Tentacled Snake Fact File

Erpeton tentaculatum

Credit: Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 9-10 years

Captive 9-10 years




Conservation Status


Least Concern

The tentacled snake is named for the two short tentacles which are present on the front of their head. The purpose of these has not been established. They may be used for camouflage or to sense prey.

These snakes feed almost exclusively on fish which are captured and subdued using a venom which is specifically adapted for this prey.

Females give birth to live young with a standard clutch including 10 individuals.

They are threatened through capture for food and persecution due to the perception that this species is a threat.

Read on to learn more about these radical reptiles.


What does the tentacled snake look like?

Tentacled snakes are named for the two short tentacles which extend from their snout. They are the only species of snake equipped with these tentacles.

Their head is small but noticeably distinct from the neck.

These reptiles are covered by scales which are colored dark gray, brown or tan. Their scales are keeled. Individuals come in two varieties, striped or blotched. Black bars may also be present on some individuals.

An average tentacled snake will measure 0.7-1m (2.3-3.3ft) long.


What does the tentacled snake eat?

These animals are carnivores which will feed on animals such as fish and amphibians.

Hunting occurs in the water where they will lie in wait hidden by weeds and waiting for prey to pass them by. Their method of hunting is unique. They will hold their body in a rigid position with the tail anchoring them underwater. As prey approaches they will ripple their neck muscles and the fish flees sending it towards the snakes mouth.

Once prey does pass them by they will strike it rapidly and then wrap around it before constricting it to death. These animals are equipped with small fangs and a mild venom. It is most effective on the fish which they feed on.

Tentacled Snake (Erpeton tentaculatum)

Credit: Public Domain


Where can you find the tentacled snake?

Asia is the native home of the tentacled snake. Here they can be found in Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.


What kind of environment does the tentacled snake live in?

These animals are found in wetland habitats. They are found exclusively in stagnant or slow-moving water which features some submerged vegetation. These bodies of water may include lake and streams. They also make use of man-made habitats such as rice paddies.

They make use of bodies of both fresh and brackish water.

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How does the tentacled snake produce its young?

Young develop inside their mother and are born live while she is underwater.

Each litter may include up to 10 young.


What does the tentacled snake do with its day?

These animals are aquatic and spend their time in the water. As they breathe air they must surface regularly to breathe. They must remain submerged for up to 30 minutes before breaths.

During the dry season some individuals will bury themselves within mud. They emerge when the next wet season begins.

These animals are primarily active at night.

Tentacled Snake (Erpeton tentaculatum)

Credit: Ryan Somma, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the tentacled snake?

When predators seize a tentacled snake they will become rigid even if removed from the water.

No studies have been undertaken in to the population size of the tentacled snake.

Individuals are taken to supply the food trade. Some are also captured to feed crocodiles at farms. Some are also subject to by-catch within fishing activities.

In some areas across their range this species is persecuted due to a belief that they are dangerously venomous.

Some small captive breeding efforts have been undertaken for this species.

Quick facts

This species was first described for modern science in 1800.

They are the only members of their genus, Erpeton.

Tentacled Snake (Erpeton tentaculatum)

Credit: Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Murphy, J., Brooks, S.E. & Bain, R.H. 2010. Erpeton tentaculatumThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T176697A7285596. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T176697A7285596.en. Accessed on 12 December 2021.

Tulsazoo.org. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://tulsazoo.org/animal/tentacled-snake/> [Accessed 12 December 2021].

Thai National Parks. 2021. Erpeton tentaculatum, Tentacled snake. [online] Available at: <https://www.thainationalparks.com/species/erpeton-tentaculatum> [Accessed 12 December 2021].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Tentacled Snake. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/tentacled-snake> [Accessed 12 December 2021].

Toronto Zoo. 2021. Tentacled Snake. [online] Available at: <https://www.torontozoo.com/animals/Tentacled%20snake?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=msNSx.fdhhfcoPVqzYPb49YoBou_sHNQG0jd6yakEAg-1639301147-0-gaNycGzNCL0> [Accessed 12 December 2021].

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo | Indiana’s #1 Summer “Gotta-Do” Attraction. 2021. Tentacled Snake | Our Animals | Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://kidszoo.org/our-animals/tentacled-snake/> [Accessed 12 December 2021].

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