Bush Viper Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name: Bush Viper
Scientific Name: Atheris squamigera
Life Span: 12 to 20 years
Size: 16 to 22 inches for males, 20 to 28 inches for females
Habitat: Rainforests, woodlands
Country of Origin: West and Central Africa

Physical Description

The Bush Viper is an arboreal snake that spends most of its time perched on trees or in other elevated areas. As such, it has a skin color that adjusts depending on where it usually spends its time. It is often called the Variable Bush Viper because of how its color tends to vary. There are times that it is color yellow or green, which are the more common colors. However, there are also times when the Bush Viper is red, blue, or black. It really depends on where the snake is found as its color adjusts to the environment as a means of camouflage.

Speaking of which, the Bush Viper also tends to change colors depending on what stage it is in its life cycle. Again, the color varies depending on its environment. It may start out as yellow or orange after birth and transition to brown later on in life but will soon end up becoming green during adulthood. This color change is what makes the Bush Viper an attractive pet to work with as many reptile owners are fascinated with the color variations of this reptile.

The Bush Viper may have a hairy appearance because of its heavily keeled snake regardless of what its color is. Meanwhile, it has a tail with tips that are generally yellow or cream as they use this to attract potential prey. The tail is also made to be able to grab or hold on to things, especially when they are perched on top of branches. Overall, its hairy appearance and its prehensile tail give it a very appealing dragon-like look that many pet owners love about the Bush Viper.

The head of a Bush Viper is usually broad and flat and is shaped distinctly differently from the rest of its body in the sense that it is larger than the neck. Its head also has keeled scales that make it look like it has hair on top of it. Its snout has a tip that is a bit round and is generally short. Its eyes are also quite large compared to other snakes.

When inspecting the mouth of a Bush Viper, you will notice that it has long fangs that are tube-shaped and hollow as this is how it delivers its venom whenever it bites a potential prey. The venom gland is located somewhere in the upper jaw. Like most other venomous snakes, the Bush Viper’s fangs are retractable.

Sex plays a role in terms of size. Unlike other reptiles, male Bush Vipers tend to be smaller than the females and are more than likely about 16 to 33 inches long. Meanwhile, the female Bush Vipers are bigger and can possibly exceed 2 feet in length.


The Bush Viper is a venomous snake that uses its venom-filled fangs to strike at potential prey to kill them before ingesting them whole. Their fangs contain a hemotoxic venom that is designed to kill and destroy red blood cells and cause all sorts of internal problems such as disrupting blood clotting, tissue damage, and organ failure. It was designed to cause death in smaller animals that the Bush Viper can prey on. While it might not instantly kill a human, the Bush Viper’s venom can cause fevers and hemorrhage. And when it is not treated right away, the venom can be potent enough to eventually cause the death of an adult human.

However, when the bite is not so serious, it might only cause swelling or pain in the affected area. Nevertheless, it is still important to see a medical professional right away to make sure that Bush Viper’s venom does not do irreparable damage. There is no anti-venom that specifically combats the Bush Viper’s venom, but there are certain treatments that can help fight it.

It is also important for you to keep a bite protocol in case something goes wrong. The usual bite protocol includes a list of things you may need to do to buy time for yourself after getting bit. As there is no specific anti-venom for the Bush Viper, you may want to study things or treatments that can help ease the venom until help arrives or until you get yourself to a medical professional. A bite protocol also includes a list of medical professionals that specialize in snake bites.


There really is no certainty as to how long Bush Vipers live. However, most of these snakes get to live somewhere around 10 to 20 years, depending on how well they are taken care of and on different conditions such as diet, living conditions, and sanitation. Bush Vipers also tend to live longer when kept in captivity because they are kept away from possible life-threatening situations in the wild such as diseases, parasites, and predation. On top of that, their diet seems to be better when they are kept in captivity. As such, Bush Vipers are some of the few reptiles that tend to live a lot longer in captivity than in the wild.


At birth, Bush Viper neonates tend to be somewhere between 6 to 8 inches long and will take a few months to reach their juvenile stage. Even at birth, these tiny Bush Vipers are already venomous.


Juvenile Bush Vipers are those that are not yet fully developed or matured snakes but also are not neonates in terms of size and maturity. At this stage, juveniles are already responsible for finding their own food. It will take about 42 months for a Bush Viper to reach sexual maturity.


An adult Bush Viper reaches sexual maturity at about 42 months after birth. At this point in their life, they are about at least a foot in terms of length, especially for females.

Eating Habits

Like any other snake, the Bush Viper is a carnivorous reptile that exclusively only feeds on live prey. These reptiles will eat anything small enough to fit in their mouths. Their regular diet consists of small lizards, frogs, rodents, birds, smaller mammals. There are even accounts of them feeding having cannibalistic tendencies and feeding on their fellow snakes. However, they usually thrive when they feed on rodents, whether in captivity or in the wild.

In the wild, the Bush Viper is an ambush predator that stays on top of elevated places such as tree branches. These arboreal reptiles love to stalk their prey at night while hiding in bushes or anything that their skin can camouflage with. What they usually do is to strike at their prey using their venomous fangs and wait for them to die before they ingest them whole.

It is better to feed the Bush Viper with rodents when kept in captivity not only because mice are easier and more affordable but also because they already provide the snake with the necessary nutrients they need to last an entire week. As with most other animals, neonates need to be fed on a more regular basis than the older Bush Vipers. For beginners, feeding these neonates might pose a challenge, but all you need to do is to tease them with their food by tapping their tails to get them to attack. Most neonates can take on pinkie mice whole. However, smaller ones might not be able to eat entire pinkie mice. In that case, you may need to cut up the mice into smaller pieces and tease the neonate about eating it. After that, the snake will be trained enough to eat its prey without much effort on your part at all.

Adult Bush Vipers are a lot easier to feed. The moment you introduce a mouse or a rat, they will almost instantly strike on it and ingest it whole once it is dead. In some cases, adult Bush Vipers will even eat frozen mice without having to stalk or hunt it on its own. Adult Bush Vipers should only be fed about once a week or once every 10 days depending on how large the meal was. There are those that feed their adult Bush Vipers once every 2 to 3 weeks. These reptiles are prone to overeating and will most likely try to eat the prey item the moment it sees it as long as it has enough room in its belly. Overeating will lead to obesity, which can potentially shorten the snake’s lifespan due to health complications or illnesses.

When feeding the Bush Viper, be extra careful. Always use long tweezers when introducing their prey to them so as to make sure that your hands are far from their venomous fangs. And even when you are using tweezers, you might also need to add a bit of protection to your hands so as to make sure that you are safe from its venomous bite. There are people who wear a protective cone around their hands when feeding the Bush Viper using tweezers.

Since the Bush Viper is a nocturnal hunter, it might be better to feed them at night rather than during the daytime as they will most likely respond better during evening feedings.

Sleeping Habits

Bush Vipers are nighttime hunters or nocturnal reptiles that are actually more active at night than they are during the day. That means that they are most likely awake at night and will respond better to evening or nighttime feedings compared to when they are fed during daytime. In the case of Bush Vipers kept in captivity, they do not need to be given a strict light schedule as they need to be asleep during the day. Keep the lights off at night since they prefer to be in the dark.


Bush Vipers are arboreal animals that, in the wild, tend to get their water from drops that fall from leaves or branches. That means that they are naturally not very receptive to drinking from a constant water source such as a bowl. However, when they are captive-bred, Bush Vipers can normally drink from water bowls. In some cases, however, these snakes would rather get their water from drops, especially when they are still relatively new to captivity or if they are still neonates. In such a case, it might be better to mist their enclosure with water.

But, even if your snake responds better to misting, it is still a good idea to keep a water bowl nearby so that your Bush Viper will eventually get used to drinking water from it. Try to gradually decrease the regularity of your misting so that they will steadily adjust to drinking water from a bowl. Once they are used to drinking from a dish, they will move down to the ground just to take a drink of water from it and then return to their elevated spot.

Always keep an eye on the water in the dish since there will be a good chance that the Bush Viper will defecate in it. In that case, try to sterilize the water dish as much as possible and then replace the water with a fresh new batch.

Development and Reproduction

Bush Vipers tend to stay a few years as juveniles before they reach their mature age and length. The usual female Bush Viper needs about 42 months before it reaches sexual maturity. At that age, it may be safe to have them reproduce, but it might be better to wait an extra year or so just to be sure that they are ready for breeding or reproduction.

Sexing Bush Vipers might be a bit tricky. While females are generally larger compared to the male Bush Vipers, there is a better way to tell them apart aside from just looking at their size. You can compare their tails as the male Bush Viper has a tail that is longer and will taper slowly past the vent compared to the more dramatically tapered tails of a female Bush Viper.

How to Breed

In captivity, Bush Vipers do not experience the wet and dry seasons that they experience in the wild. These snakes’ breeding season depends on the wet season. As such, it might be a bit difficult to induce Bush Vipers to breed whenever they are kept in captivity, wherein they do not experience the usual wet and dry seasons that they do in the wild.

However, the breeding season of Bush Vipers is also dependent on humidity, temperature, and pressure. During the wet season or somewhere during October, these reptiles experience changes in the pressure as well as a drop in the temperature and an increase in the humidity in the environment. By providing the same conditions in their enclosure, you may be able to induce breeding whenever you want them to breed. If you are able to mimic the conditions of a wet season, then copulation will most likely occur.

In preparation for mating, female Bush Vipers will have an increased appetite. That means that you may need to feed them more often than you usually do because they need the extra calories for reproduction. When the female reaches a desired weight and size, you can introduce the male into her cage. You can introduce the male to the female once every 3 to 4 days during a two-month span. During this time, make sure to feed the female when they are separated. It is normal for the male to lose his appetite, especially because he will be focused more on trying to mate. Try to give the snakes their privacy during copulation as they are extra sensitive during that time. A small disturbance can easily disrupt and stop copulation.

The female Bush Viper may still eat more than usual after copulation but will eventually start to lose her appetite, especially when it is already pregnant. Bush Vipers give birth to live snakes that hatch inside the mother instead of outside.

Common Health Problems

The Bush Viper is normally a very hardy snake that will not easily get sick or ill, especially when it lives in an environment with the right conditions. However, there are still illnesses and potential health issues that can plague these snakes when there is a slight alteration in its environment or when you are not taking care of it properly. Here are some common health problems you should know about so that you can prevent them before they manifest:


Bush Vipers are intense eaters that usually do not know when to stop eating. As long as they have enough space in their bellies and as long as they can fit the prey in their mouths, they will eat it. That means that you never try to overfeed these reptiles as they are prone to obesity. Because it is an arboreal reptile, an obese Bush Viper will find it difficult to climb on top of , spots or even stay on them for long periods of time. Moreover, obesity can open the Bush Viper up to other illnesses and health concerns that can potentially shorten its lifespan or even become fatal.

Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections are very common for reptiles. This health problem is usually the result of living conditions that are not suitable for them to live in. in the case of the Bush Viper, they will most likely suffer respiratory infections if they are housed in an environment that is not warm enough for them or is too humid for them. A cold enclosure that is also too humid can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause respiratory infections.

You can tell if your snake is suffering from such an illness if it seems lethargic and inactive. It may refuse to eat even when it has not eaten for more than a week already. You might even see mucus in its nose from time to time.

Parasitic infections

Internal and external parasites are common problems for Bush Vipers. These snakes can suffer internal parasites if they are caught in the wild, and when stressful conditions weaken their immune system to the point that they can no longer prevent such parasites from taking over their internal systems. Meanwhile, external parasites are the result of poor living conditions that can bring about blood-sucking parasites such as mites and ticks.

Preventing Illness

The best way to prevent illnesses in your Bush Viper is to make sure that they are kept in an environment that is suitable for them and that is also clean and hygienic. In that regard, make sure that the temperature and humidity levels are up to standards. Keep an eye on how clean their environment is and always see to it that you change their water dish from time to time to prevent bacteria from building up. Another thing to take note of is that you should try to keep them away from anything that can stress them out. This can include human contact.

When your Bush Viper displays symptoms of common illnesses, try to take them to a vet that specializes in snakes or reptiles. A wild-caught Bush Viper may need to be taken immediately to a vet to get treatment for worms and other parasites.


Bush Vipers are nocturnal snakes that tend to stay active during the night time instead of the daytime. They are natural stalkers that use their senses to try to ambush their prey at night. Bush Vipers are solitary snakes that prefer to be left alone except during mating season. Moreover, they are arboreal reptiles that love to stay on an elevated place like a tree branch or something similar to it. They rarely stay on the ground.

Here are some of the things you might notice your Bush Viper doing:


As arboreal reptiles, Bush Vipers commonly climb up to elevated areas like tree branches. They almost always stay in such places and are rarely seen on the ground except when they are going for a drink in a nearby water dish or when they are feeding on their prey. As such, always make sure to furnish their enclosure with plants or trees they can climb onto.


Bush Vipers, like most snakes, are territorial reptiles that do not respond well to potential threats. As long as they see you as someone that could cause them harm, they will not hesitate to strike at you and bite you with their venom-filed fangs. Its venom is so toxic that it can lead to internal damage or even death.


Bush Vipers are natural ambush predators that prefer to hide somewhere while stalking their prey. In that sense, they love to find spots in their enclosure to use as a good hiding spot regardless of whether there is potential prey or not. As much as possible, encourage this natural behavior by furnishing the snake’s enclosure with things that they can use for hiding. Plants, trees, or other similar structures might be good enough for them.


Snakes hiss for a lot of different reasons, but they usually do it when they are trying to warn a potential threat. So, when you notice that your Bush Viper is hissing, keep away from it because it is warning you that it will strike when you try to venture too close to it.

Hibernation Cycle

Since the Bush Viper is commonly found in areas where there are no winters and where there are only wet and dry seasons, it is not natural for them to hibernate in the wild. However, captive-bred Bush Vipers may actually hibernate when the seasons get too cold for them. If you do not want to induce hibernation, you might want to keep their enclosures warm during the winter season.


Bush Vipers, like any other snake, often shed their old skin to make way for new skin to grow. The main reason why they shed is that they are still growing and that their old skin is no longer suitable for their growing bodies. In the case of the Bush Viper, you will most likely see them shedding more often when they are young because they are in the middle of rapid growth. However, older ones will not shed as often.

While they are arboreal snakes, Bush Vipers will stay on the ground when they are shedding and will not climb back up to their elevated places until the shed cycle is complete. In that case, try to keep a hide box on the ground so that they can have a place to hide in when they are shedding. It also makes it easy for you to find the old skin they had just shed since the snake will most likely leave it lying around in or near the hide box.


The same with any other pet, it is important to keep your Bush Viper in housing or an enclosure that is suitable enough for its kind. However, since this snake is a highly venomous reptile, the most important aspect when it comes to choosing its habitat is safety. In other words, put safety above any other factor when you are housing it.

Going for a cage or an enclosure with solid walls and a lockable door is a good idea when housing your Bush Viper to make sure that there is no room for it to escape from its habitat. Make sure that the doors are lockable from the front so as to prevent it from possibly learning how to unlock its cage. However, it is also important to note that you should allow air and heat to pass through the cage by placing small vent holes that are too small for the Bush Viper to pass through.

Bush Vipers do not particularly love to roam around their environment and would very much prefer to stay on an elevated position. In that case, go for a cage that is high enough for you to place elevated furnishings such as plants or small trees. You do not have to choose a cage that takes up a lot of lateral space as the Bush Viper rarely stays on the ground. You might want to go for a cage that is at least 3 feet high to allow the snake a lot of vertical space for climbing on top of the plants and trees.

For the plants or trees, you can use fake branches that you can easily purchase from pet stores. But if you can place real plants or small trees, then why not? Also, make sure that the branches are sturdy enough to handle the entire weight of the snake. You may also go for vines, but they can be a bit more difficult to find that fake foliage and plants that are quite common in a lot of different stores.

It is important to make sure that you house your Bush Vipers individually because these snakes prefer to be left alone as solitary creatures. They do not do well together with their fellow Bush Vipers except during mating season. In some cases, predation happens between a bigger adult Bush Viper and a smaller juvenile snake.

Lighting and Humidity

Bush Vipers are not very demanding when it comes to light because they are nocturnal reptiles. Using a light source in their enclosure is primarily to provide them with the warmth they need to live comfortably. It might be a good idea to use a heat lamp such as an incandescent bulb and then leave it on during the day for 12 hours. In some cases, it is also a good choice to use an ultraviolet B lamp to provide your Bush Viper with the calcium and vitamin D3 required by its body. Turn the lights off at night as Bush Vipers since they prefer to do their nocturnal activities in the dark.

In the wild, Bush Vipers are used to environments that are quite humid. To provide them with the humidity they need in their enclosure, add a large water dish that acts as their water source and as a way to keep the humidity levels up. Misting the entire enclosure with water from time to time also makes sure that your Bush Viper lives in a moist environment. As much as possible, keep the humidity levels somewhere between 70% and 80%.


Bush Vipers rely on the heat of their environment to keep their bodies warm because they are cold-blooded animals. As such, it is important to make sure that their environment is warm enough for them. The best way to keep the temperatures up is by using heat lamp that doubles as a heat source and as a light source for your Bush Viper. This reptile prefers to be in an environment that is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the cooler side or in your snake’s hiding spot, it might be ideal for keeping temperatures somewhere close to 70 degrees. It is fine to see temperatures dropping by 5 degrees at night but always make sure that the enclosure does not get too cold or else your reptile ends up suffering illnesses.

When metabolizing their meal, reptiles love to bask out in the open sun. You may add a basking area that is a bit over 90 degrees Fahrenheit but make sure that it does not become too hot for your Bush Viper to handle.


Cleaning the Bush Viper’s enclosure from time to time is important in making sure that it lives in an environment that is sanitary and hygienic. When cleaning the enclosure, always make sure to remove the snake safely and place it in a temporary container. After that, look for any waste material left behind inside the cage. Take the water dish out and sanitize it using a solution to minimize the risk of water-borne diseases. Bush Vipers may leave defecate in their water source, so it is essential to keep their water clean as much as possible.

Natural Environment – Substrate

Though Bush Vipers rarely venture on the ground, it is still important to provide them with a good substrate that would make them feel like they are in their natural habitat. You can use soil or cypress mulch that is always readily available in many stores. If not, you can use newspapers or old paper towels. As much as possible, keep the substrate moist to increase the humidity levels in the enclosure. In that case, it might be better to use a natural substrate because it holds moisture better than paper.


Bush Vipers keep their bodies hydrated by catching water falling off of leaves. If you have a wild-caught reptile, misting the enclosure should be the best way to keep it hydrated. But slowly and steadily transition it to using a water dish. Captive-bred Bush Vipers are more receptive to drinking from water dishes than wild-caught ones. However, even if you own a captive-bred snake, that does not mean that you should forget about misting the enclosure from time to time.

Availability – Where to Get One?

Bush Vipers are actually common snakes that can be found in many exotic pet stores because of how much people love to observe them and their dazzling and tantalizing colors. That said, a simple search online will do the trick if you do not know if there is a nearby pet store or breeder in your area. As much as possible, go for captive-bred Bush Vipers because they tend to be easier to take care of as they no longer need to adjust to the new environment and are usually free from parasites.

How to Care for a Bush Viper?

Here are some tips on how to care for a Bush Viper:

  • Avoid handling a Bush Viper because these snakes have a very potent venom that can potentially kill a full-grown human.
  • Keep the Bush Viper away from any other Bush Viper or other snakes or reptiles because of their territorial nature. At times, predation is observed from these snakes, especially if the other snake or reptile is smaller than it is.
  • Do not overfeed your Bush Viper because these snakes are prone to obesity. It will be difficult for them to climb up if they are overweight. Moreover, there are plenty of health issues associated with obesity.
  • Keep a bite protocol handy in case your Bush Viper bites you. A good bite protocol contains a list of the things you can do while waiting for professional treatment as well as a list of the doctors and specialist you can go to immediately.

FAQ Section

What do I feed my Bush Viper?

Bush Vipers regularly feed on frogs, small reptiles and snakes, rodents, birds, and small mammals. In your case, feed captive-bred Bush Viper with mice because they are affordable and they provide the snake with the nutrients it needs.

Are Bush Vipers venomous?

Bush Vipers contain a hemotoxic venom that can cause all kinds of internal complications and swell and may be potent enough to kill a human if not treated right away.

How often should you feed your Bush Viper?

Bush Vipers do not always need to be fed. Younger ones may need to feed about twice a week, but older Bush Vipers should be fed once every 7 to 10 or so days.

Are Bush Vipers good for beginners?

In terms of difficulty in taking care of them, Bush Vipers may be easy to take care of, but they are not good for beginners because of the dangers associated with these venomous snakes.

How big can a Bush Viper get?

Male Bush Vipers are barely 2 feet long at the maximum while female ones are usually a little longer than 2 feet.

Do Bush Vipers need light at night?

Bush Vipers are nocturnal hunters that prefer to be left alone in the dark at night. In that case, it is perfectly fine to keep their enclosures dark at night.

Do Bush Vipers bite humans?

Bush Vipers are very territorial and will feel threatened by anything that ventures into their space. As such, these snakes will not hesitate to bite a human if they feel threatened by his or her presence.

Do Bush Vipers stay on the ground?

Generally arboreal snakes, Bush Vipers may spend some time on the ground especially when they want to get a drink of water from their water dish.

Burmese Star Tortoise Care Sheet

Caiman Lizard Care Sheet