ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

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ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby gaboon69 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:49 pm

Usambara bush vipers in captivity
(Atheris ceratophora)


By Marthinus C. Harmse. mharmse7@gmail.com

When God created all creatures He surely did not award physical size to the Usambara, but instead he gave it twice the heart to stand its ground against bigger foe. When threatened, coiled up specimens often rub the lateral scales over one another to produce a sand paper sound, whilst others are known to literally leap towards the harasser.

The assumption that this little montane forest species’ captive needs are similar to other members in its genus is too often both the keeper and the animal’s downfall. Once the keeper has gone to the necessary lengths to provide for this species’ specific needs, they prove to be very rewarding.

It is of interest to note that these fascinating snakes are considered by some to be closely related to Adenorhinos barbouri with which it shares part of its distribution.

Temperature range:

An ambient daytime temperature of 23 to 24 °C is ideal. They are able to withstand slightly higher temperatures but this should definitely not be made a habit of, especially so if your specimens are not captive bred. Note that a small basking area is to be provided, as it is used quite frequently. The local temperature of such a small basking area should be 28 to 30°C [max]. Make provision for ample ventilation above this local basking spot to avoid trapping the rising heat in the snake’s enclosure, which will in-turn cause an increase in the ambient cage temperature.

A night time temperature of 4°C below day-time temperature should suffice at night time. The golden rule to keeping these snakes successfully is rather too cold than too hot. When cooling methods such as traditional air-conditioning is employed, do avoid a continuous breeze flowing through the cage as it may induce respiratory problems which so often occur in most bush viper species.
Many keepers have kept these animals at much higher temperatures but the long term successes with such animals tend to zero.

Diet:

Similar to African adders, over feeding this species often leads to overweight animals and may eventually lead to death.
It is suggested that adult Usambaras be fed medium sized pink mice once every 12 days.

Considering that their natural staple prey is actually frogs and toads, the keeper may spoil these little vipers by offering young African red toads (Schismaderma carens) which also contain less fat than pinks. It has been done on numerous occasions with great success leading to happy snakes.
Off course frogs and toads may carry parasites, so freezing these before offering them may be a better idea. Do not confuse African red toads for any other toad species if you are considering it, else rather refrain from doing so before your snake dies from poisoning after misidentification.

Habits, caging and reproduction:

This sexually dimorphic, females rarely exceed 50 cm, and males 35cm.

Notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, this species is not advised for intermediate hobbyists who wish to attempt breeding their first Atheris.
Gestation period: 240 days. [Edited as requested - BushSnake]
Well ventilated cages with dimensions:

• 0.60m in height
• 0.45m in width
• 0.45m in depth.

Do not be shy with plastic plants and the use of polymeric mesh in your terrarium, as this will make a new snake less stressed, and more at home.
They are bush vipers after all.
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby gaboon69 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:12 pm

PS: The document migt require editing so forgive any mistakes.
Please feel free if you wish to add any interesting info or comments for which you will receive credit.
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby Amphibian » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:43 pm

Cracking post mate.
I have battled terribly with this species in the past and have openly and strongly warned against people keeping these animals.
But I have to admit recently I have found a renewed interest in this species.
The one problem I foresee in having to cool them is that it would almost mean having a dedicated room for this single species.
Is there an alternative way to cool a single cage?? I cannot think of one off the top of my head.
"When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic.
We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity" – Dale Carnegie
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby gaboon69 » Mon Dec 21, 2009 1:09 am

Amphibian wrote:The one problem I foresee in having to cool them is that it would almost mean having a dedicated room for this single species.
Is there an alternative way to cool a single cage?? I cannot think of one off the top of my head.

Very true that is.
Well, when I received my first animals I started out by identifying the coolest part of my place. It ended up being a shower which was right next to a swimming pool. Misting when it gets hot also helps but that is not a proper solution.
I then moved onto experimenting with 12 VDC PC fans blowing over water but that caused a max drop of 2 degrees celcius which was also not a good solution.

You can use a mini bar refigerator's system or a mini aircon which is in many ways the best and easiest solution. That adds to the price of keeping them.
Put it on a timer to avoid using too much power. I believe the reason for the poor breeding success of this species has much to do with how temps are controlled.
These animals tend to be high maintenance because of their temperature requirements but few people keep that in the equation when these animals can be purchased for relatively low prices at times.

I get frustrated when I see people buying these as 90% of the time the guys dont consider the commitment they make by obtaining these.
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby Amphibian » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:44 am

Once I can put together the perfect setup for these animals I will jump at the opportunity to try my hand again.
But creating the perfect setup is obviously the trick here, I am working on it though. I am confident there must be a way of cooling an individual viv, a method is relativly compact, inexpensive and extremely effective......
I am not proud to say that I have lost a fair amount of these animals in the past and what is clear to me is that anything other than creating a "perfect" setup prior to obtaining your animal will in my opinion be nothing short of a death sentence for the cerat's.

This is a very attractive species that comes in a huge variety of morphs and the additional effort would be well worth it if you could create an environment in which to breed these curious little characters.
"When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic.
We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity" – Dale Carnegie
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby Warren Klein » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:50 am

Well done gaboon69. Sounds like you have worked out a good recipe for the captive success of this specialized Atheris species. I have always wanted to keep ceratopohora but because of time restraints and the above mentioned limiting factors, have made me hold back for now. In the future when I have the time to dedicate to Usambaras I will defiantly refer back to this care sheet. Good job!
An inaccurate naturalist is a pest and a danger, forever perpetuating illogical deductions and landing later naturalists in trouble. Damm and blast them all to hell in the most painful way. C.J.P. Ionides
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby Pythonodipsas » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:08 am

Very nice topic Gaboon69 - A care sheet is needed for these. One day when im big I will keep these - they are amazing creatures.

Based on my experience with Atheris over the years, I believe another key thing, besides the importance of lower temperatures and adequate ventilation is sufficient water. This would pertain to all arboreal vipers, whether Asian or South American. They need lots of drinking water and the Usuambara mountains have a climate with a lot of precipitation from either rain or the wet clouds that blanket the hills.

When watering arboreal vipers, one little issue I've had is the cramp in the hand from the constant action of squeezing a spray bottles' trigger. So after years of not enjoying the pain, i devised a rain system. Each cage gets from 5 - 10 litres of water raining in it per week and my snakes drink every time! If you try do this with a hand-held spray gun, you may get carpal tunnel syndrome or something, lol. When the snake moves off and stops drinking should be an indicator that the snake has had enough.

Another key factor is obtaining specimens that haven't been kept in a trappers wooden box with bunches of other snakes for months before export.
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby gaboon69 » Mon Dec 21, 2009 1:39 pm

Thank you for the comments and valuable input friends.
I would not like to wander from the species of interest but I would like to iterate that these should not be kept like other Atheris.
A few years ago I was told by Gavin Carpenter that his Atheris nitschei were doing really well at higher temperatures around 28 to even 30 degrees C.
Did the same with my new nitschei back then and trues Bob they did really well at those higher temperatures.
Then a friend of mine Dominique (Dominitcshei :) ) de Sousa confirmed this by breeding these animals at these temperatures.
I would IMAGINE that despite their different distributions, A. desaixi would be kept at the same lower ceratophora temperatues.
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby Amphibian » Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:23 pm

You see this is what baffels me about the Atheris genus.
Nitschei are well documented as having a relatively tight habitat range only moving between 1650m and 2800m above sea level.
The desaixi are probably second with an average habitat stated usually just under 2000m above sea level
But the cerats habitat ranges any where from as low a 700m right up to 2000m above sea level so according to the accumulated literature on these species, Nitschei should be the real b!tch and the cerats would be a safer option!!!!
But having said that i remember clearly having that same conversation with Gavin when he kept his Nitschei in his hot room at around 30 degrees constant and they were thriving.
I still believe that with the cerats stress plays a huge roll as most of mine died during transport. Each specimen went Into the tub fat and healthy and arrived pap on the other side.
When they originally arrived in the country people had there hands in the air screaming about the amount of parasites they were supposedly carrying and everyone was flushing them and tease feeding them every time they changed hands which probably didn't help.
"When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic.
We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity" – Dale Carnegie
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby gaboon69 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Very true about the transport. I have received animals which were in trouble after they were brought up to Gauteng by a friend. I believe its temperature and poor ventilation in transport still as I once sold cerats to a guy called Dirkie in Nelspruit. They had to be courierd and knowing the story you just told we literally waited for a cool day before I sent the animals. The guy received them in top condition.
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby Cradle of life » Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:30 pm

Very nice stuff G69 :D I am very lucky with my yellow pair, but would love to breed with them! Any tips?
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Re: ABCs of Atheris ceratophora care

Postby gaboon69 » Sun Jul 04, 2010 4:29 pm

Hi Cradle. I would suggest you play with the dry and wet cycles. Keep them at 23 and then perhaps drop the temps to 16 while wetting the snakes. I eventually lost interest my breeding project due to the species' captive requirements. I never lost a single animal though. Perhaps talk to Derick Morgan too. Hes a knowledgable friend. I can send you his contact details. I recall him mentioning that hes had gravid WC females almost any time of the year. Good luck with your gems.
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