rear-fangedSnake Breeds

Puff Faced Water Snake

Puff-faced Water Snake (Homalopsis buccata)

Thai – (ngu hua galog, ngu leuam ao)

Size – Average length around 70 cm. Maximum about 120 centimeters. The young puff faced water snakes are very thin – like a pencil. The adults are thick – like a forearm or even a human leg.

Description – Triangular head distinct from neck. Color varies quite a bit. Brown with incomplete orange bands on the dorsum and laterals, or brown with beige bands, or black with grey bands. Many variations. Sometimes the snake appears orange.

Puff faced water snakes have light bands on a darker body.
Homalopsis buccata – the puff-faced water snake. Not dangerous to humans, but they do bite.

Range – All over Thailand and almost always beside or in water: Pools, streams, rivers, puddles, lakes. They are not found on hills or mountains. Strictly freshwater snakes, not found in marine habitat.

Food – Prey includes fish, frogs, and tadpoles primarily.

Behavior – The water snake Homalopsis buccata lives in fresh and salty mixed with fresh – brackish water. These snakes live in and near any body of water – natural or man-made.

Puff-Faced Watersnakes are found almost always in the water or on the bank. Small holes in the bank are often home for these snakes.  This snake is primarily active at night, but I have found a few during the daytime.

The easiest place to find them is just under the surface of the water when the water is clear enough to see to the bottom. They can also be found with most of their body submerged and only the head peaking above the water’s surface.

Young – Born alive without eggs. Coloration – orange and black bands. Quite stunning. The colors become muted as they grow into adults.

Puff Faced Water Snake - Homalopsis buccata from Nakhon si Thammarat
Juvenile Puff Faced Water Snake – Homalopsis buccata – Not Dangerous. ©2010

Danger – I’ve found dozens of these snakes and they are typically strong and active biters. They can strike like a viper – backward and vertically. I’ve been bitten in the finger by a 70 cm. long snake when I was 5 inches away from the head, coming from behind to grab the neck.

With the bright headlamp in his eyes, I don’t know how he could have possibly seen my hand coming. It wasn’t a glancing strike, he bit and held on for a couple of minutes. I have heard others say these snakes don’t tend to bite. Maybe they are talking about in their experiences in the pet-trade.

Range – Bangladesh; Myanmar, Cambodia; Thailand; Vietnam; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia; Singapore; India; Nepal; Pulau Bangka.

UPDATE 11/2022: We have found scores of these snakes in shallow lakes, ponds, and large puddles in southern Thailand. They are rarely big and thick, I think one of the other snake-eaters get to them as juveniles and few make it to real adulthood. Red necked keelbacks, pipe snakes, sunbeam snakes, and other freshwater snake species may prey on them.

Puff-faced Water Snake Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Homalopsis
Species: H. buccata
Binomial name
Homalopsis buccata

Classification by Linnaeus in 1758

If you’re looking for Thailand Sea Snake Info Click Here.

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  1. I want a puff face water non vonamous snake to keep in fish tank which is filled with water and keep as pet

  2. Two of them were in my garden this morning. One was stretched out across a wide tiled pathway. His/her frontal body was stretched out almost straight for about 75cm, except for very marked vertical corrugations. The tail became almost a whip. I would estimate the length at 1.5m. It was thicker than my thumb in its main body, but not as thick as my arm. After remaining stationary for 15 or 20 seconds, it suddenly whipped round and there was a second one! They disappeared into the brush.

    I was on my way into the house to collect my camera to photograph something else – I did not have my camera with me!!!

    1. These don’t get 1.5 meters. I think 1 meter max. I’ve never seen one bigger than maybe 80cm. 1 meter long snakes of this species are rare. Did you get some photos?

  3. Hi Vern

    Wonder if you could recall, how long/old was that juvie Puff-Faced watersnake? Lovely coloration

    1. Hmm. Sorry, I cannot remember with any degree of accuracy at all. We find them a lot. They are supposed to get up to 1 meter I believe. I’ve seen them that big only twice.

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