Snakes rely on their environment to control their body temperature. This means that you must provide your snake with a source of warmth. This starts with the ambient temperature in the room, but the snake’s enclosure must also be appropriately heated.
Ensure your snake’s vivarium has an artificial heat source, such as heating mats, lamps, and cables. Hot rocks should be avoided. Provide substrate that your snake can burrow in to retain warmth. Insulate your snake’s enclosure, without sacrificing ventilation.
If you are concerned about your snake’s temperature, consider 15-20 minutes of handling. Human body heat can quickly warm up a snake. Focus on keeping your snake’s tank at a species-specific temperature.
Is My Snake Too Cold in My House?
Like all reptiles, snakes are ectothermic. This means that snakes do not generate heat or warmth from their own bodies. Snakes do not gain warmth or energy from food, either. Your snake is entirely dependent on direct heat sources.
According to the Journal of Experimental Biology, snakes adjust to the temperature around them. This does not mean that you can leave a snake in the cold, though. Learn the warning signs that a snake is too cold:
- Vomiting and regurgitating meals
- Constant burrowing or basking
- Loss of appetite
- Complete lethargy
If a snake is too cold for too long, it will eventually prove fatal. A snake that lacks sufficient body temperature cannot digest food. Cold snakes also struggle to excrete and experience a range of additional health concerns. When cool weather arrives, keep your snake warm.
How to Keep a Snake Warm
There are several ways that you can keep your snake warm. You’ll need to equip your snake’s vivarium appropriately. Before you even get this far, think about the room that houses your snake.
Where possible, avoid keeping snakes in cold or damp spaces such as garages. Many wild snakes live in desert environments. This means that snakes prefer a warm climate. Snakes need more support in a cold house.
As explained by Reptile Wellness Management, an uncomfortable snake will grow stressed. This will be detrimental to a snake’s general health, leading to disease. Ensuring that your snake is warm enough is to first step to preventing such concerns.
Once you have mastered the ambient temperature of your home, focus on warming your snake’s habitat. Remember that snakes need variation in temperature, though. Constant, excessive heat is just as dangerous as non-stop coolness.
Ambient Room Temperature
Your first consideration should be the ambient temperature of your snake’s room. If you keep your snake in a bedroom or lounge, this is of limited concern. A comfortable room temperature for humans is fine, provided additional heat sources are added to the vivarium.
Cold rooms or houses are different. You may keep your snake in a garage, for example, or a shed. The cool temperatures that uninhabited rooms plummet to can be harmful to snakes. Never allow a snake to roam free in such locations. It needs concentrated heat sources.
Aim for an ambient temperature of around 78 degrees Fahrenheit in your snake’s room. This is easy to achieve during the summer. If your thermostat reads 78 degrees, try to avoid using air conditioning. This can cause a draft that makes snakes cold and uncomfortable.
During the winter, a thermostat that reads 78 degrees is harder to obtain. It may cost a great deal in energy bills. This makes additional heat sources in your snake’s vivarium critical. Your snake will need to find other ways to stay warm.
Apply timed central heating or a portable storage heater to your snake’s room during winter. This will not be enough to keep the snake warm alone, but it’s a start. You can supplement these with vivarium-specific heat boosters.
Vivarium Heat Sources
As discussed, your snake will need hat sources applied straight to its vivarium. This way, the snake can replicate the experience of basking in the sun. This is how a wild snake would obtain enough energy to get through a day.
Any reputable pet store will stock heating apparatus for a vivarium. It is important to remember the need for variety. Heating apparatus should be restricted to one end of your snake’s enclosure. The other should offer a cool, dark hiding place.
This way, the snake can warm up when needed. Once necessary, the snake can then seek shade and cool off. This prevents the snake from growing uncomfortable. This variety replicates the lifestyle of a wild snake.
A heat lamp is the first thing that should be purchased for any snake enclosure. Heat lamps are affixed to one corner of a vivarium. Shine the lamp directly onto a basking spot for your snake. The snake will lay and absorb this heat when needed.
Heat lamps naturally give off more warmth than a typical lightbulb. Essentially, it will turn one part of the vivarium into a tropical paradise. Once the snake is warm enough, it will move to another, shaded part of the enclosure.
If your heat lamp doesn’t keep your snake warm enough, don’t add a second. This is dangerous, and likely to overheat your snake. It could also impact a snake’s understanding of light and dark cycles. Instead, investigate a second heating source.
Heating mats are placed on the ground of a vivarium. They provide heat from below, akin to undersoil heating on a sport’s pitch. While a heating mat is undeniably effective, it can be dangerous for snakes.
A snake’s stomach will be constantly on the ground. This means that it can quickly be burned by a heat mat. Snakes lack nerve endings in the belly. Your snake will not understand that it is in trouble until it’s too late.
Heat mats have a time and a place. You may wish to consider a small mat, used for a brief period of time. After eating is ideal. This will help your snake digest. Do not rely on heat mats as a constant source of warmth, though.
Rocks are a popular place for wild snakes. As explained by the Ecological Society of America, most snakes spend more time under rocks than exposed. Rocks can be added to a vivarium to make a snake feel at home.
Some snake owners also apply hot rocks to an enclosure. These are artificial rocks that plug into a mains power source. This, in turn, provides direct heat. Snakes will gravitate to these rocks and enjoy the warmth they provide. As with heat mats, this is inadvisable.
Heat rocks will invariably burn a snake’s skin after prolonged exposure. Many heat rocks are also cheaply produced. This makes them at risk of catching fire or even exploding. Avoid heat rocks unless certain they are high quality, and watch your snake’s use carefully.
Heating cables can provide small, additional heat to specific areas of a vivarium. Unlike other forms of heating, these cables are not placed inside the enclosure. Instead, they are located below or beside the vivarium.
Heat cables come in a wide range of sizes, offering varying temperatures. While not a single solution, heating cables can be a great addition to a cold room. During winter months, they can provide just enough warmth to keep a snake comfortable.
Wild snakes are shy. Most snakes will spend the vast majority of their day underground, hiding. The same may also be true of your pet. The right substrate can help a snake to retain body heat.
Consider coconut fiber or cypress mulch as a substrate for snakes that enjoy burrowing. These materials are safe and comparatively warm. Your snake will be able to spend time buried in the substrate without harm.
Substrate alone will not keep a snake warm. That’s like expecting a human to sleep under a blanket without a comforter. It can retain heat already obtained though, at least in the short term.
Consider insulating your snake’s vivarium if your snake is housed in a cold room. This will help the enclosure retain any heat that is produced. Wooden vivariums tend to be well insulated by nature. Plastic or glass enclosures struggle to hold warmth quite as well.
Cork or foam boards can be applied externally to a vivarium. Just ensure that you leave your snake a viewing window. You could also apply aluminum foil to the roof of the vivarium.
If desperate, toss a towel over the vivarium. This should be a, short-term measure though. Your snake will grow distressed in plunged into permanent darkness. A towel will also reduce ventilation.
When assessing the insulation of a snake’s vivarium, you must also consider ventilation. While wooden enclosures are better for insulation, they can offer poor airflow.
Ventilation can be a touchy subject with vivariums. Snakes need fresh air. Without appropriate ventilation, snakes can develop respiratory issues. Ventilation also aids with the humidity in a vivarium.
Excessive ventilation can reduce the temperature in a snake’s habitat, though. This can leave your snake too cold, causing stress and anxiety.
Your snake needs air flow. This quality is more important than quantity. Invest in a vivarium with multiple ventilation slots, strategically opening and closing them as necessary.
Leaving one slot constantly open creates a draught that will chill your snake and cause distress. Opening all of them during the winter will allow heat to escape. Finding this middle ground and compromise is critical.
In a power outage, you may be unable to warm a vivarium. Equally, your home may become unexpectedly cold. In these instances, you need to warm up your snake through other means.
Hot Water Bottles
Ensure that the hot water bottle has a cover. This should be thick enough to protect your snake’s skin without sacrificing warmth. Observe your snake, ensuring it uses the hot water bottle.
All being well, the snake will lie upon the hot water bottle. Here it will stay until enough warmth has been obtained. The snake will then seek shade before it overheats, aiming to return later.
Eventually, this heat source will cool off. When this happens, remove and refill it. Before this happens, ensure your snake gained heat from it. If this is not the case, you’ll need a secondary measure.
Sharing Body Heat
In the wild, snakes will gather and share body heat and stay warm. This is not an option with pet snakes. Trying to house multiple snakes in a single enclosure will rarely end well.
you could share your body heat with a snake. Ensure the snake is used to handling and allow it to crawl over you. Your snake will warm up quickly, as a human’s body temperature is considerably higher.
This high body temperature can cause problems. Do not handle the snake for long. The temperature sweet spot for most snakes is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The average human body temperature is closer to 98 degrees.
You will not burn your snake’s skin by handling it. Prolonged exposure will make the snake uncomfortable, though. This leads to stress and potential aggression. If your snake is cold, a little handling goes a long way. It is preferable to use artificial heat sources where possible.
Keeping a snake warm in a cold house is an essential element of reptile husbandry. Monitor your snake, ensuring that it is comfortable. Offer a range of heating options, learning which is preferred. This will make the winter months much more manageable for your snake.