Rice Paddy Snake

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Is the Rice Paddy Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Yellow-Bellied Watersnake, Plumbeous Watersnake, Boie’s Mud Snake

Scientific name: Hypiscopus (Enhydris) plumbea

The basics:
The Rice Paddy Snake has a huge range which extends from Myanmar and India’s Andaman Islands through Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Indonesia to Sulawesi and the Moluccan Islands.

Largely aquatic, the Rice Paddy Snake is found in and along swamps, ponds, marshes, brackish estuaries, rice and other cultivated fields, ditches and other slow-moving and stagnant waterways. It adjusts well to human disturbance, and often builds up huge populations around fish farms, where it is considered a pest and trapped.

Appearance / health:
The Rice Paddy Snake averages 18-28 inches in length. The un-patterned back is olive-green to near black in color, while the underside (again without pattern) is cream or yellow. As an adaptation to life in the water, the eyes are set noticeably high on the head.

Behavior / temperament:
Rice Paddy Snakes are both rear-fanged and high strung, and should be viewed as creatures to observe rather than handle. Particular care should be taken at feeding time, as hungry individuals respond vigorously to the scent of food, and will strike wildly. They become stressed when removed from the water and always respond by striking and attempting to escape by a series of “leaps”.

While human fatalities from bites have not been reported, their venom has not been well-studied, and individual sensitivities and allergies must be considered; children, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals may also be at risk.

Until we learn more about Rice Paddy Snake venom, they are best considered as suitable for display in zoos rather than private collections. A professional herpetologist should be consulted before one acquires a Rear-Fanged Snake of any species. Please also see the cautions outlined in the group description of Rear Fanged Snakes.

Rice Paddy Snakes are excellent swimmers and somewhat awkward on land. In the wild, they mainly move through mud and shoreline vegetation when not actually swimming. Slightly damp cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials should be used as a substrate. While Rice Paddy Snakes seem less susceptible to fungus than are North American watersnakes housed in damp terrariums, warm, dry areas should also be available. A dry cave and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss should be provided. A water bowl large enough for foraging should be provided.

They can also be kept in a filtered semi-aquatic setup with monkey wood or similar materials being used as a land area. The filter’s outflow should be modified so as not to produce strong currents (i.e. via a spray bar).

Ambient temperature (land and water): 80-85 F; Basking temperature: 88-90 F

Rice Paddy Snakes produce copious, watery, waste products, and require more upkeep than similarly-sized rodent-eating snakes. Wastes should be removed in a manner that does not expose one to a bite, i.e. by using a Pilstrom Tong. In aquatic situations, a filter and frequent partial water changes should be employed.

In the wild, Rice Paddy Snakes prey upon fish, tadpoles, frogs and their eggs. Captives fare well on a diet comprised of shiners, minnows, goldfish, platies, swordtails and locally-available fresh water fishes.

Reproduction has not been well-studied. Field studies of a Chinese population revealed that females generally give birth to 9-12 live young.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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