Useful Tips

What a beginner needs to know about snake content


Of course, this depends on the type of snake, and on the temperament of a single individual. Some snakes can be easily taken in hand, and they do not show the slightest signs of irritation. Others are angry at first, but gradually get used to such treatment. But there are snakes that bite every time you try to interact, and you can lift them only with the help of a special hook or stick.

Traditionally, snakes are divided into three categories: harmless (not poisonous), medium poisonous, and very poisonous. At first glance, it seems that these definitions do not leave room for double interpretation, but this is not so. It is known that among the so-called harmless snakes there are species that secrete poisonous saliva. There have been cases of deaths and from bites of relatives of snakes. In addition, many of the poisonous snakes are very powerful boas that can harm a person without the help of poison.

In the category of medium poisonous snakes there are also species whose bites can be fatal. And the bites of others also leave very unpleasant consequences in the form of severe edema and tissue damage. The bite of very poisonous snakes, such as cobras and their relatives, vipers and sea snakes, of course, must be avoided by all means.

Given all the potential dangers, how do you approach the snakes that are kept as pets? The answer is simple: very carefully. Usually, snakes demonstrate their intentions with the help of body language (curling up, flattening or crawling and taking the shape of the letter S, in order to better strike). You will need some time to better study their habits and adapt to them.

Unlike many other types of reptiles and amphibians, there are several types of snakes that you can often pick up if done carefully. If you are new to snake breeding, discuss the habits of your species with other breeders (for example, on specialized Internet forums). Gather the maximum amount of information. Here are some general guidelines:

  • make sure the snake sees you. Your touch should not be unexpected,
  • pick up the snake when it is awake, but choose the time of day at which it is most sluggish,
  • move slowly and smoothly. If possible, go to the side of the snake,
  • if the snake curled into the letter "S" (pose for attack), wait or use a special hook,
  • if you are dealing with a poisonous snake that is irritable, wear thick gloves,
  • if you need to pick up a snake that has recently eaten or prepared for molting, do it very carefully, supporting its body as much as possible,
  • never lift the snake by the neck. Their cervical spine is very fragile, and if it is damaged, the snake will forever be crippled,
  • when you raise a large or heavy snake, put your hand or hook under her body and keep her lower body all the time.

Easy to hold snakes
It’s easiest to pick up truly poisonous snakes that are medium in size. These include, for example, most species of royal snakes, many American rattlesnakes, as well as medium-sized boas and pythons.
At first, they may show some irritability, but they soon get used to being touched. Those individuals who show dissatisfaction usually become submissive if you pick them up with a hook and put them in your free hand.
Some snakes, such as the milk snake, usually do not bite, but with force begin to wriggle and smear stools on their opponent. It is necessary to hold such a snake with one hand, carefully, but firmly, and to press the twisting end with the second.

Snakes that are hard to pick up
These include other non-toxic species, such as snakes, some species of Asian rattlesnakes, and pythons, such as water pythons. They must always be treated with caution.
Most of these snakes respond poorly to the hook (slide off it), and constantly try to bite the hand that holds them. Wear thick gloves, but be careful: the snake can break a tooth about them, which, in turn, is fraught with infectious stomatitis (an insidious and very dangerous disease for the snake, sometimes leading to death).

Some species of giant boas are quite common as pets. These include green anacondas, common boas, Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons and hieroglyphic pythons. Snakes of these species, in addition to the common boa, usually reach a length of 4.5 m or more. At the time of purchase, young snakes usually reach 2 m and eventually become quite tame. The owners take care of them and forget that these are very dangerous predators, whose mind is completely subordinate to instincts, and an adult snake in the blink of an eye can turn into a deadly enemy.

In addition to ringing and strangling the victim, boas and pythons also bite hard. If you have an individual with a length of 8 m and above, you can touch it only when there is another adult in the room. Remember: children should never be left alone with a python longer than 2 m!

If a boa constrictor or a python chokes you, you need to free yourself from the tail of the snake. Hold the tail firmly and begin to unwind the snake rings. If the length of the snake exceeds 2 m, you will most likely need help: boas are incredibly strong. When you get to the mouth of the snake, carefully disengage from its teeth. We remind you once again: no matter how tame your boa constrictor is, if its length exceeds 4 m, never open the cage without the presence of a second adult!

Poisonous snakes
Medium poisonous and very poisonous snakes are not as rare as pets as it might seem. And although many of them bite rather reluctantly, they must be handled with extreme caution. A full bite of a medium poisonous snake is a serious cause for concern. To raise such a snake, always use a hook or stick. Raise it at a time when the snake is the least active. It needs to be moved only in those cases when it is necessary to clean the terrarium. Never hold these snakes to the floor and do not hold them with your hands! This behavior provokes a bite.

If you decide to get a poisonous snake, find out in advance where you can get bite serum near you.

Terrarium size and type

Regardless of the way of life of the snake, the size of the terrarium should correspond to its size. You should not plant a young snake right away in a large terrarium, designed for its adult size - this greatly complicates the observation of it, since a small animal in a large volume constantly tries to hide. The absence of such an opportunity is likely to lead to stress, refusal of food, impaired growth and, in the long term, to illness and death. Therefore, it is much better to transfer the snake into larger containers as it grows, and start with the minimum required size.

A quite natural question arises: what are these “minimum necessary sizes”? The answer lies in the peculiarities of the thermoregulation of reptiles as poikilothermic animals - the terrarium size is minimal that allows you to create the necessary temperature difference between the "warming point" and the "cold angle" and allows the snake to freely move between them, choosing the temperature that it needs at the moment. This means that the size of the terrarium should allow the snake, curled up in a spiral or ball, to completely settle in that part of the terrarium where it has the temperature it needs at the moment. The proportions of the length, width and height of the terrarium (i.e., its type is horizontal, vertical, cubic) are determined by the way of life of the snake: for terrestrial species, area is primarily important, for wood species - height. The necessary temperature difference in the first case is created horizontally, in the second - vertically, at different distances from the local heat source, branches, shelves or any crossbars are placed on which the snake can completely accommodate.

Let us explain what has been said on concrete examples from practice:

  • For a maize snake (ground snake) with a body length of 30-45 cm, a container with a bottom area of ​​20-30x15-20 cm is enough. The height can be from 10 cm. A container of this size allows you to create an area of ​​approximately 4-7x15- in one of its smaller sides. 20 cm with a temperature of 29-31 ° С, at the opposite edge of the container the temperature will be approximately equal to room temperature or slightly higher (23-25 ​​° С). When a snake of the named length collapses, it can be completely located in any of the temperature zones existing in the terrarium, and so on. this area can be considered sufficient.
  • For a royal python (ground snake) 70-110 cm long, a container with a bottom area of ​​60-70x35-45 cm and a height of 15 cm is enough. In this container, you can make an area with a temperature of 30-35 ° C in size 15- along one of the smaller sides. 20x35-45 cm. Then, at its opposite edge, the temperature, as in the previous example, will slightly differ from room temperature. The areas of the heated and “cold” zones allow a snake of this size to fully accommodate in those temperature conditions that it needs at the moment.
  • For a garden boa constrictor (tree snake) with a length of about 1 m, a capacity of 50-70 cm high and a base side of 25-35 cm is sufficient. An incandescent lamp with a power of 15-25 W is placed under a ceiling in one of the corners of the terrarium, under it at a distance of 12-15 see you need to position a horizontally oriented crossbar (branch, plastic tube) or shelf. The remaining crossbars are placed lower at the same interval from each other. The snake can completely settle on any of them and thereby warm up or cool according to its needs.

An extremely important design requirement for any snake terrarium is the tightness of its assembly and the reliability of constipation. Snakes, like no other reptiles, are able to crawl into the smallest cracks and holes. Therefore, all the seams of the terrarium should be as tight as possible (ideally completely tight), and the doors or the lid should fit snugly against the surfaces of the walls that are joined with them and close with locks, which exclude self-opening. All these requirements are fully met by plastic food containers with snap handles. They should be recognized as the simplest and most reliable version of the terrarium for snakes available today.

Organization of local heating, providing the necessary temperature gradient and its daily fluctuations

Since snakes are poikilothermic animals, they regulate their temperature through behavioral reactions, moving between more or less heated areas. It follows that in order to successfully maintain a snake, it is necessary to ensure that it is able to warm up to a temperature slightly higher than the optimum (for each particular species), and then go to a zone with a lower temperature, up to one that is slightly lower than the optimum. In other words, it is extremely important to give her the opportunity to choose between zones with different temperatures. In practice, compliance with these conditions is achieved by the correct organization of the local heating zone.

In accordance with the principle “the simpler the better” two main technical solutions can be recommended for creating a “warm corner” in a snake terrarium - heating with incandescent lamps and heating with thermal mats or thermal cords.

Incandescent lamps are best suited for heating glass or wood terrariums. It is more convenient to heat plastic terrariums with a thermal cord or a thermal mat. The choice of incandescent lamp power is determined by the size of the terrarium, the material from which it is made, the temperature in the room where the terrarium is located, and the required temperature in the local heating zone. Very often questions arise about protecting the snake from possible burns on the lamp. Practice shows that, strangely enough, the absence of any hoods, shades, etc. devices protecting the lamp gives the best protection.

Two practical examples of creating a local heating zone in this way:

  • An Algerian snake with a body length of 50 cm is contained in a horizontal terrarium measuring 40x20x20 cm. The temperature in the room throughout the day ranges from 19 to 24 ° C. The required temperature at the heating point is 30-35 ° C. Heating is carried out by a single incandescent lamp with a power of 15 W, suspended on a wire under the outlet ventilation grille. A ceramic shard is placed under the lamp, the distance between it and the lamp is about 10 cm. The lamp of the indicated power warms it up to the required temperature. At the opposite end of the terrarium, the temperature does not exceed 26 ° C.
  • A thin-tailed snake with a body length of 165 cm is contained in a horizontal terrarium measuring 110x60x40 cm. The required temperature at the heating point is 30-35 ° C, the temperature in the room is 19-21 ° C. Heating is carried out by one 40 W incandescent lamp suspended on a wire under the exhaust ventilation grill at a distance of 25 cm from the soil surface. It warms up a plot with a diameter of about 35 cm to 32-37 ° C, in the opposite corner the temperature does not exceed 25 ° C.

In both examples examined, snakes live in glass terrariums. As already noted above, it is better to heat plastic terrariums with the help of a thermal cord or a thermo-rug placed under the bottom of the terrarium. This method is especially convenient for heating a large number of plastic containers installed in a row on any shelf.

Along its entire long edge, a groove is made into which the thermal cord is laid, terrariums are installed across the shelf so that a small section of the bottom is located above the cord along their short side. In this case, temperature control is achieved by changing the power of the thermal cord and the number of its turns under the terrarium.

When using heat mats, they are placed under the terrarium in such a way that a certain section of the bottom is located above the rug, minimally sufficient to place a snake on it during heating.

The vast majority of snakes require providing them with a daily temperature difference. This is achieved by simply turning off the heating at night. If in the room where the terrariums with snakes are located, the temperature at night drops below the permissible values ​​for this type, it is necessary to provide night heating of the “warm corner” of the terrarium. For this purpose, incandescent lamps are no longer suitable, it is necessary to use a thermal cord or thermal mat.


Ensuring convection mixing of air in the terrarium is closely related to the operation of the heating elements, so it is logical to consider ventilation just after discussing the heating. Since warm air has a lower density than cold air, it rises. If one ventilation grille is located in the “warm” corner of the terrarium, and the second in the “cold” one, then during the operation of the heating element in the terrarium there will be a continuous slight mixing of air, associated with the outflow of warm air through one grille and cold air entering it another one. By changing the area of ​​inlet and outlet ventilation, you can adjust the rate of air exchange in the terrarium. This in turn allows you to control changes in humidity and, to some extent, temperature. In addition, the intensity of ventilation, if necessary, can be reduced by placing the input and output grilles directly in the zone of local heating. This is necessary when keeping water-loving snakes living in the litter of tropical forests, such as rainbow boas.

In the simplest case, if the food plastic container is the terrarium, to ensure ventilation it is enough to drill or burn (with a soldering iron, a burning device, a heated nail) 2-5 rows of holes 2-4 mm in diameter in one of the smaller sides at the bottom of the tank at a height of 3- 5 cm from the floor and in its cover, again near (along) its smaller edge. In a typical case, the container is placed on a thermocouple or thermo-mat, as described above, with the rows of holes in the lid above the heated section of the bottom, and the ventilation inlets (in the container wall) located in the “cold” part of the terrarium.

In larger terrariums of glass, wood or other materials for ventilation, "windows" are made of metal mesh, household ventilation grills or plates of perforated metal or plastic. The principle of their placement remains the same.

Top ventilation:

Bottom ventilation:

Since maintaining the level of humidity in the terrarium is directly related to the operation of ventilation, it will be logical to go on to consider this parameter.

Drinking water and humidity

The terrarium should have areas that differ significantly in the humidity of the substrate (and therefore the air above it), in each of which the snake can completely accommodate. Для соблюдения этого условия в разных участках террариума размещают укрытия, в которые кладут какой-либо гигроскопичный материал (сфагнум или другой мох, торф, листовой опад и т. д.) и регулярно его увлажняют. Такие укрытия называются «камерами влажности». Часть укрытий делается без такого субстрата, «сухими», в них влажность будет примерно такой же, как и в основном объеме террариума. Как правило, камеры влажности размещают вблизи локального обогрева, а «сухие» укрытия – в «холодном» углу террариума.Moving between these shelters, the snake itself will choose the level of humidity that it needs at this time. If sphagnum or other types of mosses are used as soil in a terrarium for a snake, then a horizontal moisture gradient can be created by spraying some parts of the substrate and leaving others dry.

Complete regular spraying of the entire volume of the terrarium is necessary only when keeping especially hygrophilous species of snakes or during molting in mesophilic species. Such cases require separate consideration and are outside the scope of this article.

The increased humidity in the local heating zone can be maintained if any container with water is placed there. In this case, its size should allow the snake to be placed on a heated area outside the water.

Drinking water to one degree or another is necessary for most species of snakes. Its source can be, in principle, any containers made of glass or food plastic, their size depends on the characteristics of the biology of a particular species. Many land snakes, especially from arid territories, have a small enough capacity for drinking, while for near-water species, especially those who food in water, they need a spacious pond in which the snake can completely freely accommodate. However, a number of species of snakes living in dry biotopes, for example, the California royal snake, willingly climb into the water on occasion, especially during molting, so you can recommend for them to make a drinking bowl of such a size that the snake can fit in it.

Shelters are absolutely necessary when keeping the vast majority of snake species. The inability to hide leads to stress, an increase in the aggressiveness of the animal, refusal to feed, and even to illness and death. A key requirement for shelters for snakes is that they should not be spacious. The snake feels safe when it touches the walls of the shelter with its body. Otherwise, the design and material of the shelters are not of fundamental importance - these can be cardboard, wooden or plastic containers of a suitable size with an entrance that allows the snake to crawl into it with large prey in the stomach, i.e. approximately 2.5-3 times larger size than maximum snake thickness in normal condition.

For this purpose, you can use pieces of bark, shards of ceramic pots, cardboard trays of eggs, and for the smallest snakes - paper folded "accordion". As mentioned above, part of the shelters is equipped in the form of “humidity chambers”. The minimum required number of shelters is 2, in the local heating zone and in the opposite corner, but in the adaptation period it is useful to put several additional shelters in different places of the terrarium, which reduces stress and makes it easier for the snake to get used to the new situation.

Many snakes do not need additional shelters if they are able to bury themselves in a thick layer of moss or leaf litter. If the biology of one species or another allows you to keep it on such a substrate, you can not arrange any additional shelters.

Practice shows that, subject to all the above conditions, most types of snakes can do without soil. Almost universal substrates suitable for containing a wide variety of snake species include sphagnum (and other mosses) and newsprint or filter paper and its analogues - napkins, paper towels, etc. Wood shavings (hardwood) take the second place in universality, fallen leaves (especially oak), coconut substrate and crushed bark.

Sand is applicable only in individual cases, when keeping desert species of snakes, which in nature live on sand and bury in it. In this case, soil moistening has a number of specific features that go beyond the scope of our article and are described in detail in the book “Terrarium and its inhabitants”.

Mosses, especially sphagnum, have a number of remarkable features that make them "soil number 1" in snake terrariums. They do not dust, allow you to maintain a wide range of humidity and create its horizontal difference, by themselves serve as a shelter, in some cases they secrete antiseptic substances, absorb the liquid part of the feces well and, finally, are decorative.

However, with the appearance of parasitic ticks, moss has to be abandoned, because it serves as an excellent refuge for them. At this time, animals are kept on paper or without any soil.


Growing plants in a terrarium is a topic for a separate discussion and is beyond the scope of this article. Here we only note that the presence of living plants in the terrarium is not among the paramount conditions for the successful maintenance of snakes, however, the landscaping of the terrarium significantly increases its decorativeness, favorably affects the moisture regime and is very important for the content of medium-sized tree species of snakes, since it most closely matches their lifestyle in nature.

Ultraviolet irradiation

As practice shows, most species of snakes do not need ultraviolet (UV) rays for normal life. The question of the need for UV in the maintenance of a number of species of daytime snakes remains largely open, since there are examples of their successful maintenance and breeding without a UV source. Apparently, this state of affairs is explained by the fact that snakes get vitamin D3 primarily with food. From here follows the high value of live and natural fodder animals and the need for the most varied nutrition of both the snakes themselves and the laboratory animals intended for them to feed. This statement gives us the right to proceed to consider the general principles of feeding snakes.

Features of the nutrition of snakes, important in terms of their content in captivity

The vast majority of snake species eat exclusively animal food, only a very few species have rare cases of eating plant feed. The vast majority of snakes in nature feed on live prey, cases of eating dead animals are more likely to be exceptions. Snakes feed, as a rule, rarely or even very rarely, but are able to eat large prey relative to their size in one meal. It is these features that primarily dictate the basic rules for feeding snakes when kept in a terrarium - it is necessary to use natural feed as often as possible, the animal's nutrition should be as diverse as possible, "underfeeding is better than overfeeding."

If with the first two statements everything is more or less clear, then the latter needs to be specified. As a kind of "middle ground", suitable in the vast majority of cases, you can take the frequency of feeding 1 time in 7 days with breaks for molting. This is true for young and actively growing snakes, and adults (after the termination of the period of rapid growth), with the exception of females during pregnancy, should be fed once every 10-20 days. Adult individuals of large species of boas and pythons are extremely prone to obesity, so it is better to feed them every 30-40 days. Obesity adversely affects the general condition of the animal, leads to impaired reproductive ability, up to its complete loss, and in severe cases can even lead to the death of a snake.

The optimal size of the food object is individual for different types of snakes. As a certain average value, applicable in most cases, we can name the length of prey, equal to two lengths of the head of a snake. The mass of food eaten at a time should be about 20% of the mass of the snake itself. These figures are very approximate and can only be considered as a starting point, but not a strict recommendation, applicable in all cases. Eating different types of snakes or even different individuals of the same species has many features, the consideration of which is no longer included in the scope of this article and requires a separate discussion in each case.

Although many snakes can be converted to feeding on dead feed animals, it is recommended, at any convenient opportunity, to use live food as a more complete one. In conclusion, we once again consider it necessary to mention the increased value of natural feed in comparison with any other feeds, they should be used first of all. ”

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