Snakes are something of an enigma in the animal kingdom, they exhibit a combination of behaviours and proficiencies that make them fascinating creatures to so many. But it would seem that for the vast majority of people, learning about them on a David Attenborough series or viewing them from afar at the zoo is about as close as many of us would ever want to get. But snakes are wonderful creatures and owning them as a pet is a rewarding and interesting experience that you may be thinking about getting into. If you are considering a snake as your reptilian companion then you'll want to know that owning a snake comes with some fairly unique challenges. One of those challenges is the need to keep them warm.
Why Do I Need To Keep My Pet Snake Warm?
If you're about to drop some cash on a vivarium (the name for snake and other reptile enclosures) then you are probably wondering why this is a necessary step in the first place. This is because snakes are ectothermic, which is the scientific way of saying that they rely on their environment to warm them up. This process is technically known as 'thermoregulation' and means that snakes cannot generate their own body heat as we mammals can.
There are two types of thermoregulation, passive and active. Passive thermoregulation occurs when an animal soaks up heat from its surroundings, this is how most snakes warm themselves up most of the time. Active thermoregulation occurs when an animal produces its own heat, usually through muscular activity, this is how snakes digest their prey for example.
Most pet snakes come from tropical or subtropical climates so they will require a 'basking spot' (don't we all) in their vivarium where they are able to warm themselves up in order to lend a helping hand to their digestive and immune systems. It's also advised that there is a cooler part of the tank so that the snake has the option to cool down when needed.
What Products Do I Need To Buy?
There are a few options available to pet snake owners when it comes to heating up their slithery friend's home. You can go for a heat pad, which is placed underneath the vivarium and will provide a consistent level of heat from below. Heat lamps are another option and these can be placed either inside or outside of the vivarium, depending on your set-up. These emit a directional beam of heat, so you'll need to be careful that your snake has access to the heat but isn't in danger of being scorched by the bulb. This is a genuine concern by the way and your heat lamps need to have either a spacer or screen to ensure there's no direct contact.
How Do I Know If My Snake Is Overheating?
This is a tricky one, as snakes don't sweat (another side effect of being ectothermic) so they can't cool down in the same way that we can. This means that it's important to be vigilant about the temperature in their vivarium and to know what the ideal temperature range is for your particular snake species.
Though it does depend on the snake, for most – the basking spot should be between 30 and 35 degrees Celcius, with the rest of the tank being 5 to 10 degrees cooler. If you notice your snake spending a large portion of its time on the cooler side of the tank and leaving the warm part, it's generally a good indicator that the temp could come down a bit.
How Much Does Snake Heating And Lighting Cost?
The cost of heating and lighting your snake's tank will depend on the size and type of vivarium you have as well as the number of snakes you are keeping. The price will really depend on how you choose to go about heating the tank. For example, thermal rocks are brilliant for snakes and they love them for basking, but they are a more expensive option than just using lamps.
Keeping your pet snake warm doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, but it is important to do it right in order to ensure the health and well-being of your reptilian friend. With a little bit of research, you'll be an expert in no time!
Will I Need To Get A Thermostat For My Reptile Tank?
In order to know exactly what the temperature of your snake's enclosure is you will indeed need to get a thermostat. Thermostats are different from thermometers as they don't just tell you the temperature, they are actually connected to the heating elements and directly control the temperature of the tank. Having an additional thermometer on the cool side of the tank is a helpful addition for knowing what the temperature split is like from one side to the other.
If you have any other questions regarding snake care or diet then feel free to get in touch with us at PetWave!