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Tentacled Snake

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Is the Tentacled Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Fishing Snake, Arawana Snake

Scientific name: Erpeton tentaculatum

The basics:
The Tentacled Snake is arguably the most unusual of the world’s 3,450 snake species, and the only one to sport the fleshy head tentacles that so puzzled herpetologists for over a century (it was recently discovered that they assist in hunting by sensing water movements). It also has the distinction of being one of the only wholly-aquatic snakes available in the pet trade. Tentacled snakes are native to the coastal Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. They inhabit the still, heavily-vegetated waters of swamps, rice paddies and lake margins, and will burrow into the mud and aestivate when droughts leave them high and dry. Lacking the broad ventral scales of terrestrial species, Tentacled Snakes are virtually helpless on land.

Appearance / health:
Two distinct color phases are known – grey or brown with dark stripes travelling the length of the body and tan with reddish brown and black bars. The 2 scale-covered tentacles that lend this oddball its common name sprout from the edges of the mouth. The Tentacled Snake averages 18-24 inches in length, but may reach 36 inches, and is slender in build.

Behavior / temperament:
Tentacled Snakes are among the “least handle-able” of all reptiles. They instantly become rigid and immobile when removed from water…in fact, their Thai name translates to “Board-Like Snake”! Fish-specific venom is used to overcome prey. They rarely bite in self-defense and are not considered dangerous, but the possibility of an allergic reaction to their venom should be considered.

Housing:
You’ll need to throw out most of what you know concerning snake housing when you take on this unusual aquatic creature...a background in fish or newt care would be more useful! A 20 gallon long-style aquarium will support a single adult, while 4-5 can be kept in a 55-75 gallon (they get along well in groups). Effective filtration is necessary, but strong currents must be avoided lest these weak swimmers become stressed. Under-gravel filters beneath a substrate of fine, dark-colored pebbles are ideal. Tentacled Snakes spend their time anchored via prehensile tails to sunken roots and branches, which they resemble to an uncanny degree. These should be positioned so that the snakes can reach the surface to breathe without needing to swim. Dense cover in the form of plants…live if possible – is essential. Lighting should be dim. Tentacled Snakes do best in chlorine-free, acidic water of pH 5.2-6.5 and low ammonia content. “Black water” preparations marketed for tropical fish are helpful in creating the proper environment. The tank’s screen lid must be secured by cage clips. Ambient temperature: 77-82 F; Basking temperature (bulb suspended over the water’s surface): 85 F.

Again, forget your snake experience! Weekly partial water changes are essential, and the gravel should be cleaned with a siphon-based washer monthly. Ammonia levels should be monitored with a tropical fish test kit. Many in the trade are wild-caught, so newly-acquired pets should be examined by a veterinarian. All work should be done without unduly disturbing the snakes, as they are easily stressed.

Diet:
The natural diet is comprised entirely of fishes and tadpoles. Tentacled Snakes employ a unique hunting strategy that has only recently been fully described. Hungry individuals assume a characteristic “J-shaped” posture, with the head angled towards the body; they will not actively chase their prey. When a fish approaches, the snake sends out a ripple of water with its body. This disturbance causes the fish to initiate an instinctive escape maneuver known as the “C-Start”, which invariably, takes the unfortunate beast directly towards the waiting snake’s mouth! Pets should be fed a diet comprised of a wide variety fishes (avoid those protected by spines). Swordtails, minnows, platies, barbs, guppies, mollies and similar fishes are all readily accepted. A steady diet of goldfishes has been linked to health problems in other reptiles. Tentacled Snakes require comparatively more food than others, and do best when allowed to feed at will.

Breeding:
As captive breeding is rare, pet owners have a great opportunity to discover important new information; be sure to share what you learn! Like all aquatic species, Tentacled Snakes bear live young. The youngsters, averaging 5-8 inches in length and born in litters of 6-8, may appear year-round.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

Tentacled Snake Health Tip

Tentacled Snake

From Jan 23 2016 3:37PM

2.5/5

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