Pet snakes make wonderful display animals when they are properly housed. Aside from the snake itself the cage it lives in is the single most important part of the display. For the purpose of this article we are talking strictly about the cage. We won’t worry about accessories, hides, or water dishes except in as much as they dictate how the cage is utilized.
- Size of the cage
- This will depend on the species. The overall size of the snake is important to consider but so are the activity levels of the animal. Something like a Black Racer because it is more active is going to need more room than a Ball Python. A generic rule of thumb is that a cage should be at least 3/4 of the length of the snake. By no means is it the perfect formula, but it gives a starting point. If your snake is living in a cage smaller than 3/4 of it’s total length it is too small.
When you are choosing cage size also remember to leave room for the accessories. If the water dish takes up 4/5 of your snake’s floor space the cage is too small.
- Materials used to make the cage
- Full disclosure: I personally believe that plastic is the best material for MOST snake cages. That said it isn’t going to be the first choice for most people. Particularly those who want their snake to be a display animal.
- A lot of custom made cages use wood as their primary material. In my experience with wood several problems have come up.
- Weight: Wood is heavy. Moving it around is a pain and shipping can be very expensive
- Warping: Liquids from cleaning, rinsing, the snake going to the bathroom, spilled water and other sources can seep into the wood and cause it to warp.
- Rough edges: The better made cages have the rough edges rounded off and smoothed down. The ones that are just thrown together with a few nails and screws won’t.
- Absorption: In addition to warping wood cages are fertile breeding ground for bacteria.
- Maintaining the husbandry: Keeping the right temperature and humidity in a wood cage (particularly those with mesh wire fronts) can be a challenge.
If you intend to get a wood cage make certain that it is finished to help prevent it from absorbing moisture and warping. Ask specifically about the edges to make sure they are done. Sometimes the front and back of the wood is done but edges are not treated.
- For a snake that you plan to put on display glass is the best choice. It is easy to clean and relatively light for the size. It has a few problems as well.
- Cost: A glass enclosure is expensive.
- Breakable: Glass, as you know is breakable
- Maintaining the husbandry: Heating and keeping the humidity at the right levels can be a challenge for the beginner
- Because it is virtually impossible to control the heat and humidity inside a wire cage it is recommended that you do NOT use them. It’s possible to get away with them for a short time under the right conditions but they are entirely unacceptable as a long term housing solution.
- Plastic tubs
- For the cost, size, and durability there is nothing that beats a plastic Tupperware tub. They are easy to clean, light weight, and nearly indestructable under normal usage. They have a few problems of their own as well.
- Hard to view the snake: The plastic, even in the clear ones doesn’t make for a good display
- Size limitation: If you have large snakes plastic tubs are too small
- Securing the snake: You need to use bungee cords to keep the lid secure. The built in latches are much too small
Making a plastic snake cage is very easy, and affordable for pretty much anyone.
- Where to buy a snake cage
- Most people would rather buy a snake cage pre-made instead of messing around with making it themselves. There are many sources online where you can buy premade setups. Most of them come with heating and lighting options already installed and setup. A few of the better known ones are:
- Rack systems
- It is important to mention rack systems. These are basically shelving units designed to hold multiple snake enclosures. They are designed for people who have several snakes and aren’t meant for display. If you have many snakes and room is an issue then consider a rack. You can find them at the places mentioned above in the Where to buy a snake cage section.