The African egg-eating snake is particularly impressive. Since they only eat eggs, African egg-eating snakes make an interesting reptile pet for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable feeding their snake insects or animals. But how easy is an African egg-eating snake to care for?
African egg-eating snakes, like all reptiles, have specific needs in terms of their enclosure, diet, and care. Because they have particular eating habits, they are not suitable snakes for all reptile lovers as feeding them can be difficult.
In this article, we’ll explain all the aspects of caring for an African egg-eating snake. So whether you’re trying to decide whether they’re a suitable pet for you, or you just want to brush up your knowledge on these beautiful creatures, you’ll have all the information you need.
Table of Contents
African Egg-Eating Snake Facts
Below we’ve summarized fast facts about African egg-eating snakes to read before we delve into their care.
|Common Name: African Egg-Eating Snake|
|Scientific Name Dasypeltis scabra|
|Natural Habitat Africa|
|Adult Size 12-39.5 inches|
|Enclosure Size A wide 20-gallon tank|
|Lifespan 15-20 years|
|Experience Level Expert|
Where Do African Egg-Eating Snakes Live?
You may have guessed from their name that African egg-eating snakes can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, they can often be found living near to areas where birds make their nests.
African Egg-Eating Snake Appearance And Colors
In this section, we’ll talk more about how an African egg-eating snake looks.
The word ‘scabra’ in Latin means ‘scabby’ or ‘rough’ and comes from the appearance of this snake’s scales (source).
Fun fact: African egg-eating snakes can make a special ‘hiss’ sound by rubbing their scales together. They usually do this if they sense danger.
The African egg-eating snake is also known as the rhombic egg-eater snake because of the dark rhomboid-shaped spots it has on its back. They also have brown areas on their sides.
On the back of their head, they have a V shape. Their pupils are vertical. African egg-eating snakes don’t have teeth as we know them.
Instead, they have special ridges in their mouth to help them swallow eggs. They don’t eat the shell. Instead, they regurgitate it (source).
Their lack of teeth and venom means they could be in danger from predators.
However, the markings of an African egg-eating snake being so similar to the African carpet viper and venomous rhombic night adder, offer some protection as it can discourage potential predators (‘mimicry’).
African egg-eating snakes can have the following colors as a base in addition to the markings we described above:
How Big Do African Egg-Eating Snakes Get?
Female African egg-eating snakes can grow to around 3 feet and males can grow to around 2 feet. They usually weigh around 1lb.
African Egg-Eating Snake Lifespan
In the wild, they can live up to 22 years but animals in captivity will probably live for around 10 to 15 years if cared for appropriately.
How To Care For African-Egg-Eating Snakes
So now you have some background information about African egg-eating snakes, let’s explore their specific care requirements.
In general, snakes should be housed in a tank with the following parameters according to their size as an absolute minimum:
the snake’s length x 1/2 the snake’s length x 1/2 the snake’s length = length x width x height
If you get the snake whilst they’re still growing you can expect to change its enclosure during its lifetime. Adult African egg-eating snakes will probably have enough room in a 20-gallon tank.
African egg-eating snakes prefer to live alone, so don’t worry about getting them a friend.
Always make sure that snakes have plenty of space and take into consideration all the components of the enclosure, such as hides, water bowls, and decoration.
Lighting And Temperature
Since snakes are cold-blooded, it’s important to monitor and adjust the temperature in their enclosure. As ectotherms, snakes rely on the external environment to adjust their internal body temperature.
If the external temperature is not appropriate, the snake can become unwell.
It’s best to provide a range of temperatures within an African egg-eating snake’s enclosure. We’ve listed them below:
- Basking temperature between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (using a heat lamp with 50w placed outside the vivarium)
- A cooler area with a temperature between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pro tip: place multiple thermometers in your snake’s enclosure so you can monitor the temperature in each part of their living area.
Having a day and night routine is especially important for African egg-eating snakes. To help facilitate this, you can use lights with a timer.
Do African-Egg-Eating Snakes Need UVB?
Although it’s not essential, giving an African egg-eating snake UVB light will help ensure they get all the vitamin D they need to perform all physiological functions.
Below we’ve listed some tips regarding UVB and African egg-eating snakes:
- Keep the lamp on for 12 hours per day (you can also use a timer)
- Put the UVB lamp near the basking area and the heat lamp
- Replace the bulb every 12 months.
The substrate is important because it helps keep your snake comfortable and contributes to the humidity level. Around one inch of the substrate is enough for African egg-eating snakes.
Possible options for substrate in an African egg-eating snake’s enclosure are:
- Shavings (aspen or bark)
- Astroturf (a better choice because there’s no risk of accidental ingestion).
An appropriate humidity level for African egg-eating snakes is between 40% and 60%. The humidity measurements should be recorded using a hygrometer in the center of their enclosure.
To increase humidity, mist the enclosure using a spray bottle.
To help them with shedding, it’s also important to provide a moist hide lined with sphagnum moss. Also, make sure that their water bowl is large enough for them to climb inside if they want to have a soak.
African-Egg-Eating Snake Tank Decor
Decorating your snake’s tank not only makes it look pretty but also provides some enrichment for your pet. Objects in their enclosure encourage snakes to explore and express normal behavior.
Below we’ve listed some examples of objects you can use:
- Hides – one in the cool part of the vivarium, one in the warmer part, and one in the middle
- Branches – especially important because they love climbing
- Snake-friendly plants.
Don’t forget to provide them with a water bowl that is large enough for them to bathe in!
How To Clean An African-Egg-Eating Snake’s Tank
It’s important to clean a snake’s enclosure regularly to reduce the chances of them becoming unwell. Below we’ve listed how often and how deeply to clean your snake’s enclosure:
- Every-day – removal of feces and urates, replacement of water
- Each week – disinfect and wash the vivarium
- Each month – replacement of substrate, disinfection of water bowl.
African-Egg-Eating Snake Diet
Wild African egg-eating snakes have a very specific routine when it comes to eating, which is also dependent on the season. During the egg-laying season, these snakes eat eggs that are fertilized but not too developed or rotten.
Did you know that African egg-eating snakes can eat eggs that are a few times bigger than their head?
They use their Jacobson organ to help detect whether they can eat it or not.
Since eggs are not available all year round, African egg-eating snakes will eat as much as they can during the egg-laying season and then can wait months before taking their next meal.
The special projections at the back of their mouth mean that after stretching their skin to engulf the egg, these snakes can empty and swallow the contents of the egg before regurgitating the shell.
What To Feed An African Egg-Eating Snake
African egg-eating snakes should be fed fertilized, room-temperature eggs which are no bigger than 3x the size of their head. This is because that’s the maximum size their body can accommodate.
You’ll probably have to buy a variety of different types of eggs during your snake’s lifetime to make sure they’re always in accordance with their size. Examples of the types of eggs suitable for use are:
- Quail eggs
- Finch eggs
- Budgie eggs
- Chicken eggs (when the snake grows big enough to swallow them).
Make sure to always buy the eggs from a reputable source and not take them from the wild, as it could cause your snake to become unwell.
How Often To Feed A African Egg-Eating Snake
Younger snakes should be fed more often (every week) than older individuals (around every 10 days).
As we explained earlier, it’s normal for African egg-eating snakes not to eat the eggshell, so don’t be worried if you see them spitting it out or find it in their vivarium.
How Long Can They Go Without Food?
Since the natural diet of African egg-eating snakes is not readily available all year round, these animals can spend months without eating.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s okay to stop feeding an African egg-eating snake. It just means that if they stop eating their food, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem.
Loss of appetite can, however, be a sign of illness in all animals. If your African egg-eating snake stops eating, be sure to check them and their vivarium parameters (temperature, light, and humidity) for potential problems.
If you’re worried that your snake might have stopped illness, contact a reptile specialist veterinarian for advice.
Do African Egg Eating Snakes Need Water
Yes, African egg-eating snakes should always have access to clean, fresh water. Having a source of water in their vivarium is important for drinking and bathing and helps to maintain the appropriate humidity.
Vitamins And Minerals
Generally, snakes don’t usually require supplemental vitamins or minerals if they are fed the correct diet, and their vivarium conditions are appropriate.
However, it’s a good idea to speak with your reptile specialist veterinarian in case your specific animal has additional requirements.
African Egg-Eating Snake Behavior And Temperament
African egg-eating snakes are pretty nervous and, if they feel threatened, will puff up to make themselves look bigger. Although they can strike when sensing danger, they don’t have teeth and no venom, so they aren’t any danger to humans.
It’s important to remember that these snakes are nocturnal and, in the wild, will fast if there isn’t any food available. This means they could be quite hard to care for as pets, and often don’t grow to a big size in captivity.
Are African-Egg-Eating Snakes Good Pets?
In terms of risks to humans, the African egg-eating snake could be considered a good pet. This is because they don’t have teeth, so pet parents are unlikely to suffer a nasty bite.
African egg-eating snakes are nocturnal. This means that they’re probably not the best choice if you enjoy watching your pet during the day. They also don’t like handling times and will probably move or hiss.
In terms of their care, African egg-eating snakes are probably not suitable pets for beginners or inexperienced pet parents. This is because they are quite difficult to cater to in terms of their diet.
If you’re looking to have a snake as a pet who’s a little easier to care for, think about the following snake types:
- Rosy Boa
- Gopher Snake
- California Kingsnake
- Corn Snake
African Egg-Eating Snake: Common Health Problems
In general, snake health problems often have something to do with their living conditions, with inappropriate parameters or insufficient cleaning being the underlying problem.
Snakes can be infected with bacteria or viruses from contaminated material within their environment. This means that it’s possible to bring your snake home from the breeder with a disease.
Signs of a possible infection in snakes include:
- Behavioral changes
- Decrease in appetite
- More tired than normal
- Difficulty in breathing
- Skin changes
- Abnormal poop or urate
- Changes in weight
- Material exiting or surrounding the eye
Disclaimer: The above list should be used as a guide only. If you think your snake might be unwell, contact a reptile veterinarian immediately.
One type of infection which is pretty common in pet snakes is mouth rot.
Sometimes snakes suffer from parasites such as mites or worms. This is usually something that they catch from another snake in their environment and can be treated by a veterinarian.
Where To Buy African-Egg-Eating Snakes?
Like all reptile pets, African-egg-eating snakes are best bought directly from a breeder. Try to find a breeder in your area to reduce the amount of time the snake needs to travel.
It’s also a good idea to only buy animals from breeders who have a good reputation.
African egg-eating snakes can cost anything from $90 upwards.
It’s important to factor in the cost of feeding them and all the electricity needed to maintain appropriate light, temperature, and humidity conditions within their vivarium if you’re thinking about getting a snake.
African Egg-Eating Snake Breeding
Mating takes place in the summer, with females laying between 6-25 eggs in one or multiple locations. The eggs hatch after between 80 and 90 days, and hatchlings are between 8.5 and 9.5 inches long.
Conclusion: African Egg-Eating Snake Care Guide
African egg-eating snakes, because of their feeding routine, are probably better-suited pets for more experienced reptile keepers.
If you’re looking to read more about snakes that are more suitable for beginners, read our article Rosy Boa Vs. Corn Snake: Which Is Better For Beginners?