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How to Keep Scorpions

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 3 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
How To Keep Scorpions

Scorpions are one of the most instantly recognisable of animals. There are around 1,500 species in the world – with the majority living in the tropics, although there are some kinds in parts of Europe and one – Euscorpius flavicaudis - which has been introduced into a few sites in the south of England.

As exotic pets, scorpions have a strong following, since their needs are relatively modest and their appearance and lifestyle makes them fascinating creatures to keep.

Housing Scorpions

Scorpions need to be kept in a secure and escape-proof container, so a tank with a strong and well attached lid is a must. A suitably sized small plastic tank with a ventilated lid of the type routinely sold in pet shops will do well, as will an old aquarium or even plastic food containers so long as the lids fit well enough to prevent unscheduled excursions by the inhabitants.

The tank will need to be heated and kept at an appropriate level of humidity to suit the animal inside. Heat mats are commonly used to provide the necessary warmth, but it is particularly important with scorpions to ensure that they don’t cover the entire floor area, since these animals naturally burrow to avoid getting too hot. If the mat extends all over the base of the tank, burrowing scorpions will obviously only bring themselves closer to the source of heat.

A layer of bark chippings, sphagnum moss or potting compost will do well for the forest-dwelling species, while desert living scorpions will need a thick layer of sand. These essentially nocturnal animals will appreciate some hiding places too.

Misting the floor covering will help maintain humidity for the forest species – but don’t overdo it and be on the lookout for any signs of fungus. If the flooring begins to look mouldy, or smell sour, remove it and replace it with fresh.

Food And Feeding

Scorpions are active hunters and in the wild consume a wide variety of insects and other prey. In captivity they will happily take the normal kind of food items such as crickets and locusts, depending on their size, but some wild-caught bugs from the pesticide-free areas of your own garden will certainly be welcomed too.

Feeding is best done at night, since these animals are nocturnal and naturally secretive. With scorpions, uneaten food can often be the first sign that something is wrong, so it is important to pay attention to any change of behaviour or appetite at feeding time.

Good Starter Species

With 1,500 species worldwide – of which around 100 are known to be potentially fatal to humans – good identification is the key.

There are some general rules – the thinner the pedipalps (“pincers”) or the lighter the animal’s colour the more venomous it is – which hold true at least as a rough guide, but it goes without saying that if you aren’t convinced that your supplier really knows what’s in the tank – don’t buy!

Growing to 6 inches (15cm) in length and coming from West Africa, the Emperor or Imperial Scorpion (Pandinus imperator) – one of the largest of the world’s scorpions – is an ideal species to keep, although its smaller relatives are best avoided. This is a species for which the rules hold true – a black coloured animal with very robust pedipalps – the sting of Pandinus imperator is much the same as that of a bee.

Alternatively, some of the Asian species – notably the Thai Black (Heterometrus spinifer) and the Javanese Jungle Scorpion (H. javanensis) – are also good for inexperienced keepers. Almost as large as the Imperial Scorpion, these animals are very similar in their needs – all are forest dwellers, generally have good appetites and thrive at a temperature around 25 degrees C (77F).

On the other side of the coin, there are a few to avoid – at least until you’ve got a bit of experience with these animals. According to the Amateur Entomologists Society, the list of unsuitable includes: Bark Scorpions (Centruroides and Tityus), Hairy Scorpions (Hadrurus sp.) and species of Androctonus.

Scorpions have a fascination all of their own – and with a 450 million year history behind them, they have got to be one of the most ancient of all exotic pets, as well as being remarkably undemanding animals to keep.

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