairly docile and reluctant to strike at you unless provoked.

Right: Imperial Scorpion juvenile Pandinus imperator

Imperial Scorpion Pandinus imperator
Adult Imperial Scorpion

Reasonably 'safe' ones with a sting like a wasp or hornet include:

  • Imperial Scorpion - Pandinus imperator (the easiest - see left)
  • Flat Rock Scorpion - Hadogenes species
  • Java Forest Scorpion - Hetrometrus javanensis
  • Shiny Burrowing Scorpion - Oposthophalmus glabrifrons (more painful)
  • Tanzanian Redclaw Scorpion - Pandinus cavimanus (more painful)
  • Thai/Vietnam Black Scorpion - Heterometrus spinifer (more painful)
  • Kits are available for most of the above plus lots more species

 

 

Scorpions in the wild are very resilient and can go without food and water for months on end seemingly without any detriment. When kept as pets though they should have ample food available for their requirements otherwise they may start to eat each other. Generally they are best kept singly but some less aggressive species can be kept in small groups of up to 4 providing they have ample food, floor space and hiding places.

Housing Pet Scorpions
As we mentioned above, the most commonly kept scorpions tend to be jungle types and so they will require a reasonably humid environment. The easiest way to house your scorpion is in a terrarium of around 12 - 18 inches wide and high, the size is not critical but shouldn't bee too small. They also like to burrow in to the ground especially under a rock or piece of wood so you must provide a suitable substrate for this. A good mix for the bottom of the tank would consist of 70% sphagnum peat, 20% potting sand and 10% fine grade orchid bark or Faunology Scorpion Substrates are available.
Here's a good kit for the typical jungle type scorpion, this group includes Imperial or Emperor, Red Claw, Cave Claw, Heterometrus species, Java Forest, Vietnam Hissing etc,

HOUSING
1 x Exo Terra Glass Terrarium (30 x 30 x 30cm)
HEATING
1 x Electric heater (6 x 11 with plug)
SUBSTRATE
2 x 5 litres of Jungle substrate
DECOR
1 x Gnarled Looking Wood Chunk
1 x Cave Hide
2 x Silk Plants
OTHER EQUIPMENT
1 x Dial thermometer
1 x Dial hygrometer
1 x Water dish
1 x Scorpions Book

 
 
Israeli Gold Scorpion - Scorpio maurus palmatus

An alternative to the above substrates is vermiculite on it's own, this has the advantage of being sterile so it wont contain mite and wont allow them to flourish, bits can stick to the scorpion and it does tend to look a tad drab!

Whichever substrate you choose it should be added to a depth of 3 to 4 inches with a couple of pieces of cork bark, a large(ish) piece of slate or something similar added to the surface as 'obstacles' as they also like to clamber over things. Artificial reptile caves either on the surface or partially burried are also good hiding spots for the scorpions. They will pretty quickly establish their 'best home' and this will be their base of operations.

Left: Israeli Gold Scorpion - Scorpio maurus palmatus

 

The substrate should be slightly damp but not wet when you add it to the tank. The substrate in the base of the tank should be replaced with fresh material every 3 to 4 months - even longer if all looks fine and clean, more frequently if it gets dirty or mites are seen.

Heating & Humidity for jungle scorpions

In their natural environment the temperature rarely drops below 20°C by day or night so you will need to reproduce this in your tank. The simplest method is to use one of the under tank heating mats, preferably with a thermostat fitted. The heating mat should be placed under 1/2 to 3/4 of the tank (at the opposite end to the hiding place) so that there is a cooler area available if the scorpion wants it. The temperature in the tank needs is in the range of 20°C to 25°C at soil level so place the thermostat control (if using one) about an inch above the substrate.

The jungle type scorpions require a humidity level higher than desert types. A simple light spray (mist) with a hand sprayer over the substrate twice a day with clean, fresh water may be required. In addition you should water the substrate weekly if it looks like it's drying out. Ideally you should have a dark bottom layer fading to pale near the surface of the substrate. If using vermiculite on its own then you can add 1/4 - 1/2 pint every week, do this by pouring it in to one of the corners and the vermiculite will draw it evenly through itself. Which ever you use you should not over wet it, the idea is to have it slightly moist but dry on the actual surface.

Heating & Humidity for desert scorpions
Flat Rock Scorpion - Hadogenes bicolor

Despite their radically different homes, most of the commonly kept scorpions have much the same requirements for housing, only the external habitat changes as the scorpions will always find a suitable home in deep cracks or under rocks. Use the same basic set up as described above but use desert sand or desert type for these species rather than the jungle type substrate used for forest scorpions and keep them a little dryer.

Left: This is a beautiful and pretty harmless Flat Rock Scorpion - Hadogenes bicolor

Feeding Pet Scorpions

Most scorpions will eat almost all small cricket sized insects but anything that stings or bites should not be introduced - there's no point risking your pets. Crickets, mealworm, grasshoppers, stick insects, some cockroaches etc all make good scorpion prey. One vital element is that the insects should be introduced to the tank alive, scorpions will not eat dead insects. If possible you should vary their diet and not feed the same single food source all the time, this will help them develop fully and provide all the minerals, vitamins and fats for good growth. If using a single food source i.e. just crickets then you should make sure the crickets have been fed a good diet of bug grub as well as fruit and vegetables like carrot, potato, green beans, spinnach, dandelion leaves, apple, banana, peach etc not onions!

You can purchase live food from our other site Global Live Food (UK only)

Large scorpions are unlikely to drown so drinking water can be provided in a shallow dish of 1/2 inch deep, if you scorpions are small or young then you should add well wetted cotton wool or pebbles to the water dish to avoid drowning.

Breeding Pet Scorpions

Scorpions will not breed unless they have a 'stage' on which to dance. The mating dance begins by the two scorpions locking their claws and walking forwards and backwards together, they may turn as they are doing this. The stage should be as flat as possible and a good idea is to use a piece of slate on the surface (see housing), this should be large enough so that the pair don't drop off it as this will upset their mating.

The dance can continue from a few minutes to several hours or even days, at a suitable time the male will deposit a packet of sperm on to the surface of the slate stage, this is called a spermatophore. The female will then position her body over the sperm sack and collect it with her cloacae (genital opening). Once the female has collected the sperm the dance will end and the female is now pregnant!

Baby Jones Scorpion

After a successful mating the female should be placed in her own tank after 2 - 3 months but before she gives birth.

If she gets stressed she may eat the young as they emerge. Gestation varies between species but typically for the large scorpions it can be 5 to 9 months before she will give birth to miniature scorpions.

Left: Baby Jones' Scorpion - Cheloctonus jonesii

Once they emerge from her fat body they will climb on to her back and remain there for 1 - 2 weeks, as soon as they climb down they should be separated from the mother or she may consider them a meal!

Scorpions will molt as they develop in to adults, the time between each molting is known as an instar and typically there are 5 or 6 depending on species and whether male or female. Adulthood in achieved in around 3 years from birth.

This is a complete 'skin' from a growing Imperial Scorpion, note the completeness of the molt which includes the sting.

The juvenile scorpion simply walked out of it's old skin!

Scorpion Moulting

 
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