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Snakes are very interesting creatures. Despite the common notion that snakes are harmful animals, various snake species have become the interest of pet enthusiasts. Captive snakes can thrive and breed in either lush cages or spartan quarters, but the aim in all cases is to provide a healthy, secure and absolutely escape-proof environment. Some species do, of course, have more specific caging necessities. For example, Terrestrial snake species do well in horizontally oriented cages but for arboreal species, consider vertically oriented terraria. Housing The size of the enclosure for your snake will depend on its size and level of activity. Some snakes, such as boa constrictors, are fairly inactive while some, such as black racers, are more active and need comparatively larger cages. They become stressed when crowded. For inactive species the enclosure should be at least as long as the snake and at least three quarters as wide. For active species the enclosure should be twice those dimensions. Snake vivarium is the usual choice of enclosure although you can buy custom enclosures, some with sliding glass fronts that make it easier to feed and handle the animal. For all but arboreal snakes, the height of the enclosure is not a concern. But snakes climb glass walls with ease and are strong enough to push open covers that are not clipped down. The same sizes of enclosures will also serve two snakes but the snakes will have to be separated when fed to keep them from latching onto the same piece of food. The furnishings of the enclosure can be simple for most pet species: a newspaper substrate, a hidebox big enough for the snake to retreat to and water bowl. For specialized species, there are other considerations. A rough green snake, for example, must have a planted moist terrarium; a
green tree python requires a high perching site; a sand boa must have a substrate deep enough for it to be able to bury itself. Newspaper works well as a substrate for all except those that live in the water or need sand in which to burrow. It is easy to replace and cheap. Larger animals such as reticulated pythons are best kept on bare floors, which can be hosed down. Snakes from watery habitats must have a place to dry off or they will develop "blister disease." Heat and Light Your pet must be able to thermoregulate which means it must be able to choose from a range of temperatures. Most species require an ambient temperature of 77 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit, with access to warmer areas, such as a spot under an incandescent light bulb. At night, heat without light can be provided by infrared bulbs, a heat pad or ceramic heater, all available at pet stores. The day/night cycle is important for health and breeding and should be synchronized with a timer to the daily cycle of your pet's natural habitat. In contrast to many other reptiles, snakes do not require ultraviolet light for vitamin D3 synthesis, so no special overhead lighting is required. Feeding Various snakes consume everything from frog eggs to antelopes, but the commonly kept species do well on a weekly feeding of pre-killed mice or rats, which may be purchased frozen at pet shops. Large specimens may require a pre-killed rabbit every 2 to 4 weeks, while insectivorous species such as the ring-necked snake need two to three meals of crickets per week. The size of the meal depends upon the size of the snake or, more precisely, the size of its head, which is pretty much the size of its stomach. Do not feed snakes food that is too large. Although they may take it,
it can overextend their stomachs and may cause them to regurgitate. Be aware that your pet may bite if it smells rodent scent on your hands or clothing.