Scorpions are becoming increasingly popular as pets, especially emperor scorpions. While the species is generally not great for handling, they are quiet, clean, and easy to care for. And, as far as scorpions go, they are docile. Emperor scorpions require a reasonably long-term commitment, and finding a willing pet sitter might pose a problem. This scorpion is the one most often recommended for first-time scorpion owners, though it's not an advisable pet for young children.
Common Name(s): Emperor scorpion, imperial scorpion
Scientific Name: Pandinus imperator
Adult Size: About 6 inches long
Lifespan: 6 to 8 years
Can You Own a Pet Emperor Scorpion?
While they may be difficult to find as pets, it is completely legal to own an emperor scorpion as a pet. The emperor scorpion is one of numerous scorpions suitable to pet ownership, including the dictator scorpion, Asian forest scorpion, and desert hairy scorpion.
When shopping for any pet, including a pet emperor scorpion, it's important to consider if your lifestyle is suitable for the pet of your choosing. While owning a scorpion is ethical, that only remains true if you can properly care for it, providing the environment, food, and attention that it needs to thrive. Additionally, emperor scorpions are nocturnal, which may impact your sleep patterns or habits.
Things to Consider
Like most scorpions, the emperor scorpion will sting if provoked. While its venom is among the mildest, it still is not a suitable pet for a household with small children or members who are at risk while handling the pet (or if it gets free from its cage). Ensure you do your research before purchasing and caring for an emperor scorpion, taking care to buy the right materials, supplies, and food.
Emperor Scorpion Behavior and Temperament
Emperor scorpions are not particularly dangerous compared to other scorpion species. It will rarely sting or pinch unless it's feeling threatened. Their sting is similar to a bee sting—it's painful, but medical attention or intervention is not usually necessary. That being said, like with bees, some people may get an anaphylactic or severe allergic reaction to the venom, which would require medical attention.
Emperor scorpions are more likely to pinch you with their pedipalps (claws) than use their stinger. In any case, handling pet scorpions isn't recommended because of these risks, plus handling can stress out a scorpion. If you must handle your scorpion (such as when cleaning its cage), use a pair of long-handled forceps with foam over the grips to pick up the scorpion by the stinging end.
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Emperor scorpions can be kept alone or housed in groups. Glass aquarium tanks are typically the easiest housing choice, but whatever tank you choose should have a tight-fitting and secure lid. A 10-gallon tank is sufficient for one scorpion, but a larger one (20 to 30 gallons) is necessary for groups. However, you don't want to give them too much space—it can make it too difficult for them to catch their prey.
A good rule of thumb is to provide a couple more hiding spots than you have scorpions so they can each have their own space. If there is any sign of aggression between the scorpions, consider separating them to prevent injuries.
Specific Substrate Needs
Some emperor scorpion owners use soil as bedding, some use peat, and others select vermiculite. No matter what you choose, it should be fairly deep (3 to 6 inches) in order to allow your scorpion to dig burrows. You can also provide pieces of bark, flat stones, broken ceramic flower pots, or even reptile hides as hiding spots for your scorpion.
Adding pieces of sphagnum moss on top of the substrate will also aid in retaining moisture in the environment. Emperor scorpions will move the cage decorations and furnishings around as they please, and you should let them—undoing the arrangement of their habitat may stress them out.
Specific Humidity and Heating Needs
Emperor scorpions are native to Africa and live in a humid, warm environment, so the most challenging part of keeping scorpions is providing them with vital heat and sufficient humidity. Emperor scorpion habitats should have a high humidity level (around 75 percent) maintained by regular, daily misting. Regardless of the substrate type you choose, it should be kept damp but not wet. If there is mold on the substrate or condensation on the walls of the tank, the humidity is too high.
Emperor scorpions do not need UVB lights but they do need a temperature gradient between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Many scorpion owners even recommend occasionally allowing temperatures to reach about 100 degrees. The temperature gradient is essential to enable these cold-blooded arachnids to regulate their body temperature as needed.
The easiest way to provide this heating gradient is by using a heating mat designed for use under reptile tanks. The mat should go under no more than about 1/3 of the tank so that your emperor scorpion can move from warmer to cooler temperatures as desired. Always verify appropriate temperatures by using accurate thermometers in a few locations within the cage.
What Do Emperor Scorpions Eat & Drink?
In the wild, emperor scorpions eat a variety of insects, other arthropods, and small lizards. In captivity, they seem to do fine with a diet primarily of gut-loaded, calcium-dusted crickets, supplemented occasionally with other insects such as mealworms and moths.
An adult emperor scorpion will eat about three to six adult crickets per week and should be fed every other night. Provide a shallow water dish that allows the scorpion to drink if it needs to, but not deep enough that it can drown.
Common Health Problems
A frequent problem with scorpions is dehydration. If your emperor scorpion is lethargic or has a shriveled appearance, this may be a sign that your emperor scorpion is not getting enough water. Consult with your exotics veterinarian if you notice your pet behaving strangely. Usually, if you increase the humidity in its enclosure, it will help.
From birth, scorpions molt or shed their exoskeleton six times until reaching adulthood (roughly three years of age). Molting is normal and expected. A few days before a molt, the scorpion may hide, remain inactive, and not feed. If you notice its outer shell beginning to crack, it is likely molting. During this time, you'll want to remove any visible, living insects in the cage or other cage mates during this time—it is vulnerable to attacks, including insect bites. You can also, increase the cage humidity to make the process easier on your pet.
Once it starts molting, an emperor scorpion takes about a half-day to shed its skin, then a week for the new outer layer to harden. Do not feed the scorpion during this time—wait until the new exoskeleton is completely hardened. Incomplete molts—characterized by areas of the exoskeleton that did not molt completely, damaged limbs, or exposed areas—can be a life-threatening situation, so you may want to consult an exotics vet if you notice any problem with the shed process.
Purchasing Your Emperor Scorpion
Many pet stores carry scorpions and other invertebrate pets, but it is preferable if you can locate a reputable breeder. Seek out a seasoned and reputable reptile breeder to help source and determine the right scorpion for you—pet stores usually do not know much about an animal, its care, or even how old it is. Breeders often have a more detailed record of a scorpion's life, health history, and care requirements. An emperor scorpion can cost anywhere from $25 up to $100, depending on its size, age, appearance, and more.
Similar Pets to the Emperor Scorpion
If you are interested in creepy-crawlies but are not sure if you are up to caring for a scorpion, here are a few other pets to check out:
Otherwise, check out other spiders and insects that make good pets.
Is emperor scorpion venom deadly?
No. The venom of the emperor scorpion is not deadly and most people will have a mild response, similar to that of an insect bite, if bitten by an emperor scorpion.
How long do emperor scorpions live as pets?
With the proper living conditions and care, an emperor scorpion can live anywhere from two to six years.
Are emperor scorpions hard to take care of?
Often considered a "beginner" scorpion, emperor scorpions are among the easiest to care for and a great options for new scorpion owners.