Cobras and Other Elapids

Cobras are best known as those snakes that snake charmers call out of their baskets. But they are so much more than just a party trick. Cobras and other snakes in the Elapid family are characterized by their ability to turn their neck scales into a “hood” or cape-type shape. Cobras and other elapids are found throughout southern Africa and southern Asia, but they are bred in Northern America.

But how do you take care of cobras and other elapids? Well, there are a lot of different types of cobras including the world’s largest venomous snake, the king cobra, seen in the picture below. If you are interested buying a cobra, first you must know, cobras are not recommended for anyone but people who have a lot of experience with snakes. It is a huge challenge, raising a cobra, because elapids are venomous and can be aggressive.


Because cobras and elapids are most comfortable in southern Asia and Africa, cobras prefer warm, dry climates. And since cobras and king cobras in particular, can grow to sizes of 12 feet, you will want a very large cage, giving the cobra plenty of room to roam around enjoy its environment. Using a UV light in your snake cage will also allow the cold-blooded cobra to regulate its body temperature. This is very important, particularly if your cobra will not be in a room with direct sunlight. Also provide as assortment of terrains including logs, rocks and sand to give your cobra a variety of places to lay and “sun” themselves.


In nature, cobras naturally prey on small mammals and small reptiles. So, in captivity, aim for the same diet. Most pet stores will sell feeder mice for snakes, either frozen or live. Though snakes are natural predators, in a cage, snakes cannot evade attacks from mice. So before feeding your cobra, stun a live mouse so it will not have the chance to injure your cobra. Cobras do not need to eat every day. Snakes, cobras and elapids included, do not need a lot of food because they do not expend a great deal of energy. You can feed your cobra every 4-10 days, depending on age and size of food. Baby cobras and young cobras should be fed more often, while adult cobras can be fed less often.


Your cobra will likely need veterinary care during its lifespan. Cobras and elapids can live up to 30 years in captivity and will need to see the vet if it gets sick. Figuring out if your snake is sick can be a challenge, particularly since cobras hide their illnesses in the wild. But in captivity, knowing your snake will help. Familiarize yourself with your cobra or elapid’s eating habits and shedding habits. Keep track of any big changes in these patterns. If something seems off, get your cobra to a veterinarian as soon as possible. One tip to finding a veterinarian familiar with your rare cobra is to call your local zoo and find out what vet they use for their reptiles. If you do not have a local zoo, call the local snake and reptile shop and get a recommendation from them.




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