We build all our own enclosures as a way to save money. With each build we improve and have modified our techniques. This picture below shows Sara working on a very large retic enclosure. This is a stack of enclosures that are 11 feet wide and are for our largest snakes. The systems we discuss here can be used to set up small 3 foot enclosures, giant enclosures, and everything in between. All the same principles apply and are just modified a bit to fit the size of the enclosure.
As a minimum we recommend striving for a size that at least allows your snake to stretch out fully with only one bend in their body. That means the largest snake this 12’ enclosure should house is a 24’ snake. In addition to the length goal for giants front to back should be 3’ or more to make room for their coil when they sleep. Bigger is better though if you have the ability. If you have space to do more than minimum the next level up is for the floor space to fit this equation:
length + width = length of the snake or more
This is what we follow for all of our snakes except for the largest giants. If you have room for even better than that make the length as long as the animal.
Floor space matters most!
Do not sacrifice floor space for height. Even the most arboreal snakes spend time traveling horizontally along branches more than straight up and down. Height can never make up for a small foot print.
We can not provide maximum enclosure size at Snake Haus due to our incredible demand. These giants have nowhere else to go. Giving any one animal more space here would mean we have to say no to someone else that will be left to suffer.
Our “minimum” size recommendation is unfortunately much bigger than what many people offer so please at least try to meet this minimum goal. If you can’t do more than that then you can make up for it by creating an enrichment/exercise area out of the enclosure that they can use once or twice a week. Failure to meet these enclosure size recommendations is the number one reason Snake Haus adoption requests get denied. If we already meet these size requirements here at the rescue we ask for their new forever home to provide at the least the same if not better.
The only hard part of keeping snakes is making sure you set up their enclosure correctly. There are many ways to do this however they all need to achieve essentially the same parameters.
Temperature zones: Climate Control
Most snakes prefer a range of temperatures within their environment so they can thermoregulate. Since they are ectotherms they must rely on their environment to achieve the correct temperatures for things like digestion and, reproduction, and immune system function. Each type of snake needs a slightly different temperature range but most of them will fall somewhere between 70 and 100 degrees farenheit.
Humidity: Controlling Humidity
This is one of the most common mistakes made by novice keepers. It is not recommended to keep snake in screen top aquariums, yet that is all you see for sale at pet stores. Unfortunately a screen top enclosure combined with a heating unit creates a severely dehydrating environment. As the heat rises up and out of the screen top it takes all the animal moisture with it.
Hides: How to make hides
Most snake prefer to spend a large portion of their day hiding. These animals have very slow metabolisms making them much less active than mammals. Providing a proper hide is vital for normal snake behavior and well being. At Snake Haus we prefer, and recommend, a minimum of two hides and other furniture to climb on and hide under.
Check out the following links to see how we provide adequate husbandry for our snakes. We make most of our enclosures out of a variety of different materials. We hope you have fun learning how to improve your snake enclosures at home! Let us know what questions you have.
PVC enclosures (simply the best but also the most expensive)
Plastic tubs? Yes they do work!
See how we turn old display cases into fantastic enclosures.
Shelf enclosures: a garage shelf can be turned into a very nice snake rack. See how here.
Modify aquariums to make them suitable for snakes.
Learn about working with melamine
Follow these links to find some of the products we use when building custom enclosures:
- Belly Heat: We use heat tape for belly heat in anything larger than 5′. Our favorite local source for heat tape is the Bean Farm. You can purchase it in rolls to make yourself however that require some electrician skills. Or you can purchase pre-made heat tape sets to avoid the extra work of installing the wires and plugs.
- Thermostat: And they must be controlled with a thermostat. I use these cheaper ones because I prefer to have one on every single enclosure. If you can afford to use a herpstat on all of you enclosure they are actually a better product. There are different sizes of herpstats. They can be found at the Bean Farm or there are a few of them on Amazon.
- Protect against burns: I cover the belly heat unit with an insulating and water proof tray made from corrugated plastic. That helps keep the enclosure clean and dry as well as protects the animal from burns by allowing them to sit right on top of their heater.
- Basking spot: You can us a Ceramic Heat Emitter at one side to provide a basking spot but know they can significantly lower humidity. CHE’s are also a fire hazard and burn risk so need to be in a correct fixture and guard. Radiant heat panels are far superior to the CHE due to safety and space needed. Here are some of the different types. – Sweeter Heater – ProHeat – Vivarium Electronics – Wilbanks
- We love using plexiglass for doors because you can drills holes in it for installing door handles and locks, or for adding ventilation. Be sure to use the thicker panels. They can be cut to size using a circular saw with a 60 tooth finish blade.
- Plexiglass doors flex though so you need to install hook style locks that prevent your snake from squeezing out between the two panels.
- We keep a few different sizes of machine screw and bolts on hand for projects like this. Depending on the thickness of your plexiglass a 1/2 or 3/4′ screw usually works well. If you get #8 size they will also work for installing cabinet door handles as well for easy opening and closing of your doors.