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How to Care for Your Rough-Scaled Sand Boa

How to Care for Your Rough-Scaled Sand Boa

Rough-scaled sand boas (Eryx conicus) are small, fossorial, nocturnal snakes native to India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Their preferred habitat is arid areas with sandy or silty soil.

Rough-scaled sand boas typically grow to 1.5-3’ long depending on sex, with females being much larger than males. They have a thick, wormlike body with a blunt tail, small head, small eyes, vertical pupils, and keeled scales. Coloring is gray-brown, yellow, or greenish with a pattern of large dark blotches along the length of the body.

Rough-scaled sand boas are good beginner-level pet snakes due to their manageable size, good appetite, and docile nature. With good care, they are likely to be able to live up to 30 years.

How much space do rough-scaled sand boas need?

Because of the significant difference in size between adult males and females, the minimum required enclosure size actually differs 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 are unsure of your snake’s sex, err on the side of caution and use nothing smaller than a 36” x 18” x 16” enclosure. 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 rough-scaled sand boas in one enclosure) is not recommended, as like most snakes, sand boas are not a social species, and keeping them together is likely to cause more stress than benefit.

Do rough-scaled sand boas need UVB?

They can survive without it, but it’s still best practice to provide UVB lighting for optimal health and wellbeing. UVB gives reptiles all of the vitamin D that their bodies need, stimulates better appetite and activity, and generally allows them to be healthier than they would be without.

Rough-scaled sand boas do best with low-strength UVB as part of their enclosure. The best UVB bulbs for rough-scaled sand boas vary based on the size of the enclosure:

The UVB bulb should be housed in an Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics fixture and placed on the same side as the heat lamp. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your snake UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window. Also make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover.

Rough-scaled sand boas should receive 13 hours of light per day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter. This simulates natural seasonal cycles and encourages better hormonal balance.

What basking temperatures do rough-scaled sand boas need?

Like other reptiles, rough-scaled sand boas are ectotherms, which means that they need a temperature gradient in their enclosure to help them regulate their metabolism and stay healthy.

Rough-scaled sand boas should have a substrate temperature of 90°F directly under a heat lamp placed to the extreme right or left of the enclosure. On the other side of the enclosure, the temperature should be between 78-80°F. Temperatures can be measured with an infrared thermometer.

Provide heat for your sand boa by imitating the sun with a halogen heat lamp placed on one side of the enclosure, positioned over the warm hide. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), heat mats, red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.

Heating should be turned off at night. Nighttime temperatures can drop as low as 76°F. If nighttime heating is required to maintain this temperature, we recommend a lightless heat source such as a ceramic heat emitter connected to a dimmer or thermostat.

What humidity levels do rough-scaled sand boas need?

Although rough-scaled sand boas are technically arid animals, they still need moderate humidity in their environment with access to areas of higher humidity to use as needed. 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.

It’s best to provide an area of moistened substrate on the cool side of the enclosure to act as a “humid hide.” The easiest way to do this is to pour water directly into the substrate. Alternatively, you can use a humid hide box lined with dampened substrate.

What substrate is good for rough-scaled sand boas?

As a fossorial (burrowing) species, rough-scaled sand boas require a thick layer of loose substrate to dig around and hide in. As an added perk, it also tends to make the enclosure more attractive. We recommend the following substrates for sand boas:

Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates on sight, along with contaminated substrate.

What décor can you use in a rough-scaled sand boa terrarium?

It’s terribly boring for a snake to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate and a water bowl. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with.

Here are some décor ideas to help entertain your rough-scaled sand boa:

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

What do rough-scaled sand boas eat?

Like other snakes, rough-scaled sand boas are carnivores, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the nutrition that they need. In the wild, they are known to eat small mammals, birds, other reptiles, amphibians, and even large insects. Here is a basic feeding schedule to use as a reference:

  • Babies — every 5-7 days
  • Juveniles — every 7-10 days
  • Adults — every 14 days

Prey items should be roughly the same width as the widest point of your snake’s body. Although live prey can be used, it’s safest and most humane to use frozen instead. Prey should be thawed in a plastic bag in warm water to approximately 100°F before offering with a pair of soft-tipped tweezers. To prevent excess substrate ingestion, offer prey on a paper plate.

Remember, the key to great nutrition is variety! Aside from offering mice, young rats, hamsters, gerbils, button quail, and feeder lizards can also be used to create nutritional variety in your sand boa’s diet.


Rough-scaled sand boas can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements, but occasionally using them can help prevent nutritional deficiencies and optimize your snake’s health. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD.


Your sand boa should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. Provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to soak its entire body if desired. Change the water whenever it gets dirty and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly.

Do rough-scaled sand boas like to be handled?

Few reptiles actually “like” to be held, but rough-scaled sand boas generally tolerate handling well. Be gentle, and pick up the snake from below rather than from above. Support as much of its body as possible, and NEVER pick up a snake by its tail!

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please do further research with high-quality sources to obtain additional information on caring for this species.

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

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