Kenyan Sand Boas – Gongylophis colubrinus – are becoming more and more popular due to their size and temperament that are very manageable for most reptile enthusiasts.
While Kenyan Sand Boas are generally easy to take care of compared to other snakes, there are still a number of things you should get right to keep a healthy snake.
This Kenyan sand boa care sheet will make taking care of your Kenyan Sand Boa a breeze.
- Enclosure Maintenance
- Handling your Sand Boa
- Common Issues
- Final Words
Getting your snake’s housing right is one of the most important parts of proper care.
You need to make sure that you provide your Kenyan Sand Boa the right kind of housing in terms of its size and environmental conditions if you want this snake to be happy and healthy throughout its entire life.
Juvenile Kenyan Sand Boa Enclosure
As small as the Kenyan Sand Boa is, you would be surprised how small juvenile Kenyan Sand Boas can be. At birth, these snakes are somewhere between 6 to 10 inches as they really are small snakes that won’t need a ton of space.
However, it is best to make sure that you house your baby or juvenile East African sand boa in the best kind of enclosure the moment it is born or the moment you bring one home.
In most cases, it is best to house your snake in an adult-sized enclosure because of how you might want to keep them in that enclosure until it reaches adulthood.
In that regard, if you are interested in getting a good enclosure for a baby or juvenile Kenyan Sand Boa, you might want to look into the Exo Terra Short Glass Terrarium, which I love because of how it comes with a front-access panel that can allow you to feed or access your snake without stressing it out a lot.
If you didn’t know, most snakes tend to feel stressed when you try to approach them from the top because of how birds of prey tend to approach them in the wild.
Also, we like this enclosure because of how it comes with special inlets for the wires of your heating pad, thermometer or thermostat.
Adult Kenyan Sand Boa Enclosure
In most cases, a large tank that is about 10 gallons would already be enough for your Kenyan Sand Boa from the moment it is born until you take it home.
After all, the Kenyan sand boa size rarely exceeds 2 feet in length. As such, it won’t hurt to house the snake in the same enclosure as long as it was already big enough from the start.
Still, you might want to go for something bigger if you want your snake to have more space to explore, or if you are planning on housing more than one Kenyan Sand Boa in one single enclosure.
For those looking for a large housing unit for their Kenyan Sand Boa, we recommend the 50 gallons REPTI ZOO Reptile Glass Terrarium. This terrarium is big enough to house multiple Kenyan Sand Boa if needed.
However, even if you are only planning on housing one Kenyan Sand Boa, this terrarium should make it happy with enough space to roam around.
Of course, we also like this terrarium because it comes with good front-access windows, amazing ventilation, and inlets where you can place and set up your heating elements.
It is also important for you to have a good substrate for your Kenyan Sand Boa, these snakes prefer to live in environments that are as close to natural as possible.
Of course, a good substrate will also help in regulating the humidity in the enclosure while also acting as a buffer for the heating pad under the tank, while being resistant to mold and parasites.
One product that I prefer when it comes to a good Kenyan Sand Boa substrate is Aspen Bedding. What we like about this substrate is that it comes from natural renewable resources and that it is very easy to clean so that you won’t have any trouble spot-cleaning it whenever you want to keep your snake’s enclosure spotless.
Another alternative that you might want to look into is the ReptiChip Coconut Substrate.
This substrate makes use of a thick layer of coco chips that are great at holding moisture while providing a good cushioning for the Kenyan Sand Boa inside the enclosure.
Other options include reptile carpet, cork bark, cedar shavings, and coconut mulch.
Solid ground can also be an option if you want to go the bioactive terrarium route.
It is essential that you provide your Kenyan Sand Boa with enough heat, because snakes are cold-blooded animals that rely on external heat to regulate their body temperature.
Of course, because Kenya has a warm climate as well, giving your Kenyan Sand Boas require a warm environment that will allow them to live in an enclosure that is as close to their natural habitat as possible.
One of the essentials in a Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure is a temperature gradient because you want to give your snake options.
That said, you should keep the warmer side of your Kenyan sand boa’s enclosure somewhere between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, the cooler side should not be anything lower than 70 degrees.
I recommend that you use a heating mat if you want to provide your Kenyan Sand Boa the warmth it needs in its enclosure.
Place the heating pad in the warmer side of the enclosure as the excess warmth creates an ambient temperature that will keep the cooler side somewhere close to 70 degrees.
Speaking of ambient temperatures, the best way for you to keep track of the heat inside the enclosure is to use a thermostat.
It is recommended for you to use a thermostat in order to make sure that the enclosure is neither too warm nor too cold, this will turn on and off your heat mat automatically.
In some cases, a heat bulb may work better especially if you live in a particularly cold northern state or region and need to provide supplemental heat.
However, the problem with a heat bulb, or basking lamp, is that it can dry up an enclosure or may even burn your snake when it is too close to the surface of the tank.
As such, it is best to make sure that you keep it a few inches from the top and avoid putting the bulb too close to the enclosure’s surface, and that you constantly mist the tank to keep the moisture up.
The Kenyan Sand Boa is a nocturnal snake that will spend most of the day hiding in its hide spots or under the substrate.
That’s why you don’t need to use a UVB light for your Kenyan Sand Boa if you want it to stay healthy because these snakes don’t normally use this light in their natural habitats.
But you can use a basking light or neon lights if you do insist on using UVB lights for your Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure.
For those who live in colder regions, you can use a heat bulb to provide the Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure with heat instead of using a heating pad.
However, again, there are risks involved when it comes to these bulbs as they may end up burning the snake or dry up the entire enclosure.
This is why I do not recommend that you use heat bulbs to provide heat and light to your Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure.
As mentioned, Kenyan Sand Boa are nocturnal snakes that tend to hide a lot during the day in their primary habitat. On top of that, these snakes have natural predators in the wild because they are not the biggest snakes.
That said, you need to provide shelter for your Kenyan Sand Boa to make it feel safe and secure inside its enclosure.
Useful decorations are important for your Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure because you should make sure that the snake can use these objects as hiding spots.
We recommend that you use this reptile shelter for your snake because it acts in a similar way as a cave whenever your Kenyan Sand Boa wants to stay hidden.
However, you may want to use large rocks or wood if you can as long as they are big enough to help keep your snake hidden.
Kenyan Sand Boas are native to dry and arid environments in Kenya, but they still need to drink water from time to time, and will sometimes immerse themselves to help with shedding or cool down.
You should provide a small water dish inside the snake’s enclosure so that it will have a constant source of water whenever it wants to hydrate itself.
Keep the dish on the cool side of the enclosure to prevent it from getting too warm.
It is important that you replace the Kenyan Sand Boa’s water as regularly as possible because of how you don’t want bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms to build up inside the water.
If you can, replace the water every single day or maybe once every two days. I would recommend that you clean or disinfect the water dish once a week.
Again, Kenyan Sand Boas are used to dry and arid environments and are most likely going to prefer to keep themselves dry. That’s why there is no need to regularly mist the enclosure unless you do see how dry it has become.
Keep the humidity somewhere under 30% but allow it to go higher whenever the snake is in the middle of its shedding period because you would need to make sure the air has enough moisture to allow the snake to peel off its skin easier and pain-free.
Misting should be your main way of keeping the humidity constant but you can also make use of objects that are great at keeping a high humidity and holding moisture especially when the snake is shedding.
This is where sphagnum moss comes in as you can place it inside the snake’s hiding spot so that it will be able to shed easier.
Of course, it is also just as important for reptile keepers to keep their snake’s enclosure clean if you want it to stay healthy.
You need to clean and disinfect the enclosure as much as possible considering that you don’t want the snake’s tank to become a breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, and other harmful organisms.
Keeping your snake’s enclosure clean is fairly straight forward, here are some cleaning tips that should be helpful for you:
- Remove the Kenyan Sand Boa from the enclosure. But make sure that you have a backup tank that you can keep the snake in while you are cleaning its main tank. The backup tank should only serve as a temporary shelter for the snake.
- Remove all of the decorations, substrate, and fixtures from the tank.
- Spot-clean the entire tank and make sure that all of the different nooks and crannies are cleaned well enough.
- After that, use a mild reptile-safe solution to disinfect the Kenyan Sand Boa’s tank. If you don’t have a cleaning product, use a 1:5 ratio of white vinegar and water to serve as a disinfectant.
- Spray the enclosure with your solution and make sure that you wipe it off using a damp towel.
- Go and get a dry towel to wipe off any of the excess moisture from the tank. Leave the tank to air dry out in the open for about a day.
- When the tank is already dry, put everything back inside the enclosure before your return the snake.
- Make sure that they have access to fresh water by changing the water every other day.
- It is best to do this maybe once a month to make sure that the enclosure is as clean as possible.
As to the substrate, we recommend that you regularly spot clean it every two days to keep any dirt or fecal matter away from the enclosure. However, please do replace the substrate once every 4 months to make sure that the Kenyan Sand Boa’s environment is as sanitary as possible.
It is important to make sure that you feed your Kenyan Sand Boa the right way.
And you will be happy to know that you probably won’t have a hard time feeding this snake especially because they are not too picky.
Type and size of prey
The Kenyan Sand Boa can actually thrive well on a diet composed almost entirely of domesticated mice and other rodents.
You can feed your Kenyan Sand Boa with mice throughout its entire life.
Kenyan Sand Boas that are still at the infancy stage should be somewhere around 6 inches in length. While your snake’s body may be small, they are already capable of eating small pinky mice at this stage in their life.
However, it is best to make sure that your baby Kenyan Sand Boa has already gone through its first shedding stage before you feed it for the first time in its life.
Meanwhile, the bigger the snake grows, the more pinky mice you should be feeding it until it can gradually take in bigger mice such as weaned mice.
Adult Kenyan Sand Boa should be able to do well on fuzzy mice or on adult domesticated mice. These snakes aren’t too big and are usually somewhere close to 2 feet in length.
Adult domesticated mice are perfect for your Kenyan Sand Boa as they come at the right size for these adult snakes.
Frozen VS Live
Snakes are are much more likely to eat live food due to their natural instinct to hunt and constrict a prey.
While there is no difference in the calories and nutrients that they intake no matter if they eat frozen or live, picky eaters will prefer eating live rodents due to their natural hunting behaviors.
In that regard, let us look at the arguments regarding both frozen and live food.
Feeding your Kenyan Sand Boa with live food will allow you to make sure that you have enough supply of food for your snake because you can simply keep these rodents in a separate freezer.
This reduces the storage space and effort you need for your Kenyan Sand Boa’s food. Because frozen rodents are already dead, they won’t end up fighting back and injuring your snake when you feed them to your reptile.
Of course, it is also much more humane to go with frozen food because the rodents no longer have to go through the pain and suffering of being eaten by a snake.
But the problem here is that Kenyan Sand Boa tend to be too picky when you feed them frozen rodents because they are not used to eating food that is already dead and since they would rather hunt and kill their prey before eating them, like their natural behavior commands.
That means that you would have to put in more effort so that your snake will actually accept its food. Poking the Kenyan Sand Boa with its food using forceps can be a good idea.
Meanwhile, you could also argue that Kenyan Sand Boas should be better off eating live food because that is what they are used to.
However, feeding them rodents that are still alive can be dangerous because mice will fight back to defend themselves.
All that considered, we would like to lean towards feeding your Kenyan Sand Boa frozen food because it is much more practical and safer for you to do so even though these snakes prefer live food more than other pet snakes do.
But once your Kenyan Sand Boas has become used to eating frozen food, it won’t be too difficult for you to feed it in the future.
Knowing when and how much to feed your Kenyan Sand Boa can go a long way in terms of its overall health because you wouldn’t want your snake to be malnourished or to end up becoming overweight.
Baby Kenyan Sand Boas and younger snakes need to eat frequently because of how they will need the calories for their growth. That said, feed your Kenyan Sand Boa with a pinky mouse every 4 to 5 days. Increase the portion sizes as the snake grows bigger and older. At the juvenile stage, Kenyan Sand Boa should be able to eat 2 pinky mice every 4 to 5 days.
As the Kenyan Sand Boa grows from its juvenile stage to young adulthood, you may be able to increase the portion sizes a bit by feeding it with 3 pinky mice.
Make sure that you also extend the feeding schedule to maybe once a week to prevent overfeeding your snake.
Meanwhile, Kenyan Sand Boas will have to eat a full-grown domesticated mouse.
Because a male Kenyan Sand Boa is not that big as they rarely grow over 20 inches long, you may be able to feed them once every 10 to 14 days.
Meanwhile, bigger females should be fed more often as they need the extra calories. Female Kenyan Sand Boas should be fed a full-grown mouse maybe once a week.
Kenyan Sand Boas will continue to grow as they age but will have to shed their skin because their old skin won’t grow together with their bodies.
Kenyan Sand Boas will constantly shed their skin and may end up shedding them once every 3 or 4 months depending on the season and how fast the snake grows.
Make sure that you provide your Kenyan Sand Boa with a stress-free shed by keeping its environment a bit more humid than it normally is.
The extra moisture in the air will allow it to shed its skin pain-free. In that case, you can mist the enclosure more often than you usually do if you want to improve the humidity inside the Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure.
You may also provide it with a hiding box so that it can shed without having to fear for its safety and security.
Always check the snake’s enclosure whenever it is shedding because you need to remove the skin as soon as you can to prevent infections and other diseases brought about by the decaying skin.
Also, it is important that you check the snake’s eyes to see if there are still any pieces of skin remaining.
You can peel the skin off yourself because it will now be safe to handle the snake once it has removed most of its skin. It is important to remove the skin around its eyes because they can cause infections.
Even though certain parts of Kenya and Africa do experience winters, we do not recommend that you allow your Kenyan Sand Boa to hibernate during the winter because of how this can be stressful to your snake’s health.
You should only allow your snake to hibernate if you want it to breed after winter. Otherwise, do not allow it to hibernate.
It is best to make sure that you do not allow the temperatures in its enclosure to drop too low if you don’t want your snake to end up hibernating during the winter.
However, it is alright to allow the Kenyan Sand Boa’s enclosure to drop maybe 5 degrees. Don’t worry about decreased activity and appetite on the part of your snake during the winter because of how the light cycle is reduced.
Just make sure that it is actually still eating and that it is drinking enough water.
Handling your Sand Boa
Unlike most pet snakes, Kenyan Sand Boas are not very easy to handle but they are still safe for you to handle. Most of these snakes tend to be feisty but they are still even-tempered most of the time.
That said, here are some tips that will allow you to safely handle your Kenyan Sand Boa:
- Relax and don’t come at the snake too fast because these snakes are easily startled. Remember that the Kenyan Sand Boa’s predators strike fast, and that is why you need to approach it slowly.
- Carry the snake well enough by supporting its entire weight so that it will feel secure whenever it is in your hands.
- Gripping the Kenyan Sand Boa too tightly might scare it. That’s why you need to allow it to feel free to prevent it from squirming away when it gets scared. Kenyan Sand Boas like most snakes tend to try to hide or squirm away than bite whenever they are scared.
- Avoid handling the snake 2 days before and after feeding it. This is when it might be a bit too grumpy.
- Don’t handle the snake whenever it is in the middle of its shedding season because they tend to be under a lot of stress.
- Do not handle a pregnant Kenyan Sand Boa.
- Always wash your hands before handling your Kenyan Sand Boa because you want to keep your hands free from any bacteria and parasites.
Why isn’t my Kenyan Sand Boa eating?
It can be common for Kenyan Sand Boas to not eat their frozen food because they are much more used to eating live prey. Just poke them with their food if you are feeding them frozen food. Meanwhile, if your snake is ill, such as showing signs of mouth rot, take it to the vet immediately.
Why is my Kenyan Sand Boa regurgitating its food?
Your Kenyan Sand Boa will regurgitate its food if you are feeding it too much. That’s why it is necessary to make sure that you are only feeding it the right amount of food.
Are respiratory diseases normal for Kenyan Sand Boas?
Yes, Kenyan Sand Boas can experience respiratory infections and respiratory problems from time to time if they are living in environments that may be too cold. Try turning the temperature up a bit if your snake is often suffering from respiratory problems.
Here you go! I think we covered everything you need to know in this kenyan sand boa care sheet.
The Kenyan Sand Boa is certainly a good snake for beginners and novices because of how comparatively easier it is to take care of.
Still, you may end up with an unhealthy Kenyan Sand Boa if you don’t know how to take care of it properly.
But if you followed our care sheet and made sure to incorporate them in the way you take care of your Kenyan Sand Boa, you shouldn’t have a lot of problems with your snake’s health and happiness.
- Material properties of the skin of the Kenyan sand boa Gongylophis colubrinus (Squamata, Boidae) – Marie-Christin G Klein , Julia K Deuschle, Stanislav N Gorb
- Ecology of the Sand Boa, Eryx jayakari in Riyadh Region of Saudi Arabia – Mohammed K.Al-Sadoon, Fahed S.Al-Otaibi
- AnAge entry for Eryx colubrinus
- Gongylophis colubrinus – Wikipedia
- National Center for Biotechnology Information – Eryx colubrinus
Bartlett and Bartlett, 2005 – R.D. Bartlett, P.P. Bartlett: Rosy, Rubber, and Sand Boas: Facts and Advice on Care and Breeding – Barron’s Educational Series, New York (2005)
Tracer, D. P 1996. Observations on age at sexual maturity and captive reproduction in the East African Sand Boa – Gongylophis colubrinus loveridgei. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (Feb 1996): 46-51
Pols, J.J. van der 1986. The husbandry and breeding of the Kenyan sand boa Eryx colubrinus loveridgei (Stull, 1932). Litteratura Serpentium 6 (6): 206-212
Chippaux, Jean-Philippe & Kate Jackson 2019. Snakes of Central and Western Africa. Johns Hopkins University Press, 448 pp.