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General information on Snake and Reptile Cages

If you are new to keeping snakes or reptiles then I suggest you talk to snake keepers, pets shops that specialize in reptiles and read as much as possible. You should also understand that it will cost money to set yourself up properly to care for your reptile. Our Reptiles Cage Plans website has snake and lizard cage plans designed to help you save money but there are other costs such as lighting, heat mats & lamps, thermostats, thermometers, heating & lighting power costs, accessories, substrates and food.

Pet snakes and reptiles generally fall into three categories, based on the environment from which they came. The cages that you house your pet in will depend on that environment. The most common of these types is the terrestrial, those that prefer solid ground and live and hunt in that environment. The other common types are arboreal snakes (tree snakes, iguanas) and semi aquatic snakes and reptiles (water snakes, water dragons, turtles).

Many people house their snakes and reptiles in converted aquariums but these are generally not the best place to house a snake. The glass does not insulate well and consequently loses heat easily and quickly. Smaller reptiles adapt quite well to this sort of environment and the heating costs are not really an issue as the tanks are smaller. This sort of environment is also suited to semi-aquatic reptiles as you can often section the tanks into dry and wet areas.

Acrylic cages are common and are quite a good alternative. They are easily washed and lightweight. The better ones can be expensive, depending on their size and options. It is generally a lot more expensive to make moulds for large shapes. There are some good models available but prepared to pay for them.

Custom snake reptile cages are also available. These can make very impressive displays, often zoo quality, but be prepared to pay from one to several thousand dollars for a top quality cage. They are well designed and can house all sorts of reptiles.

Wooden snake and reptile cages are also widely used. This is for a number of reasons:

  • Easy to construct at home as people already have many of the tools needed
  • Timber has good insulation properties; this reduces heat loss and also saves heating costs
  • Materials are readily available
  • Can be altered to suit the owner’s preferences

You will need to provide at least 3/4 square foot of living area per foot of snake housed within. This means that for cages measuring 2ft deep (wide) the length of the cage is roughly 2/3 the length of the snake to be housed in it i.e. 4ft snake has a 3ft x2ft cage, a 6ft snake requires a min 4ft x 2ft cage etc.

Reptile and snake cages also need to be secure. Ideally your reptile cage should be lockable to prevent people removing your animal without your presence and risking the chance of being bitten or in the case of a large reptile, potentially injuring or preventing fatalities in the case of young children.

This is even more true of venomous snakes. If you are new to snake keeping or have little experience then you should not consider a venomous snake. Only keepers with a lot of experience keep venomous snakes and even then not many.

Your reptile cage will also need to be ventilated. The ventilation should allow a free flow of air through the enclosure, without being too much. Most reptiles have a low metabolic rate and hence do not require a massive air flow.

The vents for your reptile enclosure will need to be made from plastic, rather than metal to prevent abrasions.

You will also need to clean your reptile’s cage thoroughly at least once a month on top of the daily and weekly removal and cleaning practices, including disinfecting the floors, to keep your reptile healthy and in good condition.

Reptiles regulate their temperature in the wild based on a variety of factors and they need to be able to do so in the artificial environment you provide. Your cage will need a temperature gradient and adequate provision for the reptile to regulate its temperature.

You may also have to regulate the humidity of your cage, depending on the type of snake you keep. Reptiles from tropical environments require high levels of humidity to remain healthy.

Heating can be provided in a number of ways, for example heat lamps (incandescent bulbs) and heat mats. You need to monitor and regulate the temperature of you reptile cage in a number of locations in order to keep your reptile comfortable. If you use incandescent globes, make sure they are not able to be accidentally touched by the reptile. As lizards do not have the ability to stretch out to heat lamps as easily, this is generally not an issue.

Reptiles requiring humidity will require that you measure the humidity and maintain it be between 40 and 70 percent, in order to provide the optimal environment for your pet.

Humidity gauges and thermometers should be placed at multiple locations within the reptile housing to monitor the temperatures and humidity throughout.

For arboreal species, you need to provide plenty of branches or resting platforms of different types and sizes in the reptile cage. Other decorations and cage accessories such as rock formations, hollow logs, or other hiding areas should be placed at different temperature locations within the enclosure.

The reptile cage will also require a substrate (base material). There are a wide range of these such as Aspen shavings, commercially available substrates designed for snakes newspaper and recycled paper material such as kitty litter.

You will also need a sturdy ceramic or plastic water bowl in your reptile cages. They need to have a flat base and be reasonable wide as snakes and reptiles will move around freely and knock poor water containers over. The water containers should be at both the warmer and cooler ends of the cage. Some species of snakes and reptiles like to have a larger water container that enable them to immerse themselves.

You may also need to provide a UV light, such as Zoo Med's Reptisun 5UVB, to assist you snake with the production of vitamins. Not all snakes require this so you need to check on your particular snake's requirements. Many species of lizards and skinks do require these UV lights to produce vitamin D so it is best to make sure of your animals requirements when setting up an enclosure.

Happy cage making.

Mark Chapple