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[HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

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Topic [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by LXDNG79 on Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:44 pm

Some of the dudes liked the way I setup my scorpion habitats (much appreciated) so as requested I thought I'd post some kind of 'tutorial' on the methods... First and foremost, I don't consider myself a certified professional or expert at this (I'm sure there are better people out there), but with sufficient research on the internet and a couple of years of experience, I've formulated my own kind of 'recipe' when it comes to crafting a vivarium/terrarium habitat suitable for any AFS (namely scorpions of the genus Heterometrus), Emps or other tropical rainforest dwelling inverts.

Please note that this setup is catered only to terrestrial scorpions requiring a mesic (tropical rainforest) setup and is unsuitable for scorpions from a xeric (desert) envrionment. Additionally this setup adheres even more specifically to my years of experience with Scorpions of the genus Heterometrus and more to the three species which I have significant success in breeding which are H. spinifer, H. laoticus and H. longimanus. Between them laoticus and longimanus are more partial to more humid conditions than spinifer can accomodate. Spinifers from my experience is the more hardier of the two by a significant margin. Note that scorpions of the genus Pandinus don't require the humidity levels which is crucial to the three mentioned Heterometrus species and are more likely to do better in slightly drier conditions than Heterometrus.

Terrarium Essentials
To create a dynamic habitat that mimics the natural world, the diversity of materials at your disposal is crucial. Just to give you an idea of the palette i use to achieve this effect, I took a picture of my terrarium supplies in work mode.

Essentially, as much substrate and/tank decor possibly available to you among the primary tools which include tweezers, scoops, cups, water spray, pail of water (to rinse), and containers to hold substrate so you don't make a mess.

Step 1 False Bottom

We will work with a standard 2ft tank for this exercise. To maintain the desired humidity and moisture desired, we will use a simple false bottom base: a layer of fine gravel. Note that you could a grate to separate this and the foundation substrate layer to constitute a semi-true false bottom or a the plastic tube that goes in to the bottom of the substrate through which you can pour water for hydration, but I did not use that here.

Consequently when hydrating the enclosure, the sufficient amount of water can be ascertained by measuring the water level below the gravel layer. Now it is almost guaranteed that sub-adult AFS will burrow down to this level and unearth your painstaking efforts; DON'T worry about it... whatever happens after you put them in let it be. In preparation for the next step, Iit might be a good idea if you add a shallow measure of water that does not immerse the gravel.

Step 2 Subtrate Foundation Layer

Next apply the first level of coco-peat equal in depth to the gravel layer. Equal even after you press it down firmly but gently with your hands. Not too hard otherwise gravel might pop-up; so take it easy.

Step 3 Landscaping Layout & Design
Now comes the most crucial part which selecting your choice of furniture which may vary your final result. In truth your log pieces or hide pieces will determine the landscape. Thus it will be worth your while to find the right log or hide pieces suited to your needs or intended design. My design 'style' is inspired by Amano principles of aquarium interior landscape design; the master himself.


Of, a good point to note is to consider the collection of inhabitants. This habitat is intended for 6-8 sub-adult AFS, so I've chosen to use 3 specially selected driftwood pieces and a ceramic pot fragment to provide ample hiding places for each scorp.

Before anything else, assume the precise position of your pieces; including the water dish. The position of the dish is particularly important considering that you will want to fill it without having to move the tank around too much. I chose to put the dish up towards the front so it is easy to fill and that its overflow will into the surrounding substrate will easy to monitor.


Orientation is ultimately a matter of preference. I like to orientate the burrow openings around the bowl; visualizing how the scorps will emerge from them to drunk at the pool. I, like most, also like pitch the hides against the sides. Everyone's a sucker for see-through burrows. Very Happy

Step 4 The Water Source

Once you've fixed the position of all your 'furniture' pieces, remove them altogether and start with the bowl. Place some stones surrounding the bowl to wedge it in place. This will discourage any scorpion from burrowing under the water bowl or upsetting it etc. Starting with the water bowl as the lowest point in the habitat, helps to provided you a sense of topographical depth/altitude; assuming you intend to go for the valley effect as this habitat design is apparently directed to. Once you set the water bowl, apply a about half a cm of coco-peat lightly as the foundations of your pieces.

I also like to coat this layer with a sprinkle of finer gravel or sand to give this layer more temporary solidity. Ultimately this part is matter of personal choice and not detrimentally necessary.

Step 5.1 Primary Layer

Lay down another thin layer of peat and then you may begin placing your primary pieces. Always visualize your setup in layers of heights. In this case. I started with the pieces in front as I want the pieces towards the back to be slightly higher. Gradually work you way up. Remember with each piece you set in place, you may be required to apply some coco-peat to fill irregular gaps. Sometimes, a smaller wood piece may help to secure larger wood pieces as shown below.

These support structures however have to be effectively buried to be effective and look 'attractive' lol. Also keep in mind the ability of the scorpion to reach the top of the tank. I didn't prepare a proper cover for this tank before hand so I had to gauge how high I could pile the substrate.

Step 5.2 Burrows and Burrowing Accommodation

Scorpions love to make their homes in the crevices of bigger rocks or logs that are partially buried in the earth, thus it is only sensible that one should replicate this feature to provide the animal with its natural comfort. These pieces are not meant to be removed once set in place.


Apply layer upon layer of coco-peat to gradually bury most of the structural pieces. Douse down each layer with water accordingly to settle the fluff of the coco-peat. For a more natural appearance, alternate between applying different mixes of coco-peat, potting soil and light sprinkles of fine sand or bark chips and spray accordingly. Don't forget to top up the layer in the ceramic pot to give it a more convincing impression of a half-buried structure. Take care not to over-spray as you may end up with a puddle of mud. I did not incorporate live plants in this setup for various reasons, but those who wish can place plant where I set the large gray stones providing you have a secure lid

Step 6 Secondary Layer

At this point, it is left for your to decide how much more substrate you want to apply without burrowing the water dish. As a final touch you sprinkle a significant layer of forest bark chips to give it an authentic jungle feel. Its more than guaranteed that your scorpion will feel very much at home. Fill the water bowl with a layer of gravel and place a few sizable stone-pieces to avoid prey items from drowning and rotting in them. Gently fill and overflow the water bowl with water until you see a slight water layer at the false bottom. Douse generously with your water spray and your habitat is effectively ready for its would be inhabitants

This next segment is entirely preferential though highly recommended:

Clean-up crew
Spore your tropical setups with isopods like woodlice or millipedes which will effectively clean up dead feeder insect parts. These are the janitors of the insect world and will contribute to minimizing your chore of leaning up after your scorpions. Left-over feeder and dead remnants will promote mites and disease which impose a degree of detrimental vectos on the health of your scorpion(s). No pic available for these at the moment, but another crucial thing to consider that these micro-janitors are not big enough to 'clean' up your scorpion as well, particularly small scorpion species like Liocheles or Lychas scorplings. A friend of a friend once found his pet scorpion with all but one pedipalp being chewed up by an isopod that was 'hired' as a janitor. This information was based from a post on SF (Scorpion Forum) by the almighty Abyss .

Forest Moss
Exoterra Forest Moss or cheaper alternatives available from orchid nurseries is something I have recently made a personal preference for a couple of reasons. One of which is the color variation that it brings to your setup in contrast with the forest bark bits. Another alternative is living moss which can be acquired from the outdoors but these require regular misting to maintain. Another reason for my afinity to forest moss at least in my opinion is its moisture retaining properties.



As shown, I don not bed the entire enclosure, rather my approach is to apply them to corners or to cover up gap and exposed areas which detract from the natural look. When misting, I will effectively soak these to retain moisture with the aid of plastic sheets on the top to prevent rapid evaporation but not to the extent that it inhibit sufficient ventilation. They also make good top support when trying to applicate see-through burrows Very Happy. This is the latest pic of the same setup applied with forest moss.

This pic is of a brood raising enclosure housing 20 spinifer scorplings crafted in during a limited supply of soil/cocopeat substrate.



Live Plants
First and foremost I'm still learning to culture live plants in vivarium habitats so I won't pretend to be an 'expert' in this area. The issue with with incorporating live plants are (1) the light requirements of some plants may be in conflict with many scorpion species preference for shadier environments and (2) Scorpions of the genus Heterometrus and Pandinus which are the most widely available Tropical Scorpion species are obligatory even avid even which may uproot some of your plants. One way is to have the roots potted in a plastic-cup which you may partially cover with forest bark to hide the potting if you wish. Here are some past pictures of my attempts with incorporating live plants into a scorpion vivarium

This is one is of the same 2ft Communal H. spinifer tank with plants installed

Though it looks like everything is in place, this job took one complete overhaul.


This one is of an individual Emp tank with the same plant. The log hide help pin the plant against the corner and a prepared burrow along with sufficient substrate depth helped to ensure that the scorpion didn't uproot it

Same tank with a low-light mossy shrub instead




A Communal Emp Tank with a pool in the corner this plant had to be trimmed from pushing up against the top.

I also sometimes collect dried leaves from leaf-litter in forest areas to sprinkle around sporadically for that natural feel. Similarly, keep your eye out for nice rocks when you go out into the bush which look ideal for terrarium decor.

I was never a fan of Artificial Plants before, but ultimately if you want to add some color to a tank that doesn't get enough natural light time, a fakie is an easy and convenient alternative which will also collect additional condensation when you mist the tank.

I hope readers find this article helpful and informative. Please feel free to add comments, suggestions even 'constructive' criticisms to this post for the benefit of all. If you like you can contribute examples of your own personal measures, preferences and 'styles' in crafting terrascapes. I bid you all a rewarding and productive hobby in crafting eye-catching terrarium displays. Most of all, HAVE FUN!!! even if FUN equates to frustrating yourself needlessly over achieving the setup of your dreams, which works for me just fine Very Happy

Cheers and Best Regards
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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by DolbyR on Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:37 pm

Simply stunning!

This will definitely be the base for the display setup project I've been postponing for quite a while (H. swammerdami).

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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by Androctonus on Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:54 pm

Thank you for informations. Very useful.
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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by yames on Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:31 pm

I have a 20 Gal set up that used to house my 3 emps but now only has my 1 gravid female and once she has popped I will redo it using your methods. I'm not using a false bottom yet and keeping the humidity up is a daily job so it will be nice to have something a little more self sustaining.
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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by GS on Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:42 am

The clear write-up and illustrations in this guide is simply awesome, and the effort taken to compile it for fellow hobbyist is admirable indeed.

Thanks for sharing this Alex *thumbs up Very Happy

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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by LXDNG79 on Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:58 am

GS wrote:The clear write-up and illustrations in this guide is simply awesome, and the effort taken to compile it for fellow hobbyist is admirable indeed.

Thanks for sharing this Alex *thumbs up Very Happy

thank you, this is an old post though... I might add to it with more pics of better results...

P.S. I've chosen not to post my Tutorial or the Semi-aquatic Lychas Vivarium because it was a failed project... it's terrible for mite and fungal management and drownings have occurred.
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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by Shakudo on Sat Mar 16, 2013 6:01 pm

I have said it before. These are arguably the most impressive scorpion habitats I have ever seen in my ten years in the hobby.

I have gotten a few tips for my P. Cavimanus from this thread!

Thank you very much for sharing.

Joey
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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by bubotmcawesome on Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:55 pm

Stunning presentation! Very Happy This is the format of my scorpion enclosure Very Happy But I cant find any wood lice, where do you get those janitors of the forest? Very Happy
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Topic Re: [HOW TO] Emulate a Natural-Looking Tropical Forest Scorpion Habitat

Post by Scorp_Ed on Fri May 02, 2014 9:50 pm

incredible and inspiring set-ups, will definitely have to give something like this a go.
Do you find temperature regulation to be okay with so much "stuff" in the enclosure? Do you use heat mat or lamp?

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