Humidity is vital for our survival.
Without water vapor in the atmosphere, the surface temperature of the earth would be much cooler.
But too high a humidity is not only uncomfortable, but actually detrimental to our health. High humidity encourages mold growth and mildew, and these can lead to dangerous allergies and asthma.
And snakes have it even worse than we do. They are far more sensitive to changes in humidity.
That is why it is important to know how to lower the humidity in a snake tank, if it gets too high, and also how to raise it, if it is too low.
You snake needs the same environmental conditions if enjoys in its natural habitat and it relies on you to provide them. If you fail in that task, it will likely get sick and eventually die.
Let’s find out how to lower the humidity in your snake’s enclosure and then tackle the topic of humidity regulation as a whole.
Table of Contents
- 1 Lowering Humidity In A Snake Tank
- 2 Humidity Requirements Of Different Snakes
- 2.1 Not All Snakes Need The Same Humidity
- 2.2 All About Misting
- 2.3 Humidity Requirements Of The Ball Python
- 2.4 Corn Snake Humidity Requirements
- 2.5 Too Much Humidity Can Kill Your Snake
- 3 How To Lower Humidity In A Snake Tank: Final Thoughts
Lowering Humidity In A Snake Tank
Temperature and humidity in a terrarium require ongoing observation. You can’t just set the temperature and humidity and leave them the same day after day and month after month. Adjustments are needed to cater to the changes in your pet.
Many new owners just assume all snakes need high humidity, but there are also snakes that require far less humid conditions. If you place a desert species into a high-humidity environment, it will never be able to cope with the excess water vapor in its lungs.
It is vital to understand your snake’s requirements.
Understand Your Snake’s Natural Habitat
It is important to get to know the natural history of the snake you plan to keep as a pet, in order to set up the proper home. You need to provide conditions as close as possible to the ones the snake enjoys in nature.
Before setting up your pet’s micro-climate, find out all you can about the needs of your particular species. The requirements of various species are very specific and you can’t just give them all the same environment. There is no standard humidity level that applies to all snakes.
And it’s not just variation among species. The humidity needs also change depending on the stage of life the snake is at.
What Is Humidity Anyway?
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, measured in relative humidity and expressed as a percentage. When humid air is warmed, it becomes dryer as it expands.
A hygrometer is necessary to monitor humidity. It is used to measure relative humidity and you’ll want one in the enclosure for this purpose. It’s not easy trying to get the right environment for a snake. Many tropical species require humid, warm environments, while others do not.
Reptiles are sensitive to humidity and they require higher or lower levels, depending on where they come from. The wrong humidity for your snake’s enclosure can be catastrophic. Too high and your snake can develop all manner of skin infections or even pneumonia. Too low and it can become dehydrated and die.
There are many ways to provide either more or less humidity to your pet snake. Some snakes that require low humidity can get by with a water bowl, but others may need a bigger water bowl and a mister/fogger with an automatic misting system.
How To Lower The Humidity In A Snake Tank
Some snake owners have trouble keeping moisture down in their snake enclosure. You can’t afford to have the vivarium too damp, because your pet could develop multiple problems, like scale rot.
Scale rot is a bacterial infection often found with captive snakes and can occur because of an over-moist condition in the enclosure.
To lower humidity, begin by replacing the water bowl in the enclosure with a smaller one and moving it to the end of the snake enclosure. Most snake vivariums have a warm and a cool end and you want to place the bowl in the cool end.
Another idea is to replace the enclosure’s lid with a mesh screen and to look at a drier, more moisture-absorbing substrate. You can also increase ventilation by putting some holes in your snake’s enclosure and allowing humid air to escape and cooler, drier air to flow in.
Bear in mind that plastic enclosures tend to hold onto humidity more than glass terrariums. Plastic retains heat more, so if you’re battling to bring the humidity down, you can try switching to a glass enclosure.
A dehumidifier is another good solution for lowering excess humidity. You won’t want to keep the dehumidifier running all the time and completely dry out the environment. Instead, bring it down to the 30 to 40% range and then turn off the machine.
There are small, portable dehumidifiers for lowering humidity for reptiles. Desiccant dehumidifiers range from small units to those which can be used for an entire room.
Humidity Requirements Of Different Snakes
|Ball Python||West Sub Saharan Africa (grasslands, savannas, and sparsely wooded areas)||50%||Water bowl and misting during shedding only|
|Kingsnake||The Americas (varied habitats – forests, swamps, grasslands, deserts, and suburbia)||40 – 60%||Water bowl, misting and high humidity retreat during shedding only|
|Corn Snake||North America (trees, forest openings, abandoned buildings)||40 – 60%||Water bowl, misting|
|Amazon Tree Boa||Northern South America, Amazon Basin east of the Andes.||80 – 90%||Water bowl, misting 2x daily|
Snakes are reptiles and cold-blooded (ectothermic). They raise their body temperature by coming out of the shade and lying in the sun. The body temperature of the snake adopts the temperature of its surroundings.
That means when a snake is in a cold environment it is unable to keep its temperature above that of its surroundings. Snakes living in colder climates hibernate through the winter, as a result.
There are close to 3000 snake species in the world and they live in almost all climates and habitats. You’ll find them in forests, deserts, and the ocean, but you won’t find snakes in Antarctica or north of the Arctic Circle. They are not able to survive the icy conditions.
Not All Snakes Need The Same Humidity
The first thing you need to realize is that not all snakes have the same humidity requirements. That means their cages need to be set up differently.
There are snakes that come from areas in South America with high annual rainfall and a snake from this area needs a cage with quite a bit of humidity. It is different for a desert snake from the American south-west. They require far less humidity.
If the humidity level in the room outside the snake’s enclosure stays at an appropriate level, you may not need to do much. If you’re keeping a popular pet snake species like the corn snake in a room that averages 50% to 60% humidity, you won’t need to adjust the humidity.
Shedding Helps Gauge Humidity
If you find that humidity levels are low, you can either increase the relative humidity in the whole room, or only within the cage itself. The secret to knowing whether the humidity levels are right is to monitor your snake at shedding time.
The way your snake sheds is a guide to the correct humidity level. When your snake sheds mostly in one piece, this is a healthy sign. When it sheds in many broken pieces, this is indicative of poor health and improper humidity.
The shedding of skin, or ecdysis, is a natural process for your snake. How and when it happens depends on many factors: the species, nutrition, age, and humidity. It takes place roughly once a month.
If the humidity in your snake’s enclosure is too low, it will have trouble shedding. You need to raise it in this case, either by increasing the room’s humidity using a regular household humidifier, or by increasing the enclosure’s humidity using a snake humidifier.
Checking And Increasing Humidity Levels
There are a few ways you can check for, and increase, the level of humidity inside a snake cage.
The best way to know the precise humidity level is to get a hygrometer, which measures humidity levels. You can get them at a garden center or pet shop, or on Amazon. This one is good, because it also measures the temperature.
Mount the hygrometer within the snake enclosure for the best results. You could even get a second one an put it in the room outside the enclosure.
Remember that the substrate you use in the cage also plays a significant role in humidity levels. There are some shavings and mulch which tend to dry out the air, while others can increase humidity. That is why it is important to choose the best type of substrate for your particular snake species.
The amount of moisture in the air of your snake enclosure is controlled by three variables – temperature, ventilation, and water in the atmosphere. As such, there are a number of other ways to add moisture to the environment.
There are some snakes that need a pool of water in which to submerge themselves. This water needs to be changed frequently. Pools also help increase humidity, but often increase it too much. That is when you have to work to lower the humidity in your snake’s enclosure.
Humidifiers / Foggers
A humidifier supplies fresh, humid air to your snake’s terrariums. There are several types available including misters and foggers and you will need to research them and find the best for your particular breed.
There are plenty of options for store-bought humidifiers (we reviewed the best here), but you can always make your own with a little time and effort. Here is how to do it.
- Take a plastic jar and drill two 1/4″ diameter holes in the top of the lid, spacing them evenly and put the cap back on the jar.
- Insert plastic tubing into one of the holes and attach an air stone to the end of the tubing.
- Add water to the jar so that it is two-thirds full. Place lid back on the jar, with the air stone resting on the bottom.
- Plug the other end of the tubing into an air pump, attaching the tubing to the outflow.
- Insert the second piece of plastic tubing into the second hole and see that it rests 1″ below the top of the lid. Ensure it doesn’t touch the water.
- Insert the loose end of the second piece of tubing into your snake’s enclosure, feeding it through one of the holes in the lid.
- Turn on the air pump and you’ll see bubbles forming inside the jar from the air stone. Moisture will be forced into the enclosure through the other tube. Add more water to the jar as needed.
With a drip system, the water constantly drips into a pool at the bottom of the cage, and in this way, humidity levels can be increased. These systems are usually made up of a container of water above the cage with plastic tubing going into the cage. The tubing has holes through which drips water onto the plants.
These natural looking waterfalls should be made from materials that are resistant to the development of harmful bacteria. They can be installed anywhere in the terrarium, with water circulation provided by a pump. These waterfalls come in many sizes. Some snakes really love having running water to drink.
Some people simply use a regular spray bottle. It is an affordable, low-tech way to add humidity. All you need to do is simply spray the enclosure regularly. The problem is if you forget, or are not around, to spray the enclosure, the humidity can quickly get too low.
All About Misting
The whole purpose of these misting systems is to maintain vivarium humidity. Keeping a snake requires you to know what humidity is normal for the reptile in its native habitat. If you need to maintain high humidity in your snake’s enclosure or vivarium, a misting system is an easy way to do it.
There are truly simple set-ups and there are also more sophisticated, automated misting systems. No matter the misting system, there are a few features you want it to have.
You want a misting system that uses very little water and which provides only a fine mist or fog. There are low or high-pressure systems, with most low-pressure systems operating at 40 or 50 psi. High pressure systems are over 100 psi, even up to 250 psi.
The higher the pressure of a misting system, the better it creates a fine mist. It won’t soak the vivarium, only fog it. Low-pressure systems tend to be less efficient, producing a coarse spray almost like rain effect. The type of misting nozzle you use also plays a role in the type of mist produced.
You Want A Fine Mist
For a high-pressure system, a stainless steel or brass nozzle is capable of producing a nice, fine mist. You’ll find for irrigation purposes, the output of misting nozzles is measured in gallons per hour.
Gpm or gallons per minute is more useful for low-output nozzles for humidity-creating purposes. The nozzles you want for a vivarium misting system will, more likely be rated using gpm. Nozzles need to deliver only a fraction of a gallon per minute when operating under high pressure.
Purified Water Is Ideal
Of course, we all know that regular tap water is problematic these days – full of minerals and chemicals that can make you sick. Not to mention your pet snake. This water can seriously jeopardize the health of your snake as well as the plants you have in the vivarium.
Not only that, if you use tap water it won’t be long before your nozzle clogs. You’ll also notice a hazy film that covers your tank glass. Many owners never realize they are finding it more and more difficult to see through their enclosure’s glass.
The problem is tap water and the solution is purified water. You have two options to get it.
The easier solution is to buy distilled or purified water. The other is to incorporate a water-filtration system into your misting system. That way you can use your municipal tap water, instead of having to constantly buy water.
A basic carbon filter is a minimum requirement. It can reduce some of the most harmful compounds. You’ll probably want a more complete filtration system, to be extra safe when it comes to the welfare of your snake.
Humidity Requirements Of The Ball Python
Ball pythons hail from the northwestern part of Africa, which is an arid or semi-arid area. These snakes do well in enclosures with a normal level of humidity in the 50% to 60% range.
As long as you provide it the proper hydration, with good water bowls and a constant supply of fresh drinking water, your pet ball python should have the moisture levels it requires to be happy.
An indicator that all is well with your ball python is his shedding habits. Dehydration is indicated by a problem known as dysecdysis – problems with shedding, where the skin comes off in many broken pieces.
Other health issues from incorrect humidity include upper respiratory tract infections and even anorexia and regurgitation, leading to weight loss in your snake.
The shedding process requires a lot of moisture. When your snake is preparing to shed, increase the humidity level to about 65%. If you have an under-the-tank-heater, place the water bowl above it so that it acts as a makeshift humidifier. The heat warms the water causing water vapor to rise.
As mentioned, you could also change the substrate to a material that increases the humidity inside the cage. A good example of this kind of substrate is cypress mulch. If you’ve got a glass terrarium screen top, you can also partially cover the top to help retain moisture.
Snake experts often say that a plastic snake cage is a good idea because they are enclosed all the way around, making it easier to control the level of heat and humidity inside.
Corn Snake Humidity Requirements
Corn snakes are crepuscular/nocturnal. And just as there is bright daylight in the wild, your pet corn snake will require a day/night cycle in captivity. Providing terrarium-specific lighting for your corn snake is essential for regulating its natural biorhythms. The lights should be on 12 hours a day.
Studies show that UVB can be beneficial for a snake’s mental and physical health. If you want to ensure ideal temperatures for your corn snake, you’ll want different temperature zones across the terrarium.
When it comes to humidity, corn snakes do well between 40 and 60% humidity. These levels are important for your corn snake if you want it to shed well and to maintain respiratory health.
Remember: you can maintain proper humidity with a good substrate and a decent sized water bowl. Unless you are living in extremely dry conditions, this humidity range is fine for your corn snake.
Too Much Humidity Can Kill Your Snake
A reptile such as a snake requires heat for instance for their many biological processes – fighting off disease and digesting food. If the enclosure you’ve rigged up for your snake isn’t warm enough, it can succumb to infection. Then again, if you heat the enclosure too much, the snake can overheat and die.
How To Lower Humidity In A Snake Tank: Final Thoughts
Reptiles suit the modern lifestyles of today and birds, gold-fish, cats and dogs are no longer the only pet options for children and adults. Because reptiles, like snakes, are such popular pets, manufacturers of pet accessories have had to rethink their product offerings.
They know that snake and reptile owners have to replicate the natural environment of their pets as closely as possible. To that end, they offer many different accessories for snake owners.
One of the most important things you, as a snake owner, have to get right is humidity. It affects life, health, and reproduction of your snake.
Dehydration results when water and humidity aren’t provided. Nasty skin conditions can develop when humidity is too low or too high.
Researching your pet’s natural environment is extremely important for determining moisture requirements and ensuring the best for your wonderful pet. Then make sure you provide the exact amount of humidity your snake needs. It will be grateful.
- SageJournals. Ophidian Spectaculitis and Spectacular Dysecdysis: A Histologic Description. Available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0300985815588605
- ADW-Animal Divrsity Web.Python regiusBall Python, Royal Python. Available at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Python_regius/
- PetMD – Reptile and Amphibian Center. Corn Snake – Pantherophis guttatus. Available at https://www.petmd.com/reptile/species/corn-snake