Anacondas are some of the largest snakes in the world. The green anaconda can grow to a length of 25 feet, but generally grows to about 15 feet and 165 pounds. They are heavy snakes that spend most of their time in water. Natives and sailors report seeing green anacondas as much as 50 feet long in the wild, but these reports have never been substantiated.
While it is disputed whether anacondas are the longest snakes in the world, they are definitely the heaviest. They have been known to be as thick as an adult human when living in the wild. Here's an interesting fact about the size of the green anaconda. The females are five times bigger than the males! The largest measured green anaconda was 28 feet long and 44 inches in diameter.
The yellow anaconda is also a water lover, but is smaller, growing to 8 to 12 feet. Both types of anaconda come from the Amazon region of South America, and both are noted for having an aggressive temperament. The yellow is easier to find captive born.
Even though these snakes are dangerous wild animals some brave souls opt to keep them as pets. They should only be kept by very experienced large snake handlers. For safety's sake, never try to handle one of these large snakes alone. Experts recommend that there be one experienced handler for every three feet of snake because of their nervous disposition. While their bite is not poisonous, it is large and powerful. They are constrictors, like boas and pythons. It is thought that they kill their prey by constricting them so that the blood supply is cut off.
The enclosure for an anaconda needs to be large enough for the snake and include a large container of water for them to swim in. As much as two-thirds of the enclosure can be water, and that should be at least six inches deep. In the wild they eat deer, caiman, herons, pigs, monkeys, and other animals that live around water.
The most important thing to consider when having an anaconda for a pet is that its enclosure is completely escape proof. Large snakes are very strong and can push doors and lids open unless they are sealed very tightly. Have a locked enclosure and consider keeping it in its own locked, escape-proof room.
Yellow anacondas can make gentle pets if they are handled gently and frequently while young. They are mean if they are not handled properly, however. They bite by lashing to the side instead of striking forward like other types of snakes. They dislike being put in a bag.
Yellow anacondas are somewhat easier snakes to care for than green anacondas but neither is for the beginner. The best snakes for pets are ones that are captive bred and already started on food and being handled.
The enclosure for an anaconda can be a plastic tote with air holes poked in it, at least while the snake is small. In fact, a small enclosure can help a young anaconda feel more secure. Too big a cage can leave these snakes feeling stressed. An aquarium with a screen top can be used but it can be hard to keep a high level of humidity in these.
The enclosure needs to have a temperature gradient from 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.3 degrees Celsius) on the warm side to no less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.4 degrees Celsius) on the cool side. Keep track of the temperature with a thermometer on each end. There are a number of products available for adding heat to the cage. There are ceramic heaters, light bulbs, undertank heating pads, and other methods. Large snake cages can be warmed by setting them on a "pig blanket," a rigid fiberglass heating pad used to keep newborn pigs warm. Use the heater under only half the cage so you can create the warm and cool ends.
Captive anacondas need their enclosures kept clean or the health of their skin can suffer. This can be difficult because the humidity needs to be kept at least 50% or more. A special box for humidity can be made by lining a plastic container with moist sphagnum moss. Make a hole for the snake to get into the box whenever it wants. This humidity box should be placed on the warm end of the enclosure. Too much humidity can be stressful also. Ventilation is important for the snake's health.
The water container should be located near the warm area so that it doesn't get too cold for the snake. Having two water bowls is a good idea so you can replace the water while you are cleaning the other bowl. Snakes tend to use the bathroom in their water dishes, so the dishes have to be washed frequently.
An anaconda should be fed a pre-killed mouse or rat every week. The size of the rodent should be about the same diameter as the snake. Feeding less often can keep the anaconda from growing so fast, but it will also yield a hungry snake that will be more irritable when fed. Live prey animals can inflict damage to a snake and are not recommended.
In captivity, the babies are difficult to feed. They have been known to go four months without eating anything. If you have a baby that won't eat there are several things you can try. One is to try different types of food, both dead and alive. Fish can be turned loose in the water tub. Frogs are sometimes relished. The best time to feed is at twilight. Anacondas like a secure environment for eating, so you can try placing obstacles around the enclosure so the snake can hide while eating.
With large snakes like anacondas, use long handled tongs for feeding. If you shake the food a little it will look more alive to the snake, but don't hand feed them unless you want to be bit. It is to be assumed that biting can lead to constricting, and you could lose your life.
Newspaper makes an adequate cage lining, or "substrate." Bedding can be used, but it should not contain cedar. The entire substrate should be changed and the cage, along with hides and accessories, should be disinfected at least once a month. This can be done with a bleach solution. The cage should be rinsed and dried before putting the snake back in.
Again, it is recommended that there be more than one person available to handle the snake, even for routine cage cleaning. Anacondas are known to have nervous dispositions, but don't seem to have the reputation for being killers, like the Burmese Python and other large snakes. This might just be because there are not that many being kept as pets. At best they are unpredictable. Always treat these large wild creatures with the respect they deserve.