snake-care

Rough-Scaled Sand Boa Care Sheet

October 15, 2021

rough-scaled sand boa

The rough-scaled sand boa (Eryx conicus) is a 1.5-3’ long, nocturnal, fossorial snake native to the Indian subcontinent. They prefer arid habitats with sandy soil.

Rough-scaled sand boas have a thick, wormlike body with a blunt tail, small head, rough scales, vertical pupils, and eyes placed more on top of their skull than on the sides. They typically have a gray-brown, yellow, or greenish base color with a darker pattern of blotches and a pale belly.

Rough-scaled sand boas are popular pet snakes due to their manageable size, docile nature, slow movement, and ease of keeping. With good care, they can live up to 30 years.

Minimum terrarium size for rough-scaled sand boas

Adult males tend to be much smaller than adult females, so the minimum enclosure size requirements are actually different for each:

  • Male — 30”L x 12”W x 12”H (20 gallon long)
  • Female — 36”L x 18”W x 16”H (40 gallon breeder)

If you do not know your snake’s sex, it’s best to go for the larger enclosure rather than smaller as a precaution. Juveniles can be housed in adult-sized enclosures, so there is no need to spend extra money on intermediary enclosures and their accessories.

Cohabitation (keeping multiple sand boas in one enclosure) is not recommended, as these snakes are not a social species, and keeping them together causes unnecessary stress.

Do rough-scaled sand boas need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting to rough-scaled sand boas. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits. 

The best UVB bulbs for rough-scaled sand boas vary based on the size of the enclosure:

  • 30” long, 12” tall — Arcadia ShadeDweller kit
  • 36” long, 16-18” tall — T5 HO Arcadia 6%, 22” or T5 HO Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0, 22”

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture by Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. 

Lights should be on for about 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter. All lamps should be turned off at night.

Best temperature for rough-scaled sand boas

Like other reptiles, rough-scaled sand boas are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively.

Specifically speaking, rough-scaled sand boas should have a basking surface temperature of 90°F and a cool side temperature between 78-80°F. Temperatures can be measured with an infrared thermometer. Provide heat for your snake with at least one halogen flood heat bulb. Do not use heat mats, red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. 

Heating should be turned off at night, with nighttime temperatures dropping to 75°F. If you need help keeping your nighttime temps up, use a lightless heat source such as a ceramic heat emitter rather than keeping your halogen lamp on.

Best humidity levels for rough-scaled sand boas

Although rough-scaled sand boas are from a fairly arid habitat, their humidity needs might surprise you. Average air humidity in your sand boa’s enclosure should be between 50-65%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer placed in the middle of the enclosure.

Your sand boa should also always have an area of higher humidity available. This can be a patch of moistened substrate on the cool end, or a humid hideout.

Best substrate for rough-scaled sand boas

As a fossorial (burrowing) species, rough-scaled sand boas do best when they have a thick, 4-6” layer of sandy substrate in their enclosure. Aside from helping maintain healthy humidity levels and facilitating natural behavior, it will also help make your enclosure more attractive!

We recommend the following substrates for rough-scaled sand boas:

Substrate should be completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

How to decorate a rough-scaled sand boa terrarium

An empty terrarium makes for a bored sand boa, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

Since rough-scaled sand boas are fossorial, many people think that decor items are a waste of money. Not so! They love to climb low branches and explore anything that they are given, as long as they feel secure. Here are some ways to enrich your sand boa’s terrarium:

  • leaf litter
  • low, sturdy branches
  • cork tubes
  • cork flats
  • hides
  • artificial plants
  • drought-tolerant live plants

What to feed to a rough-scaled sand boa

Rough-scaled sand boas are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Babies should be fed every 5-7 days, juveniles every 7-10 days, and adults every 14 days. One meal should be roughly the same width as the snake’s widest point.

Before offering, frozen prey should be thawed in a BPA-free plastic bag in warm water until it reaches ~100°F, then use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake. To reduce the chances of excess substrate ingestion, use a paper plate.

One of the keys to great nutrition is variety, so aside from offering mice, you can also try young rats, hamsters, gerbils, button quail, and feeder anoles.

Supplements

Rough-scaled sand boas can survive without supplementation, but using them every once in a while can help prevent your snake from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on the prey item before offering.

Water

Of course, don’t forget a water bowl for your snake to drink from and soak in! Keep the water clean at all times and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly.

How to handle your rough-scaled sand boa

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, rough-scaled sand boas generally tolerate human interaction pretty well! When picking up your sand boa, be gentle and try to pick it up from the side or below rather than from above. Support as much of its body as possible, and NEVER pick it up by its tail, as this can damage its spine!


*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!


"Common Sand Boa" by mananmahadev94 is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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