garter snake housing
Snake Vivarium Setup

Top 3 Garter Snake Enclosures (with Sizing and Setup Requirements)

Garter snakes are ideal beginner pets due to their docile nature. They still require a great deal of attention and care. A substandard habitat will leave many reptiles stressed and unsettled.

What is the best garter snake enclosure? Buy a vivarium that’s the right size, which is typically 15 gallons. You will need to pick out the perfect substrate, such as cypress mulch. Lighting, temperature, and humidity must be moderated at all times. You could include some particular decorations to keep your garter snake comfortable.

There is a lot to know if you’re to keep your snake healthy. This guide will explain everything you need for the perfect enclosure. Follow this advice and your garter snake will have a contented life.

What Are the Best Garter Snake Vivariums?

Let’s take a look at three of the finest terrariums available for garter snakes that can be purchased from Amazon. All of these should be housed within a wooden cabinet wherever possible.

1) Tetra Deluxe Aquatic Turtle Kit

As the name suggests, this terrarium is designed for turtles. Despite this, it can be used as a cost-effective home for a small garter snake.

There is capacity for everything essential, such as heating lamps and basking spots. Naturally, you won’t need to fill it with water like you would for an amphibious pet.

Tetra Deluxe Aquatic Turtle Kit

You may just need to use some classic security techniques, such as heavy books on the lid. Garter snakes are lighter than other breeds, but they may be able to lift the lid.

This may not be an ideal permanent home for your garter snake. As your snake grows, you may want something bigger with greater capacity for decoration. However, it is an affordable and acceptable starting point for a beginner.

You can buy the Tetra Deluxe Aquatic Turtle Kit on Amazon by clicking on this link.

2) ReptiZoo Reptile Glass Terrarium

This terrarium is among the easiest to install and remove from a cabinet. It is also very user-friendly, thanks to front-opening doors. You can lock these when not in use, preventing curious children from letting your snake loose.

This terrarium has functionality and aesthetic appeal. You’ll be able to apply plenty of substrate, and heating from below the floor.

ReptiZoo Reptile Glass Terrarium

Ventilation is provided through the ceiling, so make sure that the terrarium is not covered. This may mean that you need to keep an eye on the humidity levels of the habitat.

This terrarium could be a little large for a single garter snake. However, it is very spacious and allows all manner of decorations and additions.  If you have more than one snake, however, it is a great enclosure.

You can buy the ReptiZoo Reptile Glass Terrarium on Amazon by clicking on this link.

3) Exo Terra Allglass Terrarium

Available in a vast array of shapes and sizes, this habitat is ideal for larger garter snakes. Alternatively, anybody looking to house more than one reptile could do far worse. The Medium Wide model is ideal for a solitary garter snake, however.

Small ventilation windows at the front will help your snake breathe, but not escape. Two doors at the front of the terrarium allow easy access for feeding and cleaning. However, there is no need to worry. These doors come with a sturdy lock that prevents a snake from getting away.

Exo Terra Allglass Terrarium

There are plenty of areas to apply heating lamps and other appliances to this terrarium. The high windows also mean that you’ll be able to lay down plenty of substrate. This is important for a snake that loves to burrow. There will also be space for all manner of decorations.

Overall, it will be tricky to find a terrarium more practical and aesthetically pleasing than this. This particular model should suit all needs and can be tailored exactly how it’s needed.

You can buy the Exo Terra Allglass Terrarium on Amazon by clicking on this link.

Garter Snake Habitat Requirements

Finding the correct garter snake housing is hugely important. Your pet reptile will need to feel safe and comfortable within their home.

This means they will need to have places to hide. You will have to ensure that the temperature and levels of humidity are suitable. A daring escape will have to be prevented, for your snake’s own safety and protection.

It’s a big responsibility to keep your garter snake happy and healthy. Thankfully, you can do so if you follow the appropriate advice.

What is the Ideal Garter Snake Enclosure Material?

You should always look for a wooden enclosure for your garter snake’s vivarium. Not only is wood sturdy and reliable, but it insulates and retains heat well. A vivarium that is entirely glass will potentially allow heat to escape.

You must also allow plenty of ventilation in and out of your snake’s habitat. Ensure that these breathing holes are not too big, though. A garter snake is a master of escape and can slip through deceptively small openings.

The Ideal Size of a Garter Snake Habitat

A common mistake that many new snake owners make is in the sizing of a habitat. Snakes need to stretch to make themselves comfortable, or they start biting their own tails.

However, snakes also loathe and fear feeling exposed. Placing a garter snake in a giant habitat could cause them a great deal of stress.

The optimum cage size for a garter snake should be slightly larger than the dimensions of the reptile itself. That means that can add the length and width of the snake together. The average length of a garter snake is 22 inches; a little less than two feet.

The width of a snake will be less than this, often by around half. This makes a 15-gallon habitat, which works out as roughly 2.5 cubic feet, safe for an adult garter snake.

You can larger than this if you desire. Just do not leave large, open spaces. Offer your snake plenty of shelter as they negotiate the habitat.

You will need to start smaller when your garter snake is a hatchling. You may need up to three different habitats until your snake reaches full maturity.

Watch your reptile’s growth, remembering that their size may change with every skin shedding. You will need to take the appropriate action to keep them safe and comfortable.

The Substrate (Bedding)

Garter snakes are quite low maintenance when it comes to the substrate. Some owners use paper toweling or newspaper. This will make for simple spot cleaning, as your snake will release waste roughly once a week.

If you are keen on something a little more aesthetically pleasing, consider cypress mulch. This can be purchased from any reputable pet and reptile store.

Cypress mulch will typically increase the humidity in a garter snake’s enclosure. This makes it particularly ideal if your snake is struggling to shed their skin.

Temperature and Lighting

Garter snakes are typically active during the day and will need a consistent basking temperature. Applying a 40W heating lamp to one end of the enclosure will create temperatures up to 90OF. Try not to go any higher than this.

It’s not just about the warm conditions, though. Your garter snake will also need to able to escape to cool off at the other end of their habitat.

An average temperature of 72OF on the other side of the vivarium should keep your reptile comfortable. Apply a thermometer to the habitat so you can be sure that your snake is safe.

In addition to a close eye on the temperature, you must also provide your garter snake with a water bowl. Refill this regularly. Your snake will drink from this and lay in the water to cool off where necessary.

If your snake is crawling around their vivarium with their mouth open, they are too hot. You will need to reduce the temperature of their habitat in such a circumstance.

garter snake vivarium

When the night comes, garter snakes require complete darkness to sleep. That means switching off their heat lamp. However, you may need to find another, milder way of keeping your snake warm. This could be a heat mat, which lies beneath the substrate.

In addition to this, however, you will need to consider the ambient temperature and lighting of the room. Snakes can become distressed if their vivarium is housed in a noisy room. Likewise, they will struggle to sleep if the lights are on and off through the night.

Find a quiet room where the snake will not be disturbed once the lights go out. You must also keep your snake’s habitat away from direct sunlight at all costs. This can lead to a reptile overheating, and it can quickly become fatal.

Ideal Level of Humidity

Gartner snakes require a certain level of humidity to be able to shed their skin. However, these snakes are not aquatic by nature. This means that excessive humidity could damage their skin and lead to blisters.

The ideal level of humidity for a garter snake’s vivarium is somewhere between 35-60%. Aim for the higher end of the scale during shedding season, and lower just after. You can also apply sprays and mist to create artificial humidity in the habitat.


Garter snakes live fairly Spartan lives and do not require much in the way of decoration. As long as they have plenty of places to hide, such as logs, they’ll be happy. In addition to these logs, you will also need a formal hide box for your snake.

You could also apply some sterile tree branches and rocks for your snake to climb on. Just boil them in water and dry them thoroughly before placing them in a habitat. These are not strictly necessary though; your garter snake may take or leave them.

Consider these items to be the reptile equivalent of pet toys for exercise and recreation. Never use a ‘hot rock,’ though. This will cause an artificial temperature spike in your snake, and potentially do them serious harm.

Is Keeping Garter Snakes Together Recommended?

This is a source of much debate among garter snake enthusiasts. While it’s true that snakes are typically solitary creatures, garter snakes are more sociable than most.

In fact, baby garter snakes may be happier when accompanied by a friend or sibling. These snakes can also be found nesting together while in the wild.

Some sub-species of garter snake are cannibalistic, however, and should never be housed together.

These include:

  • Wandering Garter Snake (thamnophis vagrans)
  • Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (thamnophis elegans)
  • Coast Garter Snake (thamnophis terrestris)
  • Checkered Garter Snake (thamnophis marcianus)

Keep these garter snakes separate at all times. If you are unsure which variety you are bringing into your home, check with the breeder.

Some instances of cannibalism have been reported in common garter snakes, but it’s very rare. This is more likely to be a result of confusion and occasional irritability.

Some experts claim that no two snakes should live together, only sharing a habitat while mating. Some believe that co-living will eventually lead to battles over territory, and certainly over food. Indeed, even the most docile and friendly snake may become cantankerous and jealously guard their meals.

If you are going to keep multiple garter snakes, it’s advisable to feed them separately. Give your snakes a little wash before returning them to their shared habitat, too. If one or other still smells like food, it could lead to confusion and biting.

You will need to invest in a larger vivarium if two snakes will live together. You will also need to be particularly vigilant about cleaning, and ensuring the temperature remains constant.

Sickness can spread quickly among reptiles. This means that if one snake grows unwell, it’s almost unavoidable that the other will follow.

If you are not sure what kind of home will suit your garter snake best, you should discuss it with an expert. Breeders will be able to offer all manner of advice.

Also, remember that every snake has a personality of their own, however. It may be advisable to get to know your reptile before housing them.

Maintaining the right habitat for your garter snake is so important. A garter snake that is cared for properly will be much happier, and healthier. While snakes can be quite temperamental and easily stressed, these steps will keep your reptile content.