Many people refer to scorpions as insects, but in fact they
are classified as Arachnids, in the same scientific Group as
spiders, mites, ticks and a few other eight-legged land
invertebrates. Scorpions are among the few Arachnids that
are very popular in the pet trade.
The fifteen hundred or so known species of scorpions in the
world can be found from the deepest tropical rainforests to
the driest deserts to mountain heights in cold northern
climates, and on every continent but Antarctica. All are
nocturnal and carnivorous and all have a venomous sting at
the end of their long curved tails, and large claws
(pedipalps) on their second two front legs.
Scorpions sense danger or prey by air vibration of the many
fine hairs along the underside of their body, and by
vibration-sensitive organs on the tips of their feet.
Despite their venom, scorpions are hunted by a number of
other creatures, such as centipedes, tarantulas, lizards,
birds, and some mammals.
The effects of scorpion venom on humans range from a pain
similar to a wasp sting all the way to serious and possibly
fatal excruciating pain. Only about twenty species worldwide
have venom that can kill a human, but of course, the effect
of any scorpion's venom on its natural prey is instant
paralysis or death.
The species of scorpions normally kept as pets usually don't
have dangerous stings, but their sting is still painful, so
if you plan to keep scorpions, you should definitely do your
research and preparation first, and make sure that you don't
choose one of the very dangerous species of scorpions!
The most popular type of scorpions kept in captivity is the
Imperial Scorpion or Emperor Scorpion, scientifically called
Pandinus imperator, which in the wild often lives in the
termite mounds of the tropical forests of West Africa. The
Emperor Scorpion is quite an impressive fellow - jet black
and growing up to over six inches (fifteen to sixteen
centimeters) long! Fortunately, this scorpion species is
reluctant to strike unless frightened or angered, so it is
"relatively easy" to care for.
Some other species that have a painful (like a hornet or
wasp-bad enough!) but non-fatal sting are:
* Flat Rock Scorpion - (Hadogenes species) * Shiny Burrowing
Scorpion (Oposthophalmus glabrifrons) * Tanzanian Redclaw
Scorpion (Pandinus) * Thai or Vietnamese Black
Scorpion (Heterometrus spinifer) * Java Forest Scorpion -
Caring for the Captive Scorpion
You can, at least with some scorpion species, keep up to
four scorpions in the same tank if it is large enough and
they are very well fed and have plenty of hiding spots, but
if they get hungry or are crowded, they will cannibalize
One or a few scorpions can be kept in a ten gallon aquarium
with four inches of "jungle substrate" or vermiculite in the
bottom for burrowing. Add one or two pieces of gnarly
driftwood and a small "cave" for hiding places, a few fake
plants, a small, shallow water dish with pebbles in it to
keep the scorpion from drowning, put an under tank heating
mat under about two-thirds of the tank, add a thermometer
about an inch above the substrate to watch the temperature,
and you are set. Keep the tank clean, provide adequate food
and water, watch for mites, and replace the substrate every
few months and your scorpion should do well. (Voice of
experience note: Be sure to cover the tank with a tight lid
if you have animals or children living with you.)
Jungle Scorpion Care
Scorpion species that originated in the jungle forests will
also need adequate humidity. Keeping the substrate always
just slightly damp may do it, but if your climate is dry or
your scorpion appears to need more humidity, mist it lightly
with unchlorinated water once or twice a day.
Jungles usually keep a relatively steady temperature of
around seventy degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-one to twenty-two
Celsius), so that is the temperature you should aim for in
your scorpion vivarium.
Desert Scorpion Care
Desert scorpions will do well with much the same housing as
suggested above, with the exception that you should provide
both flat rocks and rocks with deep cracks so your scorpion
can choose its hiding place, and use sand or desert type
substrate rather than the jungle substrate. Your desert
scorpion of course won't need as much humidity either.
For information on feeding and breeding your pet scorpions,
see the article on this website called "Your Pet Scorpions -
Feeding and Breeding."
More on Scorpions