Giant vinegaroon is one of the most mysterious groups of arachnids on earth. They are rare and worth keeping as pets. In this guide, I will teach you all you need to know about giant vinegaroon care.
To keep a giant vinegaroon as a pet, house it in a ventilated tank with 5” substrates. Add barks and cave as decors. Keep the substrates moist and add a water dish. Feed it biweekly with 2-3 crickets. Juvenile vinegaroons can be kept together for the first few months but you must separate them after that to avoid cannibalism.
Continue reading if you want to know more on how to care for giant vinegaroon.
Introduction to Giant Vinegaroons
Giant vinegaroon is scientifically known as Mastigoproctus giganteus. It is a species of vinegaroons that can be found in southern US and Mexico. It can grow up to 2.5″ in body length, excluding the tail. They live for 6-9 years.
Vinegaroons are called whip scorpions because they resemble scorpions, but their tail looks like a whip. Like scorpions, vinegaroons have a pair of strong pincers which they use to capture their prey.
Unlike true scorpions, vinegaroons don’t have a stinger on their tail and hence they don’t sting.
However, they are capable of repeatedly spraying highly concentrated acid composed mainly of acetic acid and some caprylic acid through the base of their tail to defend themselves from their predator. The acid smells like vinegar, and that’s how vinegaroons get their name.
Another distinct characteristic of the vinegaroons is on their first pair of legs. Those legs are modified into feelers which contain numerous sensors to help them “see” and feel the surroundings. Those legs are called the antenniform legs.
Although they have 4 pairs of eyes, their eyesight is poor and they rely heavily on the 2 antenniform legs to perceive the world around them.
Vinegaroons can be found in tropical and subtropical regions. Being a nocturnal creature, vinegaroons tend to burrow or hide underneath leaf litter in the daytime. They only come out at night to hunt for food.
Like all vinegaroons, giant vinegaroons are not venomous. They can’t sting and they rarely bite. This makes them suitable pets for beginners.
Vinegaroons vs Whip Spiders
Vinegaroons are also known as whip scorpions. Don’t confuse them with tailless whip scorpions or whip spiders. Those are either classified under the order Thelyphonida or Uropygi, and are sometimes called Uropygids.
The differences between vinegaroons (whip scorpions) and tailless whip scorpions aka whip spiders are shown in the figure and table below.
aka Whip Scorpion
aka Tailless Whip Scorpion
|Long and slender tail||Tailless|
|Stout pedipalps||Slender pedipalps|
|Stout antennae||Slender antennae|
|Rounded body||Flat body|
|Can spray acid from tail||Do not spray acid|
Getting Giant Vinegaroons
Giant vinegaroons Mastigoproctus giganteus giganteus is the only species of vinegaroon available in the US. So, if you stay in the US, getting this species is easier compared to other vinegaroon species.
Bear in mind that the giant vinegaroons spend most of their time burrowing. Hence, collectors are only able to capture and sell them in certain seasons, usually in the summer.
You should be able to get vinegaroons from breeders or collectors which you can find online. Make sure you read the reviews before buying.
Try to get captive-bred vinegaroons because it is hard to determine the age and guarantee the wellbeing of a wild-caught individual. If there are only wild caught options (which is usually the case), get a juvenile instead of adult vinegaroon since you won’t know how old is the adult.
Preparing Enclosure for Giant Vinegaroons
Use a glass tank for your vinegaroon. The width and length of the tank should be 2-3 times the length of the vinegaroon including the tail.
Vinegaroons are known to spray highly concentrated acids which can have a severe effect on acrylic. Hence, you should use only a glass enclosure. You can read more about enclosure in this article.
The height of the tank is not really crucial because the vinegaroon cannot climb the glass wall. But bear in mind that you will need 5” thick substrates when you are choosing a tank.
Since the giant vinegaroon is not good at climbing, a secure lid is not very crucial. But still, having a good lid can avoid unwanted accidents.
You can add a cave or some cork barks to decorate your enclosure. The vinegaroon may burrow underneath those decor, using them as the ceiling.
Make sure the enclosure is well ventilated to prevent growth of molds.
Vinegaroons must be housed separately in individual tanks to prevent cannibalism.
Substrates for Giant Vinegaroons
Mix pesticide-free potting soil, peat moss, and coir. Add water to make it moist but not overly wet. Lay 5” of the moist substrates in the tank.
The giant vinegaroon spends most of its time in the burrow and hence substrates are important. A little bit of moisture in the substrates will help your vinegaroon to build its burrow, such that the burrow doesn’t collapse.
Mist or water the substrates every week to keep it moist. The moist substrates help to keep the humidity in the tank high, which is crucial for the vinegaroon.
Microclimates for Giant Vinegaroons
Keep giant vinegaroons at room temperature and 70-80% relative humidity. They should be placed somewhere shaded.
Temperature control is generally not required for giant vinegaroon unless you stay at places where it is always below 65 °F. When the weather gets cooler in the fall, the giant vinegaroon will start hiding in its burrow until it gets warmer in late spring or summer.
As mentioned in the substrate section, you will be able to maintain high humidity by keeping your substrates moist. You should put a shallow water dish as a backup. The vinegaroon will drink the water from the dish. Make sure the water dish is shallow. Otherwise, your giant vinegaroon will have problems climbing out and drowning inside!
Since vinegaroons are nocturnal creatures, they do not require additional lighting. You should put them away from direct light. If you want to observe them, you can use an LED display light and be sure to turn it off after you have finished watching them.
How to Feed Giant Vinegaroons
Once every 2 weeks, give your giant vinegaroon 2-3 crickets or roaches at night. Remove any leftovers on the next day to prevent growth of mold.
Giant vinegaroons don’t eat much due to their slow growth rate. In fact, they can even fast for 6 months or more when hibernating. Increasing the feeding frequency can shorten the molting interval and make them age faster.
Giant vinegaroons are known to hunt prey larger than their size. Having said that, I don’t recommend you give them large prey because the prey may put up a fight and hurt your vinegaroon. Keep the size of the prey smaller than your vinegaroon.
Avoid giving your vinegaroons mealworms. Mealworms can burrow if the vinegaroon doesn’t eat them immediately. They may also damage the burrow built by your vinegaroon.
If your vinegaroon hides inside the burrow and refuses to come out to eat, don’t force it. Remove the feeder insects on the next day and try again after a week.
The vinegaroons grow by molting. They molt 4 times to become adults. Adult vinegaroons will stop growing and molting.
When it is about time to molt, the vinegaroon will hide inside the burrow it created. It will also stop feeding. If you notice that, remove the feeder insects and leave it alone because it is extremely vulnerable during molting.
The molting vinegaroon stays inside the burrow for about a week, and only comes out after molting. If you are lucky that the burrow is built just next to the wall of the tank, you might be able to witness the molting process.
Immediately after molting, the vinegaroon is white color. It takes a few days for its exoskeleton to fully harden and become pigmented. You should wait till then before you resume the feeding regime.
It is important to keep your vinegaroon hydrated and the environment humid to ensure successful molt!
How to Breed Giant Vinegaroons
Identifying Adult Vinegaroons from Juveniles
To breed giant vinegaroons, you need both adult male and female.
The easiest way to know whether your vinegaroons are adults is by counting the number of molts. Vinegaroons molt 4 times to turn into adults. The first mot happens when the juvenile vinegaroons are still in the soil with their mother. Subsequent molts happen around once a year.
It is not easy to determine the sex of your vinegaroon though. Male vinegaroon is slightly smaller in size, but has longer or bigger pedipalps (pincers). Female is bigger in size and has smaller pedipalps. Both vinegaroons need to be reared under similar conditions for this comparison to be accurate.
Choose a night one day after your vinegaroons have had their meals. Then, place the male vinegaroon into the same tank as the female.
The male vinegaroon will start to dance and attract the female vinegaroon. If the conditions are right, the female will respond to his courting request and dance together, until they find a suitable spot for the male to deposit his spermatophore.
Once they found the suitable spot, both the vinegaroons will stop dancing. The male will turn around while still holding the female’s antenniform legs with his mouthparts, and start to deposit his spermatophore. It can take 3-6 hours before the male vinegaroon successfully deposits his spermatophore.
After he has deposited his spermatophore on the ground, the female vinegaroon will walk over the spermatophore and insert it into her gonopore to transfer the sperm into her body. The male vinegaroon will help by hugging the female from behind and attempt to press the spermatophore deeper into her body for sperm transfer. This process will take another 2-7 hours.
After mating, the male vinegaroon will walk away from the female. You can now remove him.
If the pair doesn’t mate, remove the male vinegaroon and try again after a week. Even if they do mate, you can let them mate again after the male vinegaroon rested for a day. This will increase the chance of successful insemination.
Giant Vinegaroon Care: Brood
You might need to prepare a bigger tank with deeper substrates for your vinegaroons to lay eggs. Using a bigger tank also allows you to keep the brood together.
Giant vinegaroons don’t lay eggs immediately after mating. It takes a few months to develop the eggs inside the female’s body.
Typically, the gravid vinegaroon lays her eggs in spring, when she is still hiding in her burrow overwintering. A giant vinegaroon can lay 30-40 eggs. Those eggs are kept in an egg sac placed underneath her opisthosoma (abdomen)
The giant vinegaroon eggs hatch 6 weeks after they are laid. The baby vinegaroons resemble the adult and climb onto the back of their mother. They rely on the nutrients stored in their body to grow until they molt, which takes another 6 weeks.
Once the baby vinegaroons molted, they will come down from their mother’s back. The whole brood will then come out from the burrow.
The mother vinegaroon and the juveniles don’t eat anything at all when they are still inside the burrow. And you don’t have to worry about it.
Taking Care of the Giant Vinegaroon Juveniles
You can either separate the juvenile giant vinegaroons into separate containers, or keep them with their mother. If you choose to keep them with their mother, make sure the tank is big enough to accommodate them. Each juvenile will build their own burrow, so you will need a large tank with deep substrates.
You can start feeding the brood once they come out from the burrow. Give the juvenile giant vinegaroons smaller feeder insects such as pinhead crickets or flightless fruit flies twice a week.
It is OK if you don’t have smaller feeder insects. If you are keeping the mother giant vinegaroon together with her brood, the juveniles will take the food from their mother.
If you are using a water dish, make sure the water is shallow! Otherwise the juvenile vinegaroons will drown inside.
Separate the juvenile vinegaroons from their mother after 4-6 months. As the juvenile vinegaroons age, the mother vinegaroon will start to see them as food.
The juvenile vinegaroons can be kept together after being separated from their mother. Make sure you give them enough food and have a big enough tank to reduce cannibalism.
The juvenile giant vinegaroons undergo another 3 molts, once a year, to turn into adults. Before the last molt, you need to house them in separate tanks because they will not tolerate each other when they become adults.
Here are my recommended supplies that you can consider for keeping vinegaroons. Note that I get a small commission when you buy the items through the links in this page. This helps me maintain the site without incurring additional costs to you.
Handling Giant Vinegaroons
Vinegaroons are non-venomous, they don’t sting, and they rarely bite or pinch. However, they do spray highly concentrated acetic acid if they feel threatened. You don’t want the acid to get into your eyes. My advice is, don’t handle giant vinegaroon unless you really need to.
If you need to handle them but you are worried, wear goggles.
Although unlikely, if the vinegaroon spray acid at you, quickly wash your contracted skin or eyes under a running tap. Seek medical attention if required.
Giant vinegaroons can spray acid rapidly for more than 10 times before depleting the acid storage. Don’t think you are safe just because you have dodged 1 acid spray.
If you get bitten or pinched by a vinegaroon, clean your wound with water and cover it with a band aid. The bite is not venomous but you might feel pain or itch for a few days, which should subside by itself. If you suffer from other medical complications such as increased heart beat, nausea etc., seek medical attention.
If you want to read more about keeping vinegaroons, I recommend you to get this book by Orin McMonigle. This is the go-to book that covers everything on keeping and breeding vinegaroons that you need to know.