Color Changing Snake: All You Need To Know

Are you wondering if some snake species out there change colors? There are over 3000 snake species in the world, so it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that at least one of those could.

Five snake species can change colors: the Kapuas Mud Snake, Round Island Keel-Scaled Boa, Hog Island Boa Constrictor, Arizona Black Rattlesnake, and the Green Tree Python. Some possible causes are aging and changing habitats, sunlight, and camouflaging.

In the following parts of the article, I will discuss the Kapuas Mud Snake, Round Island Keel-Scaled Boa, Hog Island Boa Constrictor, Arizona Black Rattlesnake, and Green Tree Python. I will explain where the behavior comes from and in what circumstances these snakes would change colors.

Which Snakes Change Color?

The snakes mentioned here aren’t the only ones suspected to have the ability to change colors. Other species, like The Colombian Rainbow Boa and Prairie Rattlesnake, have the same ability. However, too little is known about those species and why they might undergo those changes, so I won’t discuss them in this article.

Green Tree Python

Pythons are born red or bright yellow and turn into a beautiful green color as they mature. 

Pythons are native to Indonesia, Australia, and New Guinea, and the green Tree Python is very popular in illegal trade.

If you want to learn more about the Green Tree Python, you can find a great article here.

Kapuas Mud Snake

The Kapuas is a river in Indonesia. The water snake was discovered in the river in 2003-2005, and scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why the snake changes colors.

The snake’s abilities were discovered when the black-ish animal turned utterly white when captured in a bucket. It is the most famous color-changing snake since its discovery, as it’s the only one where the change doesn’t happen gradually.

Round Island Keel-Scaled Boa

The Round Island Keel-Scaled Boa is a relatively small snake species that turns darker throughout the day and lighter throughout the night. The species is found in Mauritius, an Easters-Africa country near Madagascar. 

Hog Island Boa Constrictor

The popular pet snake, the Hog Island Boa Constrictor, comes from South-American countries like Honduras. The snake species can live up to 30 years, so it’s the ideal pet for those who want to take care of an animal long-term. 

If you’re considering buying a pet snake, this is an amazing article about the Hog Island Boa Constrictor.

Arizona Black Rattlesnake

As the name implies, the Arizona Black Rattlesnake is from Arizona in the United States. The snake turns darker as it ages and grows bigger. It can also turn grey within a couple of minutes. This rapid change has been associated with increased body temperature, but it could also be a response to stress.

Why Do Snakes Change Color?

There are a variety of reasons why a snake would change colors. Sometimes it’s simply the natural way they age and adapt. Other times it happens within seconds, minutes, or hours. This is often a way to regulate temperature or blend into the environment to protect themselves from predators or to attack prey without being noticed.

Ontogenetic Color Change

The Green Tree Python and Arizona Black Rattlesnake change colors as they grow older and larger and their environment changes. 

The young Green Tree Python’s red or yellow color helps them blend in with the colors of different plants and leaves as they are younger, which changes when they relocate as adult snakes and have to adapt to a new environment. 

The Arizona Black Rattlesnake also changes color as it ages and grows. However, the snake can also change colors within a couple of seconds. The reason for this isn’t fully known, but it’s guessed to be related to temperature or stress. They can change colors within the grey-black spectrum.

Sunlight & Temperature

The Round Island Keel-Scaled Boa and Hog Island Boa Constrictor change colors according to the outside light. During the night, they are lighter and active, and during the day, they are darker and inactive. It is not fully known why this happens exactly, but based on the color-changing pattern, it should be related to the light and temperature around the animals.


The Kapuas Mud Snake is the only snake that changes colors like a chameleon. However, the snake does it to blend into its surroundings, unlike the chameleon, which mainly changes colors to regulate its body temperature and communicate with other animals.

The Kapuas Mud Snake’s colors range from black to red, pinkish, and white.

Can Snakes Change Color?

Some snakes can change colors. Sometimes it’s simply a part of their aging process. For some, however, it’s a camouflage technique. The most common causes are ontogenetic color change, camouflaging, and light & temperature regulation.

At least five species are known to change colors gradually or all of a sudden.

Final Thoughts

The snakes mentioned in the article most likely aren’t the only species to change colors, as discoveries within the animal kingdom are made daily. The Kapuas Mud Snake, for example, was only discovered 15-20 years back, which isn’t that long ago. Maybe we’ll discover more color-changing snakes in the future!

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