Ratsnake / Cornsnake Caresheet
Rat/Corn Snakes make an excellent choice as a first pet snake. Rat/Corn Snakes are one of the most available snakes in the pet trade today. Vast numbers are captive bred every year in a variety of colors and patterns (or lack of). They are generally docile, relatively easy to care for, and do not get too large rarely exceeding 5 feet. There are active feeders and tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions. Corn Snakes are native to southern and eastern United States and are mainly active at night of from dusk to dawn.
Due to their relative small size, Rat/Corn Snakes do not require large enclosures. A baby can happily live in a 10 gallon aquarium (20 x 10 inches). Adults can be housed in an enclosure the size of a 20 gallon long aquarium (30 x 12 inches). Rat/Corn snakes are escape artists, so be sure to have a very secure cage. Another important issue about keeping corn snakes as pets is a legal one. Make sure to check with you state and local authorities before purchasing your new snake as some have regulations against keeping corn snakes in captivity (such as New Jersey).
The substrate for your snake can be simple (paper towels, newspaper, or butcher paper) to more natural looking, like cypress mulch, Reptile Bark, and even Astro Turf. Whatever substrate you choose, make sure to keep it clean and change as often as necessary.
A hide box is a must for all snakes. It gives them a sense of security that will prevent stressing the animal. The hide box should be small enough so when the snake is inside that it the snake's body will touch the sides of the hide. A snug, tight fit will make the snake feel more secure. Replace the hide as the snake grows.
You may decorate the enclosure with plastic plants (secured with aquarium sealant to prevent the snake moving it), drift wood or branches (properly treated), or even live plants still in the pot.
Rat/Corn Snakes are basically nocturnal and do not have any special lighting requirements. You may use a fluorescent light for better viewing of your snake.
Maintaining the enclosure at the correct temperature is vital to the care of any reptile. Under tank heaters or heat tape can be used , but placed only under half of the enclosure so there is a gradient from cool to warm and a ambient air temperature of 80 to 85 degrees. An overhead incandescent light may also be provided as a supplemental basking spot.
Rat/Corn Snakes are rarely picky eaters if they have the proper set up. They should be fed pre-killed or F/T (frozen/thawed) mice or small rats as adults. Baby rat/corn snakes can be started out on f/t pinkie (baby) mice that are from 1 to 3 days old. As the snake grows, so to does the food item. Food items should be about as round (if not just a tad larger) then the widest part of the body. Most keepers of rat/corn snakes have a feeding schedule of anywhere from 7 to 10 days between meals.
It is not recommended that any snake be fed live food animals. There is just too much risk involved from injury or contamination from store bought live food items.
Rat/Corns snakes are by far the best beginner snake. The care sheets found on Herp World do not include all of the knowledge needed to keep animals in captivity. It is highly recommended that anyone who plans on purchasing a reptile or amphibian also purchase a book on that animal. It is YOUR responsibility to thoroughly research the needs of your pet. By doing this it will make both of your lives easier.
Hognose snakes are famous for thier defensive displays of flattening the front of the bodies out like a cobra and if that fails rolling over and playing dead with their tongue hanging out for the full effect.
Hognoses geenrally live from 15 to 18 years and will reach a length from 18 to 24 inches. The size makes them great beginner snakes. Although mainly the westerns, as the eastern and southern can be a bit difficult to care food with their specialized diets.
Being a small snake you can house an adult in an enclosure about the size of a 20 gallon aquarium, around 24 x 12 x 12 inches. Make sure you have a secure top if using an aquarium. The enclosure should be placed in a low-traffic area of the home to prevent undue stress to these shy little snakes.
As they are shy snakes and like to hide a lot, a good substrate for them is Aspen shavings. These allow the snake to burrow and hide giving it a sense of security. Cypress mulch can also be used with equal benefits. Newspaper and Kraft paper do not allow the snake to burrow, so it is better to use the other two options. The Aspen or mulch should be about 2 inches deep to allow for burrowing. Remember!, No cedar or pine shavings as these are harmful to reptiles.
Always provide a water bowl and fresh water daily. A small bowl that is big enough to allow the snake to soak in without being so deep as to seem like the snake is swimming. A hide box in one corner of the enclosure will give the hognose another option for hiding from its surrounding outside the enclosure. It may not be used as often as the substrate for hiding though.
A scedule of 12 hours on and 12 hours off is recommended. Although it has not been proven hognoses may benefit from having a UV light fixture in the cage. I use ordinary incacescent bulbs and have had no health problems, but a UV light wouldn't hurt either.
Daytime tempoeratures should be arounf 82 to 86 degrees with a basking spot provided around 90 degrees. Nighttime temperatures should go no lower than 76 degrees and make sure to still provide a warmer spot at night around 82 degrees.
Young hognoses have a tendency for drying out and require a higher humidity level than adults. It is recommended to maintain a relative himidty of 60% to 70% for babies and juveniles. This can be accomplished with the use of a humid hide. Even adults can make do with a humid hide to aid in the shedding process. Westerns do not require such a high humidity level. Just the humid hide box will be enough humidity for them.
OK, here is where the differences between the westerns, easterns, and southerns come to play. Western hognsoes can be "trained" (for lack of a better term) to eat rodent exclusively. Some babies may be hard to get onto pinkie mice, but scenting the pinkie by rubbing it against a toad is the best way. Most baby westerns are trained this way. Westerns seem to be the only North American hognoses that can be fed a diet of strictly rodent without ill effects.
Easterns and southerns must be fed toads. You can suppliment their diet with some rodents, but they cannot be fed exclusively rodents. It will kill them. An eastern fed only rodents will start having kidney failure which will result in the death of the snake.
Western Hognoses make a great beginner snake. They don't get very large and hardly ever bite. They are short, stout and cute with that upturned nose of theirs. We at Herp World do not recommend Eastern Hognoses to anyone who cannot obtain a uninterupted supply of toads year round.
Kingsnake / Milksnake Caresheet
Kingsnakes are members of one of the most popular snake genera in herpetoculture, Lampropeltis. The genus Lampropeltis is endemic to North and South America, with many members present in the continental United States. The most popular kingsnakes in the reptile keeping hobby include the California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula califoniae), and grey-banded kingsnake (Lampropeltis alterna), among others. Members of this genus are rightfully popular with reptile keepers, they are hardy, easy to breed, and come in a dazzling array of beautiful color and pattern morphs. This care sheet is intended to cover the basic care of kingsnakes for beginning reptile enthusiasts. We also highly encourage new hobbyists to purchase captive care books to help them keep and breed this genus successfully.
Kingsnakes come in a variety of sizes, so a cage can be chosen according to the adult size of the snake, although smaller cages can obviously be used when the animal is growing, in fact, smaller cages for young snakes can be better in some instances because it is easier for the snake to find the food. All baby kingsnakes can be housed in an enclosure the size of a standard ten gallon aquarium, or even the size of a five gallon aquarium, depending on how often one wishes to purchase a larger enclosure as the animal grows. Most adult kingsnakes can be housed in a standard twenty-gallon long or thirty-gallon breeder aquarium. The idea is to have an enclosure large enough to provide a thermal gradient. Many hobbyist and professional breeders do not utilize glass aquariums because of their bulk and weight. If you are planning on owning more than ten or so snakes, it may be advisable to purchase a rack system or stackable reptile enclosures. A rack system looks similar to a chest of drawers, there are several rows of cages, one on top of the other, all encased in one larger cabinet-like piece. In each row there are either one, or several (depending on the size of the individual cages) plastic cages. These cages pull out from the cabinet like a drawer does from a chest. Many rack systems are "lidless"; they are built so that the cages slide back in flush with the bottom of the next row, which acts like a lid. Running along the back of the rack system is a line of heat tape which heats one end of the enclosure, providing a thermal gradient. Heat tape must be controlled by a thermostat in order to provide the ideal "hot spot" temperature and to avoid a fire hazard. Rack systems allow herpetoculturists to keep snakes more efficiently and to provide the correct thermal gradient. Other options for reptile housing include manufactured cages, there are many companies specializing in custom reptile enclosures. To learn more about the different styles/type of caging available, click HERE.
There are a variety of different choices to use for covering the bottom of the enclosure. Cedar and pine shavings (as used with small mammals) should be avoided as the aromatic oils from these products irritate the respiratory system of snakes and they tend to get little pieces of the stuff stuck in their mouths when they eat. Sterilized reptile bark is one choice, it is attractive and easy to clean, just lift out the poop when needed, and replace all the substrate once a month Aspen bedding can also be used, it has the benefits of bark and allows snakes to burrow, creating their own hiding spots. Less aesthetic but certainly functional choices include paper towels, newspaper, Astroturf, and cut-to-fit liners. To read more about substrates, click HERE.
It is important to provide snakes with hiding areas so that they feel secure in their captive environment. Hiding areas can be made out of old margarine tubs turned upside down with a hole cut in the side, cardboard shoeboxes, or my personal favorite, terracotta plant saucers with access holes knocked in the side (these come in many different sizes, are cheap, and easy to find at any greenhouse or home supply store). Many reptile product retailers also carry plastic premade hiding spots, which may be a little more expensive, but are durable and easy to clean. Several hiding spots, at least two, one on the warm side and one on the cool side, should be included in any snake enclosure. To learn more about Hide Boxes, click HERE.
No specialized lighting is required. You may provide 12on/12off using incadescent or fluorescent fixtures keeping in mind that incadescent bulbs will affect the temperature of the enclosure.
The most important factor for keeping kingsnakes (all reptiles actually) is providing the correct environmental conditions. Caring for reptiles is very different than caring for other pets because reptiles are what are called ectothermic. Ectothermic, which is sometimes called "cold-blooded", means that reptiles do not maintain a stable body temperature by creating heat from their metabolism. Reptiles rely on a behavioral mechanism called thermoregulation to regulate their body temperature. What this means is that when a reptile is too hot, it moves into the shade or down into its den to cool down, and when it needs to heat up (to digest food for example) it basks in the sun or moves into a warmer area. This is important for reptile keepers to understand because in captivity, we determine what temperatures a reptile has access to. Reptile keepers must provide a thermal gradient for their animals so that they may heat up or cool down, as they would do in the wild.
There are many different ways to provide a themal gradient, but all require that you purchase a good digital thermometer to make sure you are providing the correct temperature range. Almost all kingsnakes and milksnakes do well with a maintenance temperature gradient of 84-88 degrees F on the warm end and 70-75 degrees at the cool end. At night, the temperature can safely drop to 65 degrees F as long as the snake can warm up during the day. If you are using an aquarium to house your snake, one good choice is to purchase an undertank heater. Undertank heaters are made out of flexible plastic and work a lot like a regular heating pad. One side of the heater is adhesive and this side attached to the bottom of the outside of the aquarium. It is important to place the heater on one end of the cage, so that the other end remains cooler. Undertank heaters work well because they can be left on a night without disturbing the animal. The other choice is a heat bulb. The heat bulb must be located on one end of the enclosure and most not be accessible to the snake (to prevent burns). One method that works well is to have a screen top with a clamp light sitting on top of one end of the cage. The wattage of the bulb necessary to provide the correct temperature will vary with the ambient temperature, so it is best to test the heat light by leaving it on for a few hours and monitoring the temperature closely. If the heat area provided is too hot, the snake will still use it because it must warm up to digest it’s food properly, but it can be seriously injured by thermal burns in the process, which brings me to the subject of heat rocks.
We do not use nor recommend heat rocks for any reptile at all. The reason why is that heat rocks provide a small, localized heat source which is fully accessible to the reptile. Heat rocks often have "hot spots" and can overheat quickly, possibly causing severe thermal burns. If a reptile is housed in an enclosure that is cold everywhere except a tiny little heat rock, it will spend most of it’s time curled around, and in direct contact with, this unstable heat source, even to the point of causing severe injury to itself. Our advice is to find other, safer, heating alternatives.
Another aspect of providing the correct environmental conditions is humidity. Most kingsnakes do well with the relative humidity ranging from 40-60%. Relative humidity becomes and important issue before a snake is about to shed. Snakes shed at variable intervals, with more sheds as a snake is growing. When a snake is close to shedding its skin, its eyes will become milky and its scales will become duller. Then this will clear up and a few days after that, the snake will shed. When you notice your snake beginning to shed, the humidity must be increased to aid in this processes. Most incomplete sheds are caused by low humidity. One way to raise the humidity is to mist the cage lightly for a few days until the snake sheds. Also, a humidity box can be put in, and left in the enclosure for the snake to use whenever it needs to. Humidity boxes can be easily and cheaply constructed out of plastic Rubbermaid containers large enough to house a loosely coiled snake. An access hole must be cut in the side, but otherwise the box should remain closed. A layer of moist moss such as sphagnum or peat should be put inside the humidity box and kept moist at all times. Moist paper towels work as well and are easier to replace but tend to try out more quickly. With baby snakes, a deli cup can be used to make a humidity box.
All snakes are carnivores; they eat only other animals. Baby kingsnakes do best on a diet of pinky mice, generally one or two pinky mice once a week. As the snake grows, so should its prey. A general rule of thumb is to feed a snake a food item that is as large, or slightly larger, than the diameter of the snake at its widest point (excluding the head). King and milksnakes, specifically the California kingsnake, will often eat other snakes of the same size if given the opportunity, so it is best to house each snake individually to avoid this problem. In fact, rattlesnakes make up a significant part of the diet of wild California kingsnakes! When purchasing a new snake, it is very important to purchase only baby snakes that have eaten unaltered domestic pinky mice at least once but preferably more. Reputable breeders do not sell baby snakes that have not eaten (unless they tell you so) and will often provide you with a record of the baby snake’s feedings (at herp shows this is often written on the bottom of the for sale container). This is especially important with the "problem feeding" species such as the grey-banded kingsnake, whose babies are notoriously difficult to get feeding on pinky mice. Make sure you check this before you buy!!
In our opinion, it is best to feed freshly killed or frozen prey that has been thawed. The reason for this recommendation is that dead mice don’t bite! If a live mouse is left in a cage with a snake that is not hungry, it can cause significant harm to the snake by chewing on it. If you must feed live, make sure to watch and make sure the snake eats, don’t drop the prey in and leave. Most pet stores carry feeder mice, but if you have more than a few snakes, it is much more economical to either raise your own rodents or buy them mail order. There are many people who raise feeder rodents and advertise in the classifieds section of the major reptile trade magazines. Occasionally, a snake may refuse to feed. Food refusal is caused by a number of things such as incorrect environmental conditions, a shed phase, pregnancy, or illness.
Some snakes will refuse food in the wintertime, even if provided with the correct environmental conditions and if they are not sick, shedding, or gravid. These snakes are acting upon their instinct to hibernate and should be allowed to do so. Most Lampropeltis hibernate for some time during the cool season. To hibernate your kingsnake or milksnake, make sure it has no food for two weeks but still has access to a warm spot so that it can remove all material from its digestive tract. After this time, the temperature should be lowered gradually to between 60-65 degrees. The snake should not be fed during this time, but fresh drinking water should be provided. Leave the snake in these conditions, checking on it frequently for signs of illness, for 4-6 weeks. After this time, slowly warm the animal back up to its maintenance temperature and offer food. Hibernation is often helpful if one wishes to breed their snakes.
If you snake refuses food for more than four weeks, has the correct environmental conditions (including hiding spots), is not shedding and has never been with a member of the opposite sex, it should be checked for illness. Regurgitation is a common problem with captive kingsnakes. Regurgitation can be caused by handling a snake soon after it has eaten (don’t), too cool temperatures, illness, or feeding a prey item that is too large. If your snake barfs more than twice, and has the correct environmental conditions and has been fed appropriately sized food, take it to a herp vet.
Water Snake Caresheet
Northern water snakes are found in southern Ontario and the northeastern United States from Nebraska and Kansas in the west to the Atlantic coast and as far south as North Carolina and southern Missouri.
Most single snakes can be housed in a 10-gallon or 20-gallon tank with a secured screen top depending on the size of the snake. It is important that the enclosure is escape-proof as these snakes excel at escaping from their enclosures.
A variety of substrates can be utilized for these snakes. Newspaper or paper towels can be used, though many favor a more visually appealing substrate. Aspen shavings can be used as well as a sandy soil mixture of about 50% natural play sand and 50% potting soil. Cedar shavings should be avoided as they can prove to be toxic to your animal. New research has also proved that pine shavings may also have negative long term effects as well.TO read more on the pros and cons of different substrates, click HERE.
A suitably large enough pool should be provided for the snake to allow it to swim. A hide box should also be provided. Branches for climbing can also be provided. To read more on cage furnishings, click HERE.
It has not been proven whether these snakes require UV light or not, though they should be provided with an appropriate photoperiod.
Like most snakes, members of Nerodia like a temperature gradient. The cool end on the enclosure should be around 70° F with a basking spot of around 84° F. At night the basking area should be turned off.
The diet of these aquatic snakes consists mainly of various small-sized fish, frogs, toads and salamanders. Items such as earthworms, red worms, and other insects will usually be readily accepted. An exclusive diet of just fish is not nutritionally complete and should be fed with other prey items such as earthworms. Many specimens may also accept appropriately sized mice.
Snakes of this species are often killed by people who are afraid of them, and confuse them with venomous species, such as rattlesnakes. Northern water snakes will bite if you bother them, but they are not venomous.