Black House Snake – Characteristics, Behavior, and Care Guide

Black house snake

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

The Black House Snake is a fascinating reptile known for its sleek and striking appearance. It belongs to the Lamprophiidae family and is widely recognized for its jet-black coloration.

This snake species typically has a slender and elongated body, allowing it to slither effortlessly both on land and in trees. It can grow to an average length of 1.2 to 1.5 meters, with some individuals reaching up to 2 meters. Despite its length, the Black House Snake is relatively lightweight due to its smooth scales and slender build.

The scales of the Black House Snake are smooth with a glossy sheen, enhancing the snake’s elegant look. Its underbelly is usually lighter in color, ranging from a pale gray to a cream or yellowish hue. This color variation creates a stunning contrast against the snake’s black body.

This predator also possesses a distinctive head, which is slightly wider and triangular in shape. It has a pair of relatively large eyes, revealing its keen sense of vision. The Black House Snake’s mouth is armed with rows of sharp, recurved teeth, enabling it to effectively capture and subdue its prey.

When threatened or defensive, the Black House Snake can coil its body into tight loops, showcasing its agility and defensive capabilities. This coiling behavior, along with its black coloration, helps it camouflage in its natural habitat and remain hidden from potential predators.

Habitat and Distribution

The Black House snake is a venomous snake species that belongs to the family Colubridae. It is commonly found in various parts of Africa, including countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. This snake species is highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of habitats including grasslands, savannas, forests, and even urban areas.

Diet and Feeding Habits

The Black House Snake is a carnivorous reptile and its diet primarily consists of small mammals, birds, lizards, and frogs. Being a constrictor, it subdues its prey by coiling around it and suffocating it before consuming it whole.

This snake is an opportunistic predator, meaning it will eat whenever prey is available. In the wild, it hunts at night and relies on its keen sense of smell to locate its prey. It uses its forked tongue to collect scent particles from the air and transfers them to a specialized organ called the Jacobson’s organ, located in the roof of its mouth. This helps the snake identify potential food sources.

In captivity, the Black House Snake can be fed with a variety of appropriately sized prey items. This includes mice, rats, and chicks. The size of the prey item should be slightly larger than the snake’s widest body section. Feeding frequency depends on the age and size of the snake. Juveniles can be fed every 5-7 days, while adults can be fed every 1-2 weeks.

Feeding Techniques

The snake should be provided with a separate feeding enclosure to avoid any substrate ingestion during feeding. This enclosure should be easy to clean and disinfect to maintain proper hygiene. After feeding, the snake should be left undisturbed for a few hours to allow for proper digestion.

Water Requirements

Like all animals, the Black House Snake requires access to fresh water. A shallow and sturdy water dish should be provided at all times. The dish should be large enough for the snake to soak in if desired. The water should be changed regularly to maintain cleanliness.


Behavior and Temperament

Unlike its name suggests, the Black House Snake is not venomous and poses no threat to humans. It is a non-aggressive and calm snake, making it a popular choice for reptile enthusiasts. This snake is known for its docile nature, and it rarely bites or shows any aggressive behavior.

The Black House Snake spends most of its time hiding and slithering around its enclosure. It is a nocturnal animal, meaning it is most active during the night. During the day, the snake will usually coil up in a dark corner or under a piece of hiding spot. It also tends to be a secretive creature, often hiding away from view.

As a predator, the Black House Snake relies on its strong senses to locate and capture its prey. Its diet primarily consists of rodents, such as mice and rats. It uses its keen sense of smell and heat-sensing pits located on its face to find its next meal. When hunting, this snake will use its muscular body to constrict its prey, suffocating it before swallowing it whole.

Overall, the Black House Snake is a fascinating reptile with its calm temperament and intriguing behavior. It makes for an interesting addition to any reptile collection, but responsible care and handling should always be a priority.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The reproductive cycle of a Black House Snake begins with courtship, where males engage in a ritualistic behavior to attract females. This can involve rubbing their bodies against each other, intertwining coils, and even engaging in combat. Once a female is successfully courted, she stores the sperm until it is time to ovulate and release the eggs.

When it is time to give birth, the female Black House Snake will typically find a secure and secluded spot in its enclosure to lay its eggs or give live birth. The number of offspring can vary, usually ranging from 4 to 15, depending on the age and size of the female. The young snakes are born fully formed and capable of fending for themselves.

Life Cycle and Growth

Once the young snakes are born or hatched, they immediately start their independent life. They are instinctively capable of hunting and feeding on appropriate prey. A common mistake many beginners make is offering prey that is too large for these small snakes to consume, so it is crucial to select appropriately sized food.

Overall, the reproduction and life cycle of the Black House Snake is a fascinating process to observe. From courtship to birth, these snakes display incredible adaptations and behaviors that make them a unique and captivating species to keep as pets.

Common Health Issues

One common health issue that can affect black house snakes is respiratory infection. These infections can occur when the snake is kept in an environment that is too cold or has poor ventilation. Symptoms of a respiratory infection include wheezing, open-mouth breathing, and mucus discharge from the mouth or nose. If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately to prevent the infection from worsening.

Another common health issue in snakes is parasite infestation. External parasites, such as mites, can cause itching and discomfort for the snake. Internal parasites, such as roundworms or tapeworms, can lead to digestive issues and weight loss. Regular check-ups with a reptile veterinarian can help detect and treat these parasites early on.

In addition, scale rot is a condition that can occur when the snake’s enclosure is too damp or the bedding is not kept clean and dry. This can lead to infection and the eventual loss of scales. Regularly monitoring and maintaining the snake’s enclosure can help prevent this condition.

Lastly, malnutrition can also be a concern for black house snakes. Feeding a varied and well-balanced diet is crucial to providing the snake with all the necessary nutrients. A lack of proper nutrition can lead to various health issues, including metabolic bone disease and weakened immune system.

Choosing the Right Enclosure

The size of the enclosure will depend on the size of your snake. As a general rule of thumb, the enclosure should be at least as long as your snake’s length and wide enough for them to stretch out comfortably. A taller enclosure is also recommended to allow for climbing and vertical movement.

Since black house snakes are excellent climbers, a secure enclosure with a tight-fitting lid is crucial to prevent any escapes. Additionally, ensure that the enclosure has adequate ventilation to maintain proper airflow.

The material of the enclosure is another consideration. Glass terrariums or plastic reptile cages are commonly used and both make suitable options. Glass enclosures provide a clear view of your snake, while plastic enclosures are lightweight and easy to clean.

Regular cleaning and maintenance of the enclosure are necessary to ensure your snake’s health. Clean the enclosure regularly, removing any waste and replacing soiled substrate. Regularly check the temperature and humidity levels to ensure they are within the recommended range.

Remember, a properly set up enclosure will not only provide a safe and comfortable space for your black house snake but also enable you to observe their natural behaviors and habits.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Proper temperature and humidity levels are crucial for the health and well-being of black house snakes. Being a reptile, this venomous predator requires specific environmental conditions to thrive in captivity. Maintaining the correct temperature and humidity is essential for their physiological processes and overall behavior.





Proper temperature and humidity levels are vital for the overall health and well-being of black house snakes. By providing the right environmental conditions, you can create a comfortable and conducive habitat for this fascinating reptile. Regularly monitor the temperature and humidity levels using appropriate equipment, and make adjustments as necessary to ensure the snake’s physiological processes are functioning optimally.

Lighting and Substrate: What You Need to Know


As a nocturnal reptile, the black house snake does not require intense UVB lighting like many diurnal species. However, providing a small amount of UVB lighting can still be beneficial for overall health. UVB rays help in the synthesis of vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption and promotes bone health.


Choosing the right substrate for your black house snake is crucial for maintaining proper hygiene and minimizing the risk of respiratory infections. Good substrate options include aspen bedding, cypress mulch, or a combination of reptile-safe soil and coconut coir. These substrates are relatively easy to clean and provide a natural appearance for the enclosure.

When setting up the substrate, ensure that there is a layer deep enough for the snake to burrow if desired. This will provide enrichment and mimic the snake’s natural behavior. However, be cautious not to make the substrate too deep, as it can make it difficult for the snake to move around and slither comfortably.

Regularly monitor the condition of the substrate and spot clean as needed. Completely replace the substrate at least once a month, or more frequently if it becomes soiled or develops an unpleasant odor.

Nutritional Needs and Feeding Schedule

Dietary Requirements

Feeding your snake a diet of appropriately sized rodents is essential. The size of the prey should match the size of the snake’s body. As a general guideline, the prey should be no wider than the snake’s widest part. Feeding your snake prey that is too large can lead to regurgitation or other health issues.

It is recommended to purchase pre-killed or frozen rodents for feeding. This is both safer for the snake and more convenient for the owner. Live prey can injure or stress the snake, and it can also be more challenging to source consistently.

Feeding Schedule

The feeding schedule for a Black House Snake can vary depending on factors such as age, size, and metabolism. Generally, adult snakes can be fed every 1-2 weeks, while younger snakes may require more frequent feedings.

Feeding should take place in a separate enclosure to minimize stress on the snake and reduce the risk of it associating humans with food. After feeding, it is recommended to leave the snake alone for at least 24 hours to allow for digestion.

It is worth mentioning that snakes have individual preferences and may refuse to eat at times. This does not necessarily indicate a health issue, as snakes can go for extended periods without eating. However, if your snake consistently refuses food for an extended period, it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian.

By providing a proper diet and adhering to a feeding schedule, you can ensure that your Black House Snake receives the necessary nutrients for its overall health and longevity.

Handling and Interaction

Before attempting to handle your Black House Snake, it is crucial to ensure that you have washed and sanitized your hands thoroughly. Snakes have a highly sensitive sense of smell, and any lingering scents on your hands, such as food or other animals, may confuse or stress the snake.

When lifting the snake, it is best to use a method that minimizes stress to the animal. Avoid grabbing the snake forcefully or squeezing its body. Instead, gently scoop the snake up from under its midsection, allowing it to coil around your hand. Supporting the snake’s body and letting it feel secure will help to reduce any feelings of vulnerability or anxiety it may have.

While handling your Black House Snake, it is essential to be aware of its body language and behavior. If the snake appears tense, starts hissing, or tries to strike, it may be signaling that it is feeling threatened or uncomfortable. In such cases, it is best to return the snake to its enclosure and try handling it at a different time.


In addition to handling, there are other ways to interact with your Black House Snake and keep it engaged and stimulated. Keep in mind that snakes are generally solitary animals and do not require as much social interaction as other pets.

However, you can provide enrichment for your snake by introducing various objects and hiding spots in its enclosure. These can include branches, rocks, or artificial plants that mimic the snake’s natural habitat. Creating different levels and spaces for the snake to explore and hide in can help promote a sense of security and engage its natural instincts.

Offering a variety of prey items during feeding can also provide mental and physical stimulation for your snake. Just make sure to research and provide the appropriate diet for your Black House Snake’s age and size.

Tips for Snake Enrichment

Enrichment is an important aspect of reptile care, including for venomous snake species like the Black House Snake. Enrichment activities help to stimulate their natural instincts and provide mental stimulation, which is crucial for their overall well-being. Here are some tips for snake enrichment:

1. Provide a proper-sized enclosure

Ensure that the snake’s enclosure is spacious enough for it to slither and move around comfortably. A cramped enclosure can lead to stress and negatively impact its physical and mental health.

2. Offer hiding spots

Snakes are natural predators and, as such, need hiding places to feel secure. Place various hiding spots, such as artificial caves and logs, inside the enclosure to allow the snake to feel safe and secure.

3. Incorporate climbing opportunities

Although Black House Snakes are primarily terrestrial, they may still benefit from having branches or climbing structures in their enclosure. This allows them to exercise and explore different heights, mimicking their natural habitat.

4. Provide objects for sensory stimulation

Snakes rely heavily on their sense of smell to navigate and find prey. Introduce scented objects, such as leaves or bedding from their natural habitat, to provide sensory stimulation and keep their senses sharp.

5. Offer puzzle feeders

Puzzle feeders can be a great enrichment tool for snakes. Instead of simply placing food in a bowl, consider using puzzle feeders that require the snake to use its natural hunting instincts to locate and obtain its meal.

6. Rotate and vary enrichment items

Keep the snake’s environment dynamic by rotating and varying the enrichment items regularly. This helps to prevent boredom and encourages continued exploration and mental stimulation.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When keeping a black house snake as a pet, there are several common mistakes that owners should avoid to ensure the health and well-being of their reptile companion.

Mistake Consequences
1. Mishandling or provoking the snake
2. Inadequate enclosure size A small enclosure can stress out the snake and hinder its natural ability to slither and move around. Providing a spacious enclosure is essential for the snake’s mental and physical well-being.
3. Incorrect temperature and humidity levels Black house snakes require specific temperature and humidity ranges to thrive. Failure to provide the right conditions can lead to health issues, such as respiratory infections or difficulty shedding.
4. Poor substrate choice
5. Inadequate feeding and nutrition Feeding your black house snake a proper diet is crucial for its overall health. Some owners may mistakenly feed them incorrect prey items or fail to provide a varied diet, leading to nutritional deficiencies.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your black house snake has a safe and comfortable environment, leading to a happy and healthy life as your reptile pet.