Sand Boa Colors
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Home In the Wild
Kenyan Sand boas are also known as East African boas. In the wild they are found in Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Niger, Tanzania, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. They are predominately an ambush predator, lying hidden in sand or dirt until a rodent or lizard passes by. Occasionally they will hunt rodent nests to eat the young. Sand boas are nocturnal, most active at night.
What they look like
Sand boas have compact, almost stubby worm like appearances. The wild or “normal” color is orange with dark chocolate brown splotches. Sometimes they are yellow with brown or black spots. The belly is a creamy white color. Due to selective breeding many new color mutations have arose.
Male sand boas are generally smaller than the females and grow to a length of 15 to 18 inches. Females are considerably larger, attaining lengths of 24 to 36 inches. They give birth to live babies, as the eggs hatch internally.
Differences between males and females
Once adult size is achieved, approximately 2 years, it is easy to tell sex based on the size difference. Sexing is also fairly easy on younger snakes once you know what you are looking for. Males have a longer tail with an even taper. The females have a shorter tail with a quicker taper. Basically, you compare the 2 and look from the vent down the tail. Example Another way to tell the two apart is that the males have bigger, visible spurs on either side of the vent. They are often colored the same as the scales around them so look carefully. The males need these long spurs for grasping the female during mating. The spurs on females are nearly invisible. Finally, young kenyans can be “popped”. This should only be performed by a person with EXPERIENCE. Otherwise, the snake’s reproductive organs could be harmed. It is a rolling pressure applied from the tail towards the vent. If the snake is a male, the hemipenes will pop out like 2 little antenna. The females sometimes have a little bit of pink pop, but nothing resembling the hemepenes in the least.
Housing sand boas is fairly simple. They don’t require as much space as many other snake species. That being said, bigger is better. A male sand boa can be housed in a 10 gallon aquarium and a female in a 20 gallon long. In a large terrarium, sand boas can be kept in groups, but with mixed sexes, this can lead to unexpected babies. Sand boas can climb, so ensure there is a tight fitting lid of screen or mesh.
When choosing a substrate, it’s important to keep the needs of the snake foremost in your mind, above your own aesthetic desires.
Contrary to what their name implies, sand boas should not be kept in sand. The sand can cause fatal impactions when accidentally ingested. I keep mine in terra fiber made of ground coconut husk. This works well for me as it holds its shape fairly well while they make their tunnels. I mist it occasionally to keep it clumping together and to aid in shedding. Other people have successfully used carefresh (a paper mixture sold in pet stores) and paper towels. I prefer the natural look.Do not use shavings of aromatic woods, like pine, cedar, etc. as the oils can be fatal.
Temperature and Heating
As with most snakes, sand boas need to have a temperature gradient. There needs to be a cool end and a hot end, with medium temperatures in between. You should be aiming for a temperature around 75°F in the cool side and 90-95°F on the hot side. The best way to achieve this is with an under tank heater (sold at most pet stores for $20-26) or with heat tape. A word of caution: you should buy a dimmer ($15 at home depot) or a thermostat (herpstat $145) to use with the UTH. Some heat mats get too hot, and with a plug in dimmer or herpstat, you can adjust it to maintain the correct temperature.I suggest that you stay away from heat lamps, as these are nocturnal creatures and prefer to be active at night. If these temperatures are not provided, the boas can get respiratory infections or have digestive problems. Digital thermometers are great for checking the temperature. They have a probe that can be placed in the tank to accurately measure the temperature.
There is some debate about how much water sand boas need. In the wild they are found in dry areas, so some people only give them water a few times a week. There is some concern about excess humidity, so this is what I do. They have a small ceramic shallow dish of water available to them at all times, but I put the dish in the cool side of the tank. This slows down the evaporation rate and doesn’t add much humidity. I prefer to allow the snake the option of water whenever they want, rather than when I want. Small hides are also a great way to make your sand boas feel more secure, especially when roaming the surface.
Sand boas should be fed at night as this is when they are most active. Baby sand boas can be fed pinky mice. Try to purchase a sand boa that is already feeding on frozen thawed rather than live. This will make feedings much simpler. You simply thaw the prey at room temperature or in warm water (I suggest drying it off if you use the warm water so the coconut fiber doesn’t stick to it) and place it in the tank. I put mine in the warm side, so the smell is stronger. They are not left very long before they are either pulled under the substrate or the boa rises up and comes down on it. Larger boas can be fed pinky and fuzzy rats. Rats are better because they have higher calcium content. Babies should be fed every 5-7 days and adults around once a week.
Sand boas shed their outer layer of skin as they grow. While young, they will shed approximately once a month. Full grown snakes shed less and eat less often. A snake that is entering the shed cycle will usually refuse food. My snakes are housed in a group, so food is offered and sometimes snakes in blue (shed) will still eat. After a week you should check on the snake to make sure that the shed was complete. Because of the drier environment, sand boas sometimes have retained eye caps (the skin over the eye did not shed and looks like a cracked window over the eye) The retained eye cap can usually be removed by putting a paper towel soaked in warm water over the snakes head and letting the snake pull itself out of your loose grasp. If the eye cap refuses to come off, you can leave it until the next shed. If it still hasn’t come off on the next shed, try the paper towel trick again, or put the snake in a paper bag stuffed loosely with damp paper towels for an hour. If all else fails, you can take a piece of scotch tape and stick it to the eye and peel back. Usually the retained eye cap will come off. Sometimes only one layer will come off, repeat until the second one comes off, gently. Do not use a really stick tape like duct tape as you could damage the eye. Snake growth rate slows down dramatically after the age of two, when they are pretty much full grown.