A comprehensive guide to keeping African House Snakes (Lamprophis fulinginosus) in captivity written by Christy Bruckner from Reptile Cymru. This guide will aim to introduce you to African House Snakes as a pet snake and how you can care for them including housing, heating, lighting and feeding. We’ll also touch lightly on breeding African House Snakes in captivity.
All photographs on this website are copyright Reptile Cymru and may not be re-used without consent. This caresheet is provided free of charge and may not be republished without consent.
African House Snake: Introduction
The most commonly found House Snake in captivity is Lamprophis fulinginosus and is referred to as the African House Snake, but there are several other species for which the care is all very similar.
African House Snakes are a small active snake that are easily kept and bred in captivity – a great snake for the beginner or intermediate keeper, and offer an active, inquisitive snake for someone wanting something a little different to the usual pet species.
Hailing from Africa, these house snakes reach on average between 2 – 4 feet, with females being much larger than males. Some males may only reach 2ft in length and they remain a fairly slender snake so do not require a large enclosure. An adult male will usually be at least half the weight of an adult female, sometimes considerably less.
Here’s a quick rundown of important things to know about Lamprophis fulinginosus :
|Common Name||African House Snake|
|Scientific Name||Lamprophis fulinginosus|
|Male Size||2 – 3 foot 150g+|
|Female Size||3 – 4.5 foot 300g+|
|Lifespan||Up to 20 years|
|Maturity||18 months male, 2 – 3 years female|
|Breeding||5-20 eggs, multiple clutches per year|
|Diet||Readily takes defrost mice in captivity|
African House Snake: Housing
Due to their size a 24x18x18” vivarium is adequate for a single house snake, or a similar sized enclosure made of glass will also be adequate. Of course they will use a larger enclosure if the space is offered and will also make use of some height, despite being a terrestrial (ground dwelling species).
For a substrate we use aspen bedding which is dry, easy to clean out and provides a great burrowing substrate. It is possible to use newspaper or other replaceable, dry substrate, but the more natural you can make the environment, the better!
Two hides should be provided, one on the hot and one on the cool end as well as a moist box containing sphagnum moss for shedding. They will climb on branches and foliage that you provide and can be very active. Whilst they are active mostly at night due to being nocturnal, it is not that unusual to see this species roaming briefly in the daytime, especially if something interesting is happening or there is food around! Ensure that the enclosure is secure with a glass door lock or similar as despite their small size, they have good strength and slender heads which can allow them to squeeze through surprisingly small gaps.
Whilst house snakes are not directly cannibalistic and adults can be housed together, it is very important to house them separate when feeding and breeding. This species has a very strong feeding response, see the feeding section. If you are going to house two house snakes together all year, I would strongly recommend two females and they must be of a similar size.
African House Snake: Heating
The temperature for an African House Snake should be set to 88F (30C) beneath the heat bulb and around 70F (21C) on the coolest end.
There are several options for heating the enclosure:
Heat Mat – a heat mat covering 1/3rd of the tank and controlled by a Mat Stat.
- HabiStat Mat Stat 300w£25.99
Heat Bulb – a 40-60w bulb will provide the correct heating if you do not have a heat mat. This should be controlled by a dimming thermostat. Since you will need night time heating, this will have to be a red or blue bulb to be left on 24 hours and will also need a cage guard to avoid burning.
You can also use both for an ideal combination of daytime and night-time heating, as long as they are controlled by thermostats. If selecting only one, I would recommend a heat mat with thermostat, at which point you can have a low wattage or energy saving bulb for lighting and a small amount of daytime heat. Other options include ceramic lighting, but this would be overkill in most small enclosures and are more suitable for enclosures 4ft or larger.
African House Snake: Feeding
Adult House Snakes are ready feeders on defrost mice, rarely causing any problems feeding once started. Getting newly hatched youngsters to feed can sometimes be challenging, so always buy your snake from an experienced breeder. The readiness of breeding in captivity coupled with relative difficulty in getting a snake feeding has resulted in the African House Snake being used as a feeder snake for other snake eating species. It’s important that you buy your pet from someone selling well started and established babies who readily take defrost mice. The House Snakes bred and sold by Reptile Cymru will always be reliably feeding on defrost mice.
Males may stop feeding during breeding season and females towards their egg laying if gravid, other than that once started, you should find this species very greedy! Be aware that overfeeding can cause obesity that can cause serious health problems, so don’t be tempted to overfeed. House snakes should always be a slender, light bodied snake.
Due to the adults high feeding response, make sure you always wash your hands before handling – they have an extreme sense of smell and aren’t too smart about knowing what to try and eat! This is the most likely time to get bitten by a house snake as they are usually docile and not aggressive. If you do get bitten – don’t worry, it’s harmless. Depending on the size of the snake it may not even break the skin, but at the worst, it is still less damaging than a hamster bite!
House snakes have been known to eat a variety of prey , including mice, rats, frogs, lizards, bats and even small birds. They have a high metabolism which adds to their activity levels and may make them act as though they are hungry, but don’t be tempted to feed more than once every 7 days.
Very young hatchling house snakes may need to be tempted with brained or scented pinkies. If you’re buying one as a pet ensure that it is already feeding on defrosted pinkie mice and you should have no further problems.
Always feed your house snake alone. Never feed two house snakes in the same enclosure. This is risky with with all snakes, but with a snake with such a high feeding response it is extremely dangerous to both snakes.
African House Snake: Breeding
Adult house snakes can be easily sexed visually by their overall size, and the shape of the tail. Males are considerably smaller than females, rarely exceeding 2.5ft and have a long, thin tail. The females tail is wide at the vent, then tapers quickly and is much shorter. But as is often the case with snakes, there can be anomalies, so to guarantee sexing, it’s best to sex an African House Snake by probing (sub adults to adults) and popping (hatchlings).
House snakes breed readily in captivity and is one of the reasons you should try to buy captive bred, although some pet stores may still import wild caught specimens. There is no longer a need to take these from the wild and some very attractive morphs are now becoming available. Reptile Cymru strongly recommends always buying captive bred reptiles where possible.
In the wild house snakes would brumate during the coldest winter times but they breed readily in captivity without this so this would be purely for your convenience and not recommended for females, who can use the winter to store vital energy they will need for producing strong hatchlings.
Males should be 150g and females 250-300g in weight before breeding, which usually takes around 2 years. A large female may reach 500g in 3 years. Waiting this long is beneficial as you will get larger clutches from a larger female. They will almost always mate readily when introduced together. You are likely to see twitching, some chasing and possibly some entwining before copulation. Ensure you provide a large lay box for the female filled with sphagnum moss as without this she will most likely lay her eggs in the water bowl, resulting in their loss. After 50-55 days the female will go into her pre-lay shed state and is unlikely to feed now. 7 to 10 days after she has shed her skin she will lay anywhere between 5 and 20 eggs with the average being on the lower end, around 8-10. The incubation temperature is 75-85F, humidity is 70% and the duration will be between 60 and 80 days.
Breeding Stats Chart
|Male breeding weight||150g+|
|Female breeding weight||250-300g+|
|Clutch size||5-20 eggs|
|Clutches per year||2+|
|Incubation Temperature||75-85F (80F ideal)|
|Incubation Duration||60-80 days|
You should take care with your incubation temperatures because both extremes of temperature, below 75F and above 85-90F will still produce hatchlings; but the chance of developmental deformities is much higher.
Females will lay multiple clutches in one year, and a large mature female can lay as many as 5 or 6 clutches. This will take a heavy toll on her weight and condition so it is strongly recommended that males and females are not housed together unless you are specifically trying to breed them. Even if separated after the first mating, she may continue to lay eggs from stored sperm – so be prepared!