Red-Clawed Scorpion – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Pandinoides cavimanus (commonly known as Tanzanian Red-Clawed Scorpion or Red-Clawed Scorpion) is a relatively large African scorpion that many scorpion enthusiasts would like to have as a pet.

While Red-Clawed Scorpions are fairly hardy, they do require warm temperatures and high humidity to thrive. Despite their large size, they don’t take up much space in a tank. The only thing to keep in mind is that these scorpions can show a bit more aggression.

In this guide, I gathered everything we currently know about Pandinoides cavimanus including tank setups, habits, diets, compatibility, etc.

Conservation: Not long ago, these scorpions used to be reasonably common in the pet trade. However, in recent years, Tanzania made a commendable decision to halt wildlife exports, aiming to protect their precious biodiversity. Consequently, the availability of these remarkable creatures as pets has become exceedingly scarce.

Quick Notes about Red-Clawed Scorpions

Name Tanzanian Red-Clawed Scorpion
Other Names
Pandinus Cavimanus Africanus, African Red Clawed Scorpion, Large African scorpion, and Cave-claw scorpion
Scientific Name Pandinoides cavimanus (previously Pandinus cavimanus)
Type
Terrestrial
Tank size (minimum) 5 gallons (~20 liters)
Keeping Easy-moderate
Breeding Moderate
Average size 3.5 – 4.5 inches (9 – 12 сm)
Optimal Temperature 75 – 86°F (24 – 30°C)
Water type Freshwater bowl
Moisture 70 – 90 %
Substrate Any
Diet Carnivore  
Temperament Semi-aggressive 
Life span up to 8 years (as pets)
Color Form Brownish-black to reddish-black

Taxonomy of Red-Clawed Scorpions

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding
photo credit to Frupus

In 1888, this species was first described by an eminent British zoologist specializing in the study of various arachnid groups Robert Innes Pocock (1863-1947) under the provisional name Scorpio cavimanus.

In 1899, Dr.Kräpelin reclassified it into the genus Pandinus.

In 2015, Andrea Rossi reclassified it once again, this time into the genus Pandinoides.

Etymology of Pandinoides Cavimanus

The genus name “Pandinoides” is derived from the genus “Pandinus.” The suffix “-oides” in taxonomic nomenclature indicates a resemblance or similarity to another taxonomic group.

Note: Although the origin of the name “Pandinus” is unclear, it is believed to have come from the Latin word “Pandus,” which means “Curved” or “Bent.” The name likely refers to the characteristic curved shape of the pincers or chelae of scorpions belonging to this genus.

The species name “Cavimanus” is formed from two Latin words: “Cavus,” meaning “Hollow” or “Concave,” and “Manus,” meaning “Hand.” Therefore, the name “Cavimanus” refers to the characteristic shape of the pedipalps of the scorpion, which is a distinguishing feature of this species.

Distribution of Red-Clawed Scorpions

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – destributionPandinoides cavimanus is endemic to Tanzania (the central part of Tanzania, in the Dodoma, Iringa, Shinyanga, and Singida provinces).

Recent research has shown that the scorpions previously classified as Pandinoides cavimanus were, in fact, different species (such as P. duffmackayi, or P. militaris), albeit very similar. Thus, their presence in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, and other African countries has not been confirmed.

Habitat of Red-Clawed Scorpions

Pandinoides cavimanus occur at 110 – 1250 yd (1010 – 1120 m) elevation in savannah (dry and semi-arid grassland regions) dominated by Acacia Mill.

These scorpions typically construct burrows or can be found in voids under rocks, fallen trees, crevices in rocks, and other hiding spots where they spend a significant part of their time.

Description of Red-Clawed Scorpion

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding profilePandinoides cavimanus is morphologically quite similar to the Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator). However, as its name suggests, Red-Clawed Scorpions have red claws and a relatively smaller in size.

On average, the size of an adult scorpion reaches approximately 3.5 – 4.5 inches (9 – 12 сm). However, some individuals can reach almost 6 inches (15 cm) in length.

Distinguishing characteristics of Red-Clawed Scorpions include:

Body. It has a wide, flattened body that smoothly transitions into a short tail consisting of almost square segments. The area between and around the eyes has a few small and fine bumps. These bumps are found in front of the middle eye bump, along the center line of the body, and sometimes on the front edges of the head.

Pincers (claws). The pincers are greatly enlarged and somewhat swollen, making them very broad and robust. This scorpion species has between 9 and 12 sensory hairs (trichobothria) located on the underside of its chela. The dorsal surface of the manus is usually smooth.

Pectinal teeth. Number 13–15.

Color. It exhibits a solid, glossy, uniformly brownish-black to reddish-black coloration, with the head, legs, and pincers being slightly lighter than the rest of the body.

For a detailed description of the Red-Clawed Scorpion and its distinguishing features from some other species, you can refer to this scientific paper.

Related article:

Lifespan of Red-Clawed Scorpions

On average, Red-Clawed Scorpions live around 5 years. However, according to the study, under optimal conditions, their lifespan is longer in captivity, reaching up to 8 years.

Typical Behavior of Red-Clawed Scorpions

Like all scorpions, Pandinoides cavimanus is nocturnal specie. This is absolutely normal behavior as they take advantage of the darkness for hunting and to avoid their main predators.

It is also worth noting that the vast majority of scorpion species are not active animals. This is due to their incredibly slow metabolism. However, Red-Clawed Scorpions will not typically hide underground 99% of the time like some other species. Periodically, they will emerge from their hiding places, even during the daytime.

This species exhibits more aggression compared to the more sociable Pandinus imperator. They get irritated quite easily. So, keep that in mind and avoid putting your fingers too close before assessing their mood.

Note: When the scorpion prepares for a defense, it raises its pincers upward, arches its entire tail dorsally over its body (including the stinger), and attempts to face the potential threat.

Red-Clawed Scorpions are true burrowers. They enjoy digging.

These scorpions are very likely to cannibalize each other. There have been cases where some enthusiasts kept multiple scorpions together for several months without any visible aggression. Unfortunately, almost always, in the end, only one would remain alive. This species does not tolerate others of its kind well.

Even a small risk of aggression should be eliminated if you want to keep them healthy and happy.

Features:

  • Communal: No
  • Activity: Average
  • Peaceful: Semi-aggressive
  • Burrowers: Yes
  • Venomous: Yes

Venom of Red-Clawed Scorpions

Although these scorpions are venomous, their venom is pretty mild (like a bee sting) and it should not cause too many problems (if any) for healthy adults.

Note: After a sting, mild pain, redness, and itching may occur around the bitten area.

Nonetheless, some people (especially children and elderly people) may be allergic to their toxins and their venom can cause intense localized 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 Red-Clawed Scorpions

In their natural habitat, Red-Clawed Scorpions have been observed consuming insects, frogs, mice, and other small animals.

They are more of a pincher scorpion. The prey is usually captured with powerful pincers – as long as it is not considered a threat.

In the terrarium, the acceptable food items include:

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

How Often to Feed Red-Clawed Scorpions?

As I have already mentioned, scorpions have an extremely slow metabolism and do not move a lot. Therefore, feeding adults once a week is more than enough.

Juveniles and females (after getting their young) will require more food (2 – 3 times per week).

Some Feeding Tips

  • Time. Red-Clawed Scorpions 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 the scorpion does not respond to the food you need to remove it the next day. Try next week.

In captivity, scorpions may undergo periods of fasting that can last for several months.

Features:

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Food Preference: Alive prey.
  • Feeding Frequency: 1 time a week (for adults) and 2 – 3 times a week (for babies)
Red-Clawed Scorpion usually eats their prey alive. So, if you are a sensitive person, you should not keep them as a pet.

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Keeping and Housing Red-Clawed Scorpions

Red-Clawed Scorpions are quite resilient and suitable for even beginners.

Nonetheless, there is one essential aspect to consider for their long and healthy life – providing conditions similar to their natural habitat (high humidity, warm temperature, lots of hiding places, and substrate that allows them to burrow). 

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. Heavy
Very easy to buy. Fragile
  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 Fragile

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Tank Size (Enclosure):

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding 2
photo credit to Jay

The recommended tank size for one adult scorpion is a 5-gallon (20-liter) tank. 

It is possible to keep them even in smaller tanks if their enclosure is designed to meet their temperature and humidity requirements.

Nonetheless, in a larger tank, it can be easier to make diverse areas for them to hide.

The only problem that may arise with a larger enclosure is that during feeding, their prey can run and hide from the scorpions for quite some time, given that scorpions are not active hunters.

Tip: Long tanks are better than tall tanks of the same size for keeping Red-Clawed Scorpions. They need mostly a place to crawl from side to side, not up and down.

Light:

No special requirements.

Red-Clawed Scorpions are nocturnal animals. Basically, you do not need it. Thus, ambient light will be enough.

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Temperature:

The ideal temperature should be between 75 – 86°F (24 – 30°C) during the day and 70 – 75°F (21 – 24°C) at night in reference to temperature distributions in natural hideouts.

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 burrowed scorpions there.

The best (safest) option will be to put the heater to the side of the enclosure, ideally, some part of the heater should be 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 70-90%.

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Water Requirement:

Although Red-Clawed scorpions primarily obtain water from food, it is still beneficial to give them access to water through a shallow dish that they can easily crawl out of.

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 5 – 7 days.

Note: Having a water dish helps to maintain humidity.

Substrate:

Their enclosure should be filled with a substrate into which they can burrow. Red-Clawed scorpions burrow to chill, rest and hide. It stresses them a lot if they cannot do that.

The general rule of thumb is that the substrate should at least equal the length of the scorpion itself. If your setup allows you should always opt for deeper!

Young scorpions do not dig much whereas adults require more depth (5 – 6 inches or 12 – 15 cm deep minimum). 

The substrate should always be kept moist enough. It means that it should hold its shape when you squeeze it. However, not so wet that it drips or pools water.

In their natural habitat, these scorpions dig burrows in compacted clay to sandy loam soils. However, in a terrarium setting, we can use other options, for instance.

  • coco fiber (Eco earth),
  • peat moss,
  • organic topsoil,
  • Jungle mix soil,
  • Zoo Meds Creatures Creature soil,
  • Reptisoil,
  • The Bio Dude Terra.

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).

Do not use only sand! Sand often becomes supersaturated even though the top couple of inches are completely dry.

Important: Due to the fact that these scorpions are primarily found in savannas, it is necessary for one part of their terrarium to be dry and the other part to be more humid.

It will give your scorpion the choice of where it would like to be at this or that moment.

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.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, it is still better to do it at least every 6 months to prevent an outbreak of mold or fungi.

Hiding places:

In their enclosure, make sure to provide plenty of dark hiding spots using rocks, stones, driftwood, coconuts, cork bark pieces, leaves, PVC pipes, and other decorations to enrich their environment. 

Handling Red-Clawed Scorpions

The Red-Clawed scorpion is a venomous and pretty short-tempered species. They are not pets you can play with!

It’s also crucial to ensure that children do not provoke the scorpions since it’s unethical, and such actions have consequences.

It’s not advisable to take them out just because you want to. The scorpions do not benefit from being handled, and they easily get stressed. Therefore, it’s best to handle them as little as possible.

However, if you must take them out, it’s preferable to use rubber gloves and follow these steps:

  1. Put your hand in front of the scorpion.
  2. Nudge it from any side using a brush or pen.
  3. The scorpion will turn around to face the “threat.”
  4. Nudge and slightly push it until it backs up onto your hand.
  5. Avoid pressing it down since scorpions dislike it.

Remember that scorpions are not harmless pets and should be treated with caution and respect.

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Breeding Red-Clawed Scorpions

Maturity:

Pandinoides cavimanus becomes an adult and reaches sexual maturity in the 2nd to 3rd year.

Sexing:

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding sexing
photo by Timur Zinov

According to the study, male Red-Clawed scorpions can be distinguished from females based on the following characteristics:

  1. Males differ from females in having a concave section on their chelae (dorsal surface of chela bulging inward). Females have rounder chelae.
  2. Males can be distinguished from females by the length of the “combs” on their abdomen, with the combs having slightly longer spines than those of females.
  3. Males usually have 14-15 the pectinal tooth while females often have 13 or 14.

Mating:

From the field observation on the courtship behavior between males and females, it was found that the male often tries to sting the female with its telson.

Before placing a pair of adult scorpions together, it is important to ensure that they are well-fed. The container in which mating will occur should be spacious enough to accommodate a piece of bark or flat stones to which the male can attach the spermatophore.

  • the male uses its claws to guide the female over a spermatophore during mating;
  • the female usually follows the leading male in a classical promenade until a suitable spot is found for spermatophore deposition;
  • then, the male assists the female in positioning her genital aperture over the spermatophore;
  • after that, the pair separates.

Gestation:

Depending on the temperature and feeding, females have gestation periods of up to 14 months and produce fairly small broods (10–20).

Scorplings:

Red-Clawed Scorpion (Pandinoides cavimanus ) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding scorplings
photo by Frantisek Kovarik

Red-Clawed scorpions give birth to young scorpions, generally called Neonates, Nymphs, or Scorplings.

Neonates 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.

Red-Clawed Scorpions and Suitable Tankmates

It is not recommended to keep Red-Clawed scorpions with other scorpion species or even conspecifics. They will fight eventually.

In Conclusion

Red-Clawed scorpions are relatively large, stocky, beautiful, and quite active creatures, considering scorpion standards. They are easy to care for and not demanding when it comes to food.

They can be a nice alternative to the famous Emperor scorpion.

As for the drawbacks of this species, they can be rather irritable and are obligate burrowers, which means they may spend a lot of time in their burrows. On the other hand, a burrowing scorpion is a happy scorpion!

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References:

  1. I. Pocock. The Annals and magazine of natural history; zoology, botany, and geologyArticle: XXXII.—On the African specimens of the genus Scorpio (Linn.) contained in the Collection of the British Museum. 1888. ser.  6, t. 2, p.  245–255
  2. Prendini, Lorenzo. “Redefinition and systematic revision of the East African scorpion genus Pandinoides (Scorpiones: Scorpionidae) with critique of the taxonomy of Pandinus, sensu lato.” Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History2016, no. 407 (2016): 1-66.
  3. Rossi, A. 2015a. Sui sottogeneri di Pandinus Thorell, 1876 con revisione del genere Pandinurus Fet, 1997 stat. n. e descrizione di sette nuove specie e trenuovi sottogeneri (Scorpiones: Scorpionidae).
  4. Onychium 11: 10–66.
  5. Van der Meijden, A., A. Herrel, and A. Summers. “Comparison of chela size and pincer force in scorpions; getting a first grip.” Journal of Zoology280, no. 4 (2010): 319-325.
  6. Kladt, Nikolay. “Mechanoreception by cuticular sensillae on the pectines of the scorpion Pandinus cavimanus.” PhD diss., Diplomarbeit, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Bonn, 2003.
  7. Kovařík, F. “A checklist of scorpions (Arachnida) in the collection of the Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.” Serket8, no. 1 (2002): 1-23.
  8. Kladt, Nikolay. “Neurobiology and modeling of cuticular hair sensilla of scorpions.” PhD diss., Universitäts-und Landesbibliothek Bonn, 2008.
  9. Ng, Vember CH, Albert CH Lit, O. F. Wong, M. L. Tse, and H. T. Fung. “Injuries and envenomation by exotic pets in Hong Kong.” Hong Kong medical journal24, no. 1 (2018): 48.
  10. Booncham, Ubolwan, Duangkhae Sitthicharoenchai, Art-ong Pradatsundarasar, Surisak Prasarnpun, and Kumthorn Thirakhupt. “Sexual dimorphism in the Asian giant forest scorpion, Heterometrus laoticus Couzijn, 1981.”  International Journal of Science4, no. 1 (2007): 42-52.
  11. Rubio, Fidel Fernández. “El impacto de los arácnidos sobre la mente humana.” Argutorio: revista de la Asociación Cultural” Monte Irago”20, no. 40 (2018): 85-95.
  12. František Kovařík. Illustrated Catalog of Scorpions. Volume: 170 pages 

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