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Snake Husbandry Python

Husbandry is the care and maintenance of your pet, and this is a very important part of captive reptile care. Reptiles have not had the thousands of years of domestication that dogs and cats have had to develop into a pet. As a result, they are truly wild and need to be handled as such. The majority of health problems we see captive reptiles for revolve around nutrition and cage life. A well maintained environment helps keep your pet free of parasites, encourages normal eating and stimulates normal behavior.

Food Preferences of Selected Snake Species

  • Anaconda: small mammals, birds, fish
  • Boa, Python (Reticulated, Ball, Burmese): mammals, birds.
  • Cobra (except King Cobra): small mammals, birds (quail chicks)
  • Coral: other snakes, lizards, small mammals, fish occasionally
  • Copperhead: Adults: small mammals Young: lizards, amphibians
  • Garter: small mammals, amphibians, fish, earthworms, slugs
  • Gopher, Bull, Pine: small mammals, birds
  • Green: Insects
  • Hog-nosed: frogs, toads, salamanders, tadpoles, mammals
  • Indigo: Adults: small mammals, birds, fish; Young: amphibians, lizards, other snakes
  • King Snake: small mammals, birds, lizards, other snakes.
  • King Cobra: other snakes
  • Racer: small mammals, birds, lizards, amphibians
  • Rainbow: Adults: mammals, birds Young: fish, aquatic salamanders
  • Rat, Chicken: small mammals, birds; Young: lizards
  • Ribbon: small mammals, amphibians, fish, earthworms
  • Ring-necked: amphibians, snakes, invertebrates
Feeding Tips
  • Train snake to eat prey dead (especially rodents).
  • If must initially feed live prey, make sure snake is not attacked or traumatized by prey. Observe snake until prey is killed or remove live prey from cage if you leave the room.
  • Offer food on solid surface to avoid ingestion of substrate.
  • Amount and frequency of feeding is based on observation, routine of defecation, behavior, and physiological needs. Increase frequency during growth and before breeding.
  • Enclosure must be appropriate for terrestrial or arboreal snake.
  • Enclosures should have sealed seams, be steam cleanable, and be secure enough to prevent escapes (snakes are escape artists).
  • Materials: glass aquariums, fiberglass, homemade wooden (polyurethane sealed), acrylic/Plexiglas.
  • Substrates: Newspaper, pine/ash wood shavings, synthetic/paper-type (like Celludry).
  • Branches should be provided at various heights and sizes.
  • Hiding places should be provided within the enclosure (opaque box, log, secured rocks forming a cave, artificial vegetation).
  • Water container depends on species; heavy ceramic crocks large enough for soaking add humidity for shedding; emerald tree boas drink from water on their bodies after misting.
  • Some species need drip systems onto vegetation.
  • Water container must be changed and cleaned daily.
  • Provide optimum temperature with gradiant so snake may seek preferred temperature; use thermometers to monitor.
  • Mount incandescent lights high enough to avoid contact burns.
  • Food, water, and "hide" spots should be located at various temperature gradients.
  • Humidity: 30-60%. Desert species may be lower.
  • Humidity too low at shedding = improper shedding.
  • If air exchange is < 5-15/hr, may get skin lesions from build-up of urine, feces or bacterial growth.
Environmental Requirements for Some Snake Species
Species Temp °F Rel. Humidity % Habitat
Boa Constrictor 77-85 50-70 arboreal
Sand Boa 77-85 20-30 burrowing
Burmese, In. Python 77-85 30-70 arboreal
Ball, Royal Python 77-85 30-70 terrestrial
Garter Snake
Or Terrestrial
70-80 30-70 semi-aquatic
 King Snake 73-85 30-70 terrestrial

*Ambient daytime gradients; night = decrease lower end by 5-10ºF; "hot spot"= increase upper end by 5-10ºF.
**Arboreal = tree/branch dwelling.

Segments of information above from: Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook.

The Animal Health Clinic recommends annual wellness visits for all snakes. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at: 701-237-9310