Hydrodynastes gigas

Image Credit : Crystal Palace Reptiles

Hydrodynastes gigas has large eyes with circular pupils, allowing good daytime vision. The tongue is black, and of the typical snake fashion.The background colour of a mature specimen is an olive green or brown, with dark spots and bands covering much of its body. The background coloring and banding generally become darker towards the end tail.

The common name false water cobra is an allusion to its ability to flatten its neck, similar to a cobra as a defensive reaction to make it look larger and more intimidating. Additionally, the pattern and coloration of Hydrodynastes gigas superficially resemble those of true water cobras.

  • Scientific name : Hydrodynastes gigas
  • Distribution : South America
  • Average Size : 2 m (6.5 ft)
  • Life Span : 15 years or more
  • Difficulty : Intermediate


Enclosures should be large enough to house your false water cobra comfortably; most importantly for adults. A 1.2 x 0.6 x 0.6 meters (4 x 2 x 2 feet) enclosure should be sufficient for an adult, but bigger wouldn’t hurt. I use a rack that holds plastic shoe boxes for containing the babies.

Hide box

I know a lot of people use them and the snakes seem to utilize them often. I’ve always used a thick bioactive substrate with leaf litter and the snakes buried themselves more often than using a hide. I’d just say a hide box , deep substrate, or available shelter would be beneficial.


I use a bioactive substrate with all my snakes. I use a mixture of cypress mulch, peat moss, soil, and leaf litter. I also breed super worms by the thousands and add them to the enclosures for cleanup. The superworms eat all the waste and aerate the substrate. The worms won’t bother the snakes at all. When a female is close to laying eggs, I remove her and place her in a separate enclosure containing no worms. The worms would most likely nibble on the eggs. Some keepers use aspen, repti bark, or newspaper successfully.

Lighting – Heating

It is recommended to provide a natural light pattern that mimics normal daytime according to the season.
I was fortunate enough to be able to dedicate an entire room to my snakes and maintain it at a constant ambient temperature in the range of 27-28 ºC (81-83 ºF). This temperature works well for my other colubrid species and also allows me to incubate eggs in the same room, if I chose to do so. Under the tank and overhead heating works great as well if you’re within the recommended ranges, and a thermostat is recommended. Falsies do well within the range of 24-29 ºC (75-85 ºF), but I find a constant temp of 27-28 ºC (81-83 ºF) to be best.


Clean fresh water should be offered weekly, if the water is soiled it should be removed immediately and replaced with fresh water. The bowl should be large enough to allow the snake to submerse if necessary during times of shedding issues.


I do not monitor humidity. As long as they have access to a large water bowl to soak in, they will do fine.


Falsies love to eat and will accept a wide variety. Appropriately sized rodents, birds, frogs, and fish are all eagerly accepted. I feel the species benefits greatly when offered a variety. They seem to accept each food item better when not fed the same thing continuously. Not only do I feel that the snakes are healthier for it, but it seems they enjoy options.
Babies will typically start accepting food after their first shed, approximately two weeks later. Some babies are slower starters and may require fish or fish scented pinky mice. You can use tuna water to scent your pinkies. Some occasionally continue to refuse food for longer periods, but eventually come around. I have found that some small frog species such as cricket and chorus frogs as well as certain toad species are the best for getting finicky feeders to eat. Scenting appropriately sized rodents with these frogs and toads is also very easy and equally successful.


Handling methods are purely preference and sometimes depend on the behavior of the individual snake. I always free handle false water Cobras no matter it’s behavior. Using hooks isn’t a necessity, but encouraged if people are more comfortable doing that. Most people, including myself have no reaction to the bites, despite long periods of chewing. If people wish to not find out whether or not they’ll have a reaction, all precautions can be taken.


Cleaning is also a general husbandry practice that is required more often with snakes with higher metabolisms. They tend to make more of a mess when fed a variety of food such as fish and chicks. They will often poop in their water bowls like many other snakes do. Water should be checked daily and replaced when needed.


If you use cypress mulch or bioactive substrates, it can be beneficial to moisten to aid in shedding.

Potential Health Problems

I am not currently aware of any potential health problems with the species when proper husbandry is practiced. Wild caught individuals obviously may be infested with parasites and need treatment. I have never heard of obesity in false water Cobras despite their appetites.


Kyle Wilson

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