Thursday, November 21, 2013

Asian Vine Snake (Ahatulla prasina)

Female Asian Vine Snake. (this was when she was still in quarantine, being treated for parasites)

Where do they live in the wild?

These snakes are found in Sri Lanka, India, China and most of Southeast Asia, including many Pacific Islands.

What habitat do they live in?

Their natural habitat is humid rainforests.  These snakes are highly arboreal and can be found in trees and shrubs.

In captivity you must keep this in mind...Their enclosures must be tall and full of plants and branches for climbing.  Minimum enclosure size for this species is 24 inches x 24 inches x 36 inches tall, but bigger is better.  Humidity must be kept high, around 60-80%.  You can achieve this by spraying in the enclosure twice a day and if necessary, using a fogger.  Substrate can also help hold humidity, use soil, moss, leaves and/or finely shredded cypress mulch.  I suggest mixing these substrates for best results...Ex: 50% soil with 50% moss or 50% mulch with 50% moss.  

When are they active?

They are a diurnal species, which means they are active in the day time. 

In captivity, you will need to provide lighting 12 hours a day.  Unlike most other snakes, Asian vine snakes need a UVB/UVA light.  Since they are a tropical species the UV strength should be at least 5.0.  

What should the temperature gradient be?

Enclosure ambient temperatures should be in the mid 80's (degrees).  You will also need to have a basking lamp that produces a basking area around 95 degrees.

What do they eat?

Mainly lizards but they will also eat frogs and fish.  Some Asian vine snakes in captivity can be switched over to mice but it is very difficult.  Most will never take mice no matter how hard you try and will only eat lizards.  In captivity you can buy house geckos and anoles to feed your snake.  They should be fed 4 adult sized lizards a week.  These lizards should be gutloaded, just like you do with crickets.  Feed the lizards gutloaded crickets dusted with calcium plus vitamin D3 powder before feeding them to your snake.  (Gutloading is where you feed the intended prey healthy nutritious foods before feeding them to your pet. Ex: Crickets should be fed fresh fruit and veggies 24 hours before you feed them off.  The reason for gutloading prey is so that your pet will have a nutritious meal full of necessary vitamins etc.)


Asian vine snakes are similar to chameleons and anoles in that they cannot see standing water and will not drink from a water bowl.  These snakes will either have to be hand misted daily so they can drink the water droplets or be provided with a dripper.


These snakes have really cool looking eyes!  Instead of having a round or vertical pupil, their pupil is horizontal.  They also have excellent vision; some say they have the best and most accurate strikes of any snake.

Handling???  Bites???

These snakes are rear-fang venomous which means instead of venom being dispersed by large teeth in the front of the mouth, it is dispensed by larger teeth at the back of the mouth.   These snakes, after catching their prey will slowly chew with their back teeth to work the venom into their prey.  After the prey is subdued the snake will start to swallow it, often prey is still alive.  Asian vine snakes have a very mild venom, not strong enough to kill a human, but if bitten, swelling and nausea can occur.  That being said, it is not wise to handle these snakes if you have allergies to insect bites and stings as you could also be allergic to the mild venom.    Over-all these snakes are quite docile and tolerate handling well.  As long as you are not mistreating the snake it shouldn’t try to bite you.  If bites do occur it is usually from a feeding accident.  You should always feed these snakes with tongs and not your hands.  Also, these snakes, just like other snakes, can mistake your hand for food when you first put your hand in the enclosure.  Do not rush your hand inside, instead move slow so the snake has a chance to realize your hand isn’t food. 

When roaming about the house these snakes are fun to watch.  They do not move like other snakes and slither with most of the body touching the ground.  They tend to stick up half their bodies as they slither looking for a high place to crawl up.  They can also horizontally stick out most of their body like a branch while only holding on to something by the tail.  Very cool to watch them climb up and over things! 

Life span?

There is very little information regarding life span as most of these snakes are sold as wild caught adults.  Very few people have ever bred them successfully.  So far it is estimated they can live 10+ years.  


They can reach up to 6 feet in length.  Females tend to be bigger than males.


These snakes are live bearing and will give birth to a small litter of babies three months after copulation.  

Health care...

Since most of these snakes are wild caught you will have to treat them for parasites.  This can be a challenge because you have to give wormer orally.  Wear gloves so you do not get bitten by accident when administering medications.  Sometimes you will also have to treat for mites, respiratory infection, fungus etc.  (see my other post Care of newly acquired reptiles to learn how to treat for parasites and illness). 


Both sexes or same sex pairs/groups can be housed together and get along just fine.