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Snake care

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Minimum Requirements

Wooden vivarium - All snakes require a minimum vivarium size of 1/3 the length of the snake in length and 1/3 the length in depth and height however there are exceptions for species such as arboreal snakes. You may decided to go larger.
 
A heat bulb on an appropriate thermostat.
 
Feeding once a week

There are many suitable heating options including’ basking bulbs, dee heat projectors, ceramic heat emitters and heat mats. The ideal heat source will depend on the species, enclosure type and size.  All heat sources should be positioned at the same end of the vivarium to create a hot basking end. This allows for a temperature gradient so that the opposite end is the cool end.  Thermostats regulate the temperature for you allowing for a stable and accurate temperature at all times within the vivarium. Positioning of the thermostat probe will depend on the heat source being used. A basking temperature of 84F is ideal, with a night time drop of  5F.  Ensure the temperature does not dip less than 75F. This should be monitored if you live in a specifically cold house. You must cage any heat bulbs used and heat mats should be secured in place when used to prevent any accidental injuries. Heat mats should NOT be used for any heavy bodied adult boas or pythons as they can cause a thermal block sitting on the heat mat which could lead to injury.

Do not position your enclosure in direct sunlight, a draft or near a radiator. This can affect the thermal gradient.

Vivarium
Set-up

Vivarium
Set-up

There are many suitable heating options including’ basking bulbs, dee heat projectors, ceramic heat emitters and heat mats. The ideal heat source will depend on the species, enclosure type and size.  All heat sources should be positioned at the same end of the vivarium to create a hot basking end. This allows for a temperature gradient so that the opposite end is the cool end.  Thermostats regulate the temperature for you allowing for a stable and accurate temperature at all times within the vivarium. Positioning of the thermostat probe will depend on the heat source being used. A basking temperature of 84F is ideal, with a night time drop of  5F.  Ensure the temperature does not dip less than 75F. This should be monitored if you live in a specifically cold house. You must cage any heat bulbs used and heat mats should be secured in place when used to prevent any accidental injuries. Heat mats should NOT be used for any heavy bodied adult boas or pythons as they can cause a thermal block sitting on the heat mat which could lead to injury.

Do not position your enclosure in direct sunlight, a draft or near a radiator. This can affect the thermal gradient.


A low level UVB such as the shade dweller arboreal 2.4% or an LED bar can be used to add light to the enclosure (species dependent ask for further advice)

Cleaning, Substrate and Furnishings

Coco husk, orchid bark, aspen, lignocel and beech chip all make for suitable substrates (floor covering) depending on the species. Our preferred substrate is coco husk for royal pythons and common boas.

Spraying the enclosure daily/weekly (depending on the species) can ensure correct humidity levels. If a drier substrate such as beech chipping is used or your pet particularly struggles with shedding provide a moist hide, this can be a particular enclosed cave or a plastic box with a hole cut out fill it with some moss ensuring to stray it regularly. Remember to place is on the cooler end of the vivarium

 

The vivarium should be spot cleaned on a regular basis, if done thoroughly a full clean should only need to be done every 4-6 weeks. Ensure you only use disinfectants specifically intended for reptiles. Other products can be toxic.  

 

Ensure décor/furnishings are from a recognized dealer to ensure they’re safe to be used for reptiles. Snakes benefit from having plenty of hiding places. We recommend having at least 2 hides ones at either end as it makes them feel safer. You can also add branches and foliage. Snakes will choose security of a hide over preferred temperature. Disregard to provide your snake with options can result in your animal spending all its time at one temperature because it has no other options.


Do not position your enclosure in direct sunlight, a draft or near a radiator. This can affect the thermal gradient.

A low level UVB such as the shade dweller arboreal 2.4% or an LED bar can be used to add light to the enclosure (species dependent ask for further advice)

Diet & Nutrition

Only source frozen rodents from a reliable and safe provide. ALWAYS make sure the rodent is fully thawed to room temperature before feeding. You should offer your snake one rodent every 7 days. Remember as your snake grows the food size will get bigger. To determine you are feeding the correct size, ensure there is a lump in your snakes’ belly after feeding. This is done by using an item of food with a similar girth to your snake at its largest point. For larger/ Adult pythons and boas who require much large meals such as rabbits feeding should be spread to 14-21 days apart. This is also true for any overweight snake.

 

If your snake decides it is not interested in its food leave the item in the enclosure (known as drop feeding) over night and remove in the morning if not eaten. This item should be immediately disposed of and not refrozen or reused. Yor snake is to then wait another 7 days before being offered another item of food.You should not handle your snake for 24-48 hours after feeding or until you can no longer see the lump. Handling during this time can cause regurgitation in snakes.

 

Do not defrost rodents in the microwave as they can explode and cause cross contamination. Also do not defrost in hot water as this can start to cook the rodent and be dangerous for your snake. You can either place the rodent on a piece of kitchen towel to thaw to room temperature or place the rodent in cold water. Ensuring the food item is warm prior to feeding will generate a stronger feeding response this can be done by adding a dash of warm water in with your rodent and then immediately feeding to your snake. Some snakes require movement of the prey to feed. ALWAYS use tongs for feeding, snakes can sometimes accidentally miss their food, and this can prevent you from being bitten.

 

Snakes can go off their food there are several reasons for this, such as moving to your home so if you snake doesn’t feed for the first few weeks do not be alarmed. They can also decrease their in take during the winter brumation period and breeding seasons. Do not panic if your snake misses a feed. Keep an eye on their weight as long as they are not drastically losing weight and are still behaving naturally there is nothing to stress about. Make sure the temperatures are correct.

 

If you have ant concerns or its been a long period of time get in Contact with a reputable reptile dealer and if necessary they will advise an exotic veterinary practice.

Health & 
Handling

If you are worried about your animals health, seek advice from a respected dealer and if still in double contact a specialist veterinarian. There are a few symptoms to monitor:

  • Prolonged lack or loss of appetite – only if loosing weight

  • Dehydration – skin being wrinkled.

  • Cloudy, unclear or sticky eyes

  • Discharge from the nose runny or bubbly

  • Excess mucus around the mouth or not closing properly

  • Prolonged diarrhoea

  • Unable to right its self, dizzy appearance

 

During shedding it is best not to handle them as they can become irritated from this, it is also common for them to stop feeding around this time and behaviour to change and potentially strike out at you. For approximately a week the snakes eyes will glaze over and its body colour will appear duller before shedding. ALWAYS check your snake after shedding to ensure all the skin has come off. If your snake does not shed completely call your supplier or a vet for advice on how to remove the un-shed skin.

 

When first getting or moving your snake to a new enclosure, do not handle them until they have had at least 2 successful consecutive feeds in its now environment. This will give you a good indication that they are settled into their new home. 

So you are ready to handle your snake; make sure not to ever doing directly towards its head this will inevitably end in you being bitten. Always let your snake know you are there before touching it. This does not mean to poke it. It means check your snake is awake – Snakes do not have eyelids so you cant check to see if they are away as easily. Is its tongue flicking or are their subtle movements? With more keen to feed or aggressive snakes push their head away using a snake stick/hook and bring the middle of the body towards you before handling. Ensure you support the snakes’ body but make sure not to squeeze. With any LARGER snakes it may be worth only handling when there are two people available. Sometimes, they do not know their own strength and can cause injury.

Additional
Information

So, you think you're ready to take home your new snake?
Download our check sheet to be sure:

 

Pop in store for a free print out of this care sheet, or download a PDF version here:

Ongoing
Support

Don't forget that the team at Small World Reptiles are always here for you - whether you are a first-time snake owner or an experienced one. 

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