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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024



Rainbow Water Snake

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Species : Enhydris enhydris
Maximum Size : 81 cm

The genus Enhydris comprises more than 20 species which occur mainly in Southeast Asia. The range of a few species extends into parts of India, southern China, New Guinea and Australia.

The Rainbow Water Snake Enhydris enhydris inhabits freshwater habitats including marshlands, rural ponds and rice paddies.

The species is mainly a fish eater, but reportedly also consumes amphibians and other small vertebrates.

This snake is best identified by the two pale stripes running down the full length of the body and tail on either side of the vertebral line : these two stripes converge on the crown.

The body is medium brown to greenish brown, and the head and neck is generally more olive coloured than the body. The belly is pale, with a thin brown line running down the middle.

The head is much narrower than the thickset body, and is quite flattened. The snout is squarish. The eyes are small and located towards the top of the head, and the valvular nostrils are positioned above the snout. The tail is relatively short and tapers quickly.

In Southeast Asia the Rainbow Water Snake is recorded from Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore (where it may have been introduced), Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Outside the region it is recorded from eastern India and neighbouring states, and from southern China.

Fig 1 : Close-up of the head showing the small eyes and valvular nostrils.

Fig 2 : The species is strongly aquatic in behaviour, preferring to explore muddy or silty substrate.

Figs 3 and 4 : Note the small head and robust body. This specimen measures around 45 cm total length.

Fig 4 : Specimen found in a narrow gully connecting two rural ponds.

All images from freshwater ponds at the edge of marshland, Singapore.

Thanks to Noel Thomas for assistance. 

References : H12