The Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus Imperator) is one of the world’s most famous species of scorpions mainly due to its large size. Its majestic size, hefty build, together with the large claws, relatively harmless sting and its easy breeding in captivity, led this species to become an extremely popular pet for arachnid keepers.
Although it is not difficult to keep Emperor scorpions as pets, they still require a bit more care than you may have been led to believe.
In this care guide, I discuss everything you need to know about the Emperor Scorpions including their behavior, life span, growth, feeding, courtship, mating, embryonic development, the birth process, post-embryonic development, and much more.
Note: Do you know that the ever-increasing demand of this species for breeding has led to it being added to the list of animals protected by the Washington Convention (Lourenco & Cloudsley-Thompson 1996, Rossi 2015b, 2015d)?
Quick Notes about Emperor Scorpion
|Scientific Name||Pandinus Imperator|
|Tank size (minimal)||10 gallons (~40 liters)|
|Size||up to 8 inches (20 cm)|
|Optimal Temperature||75 – 80F (24 – 27 C)|
|Water type||Freshwater bowl|
|Moisture||at least 70 – 90 %|
|Substrate||3 – 6 inches (7 – 15 cm) deep|
|Temperament||Relatively Peaceful. Social|
|Life span||up to 10 years|
|Color Form||Black and rusty|
Interesting Facts About Scorpions
- Scorpions are one of the oldest creatures which have been around for almost 300 million years. During such a long period, they have not evolved much. They are pretty much still the same as they were when they were first discovered.
- There are about 2,000 species of scorpions present in the world. They are spread in all continents of the world except Antarctica. However, not every scorpion has the ability to kill a human. There are only 30-40 types of scorpions that are fatal and can cause death if they sting.
- Interestingly, it has been long noted that species with more potent venom possess relatively slender claws and a broader metasoma (the scorpion ‘tail’, actually a continuation of the body). Claws form, in combination with metasoma size, is thus used as a rule of thumb to assess whether an unidentified scorpion could be dangerously poisonous or not. Nonetheless, do not try it yourself!
Origins, Natural Habitat of the Emperor Scorpion
In the wild, Emperor Scorpions are inhabitants of both tropical forests of West and Central Africa, approximately from Liberia to Cameroon and open savannahs.
They are mostly found under rocks, tree roots, and logs. Emperor Scorpions can survive only in a warm and humid environment.
Description of the Emperor Scorpion
Emperor scorpions are big in size as compared to the other species. This is one of the reasons why they got this name. Fully grown adults can reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length. They are also one of the heaviest terrestrial scorpions in the world. Some individuals can weigh more than 65g.
Emperor scorpions have a sturdy and hefty build with huge and powerful pincher claws. They have a dark brown or black glossy body with a gritty texture on the pincers.
The front part of the body is known as prosoma, it is based on four sections and each section has a pair of legs which makes it a total of eight legs. The pectins which are a comb-like structure are right behind the fourth pair of legs. Pectineus tend to be longer in males as compared to females.
Their tail is long and curved over the body, the venom glands are at the end of the tail along with a sharp and curved stinger. Scorpions have a distinctive feature in their body and that is the sensory hair on the pincers. The sensory hair on the pincers enables the scorpions to sense prey. They detect the vibrations in the air and on the ground and then sting. The sting of Emperor Scorpions is not poisonous. It is mild and very similar to the sting of a bee. It might have an allergic reaction to some people but it’s not life-threatening.
Lifespan of Emperor Scorpion
Under optimal conditions, the average lifespan for the Emperor Scorpions is 10 years or so in captivity. They tend to live longer in the wild if they don’t fall prey for any other species.
Emperor Scorpions grow pretty fast. For example, according to some observations, they are about 10 cm (4 inches) in length at 2.5 years old. It takes them another 2 years to range from 14 – 17 cm (6 – 6 inches) measured from tip of chelicerae to tip of telson).
Behavior of the Emperor Scorpion
Emperor scorpions make a very good option to be kept as pets especially for beginners because of their docile nature. Their sting is reasonably harmless and it doesn’t have any fatal reactions to human beings.
Depending on the age, Emperor Scorpions behave differently when they hunt or feel they are endangered. They might use their sting during their adolescent stage but once they hit maturity, they use their pincers to defend themselves. For example, young scorpions up to 6 cm (~2inches) in length stung all prey at every opportunity. At 10 cm in length, these scorpions stung only large, violently struggling prey. Adult Emperor scorpions never used the sting, dispatching prey with the claws and apparently refusing prey too large to subdue with the claws alone.
Emperor Scorpions are nocturnal and timorous by nature and they would rather escape the situation instead of fighting. But if they are cornered and they are provoked, then they will become defensive.
Another moment that you need to keep in mind is the gravid Emperor Scorpion female. Normally, these scorpions do not react aggressively when touched. However, with birth, the Emperor scorpion female’s behavior will change significantly. According to the experiments, females become very aggressive in their attempts to protect their babies. They start grasping everything and even try to sting, which is quite unusual for Pandinus imperator species.
Only a few arachnid species exhibit social behavior and Emperor Scorpions is one of them. In scorpions, ‘social phases’ are normally restricted to interactions during mating and the maternal care of offspring from birth to shortly after the first molt. Unlike many other scorpion species, mixed age groups of related (and even unrelated animals) can coexist in terraria rarely showing within-group aggression or cannibalism.
Emperor Scorpions are also burrowers.
Feeding Emperor Scorpion
Emperor scorpions are opportunistic predators.They get a variety of food options when they are in the wild like insects, small rodents and even reptiles. While they are in captivity, they can be given the following meals:
- Small mice or hamsters.
- Small lizards.
Yes, you have read it right. Their large size allows them to feed on mice, frogs and small snakes!
How often should you feed your Emperor scorpion?
An adult Emperor scorpion does not have to be feed daily. One or two times a week will be enough. Actually, you will see it yourself. They will simply refuse to hunt down the prey when they are not hungry. Young scorpions are more voracious eaters. So 2 – 4 times a week will be the best option.
Keep in mind that Emperor Scorpions usually hunt at night so it is recommended to feed them at night (at least in the evening) so that you can replicate the conditions and environment under which scorpions eat naturally.
It is also very important to understand the chances of success in prey capture. For example, if you decide to feed young Emperor scorpion mice, it will not be able to subdue large prey on its own.
Note: Emperor scorpion may feed for two days on a carcass before leaving it, apparently disdaining stale food. Once the stop eating, remove it from the tank.
Important: Scorpion can often eat the prey alive. So, if you are a sensitive person, you should not keep Emperor scorpion as a pet.
Keeping and Housing Emperor Scorpion
Emperor scorpions are not high-maintenance pets. But if you want to have a happy and healthy Emperor Scorpion as long as it is possible, it is important to give it everything it needs, including proper care.
In other words, ditch what the pet store told you about how easy of a pet they are. Sure, they can survive some extreme situations. However, there is a big difference between thriving and surviving after all.
Emperor Scorpions are large animals. Therefore, considering their size, I would recommend at least a 10-gallon (40 liters) plastic or glass tank with a screen top to prevent escape. It is big enough to hold one couple of average Emperor Scorpions in it. However, more room may be required as they grow. So, if you plan to keep a group of scorpions then 20-30 gallons (80 – 120 liters) of the tank is a must.
Important: The enclosure must be secure! Emperor Scorpions are escape artists and you do not want it running around your house.
Substrate and Decorations
The aquarium should have a proper substrate and decorations for the scorpions so that they can have their individual spaces if there is more than one scorpion in the tank.
The option for the substrate is coconut fiber, soil, peat, sand, and vermiculite. It should be at least 3 – 6 inches (7 – 15 cm) deep so that the scorpion can dig burrows easily. Hiding spots should be installed in the tank for giving the scorpion spots to hide. For that ceramic flower pots, flat stones and pieces of bark will do the job.
Note: Out of all substrates, coconut fiber shows the best results for the more humid-loving burrowing scorpions, like Emperor Scorpions. Make it moist enough so when you squeeze it holds its shape.
Humidity levels are really important. Although Emperor Scorpions live on land, they nevertheless need moist, humid air to breathe properly. Their tank should be tropical in nature with a relative humidity between 70-90%.
According to the observations, Emperor Scorpions grow faster and bigger under humid conditions.
For example, researchers compared the size and brood potential of Emperor Scorpions in different environmental conditions:
- In the savanna. The relative humidity usually reaches saturation during the night, but in the dry season (which occurs from December to February) it may fall by 20–35% during the day. During this period, the savanna experiences drought conditions.
- In the tropical forest. The relative humidity of the soil remains close to saturation at all times. Soil temperature is close to 26 C at depths of 1–5 cm.
As a result:
|Emperor Scorpions size||76.56 mm||58.00 mm|
|Emperor Scorpions broods||34.80||15.24|
Obviously, they need high humidity levels to survive and for that daily misting is required.
As Emperor Scorpions prefer a warm and humid environment, it is recommended to place a heat mat under the tank to keep the tank warm. The temperature can be maintained at 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 – 32 C). However, the optimal is between 75 – 80F (24 – 27 C).
The heat pad should cover one-third of the tank so that the scorpion can move from warm to cold anytime they want. Another alternative is to place it on the back outside wall of your glass aquarium. So, in case of malfunctioning, it will not roast your scorpion.
I also definitely recommend a thermostat. It will protect your snails from overheating or getting too cold.
Tip: You can always use ceramic or heat bulbs as a heat source. In some setups, it can be even preferable.
Emperor Scorpions are not aquatic. Nonetheless, they should have a suitably sized bowl of water available to them 24/7. They need water to drink and it will help you to maintain the humidity level. The water bowl should be big enough for them to fully enter it.
Note: It should be easy for the scorpion to crawl in and out of the water dish (put there some kind of ladder – stones, fake plants, etc). Although they can spend underwater a lot of time, they will still drown eventually.
Regarding freshwater, ideally, you need to give them something like bottled spring water. Tap water will be the last choice.
Note: When you prepare water for the Emperor Scorpions, let it age for a few days. The reason behind this is that the chlorine will evaporate out of water within 24 hours.
Optional: You can also add Seachem Prime (link to check the price on Amazon). This water conditioner also removes chlorine, chloramine, binds to heavy metals, any ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates present for up to 48 hours. Consider Prime as your additional safety net.
Emperor Scorpions are nocturnal creatures. So, they could not care less about it. However, a lot of people are using UV lighting because Emperor Scorpions tend to glow under black light. This can attract and excite anybody in your family. Blacklight is also an option to make the environment safe in the house while there is a scorpion living. It can help in locating the scorpion if it escapes its cage.
However, UV lighting is not completely safe for your Emperor Scorpions. I will remind you that ultraviolet is simply a normal part of the light from the sun. These scorpions do not like to be exposed to the sun. That is why if you want to buy UV lighting – do not use it all the time, only for a short period of time. So make sure you get heat bulbs that do not emit UV (UVA or UVB) rays. Instead of UV lighting, you can always choose heat bulbs that do not emit UV rays.
How often should you clean the Emperor Scorpions tank?
You need to do it ever 2 – 4 months.
Tank Equipment (examples with links to check the price on Amazon)
Molting Emperor Scorpions
If your scorpions refuse to eat there is no reason for panic. It can be the sign of molting (shed its hard exoskeleton to increase in size). Most metabolic activities are reduced during the pre-molting process. Therefore, they often will not eat for 5-10 days prior to a molt. In addition, do not give them any food for 7-10 days after a molt.
Some Important Rules Regarding Emperor Scorpions Care and Handling:
- A scorpion should never be lifted up by its tail!
- Always wear gloves when you are about to clean their enclosure. Extreme caution is to be excised.
- Do not expose your skin or anyone else’s skin to them. You never know what can trigger them. Some people claim that their Emperor Scorpions can recognize them and do not show any signs of agitation when they handle them. Personally, I would not recommend doing so. Safety comes first!
- Do not leave uneaten food for too long. It can cause smell and bacteria in their enclosure.
- Decorate the enclosure with as many things as you please because this species loves to hide. Emperor Scorpions are shy creatures so provide them maximum hiding spots.
- The substrate should be based on Eco-earth to give them the homely feeling.
- Temperature gradients and heating pads are the best options for keeping Emperor Scorpions.
- Make sure children do not provoke the scorpion. It is against ethics and provoking the scorpion has its consequences. Emperor Scorpions are not pets to play with!
- They spend most of their life inside their burrows waiting for prey. So, do not try to take it out. Actually, they are pretty happy in their burrows.
- Make sure the lid of the tank is closed tightly so that they cannot escape it.
- See a veterinarian as soon as you feel there is something off about your emperor scorpion.
Sexing Emperor Scorpion
How to know the sex of the Emperor Scorpion? The feathery pectins on the underside of the scorpion enable us to know the sex of the Emperor Scorpion. The male pectins are longer and more feathery. Females have comparatively smaller and less feathery pectineus as compared to males.
Male emperor scorpions are smaller in size than females. Especially if the female is pregnant it will be bigger in size as compared to regular female scorpions.
Another way to sex the Emperor Scorpion is to check the genitals’ opening that is underneath it located next to the pectines. If that part of the body is oval-shaped, it is a male and if it is heart-shaped then it is a female.
Mating and Communicating Emperor Scorpion
Emperor Scorpions tend to reach sexual maturity around 2 years old. There is no specific time for breeding to occur, it can occur any time during the year. They just need to be in a warm and humid environment to breed.
Courtship and sperm transfer in Emperor Scorpions is a very complex process involving several aspects of behavior. The male first approaches the female and then grasps her claws with his own claws. A form of “dance” then takes place. This process may last for several minutes until the ejection of the spermatophore on a suitable substratum.
In the next stage, the male leads the female to position her genital aperture over the spermatophore, and the female takes up the sperm. Once sperm transfer has been completed the partners normally separate.
Note: The classical ‘cliché’, according to which cannibalism by the female of the male occurs among scorpion species in general, is exaggerated.
Breeding Emperor Scorpion
In Pandinus Imperator species, embryonic development can take up to 7 months. The average brood size is about 32 baby scorpions. Female fecundity increases with body size.
Several hours before the beginning of birth, female scorpions assume a stilting posture. She elevates the anterior portion of the body above the substrate. The female genital opercula open, and the young emerge one by one. The young Emperor Scorpions free themselves from the membrane and climb up the female’s legs or claws until they reach her back. The babies measure 2-3 mm when they are born and they are white in color.
Until their first molt (this can take a few weeks), they cannot even sting. Therefore, they are completely dependent on their mother. In most other scorpion species, maternal behavior normally ends within a few weeks, shortly after the first molt of the young.
In Pandinus Imperator, however, at least under laboratory conditions, the female tolerated young, which were 18 months old. They were still associated with their mother.
In another experiment, biologists tried to find out can / will the mother discriminate between their own and alien babies? The results were astonishing. Females of Emperor Scorpions never harmed alien offspring! Even more, a lot of alien babies did not even see a big difference at all.
As the babies grow, they should be removed carefully from their mother’s cage and placed in a separate cage so that they get enough space to grow freely. Chopped adult crickets are the best diet for babies as it contains high levels of calcium and protein.
Emperor Scorpion and Multiple Broods per Insemination
During my research, I have also found controversial information about multiple broods per insemination. According to one study, Emperor Scorpions cannot store sperm to use it in other insemination. At the same time, another study described the situation when the mother scorpion had been individually caged, without contact with other scorpions, for at least 2 years prior to giving birth. This suggests that sperm retention or some type of developmental interruption can occur in this species.
Difficulties and Problems associated with Emperor Scorpions
The most common problem which the Emperor Scorpions face is dehydration. If they seem lethargic or they look wrinkled, it means they are not getting enough hydration. The solution to avoid this problem is to increase the humidity levels in the enclosure and to provide them with the water dish if you have not done it yet.
If you still feel they are not looking well then it’s better to consult a veterinarian.
Emperor scorpions are not high-maintenance pets. They don’t take up much space and very quiet and calm, unlike other pets.
Nonetheless, having a scorpion pet can be exciting but it is one big responsibility. It is just like taking care of any other pet but because this is of small size and can possibly sting, so you have to be extra vigilant especially if there are children around in the family.
Giving them the right environment is the most important thing which has to be taken care of. At no point, you should be negligent with it. A little mistake can become life-threatening for your pet. Having a scorpion pet is all together with a different experience. You cannot pet it like conventional pets but you can share a bond together once you both start to know each other.
For beginners, it is the perfect option because of their docile nature. They are calm and not defensive until provoked.
You have to have a pet-sitter for a scorpion pet in your absence. And you have to make sure that the person is experienced enough to handle a scorpion. It can be dangerous for your pet and the pet-sitter.