Emperor Scorpions

Handling, Feeding and Housing

Elevated View of a Scorpion
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Scorpions are becoming increasingly popular as pets, especially emperor scorpions. They are not great for handling, but they are quiet, clean and easy to care for. With a lifespan of six to eight years, they require a fairly long-term commitment, and finding a pet sitter might pose a problem.

Emperors are large scorpions at around 6 inches long. They are black (with green or brown hues) and have an impressive set of pedipalps (claws).

As far as scorpions go, they are quite docile, but handling isn't recommended.

Risks of Handling Scorpions

Emperor scorpions are not particularly dangerous, in contrast to some other scorpion species. Their sting has been likened to that of a bee as it is painful, but medical attention is not usually necessary. However, some people may have an anaphylactic reaction to the venom as they do with bee stings.

Some say that emperor scorpions are more likely to pinch you with their pedipalps, and this can be quite painful too. In any case, handling pet scorpions isn't recommended in part because of the risks, but also because scorpions are likely to be stressed if handled. Most people recommend that if handling is necessary (such as when cleaning cages), use a pair of long handled forceps with foam over the grips to pick up the scorpion by the stinging end.

Housing

Emperors, native to Africa, and live in humid warm environment and they are nocturnal like all scorpions--factors that should be taken into account when creating a scorpion habitat.

Providing the appropriate environment is the most challenging part of keeping scorpions. Proper heat and humidity is vital in preventing problems. Emperors can be kept alone or in groups, but if keeping more than one, a larger tank will be necessary. A good rule of thumb is to have at least a couple more hiding spots than you have scorpions so they can each have their "space." If there is any sign of aggression between the scorpions, consider separating them.

Glass aquarium tanks are probably the easiest housing to use, and they should have a tight fitting secure lid. A 10-gallon tank is sufficient for one scorpion, but a larger one (20-30 gallons) is necessary for groups. However, don't give them too much space since it will be difficult for them to catch their prey in a large tank.

Substrate

There are multiple opinions on the ideal substrate for emperor scorpions - some use soil, some use peat and others use vermiculite. No matter what you choose, it should be fairly deep (3-6 inches) to allow the scorpion to dig burrows. Provide pieces of bark, flat stones, broken ceramic flower pots or even commercial reptile hides as hiding spots for the scorpions. Adding pieces of sphagnum moss on top of the substrate will also aid in retaining moisture in the environment. Scorpions will move the cage decorations/furnishings around a bit, and although it may not look neat and tidy, it is best to avoid constantly rearranging the furnishings or else the scorpion will become stressed.

Maintain the habitat should at a high humidity level by regular, daily misting. Keep the substrate damp, but not wet. If there is mold on the substrate or condensation on the walls of the tank, the humidity is too high.

Provide a temperature gradient from about 70-90 F. Many recommend occasionally allowing temperatures of about 100 F. The temperature gradient is important to allow the scorpions to regulate their body temperature as needed. The easiest way to provide the gradient is by using a heating mat designed for use under reptile tanks. Place this under no more than about 1/3 of the tank so the scorpion can move from warmer to cooler temperatures if desired. Always verify appropriate temperatures by using accurate thermometers in a few locations within the cage. Being nocturnal, scorpions do not have a requirement for UV lighting and prefer a light-dark cycle with a slightly longer dark period.

Feeding

In the wild, scorpions eat a variety of invertebrates (insects and other arthropods) and vertebrates, including small lizards. In captivity, they seem to do fine with a diet primarily of crickets, supplemented with other insects such as mealworms and moths. An adult emperor will only need three to six adult crickets per week, fed every other day or so. The crickets should be fed a nutritious diet so that the nutritional value is passed on the the scorpions, and you can dust crickets with a quality reptile vitamin/mineral supplement every few feedings. Feed at night to replicate the conditions under which scorpions would naturally eat. Also provide a shallow water dish--shallow enough to prevent drowning.

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