Scorpions can be fascinating animals. With their pedipalps (claws), their stingers, and the way they glow under a black light, its no wonder that they are becoming more common in pet stores these days.
The most common one you can find is the emperor scorpion and for good reason. It is the hardiest, largest (which is a good thing) and one of the more mellow species. It is probably best for beginners and can be identified by its large pedipalps, black coloring, and large size (up to 6 inches). If you dont want one of these big guys and prefer a different species, here are some things to keep in mind.
The smaller they are, the more aggressive they will probably be. Smaller pedipalps means it is more poisonous, long hairs mean it will be harder to handle; those hairs are sensors so it will feel you before you actually get a hold of it. Despite the stinger, most scorpions youll see in a pet shop, especially the emperor, are not deadly to humans. Their sting hurts a little bit more than a wasps, and the emperor relies more in its pedipalps to defend itself and hunt with, and those can hurt more.
Now once youve selected and active, healthy animal from the store, there are several things you have to consider when creating an enclosure for it. Most scorpions come from tropical environments and need a warm, humid enclosure to be healthy, so you will need to get a heat matt, a temp and humidity monitor, have a misting bottle handy, and make sure their enclosure is out of direct sunlight. The kind of substrate you use can vary. Try to learn about the place your particular pet came from, and choose according to its needs, but whatever you use, make sure its deep so your pet can make a burrow. You also need to provide hiding spots where it can sleep during the day: pieces of bark, a flat stone, even reptile houses will do. Scorpions are nocturnal animals, so keep this in mind. Although they can withstand extreme heat, direct sunlight will KILL THEM, so keep this in mind.
Some species, (especially the emperors) are semi social in that they will tolerate each other, but if you do get more than one, make sure you have more than one hiding space so they can avoid each other if they want. If there is any sign of aggression, separate them immediately. Sphagnum moss on top of the substrate will help retain moisture, but keep a watchful eye as the constant humidity can cause mold to form. If that happens, clean the tank out. Keep the humidity up with a daily misting, but dont over do it. If there is condensation or fogging on the glass, then the humidity is too high. For regulating the temperature, use a reptile heating matt under one side of the tank. DO NOT PLACE IT UNDER THE WHOLE TANK.
Your pet will be able to move back and forth from the warm area to the cooler area to be comfortable. The overall temperature of the tank should be about 70-90 F. you can occasionally let it go up as high as 100, but dont do this too often. Scorpions like it semi dark, and if you want them to be active in the afternoon, make sure you dont have them anywhere near a window. You also need a water dish. A very shallow water dish so your pets dont drown. Some pet stores recommend putting in a piece of sponge, but this can grow mold, so I dont recommend it.
For the most part I recommend against handling scorpions. Although most are not deadly unless you have an allergic reaction, being stung or pinched is still painful, and it is very stressful on the animal. If you do need to handle them for whatever reason, I recommend using a pair of tongs with rubber grips on the end so you dont hurt your pet. Grip him by the tail and slowly lift him up. You can place your pet on your hand since most scorpions wont sting the ground they are walking on, but dont make to many sudden movements to startle it.
Scorpions eat insects and even small lizards, but yours should be fine on a diet of crickets you can get from a store as long as you provide the occasional snack from outside. Your pet should only need to eat a cricket every other day or so, they arent gluttons, so dont go dumping twenty crickets into the enclosure. That much sensory input will stress and possibly kill your pet. Keep the crickets separate and drop in one or two every other day. Just remember to feed the crickets as well or they will eat each other. Watching your pet eat can be a fascinating experience. If you have an emperor, it will probably crush the cricket with its pedipalps and then chew it up with its claw-like mouth parts. Smaller species with weaker pedipalps are more likely to use their sting to subdue their prey, but they all eat in the same manner.
One of the primary health problems with scorpions is lice. These are very small, white insects with can damage your pets health. They are not to be confused with scorpion babies. If you see them, go to the pet store you got it from, or see a vet who deals with exotic species. As for scorpion babies, if you do get a mating pair, it is very difficult to raise young scorpions. They are very frail and susceptible to disease. The mother carries them around on her back until they are able to hunt on their own, but during this time she will probably be more aggressive to her mate, so I recommend separating them. Stress can also kill a scorpion, so dont go poking it or handling it too often. They are also sensitive to vibration, so it isnt a good idea to have a loud speaker or anything of that nature in the same room with them.
Scorpions are nearly blind and rely heavily on touch to find prey. On their underbelly are two feathery like appendages which sense for vibration in the ground. Many have long hairs to feel changes in air pressure, giving them a kind of sixth sense. Scorpions also glow under a black light, and many keepers use such a light to observe their pets. The scorpions are oblivious to the light, so it doesnt bother them at all. Scorpions have no protection against the suns UV rays and can die from direct exposure very quickly. Mating scorpions do a “dance” there they grasp each others pedipalps, touch stingers, and move around with each other.