Introducing your snake to a new tank
Congratulations on your pet snake! Whether you’ve just got them and you’re transferring them to their own little area inside your house, or you’ve had your snake for a while and you’re upgrading them to their forever home, it can be difficult on the both of you during this transition. Sweat no more though, because we’re here to spell it out nice and clearly for you.
There’s quite a bit that’s involved with setting up a snake’s home, but it’s fairly easy to do so! We’ll break it down into sections and just so we’re catering to anyone that would need this guide, we’ll assume you’ve just become set on buying a snake and you’ve got nothing yet, we’re going fully basic!
If you’ve got everything you need and you just want to know how to acclimate your snake to its new home, scroll past this section.
For everyone else, here’s what you’ll need to make a viv, a home:
The Vivarium. If you’ve got a ground dwelling snake, you’ll want your vivarium to be wider than it is tall. Likewise if you’ve got a tree dwelling snake then you’ll need a taller style vivarium to place the branches in. Research the particular snake you’d like and look at their tank size requirements, for example a corn snake requires a 4ft tank when they’re adults. If you’re going for a baby snake, you can get your large tank but they would become anxious at the size as they feel vulnerable in open spaces. You can place them in a breeder box which can also be placed inside the main tank until they’re 8-9 months old, then they should be okay in the large tank.
You need 2 heat mats - one for a “hot” side and one for a “cool” side, the cool side is still probably higher than room temperature especially in winter. Place heat probs next to the mats to make sure they’re within an ideal range. You can turn down the heat slightly at night - this will mimic their natural environment. Check out the specifics for your snake breed, but most will be fine with a cool side of 68F to 74F, and a warm side of 80F to 86F.
For a substrate we typically use Aspen Bedding, but bark is also available and some people just use newspapers. We prefer not to use newspapers because although it’s much cheaper, it doesn’t really mimic their natural environment which is what you should be aiming for.
Most snakes do not require UVB lamps, however you might want to add a regular lamp to your snakes vivarium to help simulate a day and night cycle.
For feeding it’s up to you, but most snakes enjoy mice or rats. You’ll start off with mice, the ones for baby snakes are called pinkies and you’ll gradually increase the size as your snake grows. For the first 9 months of your snake's life you should feed them a pinkie every 4 to 6 days. This is because they’re growing rapidly here and need regular nutrition to help them expand. After the 9 months you can start gradually reducing how often you feed them until they’re being fed every 7 to 10 days. For sizing, they should be fed one mouse no wider than the middle section of the snake, or 1.5 times the width of their head.
For decorations you’ll need a climbing branch even if your snake is ground dwelling, this will help them feel more at home in a natural habitat and they will use it for climbing. Some rocks would benefit them but only opt for smooth ones - snakes rub against things when shedding and sharp rocks would injure them.
You’ll need at least 2 hides, but we opt for 3. One hide on the hot side, one hide on the cool side, and our third hide we have in the middle filled with moss that we keep damp - this really helps them shed their skin when the time comes.
You’ll also need a water bowl, short but wide and preferably heavy as your snake will go for a bath occasionally.
Introducing your snake to their new home is called acclimating them. You’ll want their tank set up and running for 2 days before you plan to put them in there - this gives the heat pads time to warm up but also gives you time to monitor everything to ensure it’s all working. If for example, the heat pads aren’t working, that’s an issue that you’ll want to fix fairly immediately so if you’re going to have to wait for a few days for amazon to send you a replacement, it’s best not to have a snake being cold in there while this happens.
Find out when the snake was last fed, you’ll need time to let them acclimate before you feed them next, and they’ll also not enjoy being handled for up to 2 days after feeding. We recommend you move your snake to its new tank 2 days after it’s last feed, so that it has time to acclimate before it needs feeding again.
Don’t attempt to feed your snake right away. Acclimating your snake is stressful for it - they need a period of adjustment during which they can get comfortable with their new surroundings. The length of time required varies, but most people who deal with snakes agree that it generally takes 5 to 7 days.
During the adjustment period, you should make every effort not to disturb or otherwise stress the snake. There are a few things you can do that will help with this effort.
Keep the cage out of high traffic areas, so the snake isn't bothered by lots of people walking by all the time
Avoid handling the snake during this time.
Don't attempt to feed the snake during this time
Change the water every day
Spot clean any waste in the cage but don't clean the entire cage
After the acclimation period is over you can now start handling your new pet slightly. Take it a little bit at a time and if your snake starts to show any aggression then place them back in their homes for a while. Start by letting your snake become familiar with your scent by placing your hands in their tank - don’t try to touch them or pick them up, just let them investigate you for a couple of minutes twice a day for a few days. They’ll probably need feeding at this point, so feed them and then wait at least two days before you start interacting with them again and give them time to digest their meal. When you’re able to handle them again, put your hands in their tank again for them to get used to your scent again and then you can start handling them. We find that handling is easier during the day as the snakes are tired, they usually sleep during the day.
Gradually build this up until you’re both comfortable with each other. Keep in mind that just because a snake breed is considered to be calm and mild, it doesn’t mean that particular one is.