By Brian Quines
There are exotic pets out there for the person who is stretched for time, low on cash and just doesn't have any extra room for a pet.
Millipedes, tarantulas and scorpions might look terrifying, but they are actually good pets to handle, require minimal maintenance, and never get so big that you have to buy a tank over 5 gallons.
"There's a macho factor with people who buy scorpions," said Chris Giacoletti. "But they're harmless, just like any of these other pets." If you're interested in a bad-boy-looking pet, here are a few that are great for beginners.
This scorpion might look menacing, deadly and downright evil, but it's docile by nature and has a sting comparable to a bee or wasp. "You really have to try and "tick" it off to get stung," said Giacoletti, who once buried his 12-year-old son in about 1,000 black emperor scorpions.
These scorpions live 5-8 years and grow to about 8 inches in length.
COST: A young scorpion costs under $20.
CARE REQUIREMENTS: Scorpion diets consist mostly of crickets (one or two every other day), meal worms or night crawlers, and small mice as the scorpion gets older. The crickets should be dusted with a powder vitamin supplement.
For a basic set-up, you'll need a 5-gallon tank, hiding place and bedding – preferably vermiculite or EchoEarth, a type of coconut bedding. That'll cost $20-$30.
CAUTIONS: People who get allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings will have a similar or worse reaction to a scorpion's sting.
AFRICAN GIANT BLACK MILLIPEDE
These millipedes are docile, calm by nature and don't pose any kind of threat to attack. They can live up to five years and are among the largest millipedes in the world – about 7-11 inches in length, with an average of 750 legs. The millipede's defense mechanism is to ball up and secrete a liquid. The liquid isn't dangerous to your skin, but may be harmful if it comes in contact with your eyes or mouth.
COST: Baby millipedes cost about $10.
CARE REQUIREMENTS: Millipedes only feed on vegetation – mainly lettuce and tomatoes. They should be fed once a day and it's suggested that calcium vitamin powder be added to the food.
A starter cage and bedding are needed to house a millipede. A starter kit costs $20-$30 at Reptile Island in Yorba Linda.
The most important part of the enclosure is a moist bedding of peat moss or soil. Millipedes drink the dew of the wet bedding and enjoy burrowing into the ground.
There are over 800 species of tarantulas, but not all are good pets. Rose hair and pink-toe tarantulas make the best pets. They are docile, OK to handle and are less likely to strike at humans, said Giacoletti. Rose hairs and pink-toes only grow to about 3-5 inches wide. Females live about 10 years. Males only live 3-6 years.
COST: Reptile Island sells rose hairs for about $15. Pink-toes go for about $20.
CARE REQUIREMENTS: A starter kit for tarantulas consists of a 5-gallon tank, a shallow water bowl and damp soil. That'll cost $20-$30.
Tarantulas mostly feed on crickets when they are young. When they get big, you might need to feed them small mice.
Change the water every day and keep the bedding moist. It helps the spider breathe and allows it to burrow more easily.
CAUTIONS: Tarantulas can flick hairs that can cause rashes if your sinuses are sensitive.