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Chinese Watersnake


This Caresheet is based upon 32 yrs Herping experience, the Available Literature, Conversations with Successful Keepers and My Experience with these 2 animals. As I learn and grow, and work with more Enhydris--the information here may change.

I aquired these 2 unsexed juvenile watersnakes on 8-10-2005 from someone that originally purchased 2.2 in January 2005. Apparently, 2 didn't make it, but these 2 seem to have settled in nicely. I am not concerned with their sex at this time, but from looking at their skin sheds--I am guessing they are both male.

Be sure to check the Blogs and click the links within the text below for Pix and added information.



Enhydris species are generally very hardy snakes that are not difficult to keep. However, their needs are somewhat specialized compared to the husbandry of most types of Watersnakes. These Chinses watersnakes are almost 100% Aquatic. Unlike most types of watersnakes-These guys really love the water. They live in conditions that are water and 100% humidity. They don't develop the dreaded "water blisters" that most other watersnakes do.
I recieved these 2 snakes when they were about 10" long. Now they are about 20" long. Their behavior has changed somewhat as they have grown. They stayed in the water 99.99999% of the time when they were smaller, whereas now they are in the water 80-90% of the time. Their feeding was down right voracious when they were smaller, whereas now they are still voracious, but their feeding has slowed somewhat as they have grown. The changes have been minor, and the core of their care really has not changed at all.
Below is a basic explanation of the way they have been housed over the first year in my care.

Current Setup

Plants and Top-Coverage
I have kept Aquariums, Terrariums and Vivariums on and off for over 30yrs. But like many people--I have always avoided the LIVE plant situation. Thinking as many do that they are just more hassle than they are worth.
Not True at all!
With the acquisition of an Arafuran Filesnake I am now deep into the whole Aquatic/Pond plant thing and still cannot believe my loss in understanding over all these years. Plants are in large part the final stage in nature's filtering/water quality cycle. In additional to water quality: Live plants provide natural contact security and top-coverage that many aquatic and semi-aquatic animals need. Live Plants are not necessary to successfully keep Enhydris, but I cannot emphasize the importance of live plants and top-coverage enough--Generally--when keeping Aquatic watersnakes.


Initially, these Chinese Watersnakes are were housed in a 10 gal. Aquarium with standard white aquarium gravel and a 50 watt Rena Cal submersible heater. I made a Wood framed screen top that fits inside the aquarium rim and is cut to allow the cords and airline tubing. Currently, they are housed in a 20g Long aquarium with a 100 watt heater with separate temp probe and external heater adjustment--ViaAqua Titanium Heater.

Initially, the Aquarium was filtered with a Fluval 3 Plus internal filter and an Undergravel Filter with 1 Penguin Powerhead with a Reverse-Flow Kit. The powerhead had a sponge intake filter (Penguin Reverse-Flow Kit), for reduced flow and added mechanical and biological filtration. The reverse-flow helps push the "dirt" up out of the gravel. Not a perfect setup, but very functional.
Currently, the filtration consists of a Rena Filstar xP1 Canister Filter.
Finally, that one item that brings the filtration system together is the LIVE PLANTS!
Can't say enough about those.

Water "Quality"
Water "Quality" covers many different things. I keep the ph at about 7.8-8.0 (right out of the Tap). The water here is very hard--300 and alkalinity is 80-120. With the plants, plant food and fish--nitrites stay at zero and nitrates stay at about 10-20ppm.
I currently use Prime for a water conditioner and Seachem Flourish Line and Greg Watson's Ferts for the Plants, but I have also used Wardly's Chlor-Out, Tetra's Aquasafe water conditioner, Kent's Black Water Expert, and Hagen's Plant Gro-Iron enriched for the plants. Adding these "fertilizers" for the plants doesn't seem to have any negative affects on the snakes.
I do water changes every week at about 50%, but I have done them in the past at about 2-4 wks and 75%. Basically, I run this tank like a "Planted Tank" with snakes in it--not the other way around.

The water temperature stays between 80-87F (26.6-30.5C). At about 86F (30C) the snakes generally start getting out of the water and spending much more time on the cork bark under the "Cool Spot" area. I currently provide a "Hot Spot" with temps that fluxuate between 88-92F (31.1-33.3C), but for months I did not provide a basking spot--once I originally determined that they did not want/need/use it. They seem very happy with temps in the 80-85F (26.6-29.4C) range. I have not seen any skin problems-Blisters, fungus, etc. No sniffles, colds or respiratory problems at all. They seem very content to stay in the water 80-90% of the time, and when they do exit the water--it just seems to be to take a break and get some rest. Usually, when they are on the cork bark--part of their body is still in direct contact with the water. For the Record, I provide them with a "Hot Spot" mainly to make Me feel better. I like to know that its there just in case they ever want/need to use it.

In their natural environment the photoperiod is 12 hrs of daylight and 12 hrs of darkness. I am currently giving these 2 Chinese Watersnakes 12hrs of light,/12 hrs of Darkness.
Unlike Acrochordus snakes, Enhydris don't seem to mind bright light at all, so I am currently using a Coralight Aqualight with a 55 watt 9325K GE Compact Flourescent Bulb.

Water Level
These snakes are almost 100% aquatic. They do come out of the water periodically, so a "land" area must be provided. Since these snakes enjoy the water so much and can tolerate extermely wet conditions--I keep the tank full of water: 100%, as You can see in the pic below. Notice that on the left side of the pic the light ends and the "top" is raised. That is where the cork bark is for them to get out of the water.

Current Setup

I just used standard white aquarium gravel over an undergravel filter for the first 10 months. It worked just fine.I am currently using 100% Flourite. Its Good for the Plants and work Good for the snakes too. I think any of the aquarium grade substrates will work just fine. Sand may be ingested while feeding and eventually cause impactions, so that would be one consideration.

With Live Plants---You will get snails. The snails are not a problem. They are actually very beneficial cleaners. However, in regular aquaria they sometimes get "overpopulated". The size of a snail population is directly dependent upon how much you OVER-feed your fish. They eat the excess food and multiply and grow. Too many snails? Feed less.
Currently, I keep 2-4 dozen minnows in the tank with these snakes. At this point I want them to multiply and grow.
A side note: if you want to purchase snails to add to the tank, remember--some types of snails are voracious plant eaters. Be careful on which species are purchased. With a little bit of patience--the purchase of snails is unnecessary.


As stated above I keep 2-4 dozen minnows in the tank with these snakes. They are currently eating about a dozen/wk each. When the fish stock starts thinning out I just top it off with a couple dozen more minnows.


Chinese Water snakes are a lot like most "Watersnakes". They can tolerate handling. However, they ARE venomous--so be careful. I don't handle these 2, except on rare occassion, because I really do not see the need. Everything that I need to do can be done with them in the tank and a little care.


I do not know at this point what the breeding triggers are, but I am assuming a slight decrease in temperature for 2-3 months, little or no food, followed by a warm up period.


This Caresheet is offered on the Chinese Watersnake - Enhydris chinensis as is. This Caresheet is not offered in reference to any snake other than the Chinese Watersnake - Enhydris chinensis and even so--use at You Own Risk!

This general information should be transferable to one or more other Enhydris species, but I offer no guarantees of any kind.

Additionally, this caresheet is obviously based upon admittedly limited experience! It is not intend to be a receipe of do this, do this, do this---Bam! You have a cake. It's intent is to offer more of a conceptual understanding of these fascinating creatures and their apparent needs both in the wild and in captivity.


Updated 8-7-06