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Viper Boa Care (Candoia aspera aspera)
Viper Boas are a wonderful species of snake. They are very robust, with hard “holey” scales and an arrowhead. It is usually a fairly dull brown, although it can be a lovely bright red or orange. However, they change color with the seasons, temperature and perhaps mood swings. I have had lovely orange specimens that turn dark brown over time. Almost all Viper Boas are wild caught, in fact, I have not heard of any successful breeders who have bred and raised them. Pregnant females are often imported and have their young in captivity. However, most of them die within 6 months for little or no apparent reason. In time, we hope to learn more about this species and successfully breed it in captivity. Viper Boas are fairly calm snakes, but when handled incorrectly they can slither from side to side at lightning speed. Although they are not poisonous, they have a pretty nasty bite. Adult females can reach 80 cm. males are less than half the size.
When keeping any snake as a pet, you generally want to be able to see the snake from outside its enclosure, in the most natural environment you can provide. This will be more aesthetically pleasing and will also help the snake’s general condition. If the snake likes its environment, it will have a better feeding response and generally grow faster. A larger vivarium also provides more interest in the snake’s life, and adding branches and other natural products will improve the snake’s quality of life and prevent it from becoming lethargic and overweight. Also, being stronger he should have more resistance to any viral infections or other problems he may face later in life.
For an adult Viper Boa, a vivarium 60 cm long x 45 cm wide x 45 cm high is plenty. This is a cowardly species. many specimens when purchased in captivity can remain for many months without food. It is important that this transition period is as stress-free as possible. It may require a small, confined enclosure without additional lighting, away from human “traffic”. Once the boas are fed on a regular basis, a larger vivarium with lighting can be offered.
Snake enclosures can be made from a variety of materials. More commonly used is a melamine-coated wood that covers all sides except the front, which has sliding glass doors. Aquariums can also be used for Viper Boas, although a special lid will need to be purchased or made instead of the original aquarium lid. It is important when considering the type of enclosure to use that you consider these 6 “SSSHHH” factors:
1) Safety – Can the snake or the owner be injured by the enclosure or the devices inside?
2) Safe – Can the snake escape through any small hole or cavity?
3) Size – Will the housing be the right size?
4) Heating – Is the enclosure able to regulate temperature properly?
5) Humidity – Will the housing hold up well in humid conditions? Is there enough ventilation to allow moisture to escape?
6) Hygiene – Will the casing create a lot of bacteria in small cavities? Is it easy to clean?
By following the steps above, you can have a suitable enclosure made of various materials.
Decorating your tank serves two purposes. Firstly it is extra cover for your snake and secondly, allowing for a more natural and pleasing appearance. When choosing decorations, consider the safety of the snake. Make sure that whatever you decide to use is securely attached and that no rocks, wood or anything heavy can fall and potentially injure or even kill the snake. You also need to make sure that whatever is used is free of parasites. If something has been collected from the outside or originally came from the outside, such as cork bark, you should either boil it or place it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Freezing works for some pests, however others are known to survive months in freezing conditions. Some pests found in English conditions last winters in minus temperatures, so it is not completely effective.
Once all of your decor is pest free, then it is safe to place inside your enclosure. As a general rule, if you can apply pressure to an object to knock it down, a Viper Boa is certainly capable of doing so. When placing stones or heavy objects, make sure they are completely secured. If it’s still not easy, screw them or use super glue to attach them securely. If it is not possible, the rule is simple: Do not place the object in the vivarium!
If you decide to go for a larger enclosure, you need to provide plenty of cover and hiding places. A hiding place can be anything from a utensil box with a hole cut out to a naturalistic piece of cork bark. There are many brands of fake plants and decorations you can use that are safe for the animal and pleasing to the eye. Cork bark is available from almost any pet store in the UK and can be ordered if they don’t have it in stock. This is an excellent cover for any reptile and is 100% natural. One thing to consider when considering the size of the vivarium, is the bigger you go, the more hiding places you need to provide. I recommend at least one stash per foot of enclosure length.
NOTE: Never use duct tape on an enclosure. this is an accident waiting to happen. Believe me; Removing duct tape from any snake is no easy task!
Viper Boas are found in dense forest floors and are exposed to a fairly constant air temperature. They don’t bask in the sun, so it’s not that important to provide them with a dedicated hot spot. Instead, it is good to have a fairly consistent air temperature of 85-90ºF during the day and 80-85ºF at night. A large bowl of water should be provided to fully submerge the snake if required. If your viper boa does this all the time, the vivarium is probably too hot and should be cooled slightly.
In my opinion, the ideal way to heat the casing of a Viper Boa is to use a power plate. It is a small thin square plate, about 25 mm thick, which is screwed to the top of the vivarium. It does not need to be protected as there is no way a snake will get hold of it. It is almost invisible to the eye as it simply sits on the ceiling of the vivarium. The only brand available in the UK is the HabiStat Reptile Radiator. it is 75 watts and is sufficient for any vivarium up to 4 feet long and possibly larger. It does not produce light and therefore in a vivarium you will also need some form of lighting. A power plate should be used in conjunction with a HabiStat analog pulse thermostat, which will stop powering the power plate once the temperature exceeds the setting and turn it back on once it gets too cold. This is one of the most accurate thermostats on the market today.
Ceramic heaters, spot lamps and heat mats are also ways to heat a vivarium. All of these have their pros and cons, but in my opinion, none are as good as a power plate.
Viper Boas are primarily nocturnal, meaning they come out in the dark of night. This is when their main predators are asleep and their prey is awake. Lighting for this species is not important. However, having artificial light in a vivarium is aesthetically pleasing to the owner and is a good addition to a snake’s enclosure. They will use this as a photo-period and their normal clock will generally adjust to the settings you have your light set to.
They do not require any form of special lighting, such as a UV D3 light commonly used for daytime items. An Arcadia Natural Sunlight fluorescent lamp is a good form of lighting. This comes in lengths from 12″ to 48″ and I recommend using the largest size that will fit inside your vivarium.
Viper Boas occur throughout much of New Guinea and the surrounding islands and are therefore exposed to high humidity. This should be repeated in captivity to help with the general health and well-being of your snake. A humidity range of 80-90% will allow the snake to shed its skin properly and make it less prone to any problems such as respiratory infections.
Fuzzy or small mice should be offered to young or males and as they grow the mice or rats should get bigger. An adult female viper should be fed on weaned rats. One of these every 2 weeks is plenty. An adult male can take fuzzy rats or large mice. Juveniles should be fed on a regular basis, every 7 days is ideal. Their metabolic rate is higher than adults and as they get older, they need a lot more food to keep up. Viper Boas have a low metabolism compared to many snakes, move very little and do not require the same amount of food as many other species. Snakes have the ability to build up a huge fat reserve and become obese very easily. However, shedding weight is a much more difficult task. Obese snakes will not live nearly as long as a healthy snake would because of liver and kidney problems. If you are unsure of your snake’s weight, consult a reptile veterinarian.
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