Reptile care guidelines, breeding articles and herping articles.

Cape File Snake
(Gonionotophis capensis)

Gonionotophis capensis

Image Credit : Chondro Pyper

Gonionotophis capensis is a species of large, non-venomous colubrid snake. It has a very flat head and its body is triangular strongly shrouded. It’s strictly nocturnal, except on “hatchling period” when females can walk during the day searching for a good place to lay her eggs.

Its color is mostly gray to gray-brown, with purple-violet space between scales. The foreground vertebral band is white, while the belly can vary from ivory to “cream” color.

  • Scientific name : Gonionotophis capensis
  • Distribution : Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Cameroon, Somalia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia
  • Average Size : 1.4 m (4.6 ft)
  • Life Span : 15 years or more
  • Difficulty : Intermediate

Housing

Each specimen must have an individual enclosure because they are ophiophagus & they easily can eat their own species. For an adult specimen, you must have a terrarium who have following sizes : length : 1.4 meters (5 feet) – depth : 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) and 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) of height. Terrarium must have some stones all around the hiding places and a great bowl of water. It’s absolutely not necessary to put some branches, because they are very bad climbers.

Hide box

You have to give them 2 or 3 different hide boxes where they will stay all day. They are strictly nocturnal… One of these boxes must have sphagnum who will be regularly moistened to offer them a place to facilitate the moult period.

Substrate

We use blond peat as it is easier to remove excrement and that it is more suitable for the animal. On one part of the enclosure, we have some moistened sphagnum (on a 1/3 rd part of the terrarium). They will need a good layer of thick substrate, because they like to burrow into the ground.

Lighting – Heating

For lightning, you can put lights during the day, but it’s absolutely not necessary. Daylight from the window is more than enough but you can add lights inside the enclosure to simulate day/night cycle.
For heating, you should provide ambient temperature around 25-26 °C (°F) during the day and 20-22 °C (°F) during the night. You can achieve this with only a heating mat and monitor it with a thermostat. You should not provide a hotspot, it’s not necessary since they are nocturnal and they don’t like hot températures. Perhaps for those who want they can add a “night lamp”, so it will be easier to observe them during the night when they are active.

Water

A very important point ! They drink a lot and they love to turn around the water bowl. They practically do not « swim », but they like to pass into puddles of water.

Humidity

They need moisture (+/- 60% Hygrometry), but it can vary with the seasons. Above all, it must be well moistened during the periods of moult, without it becoming a swamp.

Feeding

In a natural environment, although not venomous, Gonionotophis capensis is a ruthless predator for all venomous snakes as it is immune to the venom of most snakes such as Mamba, Cobra and Vipers. In the wild, it tracks its prey via the olfactory traces left behind.
In captivity, juveniles has to be started with little snakes. If you have lot of money to spend, you can feed them on Lamprophis aurora juveniles which is the perfect pray for Gonionotophis capensis juveniles. They easily will go on with pinkies (alive or defrozen) when they will have eaten 1 or 2 times on snakes. You can also use defrozen Pantherophis guttatus juveniles who will be cut in pieces, otherwise it will be too big for juveniles Gonionotophis capensis.

Handling

That species can’t be handled without causing significant stress for them. They are very « shy » snakes. First attitude will be to put their head under their body & if they feel threatened, they lose the contents of their cloacal glands, and it’s absolutely not a “pleasant odor”.

Cleaning

Each week, remove the excrement and put fresh water in the large bowl of water. It is also necessary to spray the part of the terrarium where are the sphagnum mosses, to guarantee them of the correct moults.

Shedding

We have never seen them moult in one piece, not because “bad moults”, but because they moult in that way. They shed 3 or 4 times a year when they are adults & much more frequently when they are juveniles.

Potential Health Problems

We never had problems with them on health problems, but for us, the most important think to know, is that they are very « shy » & that this species does not tolerate handling. So observe them by night, but don’t take them as a species that tolerates manipulations.

 

Source

Jurassik Var


The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.

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