Hottentotta Hottentotta – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Hottentotta Hottentotta – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Hottentotta hottentotta, commonly known as the Congo scorpion, is a medium-sized scorpion with relatively potent venom which can cause some intensive pain for several hours.

These scorpions have been popular in the hobby for many years because of their behavior, interesting hunting habits, and ease of breeding (self-cloning).

In case you didn’t catch the last part of that sentence, it simply means that Hottentotta hottentotta is parthenogenic, therefore, these fascinating scorpions do not need males and can reproduce themselves with natural cloning techniques.

If you are thinking about housing these scorpions or simply want to know more about this species, you have come to the right place.

In this article, I have gathered all information about Hottentotta hottentotta. It covers all aspects, from natural habitat conditions and how the Congo scorpions should be cared for, to dietary requirements and behavior aspects.

Quick Notes about Hottentotta Hottentotta

Name Hottentotta hottentotta
Other Names
The Congo red alligator back, Alligatorback scorpion, Congo scorpion, African ground scorpion, and the African Bark Scorpion
Scientific Name Hottentotta hottentotta
Type
Terrestrial
Tank size (minimum) 1 gallon (~4.5 liters)
Keeping Easy-moderate
Breeding Easy  
Average size 2 – 3 inches (5.5 – 8 cm)
Optimal Temperature 82 – 95°F (28 – 34 °C)
Water type Freshwater bowl
Moisture 55 – 65 %
Substrate 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) deep
Diet Carnivore  
Temperament Semi-aggressive 
Life span up to 5 years
Color Form Reddish brown or yellowish brown to black

Taxonomy and Etymology of Hottentotta Hottentotta

In 1787, it was initially described as Scorpio hottentotta by Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius.

In 1908, the genus Hottentotta was created and named by A. A. Birula after the Hottentots (Khoikhoi), the nomad pastoral people of Namibia and South Africa.

Distribution of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta Hottentotta – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - DistributionHottentotta hottentotta is indigenous to western Africa. These scorpions are widespread in such countries as:

Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.

Nowadays, there are also several reports from Egypt and in north-western Spain: Nieves (Galicia) and Gijon (Asturias).

Natural Habitat of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta hottentotta is not a desert species. These scorpions prefer semi-arid to humid, savannah, and forested environments.

Description of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta Hottentotta – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - profile
Image source

Hottentotta hottentotta is a medium-sized scorpion. Fully grown adults range between 2 – 3 inches (5.5 – 8 cm).

Distinguishing characteristics of Hottentotta hottentotta:

  • Metasoma bears only a few hairs.
  • Color usually uniformly reddish brown. However, some populations colored yellowish brown to black.
    Mesosomal segments and carapace usually with orange spots and longitudinal black stripes. Metasomal carinae may be black as well.
    The coloration of juveniles is variable, in some uniformly brown and in others with the chela dark and the remaining segments of pedipalps yellow; they may also have the fifth metasomal segment darker than the preceding segments.
  • Their pedipalps are relatively long and slender.

Lifespan of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Currently, there is no data available on the maximum lifespan of these scorpions.

However, in captivity, Hottentotta hottentotta can live up to 3 – 5 years, if appropriately cared for.

Note: Their lifespan will greatly depend on the conditions they are kept in, how well you feed them, and how stressful the environment is for them.

Typical Behavior of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta hottentotta are most active at night. Activity generally begins in the evening shortly before sunset. However, in humid vegetated areas and in captivity some scorpions may stay active even during the day.

Note: According to the study, the normal rhythm of locomotory activity was greatly affected by constant artificial illumination (20-foot candles) and constant darkness.

This is not a very active species. They do not usually run around like crazy but when they do, they are very quick.

Hottentotta hottentotta is not a social species, especially young ones. Young scorpions are very likely to cannibalize each other during molting. Therefore, if you keep them together, they should be well-fed all the time to reduce potential aggression.

Although it is possible to keep adults communally it is still not considered a good idea. Even a small risk of aggression should be eliminated if you want to keep them healthy and happy.

These scorpions are pretty shy. They are opportunists in terms of selecting their habitat. Hottentotta hottentotta will use any natural and/or artificial spaces and gaps for hiding.

Hottentotta hottentotta is a semi-aggressive species. They generally react defensively when touched and do not hesitate to sting when annoyed.

These scorpions are not natural diggers. They may make some shallow cavities but they do not construct any tunnels.

Features:

  • Communal: No (with caution, still not recommended)
  • Activity: Average
  • Peaceful: Semi-aggressive
  • Burrowers: No
  • Venomous: Yes

Venom of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta hottentotta does not spray venom, these scorpion sting.

Unfortunately, the toxicity of the venom of this species to humans has not been studied yet, but there are some reports of hobbyists. These are some descriptions:

  • sharp burning pain,
  • intense pain,
  • feels like my skin being methodically peeled off, etc.

Generally, the sharp pain lasts for several hours.

DO NOT allow children to touch Hottentotta hottentotta.

Some people (especially children) may be allergic to their toxins and their venom can cause agonizing pain. In this case, if you get stung, you need to get to the hospital ASAP.

Interesting fact: Scorpions can sting many times, but their venom becomes depleted with each sting.

Diet of Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta Hottentotta – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - eatingHottentotta hottentotta is considered to be a generalist predator on a variety of prey, such as insects and other small animals, such as:

  • bugs,
  • crickets,
  • mealworms,
  • moths,
  • cockroaches,
  • red runner roaches,
  • snails, etc.

They use sensory systems (long and very thin sensory hairs located all over the body) other than vision to locate prey.

Even adult scorpions do not rely only on their claws during hunting. They hold the prey and sting it.

In the terrarium, the acceptable food items include:

  • crickets,
  • mealworms,
  • cockroaches,
  • red runner roaches,
  • worms.

How Often to Feed Hottentotta Hottentotta?

Adults can be fed once a week. Young scorpions should be fed at an interval of 3–4 days.

Some Feeding Tips

  • Time. Hottentotta hottentotta are nocturnal animals. Therefore, it is highly recommended to feed them at night (at least in the evening). Therefore, by doing so, you will replicate the conditions and environment under which they eat naturally.
  • Prey size. It is absolutely important that prey be smaller than the scorpions to ensure that they can grab it easily with their claws. For example, adult scorpions can eat full-grown cricket (1 inch or 2.5 cm long).
  • Prey activity. Do not give them prey that will burrow, jump or fly around their enclosure. For example, remove the wings, chop the forelimbs, break the legs, or squash the head so that they wiggle and are easily accessible to the scorpions.
  • Scorplings. Young scorpions can be too weak to overpower their prey. However, they will consume the crickets that have just died.
  • Check the hiding spots. Keep in mind that scorpions often drag and store food in their hiding spots for later consumption. Check them from time to time to prevent any mold, mites, or bacterial contaminations. If it is not eaten in 2 days, remove it.
  • Refuses to eat. Do not leave the live food in the enclosure. If your scorpion does not want to eat you need to remove it the next day.
Important: Large prey may harm the scorpion. In captivity, you should never give them prey that can fight back aggressively.

Feeding Problems with Hottentotta Hottentotta

Generally, you will not have any problems of that sort with this species. However, if you do, check out the following:

  • Shipment stress. If you have just bought them. Give them time to adapt to their new home.
  • Preparation for a molt. Changes in their eating habits change drastically before molting. You will see a sharp decrease in appetite. They may start eating less and eventually stop eating altogether.
  • Not hungry. Scorpions have a very low metabolism. Adults can live without food for months.
  • Low temperature. When the temperature drops below the optimal range, Hottentotta hottentotta becomes very lethargic.

Features:

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Food Preference: Alive prey.
  • Feeding Frequency: 1 time a week (for adults) and 2 times a week (for babies)
Hottentotta hottentotta needs alive prey. So, if you are a sensitive person, you should not keep them as a pet.

Keeping and Housing Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta hottentotta is usually straightforward and easy to care for if you know their requirements. However, for optimal results, here are some handy tips that you should follow in order to keep them.

To put it in a nutshell, we need to emulate their natural environment meaning: average humidity, high temperature, and some hiding places.

Enclosure Type:

First of all, you will need to choose an enclosure that provides the appropriate levels of heat and humidity for these scorpions. There are several options here.

Note: Personally, I would recommend plastic containers.

  1. 1. Plastic container.
PROS CONS
Cheap. Plastic is not the most ecological material, especially in hot temperatures.
Good for humidity. Nor aesthetically pleasing
Good ventilation  

Note: Even if there are no holes in the container, we can easily do those ourselves. Drill a few small holes on two opposite sides of the walls (closer to the base and closer to the upper edge).

  1. Aquarium. Lots of us are also fish or shrimp keepers, therefore, it makes aquariums one of the most popular options.
PROS CONS
It is made of ecological material (glass). There can be problems with the ventilation
Good for humidity.  
Very easy to buy.  
  1. 3. Terrarium.
PROS CONS
It is made of ecological materials. Some models have problems with ventilation
Good for humidity. High cost and weight
Some models have good ventilation  

Related article:

Tank Size (Enclosure):

Hottentotta hottentotta is not a large species. One young scorpling can be placed into a small (12 oz (250 ml) food storage container.

Adult scorpions can be kept in a 1-gallon tank (4 liters). Having a slightly larger enclosure is always preferable because it can be easier to make diverse areas for them to hide.

Tip: Long enclosures are better than tall ones of the same size. They need mostly a place to crawl from side to side, not up and down.

Important: Although Hottentotta hottentotta does not climb very much, any enclosure should be escape-proof anyway. After all, you do not want them crawling in your house.

Light:

No special requirements.

Hottentotta hottentotta is nocturnal. Basically, you do not need it. Thus, ambient light will be enough.

Temperature:

The optimal temperature range for Hottentotta hottentotta is between 82 – 95°F (28 – 34°C) during the day and 72 – 79°F (22 – 26°C) at night. They do love high temperatures. 

Is it possible to keep them below 80°F (<27°C) all the time?

Yes, it is possible but not recommended. At lower temperatures, their metabolism slows down, they stop eating, and grow very slowly. Also, there is a risk of catching infections (fungus), especially, if you have high humidity as well.

Note: Scorpions are cold-blooded animals. It means that they do not have control of their heat balance. Thus, their body temperature varies with the temperature of the environment.

Important: Heaters should never be placed under their enclosure because they can overheat your substrate and burn or kill scorpions there.

The best (safest) option will be to put the heater to the side of the enclosure, ideally, above the substrate line to heat the air as well.

Note: It is important to also use a thermostat to help moderate the temperature and keep it in the desired range.

Humidity:

The ideal humidity level should be between 55 – 65 %. As I have already mentioned, high humidity negatively affects their well-being.

Keep one part of the enclosure a little bit damper by gently watering the substrate. It will give your scorpion the choice of where it would like to be at this or that moment.

Note: Do not spray/mist scorpions, it freaks them out and they really hate it.

Related article:

Water:

Although Hottentotta hottentotta gets most of its hydration from eating prey items, it is still highly recommended to have a water dish.

They do not need much, for example, plastic bottle caps, oyster shells, seashells, etc. will be more than enough.

Ideally, we need to give them something like bottled spring water. But if you decide to use tap water, let it age for 24 hours before using it. Tap water contains chlorine and it can be toxic to them. 

  • Do water changes every 2 – 5 days.

Substrate:

I need to repeat it once again, Hottentotta hottentotta is not a desert species. Do not use only sand as the substrate. The main problem is that sand becomes supersaturated even though the top couple of inches are completely dry.

The substrate should be kept moist enough to maintain the humidity level. Some popular choices of substrate:

  • coco fiber (Eco earth),
  • peat moss,
  • organic topsoil,
  • cork bark,
  • Jungle mix soil,
  • Zoo Meds Creatures Creature soil,
  • The Bio Dude Terra.
There is no need for a deep substrate – 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) is enough.

It is also possible to use a combination of different substrates, for example:

  • coco fiber and sand and (5:1 ratio). It is easy to maintain and it holds moisture very well.
  • a mixture of peat moss and organic topsoil (1:1 ratio).

How often should we change the substrate?

Compared to many other animals, scorpions do not produce a lot of waste. Therefore, there is no need to change it very often. I know for sure that many hobbyists do not do it at all unless there is an outbreak of mold or fungi.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, it is still better to do it at least every 6 months.

Hiding places:

There should be some dark areas for the scorpion to hide in and these should be created out of rocks, coconuts, pieces of cork bark, etc.

They need to be able to completely conceal themselves.

Important: If you are planning to house several Hottentotta hottentotta, each of them needs a hiding place to feel secure in different parts of the enclosure!

re!

Examples of Tank Equipment
(with links to check the price on Amazon)

Handling Hottentotta Hottentotta

Hottentotta hottentotta is a venomous species. They are not pets you can play with!

Ideally, you need to use the tongs and keep your hands out.  Make sure children do not provoke the scorpion. It is against ethics and provoking the scorpion has its consequences.

Do not take them out just because you want to. You should really handle them as little as possible. They do not benefit from being handled and get stressed very easily.

Nonetheless, if you want/need to take them, it will be better to use rubber gloves:

  • put your hand in front of the scorpion,
  • nudge it from any side with a brush (pen, etc.),
  • the scorpions will turn around to face the ‘threat’,
  • nudge and slightly push it until it will back up onto your hand.
  • DO NOT press them down, they hate it! 

What is a bioactive enclosure for Hottentotta Hottentotta?

This is a self-sustaining ecosystem that does not require any (or little) maintenance. It also includes living organisms that work together in a balance within a tank.

Generally, when hobbyists are talking about a bioactive enclosure for their scorpions, they mean that there will be isopods and springtails to clean after their scorpions. These little bugs help to keep mold and decaying matter under control as well.

Warning: Some species of isopods are protein hungry. It can be dangerous for molting scorpions because during this process they are completely defenseless until their skeleton fully hardens.

Therefore, if you are not sure, it is better to play safe and add only springtails. These insects are detritivores that recycle dead organic material including scorpion’s poop.

Breeding Hottentotta Hottentotta

Breeding Hottentotta hottentotta is very easy because females are capable of parthenogenesis. It means that even unfertilized eggs develop into embryos.

Nonetheless, despite this fact, the population of these scorpions is not exclusively composed of females, there are also males which are very rare by the way. The males’ role is to provide genetic variability.

Sexing:

According to the study, Hottentotta hottentotta exhibits sexual dimorphism.

  • Males have fingers of pedipalps more twisted than females.
  • Pectinal teeth number 25–29 in males, and 22–26 in females.

Maturity:

Hottentotta hottentotta grows pretty fast and reaches maturity at 10 – 12 months old.

Generally, it takes them 6 molts to reach maturity. However, there are reports of some females turning adults even after 5th molt.

Gestation:

The gestation period lasts for 98 to 203 days, with an average value of 132 days. They give birth to 12 – 52 offspring, with an average of 22 neonates (generally called Nymphs or Scorplings).

As the time of parturition approaches, females become very secretive and agitated. They will sting at the slightest provocation.

Scorplings:

Hottentotta Hottentotta – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - with scorplingsNeonates molt for the first time after an average of 4 – 5 days on their mother’s back.

During this period, there is no need to feed baby scorpions, their mother will take care of that. Just give her more food than you normally would. She will catch the prey, tear it apart and let the babies feed on it.

As in most other scorpion species, about a week after the first molt, the second instars scorplings start leaving their mother’s back.

Separation:

Once scorplings leave the mother’s back, it will be better to separate them from her and each other as well.

Note: If you moved a gravid female to another tank while she was carrying babies, do not immediately transfer her back when scorplings left her back. At this moment she can be very hungry and may attack other scorpions.

At this stage, scorplings also need a lot of nutrition. Considering the fact they are often too weak to overpower their prey they can start cannibalizing fast.

They do not require a lot of space and can be kept in small food storage containers with adequate ventilation (just make small holes in the plastic). Provide them with damp substrate and hiding spots.

Baby scorpions have the same diet as adult scorpions but in smaller sizes:

  • small pinhead crickets (¼ inches or 0.5 cm long),
  • small worms,
  • fruitflies,
  • moths, etc.

Do not give them large live prey they cannot catch! It is recommended to feed them more frequently compared to adults – 2 times a week. Also, there is no need to use water dishes for baby scorpions.

In Conclusion

Hottentotta hottentotta can be easily kept and reared in plastic containers of different sizes. These scorpions require a thin layer of soil, places to hide, a shallow water dish, average humidity, and high temperature.

Once they become adults, it is just a matter of time before they start breeding. The production of offspring occurs in the absence of any male genetic contribution – asexual reproduction by parthenogenesis.

These are interesting scorpions, just remember – Hottentotta hottentotta is a venomous and semi-aggressive species. Do not handle it, especially, if you are an experienced user.  

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References:

  1. Teruel, Rolando, and Carlos Turiel. “” NEW KID ON THE BLOCK”: THE WEST AFRICAN SCORPION HOTTENTOTTA HOTTENTOTTA (FABRICIUS, 1787)(SCORPIONES: BUTHIDAE) MAY HAVE.” Euscorpius58: 1-107.
  2. YTHIER, Eric. “A new locality for Hottentotta caboverdensis Lourenço & Ythier, 2006.” Le bulletin d’Arthropoda44, no. 2 (2010): 8-11.
  3. Lourenço, W. R., and E. Ythier. “Confirmação de reprodução por partenogênese em Hottentotta hottentotta (Fabricius)(Scorpiones, Buthidae).” Acta Biológica Paranaense36 (2007).
  4. Kovařík, František. “A revision of the genus Hottentotta Birula, 1908, with descriptions of four new species (Scorpiones, Buthidae).” Euscorpius2007, no. 58 (2007): 1-107.
  5. Toye, S. Afolabi. “Some aspects of the biology of two common species of Nigerian scorpions.” Journal of Zoology162, no. 1 (1970): 1-9.
  6. Tang, Victoria. “A standardized list of scorpion names in Chinese, with an etymological approach.” Euscorpius2022, no. 350 (2022): 1-91. 

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