The Arabian sand boa is a small, non-venomous snake that belongs to the family Boidae, which includes the boa constrictor and the emerald tree boa. Unlike its larger relatives, the Arabian sand boa is adapted to live in the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Iran, where it spends most of its time buried in the sand. This snake has a unique appearance and behavior, which makes it an interesting and unusual pet for reptile enthusiasts. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the Arabian sand boa, including its appearance, care requirements, health issues, natural habitat, and more.
Arabian Sand Boa Snake Overview
The Arabian sand boa (Eryx jayakari) is one of the smallest boas in the world, reaching a maximum length of about 80 cm (31 inches). It has a cylindrical body with a constant thickness and a blunt, shovel-shaped head.
The most interesting and hilarious thing about these snakes are the eyes. Their eyes are very small and located directly on the top of the head, which helps the snake to see above the sand while hiding. The color of the snake is usually yellowish-gray or sandy-brown with dark brown or black markings. The scales are smooth and glossy, giving the snake a shiny appearance.
The Arabian sand boa is a nocturnal snake that hunts by ambushing its prey. It lies slightly below the surface of the sand with only its eyes exposed, waiting for a small rodent or lizard to pass by. Then, it strikes with a sideways flick of its head, grabbing the prey and constricting it until it suffocates. The snake can swallow prey items that are larger than its own head, thanks to its flexible jaws and teeth.
The Arabian sand boa is one of only two species of boas that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. This is an evolutionary reversal that occurred about 60 million years ago, when most boas became viviparous (live-bearing). The embryos of the Arabian sand boa lack an egg tooth, which is a sharp projection on the snout that helps other egg-laying snakes to break out of their shells. Instead, the female snake assists her offspring by tearing open the eggs with her teeth.
What We Like About Arabian Sand Boas
There are many reasons why Arabian sand boas make great pets for reptile lovers. Here are some of the things we like about them:
- They are easy to care for and have simple requirements.
- They are docile and rarely bite or show aggression.
- They are fascinating to watch as they burrow and hunt in their substrate.
- They are relatively rare and exotic in the pet trade.
- They have a long lifespan of up to 20 years.
The Arabian sand boa has a distinctive appearance that sets it apart from other snakes. It has a round body with no visible neck or tail. The head is flat and wedge-shaped, with small eyes on top and a pointed snout. The mouth is large and can open wide to swallow large prey items. The coloration of the snake varies from light to dark brown, with darker bands or blotches along the body. Some individuals may have white speckles or flecks on their scales.
How Big Do Arabian Sand Boas Get?
The Arabian sand boa is a small snake that reaches an average length of 50 cm (20 inches) for males and 60 cm (24 inches) for females. The largest recorded specimen measured 80 cm (31 inches) in total length. The weight of the snake depends on its age, sex, and diet, but generally ranges from 100 to 300 grams (3.5 to 10.6 ounces).
Beginners Care Guide
The Arabian sand boa is a low-maintenance snake that does not require much attention or equipment to keep as a pet. However, it still needs some basic care to ensure its health and well-being. Here are some of the most important aspects of caring for an Arabian sand boa:
- Scientific name: Eryx jayakari
- Common name: Arabian sand boa
- Other names: Jayakar’s sand boa
- Family: Boidae
- Origin: Arabian Peninsula and Iran
- Lifespan: Up to 20 years
- Size: 50-80 cm (20-31 inches)
- Weight: 100-300 grams (3.5-10.6 ounces)
- Diet: Rodents and lizards
- Temperament: Docile and shy
- Activity: Nocturnal
- Habitat: Desert
- Conservation status: Least Concern
The Arabian sand boa does not need a large enclosure, as it spends most of its time buried in the substrate. A 10-gallon tank or terrarium is sufficient for one adult snake, while a 20-gallon tank can house a pair or a trio. The enclosure should have a secure lid to prevent the snake from escaping, as well as ventilation holes to allow air circulation. The tank should be placed in a quiet and stable location, away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and drafts.
The substrate is the most important part of the Arabian sand boa’s enclosure, as it provides the snake with a natural environment to burrow and hide. The substrate should be at least 10 cm (4 inches) deep and consist of a loose and dry material that does not clump or stick to the snake’s skin. Some of the best substrates for Arabian sand boas are:
- Aspen shavings
- Coconut fiber
- Reptile bark
The substrate should be spot-cleaned regularly to remove any waste or uneaten food, and completely replaced every few months. The substrate should also be misted lightly once a week to maintain some humidity in the tank.
The Arabian sand boa does not need any special lighting, as it is a nocturnal snake that avoids bright light. However, it is recommended to provide a natural day and night cycle for the snake by using a timer or a switch to turn on and off the room lights. The snake should have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness per day.
The Arabian sand boa is a cold-blooded animal that relies on external sources of heat to regulate its body temperature. Therefore, it is essential to provide a temperature gradient in the enclosure, with a warm side and a cool side. The warm side should have a heat mat or a ceramic heat emitter that creates a basking spot of about 32°C (90°F). The cool side should have an ambient temperature of about 24°C (75°F). A thermometer should be used to monitor the temperature at both ends of the tank.
The Arabian sand boa is adapted to live in dry conditions and does not need high humidity levels in its enclosure. However, some humidity is necessary to prevent dehydration and shedding problems. The humidity level should be kept between 40% and 60%, which can be achieved by misting the substrate lightly once a week or providing a humid hide box. A hygrometer should be used to measure the humidity in the tank.
The Arabian sand boa is a shy and secretive snake that likes to hide under the substrate or in dark places. Therefore, it is important to provide at least two hide boxes in the enclosure, one on the warm side and one on the cool side. The hide boxes can be made of plastic, wood, or ceramic, and should be large enough for the snake to fit inside comfortably. The hide boxes should also have some substrate inside to make them more cozy and secure.
The Arabian sand boa does not drink much water, as it gets most of its hydration from its prey. However, it still needs access to fresh and clean water at all times. A shallow water dish should be provided in the enclosure, preferably on the cool side. The water dish should be large enough for the snake to soak in if it wants to, but not too deep that it can drown. The water dish should be cleaned and refilled daily.
The Arabian sand boa is a carnivorous snake that feeds on small mammals and reptiles in the wild. In captivity, it can be fed with frozen-thawed rodents or lizards of appropriate size. The prey item should not be larger than the widest part of the snake’s body, as this can cause digestive problems or regurgitation. The snake should be fed once every 7 to 10 days, depending on its age, size, and activity level. Juveniles may need more frequent feedings than adults.
To feed the snake, place the prey item on top of the substrate near the snake’s head and wait for it to strike. Alternatively, use tongs or tweezers to dangle the prey item in front of the snake’s mouth and stimulate its hunting instinct. Do not use your fingers or hands to offer food to the snake, as this can result in accidental bites or injuries.
After feeding, leave the snake alone for at least 48 hours to allow it to digest its meal properly. Do not handle or disturb the snake during this time, as this can cause stress or regurgitation.
The Arabian sand boa is a docile and calm snake that rarely shows aggression or defensiveness. It prefers to avoid confrontation by hiding under the substrate or in its hide box. However, if threatened or provoked, it may hiss, coil up, or strike with its mouth closed. These are warning signs that indicate that the snake is scared or stressed and wants to be left alone.
The Arabian sand boa is also a curious and intelligent snake that can learn to recognize its owner and associate them with food or handling. It may even come out of its hiding place when it senses its owner’s presence or smell. The snake may also explore its enclosure and interact with its environment, especially at night when it is more active.
The Arabian sand boa is a solitary snake that does not tolerate the presence of other snakes of the same or different species. It may become aggressive or territorial if housed with another snake, resulting in fights or injuries. Therefore, it is best to keep the Arabian sand boa alone or in a pair of opposite sexes, if breeding is desired.
Are Arabian Sand Boas Good Pets?
The Arabian sand boa is a good pet for anyone who is looking for a unique and easy-to-care-for snake. It has a simple diet, a low maintenance enclosure, and a gentle temperament. It is also relatively rare and exotic in the pet trade, making it a prized possession for reptile collectors. However, the Arabian sand boa is not a good pet for anyone who expects a lot of interaction or activity from their snake. It is a shy and secretive snake that spends most of its time hiding and sleeping. It is also not very suitable for children or beginners, as it may be difficult to handle or feed.
The Arabian sand boa can be handled occasionally, but not too frequently or for too long. Handling should be limited to once or twice a week, for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Handling should also be avoided before or after feeding, during shedding, or when the snake is stressed or sick.
To handle the Arabian sand boa, gently lift it from its enclosure using both hands and support its body evenly. Do not squeeze or pull the snake, as this can cause pain or injury. Hold the snake close to your body and avoid sudden movements or loud noises. If the snake tries to escape or shows signs of discomfort, return it to its enclosure and try again another time.
Where to Buy an Arabian Sand Boa
The Arabian sand boa is not very common in the pet trade, as it is not widely bred or imported. Therefore, it may be hard to find one in your local pet store or online. The best way to buy an Arabian sand boa is to contact a reputable breeder who specializes in this species. A breeder can provide you with a healthy and captive-bred snake that has been well cared for and socialized. A breeder can also give you more information about the snake’s origin, genetics, temperament, and care.
To find a breeder of Arabian sand boas, you can search online for websites, forums, or social media groups dedicated to this species. You can also visit reptile shows or expos in your area and look for vendors who sell this snake. Before buying an Arabian sand boa from any source, make sure to do your research and ask questions about the snake’s health, history, and husbandry. You should also inspect the snake carefully for any signs of illness or injury, such as mites, wounds, infections, deformities, or parasites.
The cost of an Arabian sand boa depends on several factors, such as its age, size, sex, color, pattern, and availability. Generally, an Arabian sand boa can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 USD. The price may vary depending on the supply and demand of the market, as well as the quality and reputation of the seller.
In addition to the cost of the snake itself, you will also need to spend money on its enclosure and accessories. The initial setup of the tank can cost around $200 USD, depending on the size and type of the tank, substrate, heating device, thermometer, hygrometer, hides, water dish, and lighting device. The ongoing maintenance of the tank can cost around $50 USD per month, depending on the amount and type of substrate, food, and electricity used.
The cost of owning an Arabian sand boa also includes veterinary expenses, which can vary depending on the health and condition of the snake. A routine check-up can cost around $50 USD, while a treatment for a common health issue can cost around $100 USD. More serious or rare health problems can cost more, depending on the diagnosis and medication required.
Common Health Issues
The Arabian sand boa is a hardy and resilient snake that does not suffer from many health issues. However, like any other animal, it can still get sick or injured due to various factors, such as poor husbandry, stress, parasites, or infections. Some of the most common health issues that affect Arabian sand boas are:
Respiratory infections are caused by bacteria or viruses that infect the snake’s lungs or airways. They can be triggered by low temperatures, high humidity, poor ventilation, or dirty substrate. The symptoms of respiratory infections include wheezing, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, mouth breathing, or loss of appetite. Respiratory infections can be fatal if left untreated, as they can lead to pneumonia or septicemia.
To prevent respiratory infections, make sure to keep the enclosure clean and dry, provide adequate heat and ventilation, and avoid exposing the snake to drafts or cold air. To treat respiratory infections, consult a veterinarian who can prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Mouth or Scale Rot
Mouth or scale rot is a bacterial infection that affects the snake’s mouth or skin. It can be caused by injuries, bites, burns, or poor hygiene. The symptoms of mouth rot or scale rot include swelling, redness, bleeding, pus, or necrosis of the affected area. Mouth or scale rot can be painful and debilitating for the snake, and can lead to secondary infections or septicemia.
To prevent mouth or scale rot, make sure to keep the enclosure clean and sanitized, provide proper substrate and hides, and avoid handling the snake roughly or with dirty hands. To treat mouth or scale rot, consult a veterinarian who can clean and disinfect the wound and prescribe antibiotics or topical creams.
Snake mites are tiny parasites that feed on the snake’s blood and skin. They can be introduced by infected prey items, bedding materials, or other snakes. The symptoms of snake mites include itching, scratching, rubbing, restlessness, or loss of scales. Snake mites can also transmit diseases or cause anemia or dehydration.
To prevent snake mites, make sure to quarantine any new snakes or prey items, freeze or microwave any bedding materials, and inspect the snake and its enclosure regularly. To treat snake mites, consult a veterinarian who can recommend a safe and effective mite treatment, such as ivermectin or permethrin.
The Arabian sand boa can also suffer from other diseases or disorders that are less common or specific to this species. Some of these include:
- Inclusion body disease (IBD): A viral infection that affects the snake’s nervous system and causes neurological symptoms, such as tremors, seizures, paralysis, or death. There is no cure for IBD and infected snakes should be euthanized to prevent spreading the disease to other snakes.
- Egg binding: A condition that occurs when a female snake fails to lay her eggs due to stress, illness, injury, or lack of calcium. The symptoms of egg binding include swelling, lethargy, loss of appetite, or difficulty breathing. Egg binding can be fatal if not treated promptly by a veterinarian who can induce oviposition or perform surgery.
- Parasites: Internal or external parasites that can infect the snake’s digestive system, blood, or skin. The symptoms of parasites vary depending on the type and severity of the infection, but may include weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, anemia, or skin lesions. Parasites can be prevented by feeding frozen-thawed prey items and treated by a veterinarian who can prescribe dewormers or antiparasitic drugs.
The Arabian sand boa is native to the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Iran. It inhabits arid and sandy areas with sparse vegetation, such as dunes, plains, hills, or oases. It avoids rocky or gravelly terrain that can injure its skin or impede its burrowing ability.
Where are Arabian Sand Boas From?
The Arabian sand boa is endemic to the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. It is found in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iran. It has a wide distribution and can adapt to different habitats within its range.
What Do They Eat In the Wild
The Arabian sand boa is a carnivorous snake that feeds on small mammals and reptiles in the wild. It mainly preys on rodents, such as gerbils, jirds, mice, or rats. It also eats lizards, such as geckos, skinks, or agamas. It occasionally eats birds, eggs, or insects. It hunts by ambushing its prey from under the sand and constricting it with its powerful body. It can swallow prey items that are larger than its own head, thanks to its flexible jaws and teeth.
Are Arabian Sand Boas Endangered
The Arabian sand boa is not endangered and has a stable population in the wild. It is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. It faces some threats from habitat loss, degradation, or fragmentation due to human activities, such as urbanization, agriculture, or mining. It is also collected for the pet trade, but not in large numbers. It is protected by law in some countries within its range and has some reserves or protected areas where it can live safely.
Do Arabian Sand Boas Have Natural Predators
The Arabian sand boa has few natural predators in the wild, as it is well camouflaged and hidden under the sand. However, it may fall prey to some larger animals, such as birds of prey, foxes, jackals, or mongooses. It may also be killed by humans who fear or dislike snakes or who use them for traditional medicine or food.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Arabian sand boa:
How long do Arabian sand boas live?
The Arabian sand boa can live up to 20 years in captivity, if provided with proper care and conditions. In the wild, it may live shorter due to predation, disease, or environmental factors.
How often do Arabian sand boas shed?
The Arabian sand boa sheds its skin every few months, depending on its age, growth rate, and health. Shedding is a natural process that allows the snake to get rid of old and worn-out skin and parasites. During shedding, the snake’s eyes may become cloudy and its color may fade. The snake may also become less active and more irritable. To help the snake shed smoothly, provide adequate humidity and a rough surface for it to rub against.
How can I tell the sex of my Arabian sand boa?
The sex of an Arabian sand boa can be determined by examining its tail length and shape. Males have longer and thicker tails than females, as they contain the hemipenes (male reproductive organs). Females have shorter and thinner tails that taper abruptly. However, this method is not always accurate and may require experience or expertise. Another method is to probe the snake’s cloaca (vent) with a metal rod or a blunt needle and measure the depth of the hemipenes or the lack thereof. However, this method is invasive and risky and should only be performed by a professional or a veterinarian.
Can I breed my Arabian sand boas?
Breeding Arabian sand boas is possible in captivity, but not easy or recommended for beginners. It requires a lot of preparation and care, such as inducing a cooling period, providing adequate nutrition and hydration, monitoring the health and behavior of the snakes, and ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for the eggs and hatchlings. Breeding Arabian sand boas also involves some ethical and legal issues, such as obtaining permits, preventing inbreeding, and finding suitable homes for the offspring. Therefore, breeding Arabian sand boas should only be attempted by experienced and responsible keepers who have done their research and have the resources and commitment to do it properly.