Triangle Keelback

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Is the Triangle Keelback right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Red-Sided Keelback, Red-Sided Indonesian Watersnake, Indonesian Garter Snake

Scientific name: Xenochrophis trianguligerus

The basics:
The Triangle Keelback has one of the largest ranges of any Asian species, being found from Myanmar through parts of India, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and through Malaysia to Java, Borneo and Sumatra.

Triangle Keelbacks are at home in lowland rainforests, and, being semi-aquatic, reside in and near swamps, forest pools, streams and other waterways.

Appearance / health:
The Triangle Keelback averages 3- 4 feet in length, with some individuals approaching 5 feet. The sides of the body are attractively colored with various shades of orange, red and yellow, while the keeled (raised) scales of the back are olive-green in color. Inverted black triangular marks along the sides of the body give this snake its common name.

Behavior / temperament:
Triangle Keelbacks 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. While human fatalities from bites have not been reported, their venom has not been well-studied, and individual sensitivities must be considered. Especially troubling is the fact that similar species are sometimes sold under the same name (or as “Chinese Garter Snakes”); some have been responsible for severe envenomations and several fatalities.

Until we learn more about Triangle Keelback 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.

Triangle Keelbacks are active snakes; a large adult requires a custom-built cage measuring at least 6 x 4 feet. Cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials are preferable to newspapers as substrates, as Triangle Keelbacks prefer moist habitats (dry areas must also be available). A dry cave and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss should be provided. The enclosure’s screen lid must be secured by cage clips.

Ambient temperature: 75-85 F; Basking temperature: 88-90 F

Triangle Keelbacks produce copious, watery, waste products and require more upkeep than similarly-sized rodent-eating snakes. The tank should be misted daily, and the moss within their cave should be kept slightly moist. Wastes should be removed in a manner that does not expose one to a bite, i.e. by using a Pilstrom Tong.

In the wild, Triangle Keelbacks take fish, lizards, frogs and frog eggs; small mammals and birds have also been reported as food items in certain populations. Captives fare well on a diet comprised of shiners, minnows, goldfish and locally-available fresh water fishes.

Reproduction has not been well-studied. Similar species produce large clutches – to 100 eggs in some cases.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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