The tentacled snake's most identifiable characteristic is the pair of scaly appendages that project from its snout. The snake's head and body are extremely flat. Its coloring is light brown with darker stripes or very dark coloring with lighter brown mottling. The snake's color and pattern can resemble a twig or branch with mottled, water-soaked bark. Its scales are keeled and feel rough like sandpaper.
Tentacled snakes are helpless on land and almost never leave the water voluntarily. Underwater, they rely on their cryptic coloring for camouflage to avoid predators. If an animal approaches, the tentacled snake extends its body, becoming completely rigid and maintains this position even if removed from the water, which further enhances its ability to resemble a water-soaked branch.
This snake's nostrils are dorsally positioned and valvular—specialized tissue allows them to close. Adjacent to the nostrils are the snake's two short, scaly tentacles. The purpose of these appendages is not certainly known, but it's possible they act as a lure to attract prey, a device for locating prey and/or a tool for camouflage.
The tentacled snake is a diurnal, aquatic snake. This ambush predator lies still among submerged vegetation throughout the day waiting for prey. Its unique hunting strategy involves herding its prey into position, so it's easy to capture. As a potential meal approaches, the snake "bumps" out part of its body creating a bow wave in the direction of the passing prey. The resulting wave causes the fish to change direction, usually heading directly into the jaws of the snake. The initial bump of the snake's body is so quick that it requires high-speed film to observe.
Tentacled snakes feed almost exclusively on fish. They have been observed eating frogs and, in some cases, crabs. This snake is rear-fanged, and various species seem to have specialized venom for their preferred prey.
The tentacled snake is classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, as of 2010. There are, however, some emerging fungal diseases of reptiles that have been observed in tentacled snakes. Additionally, their wetland habitats are often used for rice farming and other aquaculture, which can put a greater strain on this and other species that rely on those habitats.