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Scorpion on dirt


Breed: Australian Scorpions
Temperament: varies according to species
Cost: $40-$70 each, $150-$200 set up
Lifespan: 2-4 years
Maintenance: low
Recommended for: over 18s, insect enthusiasts

It’s not well known that there are many native species of scorpion in Australia. With over 100 species, their habitats range from rainforests to desert. Not all species make for suitable pets, and it is important to research scorpion care before setting out to buy one.

Appearance and habitat

Scorpions are members of the arachnid family. Like spiders they have four pairs of legs, but unlike spiders they are best recognised for their pincer-like claws and the sting in their tail.

Some species tend to burrow, whilst others hide under rocks or in trees. They are all nocturnal, which explains why they aren’t seen very often in the wild. Size can range from less than an inch long, up to around 15cm.

Some common species include; the Brown Scorpion, Urodacus manicatus, found in shallow burrows under rocks and logs in open forests and woodlands; the Desert Scorpion, Urodacus yaschenkoi is found in open sandy woodland and shrub land. It digs deep spiral burrows; the Marbled Scorpion, Lychas marmoreus, is a slender species often found under bark, rocks and in leaf litter; and the Wood or Forest Scorpion, Cercophonius squama is a thick-set scorpion found in forest habitats in litter and logs (sometimes in suburban gardens) across southern Australia.

Best pets

No scorpion will live very long in captivity unless it is kept in an environment identical to its natural habitat. Desert scorpions need a dry warm, sandy desert environment, whilst rainforest species will require warm, moist conditions to survive. Enthusiasts suggest against keeping the burrowing desert species, the Urodacus species, especially the large desert ones. Their environment is difficult to replicate properly.

The Rainforest Scorpion Liocheles waigiensis is recommended by enthusiasts as a suitable pet as it is quite active, won’t burrow and is reasonably hardy to keep. However it can be very difficult to identify one species from another, expert advice best sought.

All scorpions are capable of delivering a very painful sting, however Graham Nicholson from the University of Technology, Sydney says that there is only one recorded death by scorpion sting in Australia. The sting is similar to that of a bee, and although there are few reported problems, scorpions are potentially dangerous and owners should be careful when handling them. Don’t pick them up with bare, or even gloved hands. The sting can easily penetrate the material of a glove.

Health and lifespan

The major problem with scorpions is mites. Live food must be checked to ensure there are no infestations before the food goes into the enclosure. They are known to live as long as nine years, but in captivity most only last for two to three.

Maintenance and feeding

Scorpions don’t need a lot of space, a small glass terrarium is ideal. A heat source is required, usually from a heat mat, available from most pet stores. A few rocks, leaves and sandy substrate is ideal. A moist cotton wool ball will provide drinking water.

They are low maintenance and after initial set-up costs, are cheap to keep. Feeding is required once per week. Live food is required; crickets, roaches, silk worms or moths are often provided. Live crickets can be bought from pet shops for a few dollars per container.


Initial set-up costs for the terrarium, heat pad and ornaments can cost up to around $150-$200. However, after these expenses, scorpions area quite cheap to maintain. Scorpions themselves will range in price depending on their species. Costs can vary widely but expect to pay around $40-$70 each. Speak with people who know their species well before you buy. Many can be mis-identified in pet shops, so it is worth becoming familiar with the varieties around as some are much more difficult to keep alive than others.

Strange glow

Scorpions possess the ability to fluoresce at night. This is normally invisible to us, but is made visible to the human eye when exposed to an ultra violet light. The pigment is present in their exoskeleton, the tough outer coating that protects the scorpion. No one really understands what purpose the pigment serves as yet. In recent years budgerigars were also found to also possess a similar ability to fluoresce. Scientists suspect they do it as a means of attracting a mate.

Ideal owner

Scorpions are dangerous pets, we recommend they be kept by new owners no younger than 18. Only native species can be kept as pets, due to strict importation laws.

Further information

Accurate information on how best to handle and care for scorpions is not easily found. Many species are available from pet stores throughout Australia. Licensed operators capture scorpions from national parks in the wild and sell them to pet shops/hobbyists. It is very important, for your own sake and that of the scorpion, to research their care before buying one. The Australian Scorpion Club is an internet-based club that provides a web site and email chat forum, which allows novice and prospective owners to gain further knowledge. We strongly recommend accessing this site before purchasing a scorpion.