The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) is a popular snake because of its size, and myths surrounding it. These are fascinating and rewarding snakes to keep. However, only experienced herp keepers who can understand large snakes should attempt to keep them. Anacondas are one of the smartest snakes, and learn from negative and positive experiences. Since most are wild caught from South America under poor conditions, many new specimens will be moody.
The green anaconda is a long snake with a lot of girth (width). They are constrictors with two sets of top teeth and one set of bottom to secure prey. Males are much smaller than females staying at about 9 or 10 feet in length while females can reach 16 feet. There are dwarf anacondas that stay under 8 feet if you want to avoid a large snake. If you want a smaller snake, then anacondas are not for you.
The oldest anaconda was 31 years old, and if you give the right care without giving up or trying to take short cuts, any green anaconda should be able to live that long.
If you train an anaconda successfully, they can be enjoyable, and interesting to interact with. The biggest problem is forced grabs or silly mistakes. Set up a feeding schedule at a certain time of day, and do not handle it during this time. Another technique is to take a snake hook or other object and gently tap its head twice, signaling that it is not time to eat. It is best to have someone else in the room with you while handling. Give them 24-48 hours to digest their food before handling, because if you break this rule, regurgitation is likely.
Do not ever grab or wake it, because they will go straight to defensive mode, and strike the first thing that moves. Start off slowly, and build up to being able to handle it for long periods of time that cause no stress for you or your snake. Remember, anacondas learn whom to trust from positive and negative experiences.
Green anacondas can be fed from once every 6 days to once every 12 days. These snakes never are full, and the more you feed them, the faster they will grow. If you want a smaller snake, feed it less. Make sure it is not overly hungry because it will jump at your hand because it wants food. A good rule is to never feed anything larger than the width of your snake. Feed frozen rats that increase in size as the anaconda does. Do not use live prey items because they can defend themselves, and injure or even kill your snake. Huge, fully-grown females can also take small rabbits if rats become too small.
Neonates (hatchlings) can be kept in a 20 gallon tub or aquarium to start off with. There should be a screen covered 2/3 of the way with plastic wrap to keep in the humidity, and the snake. Once the snake is twice the length of the cage, it should be upgraded. Tubs work well for keeping the humidity in, and come in large sizes. Aquariums are more expensive, and will have to be hand made.
Look for length and width when purchasing a cage because they are semi-aquatic and will not climb. An anaconda should be given room to move around in so they do not become lethargic, or overweight. It is best to keep a snake trim. Not skinny, but not obese.
Most keepers use either newspapers or paper towels. They are easy to clean up, and are inexpensive. Cypress mulch can also be used because it holds humidity well, but it also holds and releases odors from the snake’s feces.
Green anacondas will thank you greatly if you provide a hide box or two. They are fairly shy, and are more nocturnal. These hides should be snug so they feel protected, safe and secure. A humid hide is optional, and will aid in shedding, but because they have a water bowl it is not required.
A hot spot should be kept at 90F and can drop 15F at night. The rest of the cage should have an ambient temperature of 78F. Have a thermometer on both sides of the tank so you know how hot or cold the tank is. You might want to test your system before introducing a new snake.
There are many ways to heat a cage to the proper temperatures. Common ones are heat bulbs and under tank heaters (UTH). A UTH will last a year, and are reliable. Bulbs help give an anaconda the 12 hours of daylight needed. Bulbs reduce the amount of moisture more than under tank heaters, but can still be used as long as this factor is taken into account. UV lights have not been proven beneficial to anacondas. Always avoid hot rocks, or heating devices that go inside the tank because they will get too hot, and end up burning your anaconda’s scales.
Anacondas are from the Amazon and need their humidity and water. Dehydration is a huge factor into the overall health of your green anaconda. A water bowl with room to swim and move in should be provided at all times. Water should always be clean because anacondas spend much time in the dish. Because of this, they may defecate in the water bowls. Tap water can be unhealthy to your reptile, so try to use bottled water most of the time. Tap water has small amounts of chlorine and unhealthy minerals, and your anaconda will get dehydrated because it will stay away from unhealthy waters.
On the topic of humidity, green anacondas require 50-60% humidity at all times. A hydrometer can help you in achieving this. Place the water bowl on the warm side of the tank so the water evaporates, and is warm enough for your anaconda. The entire cage should be sprayed down every night, and if needed, in the morning as well. If a snake feels dehydrated it will go to its water bowl. If your anaconda is spending excessive amounts of time in it, the cage is not humid enough.
Water and substrate changes need to happen frequently. Paper substrates need to be replaced when soiled, and loose substrates every 2-4 months or as needed. Mist at least daily, and monitor the temperature.
Males become sexually mature at about 18 months of age. Females take much longer, and can safely be bred once they reach 4 years of age. Breeding anacondas should be avoided until you have things running smoothly and you have the money, space and confidence.
Green anacondas are ready to breed from November to April, and will mate best in December or January. In October, to get them “in the mood” you can lower the photoperiod to 8 hours a day until April. The temperatures can also be dropped slightly.
Once they have mated, they can be separated into individual tanks, and the gestation process will begin. After 115-135 days live birth will occur, and up to 35-40 neonates may be born.
Neonates can be treated like mini-adults. Start with baby rats. Starting off with rats is beneficial for two reasons. Mice are less nutritious, and some snakes have had problems switching prey items. A rack system can be used, and keeping each snake in their own cage will avoid problems with size, feeding, and cannibalism.
Green anacondas are smart, fascinating snakes. If you take your time, and stay patient while following the right care you and your anaconda will live together in harmony. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.
I was counting fingers and toes as I was taking them out of their shipping box. I am pretty sure most of what I got was WC but all stayed on my hand and took a butter worm; one curly tailed took 3. The red sided skinks were so sweet and gentle. Till one saw the beetle the super-worm turns into and in a flash it was on it and killed it rather savagely then spit it out and walked away. Everyone acted like they had already been played with and liked it. Couldn't ask for a better shipment. All toes and fingers, all eating right away, two pair are already mating, no fighting, smart enough to find the water fountain right away. I had put really warm water in them before I opened the box and a lot of the skinks sat on top of where the water comes out like it was their personal water jet. Ordering more right away. Talk about quality and knowledge of staff.
Sharon Webb - February 28, 2012
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