Common Care and Routine maintenance of Sand Boas (Eryx & Gongylophis)

Appeared in ‘Reptilia’ Journal, Issue 34

Sand boas of the genera Eryx and Gongylophis have lengthy had an undeserved status of remaining dull pets. Most 1st-time snake buyers conclusion up selecting on a vibrant corn snake, kingsnake, or other tiny, straightforward-to-hold colubrid. Actuality is, most species of sand boas are also simple to treatment for, and since they are more compact and slower shifting, are also less complicated to deal with — so they are superior for inexperienced persons. There are a quantity of species to pick out from, and a lot of specimens are intricately patterned, with no even mentioning the variety of colour morphs on the industry. Sand boas are mainly nocturnal, this means they are lively largely at evening.

This report is a basic overview on the treatment of sand boas. I reveal the strategies that have worked best for me, which need to provide as a reference for determining the species and strategies that are best for you.


Sand boa housing can be just about anything from a simple tupperware box to a naturalistic vivarium setup. For a baby sand boa, I advocate a tupperware box no much larger than 10 x 6 x four inches (ca. 25 x fifteen x 10 cm) LxWxH. A tiny 1st enclosure will help the youthful snake truly feel protected, and also will help promote a feeding response during this interval when the snake may possibly be a finicky eater.

A tiny grownup male can be housed in a tupperware box of around 10 x 10 x 6 inches (25 x 25 x fifteen cm) LxWxH. A tiny enclosure improves the chances of a superior feeding response, which is in particular essential for males since they are likely to fast for numerous months at a time through the year. I hold much larger grownup males in tubs measuring 16 x 10 x 6 inches (ca. forty x 25 x fifteen cm).

For housing an grownup female of a more compact species, I advocate a minimal enclosure dimensions of 20 x twelve x 6 inches (ca. 50 x 30 x fifteen cm) LxWxH for an grownup female of a much larger species, a minimal of 24 x 18 x 6 inches (ca. 60 x forty five x fifteen cm).

Women of all species are generally less complicated to treatment for than males (I would propose attaining females if achievable). Women are commonly not issue feeders, and are also commonly much larger and a lot more lively than males, generating them less complicated to locate in the enclosure. These factors make females less complicated than males to house in naturalistic enclosures. A four-foot-lengthy (122 cm) desert vivarium can be very beautiful and need to be deemed by anyone who would like to hold these snakes as pets.

Whichever kind of enclosure you decide to use, superior air flow is very essential.

Tupperware boxes are virtually airtight, so holes should be drilled in the sides. I advocate a row of holes, each and every 2 centimetres, all-around the sides. To prevent escapes, the diameter of the holes need to be no a lot more than 2 millimetres for the smallest babies, and no a lot more than three-four millimetres for much larger snakes. I lower much larger holes (50 mm) and deal with them with fine-mesh zinc screen. There need to be no tough edges left just after drilling.


Creating a naturalistic vivarium setup can be very gratifying, but a single rule need to normally use: Protection 1st! All hefty objects should be thoroughly secured so that the snake simply cannot make them transfer — by climbing, pushing, or burrowing — and perhaps be crushed. The structure need to also be reasonable. However beautiful it could possibly seem to assemble a rock pile in the vivarium, finding your snake inside of it would be pretty much not possible. Layout the decoration so that you have straightforward accessibility to each and every element of the enclosure with no acquiring to transfer hefty objects.

Anything that goes into the enclosure should be cleaned carefully beforehand. A weak answer of bleach in heat h2o is suitable for washing cage furnishings. Rocks, wooden, bark, and artificial vegetation are all fine for the sand boa enclosure. Driftwood is typically readily available in a lot of pet retailers, and helps make fantastic décor for any terrarium.

Certain kinds of dwell cactus can be made use of, but these should be thoroughly chosen to stay away from mishaps. Remain away from individuals with a lot of spines that the snake would have issues gliding among. Also stay away from spines that are tender and occur off effortlessly, as these could get into the snake’s eyes and mouth. Other dessert vegetation this sort of as stonecrop can also be made use of.


I use two kinds of heating for sand boas: warmth mats for my racks of tubs, and basking lamps (in conjunction with fluorescent lighting) for my naturalistic setups.

Whichever process is made use of, a daytime sizzling spot need to be held at about 90ºF (32°C), and the snake need to normally be ready to retreat to a cooler location held at about 78ºF (25°C). Nighttime temperature can fall to about 76-80ºF (24-27°C) in general. Warmth resources Should be related to a thermostat to immediately handle temperatures. I use pulse-proportional thermostats for warmth mats, and dimming thermostats for warmth lamps.

The warmth source need to be at a single conclusion of the enclosure. I have 6-inch-wide (fifteen cm) warmth mats at the again of my rack units. The detachable snake tubs slide into the rack and rest easily with the thermostatically managed warmth source at the again.


Lighting is not vital for sand boas, so is made use of mainly for the profit of viewers. If you pick out to gentle your sand boa enclosure, use a fluorescent tube. I want normal sunlight tubes they are cheap, dazzling, and emit very small warmth, which is perfect.
Regular incandescent household bulbs can be made use of, but make specific that the snake simply cannot burn by itself. These gentle bulbs get very sizzling, and, if made use of at all, need to be secured with a mesh cage. Snakes are generally burned when they climb as well shut to warmth resources. Sand boas are no exception, and will climb if provided the option.


This is a perpetual matter of discussion amid snake keepers. I now hold all my sand boas on aspen bedding, despite the fact that over the decades I have tried newspaper, sand, bark chips, savannah wooden chips, and corncob substrate. Following are professionals and cons of several substrate products.

Aspen. This relatively affordable bedding of shredded wooden is lightweight and straightforward for the snakes to burrow in, so I do not even bother with giving cover boxes in my tupperware tubs. Aspen is relatively beautiful, and soaks up excretion swiftly. The a single down side is that it is generally dusty. It is a superior notion to shake it effectively to remove most of the dust just before placing it into the enclosure.

Newspaper. This is the most financial substrate, but it has a lot of downsides. Newspaper, laid flat on the base of the terrarium, simply cannot be spot cleaned as a substitute it should be fully eliminated and replaced with new paper each and every week or two. If you spill the h2o bowl, you have to substitute the total whole lot. Also, newspaper does not let the snake to burrow, so you should offer hiding destinations (at the very least two). This usually means a lot more cleansing. However, if you have the time, newspaper is the most hygienic substrate.

Bark chips. I locate this to be the most aesthetically pleasing, but also the most unhygienic substrate. When moist, bark chips offer favourable disorders for tiny parasites. I recognized an boost in snake mites when I was employing this substrate. Also, the colour of bark chips helps make it complicated to spot feces, which I as a result generally inadvertently left in the boxes for a lengthy time. I hold seeking to go again to this sort of substrate for its appearance, but it just just isn’t worth the headache.

Savannah chips. These beechwood chips are not a wonderful substrate for sand boas. Right after a brief time they develop into compacted, generating a harder substrate layer that is not as straightforward for the snakes to burrow below. If this substrate results in being damp or soiled, fungal progress appears a lot more rapidly than with any other substrate I have made use of. It is also heavier than some other substrates, and quite pricey.

Sand. When men and women assume of sand boas, they immediately suppose that the best substrate material for these snakes would be sand. But in actuality, of all the various species and versions of sand boas, there are in all probability only two that are truly sand dwellers, the Arabian and the Saharan, and even these are quite content on lighter substrates this sort of as aspen. Sand is exceptionally hefty, and a genuine drag to function with. Some kinds are very dusty. If it receives damp, sand can take a stunning amount of money of time to dry, and can hold the level of cage humidity large for numerous days. I have also had lousy activities feeding snakes on this substrate. A sand boa can get a mouthful of indigestible sand together with a prey item, swallow it all jointly, and conclusion up with a intestine impaction. On the other hand, sand is straightforward to spot cleanse with a sieve or scoop. Also, I assume sand is the most attractive to the eye, and I use it in all of my show tanks.

Corncob. This substrate is lightweight and quite visually attractive. However, it need to be avoided at all charges. If ingested, corncob can induce impaction in the intestine and has been recognised to get rid of tiny snakes, and it is truly no far better in any way than other substrates by now outlined.

Drinking water

In basic, sand boas do not drink quite as much as a lot of other snakes, and it is not very important that they normally have h2o readily available. Cleanliness is essential, and h2o supplied should normally be cleanse, but if the bowl dries out for a brief interval, will not be concerned. I have identified that eradicating the h2o bowl stimulates a feeding response in finicky eaters.

When picking out a h2o bowl, keep in mind that sand boas are very sturdy burrowers. The bowl does not have to be hefty, but it need to sit flat, immediately on the base of the enclosure. Sand boas are commonly clumsy, and swiftly knock over tiny bowls that are not of an proper form or are not positioned correctly. Tiny porcelain pet bowls can function effectively. It is essential that the cage not develop into damp, so picking out the suitable h2o bowl is essential.


Juvenile sand boas have to have a normal feeding each and every five-7 days. They have a increased metabolic amount than adults, so burn off their meals much more quickly. Little one sand boas of all species are very tiny. Some — in particular Turkish, Javelin, and Russian sand boas — may possibly be even as well tiny to feed on pinky mice. Attempt supplying pinky mice anyway (you may possibly be shocked at the dimensions of prey they can swallow), but if the snakes truly are unable to choose them, you may possibly have to use pinkies of more compact rodents (this sort of as Russian hamsters), or items of much larger rodents. Areas of the tail of an grownup mouse generally works.

As the youthful snake grows, it can be stepped up to using mouse fuzzies. I have identified it far better for the snake to feed on a single much larger prey item instead than numerous more compact types. I want feeding a single fuzzy as a substitute of two or a few pinkies, and have identified that the snakes grow more quickly with this process.

At the time the snake is ready to choose tiny to medium-sized mice, a single feeding each and every 7-10 days is suitable, and a single feeding each and every 14 days will suffice for adults. Most grownup sand boas can choose grownup mice or weaner rats. The perfect prey dimensions is just marginally larger all-around than the girth of the snake. Males generally pick out not to feed for numerous months at a time, and some people may possibly consume only 6-10 periods a year. Women need to be supplied a lot more, and will easily settle for. Breeders need to be supplied meals weekly.

At times, sand boas prevent accepting meals, or, in the situation of newborns, in no way even get started to feed. Following are a handful of suggestions to help get issue sand boas to choose meals.

o The 1st and foremost cause that juvenile and freshly acquired snakes do not feed is unsuitable habitat — enclosure dimensions, substrate, hiding parts, heating, and so forth. Double-check out to make certain disorders are appropriate.

o The prey item may possibly be the erroneous dimensions. Sand boas even at times refuse meals that is as well tiny. They ordinarily easily settle for prey that is about as major all-around as they are at the thickest stage. Attempt feeding much larger meals things instead than more compact types this has worked for me specially with tough-scaled sand boas.

o Prey species also helps make a change. Some people may possibly want mice to rats, or vice versa. Attempt different meals things, together with mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, chicks or tiny birds, and tiny lizards this sort of as Sceloporus or Anolis.

o If all else fails, my following step would be to “dry the snake out.” Clear away the h2o bowl and convert up the temperature a diploma or two. Right after a week, provide a dripping damp prey item, touching it to the snake’s mouth. Usually the snake will drink from the meals, and then carry on to consume it. This process has worked numerous periods for me with tough-scaled sand boas and Russian sand boas.

Desk one. Overview of sand boa species that are readily available (or getting readily available) in the interest.

Species/ Size (approximate) / Male / Woman / Temperament

Eryx jaculus jaculus

Javelin sand boa twelve-18 in. (30-forty six cm) 20-30 in. (51-76 cm)
Rather aggressive

Eryx jaculus familiaris

Bulgarian sand boa twelve-18 in. (30-forty six cm) 18-24 in. (forty six-sixty one cm)
Extremely docile

Eryx jaculus turcicus

Turkish sand boa twelve-18 in. (30-forty six cm) 18-24 in. (forty six-sixty one cm)
Commonly docile

Eryx jayakari

Arabian sand boa 16 in. (forty cm) 16 in. (forty cm)
Commonly docile

Eryx johnii

Indian sand boa 24-30 in. (sixty one-76 cm) 30-forty eight in. (76-122 cm)
Extremely docile

Eryx miliaris miliaris

Russian sand boa twelve-fifteen in. (30-38 cm) 20-28 in. (51-71 cm)
Commonly docile

Eryx miliaris nogaiorum

Black Russian sand boa twelve-fifteen in. (30-38 cm) 20-28 in. (51-71 cm)
Commonly docile

Eryx tataricus tataricus

Tartar sand boa 24 in. (sixty one cm) 36 in. (91 cm)
Commonly docile

Eryx tataricus speciosus
Noticed sand boa 24 in. (sixty one cm) 36 in. (91 cm)
Commonly docile

Gongylophis colubrinus

East African sand boa fifteen-18 in. (38-forty six cm) 24-36 in. (sixty one-91 cm)
Commonly docile

Gongylophis conicus

Rough-scaled sand boa fifteen in. (38 cm) 30 in. (76 cm)
Commonly docile

Gongylophis muelleri

Saharan sand boa 24 in. (sixty one cm) 30 in. (76 cm)
Extremely docile