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Old 06-28-2006, 09:26 PM   #1
Dennis Hultman
The African House Snake FAQ

I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to Mr. John Cherry of Cherryville Farms, for the following care sheet and breeding resource attached in this thread.
Old 06-28-2006, 09:34 PM   #2
Dennis Hultman
African House Snakes
“Lamprophis Fuliginosus”

Introduction and description

The African House Snake is small colubrid snake from Africa and surrounding areas. There has been some discussion among taxonomists as to the proper genus to place this group of animals in, but to simplify it for the purpose of this care sheet we will use the most commonly used connotation of lamprophis.

To my knowledge the following are the species generally accepted to belong to this group.

Lamprophis aurora - Aurora House Snake
Lamprophis fiskii - Fisk's House Snake
Lamprophis fuliginosus - Brown House Snake
Lamprophis fuscus - Yellow-bellied House Snake
Lamprophis geometricus - Seychelles House Snake
Lamprophis guttatus - Spotted House Snake
Lamprophis inornatus - Olive House Snake
Lamprophis lineatus – striped house snake

No Common Names to my knowledge:

Lamprophis olivaceus
Lamprophis swazicus
Lamprophis virgatus
Lamprophis maculatus
Lamprophis arabicus
Lamprophis erlangeri

Over the years we have kept a number of the different species and have generally found that the captive requirements for each of them are pretty much the same. For the purpose of this document we will concentrate on the most commonly kept member of the group the Brown House Snake “lamprophis fuliginosus” .
Old 06-28-2006, 09:41 PM   #3
Dennis Hultman

Lamprophis fuliginosus is a highly variable snake. In its normal state it is a basically solid colored animal with color variation from light tan to a dark brown. Over the years many fanciers have color and pattern bred these animals to produce reds, cinnamons, blacks, greens, tan and normal brown of varying degrees. As far as patterned animals we have also seen white sided & lace in all the color morphs. Additionally albino’s are being produced in normal albino, lace and white sided variations. Undersides of these snakes are all pure white and in great contrast to the upper portions of the body. The scalation is highly iridescence and rivals that of the rainbow boa (epicrates cenchria).

Most Lamprophis fuliginosus have a distinct light yellow contrasting stripe on each side of the head from the rostrum to the back of the head. The presence or absence of this stripe is not an indication of geographic origin and has been falsely used to differentiate different populations.
Vertical Pupils give the house snake a very unique appearance also.


This snake gets its common name from the fact that it is commonly found around human dwellings. They feed on the rodents commonly associated with such dwellings in the range. It should be noted though that this species is not restricted to these areas and can be found in most types of terrain other than true deserts and heavily forested areas that for the most part are apparently avoided.

Adult size

African House Snakes are highly sexually dimorphic in size. Females attain larger adult size than males. Adult male L. fuliginosus rarely exceed 3 feet in length with the average being in the 18 – 24” range. Adult females can exceed 4 feet, but on average a five year old healthy adult female will be in the 30 – 36” size range.
These are a slender snake that never attains the girth of some of the more commonly kept species such as king snakes and milk snakes.


House snakes are fed like any basic colubrid. Appropriately sized rodents on a once per week regimen is sufficient to induce maximum growth and condition. Neonates will take live newborn pink mice as a first meal even though they appear to be much to small to take this size prey. Switching neonates that have been well started on live pinks to frozen thawed has never been a problem with the F/T being offered on forceps as they have a voracious feeding response.
Old 06-28-2006, 09:47 PM   #4
Dennis Hultman

Adult house snakes can be housed in any appropriately sized enclosure to provide them approx. 175 – 225 sq. inches of floor area. We utilize Rubbermaid boxes in a rack system to provide housing for a number of individual in a smaller area. With neonates as soon as they have shed once they are housed in large deli cups. It should be noted that in neonates we have had instances of cannibalism occur on more than several occasions. It seems that they are adept at feeding on other snakes and are very willing to do so as neonates.


Breeding house snakes is probably the easiest thing to instruct people about. All you really need is a mature male and female and place them together. Over the years we have had more trouble keeping our females from laying themselves to death than producing offspring. This is a common problem with captive house snakes which will continue to lay eggs approx. every 75 – 90 days if allowed. In recent years we have cycled our breeders exactly as we do our corns or kings. We believe this stimulates maximum sperm production in the males, resulting in higher percentage of viable eggs out of the clutches. But it is definitely not required to get them to breed. In our opinion females should be removed from the males after one session of breeding for three days to discourage multiple clutches. Even with this measure being applied most females will lay at least two clutches during any given year, this is more than enough stress for the females to have to endure and still maintain proper weight/health in our opinion.

Sexual maturity/Growth

A word needs to be said about this subject so as to make potential keepers aware of the pitfalls of early breeding of these animals. House Snakes when hatched normally are around 6” in length and very small, they nearly always feed on live newborn pink mice as a first feeding without any scenting etc. If fed properly they will attain rapid growth and at a year old will be approximately 2’ on the females and 11 – 14” on the males. They can and will breed at this size and age.

With that said though keepers should be aware that the many rigors placed on the females bred at this age and size will have long term negative consequences if allowed. We suggest that you wait until the animals are at least 24 months old and at least 28 – 30” on the females before breeding. Males can be bred at any age they are inclined to. This will minimize but not eliminate the potential problems related to the breeding of any snake, especially house snakes. All the normal risks associated with breeding and laying such as egg binding, death etc. are to be considered by a prudent keeper prior to attempting to breed any animal as the risks are real and fairly common even among experienced keepers.

It should also be noted here that large females that are robust and healthy will produce larger eggs than their smaller counterparts. These eggs will hatch into larger and easier to feed neonates that will be more viable over the short and long run.
Old 06-28-2006, 09:53 PM   #5
Dennis Hultman

House Snakes lay eggs 55 – 69 days after breeding which is fairly normal with colubrid snakes. Normally a pre-laying shed is performed 5 – 14 days before laying. I provide a egg laying box with an appropriate sized hole cut in the top and partially filled with dampened vermiculite for the females after the pre laying shed. If a laying box is not provided, the female will deposit the eggs in whatever secure place she can find. Many times this is in a in-appropriate place and can be detrimental to the eggs. It should be noted that many times the eggs are laid in a clump. Many people incubate the clump as they find it. Over the years we have had some problems doing this with as the top eggs do not get the required amount of moisture and the rate of hatching problems seem to increase for us. We suggest that you monitor the egg chamber and remove the eggs as soon after laying as is possible. The eggs with gentle pressure applied will come apart and can be placed on the incubation medium directly thereby insuring proper moisture absorption. This practice will also make it easy to remove infertile or problem eggs.

It should be noted that there are many breeders that disagree with this practice and for the inexperienced keeper leaving the eggs in a clump may be the best course of action as a perforated egg normally will not incubate and reach hatching.


House Snake eggs are incubated like any other colubrid eggs, in that the requirements are the same. I use a vermiculite and perlite mixture that is moistened to a hand pressure clump texture. I use extra large deli cups or plastic Rubbermaid boxes to accommodate the eggs. After placing the vermicutlite/perlite mixture into the box, I place each egg into the box with appropriate space between each egg. The box is then sealed with tape and is opened once per week for air exchange. The box is place in an area where temperatures can be maintained at 79 – 85 constant degrees. In approximately 62 – 78 days the eggs will hatch. During the incubation time if the substrate in the box starts to dry ( ie: no condensation can be seen on the sides of the box/deli cup) spray the sides of the box with warm water. Monitor the eggs for several days adding water as required until you see condensation when the box is opened weekly.


African House Snakes “Lamprophis fuliginosus” are one of the easiest of the colubrids to keep and breed. In recent years there have been a number of new color and pattern morphs produced by private collectors that add to the joy of keeping these small animals. In that they never get to be large captives, it is possible to keep larger numbers of them in a relatively small area. Thereby promoting the ability of a collector to work with more of the morphs, than in some of the larger colubrids commonly represented in the hobby. This lends itself to experimentation with line and selective breeding, thereby producing a unlimited variety of options to work with. Unusual in appearance, easy to breed, beautifully iridescent, small size and good disposition what more could you ask for in a pet snake.

John Cherry
Cherryville Farms

Special Thanks goes to Vince Scheidt of California for his help in understanding these animals after many years of keeping them in the dark so to speak. His knowledge and help was greatly appreciated and helpful.
Old 04-30-2011, 03:42 PM   #6
Dennis Hultman
This resource page has been closed for five years. I have agreed to open it up for others to post their information. This topic isn't a general discussion thread but a resource page that stays at the top of the forum. Each sub section of the discussion groups have similar threads if contributed by someone as well. Take for instance the one in the cornsnakes section.

Normally these have been locked at the top of the forum and kept as professional guides. I would like to see this one stay the same in that respect.

I do realize things change so I am going to allow others to post their guides and information then I will close this thread again. Please keep in mind over time designations change a new information comes forward. The people that contribute here have done so for the betterment of all and gave their time freely. Anyone who contributes here will need to be respectful of previous posts and post their information as a individual piece of work, not a discussion on previous contributions. If in the future someone else would like to add their own, please private message me to open it.

If you have general questions to what is posted, please ask in the forum.
Old 04-30-2011, 05:00 PM   #7
Deciphering African House Snakes

How would you respond if I decided to sell African brown pythons? You would ask what kind/species they were. I would then shrug my shoulders and simply say that they are common brown pythons from Africa. Frustrated, you would probably probe deeper, asking if they were ball pythons, Angolan pythons or African rock pythons. Beats me, they’re just brown and tan pythons.

Welcome to the confusing and frustrating reality of African house snakes in the captive reptile market. For a long time, these snakes were thought to be one species, Lamprophis fuliginosus. However, about 18 different species have been described in the genus, and recently, based on new genetic studies, those species have been split off into 3 different genera.

African house snakes as a whole are slowly gaining popularity among the reptile community, mainly because of their prolific reproductive rates, easy husbandry and relatively prices. While most specimens are not necessarily beautiful or visually spectacular when compared to a rainbow boa, an Asian ratsnake , or the latest ball python morph, they do retain an exotic appeal to the colubrid crowd that yearns for something compact, but a little more exotic than your typical cornsnake or kingsnake. However, there still seems to be only a handful of diehard enthusiasts that truly devote attention to the African house snake group and keep up with new findings and taxonomic updates.
Sadly, most dealers who import these snakes from across seas do not share the same dedication to accurately identifying and labeling the African house snakes they acquire and sell. Instead, they merely categorize and price their specimens based on coloration alone, which leads to much confusion, especially to new hobbyists. The reality is that most of the more common House snake species are quite variable in appearance, and it takes a little research and a good eye to know what species you’re looking at. To make the matter more vexing, none of the species (with the exception of two) will interbreed with each other. The upside to this fact is that there is virtually no risk of creating hybrids or “mutts.” The downside is that it is easy for a beginner to end up with a pair of House snakes that will never produce offspring on the account that each snake is a different species.
I would now like to give a really quick crash course on some of the species hitting the market these days.

Boaedon capensis, the Cape house snake – arguably the most common species in the U.S. reptile market. Cape house snakes, in my opinion, exhibit the most “python-esque” head shape; a very angular, wedge-shape that almost resembles a Burmese python’s head stuck on the body of a cornsnake. The markings on their heads are very defined, and their dorsal pattern is variable. This is the only house snake species in America that is commonly available in various color morphs, such as albinism, hypomelanism, and patternless. I.E. if you ever see an albino house snake offered for sale in the U.S., you can be rest assured that it is most definitely a Cape. Subcaudal scale count is typically between 64-68.
Boaedon lineatus, the Striped house snake – very similar in appearance to the Cape house snake, except that it is generally a little slimmer, often has large “bug-eyes” reminiscent of the same mutation in leucistic Texas ratsnakes, and the very defined, unbroken striped down each side with no dorsal pattern. This species has been proven to cross with the Cape house snake, it is often thought among house snake enthusiasts that the two species are even more closely related than current taxonomy reflects.
Boaedon fuliginosus, common (brown) House snake – the so-called archetype of the genus, this species is not near as common in the pet trade as people think, contrary to the fact that most dealers label their African house snakes with this species’ title. In fact, I rarely see true normal “fulis” offered for sale, as most specimens prove to either be Cape house snakes or the next species described, the Dotted house snake. However, a unique locality that is commonly available is a dark, uniform coloration with no pattern. These specimens are often sold as “West African Olive house snakes” or “black olive house snakes,” which is confusing because there are actually two other species of true Olive house snakes. Regrettably, both of these species are quite rare in the U.S., so be mindful that the vast majority of “olive” house snakes offered for sale in America are very likely a dark form of B. fuliginosus.
Boaedon maculatus, the Dotted house snake – this species is quite similar in appearance to the Cape house snake. However, one notable difference is the subdued markings on the head, in contrast to the well-defined ones on a Cape. Another characteristic is that the head shaped is more lean, and lupine, an almost “dog-like” look to it, especially when viewed from the side. Subcaudal scale count is typically 55 or less.
Boaedon mentalis, Namibian House snake – Also called the “bug-eyed” house snake, this species is fairly distinctive with its huge orange eyes, and light pink coloration. Virtually patternless except the vivid markings on the head, the Namibian house snake is often thought to be a subspecies of the common House snake, although no hybrids are known.
Boaedon olivaceus, the True Olive house snake – very similar appearance to the common house snake, except for its single anal plate scale (most other species have a divided anal plate, and its bright orange-ruby-colored eyes. Virtually nonexistent in captivity outside of Europe and South Africa.
Lamprophis aurora, the Aurora house snake – very distinctive snake, and not easily mistaken for any other species, the Aurora house snake has a uniform “snot-green” color with an orange dorsal stripe. Unlike members of the Boaedon genus, the Lamprophis species have round pupils, not vertical ones.
Lamprophis inornatus, the “false” or Black Olive house snake – a uniformly colored snake with hues ranging from grey to green to almost black, this species is very glossy. One of the largest house snake species, it has round pupils like its cousin, the Aurora house snake. Very rare in the U.S.

There are a handful of other species, but most are protected to some capacity in their natural range and are practically nonexistent in captivity.

I certainly hope this information is helpful to anyone interested in these fascinating, but still misunderstood colubrids. Distinguishing the different species can still be a challenge, even for me, who has been working with house snakes for 3 years! It’s exciting to see more and more herpers wanting to enter the world of house snakes, and I just would like folks to be as informed as possible.
Old 04-30-2011, 05:02 PM   #8

[From Mike Stockton]

"Law of Random Variance with African House Snakes: A Summary of color genetics & pattern"

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