Müller’s sand boa (Eryx muelleri) is a species of snake in the family Boidae, native to Africa. They are also known as Saharan sand boas, and they are one of the smallest sand boas in the world. They have a cylindrical body, a short tail, and small eyes. They are mostly brown or tan in color, with darker blotches or stripes on their back and sides. They are adapted to living in sandy and arid habitats, where they burrow under the surface and ambush their prey. They are relatively easy to care for as pets, but they have some specific requirements that need to be met.
Müller’s sand boa, Saharan sand boa, Müller’s dwarf sand boa
There are two subspecies of Müller’s sand boa: Eryx muelleri muelleri and Eryx muelleri subniger. The former is more common and has a lighter coloration, while the latter is rarer and has a darker coloration. There are no known color morphs or mutations in captivity.
Müller’s sand boa is found in several countries in Africa, including Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic. They inhabit dry and sandy areas, such as deserts, savannas, and scrublands.
The Müller’s Sand Boa in the Pet Trade
Müller’s sand boa is not very common in the pet trade, but it is becoming more popular among snake enthusiasts who appreciate its small size and docile temperament. They are usually imported from Africa or bred in captivity by hobbyists. They are not expensive to buy or maintain, but they are not suitable for beginners who are unfamiliar with their needs. They are also not very active or interactive snakes, so they may not appeal to those who want a more engaging pet.
Müller’s Sand Boa Care Guide
- Scientific Name: Eryx muelleri
- Common Names: Müller’s sand boa, Saharan sand boa, West African sand boa
- Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Size: 12-18 inches (30-45 cm)
- Diet: Rodents
- Enclosure Size: 10-20 gallons (38-76 liters)
- Enclosure Type: Terrarium with secure lid
- Substrate: Sand or aspen bedding
- Temperature: 80-90°F (27-32°C)
- Humidity: 20-40%
- Lighting: None required
- Heating: Under-tank heater or heat mat
- Water: Shallow water dish
- Handling: Occasional and gentle
Müller’s sand boa does not need a large enclosure, as they spend most of their time buried under the substrate. A 10-gallon (38-liter) tank can house one adult snake, while a 20-gallon (76-liter) tank can house a pair or a trio. The tank should have a secure lid that prevents the snake from escaping.
The substrate should be deep enough to allow the snake to burrow comfortably. Sand is the most natural choice for this species, but it should be fine and dust-free to avoid respiratory problems. Aspen bedding is another option that is more absorbent and easier to clean. Avoid substrates that are too coarse or sharp, such as gravel or wood chips.
The enclosure should have some hiding places for the snake to feel secure. These can be artificial caves, cork bark tubes, or plastic containers with holes cut out. The snake may also use the substrate as a hiding place by burrowing under it.
The enclosure should also have a shallow water dish that is large enough for the snake to soak in if it wants to. The water should be changed regularly and kept clean.
Müller’s sand boa needs a temperature gradient in its enclosure, with a warmer side and a cooler side. The warmer side should have a temperature of 85-90°F (29-32°C), while the cooler side should have a temperature of 75-80°F (24-27°C). The temperature can be measured with a digital thermometer or a temperature gun.
The best way to provide heat for this species is by using an under-tank heater or a heat mat that covers one-third to one-half of the tank floor. This will create a warm spot under the substrate where the snake can thermoregulate. A thermostat should be used to control the temperature and prevent overheating.
Overhead heating sources, such as heat lamps or ceramic heat emitters, are not recommended for this species, as they can dry out the substrate and the snake’s skin. They can also cause burns if the snake comes in contact with them.
Müller’s sand boa does not need any special lighting, as they are nocturnal and do not bask in the sun. They can be kept in a room that has natural light cycles or a room that has artificial lighting that mimics the day and night cycles. A 12-hour light and 12-hour dark cycle is ideal for this species.
Müller’s sand boa is oviparous, meaning it lays eggs. The breeding season for this species is from March to May, and the gestation period is about two months. The female will lay 3-10 eggs in a moist and warm spot in the enclosure, such as under a hide or in a humid box. The eggs will hatch after 60-90 days, depending on the temperature and humidity.
The hatchlings will be about 6 inches (15 cm) long and will shed their skin for the first time within a week. They can be fed pinky mice every 5-7 days until they grow larger. They can be housed together until they reach sexual maturity, which is at about one year of age.
Common Health Issues
Müller’s sand boa is generally a hardy and healthy snake, but it can suffer from some common health issues if not cared for properly. Some of these issues are:
- Respiratory infections: These are caused by bacteria or viruses that infect the snake’s lungs and airways. They can be triggered by low temperatures, high humidity, poor ventilation, or dirty substrate. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Treatment involves increasing the temperature and humidity, improving the ventilation, cleaning the enclosure, and administering antibiotics or antivirals as prescribed by a veterinarian.
- Parasites: These are organisms that live on or inside the snake and feed on its blood or tissues. They can be external parasites, such as mites or ticks, or internal parasites, such as worms or protozoa. Symptoms include itching, scabs, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and anemia. Treatment involves identifying the type of parasite and using appropriate medications or treatments to eliminate them.
- Scale Rot: This is a fungal or bacterial infection that affects the snake’s scales and skin. It can be caused by high humidity, dirty substrate, injuries, or burns. Symptoms include reddening, swelling, blistering, peeling, or cracking of the scales and skin. Treatment involves cleaning the affected area with antiseptic solution, applying topical cream or ointment, and changing the substrate and environmental conditions.
- Mouth Rot: Also known as infectious stomatitis. Mouth rot occurs when bacteria or fungus grows in a snake’s mouth with a weakened immune system.
- Inclusion body disease (IBD): This viral disease affects snakes in the family Boidae. It is highly contagious and fatal. It can be transmitted by direct contact with infected snakes or their bodily fluids or by sharing equipment or enclosures with them. Symptoms include neurological signs, such as head tilt, stargazing, twisting, rolling, or seizures; respiratory signs, such as wheezing or gasping; digestive signs, such as regurgitation or diarrhea; and skin signs, such as blisters or ulcers. There is no cure for this disease, and infected snakes should be euthanized to prevent further spread.
Where to Buy a Müller’s Sand Boa
Müller’s sand boa is not widely available in pet stores or online vendors, but it can be found from some reputable breeders or hobbyists who specialize in this species. It is important to do some research before buying a snake from any source and to ask for information about its origin, health history, feeding habits, temperament, and care requirements.
Some questions to ask the seller are:
- Where did you get the snake from? Was it wild-caught or captive-bred?
- How old is the snake? How long have you had it?
- What do you feed the snake? How often? What size?
- How do you house the snake? What type of enclosure? What substrate? What temperature and humidity?
- How do you handle the snake? How often? How does it react?
- Has the snake ever been sick or injured? How was it treated?
- Has the snake ever bred or laid eggs? How many? When?
- Do you have any references or reviews from previous buyers?
It is also advisable to inspect the snake before buying it and to look for signs of good health and vitality. Some signs to look for are:
- Clear eyes
- Clean nostrils
- Smooth scales
- Firm body
- Normal weight
- No visible wounds or parasites
- No abnormal behavior
Müller’s sand boa is a fascinating and unique snake that can make a great pet for experienced keepers who are willing to provide it with proper care.
Tips for Müller’s Sand Boa Owners
Müller’s sand boa is a relatively easy snake to care for, but it does have some specific needs and preferences that should be respected. Here are some tips for Müller’s sand boa owners to ensure their snake’s well-being and happiness:
- Provide enough substrate: Müller’s sand boa loves to burrow and hide under the substrate, so make sure to provide enough depth and quantity for them to do so. A minimum of 4 inches (10 cm) of substrate is recommended, but more is better. The substrate should also be loose and soft, not compacted or hard.
- Choose the right prey size: Müller’s sand boa has a small mouth and a narrow head, so it cannot swallow large prey items. The prey size should be no bigger than the widest part of the snake’s body, or about 10-15% of its weight. Feeding prey that is too large can cause choking, regurgitation, or injury to the snake.
- Feed in a separate container: Some Müller’s sand boa owners prefer to feed their snake in a separate container, such as a plastic tub. This can prevent the snake from ingesting too much substrate along with its prey, which can cause impaction or digestive issues.
- Handle with care: Müller’s sand boa is generally a docile and calm snake, but it can sometimes be shy and nervous. It may also mistake your hand for food if it smells like rodents. Therefore, handle your snake with care and gentleness, and avoid sudden movements or loud noises. Do not handle your snake right after feeding, when it is shedding, or when it is gravid (pregnant). Always wash your hands before and after handling your snake.
Müller’s sand boa is a fascinating and unique snake that can make a great pet for experienced keepers who are willing to provide it with proper care. With some research, preparation, and attention, you can enjoy having this amazing creature as part of your family.