Before you get a rough green snake, it is essential that you learn what you need to know to take good care of it. They can live over 15 years in captivity, and you want to make sure it is happy and healthy during that time.
Rough green snakes are arboreal, insectivorous snakes. They thrive in temperate, humid environments with plenty of foliage to climb on and hide under. Give your rough green snake a spacious enclosure and maintain proper temperature and humidity levels. Rough green snakes prefer to eat crickets, grasshoppers, and other small invertebrates.
While these snakes are usually gentle and are not venomous, they can become stressed and not fond of handling. This means that they’re more suited to an experienced snake handler rather than a beginner.
Caring for a Rough Green Snake
The rough green snake has the scientific name Opheodrys aestivus. This snake is a part of the Colubridae snake family. It is an arboreal snake that comes to the ground to forage for food during the day. At night, rough green snakes sleep coiled in the branches of a tree.
What Do Rough Green Snakes Look Like?
Rough green snakes have a slender body well-suited for climbing trees and moving through thick underbrush. They are relatively short compared to other colubrids. They have large, round eyes that are attractive to look at.
Their light green coloration allows them to camouflage well in the surrounding forest foliage. They have no distinctive patterns on their keeled scales other than their solid light green color. This snake’s belly color may be white, yellow, or pale green.
While in some species of snakes one gender is much larger than the other, rough green snakes have very little sexual dimorphism. In some individuals, the females have a slightly longer or larger body than the males, but this is not statistically significant. They’re about 2-3 feet long.
Where Do Rough Green Snakes Live?
According to the Animal Diversity Web, rough green snakes are commonly found throughout the southeastern United States. They prefer a temperate, riparian climate. The northernmost part of its natural habitat is in southern New Jersey, continuing south along the east coast into the Florida Keys. They can also be found in central Oklahoma, Texas, and some parts of northern Mexico.
These snakes thrive best in arboreal areas with dense foliage. You will usually find these snakes in the wild in vegetation that hangs over the water. This can include the edges of forests, upland ravines, streambanks, and lakeshores. Rough green snakes most commonly choose deciduous trees as their home for the night, but during the day you will find them hidden in fields, hedgerows, and shrubs.
Do Rough Green Snakes Make Good Pets?
Rough green snakes are shy, timid animals. They can get stressed out easily in unfamiliar circumstances. They also do not overly enjoy being handled and can resist attempts to feed them. As a result, a rough green snake might not be the best option for a beginner snake owner or for someone who wants to actively handle their pet snake.
However, rough green snakes are good pets for experienced reptile keepers, and for people who enjoy watching their pets. These snakes are slow-moving animals, which helps them stealthily hunt their prey in the wild. Their tendency to mimic the motion of a branch slowly swaying in the breeze makes them calming and entertaining to watch.
What Kind Of Enclosure?
There are several aspects you should consider when providing a new home for your pet snake. Let’s look at these aspects one at a time.
How Big Should The Enclosure Be?
Be sure to provide your snake with enough space to comfortably move around in. A 20-30 gallon terrarium should suffice. Vertical space for climbing is also a must since these snakes are arboreal.
Snakes are curious animals, and the rough green snake is no exception. Make sure that your rough green snake’s enclosure is completely escape-proof. It will attempt to poke and climb around to find a way out. With its slender body, even the smallest hole can turn into an escape route. A sturdy lock or clamps can keep the screen top on a terrarium.
What Kind Of Substrate?
Your snake needs more than just the floor of its cage or tank to crawl on. There are many options you can utilize for a substrate for your rough green snake. Keep in mind that you should avoid bedding that is too dusty or abrasive, or made with extra scents or chemicals which can irritate your snake’s lungs. Options for a substrate include:
- Paper towels
- Cypress mulch
- Sphagnum moss
- Coconut husk
- Orchid bark
Be sure to keep your snake’s tank clean. This means not only removing fecal matter, but also regularly removing and replacing all of the substrate in the tank. This will keep down the risks of bacteria or parasites.
How Should You Furnish The Enclosure?
Rough green snakes are most comfortable when they have plenty of greenery to hide in. You can choose whether to provide it with fake plants, which do not require any additional care on your part, or real plants. Porthos, ivy, and other non-toxic plants should survive well in a rough green snake’s tank, giving your snake a natural environment.
You should also provide your snake with things to climb on and hide under. Branches and vines are good climbing material, similar to the branches the snake would climb on in the wild.
Hide boxes are also a must. A hide box is a cave or tunnel-like structure under which a snake can conceal itself. You can make your own hide box from a ceramic flowerpot, plastic container, or cardboard box, or you can purchase one at a pet store. Have one hide box at the warmer end of the enclosure and another at the cooler end of the enclosure, to give your snake options depending on its need in a given moment.
How Warm Should The Enclosure Be?
Rough green snakes thrive in temperate climates. As with other snakes, it is best to give your snake some variety with temperature options. One end of the enclosure should be warmer than the other. There should also be a basking spot, which can be provided by a heat lamp.
- Cool End Temperature: Around 70 degrees Fahrenheit
- Warm End Temperature: Around 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Basking Spot Temperature: Between 85 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit
- Nighttime Cooling: Between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
There are several tools you can use to maintain the temperature levels of your tank. An overhead heat bulb, a ceramic heat emitter, or a heat mat under the tank are common options. Heat tape is also a good option if you have multiple snake tanks and want to connect them to a single heat source. Whatever heat source you choose, make sure that the snake cannot directly come into contact with it, to avoid burns.
You can keep track of the temperature in your snake’s tank easily with thermometers. Attach a thermometer to the warm side of the tank as well as the cooler side, so you can keep an eye on all temperatures and adjust when necessary.
Should You Provide Extra Lighting?
A natural day/night cycle is great to help these diurnal snakes maintain their natural rhythms. Rough green snakes should have exposure to ultraviolet light for between ten and twelve hours every day. This can be accomplished with natural lighting from the area, but if you know that that will not be enough, you should provide an extra light source.
If you are using an overhead heat bulb as a heat source for the tank, make sure that the bulb can emit different colors of light. White light is ideal during the day, while red, blue, or purple light is best at night.
How Humid Should The Enclosure Be?
Rough green snakes thrive in a humid environment, since they live near water. Get a hygrometer and attach it to the inside of the tank. This is a tool that will measure humidity levels.
- Humidity Range: 55% to 65%
If you need to increase the humidity in the tank, you can provide your snake with a larger water bowl, or even use a spray bottle to mist water inside the tank every day. If you have live plants inside the tank, this will contribute to humidity levels.
While humidity is important, make sure that the tank substrate is not continually wet. A wet substrate can encourage the growth of bacteria and cause respiratory infections in snakes.
What To Feed a Rough Green Snake
Rough green snakes are carnivores with a preference for insects. In the wild, they usually feed on caterpillars, crickets, moths, and grasshoppers. Occasionally they will eat larger prey, such as snails, spiders, or frogs. Invertebrates such as crickets and grasshoppers are their favorite foods.
You can usually order crickets through your local pet store, making them a practical diet for a rough green snake. If you can, it is good to mix in different foods for a varied diet. Add grasshoppers, moths, spiders, and earthworms to your snake’s meals whenever possible.
Mealworms are another option for feeding a rough green snake, though not as often as you feed it crickets. Freshly molted mealworms are easier for your snake to digest. Always make sure that the prey items you offer your snake are not wider than your snake’s body. Snakes do not chew their food; rather they swallow them whole.
Whatever prey you choose to give your snake, make sure that the prey is gut-loaded. This means that the prey should be given a nutritious diet of their own before they are fed to the snake. Be sure to stock up on cricket food and feed your crickets before feeding your pet snake. It is also a good idea to dust your snake’s food with a calcium supplement.
How Often Should You Feed Your Snake?
Rough green snakes need to be fed a little more frequently than other snakes, given how small their prey of choice is. Feed your rough green snake once or twice a week.
Do not be too worried if it tries to avoid eating at first. Rough green snakes are often nervous in new environments. If you are concerned that your snake is not eating at all, take your snake to a reptile veterinarian.
What About Water?
Make sure that your rough green snake has a source of fresh water. This should be large enough for the snake to climb into and soak itself in, but not too deep that the snake may have trouble getting out again. Provide your snake with fresh water, without chlorine in it. Replace the water daily and thoroughly clean and disinfect the water dish at least once per week.
Don’t be too worried if you don’t see the snake drinking water from the bowl during the day that often. According to The Southwestern Naturalist, in the wild, rough green snakes are able to live away from sources of standing water such as ponds by drinking droplets of dew they find on leaves. If you are misting the tank and its greenery every day with a spray bottle to maintain humidity, then your snake will have enough water.
Can You House Rough Green Snake Together?
Rough green snakes are asocial animals. When approached by another animal, their typical first response is to freeze in place in an attempt to hide. If they are touched by another snake or a human, they usually respond defensively, striking out at the perceived threat.
Some owners have had success keeping two rough green snakes in the same enclosure. If you choose to attempt this, make sure to provide more space for the snakes to move around, so that they can avoid each other if they want to. For two adult rough green snakes, a 70-75 gallon tank is ideal.
These snakes do come together to breed. You may want to have a male and female snake in the same enclosure if you want to breed your snakes.
Breeding Rough Green Snakes
According to researchers at Saint Louis University, male and female rough green snakes reach sexual maturity after twelve months of age. In the wild, females will pay their eggs in rotting logs or other enclosed spaces. These eggs are smooth, adhesive, and capsule-shaped.
It is relatively simple to breed rough green snakes in captivity. If they are of the right age and it’s the right time of year, all you need to do is house the snakes together.
- Mating Season: June through August
- Average Clutch Size: 5 or 6 eggs
- Clutch Size Range: 3 to 12 eggs
- Typical Egg Incubation Period: 41 days
- Hatchling size: 8 inches
How To Handle Your Rough Green Snake
When you first get your rough green snake, do not handle it much. These snakes get very stressed when they are touched or kept out in the open. Allow your snake to get used to its new home and become comfortable in the hiding places of its enclosure.
If you do need to handle your rough green snake, make sure that you let it feel secure. Support it with both hands and hold it close to your body.
How To Avoid Getting Bitten
Rough green snakes are not venomous, so you don’t need to worry about being harmed in that way by a bite. It is also relatively uncommon for them to bite humans, preferring to escape. However, it is possible that if your snake feels cornered or overstressed, it will bite.
When you handle your rough green snake, wear gloves to protect yourself in case it chooses to bite. Do not swing the snake around or let it hang loosely from your hands. Move slowly and gently, allowing the snake to get used to how you sound and smell.
What If Your Rough Green Snake Gets Sick?
In captivity, a rough green snake can live for 15 years or more if it’s well cared for. This snake can be your companion for a good long time. Therefore, it is vital that you keep an eye out for common signs of illness.
Rough green snakes are susceptible to multiple illnesses:
- Fungal and bacterial infections, such as scale rot
- Respiratory infections
- Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis
A healthy rough green snake exhibits the following signs:
- Alert and active
- Clear eyes (unless it is shedding)
- Regular eating
- Clear, healthy skin
- No kinking of the spine
- Sheds skin regularly and in one complete piece
- Free from ticks and mites
Watch out for these common signs of illness:
- Open-mouthed breathing or wheezing
- Discoloration of the skin
- Saliva bubbles around the mouth
- Inflammation in and around the mouth
- Teeth falling out
- Unusually frequent shedding, or difficulty shedding
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Extreme lethargy and unwillingness to eat
- Bumps or spots on the skin
- A white cheesy substance in the mouth
If you notice any of these signs, or if your snake is exhibiting another unusual behavior, be sure to take it to a reptile vet right away.
Not all unusual behaviors are a sign of illness. When it is time for your snake to shed its skin (ecdysis), it may become slightly more lethargic and irritable. Its eyes will turn a milky blue color, and its body color will start to dull as well.
During a shedding period, avoid handling your rough green snake. Also, do not be surprised if your snake refuses to eat during shedding. Make sure that humidity levels in the tank are high enough; snakes require more humidity to help them shed properly.
If your snake seems to be having trouble shedding its skin, or if the skin is coming off in irregular clumps, then take your snake to a vet. If your snake’s eyes do not go back to normal after the shedding process is complete, do not attempt to remove the eye caps yourself. Seek help from a professional.
It is very easy to get your hands on a rough green snake. They are readily available in the North American pet trade, collected in large numbers and sold at affordable prices. Use this guide to care for your rough green snake properly, and you’ll have a companion for well over a decade.