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False Water Cobra, Hydrodynastes gigas

False water cobra Hydrodynastes gigasIntroduction False Water Cobras are a large, mildly venomous rear-fanged colubrid native mostly to Brazil. They commonly reach sizes of 6-7 feet. Primarily a diurnal species, this is an extremely active and inquisitive species with an aggressive feeding response. Prey is actively pursued and subdued by brute strength and a venom that is chewed into the prey. Prey consists mostly of rodents and birds, however fish and lizards will normally be accepted as well.

Acclimation and Quarantine Wild caught FWCs may be difficult to acclimate. First, be sure to address any potential parasite load. Wild caught snakes should be treated for parasites as soon as possible after purchase. Fresh imports may also be dehydrated. Allow the snake to soak in a secure deli cup or bucket filled to about one inch with lukewarm water. This method is very effective as the snakes will often drink. A large water dish should be present in the cage at all times. Quarantine and acclimation enclosures need not be elaborate, instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly imported snake. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A hide box should be provided for additional security, and a ceramic water dish should be used as the water bowl as these are strong and heavy bodied snakes and are likely to tip over anything plastic. This setup should be used until the snake is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing Once the snake is acclimated and feeding well it may be put into a permanent cage. Neonates and juveniles can be kept in 10-30 gal. tanks. Vertical space is not a necessity as these snakes are mostly terrestrial. A cage that is about 48x18x20(LxWxH)is an acceptable size cage for an individual or pair. Glass enclosures can be used as well as wooden cages. By far, the best cages are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC as they are not as heavy as glass and are not damaged by humidity. Furnishing the enclosure is of personal preference. Branches can be used in the furnishing of the enclosure, however the snake will stay on the bottom most of the time. Hide boxes should also be placed on each end of the cage to provide the snake with a sense of security as they thermoregulate. Large amounts of foliage should be added to the cage to provide the snake with more places to hide. For substrate, aspen, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable as these will help to retain the proper humidity levels the snake needs to thrive.

Heating and Lighting Hydrodynastes should receive 14-16 hours of light. Light can be provided via incandescent light which will also provide heat, or florescent light, which will provide little to no heat. Be sure to provide a thermal gradient in the cage, so that the snake may choose the area of the cage where it is most comfortable. The warmest extreme of the cage should be between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. The basking spot may reach 95 degrees. The cooler side of the cage should be between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is extremely important that the snake is provided with this thermal gradient so they can escape the heat, if it is not provided, your pet may suffer from heat exhaustion and possibly die. At night there should be a slight drop in temperature of about ten degrees. A ceramic heat emitter or an under tank heater are good ways to provide heat at night and during the day because it does not produce light but rather emits a radiant heat.

Humidity Humidity should be maintained between 40% and 60%. Short periods above or below these levels are well tolerated.

Feeding Feeding is straight forward. Rodents of an appropriate size should make up most of the diet. FWCs will also greedily except small chicks and quail and can be offered periodically. The size of the prey item should be relative to that of the snake you are feeding. You should feed hatchlings frequently to ensure rapid growth. A pinky or two twice a week is a good regimen. For adults, 1 or 2 small to medium rats once a week will suffice. We recommend feeding be done in an enclosure other than what the snake lives in. By doing this you reduce the likely hood of an aggressive feeding response when you open it's cage. These snakes are notorious for having aggressive feeding responses. The feeding container can be bear bottom to ensure that the snake only swallows it's food and not any bedding which can lead to a mouth infection or an impaction in the stomach.

Water A dish of fresh water should always be available. False Water Cobras love the water and can be frequently found soaking in their dishes, especially after a meal. With that said, they will often defecate in their water dishes so keeping their water dish clean is of utmost importance.

A Note on Venom False Water Cobra venom is considered to very potent and is similar to Crotalidae. However, they are not capable of producing a large yield of venom. The small amount of venom being produced, combined with poorly evolved fangs and a poor delivery system make this snake's bite less than life threatening. Envenomation reports suggest that most bites result in localized swelling, pain and itching. Always be aware of the possibility of an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock. Since this snake does produce a highly toxic venom, they should be handled with respect and caution; proper handling tools (gloves, snake hooks/tongs etc.) should be used while working with this species.