I acquired my first Elaphe quadrivirgata in 2005 as hatchlings. The male was very different to the female being a very red in his colouration whereas the female was brown. Adults also vary in colouration varying between dirty green & brown.
As they mature they undergo an ontogenetic colour/pattern change and develop four longitudinal stripes giving rise to their common name, the Japanese Fourlined Ratsnake*. The photo below shows the male whose red colouration has now faded and you can see evidence of the four stripes developing and the numerous cross-bands fading.
In 2006 I further added to my collection with a trio of young E. quadrivirgata of the melanistic phase. Melanistic Japanese Fourlined were once given subspecies status and were known as Elaphe quadrivirgata atra. Most often when keepers refer to these animals they still call them 'atra' to differentiate between the normal and melanistic phases. The pair of 'atra' were approx 90cm long when I acquired them and the single female was a lot smaller at approx 50cm. She was also an unusual grey colour. None of these proved to be a problem and started feeding without any hesitation.
One very interesting observation with the melanistic phase is the presence of stripes when they are in slough as can be seen in the photo below. This is the 'grey' female and a photo of her sloughed skin again with evidence of the longitudinal stripes.
I mentioned above about the variety in colour in the 'normal' phase as adults, this can be seen in the photo's below.
It is not frequently mentioned in literature, but Elaphe quadrivirgata can be cannibalistic as can be seen in the photo below. This is a pair of animals housed together and it is the female that is biting the male, otherwise one might think that this might be a copulatory bite. This occurred one week after the last feed, so the smell of mice cannot be the cause, therefore I concluded that the female was about to try
and have the male for dinner. The photo is blurred which you will have to excuse, as I wanted to record the moment but also had other things on my mind, like rescuing him from her jaws.
A short breeding account.
One week after brumation at 8-10C from late November to early February, the pair where introduced to one another. Courtship and copulation occurred pretty soon after the pair were introduced.
Ovipostion occurred 4-5 weeks after mating and the clutch contained three eggs, more usually 8-12 are laid by this species. I wasn't disappointed, even though two of the three eggs appeared to be infertile as everything went without complications.
The eggs were incubated on damp sphagnum moss and 48 days later one healthy hatchling hatched from the good egg, the other two did prove to be infertile as was suspected when she laid them.