Animals / Reptiles

The Dwarf Sand Boa

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Central Asian Sand Boa, Mountain Sand Boa, Russian Sand Boa, Turkmen Sand Boa

Östliche Sandboa, Wüsten-Sandboa (German)


Order: squamata

Family: booidea

Subfamily: erycinae

Genus: erux

Species: Eryx miliaris.

Subspecies: eryx miliaris nogaiorum (Nikolsky, 1910), eryx miliaris miliaris (Pallas, 1773).


The dwarf sand boa occurs in the north if Iran, in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and in the Caucasus.

It can be found in desert scrubs where it digs holes. The sand boa prefers sand but also can be seen on clay soil. 

Внешний вид

The dwarf sand boa is about 40—80 cm long, although longer specimens have been reported. In captivity they don’t get as long.

The boa’s body and head are flattened, the neck is not visible. The boa’s eyes are quite small and directed upwards. The teeth are very small. The dwarf sand boa is not venomous, but its bites can be quite painful.

The upper part of the body is yellow-brown or light brown with brown zigzag pattern. On the sides the boa has black or brown dots. On the belly the boa also has dark spots. 


The dwarf sand boa lives alone.

It is a burrowing species. Their body shape is ideal for digging; the eyes and nostrils are located on the upper part of the head and it enables the sand boa to follow the prey while lying in the sand.

At daytime the dwarf sand boa stays in the hole.

They have brumation period.

This species is friendly and easy to keep.

The boa is active throughout the day when it’s not too hot. 

Содержание и уход

The dwarf sand boa needs a horizontal tank starting from 60х40х30 cm for one snake. They are best to keep alone. The door has to be closed properly so that the snake cannot escape. For substrate you can use dry coconut husks, turf, clay or sand.  The boa needs a thick layer of substrate (10-14 cm) in order to dig holes. The substrate has to be damp: then it is more convenient for the snake to shed. In order to facilitate the shedding process you have to keep in the tank a box with damp sphagnum where the snake can lie when shedding. A heating lamp and a UV lamp are compulsory.

The ambient temperature should be between 25 and 30°C at daytime and 22 – 23°C at night.

The air humidity should be around 50%.

The boa needs 14 hours of light per day. 


The dwarf sand boa waits for a prey lying in ambush as well as actively searches for food on the surface and in the rodents’ holes. Some specimens stay near the colonies of gerbils or the ruins of old houses where a lot of mice live. The boa eats mainly rodents: gerbils, jerboas, ground squirrels, gray hamsters, mice, birds and lizards, small snakes and young turtles. Young boas eat insects and small lizards.

The dwarf sand boa eats lizards and rodents: it rapidly attacks them and squeezes in coils.

In captivity they are fed with mice, rats, quails. You can get them to eat beef and chicken but it is not very good for the snake. 


The dwarf sand boa needs a large tank.

This species is suitable for beginners.

It is peaceful and friendly, can get tame and likes being handled.

They feel good in captivity.

Live feed in the menu is a must. 


If the snake refuses to eat, it can be caused by stress, unsuitable food, or it can happen that the snake just is not hungry.  You should not try and force the food into the snake: they can live without food for a long time without any damage for their health. You should only start worrying if your snake doesn’t eat for several months. Then you need to analyze its living conditions and the menu prior to this situation. In worst case you might need to force-feed the boa.

The snake can vomit because of stress, illness or if the prey was too big. Also it can vomit if it was fed during shedding or if the temperature in its enclosure is not suitable. After vomiting you mustn’t feed the snake for 7-10 days, and then you can offer it food taking into account the previous mistakes.

Shedding is not a disease, it is a necessary step in the snake’s growth. Its eyes get milky, their color grows paler and the skin starts coming off. During this time you should be extra careful about the humidity and clean water in the enclosure.

Mites are small parasites that live on the snake’s skin. They stick on the snake’s body between the scales and suck its blood. This can make the snake lethargic and it can turn down the food.  To get rid of mites you need to use the weak solution of the same medicine which is used against ticks on cats and dogs. You will also have to disinfect the whole enclosure.

Respiratory diseases are usually caused by potentially pathogenic bacteria if the immune system of the snake doesn’t function properly either due to a stress or to unsuitable living conditions. The symptoms include gasping, open mouth, runny nose. These diseases are treated by the injections of antibiotic called Baytril. 


It is an ovoviviparous species (the eggs develop in the snake’s body and after a while the young snakes hatch). The shell resolves in the female’s genital tract. The dwarf sand boa is sexually mature at the age of 4 months, when they get around 60 cm long. The female gives birth to about 13 hatchlings. They grow very quickly and can be fed with pink mice after the first shedding.

To stimulate mating, it is best to organize a brumation period for 2-3 months. But a temporary decrease of temperature and starvation could be enough too. There have been reports of the boas that mated and bred in captivity without stimulation.

The hatchlings don’t always start eating on their own. You should offer them pink mice, crickets and cockroaches. If they reject food for a long time, you will have to force-feed them.

Average life span in captivity is normally up to 20 years.

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