|Common Name:||Sand boa|
|Scientific Name:||Eryx colubrinus|
|Life Span:||10 to 27 years|
|Size:||2 to 3 feet|
|Habitat:||Dry areas with partly sandy soil|
|Country of Origin:||South and Southeast Europe, Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Southwestern, and Central Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Northern Mexico, and Western US|
Sand boas are great reptile pets. They exist in different types which are all beautiful and eye-catchy. They have very thick and keeled scales. Their bodies are short and have smoother scales on the side dorsal rows.
Their bodies are also full of irregular patches with dark colors that are typically continuous. There are also smaller irregular-shaped and discontinuous patches on their sides. Their bottoms are white, yellow, and light brown, which are always lighter than the color patches.
For their ventral, their belly scales are narrower. Its color is usually yellowish-white that can be with or without the dark patches.
Sand boas have smaller heads covered with keeled tiny scales. The underside is also full of tiny scales. These snakes don’t have a mental groove. Also, their eyes are small with vertical pupils. Their tails are blunt, very thick and short. They are covered with keeled scales that look dry and end with a pointed tip.
Sand boas are docile, stout-bodied, and slow-moving. When it comes to length, they are often 2 to 3 feet only, making them the perfect choice for those want to own a boa snake but one that does not grow longer and heavier. Also, these snakes are available in various colors and markings, such as the Paradox, Albino, Nuclear, and Dodoma. By the age of 2, the female sand boas are significantly larger than males.
Sand boas exist in South and Southeast Europe, Arabia, Asia Minor, Africa, Southwestern, and Central Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Northern Mexico, and the Western United States. These short snakes are experts in burrowing. In captivity, they often keep their heads sticking outside the substrate. Sand boas are more common in dry regions with only partly sandy soil.
Sand boas love digging. In providing your pet a closure, you can add some flat rocks that rest firmly on the terrarium’s base, fake succulent plants, and other decors that the snake can explore and enjoy.
Sand boas exist in different subspecies. If you want to own a sand boa, then it’s time to know your choices and choose the right one for you:
Kenyan Sand Boas
These snakes are most typically kept and bred species of sand boas. They are the most widely available of all these subspecies.
Rough-Scaled Sand Boas
These snakes are the 2nd most common sand boas after Kenyans. They are native to Pakistan and India. The captive-bred baby snakes are widely available. Adult Rough-Scaled sand boas are calm like the Kenyan sand boas. However, the babies and wild-caught snakes could be nippy.
Smooth-Scaled Sand Boas
Also called the Indian sand boa, these are the biggest sand boas. Adult females can sometimes grow for up to 4 ft. These snakes change colors as they grow. Babies will have a beautiful orange hue coming with nice black bands. Eventually, their color will change to brown as they grow. This brown shade with traces of juvenile patterns lingering in some specimens.
The availability of captive-born sand boas of this kind stays limited, but breeders are doing their best to increase their population and make these snakes more available. They are attractive, calm, and eager to feed.
Tartar Sand Boas
These sand boas are also large like the smooth-scaled sand boas. The females are longer than males, reaching the length of almost 4 ft. These snakes exist in Central Asia. However, people often find it hard to differentiate them from the rest of the sand boas.
Some hobbyists with the wild-caught Tartars do not always know which subspecies or species they own. Sometimes, people call them the Russian sand boas. Tartars are bred in captivity, but they are still rarely available. Many of them are wild-caught.
Russian Sand Boas
They are also known as the Turkish Sand Boas and Desert Sand Boas. These sand boas are primarily available in the desert areas in Central Asia. They are the smallest of all sand boas. The female Russian sand boas occasionally exceed 2 ft. long. These sand boas are getting more common in the collections. Some of them are captively bred in North America.
Sahara Sand Boas
Also known as the West African sand boas, these snakes are the egg-laying sand boas. People are sometimes calling them Mueller’s sand boas. They look somewhat the same with the more common Kenyan sand boas. Their tails have hooks, which set them apart from the Kenyan sand boas.
Sand boas are usually inoffensive. They appeal to most reptile enthusiasts because they are so easy to handle. However, sand boas might become stressed once taken out of the enclosures. Some might strike as a feeding reaction if you touch them while buried in a substrate.
These cute short snakes often spend their time underneath the surface of the substrate. Thus, you will seldom see them unless you remove them from the enclosures. In spite of their harmless look and slow movements, they can strike fast when hungry or disturbed.
The bites of sand boas are almost painless and can lead to minimal consequences if left untreated. Still, be careful not to surprise your pet when getting it out of the enclosure.
Sand boas are non-venomous snakes. Instead, they’re constrictor snakes that wrap their bodies to their prey to cut the oxygen supply, leading their victims to death. Once lifeless, these snakes will proceed to swallow the food.
Though their bite doesn’t cause harm to humans, still don’t allow your pet to bite you as it can be a painful experience. Also, if you gave it a reason for biting you, that could mean your pet was possibly stressed out, which is a major bad sign. If your pet seems nervous or stressed, just give it space and try to handle it again later.
This is not a natural thing for sand boas. Hence, make sure your pet’s enclosure is warm throughout the winter months so that it will continue to drink and eat and remain active. During winter, sand boas normally eat less because of the fluctuating temperatures inside your home. For as long as you keep the animal having a consistent weight, then you should not worry. Normal feeding will just resume in the early spring.
There are different ways of keeping sand boas just like with the other snakes. Keep them in a 10 to 20-gallon tank will be enough for an adult sand boa. However, the bigger the enclosure, the happier your pet will be.
You can also make a custom enclosure. Sweater boxes can also be used as they seem to work well for sand boas. At the same time, the wall’s opacity provides a more secure feeling. Floor space is very important than the vertical space within this species, struggling to provide the most.
Ventilation is crucial. Plastic enclosures like sweater boxes could have ventilation holes made using the soldering iron or drill. Vision cages are a good choice, but the substrate depth is limited because of the front sliding doors.
Though the sand boas burrow and spend a big deal of time underneath the sand, they will use hides placed on the sand’s top. These habitat additions give you viewing opportunities and the place for the snake to feel safe on top of the sand.
Sand boas choose to burrow in the substrates, particularly throughout the daylight hours. If you use a paper towel, newspaper, or reptile carpet, it is best to shred the newspaper to promote burrowing behavior and prevent undue stress on the snake.
You can also use aspen provided that you clean it daily and change the bedding every week. The aspen should be around 2 to 4 inches deep to provide the correct burrowing behavior. Don’t use cedar or pine shavings because the aromatic oils can be irritating to the snakes.
Though these snakes are known as sand boas, they’re not native to the sand terrains. Sand boas would burrow in the sand, but the danger is greater than the benefits, including impaction from abrasions and ingestion caused by the sand particles. If the naturalistic setup needs to be created, the 60 to 70 percent topsoil to 40 to 30 percent plays sand mixture must be used and checked carefully.
Humidity and Temperature
An enclosure of any kind must have a gradient temperature of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit with the hottest spot not exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a thermometer on the hot end an inch on top of the substrate. Maintain the temperatures by using a thermostat and monitor the warmth with a pair of thermometers every day.
One thermometer should stay on the hot end – an inch on top of the substrate. The other must be on the cool side of the cage – an inch above the substrate. Under the tank heaters, heat tapes and heat cables are best to use in warming the substrate.
Humidity must be maintained under 50 percent to keep your snake boa healthy as it doesn’t feel good in high humidity. No special methods are necessary for keeping the humidity low. What you need is proper ventilation and the best water bowl placement on the cool part of the cage.
Make sure your pet’s enclosure comes with a pair of side boxes – one of them should be on the warm part while the other on the opposite side if burrowing substrate isn’t provided. Hides can be something like a half log or half flowerpot. You can also use a rock structure but be sure it is well anchored. The rocks added in the enclosure provides enhancement and some difference in the enclosure.
Sand boas are nocturnal snakes, so they don’t need intense lighting in spite of their desert habitats. Nonetheless, leave your pet exposed to a 5.0 ReptiSun UVB bulb throughout the light cycle’s daylight part. All snakes include the sand boas that can absorb the calcium content of their food, but this kind of bulb can also provide a few health benefits. Also, a UVB light bulb will help your pet maintain its natural behaviors due to the produced UVA.
Sand boas originate from an equatorial area, so they need a bit of humidity. Maybe, a 40% humidity will suffice.
Also, keep in mind that these snakes need minimal maintenance because they often release small amounts of semi-solid fluid that can be cleaned by using a scooper. Replace the used bedding and clean the entire enclosure including the accessories. Do it at least once every 4 to 6 months using a mild detergent, stain remover, deodorizer, and cleaner. If you’re using paper towels for bedding, replace the paper towels once every week.
A clean, neat, and smell-free enclosure ensures a healthy and safe environment for your pet. Spot clean when needed and replace the sand inside at least once in a month or every after two months. Carefully wash and sterilize the cage at once.
If they live in the forest, sand boas feed basically on lizards, rodents, and tiny birds crossing through their habitat. However, many of them are fed with rats. Sand boas seem to be happier if you feed them with rats.
When feeding your pet, don’t forget to kill the prey for your pet. Giving it alive to your pet can seriously injure or even kill your pet. Properly softened a frozen rodent is also a good option.
Sand boas can digest rodents of different sizes, depending on their girth. Even with the thawed and frozen prey, these snakes will drag the food underneath the sand to “choke” the animal before they eat.
Also, be careful not to feed your pet with anything larger than the thickest portion of its body. The food must leave a noticeable lump in your pet’s tummy. That is the golden rule for all snake species.
Hatching snakes are usually fed every 5 days while adults are usually fed every 10 days. However, some snake enthusiasts out there feed the adult snake boas once in a week.
Novice sand boa owners are wondering if pre-killed rodents are already fine for these animals. The truth is that melted frozen rodents are much better than the pre-killed ones. First, feeding sand boas with frozen food is much easier. Second, it is less expensive as you can buy mice or rats in bulk and store them in the fridge.
Frozen food is safer for snakes. That’s true because thawed rodents or rats will no longer bite or scratch your pet. Feeding it with live rats can be dangerous for your pet.
Feed your sand boa with quality rodents. Also, you must coat the rodent with some calcium and vitamin powders before giving it to your pet. Shop for high-quality calcium and vitamins made for reptiles.
Also, provide your pet with a big and heavy water bowl that can’t be tipped over. The bowl must be huge enough and cannot be tipped over. The size of the water bowl should be a bit bigger than your snake when coiled up. This way, your pet can get into the bowl and soak. At the same time, getting out of the water bowl should be easy for the animal, too. Put the water bowl on the cool part of the enclosure to prevent the water from evaporating quickly.
Sand boas seldom try to bite. At times, they’ll flail about when scared, but they don’t touch the skin of humans in most cases. In case it bites, they try not to bump back. It can cause injuries to your pet. When necessary, get a cotton ball moistened with alcohol and dab it close to the mouth, causing the snake to release the bite.
Most snakes can climb, but sand boas cannot. Therefore, be sure to support the whole body of your pet once you handle it. When putting the snake on the surface, it will rapidly look for something to hide underneath. Keep it in mind, and never let the snake be out of your sight.
Like other reptiles and even amphibians, sand boas will shed their skin for some time. Babies will shed more often compared to adults since the babies outgrow their skin more rapidly than adults.
Take note that when your pet undergoes the process of shedding, you will notice its eyes turning into blue and may even become cloudy. Once it happens, start misting it with water using a spray bottle to ensure correct humidity as well as to facilitate shedding. Outside of the shedding cycle, sand boas must have minimal humidity.
You must monitor your pet after it started shedding its old skin. Be sure the snake was able to shed off the old skin, especially the skin around its eyes. If the unshed skin stays on and you didn’t try to remove it, serious health problems may take place.
If your pet has retained some part of its old skin after the shedding process, put the animal in the plastic bottle creased with warm, moist paper towels with the lid tightly sealing the bottle. You can also soak your pet in warm water.
Allow the snake to stay in a container or basin with warm water for around 30 minutes. The increased humidity inside the container or from the warm water in a basin must loosen the retained skin of your pet, allowing you to remove it with ease by using tweezers. When the skin hasn’t loosened enough, just reheat the used paper towels with warm water and try it once again. Don’t use too hot water as it can burn your pet.
As with other snakes, the shedding process will interrupt the feeding cycle. Most snakes don’t eat right away before and even after they shed their old skin. Also, most snakes are nervous and irritable about the intrusions in their environment before the shedding process. Expect a baby sand boa to shed after 2 to 3 meals.
The problems associated with shedding are preventable. You can avoid them by giving your snake a wet sauna that can help unstiffen its skin. Cut an access hole or two on the base of the side of the plastic container with a lid. After that, line it with a wet paper towel that will provide the necessary humidity. Put the sauna on the warm part of the enclosure where you can leave it for the whole shedding process or introduce it to your pet before the shedding process begins. Another thing you can do in dealing with the retained skin of your pet is to try to remove it with a quick warm water bath.
These include road kills or killing caused by confusion with some dangerous species of snakes like the Viper. Unintentional killings of sand boas are done during agricultural and digging activities since these snakes are burrowers. In some parts of the world, people are taking sand boas for food.
Sand boas give birth to live babies. The female snakes would have a good-sized litter of young snakes depending on the adult snake’s age, size, and reproductive conditioning. Female sand boas are known to produce litters of 12 to 24 snakes in the length of 8 to 10 inches.
Like other boas, the breeding season for sand boas is in late autumn across the winter. The females will give birth to their babies in late spring during summer. The baby sand boas can already eat mice. If they are born in the wild, they can live and search for food in the sand. They can even climb out of a glass tank. How they do that? Well, they use their amazing ability to wedge within the corners of the tank. They can also climb up through the light cord.
Where to Get One?
Sand boas are widely available on the web. They are mostly captive-bred or captive-born. These snakes are all properly identified, labeled, and sexed by the breeders and sellers.
However, finding sand boas for sale through the web is sometimes a challenge, especially if you are searching for a specific morph. As said before, Tartar Scaled and Smooth-Scaled Sand Boas are rare and very hard to find. For sure, the Kenyan and Indian Sand Boas are available in every pet online store.
How to Care for a Sand Boa?
Sand boas are so manageable. Even the newbies in owning a reptile pet will enjoy having a sand boa in the comfort of his or her home. Taking care of a sand boa is all about making an environment that mirrors its experience in the forest. It involves feeding it with its preferred types of food. Also, you must maintain the cage at the right temperature and humidity level for your pet’s comfort and safety.
Are sand boas good pets?
In most cases, sand boas behave well, but one can become slightly jumpy. Even the most active sand boa will try to escape from its enclosure, instead of biting humans.
Can you two or more sand boas in just one enclosure?
You can keep two to three snakes in one enclosure, provided that two of them are females and one is a male to avoid injury and aggression. As much as possible, don’t try mixing a male sand boa with females unless you can take care of their offspring.
Why are sand boas expensive?
Sand boas seem to be two-headed snakes because their tails look like their second head. Also, these snakes are among the protected species which one can’t own without the needed documents, making the sand boas for sale expensive.
Do sand boas have venom or fangs?
Sand boas are non-venomous just like the other boas. They have sharp teeth (no fangs) and a constricting ability used in killing their prey.
Are sand boas beautiful?
Yes, sand boas are beautiful as they come in different colors and patterns. They don’t grow longer and heavier, making them look cute and pleasing to hold.
Are sand boas friendly?
Sand boas are naturally quiet. They also tend to be docile and easy to handle, which is why they are highly recommended reptiles to own for beginners.
How often should I feed a sand boa?
Feed a sand boa with a mouse every 7 to 14 days for females while every 10 to 14 days for males. Females need more food than males, especially when they will be having babies.
Are sand boas fast-growing snakes?
Sand boas reach adulthood at around 15 months to 2 years. Their growth depends on their feeding schedules, though.
Are male sand boas big than females?
Instead, male sand boas are smaller than females. The female sand boas will normally reach around 24 to 36 inches in length (they are 28 inches long) in most cases.