General: Xenopeltis unicolor is one of only two species of the family Xenopeltidae. Its natural habitat includes lowland river valleys, slightly forested areas, and other places with damp soil near water in southeast Asia and southern China. Known commonly as the sunbeam snake due to the high iridescence of it's scales, Xenopeltis unicolor is considered one of the primitive snakes, as it has a well developed left lung and rigid skull.
Apperance: Growing 2 to 4 feet (.6 - 1.2 meters), the sunbeam snake has small eyes, a long, flat, head, and a cylindrical body. Ranging in color from reddish brown, to dark brown, to black, with a white to cream underside, it has no pattern. Xenopeltis unicolor has smooth, shiny scales, and shows more iridescence than any other snake.
Enclosure: Xenopeltis unicolor is a burrowing snake. This means that it must be provided with a substrate of sphagnum moss, peat moss, or bark mulch (remember: no cedar! it's toxic). Part of the substrate should always be somewhat damp, and it must be given a water bowl large enough to soak in, as it requires some humidity. With out it, the sunbeam snake can develop skin problems. The temperature of the enclosure should be between 70° and 80°F (21° - 26°C). It shouldn't be housed with other snakes, as it is ophiophagous.
Feeding: In the wild, the sunbeam snake eats frogs, amphibians, rodents, and other snakes. It will also eat carrion on occasion. In captivity, most will accept pre-killed mice.
Breeding: Little is known about breeding. Captive breeding has occurred on a few occasions, with up to 18 eggs being layed. Hatchlings may require force feeding at first.
Pictures: Check out the pictures at Rocky Mountain Herpetoculture.
Where to buy:
If you have any info on this snake that I don't, please send it to me so I can add it!
Coborn, John. Snakes & Lizards: Their Care and Breeding in Captivity. New Jesery: Tetra Press, 1987.
Hewitt, Jef. Keeping Unusual Animals as Pets. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1990.
Mattison, Chris. The Encyclopedia of Snakes. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1995.
Mattison, Chris. Snakes of the World. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1986.
Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1987.
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Last modified: September 1, 1998