Snakes certainly make interesting, fascinating and unique pets, and they are fairly easy to care for. They are by nature, solitary creatures, so maybe it’s a good idea to have just one snake per habitat.
There are so many different varieties of the snake – all with different head shapes, patterns, lengths, and thicknesses. It is important to consider the adult size of the snake before you buy, as each species will have its own unique special care requirements. There are, however, some general requirements worth knowing about as to how to care properly for your snake. With good care, your snake can live to be 20 years of age or older.
Snakes want consistency, so it will be to their benefit to sticking to the same routine for feeding and cleaning.
HARMLESS SNAKES FOR BEGINNERS
Harmless snakes can make a good pet for a child, just so long as there is adult supervision. A child will need help with making sure that the snake is in the right environment if it is to thrive. This will mean ensuring that the temperature and humidity within the enclosure are at proper levels and that the snake is in the ideal environment.
Snake experts would recommend the California Kingsnake, the Rat Snake, the Ball Python or the Corn Snake as a good choice for a beginner pet snake keeper. The North American Corn Snake has always been a popular choice as it’s a docile snake, they breed fairly easily and they are available in lots of attractive color combinations.
SNAKES ARE ESCAPE ARTISTS – KEEP THEM IN!
Even for harmless snakes like these, when it comes to snake accessories, most importantly, you’re going to need a robust cage. You don’t want visitors to your home to come across a slithering serpent who managed to escape from its cage. To avoid such scenarios, choose an enclosure that has been specifically designed for reptiles, particularly those with escaping on their minds!
Apart from all the other equipment, you will need to make a home for your pet snake, you will also need to know something of snake behavior. Not only that, but there are also some common ailments that affect snakes and you will need to learn how to recognize them.
You want to provide for your snake in such a way that common ailments are reduced.
We will discuss some of the things you’ll be needing if you are thinking about bringing one of these slithering creatures into your home. Many of the pet snake supplies you need can be purchased at your local pet store, but you can also order snake supplies conveniently online at Amazon.com for instance and have them shipped to your door.
BE CLUED UP ABOUT YOUR SNAKE
Whether you want the traditional paperback version or the Kindle edition, as a beginner snake owner, you want to be clued up so you can offer your snake the best home possible. This 240-page book has been authored by a professional snake catcher and conservationist.
It’s certainly not the only book on snake ownership and caring for a reptile – there are others on Vipers, Snakes of the USA, The Art of Keeping Snakes and many others. Information like this is an important source of all the information you need to care for a pet snake. A book like this can help you become skilled and adept at caring for a pet snake so that they can survive happily and healthily in captivity.
HOUSING YOUR SNAKE
It’s always nice to go with the biggest cage possible to give your pet snake a sense of freedom. Smaller species may do well in a 20-gallon aquarium but a large snake will want to have a more spacious enclosure. The idea is always to create a semi-natural environment with some plants, rocks, water and some tree branches.
If you plan on housing a large python, for instance, you’ll need a much larger snake terrarium so that your pet can slither around to his heart’s content. The best snake cages are either the plastic terrarium or the glass terrarium.
Exo Terra has come out with a range of terrariums – perfect reptile or amphibian housing which has been designed by European herpetologists. Terrariums manufactured by Exo Terra are made from high-quality materials. Their glass terrarium has a raised bottom frame so you can place a substrate heater for your pet.
This particular one measures 8 x 8 x 12 inches and has a front opening door, allowing you to easily access the cage for feeding your snake or for cleaning. With a waterproof bottom, the terrarium comes with closable inlets for wiring and one can fit a substrate heater because of the lifted bottom frame.
There is no escape for your pet snake with the escape-proof door locks. The full-screen top ventilation which is removable allows UVB and infrared penetration. The cage has a natural background of waterfalls and heat wave rocks.
• Reasonably priced when you count in all the built-in features.
• The built-in power cord ports allow you to have other items such as a water filter running.
• Several people complain that the cord- and sliding port cover leaves a small gap in the back of the tank and that this allows smaller creatures to become escape artists.
CONTROLLING THE TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
Each snake species is looking for different humidity levels. Some snakes come from humid, tropical regions, and a snake like this will require moist, humid conditions. You will need to do research to find out what humidity levels suit your pet’s requirements, so you can buy the right equipment.
You will be able to monitor the humidity levels with a hygrometer to ensure the levels remain constant. If your snake requires a high humidity environment, you may have to also look at a mister to keep the habitat moist.
Snake owners looking to avoid a lot of paraphernalia will appreciate that the HygroTherma by ZooMed is conveniently a thermostat and humidistat in one. Zoo Med can offer products from experience as they themselves own sophisticated greenhouse and incubation facility which homes more than 90 species of reptiles, fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.
This device of theirs controls up to 1000 watts of temperature and humidity combined. It has a 2-in-one temperature and humidity sensor remote that works well with an automatic misting machine. The cable of the sensor is 5ft long.
Everybody is concerned about what happens during a power failure, and the Hygrothermal has a built-in memory which stores settings as well as an alarm that alerts you as to when the temperature or humidity reaches extreme levels – too high or too low. Temperature control range with the Hygrotherm is 50 – 122°F or 10 to 50°C.
• A good brand name. Zoo Med Laboratories have a passion for animals and are a leader in the exotic pet products industry.
• Easy to install and program.
• A couple of people who have bought this product have complained that the Hygrotherm doesn’t work as it should with moisture around and that they keep getting the ‘E1’ error message.
• The display isn’t dimmable at night – can be disturbing
Terrarium substrates include the likes of coconut husk, paper mulch, reptile soil, and bark and moss as well as formulated sands. Most times the substrate you use will vary because of the different snake species there are. Of course, you will have to research which substrate will work best for your snake, but the one we’ve mentioned happens to suit all snakes.
Brian Barczyk, reptile expert launched the company Reptile Prime to simply make better products for those keeping reptiles as pets. The goal of Reptile Prime is to ensure high-quality products and services. Their substrate – flooring, and bedding – is excellent for amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles.
The best thing about this bedding for snakes it that it suits both tropical- and desert-dwelling snakes and it can be used dry or damp. A noteworthy aspect of this product is that it naturally absorbs unpleasant odors and waste products and it has excellent humidity retention capabilities. It’s an ideal substrate for plant growth in terrariums.
• Customers love the organic, no dust bedding that holds humidity without molding.
• This is a 100% organic product.
• Brian Barczyk of Reptile Prime looks to bio-active substrates which may well be a bit more expensive to buy, but they replicate the most natural environment possible for a snake, including all-natural materials so as to create a mini-ecosystem in a particular habitat. It is possible for you to make your own bio-active substrates.
• The costs are a bit high, but then you get an excellent product.
ACCESSORIES – THE HIDE BOX, WATER POOL, AND BRANCHES
You’ve got your pet snake and you want to see him – observe what he’s getting up to and show him off to visitors. Of course, a frustration of keeping a reptile as a pet is that they like to hide. Some reptile keepers become frustrated at never seeing their pet and they remove the hide box to ensure the snake is more visible. This is extremely stressful for the snake as hiding is a natural instinct in nearly all animal species, including reptiles.
Captive reptiles that cannot conceal themselves inevitably suffer from poor health. Chronic stress suppresses the immune system, and then it isn’t able to fight off bacterial infections.
Available in small, medium and large, this snake cave from Exo Terra makes for the perfect nesting place and hideaway for different snake species and also lizards. The large caves measure 9.8″ x 7.4″ x 4.7″, providing a secure hiding place for your pet snake.
The cave is stable and a larger snake won’t be able to easily tip it over. The company Exo Terra’s natural approach ensures that all their products work together to create a harmonized natural-looking micro-habitat. Exo Terra consults with renowned herpetologists and breeders so as to cater to almost any species.
• Solid, heavy and robustly made.
• Some people say the large cave isn’t big enough for some averagely sized snakes. Nice quality, but the large isn’t even big enough for a juvenile ball python,
Your snake makes up a large part of the weight of a reptile and water is essential for a snake’s wellbeing. Water is needed for internal body processes but also external body processes. Your snake relies on water for drinking, soaking and shedding. Water is also important for behavioral processes, and reproduction in many species is closely related to the availability of water. Mating to egg incubation is reliant on water.
The pool you choose needs to be large enough to accommodate your snake without him tipping it over for its flimsiness. You will also need to do research on the temperature of the water for your particular snake species.
This X-large 10.9 x 7.1 x 0.5 inches water bowl is made from foamed polystyrene and designed to give a realistic natural look for your pet snake. It is available in different colors and is an all natural ‘green product’. It is sturdy and unbreakable and 2 inches deep and it won’t release any toxic residues into the water. The smooth, non-porous surface is easy to clean and it won’t absorb bacteria.
• Realistic rock water bowl.
• Safe to use doesn’t absorb bacteria, super-strong
You get two natural, 3-dimensional branches which have been heat treated and which are ideal for desert- and rainforest terrariums. They’re sturdy and great for your snakes to climb on. With these imported natural hardwood forest branches, you also add an interesting look to your snake enclosure.
These climbing branches simply give your snakes an additional place to climb and also hide but also a place to bask in the heat.
Tree branches like this are important for some snake species such as the Amazon tree boa, and it keeps the snakes more visible for you. With their beautiful colors, these snakes make wonderful display snakes – you just want them to be seen.
There isn’t 100% clarity on the light requirements of snakes, and while UV-B light is necessary to provide Vitamin D for your snake, snakes experts and veterinarians are split when it comes to opinions on the need for UV lighting for snakes. It is a known fact that the UV light wouldn’t be harmful to your snake. It would be wise to speak to a snake expert about the need for UV-B lighting for your snake.
This 100 Watt UVA UVB Mercury Vapor Bulb for reptile use comes from the company Evergreen Pet Supplies, whose focus it is to supply customers with quality products that can benefit their pets. This ‘ray of light’ comes from a mercury vapor bulb that provides snakes with warmth and vitamin production. The bulb is compatible with a variety of enclosures. The bulb is completely self-ballasted and is tested for quality to ensure proper working conditions. If positioned correctly, the bulb will do all it is required to do. Follow all directions with the brochure that is included.
• Evergreen – excellent company who are customer-oriented and who respond to your queries promptly.
• Convenient all-in-one bulb – light, heat, and UVB
• MVBs are large bulbs requiring special fixtures – in this case, a large dome capable of holding large, high-wattage bulbs.
There are some people, who for sheer convenience sake, look at the idea of investing in a reptile starter kit. These are useful for those who want to get started with keeping a snake as a pet but who aren’t sure what all is required. Of course, there are different reptile starter kits and the Desert Reptile Starter Kit, for instance, will be for those desert-dwelling reptiles. The kit will come with lighting to provide light and heat as well as a black incandescent bulb for night-time warmth. Other inclusions will include the likes of a humidity/temperature gauge, substrate and possibly a set-up guide too.
This Exo Terra Starter Kit comes with everything designed to set-up home for a pet snake. The Snake Starter Kit includes the likes of snake bedding, a waterbowl, a day and night LED fixture, substrate heater as well as the 20 gallon long terrarium w/screen top and a care guide.
• The convenience of having the most important items ‘under one roof’.
• The kit is found lacking in enrichment items which you will need to buy separately for your pet. Limiting items in a reptile starter kit is seen to limit the quality of care that can be offered to your snake. It’s why they should essentially only be sold by small, independent pet shops who have all the products that are missing and which you can immediately invest in. with access to a variety of products across all brands.
GENERAL KEEPING SNAKES AS PETS FAQ
Q: How do I Pick my Pet Snake Up?
A: There are some do’s and don’t about lifting a pet snake from its cage. There are some special snake hooks to lift your pet. Your snake’s temperament will determine if this is actually necessary. With some snakes, it is better to use a hook and others not. A snake that is moving away from you simply requires you gently taking the snake around mid-body and lifting it up with both hands.
Q: What should I Feed my Snake?
A: Most snakes are carnivorous, and when feeding your snake, a popular choice of food is frozen rats or mice which have been defrosted. You can use a pair of tweezers to feed your snake with. Of course, different snakes will need different amounts and also at different times so as always, do plenty of research on the kind of snake you have. Your snake must always have access to fresh water.
Q: Can I Keep different Snake species Together?
A: Yes it is possible, but not a good idea, as they are competitive and see another snake species as a threat. To ensure a peaceful, healthy environment for your serpent, it is better to house snakes individually.
Q: How do I clean my Snake’s Cage?
A: Regular cage maintenance is imperative for health for your snake and to ensure the cage is odor-free. Reptiles are susceptible to the skin- and bacterial infections and this is why their cages have to be scrupulously clean. A snake’s fecal matter can carry bacteria such as salmonella, which is harmful to humans. You can’t just use general cleaning detergents as these can be toxic for your snake.
The amount of times you clean the cage will depend on the size of the cage and the habits of your snake. Research and find out all you can regarding cleaning – when to use an antibacterial disinfectant product and how to boil in hot water other products.
Prepare a special cleaning kit for your snake’s enclosure and never use your kitchen sink so as to avoid cross-contamination. When you are finished cleaning your snake’s cage, leave it wide open so it can air and dry out completely.
Housing a snake isn’t just a case of putting your choice of snake in a glass enclosure. You need to bear in minds that reptiles generally struggle to adapt to a new environmental. Before buying a snake, do thorough research so that you can give it the environment that is as natural as possible. You will need to start planning and putting together the habitat before you bring your pet snake home. This will spare you and your pet a lot of stress.
Keeping and caring for a pet snake can be looked upon as a type of conservation effort really as many snakes in the wild are unjustly killed. Not doing proper research on keeping a captive snake can introduce problems such as stress and increased susceptibility to disease.
We can’t read the faces of a snake and interpret what it needs so it is our responsibility as a snake owner to ensure the right sized cage, proper temperature and humidity levels and the right food to ensure they’re content with their lot in our care.
1. K. Love. Reptiles. Corn Snake Care Sheet . Available at http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Care-Sheets/Snakes/Corn-Snake/
2. The Reptile Report. Creating Bio-Active Substrates. Available at http://thereptilereport.com/creating-bio-active-substrates/
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella, Pet Reptiles and Amphibians. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/Salmonella.html