Keeping Advice Sheet

Northern Death Adder.jpg

Venomous Snakes

  • Southern Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) -- Maximum length 100 cm. Category 5.
  • Desert Death Adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus) -- Maximum length 75 cm. Category 5.
  • Pilbara Death Adder (Acanthophis wellsi) -- Maximum length 70 cm. Category 5.
  • Western Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) -- Maximum length 160 cm. Category 5.
  • Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) -- Maximum length 300 cm. Category 5.
  • Spotted Mulga Snake (Pseudechis butleri) -- Maximum length 180 cm. Category 5.
  • Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis) -- Maximum length 180 cm. Category 5.
  • Gwardar (Pseudonaja nuchalis) -- Maximum length 100 cm. Category 5.

NOTE: All species listed here are dangerously venomous snakes and are listed as Category 5. only the experienced herpeculturalist should consider keeping any of them. One must be over 18 years of age to hold a Category 5 licence. Maintaining a large elapid carries with it a considerable responsibility. Unless you are confident that you can comply with all your obligations and licence requirements when keeping dangerous animals, then look to obtaining a non-venomous species instead.

Natural Habits of Venomous Snakes

Venomous snakes occur in a wide variety of habitats and, apart from Death Adders, are highly mobile.

All species are active day and night.

Housing of Venomous Snakes

In all species listed except death adders, one adult (to 150cm total length) can be kept indoors in a lockable, top-ventilated, all glass or glass-fronted wooden vivarium of at least 90 x 45cm floor area. The height should be a minimum of 30cm if front opening and 45cm if top opening. Adult death adders require less room, 50 x 30 cm floor area being adequate, but for safety it is preferable  to use a top opening vivarium to house these rapid-striking snakes. It is recommended that all venomous snakes be housed separately (except during mating) to avoid problems associated with removal for cleaning, or when feeding. Juveniles (less than 40cm long) may be kept in smaller cages be strongly constructed, escape-proof and kept locked.

Captive Environment of Venomous Snakes

Furnishings should be kept simple. Try not to clutter up the cage too much. The floor covering should be easily removed for cleaning. Some alternatives are newspaper, pea-gravel, woodchips and indoor-outdoor loop-pile carpet. Do not use sand or soil, as this is unsuitable and will harbour disease-causing pathogens. Provide an enclosed shelter such as a wooden constructed hide box, shoebox or wine cask. The snake must be accessible when hiding, and a means to trap it there can reduce the need for handling when cage cleaning. All that is required for Death Adders is an area of leaf litter 3-4 centimeters deep. Before cleaning the cage, the snake should be removed and placed in a spare enclosure or secure bag.

Venomous snakes can be ascertained on tail shape, or with probing by a competent herpetologist. Breeding success is improved by allowing a cooling off period in both sexes for a month or so in winter. Mating occurs in late winter to late spring. All the above species, apart from viviparous Death Adders and Western Tiger Snake, are oviparous, depositing eggs 40-90 days after mating. The live bearers give birth 120-210 days post mating.


Adhered skin after sloughing is common in dry environments when humidity is too low. Try a larger water container. Soaking snake in wet bag for 30 minutes or so will often cause the adhered skin to come away in the bag.

Lack of appetite may be normal seasonal fasting, but is also caused by a too low cage temperature.

Regurgitation can also be a sign that the snake cannot get warm enough to digest its food.

Venomous Snakes Diseases

A clean artificial environment with the appropriate husbandry mentioned above will usually result in your pet reptile remaining healthy. Quarantine newly-acquired animals for at least a month before introducing them to those already being kept.

Reptile Mites on Venomous Snakes

Reptile mites are the scourge of many keepers. They can rapidly multiply and quickly kill a reptile. If an infestation is found, it is imperative that you take immediate action to eradicate it. Although small (a large female may be one-third the size of a pin head) they will be obvious on white paper as miniature black tick-like animals. If you find you have an infestation, it is important to kill it in situ. This can be achieved by placing a Sureguard Ministrip® within the respective cage for at least 8 hours before cleaning. Then follow up with two 8-hour cycles two days apart. DO NOT expose your pet to the pest strip for any longer or you may kill it.

Ticks on Venomous Snakes

When first obtaining your reptile, check it for ticks. These are often seen tucked up under the scales. They can be removed using tweezers and the bite site dabbed with antiseptic.

supported by Western Australian Society of Amateur Herpetologists Inc. (WASAH) and Department of Conservation and Land Management

Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity - John Weigel Reptile Keepers Association, Gosford, NSW Understanding Reptile Parasites - Roger J Klingenberg, AVS, USA -

Further Reading on Venomous Snakes