The Green Anaconda is the heaviest species of snake in the world with the largest specimens weighting almost 100kg. They are among the longest snakes in the world but do not reach the same lengths as the Reticulated Python and the African Rock Python.
They are found in the rainforests of South America in countries such as Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela. Due to the size and weight of this snake, they are quite sluggish moving over land and spend much of their time in water.
This snake has been greatly exaggerated by media as a man eating beast. However, while this snake has the ability to seriously injure and even kill a human, verified reports of attacks are rare and there are no documented cases of an anaconda eating a man.
Humans wouldn’t be considered as prey for a snake and they would prefer to flee than to eat us. Our broad shoulders would make it almost impossible for an Anaconda to eat a fully grown man. They are designed to eat prey that is large but these animals gradually widen from the head down, allowing the snake to stretch their jaws and manoeuvre their mouth around the food. This is not the case with humans who have a sharp increase in body width from the head to the shoulders. These are still dangerous animals that have the “ability” to kill humans, especially children.
Green Anaconda Description
The Green Anaconda can weight almost 100kg although the vast majority wont weigh anywhere near this. They can grow to over 15ft in length but most females top out at about 12ft. Males are generally smaller measuring about 8ft in length.
They are a dark olive green in colour with dark brown or black blotches all over their body. Their body is also covered in yellow “speckling”. They have two sets of top teeth and one set of bottom teeth that point backwards to allow them to efficiently grip onto prey.
Natural Habitat and Distribution
The Green Anaconda is native to South America where they live in tropical rainforests, marshes and swamps. They can be found in countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
Due to their large size they are sluggish at moving so they spend much of their time in the water where they are excellent swimmers.
Green Anaconda Behavior
Green Anaconda’s are a nocturnal species. They tend to swim with their heads slightly above water. Their eyes and nostrils are on the top of their head which allows them to stay mostly submerged. They are expert ambush hunters from the water where they wait almost fully submerged for an unsuspecting victim to come to take a drink.
Green Anaconda’s as Pets
Green Anaconda care requirements are not suitable for a novice snake keeper. They are extremely powerful and have the ability to cause serious injury to an owner. It is not recommended to get one of these snakes unless you have experience with other large snakes.
A reptile keeper looking to get into large snakes should focus on a more docile species of large snake such as the Burmese Python before acquiring one of these snakes to ensure you can handle owning a large snake. Large snakes require large setups and extensive care. You also need to be willing to feed these snakes large prey items such as rabbits.
Feeding a Green Anaconda
In the wild a Green Anaconda has a very varied diet. They will eat birds, fish, amphibians, mammals, and other reptiles. One of their most common sources of food is the capybara, which is the largest rodent in the world.
A Juvenile Green Anaconda can be fed appropriately sized mice or rats every 7 days. The food item should be slightly smaller than the largest part of the snake’s body. As the snake grows, the size of the food item will need to be increased accordingly.
Adults can be fed less frequently. Most adult females will need to be fed a large rabbit every 10 days while a male will usually accept a large rat or small rabbit every 10 days. After the breeding season you may choose to feed the snake more frequently to get them back up to weight. This should be done with caution as it is important that the snake is not been overfed. They should remain muscular and not look fat or bloated.
You should not handle the snake for two days after it eats to give it time to digest its meal.
Housing a Green Anaconda
A juvenile Green Anaconda can be comfortably housed in a 2ft x 1ft x 1ft enclosure. As the snake grows, the size of the enclosure will need to be increased with adults requiring an enclosure that measures at least 6ft long. Store bought setups of this length can be hard to find and extremely expensive so custom build setups are common.
As an Anaconda prefers to spend most of its time in the water, it is recommended to have a large amount of its enclosure water based. The easiest way to achieve this is to have a large water dish covering one third of the floor space of the enclosure. While it won’t be practical for you to provide a large enough water space for your snake to swim in, they will appreciate the ability to sit and soak in a water bowl big enough that they can fully submerge in. The water should be kept at about 80F. This water will need to be changed regularly as bacteria will quickly build up, especially when the snake defecates.
It is important that the Anacondas setup is large enough for them to comfortably move around in. Floor space is important as this species will not be able to utilise climbing branches. It is a common misconception that a snake kept in a small enclosure will remain small. This is not true as a snakes size is dictated by genetics and food consumption. A small cage simply just prevents the snake from moving around.
Light and Heat
The ambient temperature of a Green Anaconda enclosure should be about 80F. A hot spot should be provided at one end with a basking temperature of 90F. During the night, the ambient temperature can drop to as low as 75F. It is recommended to keep the ambient temperature constant for juveniles so there is no need to drop the temperature at night until they are at least a year old.
A hot spot can be achieved using an overhead heat lamp with a suitable thermostat. The thermostat is critical to ensure the enclosure stays at the correct temperature. A heat mat shouldn’t be placed in an Anacondas enclosure as they require a humid environment. If your snake is being kept in a rack, then a heat pat can be used by placing it underneath the end of the tub.
A Green Anaconda requires a humid enclosure. The humidity should remain between 60-90%. It is good for the snake if the humidity fluctuates between these ranges. This is easily achieved by giving the enclosure a good spray when the humidity drops to about 60%. This will increase the humidity and spraying can be repeated when it drops back down to about 60%. You should choose a substrate that will retain humidity without rotting or moulding. Good substrates for this purpose include Coconut Husk, Orchid Bark and Cypress Mulch.
Many reptile owners prefer to use a simple substrate such as paper towel or newspaper as it is inexpensive and easy to clean. A Green Anaconda will do well on this substrate providing the necessary requirements are met. Ensure you include a large enough water bowl for the snake to soak in. It is also a good idea to provide them with a moist hide. This can be filled with damp sphagnum moss.
A Green Anaconda will shed its skin for the duration of its life. Juveniles will shed every couple of weeks as they grow quickly. It is important to examine your snake after it has shed to ensure there is no stuck shed left on them. If they have any retained shed, soaking them in warm water will usually loosen the skin and it can be easily pulled off.
The most common cause of retained shed is incorrect humidity levels in the enclosure. If your snake is constantly retaining shed you should examine their living conditions and make adjustments as necessary. Usually introducing a damp hide filled with sphagnum moss before the snake sheds will be enough to ensure they shed correctly.
Handling a Green Anaconda
Green Anacondas are large, powerful snakes and their strength shouldn’t be underestimated. Whether you keep the snake for display purposes or handle them often, you should always ensure there is at least one other person with you in case you get into any difficulty.
Green Anacondas can be aggressive but they can also be quite docile if handled regularly from a young age. It really depends on the individual snake. The same precautions must still be taken when handling a docile specimen. Remember these aren’t domesticated animals and their actions are dictated by instinct. After feeding allow about 48 hours for your snake to digest its food before handling. You should stick to a routine with your Anaconda, especially around feeding schedules.
Breeding Green Anacondas
More and more people are having success breeding Green Anacondas and a number of morphs have now been discovered. When acquiring one of these snakes ensure you do so from a reputable breeder as they have been commonly interbred with the Yellow Anaconda creating hybrid babies.
A female Anaconda will be ready to breed when she reaches about 4 years of age. Males can be bred much earlier with successful breeding starting as early as 18 months.
In October, temperatures should be reduced by about five degrees and daylight hours should be reduced to 8 hours. Temperatures in the enclosure should now read 85F at the hot spot with the cooler side measuring about 75F which can drop to 70F at night. This will replicate breeding season in the wild and will inform the snakes that it is time to breed.
Meals should only be offered every couple of weeks at this time as it is harder for the snake to digest food at cooler temperatures. Food items should also be smaller at this time.
Males can be introduced into the female’s enclosure in November. He should remain in the enclosure for 24hrs but can be removed earlier if copulation was witnessed. He can be reintroduced every couple of days for further 24hr periods. Once you are sure that the job is done there is no need to keep introducing the male. The babies will develop in the female and about 120 days after her post ovulation shed she will give birth to up to 30 live neonates.
Neonates do well when kept in tubs as it is easy to control the temperature and humidity. Each snake should be housed individually so they can be closely monitored. After about a week they can be offered their first meal of an appropriately sized mouse or rat.