The Kenyan Sand Boa (Eryx colubrinus loveridgei) is the perfect first boa, and even first snake. These nocturnal boas can be found in Kenya, Chad, Libya and Egypt. They don't require a large enclosure, and they only need to be fed once a week. Before you go out and buy one, be sure you know their care inside and out.
These are one of the smallest species of boa with the females reaching to a length of 30 inches with the males only reaching 18. They almost look worm-like with their pointed snout and skinny body. This species of snake has a sandy background with brown or black splotches. Each sand boa looks a little different, and there are not different morphs that can be purchased like the ball python. Kenyan sand boas will live up to 20 years with the right care.
When young, Kenyan sand boas are jumpy. They dislike being held, and may nip at you in defense. As these babies mature, they will calm down, and with regular handling, they can become friendly and docile. Remember to handle them with care or else they will develop a bad attitude with you and you will never be able to have the same experience of holding them.
Kenyan sand boas will eat a mouse once every 5-7 days as adults. Adults will take fuzzy mice a little wider than the snake at its thickest point. Baby boas will need to be fed smaller mice twice a week. When feeding mice to your boa, they should be frozen and thawed. Frozen thawed mice are much better than live because it is more humane, healthier, and safer.
If your sand boa does not take a dead mouse at first, you may need to temp it by wiggling it in front of him or her.
Because of their small size, adult sand boas can live comfortably in a 15 gallon enclosure. The enclosure should be made of glass and have a screen lid. The lid prevents your boa from escaping while ventilating the tank. Younger Kenyan sand boas can live comfortably in 5 gallon tanks or even plastic shoeboxes.
A suitable substrate for this species is a fine sand mixed with some wood chips and soil. Rinse off the sand first so it is not dusty. Inhaling the dust is not healthy for any animal. The sand should be about 4 inches deep because they are known to burrow during the day. Avoid any cedar or pine products or substrates because they give off very toxic chemicals that can kill reptiles. Replace the substrate once every 4-6 months.
You should provide at least one hide in the terrarium so your sand boa has somewhere to retreat to. Some ideas of a shelter are a flat rock with the sand dug out from under it. A basic above ground hide works fine too. These retreats should be snug, but not too tight for the snake. These snakes will spend a great deal of the time under the sand during the day because they are nocturnal so below ground hides will be used more.
Provide your Kenyan sand boa with a basking spot of about 90F. This is best achieved with an overhead lamp. Under tank heaters are dangerous for sand boas because they can burrow too close to the heater and get burnt. The opposite side of the cage can remain unheated, this allows the boa to thermoregulate if it gets too hot.
Do not use hot rocks or anything similar to heat your cage because they get extremely hot, and have melted the scales off of many reptiles. There is nothing proven that UV lighting will benefit sand boas, so they are not needed.
Because they are from drier parts of the world, the humidity can stay low. They only need a small water dish that stays filled with clean water.
The sand needs to be replaced every 4 months. Remove feces as they are found, and keep the water bowl clean.
To find a boy and a girl to breed, a vet needs to probe them to confirm their gender. The only physical difference between male and female is that females are larger than males. Once you get your two boas, place them in a 20 gallon tank. Keep the conditions the same as always. They should only be kept together for a month because the male can mate with the female too many times and hurt her.
Once the male is separated, get ready for the baby snakes. There will be 10-15 on average and the female gives live birth.
Hatchling sand boas can be kept in the mother's cage for a couple days, but they will need to be put into a separate tank. You can either keep all of your boas together in a big cage, or you can split them up into a rack system where they all get their own small space. Rack systems are much easier to use because you can monitor and check on each one.
Give them an inch or so of sand to burrow in and keep the temperatures at about 90F. The rest of their care should be the same as adults.
Kenyan sand boas are great first boas or even first snakes. They have striking colors and stay at a manageable size and will spend most of the day burrowed in the sand. These exotic snakes are becoming more popular in the pet trade and are well worth owning. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.
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