Jansenii / Oxycephalum

Care Sheet


 by Freight Freitas

Keeping in mind that wild caught individuals can be very difficult keep in captivity it is necessary to stress that what may be perfectly suitable housing for captive bred/hatched Gonyosoma, may be totally inappropriate for w/c individuals. Newly acquired w/c Gonyos should be kept in enclosures no larger than a 30gal aquarium tank. Sterlite sweater boxes or large plastic Kritter Keeper cages (18”x12”x7”) are also appropriate quarantine enclosures. Fresh imports tend to be highly stressed and may show signs of illness either when initially acquired, or shortly thereafter. A small enclosure in a warm, quiet room with little activity is best. It may be necessary to maintain this seemingly less than adequate abode for several months until a healthy state and normal feeding pattern is achieved. It is generally a good idea to move acclimated individuals to an enclosure no more than 2-3 times the size of the quarantine cage for several months before considering much larger housing options. A 40-55 gal-aquarium tank, or some similar sized enclosure, can easily house a pair of adults for their first year in captivity. The following paragraphs will detail cage furnishings, as well as other items necessary for housing Gonyos.

Gonyosoma oxycephala and the black Salayar janseni tend to be highly arboreal species, but they also spend quite a bit of time on the floor of their enclosures. Many of my snakes are housed in semi-arboreal setups where the snakes spend most of their time hidden on the cage floor, and appear perfectly content with this setup. The black tailed Sulawesi janseni is said to be semi-arboreal/semi-terrestrial, and tend to spend a lot of time hidden on the cage floor. Given the tendency for Gonyos to utilize floor space it is best to provide an enclosure that has at least 36”x18” or more floor space. For captive bred/hatched individuals I suggest a minimum cage size of 36”x 18” x 36”, and both longer and deeper cages for black tailed Sulawesi janseni, as they tend to be larger snakes overall.

I have been using many different sizes of glass aquarium tanks to house Gonyos for some time now. All of my tanks are either laid on their sides, or are standing on end with the opening facing forward. I use commercial screen lids and cage clips on the fronts of all my glass tanks. Because I do a lot of rehab work with reptiles used glass tanks have been highly available to me, and have provided an inexpensive and effective means of housing. I have also converted large plastic deck boxes and office cabinets into enclosures, and have found them both to work well. As a matter of fact, I have found my 36”x18”x72” office cabinet enclosure to be the best enclosure I have built to date. This enclosure houses the pair that produces the oxy-jansen hybrids, and they use the enclosure in its entirety. The female oxycephala (Oxine) is captive hatched, and the male black janseni (Zoomy) is captive bred, and they have taken to this enclosure, as well as each other, in a most positive manner.

My trio of w/c oxycephala is housed in a 75gal tank standing on end. This cage has hinged screen doors, and an extensive PVC structure, which holds two milk crates that house humidity boxes in both the center and top of the enclosure. While I think a much wider cage would be a bit more appropriate, as well as easier to clean, the snakes have taken quite well to the dense foliage and extensive climbing apparatus. Even the gray Javanese female (Adobe) enjoys hanging from the upper foliage despite the literature stating that the gray oxycephala tend to be more terrestrial. The orange/yellow male (Yoxxy), and the green female (Sliver) were initially housed if a 45gal tall tank laid on its side. They did very well in this enclosure, as they bred and produced viable eggs leading to my first hatching of four captive bred baby oxycephala (2-green, 1-silver, 1-orange).

It is necessary to provide climbing branches, numerous hide boxes, a large water bowl, and dense foliage for Gonyos. Branches can be PVC pipe, wooden dowels, grape vine, driftwood, or dried tree branches. Anything taken from the outdoors should be either bleached or baked to remove any biologically active inhabitants that may be harmful to your snakes. Hide boxes can be plastic shoeboxes, wicker baskets, cork bark tubes, or any other receptacle that snakes can fit snugly into. At least one or two of the hides should be partially filled with moistened sphagnum moss to serve as both a humidity box to promote proper shedding, as well as a nesting box for gravid females. Sphagnum boxes should be well ventilated by cutting or drilling numerous holes in the sides and top of the box to aerate the moss and prevent mold growth. Hide boxes should be placed at various heights within the enclosure. Some of my females only lay eggs in the hide box at the top of their enclosures, while others prefer the bottom or middle boxes. A combination of the moistened moss and a large water bowl help to provide much needed humidity within the enclosure.

Dense foliage is a necessity for keeping Gonyos, as these are snakes that prefer to be concealed much of the time. Not only do the plants help to provide a sense of security, but they also provide more of a naturalistic feel for the snakes. Personally I prefer plastic plants, as I’m not horticulturally inclined, and they can be cleaned without doing damage. Live plants can help to add humidity to the environment, so they are certainly a good alternative. Considering the strength and agility of Gonyos it is always best to acquire plastic plants that are strong and can withstand the daily use and abuse of active snakes.

On the floor of the cage I prefer to use a layer of newspaper, which is then overlaid with a heavy bath towel. I have been using this type of setup with many species of snakes for many years and have found that my snakes actually like the towels a lot. Heavy towels provide a tight space for snakes to hide under, where they feel secure and compacted under a dense mat of towel. This system also makes cleaning easy, as there is no need to scoop up soiled substrate that tends to get everywhere by the time the job is done. There is also less chance of harboring bacteria that can lead to various forms of illness. In enclosures that are 48” long I usually cut the towels in half, so I can change one side of the enclosure at a time without actually having to remove the snakes. This actually makes things a lot easier and safer for me, as Gonyos are not known for having the best dispositions, and I tend to get attacked a lot less by leaving somewhere for the snakes to hide while cleaning is taking place. Once the first side is done I gently coax the snakes to the other side of the cage and clean the second side. This is a particularly useful technique with large janseni, as they can be quite formidable creatures!

With the exception of sand boas I do not have snake enclosures with substrate on the entire bottom of the cage. Instead I use large plastic boxes with locking lids that house the substrate, which provides the snake a nice tight hide and an easy to clean enclosure. I have not, do not, and will not keep Gonyos on a substrate, particularly a moist one, as I have seen many snakes that have developed scale rot as a result of being kept of moist substrates such as cypress bark, coconut coir, and sphagnum moss. Aspen shavings provide a nice dry substrate for many snakes, but can be very dusty, and given the tendency for respiratory infection in Gonyos I would not recommend its use.