Tuesday, November 6

New House Snake Blog and Website

I have finally found the time to set up my website that will both provide information about the African House Snake and other African Colubrids and be my outlet for selling my captive bred animals.

I have set up a new house snake blog on that site as well and I will post all new information and articles to the new blog.

I am leaving this existing blog up for informational purposes but will not be posting any new content to it.

Here is the location of the new African House Snake Website


Here is the location of the new House Snake Blog

You may note that I am now providing a very in depth care sheet and a free copy of "The Reptile Book" by Raymond L. Ditmars on the new site to people that join my email list. If you are already on the list I will be doing a broadcast email to you today to let you know how to get your copies with out rejoining a second time so if you are already on the list you will get that email in just a bit.

I have been asked why one must be on my email list to get a copy of this care sheet and my answer is two fold.

1. I want you on my email list! In return I provide valuable information but the only way I will ever have a thriving breeding business is to build up a list of Reptile Enthusiasts. I don't "hard sell" anything here and never will but I do let people know when animals are available both from myself and other sources.

2. And more important for you, the care sheet is NOT a static document. In fact there are some nasty typos on it as I had to rush it into print. Beyond that though I am learning more about the care, breeding and species ID of Lamprophis every single day. The care sheet will be updated at least once a month. By being on my email list you will always have access to the most current version.

I hope the new site and new blog are helpful to everyone. I have already put up a great resource for House Snake Species Identification on the site, so you may want to check that out. In time I will develop full pages for each species.

The house snake world is more exciting every day, I will be acquiring some Het Amel Maculatus later next year. I have L. inortus and more Amel L. capensis on the way.

Stay tuned and enjoy the new site and blog.

Jack Spirko

Tuesday, March 6

New African Herpers Forum

Don over at Mfezi just launched a brand new African Herpers forum. Cruise on by Mefezi and check it out.

Also I just got the inside scoop that a large new shipment of animals is about to come in. Odds are there will be some Lamprophis along with some other cool stuff. Don tends to get a lot of snakes and reptiles that are not commonly available.

I suggest you sign up for his newsletter to get notified when new animals come in because many times the more rare stuff goes pretty fast. He had some awesome wolf snakes not long ago by the time I asked they were gone, took about 30 minutes!

Jack Spirko

Monday, January 8

Rhombic Skaapstekers from Mfezi

Don Schultz over at Mfezi.com has some Rhombic Skaapstekers (Psammophylax rhombeatus) available right now. In fact he has a single large pair. While this blog is mostly about House Snakes I have a lot of interest in any lesser known snakes, specificly those out of Africa.

If you have an interest in Psammophylax you may want to get in touch with Don strait away. Far as I know he has only one pair available and to make it even better I think they are a proven pair of breeders.

The photo above is of a juvenile Rhombic Skaapsteker as I don't currently have any pictures of an adult. Rhombic Skaapstekers are a is a very active species of snake that will pursue its prey instead of just waiting in ambush.

Its diet includes lizards, frogs, rodents and even other snakes. The females stay with the eggs and guard them by coiling around them. They are called Skaapstekers (sheep biters) because of the old belief that they bit sheep, which of course there was no truth to.

Don currently also has a good inventory of Brown House Snakes out of Tanzania and Captive Bred Cape House Snakes, (capes are commonly called "zululand" in the pet trade) available.

~ Jack Spirko

Thursday, January 4

Pictures of our new Striped House Snakes (Lamprophis lineatus)

These are different then the L. Capensis with a genetic stripe trait I posted shots of before.

These three lovely animals are Lamprophis lineatus from the Kilamanjaro area of Tanzania (commonly known as the striped house snake) and were just shipped to me by Nick Mole of FCR Reptiles. Nick was extremely helpful with answering my questions and handling a shipping change I had to make. The animals were what was promised, (all sub adults over 2 feet) in great health. One has a moderate wound which is common with imports, especially wild caught.

If you are looking for some of your own Nick has not only these but some Pastel House Snakes and some other less common stuff from South Africa just in including wolf snakes and Rufus Beak Snakes. You can see his Kingsnake.com Ad for more details.

So here are my two new girls and new female. With the size of these guys I should be breeding the bigger female by August at the latest.

First the smaller female. As you can see she has the eye line to body pattern breaks that are common in L. capensis but unlike the striped capensis I posted pictures of earlier the line on the side is solid vs. the chain pattern on the recessive trait in L. capensis.

Here is another shot of the same snake as you can see while quite thin as most young house snakes are she is quite long (there is a good foot of her coiled in my hand where you can see it) and the stripe is very vivid and beautiful. They also have eyes that are more "bug eyed" similar to Nambian House Snakes.

Next is the larger female. As you can see they all have a nice red brown shine to them, this shot shows it off best. She is a lot heavier bodied then the male and smaller female. She should put weight on quickly and size and be ready to breed late summer to early fall.

Again another shot of here showing the nice red colartion, the bright white solid striping which you can see transfers to a cream color as it decends down her body.

Last is a single shot if the male, he was the most flighty so I did not want to keep him out to long before letting him settle in. While not the best shot it does show a pretty good idea of the nice color they have and the way the line fades as it decends the body.

Again if you are looking for these I suggest you get in touch with Nick Mole at FCR Reptiles who can be reached at fcreptilesinc @ yahoo.com. Between Don at Mefezi and Nick at FCR it looks like we are strarting to see some less common Lamprophis come into the US.

These are a great addition to my colony here. We are working hard to develop one of the best collections of House Snakes and this was something I have been wanting to add for a long time. I am not sure how many Nick has but again don't expect to see them every other day,

Jack Spirko

Wednesday, January 3

Olive house snakes (L.inornatus) just in at Mfezi.com

Don over at Mfezi.com just got in some new snakes strait in from South Africa. While he has qutie a few interesting new animals for sale the big interest for Lamprophis fans will be the trio of Olive House Snakes he has.

These are L. inornatus which are commonly called the South African Olive House Snake but they are not true olives, more accurately they are often called the Black House Snake and several other common names.

One thing is for sure they are hard to find and stunning to look at. Here is a nice shot of one of Don's L. inornatus.....

One thing is certain these guys won't be available long so if you have and interest in these or any of his new L. Fuliginosus or L. Capensis visit www.mfezi.com today.

PS, Have your seen our new House Snakes website

Monday, October 16

Pictures of a Striped Zululand House Snake

Here are a few shots of one of our Cape House Snakes (lamprophis capensis). This is a striped female that should reach breeding size in about 8-10 months.

Hope you enjoyed them, this girl is deffinitely one of my favorites,

~ Jack Spirko

Friday, September 22

Pictures of a "normal" Zululand Phase Cape House Snake

Often House Snake dealers are asked what kind of "mophs" do you have and I think very few people realize just how beautiful a "normal" house snake can be. That is certainly the case with this male.

He is a plain old normal Cape House Snake, (Lamprophis Capensis) commonly called the Brown House Snake and there for confused with his cousin the Brown House Snake from further north (Lamprophis Fuliginosus). [See Why Why Won't these House Snake Breed for more information about the confusion between L. Fuliginosus and L. Capensis.

It is amazing what a good camera and good lighting can do to show off these snakes. The more I work with them the more I believe it is good photography that is separating House Snakes from being bigger in the pet trade and nothing more. Have a look at this guy, all shots can be enlarged by clicking on them. These shots are of a young male (roughly 14 months old) about two feet in total length.

The first shot gives a good look at the beautiful pattern on most Zululand Phase House Snake you can also see the one patch of skin that did not come off his head on his last shed. It is the big scale behind his right eye. It was traumatic to him when I tried to remove it so I decided it will come off next shed and is doing him no harm, his eye caps shed fine.

The next shot gives you a great image of that vertical pupil but this is no viper just a harmless house snake. You will also see that his eye line has a clear break in it. I can't say for certain that all Capensis have this break and all Fuliginosus with eye lines do not but in every fuliginosus I have see that had eye lines the line passed well beyond the neck joint and every Capensis had this clean clear break right before the neck joint.

Many people do not know that Lamprophis means "shining" this shot shows why check out the luminicence on his head,

This shot is my favorite from this group of photos, again you can see why they are known as the "shining snake".

Last one and just look at that eye!

The new care sheet will be coming soon so keep stopping by,

~ Jack Spirko

Pictures of a Tanzanian Red House Snake

Here are two pictures of one of our young Tanzanian Female Red House Snakes. This is the most common species Lamprophis Fuliginosus which is highly variable in color and pattern. Red of course is the most popular color for obvious reasons.

The two pictures here are really the same picture cropped differently because this is our one biter in the bunch and she is still adjusting to captivity. While she has not bit for over a week she still is a bit nervous so I put her up as soon as I got a decent shot to work with. She is currently about 16 inches and about the diameter of a pencil. She is going to be one beautiful adult and produce some wonderful babies one day.

This "high red" is not from selective breeding, she is actually a wild caught animal strait from Tanzania. Right now we are adding animals only from known blood lines, either via captive bred from fellow breeders who keep lines pure or from known localities and species from ethically captured animals.

Clicking on the images will enlarge them to their full size,

In the first shot you get a really nice view of her beautiful color and pattern. House Snakes look their best under good light. Look at this girl under pale light and you see here is mildly red brown but looks what happens with good lighting. What a beautiful little girl!

I reduced the next image less and cropped it tighter around her head so you could get a better look at the head pattern, eye striping and the eyes themselves.

We will be posting a very in depth care sheet and some shots of one of our Zululand "Normals" in the next few days so stay tuned.

~ Jack Spirko

Wednesday, September 20

Rodent Pro Gets a Thumbs Up

If you keep a few snakes then it is easy to rely on your local pet shops for your feeder rodent needs. Even the small scale breeder can often get by just picking up some frozen rodents at one or two reptile shows a year. Yet if like me you keep a colony or just don't want the hassle of having to worry about getting feeders often buying in bulk is a great idea.

Having just built my colony to a point where I am going though a lot more mice then a few months ago I decided to take the plunge and buy a pile of mice from Rodent Pro. I knew they had a good reputation but many claimed shipping killed off any savings. Well when you purchase about 300 mice in one shot like I just did then the shipping is a lot easier to justify.

I was concerned about frozen mice by mail especially when it was not going to be shipped over night. My experience was excellent!

Upon order I received an email telling me that I should receive my order by Sept 21, it arrived one day early on the 20th today.

I was highly impressed by the obvious care that went into packing my mice, they were wrapped in plenty of insulation with a large quantity of dry ice. They were all still frozen solid as if right out of s deep freezer.

What struck me is how clean the mice were compared to other suppliers I have bought from in the past. The small pinkies were clearly all about a day old at maximum and perfect for my tiny new borne house snakes. I also ordered fuzzies, weanlings, small adults and adults. All were excellent, well packaged and clean.

They also met with great approval with my snakes. If you are looking for a minimum order of 100-200 mice I would say give Rodent Pro a try, they have certainly earned my repeat business for a long time to come. You can visit their website at www.rodentpro.com

Jack Spirko

Monday, September 18

House Snake Pictures from our New Camera

Well we broke down and bought a new camera an awesome Sony Alpha which is Sony's new DSLR with a 10.2 Mega Pixel sensor. To break it in I took some shots of three of our house snakes and some of our other animals as well. I though I would share them with our visitors.

First my male transvaal phase African House Snake. He is wild caught from the Highveld if you look close you can see what is left of a wound on his back. He is not amel or hypo this is the natural color of this phase. As you can see his picture is a big improvement over the one I posted in my article, What is a Transvaal African House Snake

Next is my stiped zululand phase female. This girl is just beautiful.

Last is my stud of a Tanzanian Red he spends his days making babies with 5 beautiful red headed gals. Life is tough for him huh?

Next is my new BABY Taiwan Beauty Snake, if you think a python grows fast his first year check out this dude he was born in June and was about 10 inches and the size of a pencil here it is Sept 16 and there he sits belly all full of his first FULL GROWN ADULT MOUSE.

Now look at this awesome red sided garter. Petra from who I met in an online herp forum sent this one to me for free from Kansas. He is also quite full on his adult mouse he ate today. This snake is now my nieces snake that lives at uncle Jack’s House. Her parents hate snakes so I figured she could have one all her own at our house.

Last is one of my Female amel corn snakes this gal is named Secret. She is the fastest growing female corn I have ever seen. Currently about 30 months old and already well over 4 feet and over 600 grams!

Now that I have this awesome new camera as I learn to use it better I will be posting a lot more pics. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and if your in the market for a new camera the Sony Alpha is just awesome.


Monday, September 4

What is a Transvaal African House Snake

That was the question I asked Donald Shultz at Mfezi.com on the phone a few months ago. I had found Don’s Website and noticed he had House Snakes of several species and available and was bringing in new ones all the time from a mix of captive bred and wild caught stock. At the time I was focused on one thing, “red phase” brown house snakes (AKA Lamprophis Fuliginosus) doing some selective breeding to intensify the red.

I ended up getting about 9 animals including a nice pair of cape house snakes, and an amel and het amel cape house snake pair and three of the “red phase” Lamprophis Fuliginosus I had been looking for. Don then mentioned that he had a single sub adult male (about 18 months of age), Transvaal Phase Cape House Snake (Cape House Snakes are species L. Capensis, see Why Won’t these House Snakes Breed for more info on Capensis and Fuliginosus) and did I want him too?

My first reaction was no. First I had already expanded my narrow focus with this one call from high reds to also include (amels –which I intended on) and now these new cape house snakes (on which I had not intended) and now here was a third variety (my wife would want to shoot me). He had a pretty nice proposition for me though, “let me send him with the others, check him out, if you like him send me 50 dollars more and he is yours”.

Was that hard to pass up? You bet and I have to say I never have considered sending the animal back and I now have Don looking for a second male and up to three females for future breeding efforts.

Transvaal it turns out is a Region in what is now the Nation of South Africa and while the species L. Capensis (Cape House Snake) is indigenous through most of South Africa and into some adjoining nations the Transvaal Phase of that species is located in the region of its’ namesake.

What makes Transvaal House Snake different is a few things. First they tend to grow larger on average then their cousins from Tanzania just as all phases of L. Capensis do, though they don’t reach the size of the Zululand Phase. Second the shining iridescence of the typical house snake is less pronounced but it made up for in the third key difference, which is an extremely light coloration, ranging from a light cinnamon to almost appearing to be amelanistic. The lightest in color, of the Transvaal Phase animals come from a smaller sub region called the Highveld.

The Highveld is a high plateau area of South Africa, which includes the largest metropolitan area in the country, Johannesburg. The area of the Highveld is the size of Belgium, starting east of the Johannesburg center and stretching to the Swaziland border, encompassing rural and urban areas of around 30 thousand square kilometers (about 11,500 square miles).

The following pictures were provided by Don at Mfezi.com and are actual images of a wild Transvaal Phase House Snake in the Highveld Region. Don tells me the coloration and pattern are typical for this phase.

My animal is a bit darker in coloration but stunning nonetheless. Here are the best images of him that I have at present time.

Please note that we are currently using a pretty low end 3 MP Digital Camera but will be upgrading to an brand new Olympus EVOLTE E-500 DSLR soon and we can then begin to provide much better quality photos of our personal collection of herps. Just know for now the snake in this picture is quite a bit more striking in person.

Now that I am aware of the Transvaal Phase of the Cape House Snake I am hooked on learning more about its potential for selective breeding to enhance the extreme light coloration and bring out the most in its size potential , which is well past 4 feet for females and close to the 4 foot mark for males.

This is the beauty of African House Snakes that has yet to be appreciated by American Breeders. There is still so much to learn and do with the entire Genus of Lamprophis, (“The Shinning Snake”). Consider when was the last time you heard about a naturally occurring common phase of milk, corn, king or bull snakes that the majority of the herpetology world and pet trade knew little to nothing about? The potential is unlimited and the majority of information is yet unknown when it comes to all of the Lamprophis family and that, for me is part of why they are so appealing.

~ Jack Spirko

Saturday, August 26

Why Won't These House Snakes Breed

The more common questions is why are my house snakes breeding but producing infertile eggs. Quite often this is in the attempt to create heterozygous amelinestic (AKA albino or amel) house snakes where the breeder obtains say a amelinistic male and attempts to breed it into a "normal" female. Amel house snakes are still quite expensive running from 200-400 an animal so this is a common tactic. Get a male, breed him to several females creating hets, then breed the hets to get some hets, some possible hets and some new Amels. You can also breed known het females back to the father and get 50% new hets and 50% Amels.

I went on quite a bit about the amels because it is the most common breeding attempt that ends up with infertile eggs but the actual cause is not really related to the amel/albino trait at all.

This problem is from the fact that when we think of "common" or "brown" house snakes there are actually TWO species that look quite similar to each other and most of the herp world is under the impression that they are indeed one in the same. Then when you try to interbreed these animals they are more then willing to go through with the act but you get slugs (infertile eggs). On some occasions you may get a few good eggs and the offspring will be hybrids between the two and mostly infertile.

So what are the two species and how do you tell them apart? Unfortunately they look very similar and are difficult to tell apart to say the least but there are some things that may help you know. The best bet is buy from a known source and get animals of a known blood line.

The two species in question are...

1. The Brown House Snake or by its' scientific name Lamprophis Fuliginosus - These most commonly come from Tanzania in todays pet trade. They are highly variable in pattern and color with the most sought after color phase being "red". The picture below is a L. Fuliginosus

2. The Cape House Snake or as it is known by its' scientific name Lamprophis Capensis - These snakes are often called "brown house snakes" which simply causes greater confusion between the two species. Within the species of L. Capensis there are several "phases" which are tied to geographic region. The two most common phases are Zululand (which are generally dark in color and get the largest of any phase and species) and Transvaal (which also grow larger then most house snakes and are generally quite light in color). Like L. Fuliginosus, L. Capensis is highly variable in color and pattern. Many have a spotted or chain like pattern, some are striped (like the one in the upper right image on our blog) and some are basically a solid color. The picture below is a Zululand Phase L. Capensis

As you can see this can be quite confusing but if you are breeding two animals and getting infertile eggs this is the place to start looking. Once you work with these animals and view some from known sources over time is it fairly easy to know what you are looking at but explaining it is difficult.

So why is the problem so common with Amel animals? Well, because all the known lines of amelenistic house snakes are of species L. Capensis including several from Zululand Phases and at least one from the Transvaal phase. Now all species of L. Capensis will interbreed so you can breed a Zululand Phase to a Transvaal but when you try to breed a Capensis to a Fuliginosus again you get fertility problems.

So that is half of the problem. The other half is if you buy a "normal" house snake or a "red phase" house snake the odds are it is a Tanzanian animal and of course an L. Fuliginosus and that amel is certainly a L. Capensis. So if you are inclined to breed Amel house snakes of any for that matter take all of this into consideration as you procure you animals.

~ Jack Spirko

Friday, August 25

Where to find African House Snake Suppliers

It is no secret that the African House Snake is an under appreciated species in the pet trade. No one has really gone out of their way to educate the market on how great these little animals are and hence only a few breeders have them on hand with any regularity. I decided to post on a few of them for our visitors. We will not be releasing any stock to the public from our breeding efforts until approximately late 2008 so I figured until then I might as well spread the word for my fellow breeders.

1. Mefzi.com - Run by a great guy named Donald Schultz who is originally from South Africa. Don imports House Snakes strait from Africa. I have done business with him to improve my stock and so far have purchased a Transvaal Phase Cape House Snake, 4 Zululand Cape House Snakes (a copper striped female, a beautiful chain pattern male and a neonate pair of a female amel and male het amel) and a 1.1 pair of red phase Tanzanian House Snakes.

Don gets a mix of Captive Bred and wild caught House Snakes and also has Auroras from time to time. He has access to pure phase and regional blood lines. Get on his mailing list to be advised when new animals arrive.

The beautiful striped Zululand snake that adorns our blog to the upper right was purchased from Don.

2. Patterson Reptiles - out of Maine has some really nice animals and Jason Patterson has been breeding African House Snakes a very long time. He has also been very helpful to me via email from time to time and you just can't go wrong doing business with him.

3. Night Breed Reptiles - I met the owner Chris at the Bob Clark Dallas Metro Reptile Show in August of this year. He had and still has available some really nice L. Capensis (cape house snake) young males that are all Het for amel. I did not need any het males so I did not purchase any but he breeds a huge variety of species and I bought this beautiful baby male Taiwan Beauty Snake from him there.

Chris was very helpful and extremely honest with me so I really appreciated him. I was also considering a nice jungle carpet python cross but he told me it also had coastal carpet in it. I don't want a 10 foot python and with coastal in the blood it is not probable but possible that a 10 footer could be the result. He knew disclosing that to me would cost him the sale on the second snake but told me anyway. That you have to appreciate.

Those are three breeders I have done business with in the past and I will be sure to share others with you as I meet them. Other then that be sure to check the "other snakes" at Kingsnake.com because House Snakes of various types show up there quite often.

If you are a house snake breeder and want me to post your site in my blog just let me know.

~ Jack Spirko