The Kenyan sand boa is one of the most popular pet snakes.
And why not?
They are beautiful, with several color morphs available. They never get too large, so they won’t take up much space.
They never eat anything larger than a small mouse. The don’t move much. They don’t need high humidity.
They do need a higher temperature than many other species, but providing that is not overly difficult.
All in all, this is one of the easiest snakes to keep and one we highly recommend to first-time snake keepers as a result.
Let’s take a closer look at these beautiful creatures and what it takes to care for one.
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Kenyan Sand Boa
As the name might suggest, the Kenyan sand boa originates from Kenya in Africa, especially from the coastal areas. As mentioned, these snakes are very popular as pets and are easy to find. They are certainly easier to care for than other different types of boas.
These are very easy snakes to look after and are great beginner snakes. Let’s find out exactly what it takes to care for a Kenyan sand boa.
The best enclosure for a younger Kenyan Boa Snake would be a 10-gallon tank. As an adult snake, you will need to upgrade the tank to at least a 20-gallon tank, though bigger is better. This article on the ideal enclosures for snakes will help you find the right one.
You probably read over and over again that you should not get a tank that is too big for your snake, because it can be overwhelmed by the space and feel stressed out. That’s ridiculous. Just look outside. That is where snakes naturally live and the space they have is virtually unlimited.
What is true is that they need a snug space to help them feel secure in their enclosure. You can do this by adding fake branches and hides. This will give them places to hide behind and will make them feel more at home.
You should also make sure your enclosure has a lockable lid or cover. If the cover is loose, your snake can easily push the lid off and escape.
Kenyan sand boas love to burrow. They naturally burrow into the sand in the wild. You want to provide them the same opportunity in captivity, by filling the bottom of their enclosure with a substrate.
The question is why not just use normal sand, since it is what they are used to in their natural environment? The problem is that the snake can accidentally ingest the small sand grains, since they easily end up in its nose or mouth. Over time, this can cause issues with their health and could even lead to death.
The best type of substrate for this snake are aspen shavings, as they can burrow into it. It also stays dry which is good for the health of the snake. Add at least a few inches into the tank, but the more, the better, because they love to hide under the substrate.
Paper towels, newspapers or carpet are not a good idea for this type of snake, since they do not allow for burrowing. A forest floor type of substrate is also not a good idea, because it holds on to too much moisture.
Although the Kenyan sand Boa will burrow and hide beneath the ground, you should also get them snake a hide. Two is even better, so that they can have one on the warmer side and one on the cooler side of the enclosure. There are loads of different hides available. Any of them will do just fine.
Most snakes get their moisture from their food. So if you notice them not drinking much, there is no need to worry. That does not mean that they don’t need water.
Snakes like to have a soak, so it is best to get a dish that the snake can get its whole body in. That said Kenyan sand boas make use of their water dish for soaking far less than most snakes, but you should still get a larger water dish like this one:
You should also make sure it is always filled with fresh water. Whenever the snake soils it by going inside the dish, replace the soiled water as soon as possible.
We do not recommend using tap water without a water conditioner. Tap water contains chlorine which is not good for the snake’s health.
We do not recommend using distilled water, because it does not contain any minerals. The best water conditioner is Reptisafe.
It is very easy to use. All you do is add the correct amount of water conditioner to the water to make it chlorine neutral. It removes not only chlorine, but all chemicals that are dangerous to the Kenyan sand boa. Plus it adds some extra things like calcium and electrolytes.
Humidity is the percentage of moisture in the air. It is measured in percentages, from 0 – 100%. Getting the right humidity for this snake is relatively simple.
The Kenyan sand boa prefers lower humidity, because it comes from a dry region in Africa. 20 to 50% humidity is perfect for this snake.
There also should be no moisture on the sides of the tank or in the substrate. It should be nice and dry. The fact that the Kenyan sand boa likes lower humidity makes them very easy to look after.
That said, you might live in an area of the world that has a high humidity, in which case you need to lower the moisture content in the enclosure.
How To Decrease Humidity
To decrease the humidity in the enclosure, you must allow as much ventilation as possible. If you have a normal enclosure with a screen on top, make sure not to put anything over it so that the air can flow into the tank.
We have an entire article on lowering humidity that can help.
Many people put their snake enclosure in the basement. We do not recommend this, as the basement is usually damper.
You should add a humidity gauge to the enclosure. This will help you keep an eye on humidity levels, so you can adjust accordingly.
These snakes come from a very warm part of Africa, so they like hot weather. This means you will need to keep their enclosure nice and warm. You should maintain a temperature of around 80° Fahrenheit one one side of the cage and create a hot spot on the other side that is 90° to 95° Fahrenheit.
The best way to create the hot spot is to use a heat mat. This article covers the best heat mats on the market and will help you find the right one.
You can choose from different sizes depending on what size your tank is. The best way to use these mats is to slide them directly under the bottom of the enclosure. Put them under the glass, not inside the tank, because they can get too hot and harm the snake or perhaps even ignite the substrate.
Put the heat mat underneath one side of the enclosure. Ideally, it should be beneath on of the snake hides. This way the snake can keep warm while also feeling secure inside the hide.
In order to control the temperature, you should either get a heat mat that comes with a thermostat, or buy a thermostat like these one separately. This will allow you to regulate the temperature of the enclosure so that is never gets too hot or too cold for your snake.
Plug the power cord of the heat mat into the back of the thermostat and the thermostat directly into the wall. Place the heat probe in the enclosure, in the hot spot where you want to measure the temperature.
You want to put the probe in the hottest area, so that you can be sure there is not point in the cage where the snake can burn itself. Set the temperature of the thermostat to about 92° Fahrenheit.
This heat mat should also raise the overall temperature in the cage enough that the cooler side is around 80° Fahrenheit. You can use a temperature gun to make sure the enclosure is at the correct temperature.
If you live in a cold area, you may need to add some extra heat. You can use a heat lamp like these for this. You will also need another thermostat for the heat lamp.
You might wonder: are snakes active at night? Well, some are and some are not.
Kenyan sand boa snakes are nocturnal, so they are much more active at night. As a result, it is important to make sure the snake has nighttime and daytime lighting.
The easiest way to do this is to keep the snake in a well-lit room, but not directly in front of a window, since this can raise or lower the temperature too much. You can also use artificial lighting, if you do not have a room with a lot of natural light. the important thing is that the snake can easily distinguish between day and night.
Kenyan sand boas are some of the smallest pet snakes and they will never grow big enough to eat rats or larger mice. Feed them small mice and nothing else. Get frozen mice like these and thaw them before feeding:
The mouse should be about as wide as the fattest part of the snake’s body. It does not have to match perfectly and can be a bit smaller. Feed your snake one of these mice once a week.
Kenyan Sand Boa: Final Thoughts
They are also very slow moving, making them super easy to handle. All in all, this is one GREAT snake and we highly recommend it.