|Common Name:||Dragon snake|
|Scientific Name:||Xenodermus javanicus|
|Life Span:||Unknown in the wild, up to 7 years in captivity|
|Size:||Up to 24 inches in length|
|Habitat:||Semi-fossorial snake, underground, marshes, swamps, rice fields, and streams|
|Country of Origin:||Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar|
The dragon snake is a fine specimen of the family Xenodermus. Some people fear this snake because if its unique appearance. The dragon snake is also known as the Javan tubercle snake, the Javan mud snake, and the rough backed litter snake.
It is a rare snake and not usually chosen by hobbyist because it won’t do well in captivity. The dragon snake has features of a dragon and is a nocturnal snake. The diet is exclusive of frogs which is why it mostly stays on the forest floor.
This snake is native to the forests of Thailand, Indonesia, and Burma. Compared to other snakes, this is not an active breeder and will lay only around four eggs in one year. The dragon snake has a stiff appearance and behavior wherein it will remain stiff like a wooden board. This happens when the snake is picked up or merely touched.
Another impressive thing about the dragon snake is that its skin is not smooth but has three layers of large scales that are found down its back. This is similar to the ridges seen in a species of dog known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The first mention of the dragon snake was in 1836 by zoologist Johannes T. Reinhardt. There is very little information known about the dragon snake other than it can be hard to keep in a tank or cage. This snake grows up to 2 ½ feet and can hunt and consume frogs.
If you spot a dragon snake, its best to be left alone in the wild because of the lack of tips and techniques from breeders or pet owners.
The dragon snake is under the monotypic genus Xenodermus which means it is the only species under the genus. There are no other subspecies known to experts.
The Xenodermus javanicus was first identified in 1836 by a Danish zoologist and till today, there is very little information about this species.
It is unknown as to how long the dragon snake lives in the wild however, those who manage to raise this snake in captivity managed to take care of it until 7 years of age.
Thanks to conservationists and constant education, the dragon snake remains in the “Least Concern” classification in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This snake is not under any kind of threat and their population is not severely threatened. And because of their tolerance to human habitats such as lands used for agriculture, it is thought that this species may still be thriving or increasing.
The dragon snake is susceptible to ingesting chemicals such as fertilizer and pesticides. The dragon snake has three distinct life stages:
Dragon snake hatchlings are very precious in such a way that the female will only lay around 2 to 4 eggs a year. Hatchlings remain in the nest and then after a while, leaves and hunts for food.
Juvenile dragon snakes will start to resemble their parents and will have their unique colors and features after a year or so. Juveniles have a very strong appetite and will remain on the forest floor to search for prey.
Adult dragon snakes hunt and eat during the nighttime. It remains in the forest floor to hunt their favorite food: frogs and comes mating season, will start to reproduce. The eggs of the dragon snake are laid during the raining season starting October to February.
Dragon snakes are the easiest to feed because they only want one kind of food and that is frogs. In the wild, these snakes will hunt and eat frogs especially during nighttime. This is a nocturnal animal, therefore, this will hunt and kill their prey at night.
There are reports that it will also eat small fish. Compared to larger snakes that coil around their prey to kill it, the dragon snake will ambush their prey, kill it with their fangs and then swallow them whole. It can take a few hours for a snake-like the dragon snake to eat its prey. It will remain in the ground, even motionless, as it tries to swallow the prey whole.
It can take days for a dragon snake to digest its prey and it will also take days before it eats again.
The dragon snake is a nocturnal animal that does everything at night. It can even burrow in the evening right after it feeds. It is not recommended to place this snake in captivity but if you do happen to acquire this snake, place its tank or terrarium in a quiet area in your home so it can rest in the morning.
Dragon snakes will drink water from a dish and will also lick it from foliage. It’s a must to add a water dish inside its enclosure to improve humidity inside the tank. The ideal humidity levels improve the snake’s health and chances of surviving in captivity. Improved humidity will help it shed its skin properly and will prevent many illnesses and common health problems of captive snakes.
Development and Reproduction
The dragon snake is a rare species of snake and will not survive for a very long time in captivity. If you see one in the wild then it would be best not to pick it up. If you learn about people taking care of a dragon snake in captivity then these must be professional snake handlers and experts.
Also, very little information is known about the development and reproduction of dragon snakes as well. But even the tiniest bit of information will help you get to know about the rare dragon snake.
This snake species breeds rarely breed. This will lay only 2 to 4 eggs in a year. The female will lay her eggs during the rainy season which is from October to February.
How to Breed
Dragon snakes are every difficult to breed therefore we don’t recommend breeding these in captivity. If you chance upon getting a dragon snake hatchling, you may not find any professional tips that you can use. It’s best to consult a vet first before you start nurturing a dragon snake.
A vet can help give you some pointers about caring for a rare snake like the dragon snake. He will also help determine if you have a male or a female. But for starters, get a large tank with ample space for your snake to hide, bask and feed. A large tank should be deep and high and must be safe as well. As with all snakes, you need a strong reptile lamp to help your snake maintain her temperature.
Breeding dragon snakes is impossible without a male or a female so you have to search for a companion for your snake. Breeding season is a large window from October to February so you’ll have enough time to ready your snakes, to improve their health.
Place the male and female inside the tank. Naturally, male snakes will be eager to mate when it’s the mating season and there won’t be a problem once your pets are healthy and ready.
Once you spot your female dragon snake with a bulge on her belly, don’t remove the males just yet. Allow the male to remain for a few more days. After a week that the female still looks pregnant then you may remove the male.
Females will usually stay very still when pregnant and may eat less. This is a very common thing for most snakes. The female may also hog the light, will stay near the light or she may want to stay in her water dish for a long dip.
It will take around a month or two before most female snakes lay their eggs and after this, they will usually hang around the nest to keep this warm. The mother will still prefer to wait until the eggs hatch before she eats anything.
The eggs will soon hatch and outcome hatchlings which will usually remain near their mother for several days before they move out of the nest. These hatchlings will soon learn how to catch prey by themselves, initially eating only small, easy to catch prey. But as they grow up, they won’t need the help of their mother to learn how to catch frogs.
Common Health Problems
As of the moment, there is very little information as to the common medical issues of the dragon snake as well as treatment for their conditions. From people who have had the rare opportunity to take care of dragon snakes take note of the following common health problems.
Ensuring that pet snakes are healthy is all about using good old common sense. Also, you must learn to identify signs that your snake is healthy as well as the signs that your pet is sick.
Pet snakes are healthy as long as consumes the right food and their cages are maintained regularly. Take note that healthy snakes have lovely clear eyes, nose, and mouth. These are alert and active. A healthy pet also eats regularly, with healthy skin and a nice round body.
Snakes with health issues also have unique characteristics: wrinkled skin, lethargic, discharge from the nose or mouth, abnormal feces or urine, reduced appetite, and vomiting. Take note that for any of these signs and symptoms, you need to take your pet to the vet fast.
The following are the most common health issues that plague dragon snakes:
If your snake has not moved its bowels for days or weeks then suspect there’s something wrong.
The size of the snake and its metabolic rate affects its digestion. Use a technique that snake handlers have used: the warm water technique. Let your snake remain in warm water for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day. This will stimulate digestion and excretion of feces. But if constipation goes together with swelling of the belly, consult a vet at once.
Parasites are common especially when your snake in from the wild. A wild dragon snake can bring in parasites from other reptiles or coming from infected prey. Signs of internal parasites are poor appetite, lack of energy, overall tired appearance, and regurgitation.
The only way to check if your snake has parasites is a fecal exam. This is done in a vet clinic and tested in a lab. If your pet dragon snake is showing some of these signs, consult a vet right away.
Regurgitation is common in snakes and this could be due to stress, holding or handling the snake after it has just eaten or due to an undiagnosed and untreated medical condition. This may be avoided by leaving your snake be after eating. Avoid holding your snake after feeding, Just do so at a later time. Has your pet checked by the vet for any untreated treated illness?
Ready a heated area inside the tank so your pet can have a comfortable and safe place to stay after eating. Be sure to cut up large pieces of food to prevent regurgitation. If your snake has regurgitated the same food during after several episodes, your pet may end-up avoid eating this type of food altogether and develop a psychological response to regurgitation.
Your pet spotted dragon snake may become affected by several skin conditions including the most common abscesses. Abscesses are due to a previous injury that has become infected by bacteria. You can tell that there is something wrong when there is a small lump on the skin. Abscesses can protrude to the internal tissues and tissues causing a lot of damage. Abscesses can also be accompanied by constipation and eggs which can remain in the body.
Another form of skin condition is blisters. These are fluid-filled skin structures that form at the underside of the snake. This is mostly due to lack of cleanliness in the tank or moldy, dirty and overused substrate or bedding. Blisters should be removed by a vet because these could pile up and grow near the mouth and nose and affect breathing.
A spotted python may also suffer from cuts and blisters. This is a preventable condition by ensuring that the accessories inside the enclosure are safe and will never harm your python. You can treat simple cuts using first aid but deeper and larger should be cared for by a vet.
Finally, mites and ticks may also affect your pet dragon snake. Mites are tiny moving dots that can be red, white or black. On the other hand, ticks are larger and fewer but these can bury in-between scales and it will be difficult to let go. To remove the tick, soak the snake in a warm bath to remove these pests. In case of an infestation, consult your vet right away.
Respiratory distress symptoms like lethargy, coughing, open-mouth breathing wheezing, runny nose or unusual breathing noises should be completely assessed. If you notice these, increase the temperature in the tank to stimulate the snake’s immune response.
You can move the enclosure to another part of the room or house. The area should be quiet so your snake can slowly recuperate. Most viral conditions will go away without treatment. But if your snake’s condition turns for the worse, consult a vet right away.
To prevent illness, you must take good care of your pet snake’s health. It starts by correct snake tank management. First, make sure that the terrarium has the ideal temperature and hydration. Use good tank lighting and humidifier. A digital thermometer and hygrometer can help you monitor tank health. Make sure to get battery-operated lamps in case of power outages.
Hydrate your snake by misting the tank with water using a water bottle. Place a bowl of water inside the tank to help enhance humidity.
Change the water inside the tank at least every day. Also, change substrate or bedding often to prevent contamination of the tank. Never reuse bedding; choose a substrate that can be reused. Spot clean the tank for any poop or food remnants to avoid rotting and contamination of the enclosure.
If you have a new snake, don’t immediately place it inside the tank. Quarantine it first before you place it inside the room with your other snakes. Some infections are due to snakes and other reptiles from in the wild so you need to be careful. Also, take the new member of your family to a vet to make sure that it’s healthy and ready to socialize with your other pets in the room.
When feeding your pet dragon snake, avoid wild-caught animals because these may have ingested pesticides. Since the dragon snake’s diet are frogs you must get these from a trusted source. You may also grow your supply of snake food.
When it comes to shedding, this happens only a few times a year so leave your snake alone. But if complications arise like incomplete shedding and it’s causing other problems with your snake, take it to the vet for expert help. Never attempt to remove the shedding skin because this may stress your snake out. Leave this to the vet.
Get to know the different dragon snake behaviors so you can better understand its needs. These are the most common behaviors of dragon snakes:
Can Keep Still Like Wood
A very weird thing about a dragon snake is that it can become as stiff as a board when you pick it up. It will remain still from head to the tip of its tail if it is nervous or afraid and this stiffening is the snake’s defense mechanisms against predators. The dragon snake’s predators will confuse it from a wooden stick and hence won’t try to eat it. But eventually, it can overcome its fear of being handled if its owner regularly handles it.
The dragon snake is one of the shyest snakes and will simply stiffen up when it meets anyone for the first time. It won’t be provoked and just applies its unique stiffening behavior when picked up. But despite this shyness, a good pet owner can help this snake adjust by careful and constant handling. It must be done as early as possible.
Unknown Traits and Needs
As of this moment, all that is known about the dragon snake is from a few people who have handled it and from considering the traits of other wild snakes that may be similar to the dragon snake.
It’s not yet known how long does this snake survive in the wild and captivity because most captive breeding of the dragon snake fails. Therefore, we recommend against breeding and the care of this snake indoors.
Have Invaded Farms
Apparently, warnings regarding the breeding of dragon snakes are working and people are leaving it alone in the wild. But because of this, dragon snakes are now spotted in farms, homes and other rural places thriving and growing their numbers at a faster rate.
Nighttime Frog Eater
Dragon snakes are voracious eaters but a staple in its diet are frogs. This snake can capture and eat as many frogs as it can at night which is probably why it loves to roam barns, farms, and gardens. Some experts predict that if snakes like the dragon snake are removed from the ecosystem, there will be a dramatic rise in the population of frogs in an area.
The dragon snake waits patiently for its prey until it finds the right time to strike. Because of years of harnessing their abilities, a single dragon snake can eat as many frogs as it can in a night!
Also, experts say that if there is a shortage of frogs in the area, the dragon snake will surely resort to eating small lizards and other small prey.
Growing at a Faster Rate
Despite the beauty of the dragon snake, it is still considered very hard to care for and most of the snakes caught and domesticated in tanks and terrariums often did not survive. And because of this, people simply left the dragon snake alone and this has led to an increase in its population.
Although not a behavior in snakes, the unique snakeskin of the dragon snake is something that it uses to deter predators. Many believed that the dragon snake’s body had this appearance because it had to look tough and dangerous. When this snake feels threatened, it will first display its tough outer appearance to make predators think twice about picking them up. But if this does not work, it will just remain very still, stiff as a wooden board, to trick predators.
Shedding happens regularly and during the shedding process, the skin grows to accommodate the increasing size of your snake, hence this is very important. Shedding may happen more often in young or juvenile snakes compared to adult snakes. If your dragon snake is not shedding then this could indicate malnutrition or other health issues.
Just some of the reasons why dragon snakes and other snake species fail to shed on time are stress, too much handling, trauma or other skin conditions. Remember, when your snake is about to shed, its eyes will become glazed. Snakes usually shed all the way and this is called complete shedding. Shedding does not happen in flakes and if you find your snake shedding this way, consult a vet.
In the wild, the dragon snake prefers to stay in underground, marshes, swamps, rice fields and streams. Experts said that these areas have expertly helped the snake hide completely so it can hunt for prey successfully. Its natural habitat should be closely followed when making an enclosure for the snake at home.
But in captivity, dragon snakes should be kept in enclosures deep and wide. A larger enclosure may also be used if you have more space at home. If you can’t find a large tank to house a large dragon snake, you may just be better off using a made-to-order tank.
A glass terrarium is better for snakes so that it can keep humidity better plus, you can readily check on your snake’s health. Install an insulator to prevent the escape of heat and humid air. Place accessories inside like plants and pots where your snake can hide to sleep and hibernate.
If you plan to take care of several snakes, use a spare room that you can keep under lock and key. You can convert a basement, attic or garage to accommodate your tanks. This way, your snakes and other reptiles will be kept safe and will remain undisturbed as they sleep in the morning.
Lighting and Humidity
Use a lamp that’s made for reptile enclosures. Always maintain a constant temperature which is between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and lower by five degrees during the night. Monitor the temperature and humidity regularly with a digital hygrometer and thermometer. When you find changes in humidity, use a pan of water inside the tank or use a spray bottle or mister to spray water in the tank.
We recommend LED lighting for a snake tank. LED lamps will shine brightly than other types of lamps and will not make the tank too hot. LED lamps can be very expensive but these will last for a long time and will never consume too much electrical power. There are so many types of LED lamps in the market but choose an adjustable one. Always have backup lighting with battery-powered lamps because you’ll never know when there is a power outage.
Tank Bedding and Accessories
The natural habitat of dragon snakes must be considered when choosing the right bedding. Use natural use of rocks and pebbles. Place only smooth rocks and pebbles which are the same color as the snake’s skin. The bedding must be spot-checked several times a day to maintain overall tank cleanliness.
Use natural or artificial plants. Some snake owners prefer plastic plants because these are easier to maintain and will never rot, wilt or die. If you want to use natural plants, select a type of task lighting that will support plant health.
Clean the snake tank by using natural cleaning agents. Natural cleaning agents include lemon, baking soda or vinegar; items that may be readily available in your kitchen. The best thing about using natural cleaners is that these are very affordable plus will remove dirt and smell without leaving any dangerous components.
If you want to use chemical products, for your tank, follow directions on the product label. Rinse the tank well and dry with paper towels before you place the accessories, bedding and your snake in. Clean the accessories and just like the tank, dry these first before placing these back inside the tank.
There are different cleaning products to choose from. You can use disinfectants, sterilizers, and sanitizers. You may also use boiling water to sterilize the tank. Allow the water to stay in the tank for a few minutes before draining. When working with chemical cleaners, open a window, door, and fans. When using bleach and other cleaning solutions and make sure to rinse well and dry the tank completely before returning your snake inside.
Leave a dish of clean water inside the tank. The dragon snake will come out of its lair and will take a dip inside the dish to drink. The dish must be made of ceramic or clay to avoid reeking chemicals. Spray the tank with water in a mister so the snake can lick the tank surface or the plants to drink.
Always check humidity and if you find that it has gone lower, Find out if you need to correct it. Use the mister to apply moisture inside the tank to correct humidity more efficiently.
Availability – Where to Get One?
You can get a dragon snake from expert breeders online or offline. Despite the warning to leave this species alone, there are still people who continue to take care of this snake. Some local breeders sell this kind of snake and are available in hatchlings, juveniles and as adults.
Buy your pet from a reputable dealer or pet store to ensure good health. Before you buy one, ask for a certificate from the vet. This certificate must be presented by the pet owner to ensure the good health of your snake. This must never be overlooked especially when you’re buying exotic animals like the dragon snake.
Juvenile dragon snakes cost around $300 to $350 online and this does not include shipping and handling costs. Adult snakes are more expensive, and usually, the size, gender and the cost of shipment increase the costs even further. You can save by purchasing a snake from a local breeder or dealer instead of buying online so you won’t need to pay for shipment costs.
How to Care for a Dragon Snake?
- Keep the snake tank clean and in order. Spot-clean daily and change or wash bedding weekly or often to reduce disease.
- Monitor the temperature and humidity inside the snake tank by using a reliable digital thermometer and hygrometer.
- Place a dish of water in the tank to improve the humidity levels and to let your snake drink or splash in the water. Change this water daily and never let poop remain in the water or else it can cause disease.
- Feed your dragon snake some frogs and use food to sneak in some supplements or multivitamins in your snake’s food. There are available snake supplements or multivitamins and your vet can help you find the right one for your dragon snake.
- Handle your pet early so it can completely adjust to your care by the time it’s mature. Start during the juvenile stage and continue until you notice that your pet can tolerate longer handling. Usually, a dragon snake becomes stiff when it feels nervous and threatened but if you find that your pet is not doing this anymore then it may have overcome its shyness and nervousness.
- Shedding is a very stressful and delicate time for any snake. It may even refuse to eat anything when it is shedding. It’s best to leave it alone and just be close by in case it needs your help. Hydrate its tank by misting to help it shed completely. Provide good healthy food after the shedding is complete
- Take your pet to the vet for any medical problem. Apply first aid for cuts and bruises before you take your pet to the vet. If you notice something unusual, don’t hesitate to talk to the vet because as mentioned earlier, there is very little information about how to care for this snake and it’s best to get expert medical help.
- Always buy healthy pets when you purchase an exotic pet like the dragon snake. Demand a certificate from the vet or from the seller to ensure that the snake you want to purchase is in good health.
Are dragon snakes venomous?
No, dragon snakes are non-venomous. This snake may look threatening and may also look strange for some but it is actually shy and may simply stiffen up when meeting strangers.
What are other things that dragon snakes eat, aside from frogs?
Aside from their usual staple diet of frogs, dragon snakes will also feed on tadpoles and fish. So if you plan to take care of one, you must have a steady supply of feeder fish, tadpoles and frogs because this snake has an insatiable appetite.
Can you take home a dragon snake found in the wild?
It is not advisable to pick up a snake from the wild because this might have dangerous parasites. When it comes to taking home a dragon snake, it’s best to leave it in the wild alone because mostly, these won’t survive in captivity.
Where do dragon snakes live in the wild?
Dragon snakes are native to southeast Asia in countries like Myanmar, Java, and Borneo and are found in areas that are near water or streams. You can hike forested areas and marshes in these countries and you’ll surely find these snakes happily living in the wild.
Where do dragon snakes live?
In the wild, dragon snakes prefer to burrow underground where it spends many hours sleeping and recuperating its energy. This snake is inactive in the morning and prefers to hunt and eat their prey at night.
Can you get hurt touching the skin of a dragon snake?
The skin of a dragon snake is its most beautiful feature. It has three rows of large keeled scales and this runs down its back and is rough to touch but won’t hurt at all.
Is a dragon snake a snake or a crocodile?
The dragon snake is a snake and its skin just looks like the rough skin of a croc. The unique keeled scales make the snake look fierce but actually, it is very shy.
Why does a dragon snake stiffen up?
This is a unique behavior in dragon snakes and it does this when it feels threatened or frightened. In the wild, it can stiffen up just by mere touch; you can reduce this behavior by handling your pet dragon snake more often.
Why are dragon snakes rare?
Although dragon snakes are not in the list of threatened snake species, it is still a rare species of a snake because it will not do well in captivity. People have tried to cultivate dragon snakes only to suffer failure in the end.
Why the dragon snake is called a dragon snake?
The name dragon snake was probably due to its unique appearance. Its strange looking skin has earned it its unique name.