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Vietnamese Centipede Care and Maintenance

Jacob is a caring centipede keeper. He hopes his experience with unique pets will help others entering the hobby.

Henry "Chaw" Bankshaft: an ill-tempered centipede that wants nothing more than to murder me in my sleep.

Henry "Chaw" Bankshaft: an ill-tempered centipede that wants nothing more than to murder me in my sleep.

Keeping Centipedes as Pets

Trust me, proper care of your centipede will provide mutual safety and may potentially extend the life of your specimen. Vietnamese centipedes are sensitive to stress and will attack anything they consider a threat. This can include almost any physical disturbance. Follow these steps to provide a comfortable environment. A happy centipede is a happy owner.


Vietnamese centipedes (Scolependra subspinites) have an unknown origin, but can be found in almost every tropical region including Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America. It is important to replicate the environment in which they are found; humidity and temperature are the most important factors for general health and comfortability.

Centipedes Are Escape Artists

Before you begin this process, you need a container that is 100% escape-proof. Take this step seriously. Vietnamese Centipedes are masters of escape, so if you are not willing to share your room, I advise you to purchase an escape-proof container that is more than capable of doing the job. Not recommended: open-top containers, thin plastic lids, and jar tops that can easily slide off. Centipedes are capable of chewing through soft plastics and will create their own space for escape. They are able to exert a great amount of pressure and can squeeze through almost anything that they can fit their little heads through. Make sure that your lid is impossible to open from the inside.

  • Screw on tops, clip down lids, and in some cases, put a weight on the surface of said lid.
  • Fill the bottom with soft and mineral-rich soil that is soft enough to allow burrowing and hold moisture as well. Adult centipedes require a minimum soil depth of at least four inches so that he/she can burrow as it pleases. Sufficient cover should be offered so that it has the option to sit under the shade, in the sun, or underground depending on their body temperature.
  • I recommend small, fake plants that the centipedes might enjoy, and any sort of wooden, underground structure to burrow under; they feel safe when pressed up, under, or against such structures.
  • In order to prevent escape, ensure that the length between the soil and the lid is longer than the specimen to prevent any chance of escape. Whether you notice it or not, they are always trying to find a way out and will not give up easily.
  • Make sure the lid has plenty of breathing holes that are smaller than her head width, but not so many that too much humidity escapes.
  • When specimens are introduced to a new environment, they will thoroughly explore every inch of the container, and will then begin to create a burrow in which most of their time will be spent until nighttime or feeding time. Once the proper environment has been established, you must begin to prepare the enclosure for the climate they are used to.

Humidity and Climate

The leading cause of death for captive centipedes is the lack of moisture. Centipedes have a permeable membrane that allows a lot of moisture to escape their body, dehydration is almost always fatal and the moisture control is not easily conducted without the proper equipment for measurement. Reptile hydrometers and thermometers offer an accurate display of your enclosure's climate.

Vietnamese centipedes survive in tropical regions because of the constant humidity and temperature. It is recommended to maintain a humidity level of around 80% and a constant temperature of 70-80 °F. However, such temperatures have a tendency to easily dehydrate the air very quickly; you can spray a few times daily to replace the water that has evaporated through the lid.

If humidity loss is a serious issue, cover some of the holes in the lid to better maintain it. Be careful not to apply too much moisture because that can over hydrate the creature and also prevent burrowing. Too much moisture can also produce fungus and bacteria that may be harmful. Purchase reptilian lightbulbs; you may also purchase a night light to study the centipede's nocturnal behavior without confusing or bothering the active nightly habits. Reproducing a natural environment might add many more years of her lifespan while keeping her as comfortable as possible as well.

Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Scolependra subspinites will result in one of the most interesting, entertaining, and terrifying displays of behavior you've ever seen. Their unique ability to sense food from ground vibrations along with their lightning-fast reactions makes the purchase very worth it. Their favorite prey in the wild are cockroaches, so you can assume that they are a healthy and nutritious source of food. However, gut-loaded crickets and mealworms are a fantastic substitute.

Live food?

It is not recommended to catch local species to feed your pet; you can never be 100% sure of the toxins and diseases that the Vietnamese centipede has not evolved immunities to. There are many videos online of adult centipedes feeding on live mice, but this potentially runs the risk of injuring the specimen during the struggle. I recommend using gut-loaded crickets.


Many owners make the mistake of overfeeding the animal. Overfeeding is bad because an overweight centipede is affected, similar to many animals that are overweight.

How often to feed?

The urge to feed it daily is understandable, however, if it must wait for food the centipede will be much more aggressive while pursuing the prey. Supplying food every five to six days prevents no harm while also making the feeding process much more entertaining.

When is it hungry?

You will be able to tell how hungry she is when she leaves the safety of the burrow and is constantly exploring her environment.


If you think the species is beginning to molt, any food placed in the container must be removed to guarantee the safety while vulnerable; after a molt, the exoskeleton is soft enough to be nipped at by crickets and other meals.


Vietnamese centipedes tend to be very messy eaters, and also discard the remains all over the enclosure. The molt and uneaten pieces are susceptible to fungus, mold, and unwanted parasites.


A small source of water in a bowl should be offered; most hydration is absorbed from the food that they eat but a water bowl can be utilized by a thirsty centipede.

Social Behavior

Centipedes are able to maintain fascinating symbiotic relationships with a wide variety of animals when properly introduced to their new friend. Just kidding. Everything you put in there will die.

Additional Precautions

Do not handle your centipede. Safety is the most important factor of them all. Many beginners do not understand how risky it is to place a hand in the environment, it is not worth it, my friends. Ignore any video of irresponsible owners handling their centipede. The only thing that should enter even the top of the terrarium is a long set of metal tongs. This includes feeding, water bowl exchange, reorganization, and discarded remains.

Approach with caution. A centipede that is burrowed should be treated with the same respect as one who has surfaced. I use a long fish hook remover because of the grip, length, and the leverage it may provide; be very aware that they have a tendency to quickly run up your tool of choice, so try using a slick material to prevent this. Always have a unique backup plan in case of a treacherous situation, and think ahead of time before any action.

Respect the centipede's space, which means that you should not touch her just because you want to see her eat. When introduced to a household with multiple family members, be sure to thoroughly explain the importance of safety.

Be safe. Keep the exhibit in a location where a child's curiosity will not be an issue. Keep your container away from the edges of tables to ensure that it might accidentally fall and break, releasing the species.

Practicing proper safety and protocol will help provide a great learning and entertaining experience.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2017 Jacob Melendez

Questions? Leave a comment for a quick response

Nick Hdz on April 09, 2020:

oh my God my centipede escaped what do I do?!? Please help me!

Joel on February 26, 2020:

Very good article, masterfully written, informative, and humorous throughout. Well done Jacob.

Chris on March 04, 2019:

I have a question ... Is it okay to give bottle water to my centpede or it doesnt matter ??

Jacob Melendez (author) from Fairhope, Alabama on December 04, 2017:

What up Anthony, it depends on you and your centipede. If you feed your scolopendra onceevery day (a cricket or two) she will no doubt eat them, but she will gain obvious weight which will decrease her lifespan slightly.

If you wait to feed her once a week (3-4), the feeding will be more aggressive and she will be nutritiously satisfied and more willing to try to aggressively hunt for her food, thats a win win in my opinion.

I hope this helped you!

Anthony on November 23, 2017:

I have a question how many crickets are you supposed to feed your centipede at a time? I got one on Monday forgot to ask that question and I can't seem to find that answer anywhere I just keep finding what to feed it how often to feed it but never how much I don't want to over feed it or under feed it.