I never really had a cute cuddly pet when I was a kid. I think we had some chickens once that we ended up eating. But we never owned a cat or a dog. So I suppose it isn't that much of a surprise that I now own a collection of scorpions. Well then again maybe it is.
They are pretty old as a set of well defined species goes (much older than humans). The thing that fascinates me about scorpions is that they have such complex behaviors and so few brain/nerve cells. They are great to watch even if you have to wait up most of the night in the dark to see them come out and wander around their tanks.
Scorpions don't possess a lot of brains, they are to some extent biological robots that have pre-determined responses to events. There is some fascinating literature on how scorpions detect their prey through vibrations in the ground and how they manage to do this with a single nerve running to each leg. Not surprisingly for a crawly, the most interesting bits of a scorpion are underneath it. Scorpions breathe through a set of "book lungs" which are five sets of organs on the belly of the scorpion. These book lungs are extensively folded and allow gas exchange to take place (they don't breathe as such just absorb oxygen through these book lungs). Scorpions also possess a sense apparatus somewhat akin to our own tongues. These pectines are also found on the underside of a scorpion. The most notable feature of a scorpion though is its stinging tail. Even though I have watched my scorpions for a long time I have never seen one sting anything! Australian scorpions tend to have rather large pincers and will catch and crush their prey before eating.
What species do I own?
I currently own two species of Scorpion
I have a single male Urodacus, and am not considering getting a mate for him. These desert species tend to be rather more aggressive which is natural in the desert where there is bound to be less food in their territories, and I would require a rather large enclosure to keep them both safely.
I do however have a pair of Liocheles, and they seem to get on reasonably well together. I have no idea if they will breed but it might be interesting to experience the viperous birth of up to 30 little scorpions!
Scorpions don't chew their food, they do however externally digest the food and then drink the liquefied prey. I feed my scorpions well maintained live crickets. I feed the crickets a variety of vegetables and provide them with water to make ensure my scorpions get a good diet. I guess if you think about it I keep scorpions and crickets as pets.
My scorpions are housed in glass tanks equipped with heating pads and a 50/50% mixture of peat moss and sand. The desert scorpion gets watered occasionally while the rainforest scorpions are "misted" with a fine spray of water every morning and in summer every evening. I have provided them with bark and rocks to hide under, and the desert scorpion is particularly fond of burrowing and rearranging the whole tank.
Scorpions as pets are quite popular. There is very little information available on Australian scorpions on the World Wide Web however there are some interesting people you can meet on forums or newsgroups who know an awful lot about these creatures.
Here are a lit of interesting links if you are considering a scorpion as a pet. I have more links and the e-mail addresses of a few people and suppliers if you are interested for this information please e-mail me at Stephen@sloth.com.au.