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Pet Snakes provides easy to understand, practical information and facts to help the new snake owner take care of their animals. At Pet Snakes we want to provide information that will help you enjoy your reptile more than ever.

The myth of feeding a pet snake in separate tank


New snake owners are sometimes told that their pet should be fed in a separate tank from the one it lives in. There are several reasons why this is false.

It is stressful
By feeding it in a separate tank you are forcing the snake to endure twice as much handling as is necessary when feeding it in its own tank. A snake that is picky about eating will be even more if you force it to endure moving from place to place as it is eating.

More likely to bite
If your snake starts to associate being picked up and placed in another cage with eating it will start to go into “hunt mode” when you pick it up. Not just when you pick it up to put it in its feeding cage, but also for other reasons. Then it is much more likely to bite if it catches any scent of food.

So look at it like this: You’ve gotten the snake’s food out and it is thawing on the counter and the entire house smells like a rodent. You can’t smell it but the snake can. The snake is excited already because it is smelling its food. You then reach in, grab the snake and carry it to its feeding tank. As you place the snake into the feeding tank it suddenly goes into hunt mode and it bites you. Why?

  • It associated being moved to the other cage with eating
  • It could smell its food everywhere
  • It homed in on a heat source (you) and struck thinking it had found some food

It could cause your snake to regurgitate
Handling a snake after it has eaten can easily lead to regurgitation. If you feed in a separate tank and then have to pick your snake up and move it to its own cage you are putting yourself at risk that it will regurgitate its meal.

A word about ingesting substrate
There is no reason to be concerned about your snake eating some dirt or bark or whatever you use. They do it all the time in the wild and there’s no shortage of snakes out there. Their digestive systems can handle it.
  • Todd

    I am a new snake owner and found it interesting to finaly read something that contridicts what i have been told but I do have a question. If you do feed your snake in it’s cage, wouldn’t the snake associate feeding or biting anything being put in the cage (your arm)?

  • Cody

    I feed my snake in its cage every time, if the cats nearby he wont even eat so i do my best to keep the cat away. putting in a separate cage and having to move him back to eat seems a lot worse then just a cat walking by. also i bring out Karen(my snake) almost alot. i dont know if they get used to it but she has never bitten or nipped a soul or then a mouse of course

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    What kind of snake do you have, Cody?

    I think they get acclimated to handling and tolerate it but I don't believe it's something they look forward to like a dog wanting to be petted.

  • Nshepard

    “They do it all the time in the wild and there’s no shortage of snakes out there. ” You must live under a rock or something to say that statement.

    They do this all the time in the wild, but that is no reason it is not good for a snake. True, most substrate will be broken down in the digestive system, but substrate like sand and gravel will not. These types of substrates will persist and develop into problems later in life. Wild snakes are often short lived animals and impactions do happen in the wild, most often in old aged snakes – accelerating some short of health complication but ultimately causing the death of the snake – thus, you are ultimately incorrect. These impactions are artificially induced in a captive setting with artificial substrates mostly prone to impaction problems.

    Thus, it all depends on the substrate the snake owner is using. I would tread on the side of caution and use paper towels or newspaper when dealing with more expensive types.

    I have seen extensive impaction complications that ended in mortality of snakes in captivity. This type of ill-educated write up denouncing the expertise of snake biologist, veterinarians, and long lived snake breeders is what turns so many away from this hobby.

    Futhermore, most snake 'pet' novices will not be feeding snake that will stress out due to handling. Handling a snake is find, whether to hold and showcase or to move to another cage for cleaning or feeding. Causing a snake to be more bit prone is a weak argument, as I'd argue the opposite after working for captive facilities and owning my own collection for over 15 years. Moving a snake to a different cage to feed is both better for association of feeding response (biting) – as the snake will become calm in its normal cage while – but also in preventive injection of substrates.

    Don't pass off a husbandry issue just because 'snakes do this in the wild', this excuse is ill-researched and therefore is not a justified argument. I mean, with that flawed logic ticks and mites are not bad for snakes – as they persist in the wild and “there’s no shortage of snakes out there.”

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Would you like to rewrite the article? Or one on substrates?

  • Amb_anakin

    Quite honestly, just because a snake is more expensive, doesn't mean that it's any better than a less expensive one, or that one that is cheaper deserves any less care. And I also believe feeding a snake inside the cage is better and completly side with the writer of this article.

  • Amb_anakin

    Not unless you put your arm in there at feeding time.

  • Awasteofcoffee

    I have to say that I disagree with this article. I've only had a ball python for 2 years so I'm no expert but I did feed him in his tank once and it was a disaster. He spent the next 2 days waiting for something to pass his tank and nearly bit me. I think all snakes are different and there may be some that will be ok, but for the majority I'd say don't feed in the tank. I also think the key is to handle your snake at least a couple of times a week without feeding him, that way he doesn't always associate handling with food.

  • Vanillacokeit

    I have been reading many articles on this site and find many of them educational. However I completely disagree with this article. I have several snakes and on feeding day I place them in a paper bag, toss the food to them, and after they are finished I pick up the paper bag tilt it slightly in the cage and wait for the snake to go into his cage before removing the bag. This has trained my snakes to associate the paper bag with food. It has made a change from live mice to f/t rats happen immediately. They will eat anything they are given when in the bag. Also I can handle mice all day long, not wash my hands and go pick up the snakes and none will strike at me (not something I do on a regular basis). Handling the snakes after they eat would probably make them bite me and may lead to digestion problems but with the bag method I get the best of both worlds.

    I also don't think that 'it happens in the wild' should be a reason for any practice in the herp world. Snakes die much younger in the wild for these very reasons.

    Other than this article, thank you for so much good information on this site.

  • PetSnakes

    You’re an exception to the rule as far as handling snakes without washing your hands after handling rodents. Can I ask what kind of temperatures you keep your snake’s at?

  • PetSnakes

    The majority of breeders, and keepers feed the snake in their tank with absolutely no issues.

  • Informed

    This is absolutely blind advice. I tend to get my advice from experts not just people who go with one method, and think it’s a golden rule.

    The truth of the matter is that your advice goes two ways, and If feeding in a separate is going to make the snake more prone to attack you, then so will feeding it in its own tank (the tank you reach into.)

    The method of feeding depends on your snake. Also while we’re on the subject of eating, I’ve had a snake die of impaction from bark. Turns out that snakes are carnivores, and plant matter especially would is hell on their digestive system. I think this post needs to be rewritten by someone who actually has an open mind, and lists off pros and cons of both sides of the story.

  • Lacey

    I feed every single one of my snakes in their own enclosures and have for about 4 years now and have yet to be bit picking one up from its cage. I have been bitten picking a snake up off the floor and out of another tub after being fed. People have different experiences and different opinions. No one is an expert on every snake because not every snake acts the same. That is the truth.

  • Babylove_charl@hotmail.com

    I have two snakes that live together very well. Don’t hvae any problems with them biting, but I’ve always moved one snake in another tank. I have problems with both them feeding. My older corn hasn’t eaten in 3-4 weeks now. Is my problem that I feed them at the same time or too often? I’ve always put them in seperate cages becuz I don’t know if I can feed them togther as there on diffferent size mice/rats.
    Please does any one have any advise?

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    This is one of those topics that we can debate ad nauseum without ever reaching a total agreement. I’ve never talked to a snake breeder who says that you should feed in separate tanks. I’ve talked to many people who own one or two snakes (or 3) who feed in separate tanks. But like I said this could be debated forever and we’d never come to an agreement.

  • Ehseagle20

    So then you did get bit by a snake taking it out of it’s enclosure. He bit you because he was still hungry I bet. Don’t have that problem if they stay in the cage.

  • Jessmart163

    I have had my spotted python for four years now and he is the most picky eater ever. He will take it and sqeeze it, and then let it go. Sometimes he goes for months without eating. I always feed him in his cage because when ever I put him in a new environment he gets excited and wants to explore everywhere, and then he doesn’t even want the mouse anymore. I can tell by his behaviour when he is hungry, and he has neverf even hissed and me, or struck. He knows when it is feeding time.

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