Image Credit : Mickael Leger Photographie
Eryx colubrinus is a small sized boa species. These snakes are heavily built with small heads, small eyes, and short tails. The color pattern may consist of a yellow or orange coloration overlaid with dark brown splotches. The belly is white or cream colored.
They are readily available in the pet trade due to their small size, docility and ease of care. In recent years there have been a number of new morphs made available by both commercial and hobby breeders.
- Scientific name : Eryx colubrinus
- Distribution : Northern Africa
- Average Size : 0.6 m (2 ft)
- Life Span : 25 years or more
- Difficulty : Beginner
Any glass or plastic, tightly covered enclosure with adequate air holes works. Babies thrive in plastic shoeboxes. A mature adult will need at least a 10-gallon aquarium (approx. 0.5 x 0.3 meters (1.6 x 1 feet)) or enough room to stretch out.
Although sand boas burrow and spend a great deal of time under the sand, they will readily use hides placed on top of the sand. These habitat additions provide you with more viewing opportunities and a place for your snake to feel safe above the sand. An upside down terra cotta plant saucer works nicely: break a small piece off once side to make a peek hole. A hollow, Chollo cactus skeleton placed directly on the sand is another favorite hiding place of sand boas.
One of the options of substrate that can be used is sandblasting sand (buy at a landscape supply store). Make it deep enough for your boa to ‘swim’ in and stay comfortably buried. Ground walnut shells and aspen bedding can be used, but they do not provide any resistance exercise for the snake when it moves.
NEVER use any kind of pine or redwood wood shavings: the fine particles will cause respiratory problems. The target temperature is regulated by attaching an ordinary rheostat to the heat tape cord. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer buried in the sand directly on the bottom of the warm side of the cage.
Lighting – Heating
It is recommended to provide a natural light pattern that mimics normal daytime with 14 hours on/ off during summer and 8 hours on/off during winter.
Eryx colubrinus prefer to live in sand at a temperature of 32-35 °C (90-95 °F) during the day. The best way to achieve this is to place a heat tape under ONE side of the cage. Always be certain there is a cooler side for the snake to move to if the temperature gets too warm. The cool side temperature should range between 24-29 °C (75-85 °F). You can monitor your temps either by placing the thermometer in the sand or by using temperature gun if you have one.
Clean, DISTILLED water should be available at all times. Place a shallow bowl at the cool end of the habitat.
Eryx colubrinus are from an equatorial region so they do need some humidity, perhaps as much as 40%.
A robust keeper, sand boas are known for their hearty appetites. Newly hatched babies are started on live pinkie mice, but can usually be converted to less expensive frozen pinkies in a short time. If you have one snake in the enclosure, put a live pinkie directly on the substrate. Because it may be damp, a thawed pinkie should be offered on a paper or plate to prevent sand from sticking to the meal. Expect your snake to eat within one to two hours, occasionally it make take longer.
A more controlled method is to place your snake in a clean plastic container (cut air holes) with the pinkie. This prevents accidental ingestion of substrate, or competition for the same pinkie if you have more than one snake in the cage. A young snake can become nervous in this new enclosure and refuse to eat. Every snake is a little different, but once you figure out what works for it, feeding is not a problem for sandboas. Young snakes require weekly feedings for the first year.
As a snake grows, larger pinkies, fuzzies, hoppers, mice and finally, small rats (live or frozen) will become appropriate. An adult feeding schedule of 4 to 8 times a month for females and 1 or 2 times a month for males is recommended. Snakes need heat to digest their food. Limit handling immediately after feeding.
Sand boas rarely try to bite. Sometimes they will flail about if scared, but they rarely make contact with your skin. If the snake does manage to bite, try not to jerk back. This can injure the snake. If necessary, a small dab of alcohol near the mouth should cause it to release. Sand boas are poor climbers, so when handling, ensure that the entire length of the snake is well supported. When placed on a surface, they will quickly look for anything to hide under, so keep that in mind and never let them out of your sight.
A clean cage insures a healthy environment for your snake. Spot clean as necessary and plan to change the sand once a month or two and thoroughly wash and sterilize the enclosure at the same time.
As with all snakes, shedding interrupts the feeding cycle. Most snakes will not eat immediately before or during the shedding process. Also, many snakes are nervous or cranky about intrusions into their environment prior to shedding. Expect your young snake to shed following 2 to 3 meals.
Difficulties with shedding can be avoided by offering your snake a moist sauna in which to soften its skin. Cut one or two access holes on the bottom of the side of a plastic container (with lid) and line it with a moist paper towel for humidity. Place the sauna over the warm side of the cage where it can remain continually or be introduced prior to shedding. Another method of assistance is a short, warm, water bath.
Potential Health Problems
Mites are the most common snake concern. Fortunately, sand boas seem to be resistant to the parasite. Another health concern is mouth rot (a moist, white, mucous-like appearance around the lips); using sand as substrate and thorough and regular cage cleaning can prevent it.
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.