Scorpions are becoming increasingly popular as pets, especially emperor scorpions. If you are into arachnids and insects, you will find a lot to like about the emperor scorpion. They are not great for handling, but they are quiet, clean, and easy to care for. And, as far as scorpions go, they are docile. They 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 (although it is not advisable as a pet for young children).
Common Names: Emperor scorpion, imperial scorpion
Scientific Name: Pandinus imperator
Adult Size: About 6 inches long
Life Expectancy: 6 to 8 years
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 like a bee sting. It is painful, but medical attention is not usually necessary. Some people may get an anaphylactic or severe allergic reaction to the venom as they do with bee stings 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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Housing the Emperor Scorpion
Emperor scorpions are native to Africa and live in a humid, warm environment. They are also nocturnal like all other scorpions. The most challenging part of keeping scorpions is providing vital heat and humidity sufficiently.
Emperor scorpions can be kept alone or housed in groups. Glass aquarium tanks are probably the easiest housing to use. The tank 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. Don't give them too much space. It might make it too difficult for them to catch their prey.
A good rule of thumb is to provide a couple of 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.
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 (three to six inches) to allow your scorpion to dig burrows. 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; let them. Undoing their arrangement of the habitat may stress them out.
Specific Humidity and Heating Needs
Emperor scorpion habitats should have a high humidity level (75%) maintained by regular, daily misting. Regardless of the substrate type, it should remain 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.
Food and Water
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 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 it's 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 3 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. Remove any visible, living insects in the cage or other cage mates. It is vulnerable to attacks, including insect bites. Also, increase the cage humidity.
Once it starts molting, it takes about a half-day to shed its skin and then a week for the new outer layer to harden. Do not feed the scorpion during that time. Incomplete molts can be a life-threatening situation. 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. Pet stores usually do not know if an animal is pregnant or even how old it is. Breeders often have a more detailed record of a scorpion's life and health history. An emperor scorpion can cost $25 up to $100.
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.