The most common question that I get asked from people that have recently purchased a false water cobra from myself or another source, is,” why won’t my baby false water cobra eat”?
Before you purchase a baby false water cobra, usually the baby will have already been established feeding on defrost mice (the most common commercial prey item). Personally I always start my falsies on mice, but some people may use rats pups alternatively (it makes little difference).
However, sometimes when moving a young false water cobra to its new home, it will go off its food probably due to the stress of the move. Remember, they are babies, and have lived in a 1 foot square box since they were born, so when you put them into a new (often much larger) enclosure this is often quite stressful for them. This may then cause the animal to not feed for several weeks. This presents little issue usually, as after a few weeks the false water cobra will settle in and start feeding again.
However, if this issue persists for more than a few weeks it is usually a problem of how the prey item is being presented!
Any baby false water cobra purchased from me will be ‘drop feeding’ on defrost prey. It is important that you understand what I consider drop feeding. I leave a small mouse in the false water cobras tub overnight, if the food is always gone after 3 consecutive feeds, I consider the animal suitable to go to a new home.
I do not attempt to feed the babies off of tongs, as I find that is very likely to scare them and discourage them from feeding. Believe it or not, even false water cobras are actually quite nervous and delicate babies! Just leave the rodent near the front of the enclosure where you can see it, and just wait to see if the baby false water cobra finds it while exploring its enclosure.
Quite often the first feed that the babies get from me will be a mouse soaked in ‘tuna brine’. ‘Tuna Brine’ is the water that is left over when you open a can of tuna. Occasionally when a young false water cobra goes to its new home, and refuses its first couple of meals in its new environment, it will require one or two meals to be soaked in tuna brine before it goes back to feeding normally again. This is not a huge problem as it will begin eating on unscented rodents again after one or two feeds usually.
In nature I presume that baby false water cobras eat mostly small fish or amphibians, hence there preference for rodents soaked in tuna brine when they are born.
The other commonly asked question is “what is an appropriate feeding regime for a growing false water cobra”. Personally I feed babies on a small meal every seven days. I am assuming that anyone keeping a false water cobra has already kept other types of snake before, and the usual rule of thumb is to feed a prey item about the thickness of the snake’s body at its widest point. With false water cobras I feed a slightly smaller prey item than this, maybe 20% smaller than the snake’s girth at its widest point. My reasoning for this is that this species is proun to regurgin larger items like you would feed a similar royal or ball python hatchling. This is a colubrid species that eats a wide variety of items like fish and frogs in the wild, so it is not adapted for huge prey items like a python. This species has a very fast metabolism, which is why the food comes out the other end of the snake very quickly! Usually I find that my animals defecate within 2 days of being given a large meal. Unlike my pythons who often take at least a week to pass waste through their system.
There is a common misconception that adult false water cobras are insane feeding machines. While I have found that in some individuals this is the case, some of my adult false water cobra are actually rather timid when it comes to feeding and each prefer specific food items. I have a few which will eat rodents only and not touch chicks, but I have one particular male who prefers chicks to anything else.
Having said that, it is important to realise that if you are going to be feeding adult false water cobra, then you need to buy yourself a good pair of tongs. I would recommend using tongs to place a food item inside the cage, definitely not your fingers! I prefer to ‘drop feed’ all of my adult false water cobras as I feel that this is less hazardous for the keeper. Whether you wish to tong feed them or drop feed them yourself is entirely up to you, but personally I have quite a few adult animals, so it is simply easier for me to feed them all in the evening quickly and check that they have eaten in the morning.
If you ever have an adult false water cobra refusing food, I would bet that it is a male, and I would bet that it is the winter! All of my males in my collection with the exception of one generally do not feed for about 2-3 month of the year from dec-january time. They generally only start feeding again if I mate them to a female, or if they are not being bred from that year I simply leave them to it and know that they will kick back into feeding a few months later. This is perfectly normal behaviour for this species, but I find that many keepers seem to have never heard of this happening before, so it is important to be expecting it!
I feed my adults on a single medium or small rat and about 2 chicks each weekly if they are females, and on a small or medium rat every ten days if they are males. Obviously when the females have produced eggs I feed them significantly more for several weeks following laying. My feeding regime is not usually quite as rigid as this, but for the purposes of this website, this is a good guideline to follow with your own false water cobra.
If you have any other questions on your False water cobras please do not hesitate to contact me!