Helllo friends! A anon requested a Velvet worm care sheet, and here it is!
First off, what are velvet worms? They are from the order Euonychophora with two family groups. Peripatidae, which live in tropical regions around and above the equator, and Peripatopsidae live south of the Equator. Their true eyes are little teeny dots, and they rely on those front legs to touch things so they can get around and find prey! The ‘velvet’ appearance is a special water proof skin! They are one of the few invertebrates that give birth to live young, and can live around 5 to 7 years if cared for right. Some species, like Euperipatoides, live in a societal structure like a wolf pack, where close family hunt and live together. There can be as much as 15 individuals in a ‘pack’ They are a very old species, and have been around for 500 million years!!!
Velvet worms are adorable, but they are also quite vicious hunters! At night, they emerge and feel around for prey, which are other insects and invertebrates. Once they find suitable prey, they spray them with a sticky glue that prevents the prey from escaping. Once subdued, the velvet worm makes a small slice somewhere on the prey, and pump them full of digestive venom and then slurp up the liquefied insides. NO WORRIES, they can’t hurt humans. They don’t like to waste precious calories and energy going after something that isn’t prey.
Now then! What do they need for proper care?
HUMIDITY AND HEAT
Velvet worms prefer cooler temperatures around the 60-75°F / 15-23 °C. A basement would be an example of a perfect place to keep these guys. Some owners even keep them in a fridge! They need an extremely high humidity, because unlike other invertebrates, they cannot close their breathing holes, so they dry out super fast. I would say at LEAST 80% humidity at all times. DO NOT USE TAP WATER. Most people use pure rainwater to mist the tank, you could also use river water or spring water. Be careful about spring water, because some of it is just bottled tap water. These are a sensitive species and can die if exposed to chemicals and heavy metals.
Velvet worms enjoy mosses, because they retain moisture. So some cocoa fiber/dirt mix with some sphagnum moss covering the dirt should do the trick. They hide during the day, so provide them hiding places, like a little cave or a hollow log to hide in. They may even make their own hiding place in the dirt. The more damp and dark hiding places, the better. The substrate should be moist, but it doesn’t need to be sopping wet. Even though Velvet worms are waterproof, they don’t enjoy sitting around in standing water.
Velvet worms are nocturnal, so don’t expect to see them out during the day time. They can be seen at night, looking for food. I recommend a red light-bulb so you can watch them without bothering them too much. They mostly just chug along and are an easy going species. They can be handled, but make sure you wash your hands and remove any trace of lotions or toxins. They don’t bite people and think of us as really, really weird branches, so there is nothing to fear from them. For the most part, it’s best to let them be unless you are feeding them or checking up on them. Too much stress is never good for any animal, and constantly disturbing their rest during the day could lead to illness and death. Put your tank in a dark and less trafficked part of your house so they can rest well.
Velvet worms are incredible voracious predators! They will eat just about any kind of invertebrate, so it doesn’t matter too much what you give them. Just make sure they are small enough that the velvet worm doesn’t get injured trying to subdue their prey. Crickets and grubs/worms are an excellent choice, but they will also dine on roaches and locusts. Velvet worms are careful about going after prey, because it takes a lot of energy and calories to produce the glue they use for hunting. To help them out, you could probably gut load your prey items before offering them to your worm. Most invertebrate prey items have less nutritional value compared to wild prey, so gut loading will help them out and give them a little extra nutrients.
So that’s what I have found out about caring for Velvet worms! Remember, there are several different species of velvet worm, so feel free to check them all out! Some come in rather beautiful colors and can be a really cool pet to care for. For example, look how stoked Coyote Peterson was when his camera crew found a red velvet worm. These animals deserve to be admired for their otherworldly beauty and uniqueness.