• Scarlett Nightshade

Discovering the Best Feeding Method for Dragon Snakes

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

I had a recent breakthrough regarding the types of feeders that are suitable for Dragon Snakes, specifically fish.

You may have read that there are certain species of fish that are deemed unsafe due to their thiaminase content. For those that are not aware of what thiaminase is, it is an enzyme found in some fish species that break down the molecule thiamin, also known as vitamin B1. Thiamine is crucial for all living organisms to function properly. While we aren’t quite sure what the biological role of thiaminase is, we do know that animals that consume an excessive amount of thiaminase suffer adverse effects related to vitamin B1 deficiency, including cardiovascular and neurological problems. You can read more about thiaminase and its effects on snakes here: http://www.gartersnake.info/articles/2012/all-about-thiaminase.php Over the years that I have been keeping Dragon Snakes, I have always fed them fish species that are deemed safe in terms of their thiaminase content. However, in doing so, the selection of fish becomes incredibly narrow, especially with other criteria involved. The fish should also be alive and healthy, appropriately sized, readily available and preferably not break the bank. In meeting these conditions, you are primarily limited to guppies, platies and mollies. While they are adequate feeder fish, I have had my fair share of frustrations in being restricted to these fish species. I breed my own feeder colonies, but sometimes they are inconsistent in reproducing, and sourcing them locally in the large amounts I require is difficult. My Dragon snakes also seem to strongly prefer guppies over platies and mollies, which is yet another limiting factor because guppies take much longer to reach appropriate feeder size, and even then they are smaller than mollies and platies. I have an established colony of feeder frogs that I supplement when I do not have appropriate feeder fish in stock, but ensuring the reproduction of several feeder colonies can be taxing at times.

My Dragon Snakes tend to have an increased appetite this time of year, which recently depleted the best guppies from my feeder fish colony. Coincidentally, both local and online availability had plummeted as well. In an effort to avoid taking too much from my frog colony, I started brainstorming potential solutions. One morning after taking my daily multivitamin, it finally occurred to me that I could potentially supplement thiamine in order to safely feed fish that contain thiaminase such as minnows*, which are larger, more nutritious and readily available. I discovered that I could do so by adding water-soluble thiamine into the feeder tank directly. After some extensive and tedious calculations, I concluded that in a concentration of 7.5mg of thiamine per 1ml (7.5mg/ml), adding 0.1ml of the solution per gallon of water (0.1ml/gal) is a safe and effective dose. This also means that for each gallon of water that is changed out you will want to add another 0.1ml solution into the tank

Fathead Minnow for feeding Dragon Snakes
Fathead Minnow, Pimephales promelas

I have been utilizing this feeding method since the beginning of the year but was waiting until some time had passed to share the results, which have been even better than I anticipated. Not only did this ease my frustrations in keeping feeder fish colonies, but my Dragon Snakes appear healthier and happier than ever. It is difficult to describe to those who have not observed them first-hand, but they seem more spirited and full of vigor. I will continue documenting other notable changes as they come, but wanted to share my progress with this new feeding method thus far. I believe this is going to prove to be one of the most constructive breakthroughs in regards to the health of the Dragon Snakes and I look forward to seeing how they evolve going forward.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out via email and I will get back to you as soon as I can. *All feeder fish should be acquired from trusted sources, but this is especially true for commercial feeder fish such as minnows. As a precaution, I suggest treating each new batch of feeder fish with API General Cure for at least one week prior to feeding.