It is critical that your snake be able to regulate it’s temperature as needed. This is accomplished largely due to your maintaining the tank temperatures at the correct levels at all times. Trail and error has shown that while there are many different ways to do this only a few are feasible for most people. This article will explain how you can do this.
- Find out the required ranges
- Before you can start regulating the temperature inside of your snakes cage you need to know what the ranges are. The first range you want to be familiar with is called the ambient or background temperature. This is the background air temperature inside the snake’s tank at all times. Every species of snake is different so you’ll need to figure out on your own what your particular breed of snake requires. A good place to do so is by looking at some care sheets dedicated to your species.
The other range is the basking area. This is the area of the cage that the snake will be in when it wants to warm up a little bit. This will usually be several degrees warmer than the ambient temperatures. Not only does it provide a place for the snake to warm up, but because a snake depends on heat to aid in digestion it is important that you make this type of an area available to the snake as needed.
- Setup and testing
- I find the best thing to do is to start by getting the ambient temperature correct. There are a few approaches to doing this. One way is to regulate each individual tank’s temperature using various heating elements such as lamps, under tank heaters, and/or ceramic heat emitters.
The second way which I prefer is to regulate the overall room temperature where the snake’s cage is located. An oil filled space heater does a great job of this. Obviously take the appropriate safety precautions if you use a space heater.
Once you’ve decided on the method set up the system and let it run for at least 48 hours without any snakes living in it. The idea is to allow you to work out any problems before you expose your snake to potential hazards. It is especially important to get the ambient temperatures regulated properly because your snake won’t be able to escape them in the confines of its cage. The basking temps you have a little more leeway to work with.
After you have the ambient temps fixed it is time to setup the basking temperatures. In addition to the temperature ranges you’ll also need to research the preferred method of heating for your type of snake. Some snakes, for example Ball Pythons, do better with belly heat than overhead heat in their basking spot. It is important for the health and longevity of your snake to provide the preferred method of heating if at all possible.
A final word about this setup and testing phase. Everything you put in the tank with the snake will impact the temperature. Water dishes, hides, decor and whatever else you can think of. Because of this it is important to test with everything that will be in there with the exception of the snake.
- Introducing the snake
- After you’ve gone through the 48 hour testing period it is time to put your snake in the new setup. This is the most critical phase because if you did it wrong and didn’t really test you could end up killing your pet. I like to introduce snakes into a new setup on a friday night after work and monitor them carefully over the course of the weekend. This way I can be there to correct any problems should they arise.
Even if you can’t give it an entire weekend you should at least give it 6 hours to be available if you need to make any adjustments. During this time keep a careful eye on the ambient temps and the behavior of the snake. Watch where the snake spends most of its time. A self-regulating snake will move from hot spot to cool spot as needed.
- A final word about regulating temperatures
- When it comes to regulating temperatures there are two critical components you will need to have. The first is a good thermometer. Without one of these you have no way of knowing how close or far off you are. I find the best one to be made by Acurite and sold at Wal-Mart. It features 2 temperature displays (indoor/outdoor), a remote probe, and a built in hygrometer. You place the main unit on the cool end of the tank about 2 inches off the substrate and run the remote probe over to the basking spot and secure it there.
The next critical piece of equipment is a thermostat. They can be a little spendy ($100+ for a good one), but don’t skimp out on this. Proportional is better than the on/off version but it is also a little more expensive. I’m not going to make special recommendation about what thermostats to use other than to say make sure they are designed specifically for use with reptiles.