Small bitis adders caresheet

Here you will find information regarding care for your reptiles. These are member contributions.

Small bitis adders caresheet

Postby froot » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:45 pm

Acknowledgement

I must take this opportunity to mention that if it were not for the members of SAReptiles, local and abroad, sharing their personal experiences in keeping and breeding these animals, this caresheet would not be possible. On behalf of everyone that reaps the benefits of this caresheet, SAReptiles wish to extend a hearty thank you for your contributions. The contributors are listed in the references section below.

General

Small Bitis adders are one of the highly adaptable species and like other snakes such as eggeaters (Dasypeltis scabra) it is possible to get highly variable colours depending on which area they come from. Even Puff adders have differing colours and patterns depending on where they originate. Not much is known about these animals of which there are 9 recognised species, namely:

Bitis albanica -Albany adder
Image Photo courtesy of Pythonodipsas, SAReptiles member.
B. albanica (25-30cm) was only described very recently in 1997 as it's own species. It has previously been known as Bitis cornuta albanica. It is probably the rarest of all, their recorded range is only in and around the Algoa bay area and nowhere else, although 2 specimens were found recently about 50Km away from their recorded range. Their body patterns are similar to B. cornuta but the colouring is black and grey. Their natural habitat is lowland succulants and sparse bushveld with loose sandy terrain. Very little is known about this animal.

Bitis armata -Southern adder
Image Photo courtesy of .... SAReptiles member.
B. armata (25-30cm) occurs in low lying coastal fynbos in the Western Cape up to 200m asl. It was first described in 1997 and is endemic to South Africa. Up to 7 young are born in late summer.

Bitis atropos -Berg adder
Image Photo courtesy of Pythonodipsas, SAReptiles member.
B. atropos (30-40cm) is highly variable and it is possible to fairly accurately determine where the specimen came from by looking at the pattern (or lack of pattern). This would however be a fairly wide area that the snake would fall in to such as "Mpumalanga" which covers a few hundred square kilometres. Mating occurs in autumn, females give birth to 4-16 young in late summer, 9-15cm.

Bitis caudalis -Horned adder
Image Photo courtesy of Bushviper, SAReptiles member.
B. caudalis. (25-40cm) There probably isn't any other any other species which shows the same degree of variation as the Bitis caudalis. The pattern and colours differ so radically it is possible to think that they are different species. Then just to confuse everything there are also horned adders which do not have "horns". This species has a massive distribution and I am sure it would be possible to group them into possible localities just by colour and pattern alone. Mating occurs from October to November, gestation is 90-110 days. 4-15 yound, 10-15cm in length are born in late summer, coinciding with hatching lizard eggs.

Bitis cornuta -Many horned adder
Image Photo courtesy of .... SAReptiles member.
B. cornuta (30-40cm) is found along the west coast of South Africa into Namibia, spilling inland along the orange river. It occurs in rocky outcrops, on gravel plains and in mountain fynbos in the south. They give birth to 5-14 young, 13-16cm, in late summer/early autumn.

Bitis inornata -Plain mountain adder
B. inornata (25-30cm) is found between 1600 and 1800m asl in montaine grasslands. It hibernates through cold winters with frost and snow. It spends most of it's time hiding and even in summer it is seldom encountered. This hornless adder gives birth to 5-8 young, measuring at a tiny 12-15cm in late summer.

Bitis peringueyi -Peringuey's adder
Image Photo courtesy of xerophak, SAReptiles member.
B. peringueyi (20-25cm) has it's eyes situated on top of it's flat head. It is known for it's sidewinding and sand burying behaviour. It obtains moisture from precipitation from coastal fog on it's body. It's range occurs all along the Namibian coast where coastal fog occurs. 3-10 young, measuring 8-13cm are born in late summer.

Bitis rubida -Red adder
Image Photo courtesy of Pythonodipsas/Bushviper, SAReptiles member.
Bitis rubida (25-30cm) also shows many variations through it's range which is much smaller than that of caudalis. It is one of the rarest of the species and occur only in the Karoo desert. It is found in rocky mountain fynbos from 300 to 1400m asl. Up to 10 young are born in late summer measuring 12-14cm.

Bitis schneideri -Namaqua dwarf adder
Image Photo courtesy of .... SAReptiles member.
B. schneideri (20-28cm) is the world's smallest adder. It occurs on vegetated coastal sand dunes along the west coast into Namibia. It sidewinds and often buries itself in the sand. It gives birth to 3-7 young, 11-13cm in length in late summer.

Bitis xeropaga -Desert mountain adder
Image Photo courtesy of Horned adder, SAReptiles member.
B. xeropaga (30-40cm) is found in North western Cape on rocky mountain slopes and sparsely vegetated hillsides, it's range spilling over into Namibia. This hornless adder appears to be similar to B. cornuta in it's habits and captive specimens prefer to lie on rocks. It does not sidewind or bury itself in the sand. It gives birth to 4-5 young in late summer.

Enclosure

Enclosure sizes are relative the the species size and in this case thay are smaller than average. 50cmx50cm cage size is ample for an adult dwarf Bitis. The height should not be smaller than 40cm to allow better air circulation. Ventilaion is important so make sure that stale air can't accumulate by having sufficient vents at different heights. Although there are exceptions with some species, it is not recommended to keep any small adders together in one enclosure because they can be cannabilistic. There have been cases where keepers have had no problem keeping more than one in the same enclosure but this may not be the case with the same species for another keeper.

Most small Bitis like to burrow so a heating pad is a no no. A low wattage spotlight in one corner is adequate, just make sure it is out of reach of the animal. If the room temperature drops a bit low, it may be an idea to attach a heating pad to one or two of the walls of the enclosure to help maintain the desired temperature.

The ideal enclosure design for any of the species is to replicate their natural environment as accurately as possible.

The best substrate to use for the desert species is the actual sand from the snake's natural habitat. Desert sand from Morocco or Tunisia have been recommended as well. Otherwise you'll need clean fine sand that doesn't have powdery dust and doesn't have unnatural additives. Desert species probably won't drink from a waterbowl and the enclosure should be kept dry. This doesn't mean they don't need water and will need to be kept hydrated manually which we'll cover in the next section. A hide from clay, ceramic or stone in the cool and warm area of the enclosure is recommended. The hide's height needs to be low enough such that the snake can feel the roof of the hide on it's back which gives it an added feeling of security.
Adders from montaine areas occur in habitats with grasslands and scrub which has no loose sand but knolls of grass, small scrub, rock fissures and loose rocks in compacted moist soil. For your enclosure you can place slabs of slate in sterile soil with hides in both the cool and warm sections.
B. caudalis can occur in both kinds of habitats or a mixture of the two so it is a good idea to try find out where the descendants for your caudalis came from and program accordingly. These may drink from a waterbowl but manual hydration would be recommended.

Feeding

In the wild dwarf adders feed predominantly on reptiles, amphibians and even the occasional invertebrate. They do eat small mammals from time to time but this is not their main diet. In captivity they are fed mice and baby rats which works if done properly. The ideal is to feed both mice and lizards or geckos. Keepers have had success by feeding their adult dwarf adders one mouse every 3-4 weeks and one lizard or gecko every 2 weeks. There are concerns that mice have a very high fat content which can overstress the adder's liver. Lizards on the other hand may carry parasites which could be foreign to the snake's immune system. Captive bred feeder geckos or lizards should be fine though. If you cannot source lizards or geckos for feeding, the next best advice would be to feed 1 mouse once a month to give it's system enough time to break down all the excess fat and once again make sure it is properly hydrated.

The main constituent in reptiles that is deficient in small mammals is water. The golden rule is, make sure your dwarf adder is adequately hydrated. A dehydrated adder can very easily die from kidney failure. Even though they may occur in desert regions, they have evolved cunning ways to take in more water than one may expect.
There are a few ways to ensure hydration of your adder which keepers have had success with.

One is to mist the snake every week with a spray bottle. The problem with this, especially with desert species, is that the enclosure humidity can go excessively high. A countermeasure is to place the adder in a smaller tub with sand in it in the enclosure and mist it there afterwhich it is removed as soon as it has finished drinking. Sometimes the adder may not drink but persistance is imperative so keep trying every couple of days until it drinks. This way you will get an idea of the adder's water requirements and then hydrate it when you know it will drink. This misting frequency will differ from adder to adder, even within the same species.

Another method is to inject water into the food before you feed your adder. This will obviously only work with adders that are taking prekilled food and is an excellent way to hydrate them. You will still need to mist your adder but maybe not as often.

Breeding

It is not necessary to hibernate small adders as such. More temperature variation in winter time would be enough to stimulate copulation. Bring the night time temperatures down another 5 degrees approximately compared to the summer cycle and keep the daytime temperatures the same. Species such as Bitis atropos may need an even greater variation, ie. colder nights to stimulate copulation. It has been suggested however that hibernation may be beneficial to the animal giving it a rest period for it's body to rejuvinate for a period of 2-3 months. Bringing the temperatures too low is still not advised. They may not eat during this period but may still come out to bask on the odd occasion in the winter months.

Juvanile care

Juvaniles will need to be nurse fed for at least the first 2 months of their lives. This is both a delicate and risky procedure but has been performed with great success. The 2 main foods used are mice pinky pieces, and a slurry of Hill's a/d petfood and water to a ratio of 50:50 to 60:40. Hill's a/d is a specially formulated dog/cat food, you can find an outlet near you on their website: http://www.hillspet.com. Feeding with this slurry works very fast and easily digestable. The combination of Proteins, Fatty Acids and minerals are suitable for snake babies.

When feeding the juvanile is placed between 2 soft materials such as a pillow or some sponge and slight pressure applied to keep the snake in position. When feeding pinkies, a small part of the pinky such as a hind leg is cut off, dipped in water and gently placed in the back of the snake's throat and then any grip on the snake is released. Now wait to see if it swallows. If it spits the food out, try again until it swallows. After it has successfully swallowed, the next feed it is teased with the food item to see if it takes before having to subdue it as above. As they grow they are fed larger portions until they are taking whole pinkies.

Some keepers using slurrys with Hill's a/d or equivalents use a small stomach tube to feed. The slurry is first sucked up into the syringe through the catheter to ensure that there will be no blockages on the way out. The snake is then subdued using the above method and the tube inserted in it's mouth to about 1/3 of the way down it's length. The slurry is carefully injected and the tube gently removed. It may be necessary to massage the food down into it's stomach depending how much it regurgitates afterwards. In the images below, the keeper uses a soft sustrate and subdues it with his hand. This is not advisable for inexperienced keepers and carries high risk of being 'tagged'. The images demonstrate the tube/slurry feeding method.

Image Image Image Image Photos courtesy of Horned adder, SAReptiles member.

One would need to move onto mice pinks as soon as possible, tube feeding can be somewhat stressful for the snake. This is merely a transitional period from establishing the juvanile to a snake that takes food on it's own. A good timeline is after 2 months, start tease feeding pinky parts, hopefully the snake will take and the transisional period is complete. If the snake hasn't taken on it's own after 6 months, it will need to be subdued and forcefed as explained above until it takes on it's own.


Caresheet references

SAReptiles member contributions:
Bushviper, Horned adder, Pythonodipsas, Phobos, west, Rob, Xerophak.

Other references used:
Snakes of Southern Africa 4th edition by Johan Marais
A field guide to snakes and other reptiles of South Africa by Bill Branch
Fitszimons' snakes of Shouthern Africa revised by D. Broadley

***************
Last edited by froot on Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby froot » Tue Apr 24, 2007 12:09 pm

This caresheet is currently up for review. I would like to call apon any experienced keepers of these species to advise on inaccuracies or omissions. You will notice that some of the pictures don't have credits to the originators. If your pic is here and I havn't credited you, please notify me by PM. Thank you.

More caresheets coming soon ;)
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Postby xerophak » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:32 pm

I like east work you are the best thing! spor grace to share this single a possible confusion, to my personally seems to me t schneideri the pic that it describes witch peringuelli
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Postby Bushbaby » Wed Aug 01, 2007 8:40 am

I think what xerophak is trying to say is that he likes the caresheet and the work you have put into it froot, but there seems that the description for the photo of the schneideri is a discription of peringueyi.
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Postby west » Wed Aug 01, 2007 8:51 am

BB, what he is trying to say is that the peringueyi pic that i took is actually a schneideri. he is absolutely right. i hadnt seen this thread before so didnt correct it.
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Postby Bushbaby » Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:04 am

Oh, okay. We'll find a replacement. Thank you.
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Postby froot » Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:36 pm

Ok cool, thanks. I'll fix it when I get a chance. Anyone willing to sponsor the correct pic?
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Postby armata » Thu Aug 02, 2007 9:00 pm

I keep armata, rubida, and caudalis.
will read through and maybe make some suggestions.
One thing though people tend to overfeed these little vipers; they are lizard feeders in the main, and one small mouse per month is sufficient. Otherwise they get obese.
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Postby xerophak » Fri Aug 03, 2007 5:11 pm

I have particular photo mine, but I do not have but murio in 7 days and gravida. the photos are not very good but they are worth for the moment.

http://img255.imageshack.us/img255/3640/1002391ip3.jpg
Image

http://img76.imageshack.us/img76/9645/1002392lv5.jpg
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Postby Pythonodipsas » Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:18 pm

Lovely xerophak !!!
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Postby Q Ball » Fri Aug 03, 2007 10:07 pm

it's been awile since I been on the site but wow you guys/gals have really made positive changes. I like the care sheet idea.

This is why, IMHO, this is the best site. Thanx ;)

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Postby froot » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:01 pm

Fixed (finally!). Is that correct?
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Re: Small bitis adders caresheet

Postby Mongoose » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:42 pm

Regarding albanica, they come from the Algoa bay district. Not the Cape Agulhus
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Re: Small bitis adders caresheet

Postby froot » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:54 pm

Thanks, fixed.
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Re: Small bitis adders caresheet

Postby Iggy » Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:38 pm

Is it possible for caudalis to breed earlier than mentioned? Our female looks to be heavily gravid, and has not been eating. I am nervous to force feed her in case she is indeed gravid, but she is losing condition other than her very HEAVY body. She was with the male all winter.
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