Paradise Flying Snakes: The Essential Care Guide
Author: Scarlett Nightshade
Scientific Name: Chrysopelea paradisi
Lifespan: 10+ years
Size: Average 24 - 48 inches
Habitat and Distribution: Southeast Asia; among the trees in tropical rainforests
Chrysopelea paradisi, or the Paradise Flying Snake, is a slim-bodied, mildly venomous rear-fanged Colubrid snake that is best known for its ability to glide from tree to tree (hence the name “flying snake”). This is possible through aerobatic undulation, in which they flatten out their ribs and “wriggle” in the air, allowing them to glide.
Paradise Flying Snakes are characterized by their bright yellow bellies and black and green speckled dorsal scales, often in contrast with a vibrant orange, yellow and red pattern along the vertebral scales in many specimens.
Paradise Flying Snakes are not well established in captivity, thus most available specimens are currently wild caught imports. If you are interested in keeping this species, it is highly recommended that you have at least some experience establishing wild caught imports.
Paradise Flying Snakes require plenty of vertical space in order to express their natural behaviors. Since C. paradisi can get up to 4 feet in length, an adult enclosure should be at least 36 inches tall, but bigger is always better. I keep my Paradise Flying Snakes in 60”H x 48”L x 24”D custom PVC enclosures, and they utilize every bit of space offered to them. This species does have high humidity requirements, therefore the material your enclosure is constructed from will play a major role in how easy it is for you to maintain proper husbandry. I strongly suggest avoiding glass enclosures as they will quickly evaporate the moisture from the enclosure. Instead, opt for a material such as PVC to house this species in. They will appreciate a bit of floor space, given there are enough hides for them to take shelter in at night. I prefer to achieve this by orienting various pieces of driftwood and logs together so that they form a large dome underneath. Caves or more traditional hides can also be used as long as they provide adequate cover. Your enclosure should also be very secure. Paradise Flying Snakes are exceptionally fast, and due to their slim bodies and prying curiosity, a strong, reliable locking enclosure is crucial in order to contain them.
Substrate and Humidity
As a native of southeastern Asia, Paradise Flying Snakes have high humidity requirements (80-90%RH). This means their substrate should be able to retain plenty of moisture, preferably without molding too quickly. I have found one of the best options to be a 50/50 blend of organic potting soil and vermiculite. Misting during the late afternoon and evening hours is recommended to help maintain humidity. You may also want to add a drainage layer using appropriate media such as Bio-drain to help keep the moisture more evenly distributed throughout the substrate and allow for more ventilation. Since Paradise Flying Snakes have fast metabolisms, you can expect to spot-clean about 1-3 times weekly. Keepers that use wooden elements such as bark or driftwood to provide vertical climbing space may want to invest in coarse-grit sandpaper, as this species tends to leave their excrement on their favorite climbing spots.
As an arboreal species, Paradise Flying Snakes will not benefit from under-tank heating elements such as heat pads. Therefore, an overhead heat source is necessary to provide them with the heat they require. You should maintain an ambient temperature of about 80°F. They are also partial sun baskers, often taking up the opportunity to do so at least 5-6 days a week in the early morning to afternoon hours. Therefore, a UVB + UVA basking bulb (UVI: 1.1 - 3.0) is recommended for use during the daylight hours. As with all heat sources, a thermostat is necessary to keep the heat output stable. For basking bulbs, a dimming proportional thermostat is the best option. Set your thermostat to 90°F and fix your probe to a safe and secure position near the tallest basking point. Using an infrared thermometer gun, you can dial in the correct temperature as needed. The basking spot should not exceed 92°F at any given time.
Diet and Feeding
Paradise Flying Snakes sustain on a diet consisting mostly of frogs and lizards, thus it is important that you have access to these feeders. House geckos and anoles are readily available and should be their staple diet, but small rodents can be offered on occasion. You can also offer various species of hylids (tree frogs) to expand their dietary variety. That said, keep in mind that most feeder lizards and frogs are wild caught, which increases the risk of parasitic transmission. It is highly recommended that you treat all feeders for parasites for at least one week prior to being fed. I have found the most convenient method of administration for small frogs and lizards is through nebulization of Metronidazole or a similar water-soluble antiparasitic. Be sure to contact your herp veterinarian to help you with dosage and administration of any and all medications.
Treating for Parasites
One of the biggest concerns that comes with all wild caught snakes is the potential parasite load they often bring. I treat all wild caught snakes for internal parasites within a week upon arrival, and I immediately treat external parasites if they are present, as well. External parasites are easy to detect and relatively simple to treat, and there are various online resources on how to treat them -- but the same cannot be said for internal parasites. Many inexperienced keepers that acquire a wild caught import believe the best course of action is to rush them to their veterinarian for an in-depth examination. Unfortunately, the stress they are put through as a result of the veterinary visit is often a major cause for decline and eventually death. When keeping wild caught snakes, it is crucial to avoid stressing them as much as possible, and this includes being poked, prodded and excessively handled by a vet. This is where experience comes into play. Knowing how to examine and identify potential issues with your snake and how to treat them without rushing them to the vet is extremely helpful in assuring the survival of such sensitive animals. In order to do so, I highly suggest establishing a good relationship with your herp veterinarian. I am able to treat all snakes for parasites at home because my veterinarian prescribes the medication via Telemedicine, allowing me to receive the necessary medication for my wild caught imports without having to put them through the stress of a long drive and physical examination.
Treatment for internal parasites includes an oral administration of Metronidazole (0.04mg/g) given once within the first week of arrival and then once more 2 weeks after the first dose. This medication is also effective against many strains of bacteria, and will also treat certain illnesses such as a respiratory infection. Since Metronidazole is typically prescribed in a 250mg tablet, it must first be dissolved in water to be administered to your snake. Your veterinarian can help you find the correct ratio in which you will dissolve the medication in, which will depend on the weight of your snake and dosage information provided above. For reference, dissolving one 250mg tablet of Metronidazole in 10ml of water would be administered at 0.04ml for a 25g Paradise Flying Snake.
I also treat each group of feeder lizards for parasites a week prior to feeding them off. The easiest route of administration I have found is to dust their food with Metronidazole following the dosage information provided above. Please reach out to your veterinarian if you are unsure on how to calculate the proper ratio.
Since C. paradisi is a very delicate, slim-bodied snake, traditional methods of sexing are not advised. Sexual dimorphism exists, with females being larger than males and often exhibiting a more rounded head; but this method of sexing is not always guaranteed. Therefore, the safest, most accurate method of sexing this species is through DNA testing. The sex determination test can be performed through a specialized lab such as Rare Genetics, Inc. by simply sending in a shed to be tested. Results are typically received within a few business days and will accurately confirm the sex of the snake without having to use more invasive methods of sex determination.
While captive bred specimens exist, they are currently rare and only available on a very limited basis; therefore, most available C. paradisi are wild caught imports. Little is known about their breeding behavior, but observations of wild specimens suggest that C. paradisi breeds in small groups. They are oviparous (egg-laying), with the average clutch yield being between 8-11 eggs. Establishing hatchlings has proven difficult due to their small size and fragility, but success is improving over time as keepers refine their methods.
One aspect of husbandry that is often overlooked is enrichment. While some snakes do better without it than others, offering enough appropriate enrichment for Paradise Flying Snakes is important in order for them to thrive in captivity. This includes plenty of space to climb, as well as many perches and platforms to climb onto. Grapevines, bendable branches, driftwood and PVC pipes work well in providing the proper climbing enrichment. Remember to include an appropriate basking light for them to utilize, as well.
I also recommend including an elevated water source for them to drink from. I prefer to use small glass pots used for plants that are fixed to the enclosure with suction cups. While a ground-level water dish can also be provided, mine seem to enjoy drinking from their elevated water source instead.
As with most wild caught imports, it is important to limit handling as much as possible. Paradise Flying Snakes are not very handleable and will often bite and musk as they attempt to quickly escape your grasp.
In summary, Paradise Flying Snakes are a fascinating species renowned for their unique ability to glide from the treetops they inhabit. While not an easy species to keep, they will thrive under the correct care and are slowly becoming more established in captivity. This species is very rewarding to keep as a display animal for those who are familiar with arboreal colubrids. Their vibrant coloration, inquisitive nature and interesting behaviors are unlike any other snake, and we hope to enjoy these remarkable tree gliders for many more years to come.