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Caring for and Keeping Pet Snakes

Updated on March 8, 2013
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises and other exotics since 2003

Some look at snakes are looked upon as a symbol of the devil, as a serpent temped Adam and Eve. The people that see snakes as evil do not believe they should be pets, much less found in their yards, but those who see snakes as mysterious creatures, have them as pets.

I have always had a fascination with reptiles, to include snakes. I find them interesting to watch. I find that with most things, some snakes are better suited for some people, and I've found that ball pythons are one of my favorite pet snakes, whereas some people prefer milksnakes, corn snakes, or other colubrids.

Snake Myths

Baby Ball.
Baby Ball.

Snakes As Pets

Snakes, truly do, make great pets, as long as you know what you're getting into. Some snakes become very large or aggressive and some are finicky feeders.

Before getting a snake you should do your research. Decide which snake is best for you by reading various books, searching the internet, speaking to breeders and reptile rescues, and participating in reptile forums.

You need to decide what size you can handle husbandry wise. You, also, need to decide whether you want something to look at but not play with

There are a some snakes that are better beginner reptiles such as ball pythons, kingsnakes, and cornsnakes, so remember to do your research when deciding to get a snake.

Feeding Snakes

There are two main ways to feed a snake... Frozen or live. Essentially, you want to try feeding your snake frozen feeders.

Feeding frozen rats, mice, and larger prey to your pet snake can be beneficial for many reasons. Rodents can have a hard bite; they can seriously injury a snake. I've heard stories of snakes being killed by mice left unsupervised in the enclosure.

When feeding frozen feeders, F/T, you want the thoroughly thaw the feeder before giving it to your snake. NEVER put them in the microwave. You can let them sit and thaw to room temperature, or put them in hot water, frequently changing out the water as the frozen feeder will cool the water temperatures..

Some snakes prefer their food dry, so you may have to dry off the feeder before offering it to your snake.

If your snake still won't eat the F/T feeder, you can try dipping it in tuna juice, and drying it with a hair dryer. This will give the feeder an extra smell and heat, which may entice the snake.

Sometimes the snake likes his privacy, so leave the frozen feeder in the enclosure with the snake overnight, and he may choose to eat it. Cover the enclosure with a towel, creating the effect of he's all alone may help, too. If the feeder rodent is still in the enclosure in the morning, remove it from the enclosure and throw it away.

Feeding Picky Snakes

Sometimes snakes just won't eat the frozen feeders. Ball pythons are well-known picky eaters. Their feeding habits can be hard to deal with, and although they are one of the better beginner snakes, they ARE finicky eaters.

Fortunately, ball pythons are one of the few finicky eaters of the pet snake world. For the most part, you will not have problems feeding a colubrid a frozen mouse.

In these cases, you can feed live or force feed a frozen feeder. Another option is to feed a freshly killed rat or mouse. Sometimes pet stores will kill a live rat or mouse for you. In this case, the rodent is dead and cannot harm your snake, but is still warm and sometimes twitching so that the snake will take it on its own.

Housing Snakes

When it comes to housing a pet snake, it's rather simple.

  • Aquarium WITH screen
  • Cage locks
  • Under tank heater
  • Light
  • Shelter/ Hide
  • Other Decor
  • Bedding

You should size the aquarium to the particular snake you are housing. Most colubrids can live in 20 gallon aquariums happily. Ball pythons should have a 40 gallon, and larger snakes should have large aquariums. Sometimes, for larger snakes, one must make a homeade enclosure to properly fit the snake.

It is very much a myth that the snake will ONLY grow to the size of the enclosure. A red tail boa will quickly grow out of a 10 gallon aquarium, so don't purchase one if you plan on keeping it in a small enclosure. It's just not going to work that way.

You should do your research in order to make sure that your temperatures and humidity levels are appropriate for the particular snake that you want to care for. The temperatures and humidity for a California kingsnake just won't work for an emerald tree boa. It is VERY important for the health of your snake to make sure to have the proper temperatures and humidity levels.

Without proper temperatures and humidity levels, snakes, like most reptiles, will not be able to digest their food properly, which can cause a number of health issues, besides the ones caused by improper husbandy.

Never house multiple snakes in the same enclosure. Especially, if you have colubrids (king snake, corn snake, milk snake, etc.), as many colubrids will eat other snakes. Also, housing multiple snake in the same enclosure can cause bullying and stress amongst the snakes.

By housing multiple snakes of different species in the same enclosure you cannot guarantee that both species are getting what they need to thrive, as not all snakes have the same husbandry requirements.

Simple Snake Enclosure. 29 Gallon Tank.
Simple Snake Enclosure. 29 Gallon Tank.

Reptile Mites

The one big thing you want to consider when having or getting a pet snake is mites.

Mites are very hard to get rid of because they reproduce rapidly. If you think you have mites, treat the aquarium and decor, throw out the bedding, and treat the snake and the enclosure. You may have to treat the snake and enclosure multiple times before you finally get rid of the mites, but it's better to do that than to let them stay in your house. You, also, need to be sure to clean around the enclosure because they will travel to and from the cage.

Your snake can get mites from other snakes and bad bedding. You can, also, bring mites home from other snakes and reptiles.

If you already have a snake, and want another, you should quarantine the new snake first.

Comments

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    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      geckoboy/reptileman, I'm not sure the dimensions of that size enclosure.

    • profile image

      geckoboy 7 years ago

      hi whit, i am hopeully getting a corn snake and i suppose your advice is very good after you told me everything about fat tailed geckos:) i will be getting a baby corn hopefully and a viv thats bout 2 foot sq, does size vary in male or female ? because if they did i guess the male would bee smaller and thats wat i would want. plus is this size tank big enough if i got the snake out about every day?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      At least 3-4 days.

    • profile image

      snakeboy 9 years ago

      after a snake is done eating how long should you wait before handling the snake

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      It's not a breed but a species, and it's neither common nor uncommon as snakes don't necessarily like to be petted, so to speak. It's just a reaction to the feeling.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      its deff female, went to reptile shop just to be 100% sure. she loves her under jaw being stroked, is that natural for this breed?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      You should have a professional probe your snake so that you don't make a mistake. There are many vets who will probe a snake, and sometimes you can find a pet store that will do so.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      i have read articles on how to check if the snake is male or female but could you please explain what is the easiest way to do it thanks.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      i would suggest the digital thermometer with a probe once again so that you can better gauge the temperatures in the enclosure. also if the snake is an adult, it is probably male not female. females average 5-6 feet, males 2-4

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      she is about 3 foot long, i havnt had her that long, i got her from my wifes friend as it wasnt being handeld that much. i have had to buy her heating and everything as she only had a hiding place, water bowl and plastic plant. the tank was so small, it was a starter kit apparantley.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      how big is the snake to be in a 4 foot viv? small snakes need smaller enclosure and up-graded as needed. check your temps with a digital thermometer with a probe jsut to make sure that they are right. sometimes they can be a little warm, which could be why the snake is on the cool side, as well.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      no what i mean is that my heat mat is about quarter the size of the 4ft viv and its under a plant pot with a hole in it so she can get inside, she used to. but now she never comes up to this end, she is always at the colder end, day and night.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      You don't want to drop the temps. If your regualr temps dong "fry" the snake when you're in town, they shouldn't when you go out of town. If you're manually shutting them off, consider a timer.

      What do you mean she doesn't use it? if the uth is being used properly, there shouldn't be doubt that that snake is getting the heat and is in turn using it.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      i said drop the temp because i was going away and couldn get anyone to come over and turn on and off the heat lamp so i was wondering if i left it on for the whole time i was away could i drop the temp a bit so she dont fry but it dont matter as i got hold of a timer last minute. i do have another question thou. the haet mat is on 24/7 and she never uses it, if she does then its when im not there, obviously at nite the heat lamp goes off and the heat mat stays on and during the day when the heat lamp is on could i turn the heat mat of as she dont use it. she is always down towards the colder end of the tank near the water bowl. thanks.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      simon, why would you drop the temperature? you want to keep the temperature the same. you should always turn the light off at night, whether you are leaving or not. just leave the under tank heater off.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      can i turn my heat lamp off at nite?

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      me again im going away for 1 week and not sure what to do about the temp of izzy's viv. do i leave it the same temp or drop it a bit?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      There was really no need for the uv with a corn snake. I don't think that snakes can tell the different between people.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      my local reptile store actually said to buy uv when i brought my viv from them for the corn snake. can snakes sense the difference between people?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      I'm not sure why you used uv with a corn snake, but as for balls you really don't need the lighting. It's just good to create the day/night scenario.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      true. can a ball live healthy with just a heat mat or is lighting a must. i used to have a corn snake and it had uv light, heat mat and lighting.the light was on a timer. the corn didnt die i had to give it to a mate as my wife hated snakes but after 3 years shes come around to the idea haha. also, can a snake sense who is who, i mean im handling it every day, feed it, clean the tank everything, so would it reconise me. i know its not a dog hahaha.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      It's not recommended. You would have to bake it and then freeze it before it was fully pest free. It's just safer in the long run to purchase one than to be cheap and potentially cause problems.

    • profile image

      simon 9 years ago

      could the branch be 1 from forest but cleaned well with boiling hot water?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      You can add a brance for something for the snake to climb on. I wouldn't make it too high, but a little off the ground.

    • profile image

      simon 9 years ago

      great stuff thanks. also, is a branch necceserey for a ball?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      I would avoid handling the snake right before and right after a shed. Right before the shed the snakes already vision is worse and it may strike. You can use the flower pot just make sure that it is thoroughly cleansed and that you can prevent it from rolling.

    • profile image

      simon 9 years ago

      hi, could i use a flower pot (large) with a hole cut in it for its hidding rather than a log?, bit of a silly question but hey.

    • profile image

      simon 9 years ago

      thank you. izzy loves to be handled, do i have to leave her for 48hours after shes fed or could i hold her the next day?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      4 foot should be fine.

    • profile image

      simon waldron 9 years ago

      i have a ball python, is a 4ft viv big enough for her? please dont tell me in gallons as ive no idea how much or big it is.

    • profile image

      Pets Videos 10 years ago

      Great hub page. Keep it updated!

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 10 years ago from Washington state

      Another great hub. Thanks!

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