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Vietnamese Blue Beauty Snake
Introduction Vietnamese Blue Beauty snakes are distributed throughout most of Vietnam. They are large, semi-arboreal snakes indigenous to sub tropical to tropical habitat. Most average around six feet, however eight to nine foot specimens are not unheard of. The habitats that they frequent are as vast as the number of subspecies, occupying niches in forest, rivers, caves and various human developments such as agricultural land and out reaches of inner cities as human developments is prime breeding ground for theses snakes favorite food. Rodents. Blue Beauties are largely crepuscular, stalking prey and immobilizing it with several bone crushing constrictive coils.
Acclimation and Quarantine Blue Beauties normally take to captivity pretty easy. The stress of capture and importation into the country is great on many wild caught snakes. This period of stress will weaken the immune system, allowing parasites to get the upper hand. Wild caught snakes should therefore be treated for internal and external parasites as soon as possible after purchase. Fresh imports may also severely dehydrated. Place the snake in a deli cup or other enclosed space filled to about one inch with lukewarm water. This method is very effective as the snakes will often drink during these sessions. One can also place the snake in a container with moist sphagnum moss. A large water dish should be present in the cage at all times. Quarantine and acclimation enclosures need not be elaborate, but rather 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 few simple branches or pieces of doweling can provide climbing opportunities, and a small plastic container could be used as the water bowl. A hide of some sort, and foliage should also be incorporated into the quarantine enclosure. 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. They require enclosures relative to their body size. You don't want to put a 12 inch snake in a 6 ft cage, it would simply get lost. Neonates and juveniles can be kept in 10 - 75 gal. tanks. These snakes are semi arboreal and you should be sure to be able to provide branches for climbing. A cage that is about 4 ft x 6 ft is a good size for an adult, but larger enclosures would not hurt. Glass enclosures can be used, as well as wooden cages. They are a better alternative than glass cages because of the heightened security (they only have one open side). By far, the best cages are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC. These cages usually have only one transparent side and can also withstand the high humidity. Such cages are also usually inexpensive and attractive. Furnishing the enclosure is of personal preference. Branches can be used in the furnishing of the enclosure, and will be used and perched upon regularly. Hide boxes should also be placed on each end of the cage to provide the snake with a sense of security as they thermoregulate. Foliage can be added to the cage to provide the snake with more places to hide. For substrate, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable as these will help to retain the proper humidity levels the snake needs.
Lighting and Heating There should also be 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 not be much above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while 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, preferably of about ten degrees. This will help promote certain natural behaviors for the snake, and will also help to recreate the natural drop in temperature that the snake would experience in the wild. I prefer to use a fluorescent or incandescent bulb during the day to provide light. A heat lamp of appropriate wattage or heat pad should be all that is needed to heat the enclosure. We simply use a heat pad on one end of the cage to provide the proper gradient. Use of thermometers and or temp guns are highly recommended to ensure proper heat gradients. If you choose to use a heat light be sure to place it on one end of the tank and not in the center. By placing it on the end you ensure a hot spot and a cool spot.
Feeding Feeding is straight forward. Rodents of an appropriate size should make up most of the diet. Blue Beauties relish 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 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 aggresive feeding response when you open it's cage. 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. Wild caught snakes acclimate to captivity and will start feeding with little effort on behalf of the keeper. With that said, there are always exceptions. If you happen to get an exception you can try the following to get it to feed. To entice a reluctant animal to feed I recommend placing the animal in a restricted container such as a deli dish in order to keep the food and it's scent in close proximity to the snake and leave it alone for about 24 hours. As mentioned above, chicks and quail are relished by these snakes and if your specimen refuses to feed on rodent prey, perhaps you should change the menu. Tease feeding is some what effective as well. With a pair of long tongs or forceps, grasp a prey item and simply irritate the snake with it causing it to strike and bite the food. Most of the time when the snake bites the food, a feeding instinct takes over and the snake will hopefully decide to eat what it has just bit. If this does not work you can also try a more grisly method in which the skull cap of a frozen thawed prey item is cut open exposing the brain matter and juices. This works with surprising results and most problem feeders cannot resist the smell of brains.
Water A dish of fresh water should always be available. Beauty snakes will drink from a dish with little problems. Mine seem to enjoy soaking in their water dishes especially after a meal. They will frequently defecate in it as well. Misting or spraying the enclosure once or twice a a day will help to provide clean water for drinking and will also raise the humidity.