Habitat & Enclosure Requirements
Because snakes cannot be kept in your house under normal human temperatures and conditions for too long, it is paramount that you set up your snake’s enclosure prior to bringing it home. It is all too common for a snake to get too cold and get sick from it. When their body temperature drops they usually become very lethargic and will not want to eat. Heat is required to keep their muscles active and aid in proper digestion for a snake, so be letting it get too cold you’re at risk of your pet getting a respiratory infection or possibly pneumonia. This is usually if your snake does not have a proper heat source and stays cold for days at a time, so do not stress too much unless you let this happen.
The biggest cost and requirement to owning a snake is providing or building the cage. Often times, pre-built pet store variants will be very expensive. Your best choice for a pre-built snake cage would be to order one from Amazon or eBay. They have plenty to pick from in all sizes, and at a decent cost. I would recommend this as your best option for snakes no larger than 5 feet in length. Any larger than that, and you may consider learning how to build your own pet enclosure as the pre-made ones start getting expensive the larger they get. You must make sure your snake cage closes with a proper lid, as they do like to curl up on the sides and push the top open to escape. There are plenty of resources online and on YouTube detailing how to build your snake enclosure. I will provide detailed instructions on how to build one in the future.
You must make sure your pet enclosure has a UTH (Under Tank Heating), which provides heat for your snake without keeping a hot, bright light on. Usually these UTH’s come with a thermostat, but this is definitely something I recommend rather than a rheostat. The newer UTH’s you find on Amazon or eBay are usually matts that plug directly into the wall, and require a thermometer controller for the optimal temperature. Take a look at this one, with over 1,500 reviews I’m sure this is the most popular UTH you can buy online. Some of the older ones may use a Rheostat. The difference is with a thermostat you can set it at a specific temperature, and a rheostat is basically an intensity dimmer-switch for how much heat gets delivered to your snake. Obviously, the thermostat is a better choice, and the price difference now-days is negligible, so the thermostat controller would be the way to go.
Many times your thermometer will also have a humidity-meter or monitoring option with it. You need to make sure you can provide the proper humidity for your pet snake as well. If you get a tropical snake and live in Arizona, this will cause problems for that snake without adding the proper moisture to your snake’s enclosure. If your thermostat does not monitor the humidity, you will be looking for an additional Hydrometer to add to your snake’s cage. The cheaper ones will be analog (usually costing $3-$7) but the digital ones are much better and can be bought on Amazon for around $10-$15. See some examples here.
There are several types of substrate (the stuff you keep on the ground of your snake cage) that you can choose from. While natural substrates are preferred by the snake, they may be a bit harder to clean and more expensive.
Newspaper is a popular snake bedding because it’s cheap, easy to change and abundant. This should only be used with snakes that don’t require the ability to burrow.
- Paper Towels
Paper towels are another cheap alternative like Newspaper, but a bit softer for your snake to lay on, and also absorbent. Like newspaper, paper towels cannot be used with Snakes that like to burrow.
Sand looks better than newspaper or Paper towels, but is only suitable for certain snake breeds, and may be more difficult to clean as well.
- Artificial Carpeting
Carpeting is a softer alternative to Newspaper or Paper towels, but cannot be used with snakes that burrow. Its nice and soft and cheap as well. Carpet squares can easily be cut to a custom size from a larger piece of carpet, but they can only be washed off so many times before being completely soiled. I’ve usually just used the hose and let them dry before swapping them out.
- Artificial Turf
Like carpeting, artificial turf works well if you have a few pieces to swap out when cleaning the soiled ones. It’s sort of like having fresh sheets while your main ones are being washed. The benefit of Artificial Turf compared to carpet is it’s lasts a little bit longer since you can wash it off easier.
- Cypress Mulch
Cypress mulch is a comfortable natural option for snakes that like to burrow. They can dig around and it does a good job at keeping a required humidity. It looks very natural and has a nice earthy aroma, and is relatively affordable in big bags as well. The only downside is usually the mulch has to be replaced all together rather than being able to clean it.
- Coco bedding
Coco bedding is comfortable soft bedding for snakes and other reptiles. It has natural odor fighting properties and is decently attractive for snakes that need something to bury themselves in. It can be bought in bulk and is known for being a more eco-friendly option.
After you have the enclosure, heat and humidity source, and substrate, other things you need for your snake are a water bowl, a hide (like a snake cave) and any decorations you may want your pet to have. The hide should be large enough for your snake when it is fully grown. Water should be changed twice weekly, or whenever it gets too low. After you have your enclosure completely build and you’ve tested it works, I recommend closing the lid for a good 3-4 hours and letting it sit, only to come back later and check to make sure its regulating your temperature and humidity properly. This will ensure your snake has the proper setup before you bring it home.
Next Section: Food & Maintenance