Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus imperator) Care Sheet - Information
The emperor scorpion is one of the largest species of scorpion and is well suited for beginners. Emperor scorpions (Pandinus imperator), are native West African forests and can reach lengths up to 6" - 8" inches. These scorpions are black in color but will give off a fluorescent bluish green appearance under UV light. This species is nocturnal and like other scorpions comes equipped with a stinger. The sting from this species is comparable to that of a bee. The reaction people have to the sting differs. If you have serious allergic reactions to bee stings, this sting could also cause you serious distress.
The Emperor Scorpion is also referred to as the African Emperor Scorpion, Black Emperor Scorpion, or the Imperial Scorpion.
Emperor scorpions (Pandinus imperator), are native to West Africa and are predominantly found in forests of Nigeria, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and the Congo region. (Pandinus, 2009)
Enclosure - Housing
A 10 gallon tank is an adequate size for one scorpion. Emperor scorpions are communal and several can live together in a 20 gallon aquarium. Communal groups will need additional hides so that the scorpions can all have their own space. You do want to limit the amount of space that you offer because as the floor space increases, so too does the amount of space their prey has to escape.
Emperor scorpions are communal in the wild and live in groups but they have the space to get away if they want. This isn't the case with captive scorpions. You need to be prepared to house them in separate terrariums if they are too aggressive toward one another.
To allow them to burrow, your substrate should be 3-6" or deeper. Emperor scorpions prefer slightly moist bedding. You will need to add water to each of the listed substrates. The best way to tell if your substrate is ready for use is to grab a handful and squeeze it as hard as you. When you open your hand, the substrate should retain the shape of the inside of your clenched fist. If you begin squeezing and water begins to drip out, you will need to add additional dry substrate to absorb some moisture. If you open your hand and the substrate falls apart, you will want to add more water until it retains its shape without dripping water. Some extra moisture can be overlooked initially because you will lose some of the initial moisture to evaporation, which will aid with the ambient humidity.
Horticultural Peat Moss
This is a popular substrate and shouldn't be confused with dried sphagnum moss, which is also sometime referred to as "peat moss". It does well on its own or as a 50/50 mixture with either the coconut husk or the potting soil. You will want to pack the substrate in fairly well. Firmly compressed substrates will retain their shape better if the scorpions decide to burrow. Prepare this substrate or a mixture of substrates as described above.
Shredded Coconut Husk
This is a popular substrate also and is often used as part of a mixture, though can be used on its own. It does well on its own or as a 50/50 mixture with either the peat moss or the potting soil. You will want to pack the substrate in fairly well. Firmly compressed substrates will retain their shape better if the scorpions decide to burrow. Prepare this substrate or a mixture of substrates as described above.
Organic Potting Soil
If you decide to use potting soil, you will want to ensure that it has no additives and is all organic and natural. Insecticides and germicides can kill your scorpions. Potting soil does well on its own or as a 50/50 mixture with either the coconut husk or the peat moss. You will want to pack the substrate in fairly well. Firmly compressed substrates will retain their shape better if the scorpions decide to burrow. Prepare this substrate or a mixture of substrates as described above.
Orchid bark offers a naturalistic look that could mimic the forest floor while also aiding with maintaining the humidity. This makes a good cover substrate over several inches of the previously suggested substrates, or a combination of them.
Cypress mulch also offers a naturalistic look that could mimic the forest floor while also aiding with maintaining the humidity. This makes a good cover substrate over several inches of the first three suggested substrates, or a combination of them.
Emperor scorpions like it warm and humid. A heat gradient should be provided with the warmer end between 75°- 83°.
Under Tank Heaters
Under Tank heaters (UTH) are used by many enthusiasts for heating their scorpions. A UTH should be affixed to either the bottom of the enclosure, away from the scorpions burrows, or to the side of the enclosure, which is preferable. The size of the UTH will be depicted by the size of the housing that you are providing. Keep in mind that this species likes to burrow. If you place the heat pad beneath their burrow, it could dry out the burrow and could even slowly cook your scorpion, turning fatal.
Overhead lighting can be used to heat the enclosure pending the lighting is a dark blue or black light. (True black lights will illuminate the scorpions, displaying a "glow-in-the-dark" appearance of blue or green.) You will want to use a low-watt, dark light emitting bulb and will need to experiment with the wattage you use to reach the desired temperatures. Lights that are too warm can quickly overheat smaller enclosures and will zap whatever humidity it can evaporate. The light needs to be a dark light emitting bulb because this species does not like bright lighting and will become stressed.
Digital thermometers and heat guns are perfect for monitoring the temperatures within your emperor scorpions enclosure.
The best digital thermometers are those that read both the indoor and outdoor temperatures at the same time. These units have an external probe that is designed to be placed out of a window while the base unit remains inside. From the comfort of the indoors, you can see the temperature of both the room you are in, as well as the temperature outside. This type of digital thermometer can be purchased at varying retail stores such as Target and Wal-Mart. Unbelievably, these can actually be bought for under $15.00 and sometimes as low as $10.00. The investment in this single unit will allow you to place the base of the unit over on the cool end of the enclosure and have the probe resting on the warm end. With this single unit you will be capable of monitoring both ends of the enclosure at the same time, and with great accuracy. This is the best solution for monitoring the temperatures.
Temperature guns are an accurate and swift method to check out the temperature of your cages and environments instantly, at any time. Using infrared technology, you simply aim the hand held device exactly at the point you are looking to get the temperature of, and you press a button. Within seconds, you get the exact temperature reading for that location.
Ambient lighting is best for these scorpions as they don't care for bright lights. Keeping this species in a quite room that isn't used much is ideal. With the curtains drawn back this species will adapt to the natural day and night cycle that nature provides. The enclosure should never be placed in direct sunlight and there should be ample hides for the scorpions to hide from the light that is present.
If artificial lighting is used on your enclosure, use the lowest wattage you can find. Bright lights should be avoided to prevent stressing your scorpions.
These scorpions do well when the ambient humidity is maintained at 70%-80%. Regular misting will help keep the substrate moist and will aid with maintaining adequate humidity levels.
Termites make up the largest part of the diet of Emperor Scorpions in the wild. Providing a constant supply of termites isn't exactly feasible in captivity so we offer an array of other feeder insects. Gut loaded crickets and roaches are typically used as primary food sources for the emperor scorpion and should be offered several times a week. A good starting point is to offer 1-2 appropriately sized prey items every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can adjust your feedings based on how often your scorpions feed. In addition to crickets and roaches, emperor scorpions will also take mealworms, waxworms, superworms and other feeder insects. Some people offer the occasional pinky mouse for its nutritional value.
A wide, shallow dish of water should be left in the enclosure. A rock should be placed inside the dish to prevent the scorpion from going in the water and to help drowning prey escape so they can still be eaten. Clean water should be made available at all times. Care should be taken to ensure that the scorpions can't be injured by the water dish if they were to burrow beneath it.
Experienced keepers can sex emperor scorpions fairly quick. When sexing emperor scorpions, it is best to examine the pectines. The pectines are small "comb like" appendages found on the underside of the scorpion. These comb looking appendages are larger and more prominent in males. It will take some practice before you can compare males and females reliably.
Molting is commonly considered the most dangerous time during your scorpion’s life-cycle. While your scorpion is molting it is susceptible to attack from its prey. If you notice your scorpion has become sluggish and may be preparing to molt, ensure that there are no prey items inside of the enclosure. Poor humidity can hinder a molt and that can lead to death. Do not disturb your scorpions during this time. Your scorpions will molt 6-10 times during their lifetime. They have an average lifespan of about 6-8 years.
Pandinus imperator - © Rosa Pineda [CC BY-SA 3.0]