Baby Acrochordus javanicus eating fish Intro
This Caresheet is based upon 34 yrs herping experience, the available literature, conversations with successful keepers and my experience with these 3 animals. As I learn and grow, and work with more Acrochordus arafurae and Acrochordus javanicus --the information here may change. I currently have 2 +3ft. Wild-Caught Adults and 1 CB Baby. This caresheet reflects the care of the 3ft WC Adult that arrived on 8-16-06. The care for the Baby and other WC Adult is very similar/identical. The 3ft Adult that I have arrived as a wild-caught, imported adult with limited "all-over" spotting of the "White spot" fungus. The white spot came off with its first shed and then slowly started reappearing. After the 3rd shed, the snake is as clean as a Whistle.
The only treatment given this animal was: Security, Security, Security!
No Salt. No Ointments. No Antibiotics.
Just simple Straight forward: Security.
Be sure to click the links within the text below for Pix and added information.
Hidebox When one thinks about how and where these snakes live--Security becomes a very important factor in these snakes lives. The setups that I have seen for these snakes are based so much more on Aesthetics than Security---Which is Backwards.
These snakes spend much of their day hiding in areas like (Pandanus Tree Roots), Grass mats and vegetation overhanging the water (not just OVER-hanging, but hanging over INTO the water).
One of the best pieces of advice that I was given was to use a Hidebox. A simple hidebox just like one for any other snake. The (Hidebox) that I use is simple, straight forward and extremely Functional.
I use the same "Kitty Litter pan" as for the A. arafurae, but added vertical pieces of PVC for additional contact security--similar in concept to the Pandanus Tree Roots. What the snake needs to feel secure is: Darkness, Multi-directional Contact Security and a means to anchor its tail.
Plants and Top-Coverage
I have kept Aquariums, Terrariums and Vivariums on and off for over 30yrs. But like many people--I have always avoided the LIVE plant situation. Thinking as many do that they are just more hassle than they are worth. Not True at all!
With the acquisition of the Arafura I am now deep into the whole Aquatic/Pond plant thing and still cannot believe my loss in understanding over all these years. Plants are in large part the final stage in nature's filtering/water quality cycle. In addition to water quality: Live plants provide natural contact security and top-coverage that the Javanicus need. Currently, I am using Floating Hornwort plants for top-coverage.
White Spot Fungus
"White Spot" is the dreaded disease that kills most of these snakes in Captivity. Prevention is the Key. As noted above, My Javanicus arrived "Spotted" with the White Spot Fungus. When these snakes shed--the white spots disappear, but rapidly come right back if everything is not in order. The white spot on my javanicus disappeared with its first shed and then slowly returned. Now, after its 3rd shed--its clean as a whistle and staying that way--There is no sign of the Dreaded White Spot Fungus. I believe in prevention--not cure. I have provided well thought out Security for this snake--and it appears to be working--time will tell. White Spot Fungus is not a Death Sentence for Your snake. Its progression can be halted and it can be reversed and made not to return. How? Proper Husbandry. You'll hear that a lot from me, because its True. There is no Cure-in-a-Bottle as You will also hear a lot from me. If all of Your husbandry parameters are correct--the white spot fungus will not appear and/or progress. What is there will remain until the next shed. After the shed the white spot fungus will be gone and will not reappear. If it does: Your husbandry parameters are not all correct: The animal is Stressing out about something. It may be Your Kid or 150lbs dog bouncing around on the wood floor, it could be the Bass from the loud music You've got pounding or that cool home entertainment system while You watch TV/Movies--Who Knows? But its Your responsibility to figure out what the problem is and eliminate it. Plain and simple. I can and do give You the basic fundamental parameters here, but I cannot coach You on all the specific details of the environment of Your animal: Look at the little picture--Look at the Big Picture.
However, in the event that white spot does appear and continues to appear---there are several things that people have tried-(None of these are needed, but here they are): Salt baths; Human, mammal and aquatic ointments; Antibiotics, Antifungals, etc, etc, etc. All without success (More Info Here). At this point the only cure that I am aware of that has a direct claim of working is: Australian Tea Tree Oil (Kingsnake.com-Tea Tree Oil Thread). MelaFix 5% directly onto the wound(s), and/or Triple the dosage (1%) and add it directly to the water and again at every weekly 50% water change (Kingsnake.com-Dosage Post).
Nothing--Not Melfix, PimaFix, Koizyme--Nothing Saved My A. arafurae once things went Bad. My Experience with the Tea Tree Oil is: At Best: it offers some very Short-term benefit (like Salt), but I really couldn't tell either way. Otherwise, it really doesn't offer any benefit at all. Its Proper Husbandry, because there is No "Cure-in-a-Bottle". Additionally, Shedding seems to be a VERY stressful time for Acrochordus snakes. Prior to shedding You may begin to see an outbreak of the dreaded White Spot--Don't freak out. It will disappear with the shed, and if everything is in order: will not reappear until the next shed. Even if the Filesnake looks clean and clear the entire time--You will find at least a few white spots on the shed skin. Its Normal, in captivity, from what I can tell, and affects all 3 species of Acrochordus.
Cage This 3ft Javanicus is currently housed alone in a 40g breeder aquarium (36" x 18" x 13"H) on a DIY Wooden stand with hinged glass tops to fit each side of the top and rocks for weight in the event of an escape attempt. There is 1 300watt Inline Hydor heater and 2-200W Via Aqua Stainless Steel Heaters (in the sump) Controlled by a 500 watt Otto Heater Controller which currently does a fine job. He seems perfectly content and there is no sign of the white spot returning.
Do Not Trust the Heater Controller that is made with the Heater.
They Fail Often, and Failing "On" will Cook everything in the Aquarium.
Ranco, Otto, Hydor--Buy a Separate Heater Controller. Otto's are hard to find, but have Great User Reviews. They are Currently about $15 Here. They are 50%-off. The cart will show Full Price, but You will be Billed Correctly.
First, Acrochordus and Aquatic snakes generally will and do escape. But what I have noticed is that if the husbandry parameters are correct--the snakes really don't want out of the water, except to bask, and Acrochordus snakes really do not seem to want to bask. Acrochordus javanicus is known to leave the water, but--Why?--I don't think is really understood. At any rate, excessive activity is a Good sign that the parameters are not correct and the snake(s) are not happy. It will lead to escape--if possible.
I use tops custom made by me that incorporate the hinged "Glass-Tops" of aquariums. Below are a couple of clickable pix:
So, far these tops have worked well and the snakes have no desire to leave. The activities and level are very normal indicating that they are happy where they are and are not searching for a better environment. However, given the opportunity--they can and will escape. An adequate Top really isn't an "Option"--its a Requirement.
Filtration Currently, the aquarium is filtered with a 29g Plant Filter full of aquatic plants, an emersed plant filter of peace lillies, a 40g Sump and a Rena Filstar xP3, and a Nitrate Removal System (Denitrator) using Seachem's De*Nitrate (Nitrate Removal System). The Sump Return Pumps have large Hydor #5 sponge pre-filters.
One of the things that I really like about the Rena xp3 canister filter is the spray bar. It allows the filter to put the water back into the aquarium without a lot of water disturbance. Not a perfect setup, but very functional. The long and short of it is: I have plenty of surface area for mechanical and biological filtration, and only the amount of beneficial bacteria needed is going to hang around anyway. Too much surface area? What's that? I do not use any type of chemical filtration, and in the canister filter I use 2 each of the 30ppi grade and 20ppi grade sponge filters and a whole basket of good ol' filter floss (100% polyester Fiber for stuffing pillows in the sewing section of walmart) and 4 Micro Pads at the very Top. You don't need ceramic rings, bioballs, carbon or any of the other stuff. Also, Carbon filters out the Black Water Extract, so does Seachem's Purigen.
Finally, that one item that brings the filtration system together is the LIVE PLANTS!
Can't say enough about those.
Preface: Many people seem to think that A. javanicus is a Brackish animal. True, they are found in Mangroves, Estuaries and other Brackish environments, but--they are also found Offshore in Open Ocean--just as rattlesnakes are found several miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. Acrochordus javanicus is a Very Freshwater Creature. And keeping them Successfully in captivity in Freshwater is the normal route. Truth is: All 3 Acrochordus are found in all 3 environments--Fresh, Brackish, Ocean.
Keep in Mind: Acrochordus snakes stop drinking at an Unknown Salinity Level. This causes Dehydration at a known rate of 0.5% of Body Mass/day. Dehydration will cause Stress. Stress=White Spot Fungus. Be Very Careful when deciding to add salt to the environment.
Water "Quality" covers many different things. The Freshwater in their natural environment seems to be the basic SE Asian Black Water Biotope: Very Soft Acidic Water--pH 5.5-6.5, Gh 3-5, Kh 2-4, Very Low Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). Most Successful keepers shoot for this range. However, the successful keepers that I have conferred with don't think that it matters much--From My Experiences: It Does Matter. Lower/Acidic pH retards Bacterial and Parasitic Growth offering Antiseptic Qualities--Think about it. The Black Water Biotope is also loaded with Humic Acids and Tannins (hence the "Black" Water...). These are Toxic substances at High levels, but in nature they are everywhere and also offer antiseptic qualities. I use Kent's Black Water Expert and Kent's Botanica Humic combined: Each at 1/2 dose, so combined they equal 1 dose (2.5ml/10g Black Water Expert + 2.5ml/10g Botanica Humic = 5ml/10g Combined Total).
With the plants and Denitrator nitrates stay at about 5-10ppm. I think the main thing is not to "shock" your system with sudden drastic changes.
I currently use Seachem's Prime, Kent's Zoe, Black Water Expert and Botanica Humic, and I add P, K, Micros and C02 for the plants. The addition of C02 also doubles to lower pH to where I want it to be: 6.0. Adding these "fertilizers" for the plants doesn't seem to cause any harm and they are found in the natural environment anyway.
In their natural environment water clarity varies seasonally, with Secchi Disk readings of 6-40 cm late in the dry-season (winter) but improving to 1-2 m after the onset of the wet-season (summer).
I do water changes ~30gal 3x/wk totaling ~50%. I use 100% RO water reconstituted to Kh 2, Gh 3 with Baking Soda and Barr's Gh Booster, Respectively.
Note: For the past several months I have been using Pure RO water that is not reconstituted at all. Yes, I am familiar with the Infamous "pH Crash". Current, Up-to-date information indicates that a "pH Crash" is not harmful to FW life (plants, most fish, invertebrates, etc.) I understand the "ph Crash" concept very well. If You do not--then just reconstitute Your pure water to the specs above and You will be fine. The argument of "Mineral Withdrawal" from the animal is the same as it is with human life--Totally Debatable. Just do some research on Humans drinking "Pure"/"Distilled" water. There is no actual evidence indicating that drinking "Pure" water is harmful--Short-term or Long-term. In fact: It is Highly Recommended.
Note2: During 8/07 I began the switch back to this hard tap water (Gh18, Kh14, pH +8.0). I am currently doing water changes with 100% hard tap water. With C02 injection for the plants-- pH is sitting at 7.0. I have kept these Acrochordus in this hard tap water before--but that was during acclimation. Now that the snakes are happy and healthy and very used to their current homes--I am switching back to the hard tap water. As of today 9/20/07, there seems to be zero issues. I will continue this experiment indefinitely. As long as issues do not develop--tap water will be used. I will update this caresheet in a few months when I know more.
I have heard everything from "Room Temperature (?)", to 78-82F, to 83-84F, to 87-88F. What I know is: 82-86F works well. 84-85F (28.8-29.4C) seems to provide the best behavioral response.
The 78-82F (25.5-27.7C) that is passed around by unsuccessful keepers is Wrong! And this is Why:
Telemetry indicates that snakes body temperatures during the dry season (July-August-Winter) range about 75.2-83.3F (24.0-28.5C) and during the wet season (February-March-Summer) about 80.9-95F (27.2-35.0C). Within a day, a snake's body temperature varies no more than about 1.5º C.
Keeping these snakes at 78-82F (25.5-27.7C) is the same as keeping them in winter all year long!
I am currently keeping this Javanicus at a range of 84-85F (28.8-29.4C), and the tank has reached 88F (31.1C). I will probably lower the temp down to 80-82F (26.6-27.7C) Next winter for 2-3 months, but the rest of the year it will be in the 83-84F (28.3-28.8C) range. Additionally, I make sure that the water during water changes is within a couple of degrees of the water that's in the tank.
In their natural environment the photoperiod is 12 hrs of daylight and 12 hrs of darkness. I am currently giving this Javanicus 12 hrs (9am-9pm) of Compact Fluorescent light with about 2 hours of indirect light (dusk level) in the morning and none in the evening. These snakes spend their day hiding and will actually shift their position to stay in the shadows as the sun moves throughout the day.
Enter, again, the value of Top-Coverage.
Literature, Conversations and Experience all indicate that the water level of the aquarium should be 25% or less of the snakes body length. They should not have to swim across open water (Large fish and Crocodiles). They are very leery of predators from above (Sea Eagles). And they should not have to swim to get air. They should not have to leave their "Hide" in order to get air. However, That said, Literature also says that setups for juvies should be set up "the same as for adults." Go figure. If in doubt---reduce the water level.
My current opinion is that when acclimating a new animal the water level probably should not be more than about 15% of the snake's total body length for the first couple of months, and then can slowly be raised 1/2"-1" per water change.
Keep in mind that the snake needs to be covered with water 100% while inside its hide box.
Substrate In their natural environment Acrochordus javanicus filesnakes are generally offered a sandy, muddy bottom. From my experience and conversations with others--it doesn't really seem to matter much. Some are housed with glass bottoms, sand, gravel, etc. Without knowing for sure, I will offer this: If everything else is in order (security, temps, water quality, etc) I really don't think that the type or lack of substrate really matters. I am using (Seachem's Flourite) for this adult and the baby. I do not recommend the use of ADA Aquasoil or Tahitian Moon Sand.
With Live Plants---You will get snails. The snails are not a problem. They are actually very beneficial cleaners. However, in regular aquaria they sometimes get "overpopulated". The size of a snail population is directly dependent upon how much you over-feed your fish. They eat the excess food and multiply and grow. Too many snails? Feed less.
Currently the only fish in the aquarium with my Javanicus are food. And they don't last long. So, I add flake fish food specifically for the snail population. At this point I want them to multiply and grow.
A side note: if you want to purchase snails to add to the tank, remember--some types of snails are voracious plant eaters. Be careful on which species are purchased. With the addition of plants and a little bit of patience--the purchase of snails is unnecessary.
Acrochordus javanicus doesn't seem very particular about the type of fish that they will accept as food. Mine has eaten 2-5" Comets from the Start. Others have fed on shiners, minnows, guppies, mollies, swordtails, tinfoil barbs. Some say that they will accept dead food just placed in the tank--I have not experienced this. I have gotten the baby to eat dead and F/T off forceps, but not by just placing dead food in the tank.
Some keepers keep the tank stocked with a supply of fish and then just "Top-off" the fish supply as needed. I tried that and didn't like it very much--Initially--and a constant food supply doesn't help elicit a strong feed response--until the snake is hungry again! Which is usually in the middle of the night. However, my Current regime is to keep ~12 Comets in the tank and I let that dwindle down to 3-5, then add more up to ~12 total again.
Another regime is to add fish every week. A good rule of thumb is to add 2-3 fish and see what the response is. My Acrochordus arafura spent about the first 5-10 minutes refreshing its air supply and then started hunting. He has located and ate the first fish in as little as 8 minutes. He even hunted and ate during the day with the lights on. Whenever I moved one of the Plexiglas tops he would come to the front of his hidebox and start flicking his tongue. When I would add fish--it didn't take him long to smell them and get into gear. After he consumed a fish it was generally a minimum of 10 minutes before he showed any real interest in capturing another and sometimes an hour or more. This is a Good regime if You want an Acrochordus to come out and eat while You watch--just be very still.
The fish are still alive when they reach the stomach, so smaller prey is better. Watersnakes have been known to suffer injuries, even fatal injuries, from large prey after it has been consumed.
One of the best places to buy feeder fish is the bait store. The fish that I get are bigger, cheaper and healthier than anything I can find in local pet stores. Comets are very hardy, Shiners are not. The last 2 dozen comets contained fish from (1) 6g to (1) 38g, with an average of 20.6g. I keep a 22g holding tub for the feeder fish that I call "Death Row". The Baby Chows down on minnows like there is No Tomorrow. Folks recommend not using "Bait Store" fish, Comets, etc. because disease and parasites. The same argument is made concerning the use of wild caught fish. I haven't had any problems.
Acrochordus arafurae and Acrochordus javanicus use more than one technique to capture fish. I have seen mine press a fish up against the glass with its body to secure it while it reaches around with its head to grab a hold of it, and then it will grab it with its mouth while wrapping part of its body around the fish. I have also seen him outright grab a fish with its mouth and hang onto it while it wraps its body around it to secure the fish---then "GULP" and its gone. Acrochordus are said to "Constrict" their prey, but that's not quite true. They do not "constrict" their prey in order to kill it in the same sense that boas, pythons and many other snakes do. They simply wrap their body around it to secure it--not squeeze it. I have witnessed a Large Comet Goldfish still alive inside the Acrochordus arafurae 7 minutes after being eaten. They "Constrict" to Secure, not to kill. Often times my Acrochordus' will grab the fish by its head with its mouth then wrap around it once and inhale it! Literally! When this occurs feeding takes about 6 seconds from Grab to gone. If the Acrochordus happens to grab the fish by the body then the same sequence occurs, except time is spent locating the fishes' head. All of these statements hold true for the Acrochordus javanicus also.
Video of yearling Acrochordus arafurae hunting Goldfish
(Audio has no value)
Below is a link to a video of an Acrochordus arafurae yawning and rubbing its face against itself. This seems to be a common behavior with both Acrochordus arafurae and Acrochordus javanicus just after eating. It seems pretty straight forward: upper and lower jaw, etc. alignment:
Video of yearling Acrochordus arafurae jaw snapping and rubbing
(Audio has no value)
Waste One of the main differences that I have noticed between the Acrochordus arafurae and Acrochordus javanicus is waste. The popular info spread around is that Acrochordus snakes do not release any solid waste. This is not quite true. I did not notice any solid waste from any of the A. granulatus, but they were not in Good shape to start with (Kris Ramones states otherwise in his Caresheet). The Acrochordus arafurae also did not release any visible waste. However, all of the Acrochordus javanicus that I have had have released a White solid waste and sometimes a dark part also. If You are familiar with snake poop, then You realize that there is White and Dark waste combined. I heard the claim and didn't really believe it until I started keeping Acrochordus javanicus. Then I realized that it was true.
Waste from the baby when it was still
on the Tahitian Moon Sand substrate.
The Acrochordus arafurae was purchased from Ben Seigel Reptiles. The ad claimed that the addition of cork bark helps elicit a good feed response. How true this is-I don't know. But I had Ben send me some cork bark with the snake and have included it in its setup from day one. Can't hurt--might help. Just a thought to pass along. With more experience--I still don't know. I managed to pick up a box of cork bark (curl) from Black Jungle Terrarium Supply, so I have a few pieces in with the Acrochordus javanicus. I assume that the cork bark leaching tannins and humic acids into the water is where the "Benefit" comes in....Take it for what its Worth.
I received this adult Javanicus on 8/16/06. Its first shed was on 9/9/06. It shed again on 11/4/06 and then again on 12/2/06. Now it is Crystal Clear and shows NO signs whatsoever of the white spot fungus--or its return. My Acrochordus arafurae shed about every +/-40 days. I have not yet determined a shedding frequency for these Acrochordus javanicus. I received the baby on 11/8/06. It didn't shed for +/-60 days.
Shedding tells the tale. I have noticed a lot over time from observing these animals. Initially, the WC Acrochordus javanicus seems to shed every +/-40 days. Now that applies to recently imported WC animals. The CB baby that I have started out shedding every +/-60 days. Over time the WC has started shedding every +/-100 days. The Baby went 146 days between its last 2 sheds. The only thing I can assume at this point is: Acclimation. As the animals have settled down into their new homes and environments generally--they have stressed less and less over time and now need to protect themselves by replacing their skin less often. This reduction in shedding indicates that their skin is holding up better/longer--because they are stressing less. I am curious to see how far the time between sheds grows.
Another thing I've noticed is the quality in the coloration of their skin. Here's a couple of pix:
In the first pic, when the snake arrived, the lighter areas are dark and dusky looking. After a shed, these areas really lighten up in a nice way. But over time (+1yr now) the animals become lighter and brighter in a really beautiful way. In the second pic the snake had shed about 2 weeks previous (9/07)--look at how creamy white it is. The pic really doesn't do it justice. This is somewhat normal: The snakes look dirty, dingy, etc over time as they get closer and closer to the next shed. Then after the shed--they are really cleaned up. But over time it seems that their health improves visibly.
One Word: DON'T.
If you need a pet that can be handled---then Acrochordus filesnakes are not for You. This is a very serious issue. Their muscle and bone structure is similar to a shark in the sense that they are not designed to be lifted and made to support their own body weight. They are specifically designed for life in the water.
I have not handled this Adult Javanicus at all! When I received this package, I opened the box and then the bag that the Acrochordus javanicus was in. I then gently "dumped" the snake into a buck of water for further examination and then from the bucket--gently--into his new home. At no time has this animal been "Held" while in my care. I have not had to remove this snake from its enclosure yet for any reason. When I do, I will follow the advice of a long-term keeper and use a "tray" of some sort. The kitty litter pan hide box doesn't have a bottom to it, but a suitable hide box that's enclosed completely would be a good option. I just haven't found anything that covers all of the variables well.
I will leave this with the same word:
Video Footage of an Arafura Filesnake giving Birth
Reproduction in captivity has occurred, but sadly at this point in time we do not understand the necessary triggers that cause it to happen. Many of the CB babies available are just that: CB=Captive Born--from Wild Caught females. CBB=Captive Bred and Born--means the parents were Bred in Captivity and the Baby is a result of that Breeding. The abbreviation CB is very misused these days--Even on animals that are clearly CBB.
This section is based upon literature and some of my own thoughts and is in reference to: Arafura filesnake - Acrochordus arafurae.
The largest snout-vent length for a male was 47" (120 cm) and for a female 64" (164 cm). Filesnakes are sexually dimorphic with the female having a larger head, shorter tail and larger overall size. Males appear to reach maturity at 32-35" (82-90cm) and Females appear to reach maturity at 45" (115cm).
In the Top End of the Northern Territory where most of the ecological work on this species has been done, mating has been observed in the late dry season (August). Gravid females occur between the end of the dry season and the middle of the wet season (October and February). Females collected in copulation and maintained in a water temperature about 30º C, gave birth in the equivalent of the late wet season (March-April). And wild-caught gravid females gave birth in the middle to late wet season (February, April). Birth in the middle to late wet season coincides with the period of peak fish reproduction. In captivity, gravid females have been noted to refuse to feed. Courtship and mating has been observed in captivity. The male apparently coils and uncoils his tail around the tail of the female. Sexually mature males appear to be able to reproduce every year. How often a female reproduces appears to be driven somewhat by the length of the rainy season preceding the reproductive season. If the rainy season is prolonged as many as 59 percent of the females reproduce, implying that under optimal conditions individual females can reproduce every other year. However, if the preceding rainy season is short, then no female may reproduce, implying that under poor conditions, individual females might reproduce no more frequently than every third year. Litter size ranges from 11-25 and in captivity, neonates may eat as early as 20 days after birth.
This Caresheet is offered on the Acrochordus javanicus and Acrochordus arafurae Filesnakes as is. This Caresheet is not offered in reference to any snakes other than the Acrochordus javanicus and Acrochordus arafurae Filesnakes and even so:
use at You Own Risk!
Additionally, this caresheet is obviously based upon admittedly limited experience! It is not intend to be a recipe of do this, do this, do this---Bam! You have a cake. It's intent is to offer more of a conceptual understanding of these fascinating creatures and their apparent needs both in the wild and in captivity.