"You don't realize what you're dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility" - Ash, Alien
Centipedes of the genus Scolopendra are extremely widespread, with extant species more or less everywhere save Antarctica. Although they vary greatly in size and markings, they all have the body shape seen above, and all have 21 pairs of legs.
Although they have shown up in the trade sporadically for many years (usually as just "giant centipede" or similar) more and more are being imported, including many undescribed species.
TOXICITY/ HEALTH RISKS
I should mention that many species do have venom powerful enough to do serious damage to a human. I have heard rumors of human fatalities, but have been unable to confirm those reports. In addition, they posess glands that produce an irritant near the legs. It is also important to remember that these are much faster than a large tarantula or scorpion. Treat it like you would a venomous snake, don't freehandle it (use long forceps with cotton pads stuck on the ends), Be aware of its position in the cage when feeding or adding water (again, it's faster than it looks). Also, if you are allergic to insect bites or stings I would suggest a less harmful animal. Eight-year-old scar from a pede bite on the inner bicep (pic taken by machete of PFish)
I also feel I should mention that the venom delivery apparatus is not a stinger like a scorpion or fangs like a spider, but rather a pair of highly modified legs known a maxilipeds. If you get nailed, you weren't bitten or stung, you were kicked.
Also, please note that these animals are extremely sensitive to paint and other chemical fumes, that's how mine died.
Most species are tropical, and all require high humidity, mist the cage as often as you have to to keep humidity at around 75%. Temperature should be around 75-85°F. I don't know what their upper limit is , I suspect it's around the low nineties like most "bugs". If you use an incandescent bulb for heat, I suggest you use a red bulb, as they flee and hide ouner normal light.
Mine was kept on a 90/10 peat/sphagnum mix, that seemed to work well.
A 5 gallon will work for most pedes, a 10 or 15 gallon will work for the bigger ones. The one thing you need to watch out for is that it needs to be taller than the pede is long, otherwise it will be able to just climb out. You may also wish (if you're as paranoid as I am) to remove the silicone in the corners with a razor and rubbing alcohol, as smaller pedes may be able to adhere to it and climb (they can't stick to glass like roaches can).
Provide cork bark and flat rock hidespots, they like to crawl under things. They do not seem to climb too much.
A large, shallow (less than an inch deep) water dish with cork bark should be used.
Keep one per cage, they will quickly kill anything placed in with them, including other centipedes. The one possible exception may be Scolopenrda subspinipes mutilans (or maybe just S. mutilans, I forget), which can be supposedly be housed communally without cannibalism and has even been bred in captivity. I've never tried it, but I have been looking for these for some time. I'll post my findings when i have proof one way or the other.
All centipedes are strict carnivores. Appropriately sized crickets can be used as a staple, I do not know if they will eat mealworms or waxworms. Larger specimens (8" or bigger) will take small vertebrates such as pinkie or fuzzy mice or small lizards. Do not feed them adult mice, although
this is an amazing sight the risk to the pede is too great.
Interestingly, they do not merely inject digestive juices and suck their prey dry like a spider, they actually eat the whole prey item.
This is very rare in captivity, mostly due to the fact that is next to impossible to house two pedes together. However, captive bred Scolopenrda subspinipes mutilans are becoming more common, and may wind up as the most commonly available species because they're the easiest to breed. Every once in a while you'll encounter a wild caught gravid female. She curls into a ball around the tiny white babies until they are large enough to venture out on their own. Some species will consume the mother before doing so.
COMMONLY AVAILABLE CENTIPEDES
Scolopendra heros castaneiceps, with babies
Scolopendra sp. "Haitian giant"
Scolopendra subspinipes ssp. "Vietnam"
Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans
Scolopendra subspinipes ssp. "Hong Kong Giant"
Let my know if you see any inaccuracies or feel anything was left out. Feel free to post you own experiences and pictures and what-not.
Innes: none of the pics in the bottom section are mine, except for the HK giant pic, and are the property of the original photographers, whoever they may be.