African house snakes are a fantastic species that can make very good pets. With their relaxed temperament and low-maintenance care requirements, these snakes are a great option for beginners.
In fact, we believe these snakes deserve more attention from the herp community. Pretty much every owner we know raves about them!
This guide will help you master African house snake care by covering all of the fundamentals in great detail. When you’re finished reading this, you’ll be ready to get one for yourself.
Table of Contents
The African house snake (Boaedon fuliginosus) is a harmless snake found in sub-Saharan Africa. It has been given this name due to the fact that it is often found near towns and villages where it feeds on rats.
This snake has a pretty nice disposition and is fairly easy to care for. This is why the African house snake makes a nice starter snake for people with little to no previous pet snake experience.
Appearance & Colors
The African house snake is a slender, medium-sized snake that can be observed in a variety of subtle color forms. You’ll find these snakes in tones ranging from light brown to chocolate, and some may display faint spotting or striping.
While some people consider these snakes to be a bit on the plain side, we really enjoy their look! There are a lot of interesting subtleties and accents especially when you take a closer look.
African House Snake Size
The usual African house snake size is between two and three feet long for males, and three to four and half feet long for females. This size difference between males and females is not uncommon for snakes, and you’ll see it in a multitude of other species.
If you want to maximize the chance of your snake being as large as possible when they’re adults there are a couple of things you can do. The first is to provide them with excellent care (obviously).
The second is buying them from a reliable seller in the first place. This significantly increases the chance of you getting a snake with good genes.
The average African house snake lifespan is between 15 and 20 years. This makes them very appealing because with good care you’ll be able to build a lasting and meaningful bond with them over time!
African House Snake Care
African house snake care is considered by many to be a pretty easy task. Like most pet snakes, it has specific temperature, humidity and dietary requirements, but you don’t need a lot of advanced experience to ensure that these reptiles thrive.
With that being said, it’s always important to do your homework and get familiar with the core requirements of these snakes. That will help you make adjustments and customize their care as needed.
An enclosure that measures 24 inches x 18 inches x 18 inches is a good baseline size for an adult Africa house snake. Of course, if you have the space for it, using a larger enclosure is always nice. Because these snakes like to climb, make sure that the tank you use has some good height to it.
Expert Tip: If you have a hatchling, it will do very well in a ten gallon tank. Feel free to place it in a bigger enclosure right from the start if you wish.
As far as the type of enclosure to use, wood, glass or plexiglass are all acceptable. Just make sure that whichever one you use, has a sturdy, escape-proof lid and has plenty of ventilation.
Setting Up Their Habitat
There are so many ways to set up your snake’s habitat, that you can get quite creative. Of course, the main focus should be a natural environment that is going to make your pet as happy and comfortable as possible.
However, you should also create an enclosure that brings peace and joy to your own life. A beautiful environment is something that can benefit both you and your snake.
It’s nice to start with a high-quality substrate when you are designing the enclosure. There are many options, but we like using beech or aspen woodchips. As far as woodchips go, you’ll need a layer that’s several inches thick, so your African house snake has plenty of room to burrow.
You can also use newspaper or paper towels, but if you’re going for a really natural look, then woodchips are nice. Just go for a substrate that’s easy to clean and maintain.
Your next task will be to think about the types of enclosure enhancements you’re going to use.
In the wild, these snakes like to climb and bask, so try to add lots of branches or artificial foliage to climb on. Due to the temperature gradient you’ll be setting up, more on that later, it’s best to give them hiding areas on both the warm and the cooler side of the enclosure.
Expert Tip: Don’t forget to add some flat rocks to the bottom of the enclosure to provide the belly heat they crave.
Temperature & Lighting
One thing to take into consideration when you’re setting up your snake’s enclosure, is how you are going to create different temperature zones. Your African house snake, like all snakes, needs to physically change its location to either increase or decrease body temperature.
Although this may sound complicated, it’s actually quite simple. Designate one side of the enclosure as the warm side and the other as the cool side.
Keep the warm side (aka basking side) at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where they will go to warm up when needed.
On the other end, you can let the cool side get as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How you accomplish this temperature gradient is up to you. Some people use a ceramic basking light, others use under-the-tank heating pads.
The point is to keep the temperatures consistent, so use thermometers to check the temperature gradient. The basking lamp should be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours.
Expert Tip: Some snakes need supplemental UVB lighting, but the African house snake doesn’t. You can add a UVB light source if you’d like to, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
The African house snake doesn’t require a high level of humidity within the enclosure. A level of between 30 and 50 percent should do it.
The correct humidity level can be achieved through a light misting of the enclosure and/or by always having a water bowl in the tank. Proper ventilation in their enclosure will play a big part in your ability to keep the humidity consistent as well.
Make sure you purchase an accurate hygrometer and check the readings periodically. Proper humidity levels are essential for good health (more on that later).
As mentioned above, it’s important to keep a bowl of clean, fresh water in the enclosure. Always make sure to keep the water bowl on the cool side of the enclosure, so the humidity level stays fairly low.
African house snakes love water, especially when it’s time to shed, so you will often see them soaking and relaxing in their water bowl. Make sure to change the water frequently, and keep the bowl very clean. Failing to do this can result in bacteria and parasites.
Food & Diet
Diet is one of the easiest parts of African house snake care. It will consist of mice or rats, and these rodents can be live or frozen and thawed.
Expert Tip: The one important thing to remember is that the prey should never be larger than the fattest part of the snake’s body.
Young African house snakes can be given frozen and defrosted pinky mice. Getting them used to eating frozen-defrosted prey is good because live prey can sometimes bite or attack your snake. Feed babies one to two times a week.
Adult house snakes should be fed once a week to once every other week. You just need to see what works best for your particular pet.
Always wash your hands before feeding your snake. If your hands smell like the prey you just picked up, you could get bitten due to a natural feeding response.
Potential Health Issues
Even though African house snakes are relatively easy to care for, they are still vulnerable to various health complications.
Mouth rot is a rather nasty health problem that is common with lots of snakes. It’s usually caused by stress or unsanitary conditions. Your snake may also develop mouth rot if it cuts its mouth on the substrate or on struggling prey.
If you notice redness around the mouth, pus near the mouth or lots of mucus, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s mouth rot. This condition is treatable, so make sure to take your snake to the vet if you’re concerned.
Overfeeding these snakes (especially if you are a novice) is easy to do. If you’re having trouble establishing just how much you should feed them, talk to your veterinarian about proper feeding habits.
Parasites and mites are also common in pet African house snakes, so frequent fecal testing and a regular check up is super important.
We always recommend finding yourself a veterinarian that has plenty of experience treating pet snakes. That specialized experience will come in handy!
Behavior & Temperament
One nice thing about the African house snake is that it has a very calm temperament. Young snakes, or one that is new to you, may bite, but they usually get through this phase rather quickly. Because of their nice demeanor, they are considered to be appropriate snakes for beginners.
This is a nocturnal snake that is the most active at night, but will still move about the enclosure from time to time during the day. You shouldn’t have any trouble catching them in action!
Adult African house snakes are fairly easy to handle. However, hatchlings and juveniles can sometimes be a bit of a handful.
Because they are young and have lots of energy, they can tend to be a little jumpy and have a tendency to bite. Since they do spring up quite a lot, be very careful opening the top of the enclosure.
With patience and care, your African house snake should settle down and become a pretty calm pet reptile. The one thing you will want to always watch out for is their feeding response. Since they might see your hand as food, caution is always recommended if you put your hand into the tank around feeding time.
Expert Tip: We’d like to leave you with one more piece of handling advice. For some reason, most African house snakes don’t like to be picked up behind the head. So if you don’t want a potential bite, avoid this area when handling them.
African house snake care is rather straightforward and can be managed by anyone. As long as you follow the established care guidelines and give these snakes consistent attention and love, they will thrive!
We’ve enjoyed these snakes for quite some time, and are glad to see more people showing interest. Owning one is a very rewarding experience.
If you have questions about anything we covered in this guide we’d love to hear from you. We always like talking about snakes with our readers!