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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.

Common mistakes new snake owners make – Avoid all 5


New snake owners often find themselves facing a variety of problems with their animals which can lead to great amounts of frustration. By avoiding some common mistakes you can often correct problems you are having or keep from facing them.

  1. Improper heating
  2. Improper humidity
  3. Lack of handling
  4. Lack of acclimation to new environment
  5. Improper feeding
Improper Heating
Because snakes are ectothermic (aka: cold-blooded) they require an environment where they are able to regulate their body heat. New snake owners often don’t realize how vital this is for their well being. It’s more than simply being hot or cold it has to do with their normal bodily functions. For instance they need extra heat after a meal to digest it.

With a little effort getting the temperatures right isn’t hard to do. In the simplest terms find out what high and low temperatures your kind of snake likes and then set up the tank so it can move between those temperatures at will. This allows the snake to thermoregulate its body temperature.

Improper Humidity
After heat humidity is the biggest culprit that causes problems for new snake owners. Especially when you have sub-tropical and tropical species. Humidity that is too low can cause problems such as

On the other hand humidity that is too high can be just as damaging, if not more so to a snake.

  • Fungal infections
  • Bacterial growth
  • Mold problem with the substrate (try a mold resistant bedding like cypress mulch)

Finding the right balance for your humidity is important. In general once you figure out how to reach the optimal level you shouldn’t mess with it EXCEPT when the snake is going through the shedding process. At that point you’ll need to bump it up a little bit above normal to help it fully shed its skin.

Lack of handling
Reptiles aren’t like your dog or cat. They are never truly tamed. What happens is they become acclimated to being handled. They also become un-acclimated due to not being handled very quickly. I’ve seen a snake that was puppy dog tame turn into a raving beast after just 2 weeks of not being handled. It tamed back down over the course of a month, but consistent handling is very important for snakes.

There are times when handling is not appropriate.

  • The first 48 hours after a feeding your snake should be left alone to digest its meal
  • After it has been moved to a new environment it should be left alone for 5 to 7 days
  • While it is shedding you shouldn’t handle the snake

Aside from the times mentioned above it is a good idea to try and handle the snake on a regular basis. By that I mean for a few minutes every other day at least. Remember that snakes tolerate handling they don’t necessarily enjoy it so don’t abuse the privilege. When they’ve had enough they will let you know. Sometimes by squirming and putting up a fuss and sometimes by striking at you.

Lack of acclimation to new environment
A snake needs time to settle in and get used to its new home.

  • Leave it alone for 5 to 7 days except to spot clean and change water
  • When you do start handling it do so in short 3 to 5 minute sessions a couple of times a day
  • Ensure the temperature and humidity levels are correct before you ever put the snake into the tank
  • Locate the snake’s tank in a low traffic area so it isn’t disturbed

All of those things will help to encourage the snake to acclimate itself to its new home.

Improper feeding
As a new owner getting the hang of feeding a snake can be frustrating. A few of the challenges I remember having to overcome as a new owner were-

  • They can eat much large prey than you think they can
  • They don’t need to be offered food every day
  • They need about 48 hours to digest their food after eating it
  • They don’t stop eating once they start unless you take the food supply away

An accepted method of telling how large of a prey item a snake can safely eat is to compare the widest girth of the snake with the widest girth of the prey to be eaten. If the prey is the same size or slightly larger it is fine. Much larger it can cause issues and much smaller it is a waste of time and will require multiple prey items.

Since it takes a snake a few days to digest a meal offering it food once every 5 to 7 days is plenty. I try to consistently feed my animals on Thursday nights. If I miss the day it’s not a big deal, and for snakes even if I miss their feeding for a couple of weeks in a row it isn’t a big deal (as long as it doesn’t become a regular habit).

While the food isn’t fully digested in 48 hours it has been digest enough that handling the reptile won’t usually cause any problems. One of the problems with handling a snake after it has ate is that they “feel” vulnerable to attack and will often regurgitate their food.

Because snakes are purely instinctual creatures they don’t think about things. When they start doing something they don’t stop because they should. Eating is a prime example. As long as you keep tossing food to them they will keep eating it. I’ve never seen a snake gorge itself to death but I’ve heard stories of it happening. Either way they don’t store fat for the winter so they aren’t in any need of extra helpings.

  • Justin

    I have a problem, i’m a new snake owner with my wife we have a ball python probly about 4 months old. we had have him for about 2 months and everytime he is in his tank, he is very agressive and hisses and strikes but my wife is a rough neck and takes him out anyway and he is fine once he is out of his tank. Now his tank is huge and very busy, it has a fountain fogger, caves and plenty of fake and real plants. we just notieced a problem on 7th SEP 09. Digging threw his beding there are hundereds of these tiny tiny white bugs. I looked it up and i think they might be spring tails.i dont no but then digging deeper, my tank bottom is cracked and dam near shattered in some areas. i read that maybe we have to much heat? i dont know and i need help. we have no problem regulating temp, he eats like a champ and has shed 2 times with very little problems it seems but bugs cracked botom of the tank, and if the tank can be to “busy”. Can i get some help please? thank you.

    Justin and Nichole
    USAF

  • lucy

    thanks a lot! i now know why my snake hasn’t shed for 7 weeks!

  • Darren_rout

    hi i have a 18 month old corn snake but she hasnt shed her skin since october thats wen i got her ant previos owner sed she shed the day i got her i keep her tank at the right temp and handle her quite alot
    can you help me ?

  • Nicki

    I just got a baby boa about two weeks ago, and I’ll say he just went through his first shed cycle.  Im worried because I haven’t really been able to handle it too much.  I’ve only held it twice in the two weeks.  I still am not fully ok with having a snake…kids choice.  Now I’m worried it will be angry or bit since I haven’t held it.  How long should I wait after his shedding cycle before I can really try?  Another thing is I am going out of town for 5 days, I was told I could feed him early since I wont be there for his feeding day…will be ok, or cause issues?

  • Darren_rout

    i always handle my snake about an hour after she has shed and she has never bit anyone. i would probs leave your snake for about a day since its still soo young nd cud get a bit snappy but snakes are only usually snappy during their shed not after it. and if your snake will take the feed early then it will be fine but it might not want it so early i feed my snake twice a week nd she’s only 2  

  • Adam L

    Shedding is a complicated set of cycles. When Ouroboros’ eyes are no longer milky or “in the blue,” I’m allowed to handle him as normal. This is usually when I give him a 20 minute soak (he might want less, let him leave) in distilled water no deeper than himself, and about 5-10F above room temperature (one minute on stove at med for me; results -VARY-).
    This is good so he can have a proper shed. He will still be in the old skin but is no longer scared and doesn’t threaten me at this point, though he is reticent to be moved; it’s wise to be gentle yet assertive and not to let him change your mind without a hiss or thrash.

    For feeding, seven to ten days should be okay for an adolescent; have not owned a baby but have read that five to seven is just fine. Two weeks is okay now and then for mature snakes.

    Don’t be afraid of a baby snake bite. It’s good for him to bite you once or twice, because you will feel no pain. Their teeth are like Velcro at this point.
    Obviously snakes don’t learn, so failure to intimidate you doesn’t tame him. But it’s the best opportunity you have to safely acclimate him to his new God. :-P

    And I really hope your son or daughter is already good with cats or dogs or something, it’s hard to tell when snakes are in pain as there is no yelp or any face we can read. I hope I’ve helped you and your snake, take care.

  • Tylertrouten

    I have 14 snakes some are a little aggressive coming out of the tank just their personality. But it sounds like your tank is too large common problem is pellet wasn’t to give their snake a ton of room it stresses them out the tank can be a small a half their length up to their full length no bigger the white bugs are nights and can kill your snake get rid of every thing in that cage start over. There’s a spray at any pet store for reptiles that have mites use it, a for gradient temperature easiest way is to keep ambient room temperature what their lottery temp needs to be and use a ceramic heat bulb in their hot side, all their tank needs is a larger water dish they can fit their entire body in one or two small hides they like tight spaces so not too big and a climbing it baking log and prior substrate either compressed coconut out aspen

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