African House Snakes

By far, one of the easiest snakes to keep in captivity is the African House Snake (Lamprophis fuliginosus). Small and relatively inexpensive, you will be amazed at how you passed this up as your first snake.

Natural History

As its name implies, it is found in Africa. It has a very large range that includes the entire continent below the Sahara desert. Through this extensive range they can be found in scrubland, woodland, savannah, high grassland, and frequently in human dwellings.

Captive Care


Females of the species are much larger than males. Female snakes may exceed 5 feet while males rarely top 3 feet. Although African House Snakes may exceed 5 feet they are very slender snakes with heavily bodied females only reaching 500 grams. Males may only reach 200 grams. Captive bred and raised house snakes are on average 24-30 in. (60-75 cm) for males and 3-4 ft. (90-120 cm) for females.

African House Snakes are very easy to care for. Because of their small size they can be kept in inexpensive enclosures. There are many enclosure options with the best being a 10-gallon terrarium with a secure lid. Whatever enclosure you choose there are certain requirements that must be met to have a healthy snake.

The temperature in the enclosure should range from 75 to 85 degrees with a temperature gradient. This allows your snake to choose which temperature is best for it. There are two ways to achieve the additional heating to keep your snake healthy. You can either use an incandescent light or a heat pad. You can set whichever you choose on an appliance timer and have it on during the day and allow the cage to cool to room temperature at night. It must be noted that another option that many pet stores still sell heat rocks which may become extremely hot and burn the underside of your snake. It is much safer to use a heat pad for substrate heat or put the hot rock on a thermostat.

Another important aspect of caring for your snake is feeding. In the wild house snakes eat a wide variety of items, but in captivity can be fed on a diet of mice. One or two appropriately sized mice (slightly larger than the girth of your snake) once every week to 10 days is an adequate feeding schedule. It is important to feed your house snakes separately even if you keep them together the rest of the year. They are very aggressive feeders and the one that finishes first may try to ingest the other’s mouse along with the snake attached. It is for this same reason that you should be careful with your hands while feeding to prevent a bite. As with other snakes when feeding they look for movement and often strike before they think.

Picking the proper substrate is another concern. Using newspaper, butcher’s paper, or paper towel are inexpensive options that can easily be replaced when soiled. If you are interested in more aesthetic ground covers your best options are mulch type mixes, Astroturf, or aspen shavings. With aspen shavings you must move the snake to a different enclosure to feed your snake in otherwise he is likely to ingest a lot of the shavings. Whichever substrate you choose it is important to make sure that it stays dry except for when they are preparing to shed when you should provide the snake with a humid place to help it shed. A bowl of water should be provided at all times though.

Reproduction

If you are interested in breeding a snake, the simplest would have to be the African House Snake. In order to breed your snake there is only one requirement. You must have a sexually mature pair. House Snakes can become sexually mature as early as 4-6 months of age. But it has been shown that breeding the snake at such a young age can cause death. It is much better to wait until the female is at least 30 in (75 cm) long and over 250 grams in weight. This generally takes at least 18 months.

Two months after mating the female will lay her eggs. The eggs will then take 60-75 days to hatch. Females will usually stop feeding after the first month of gestation and will begin a shed cycle. After she sheds, she will lay her eggs within 5-10 days. Provide a covered egg-laying box of moist sphagnum and the females will usually lay the eggs in there at night. If you don’t provide a laying box in time, females will frequently lay eggs in the water bowl. Such eggs invariably die.

Conclusion

African House Snakes are a very hardy species that after the initial set-up are extremely simple to take care of requiring only weekly feedings, replacing of water, cleaning when necessary, and regular handling if you would like a calm, handleable snake.

By: Isaac Taylor




 

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