When it comes to keeping snakes, one of the single most important factors to consider is what sort of housing you’ll use. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Snakes are natural escape artists and will manage to escape through the most improbably small gap. A secure cage is therefore essential to prevent escapes.
- Snakes are cold-blooded animals and require artificial heating to remain healthy. Your snake cage can make providing artificial heat for your snake easier
- Pet snakes can be very sensitive to humidity. An environment that is too moist can lead to skin conditions. Equally an environment that is too dry can lead to problems with moulting.
In other words, getting the right cage for your snake will make everything else much easier. The wrong cage however can become a liability and either allow your pet to escape, or make controlling his habitat unnecessarily difficult.
What Is A Snake Vivarium Anyway?
The so-called cages used for reptiles are generally known in the pet trade as “vivariums”. These normally consist of a glass front to enable easy observation of your pet, together with solid sides. The walls, roof and floor may be made from a range of different materials; most commonly either wood, plastic or glass.
Each type of snake vivarium has its strengths and weaknesses. Every snake owner has their preference, developed over years of snake care. However the beginner pet keeper often struggles to make an informed decision about the most appropriate snake vivarium for their needs.
The purpose of this article is therefore a simple one; we’ll be looking at the different types of snake vivariums currently on offer and aiming to help you make an informed decision about would suit your unique circumstances best.
Wooden vivariums are some of the cheapest and most reliable cages for snakes. They are typically available in a wide range of “standard” sizes, either flat-packed or pre-built. For anyone with some basic DIY skills, buying a flat-pack version is often worthwhile as they are simple to construct yet are typically easier to transport flat, as well as being cheaper.
Wooden vivariums are easily sourced from most specialist reptile shops. They are strong, versatile and reasonably priced. They can also look very smart too if you choose a model to suit the rest of your furniture. Being made of wood, drilling holes for adding electrics such as heaters and lights is typically very easy, and the wooden construction also means that wooden vivariums tend to hold their heat well. This is ideal if you live in a colder area as you will be able to keep your snake warmer with less heating.
Wooden vivariums, whilst popular, aren’t perfect. Firstly, wooden vivariums are typically quite heavy. This can make transporting them a challenge. It can also limit where you place your snake vivarium in the home, as weaker furniture may not survive under the weight of a wooden vivarium.
Snakes like fresh air and without it can suffer from respiratory problems. This is an important consideration with wooden vivariums, where ventilation can be poor. If selecting a wooden snake viv therefore ensure that you select one that comes with ventilation holes. Those models with variable ventilation are best and give you control over how much air is allowed into the cage.
One final point about wooden vivariums for reptiles is that over time they can warp and rot if kept overly damp. This means it is important to soak up any water spilled within the cage as soon as possible so that it does not seem into the timber and cause problems. As most snakes prefer a rather drier habitat this is unlikely to be the problem that it can be for lizard keepers.
While wooden vivariums are the most common form of housing typically used for snakes, there are increasingly a number of plastic vivariums on the market. It should be noted that if you opt to examine this option you should try to ensure that you select one designed specifically for snakes as opposed to any other kind of pet. Doing so will ensure that ventilation holes are kept small, to prevent escape, while the overall dimensions will be long and low, allowing your snake to move around naturally.
There are a number of benefits to using plastic vivariums for snakes. Firstly they tend to be far lighter and stronger than wooden cages and so can be rather more practical to move around. You also won’t require such a sturdy stand, table or cabinet to place them on.
However arguably the greatest benefit of plastic vivariums is how hygienic they are on account of their ease of cleaning. The moulded plastic vivariums can be easily wiped around with a cloth and some reptile-safe cleaning spray, removing bacteria or parasites easily. This is in contrast to wooden vivariums where parasites or bacteria can remain in the joins between the panels.
Despite all these benefits, plastic tanks for reptiles aren’t necessarily perfect. For one thing there are currently only a limited range of plastic vivariums on the market, so getting an appropriate size if you have specific requirements can be a real challenge.
Further problems can be experienced when trying to fit electrics to your plastic tank. This is because, depending on the design you have chosen, it may be necessary to either drill holes for electrical cables to poke through and/or to remove plugs from your heaters and lights in order to carefully feed the cables through the pre-drilled holes. This is contrast to wooden vivariums where fitting electrics is typically far simpler.
Lastly, due to their relative rarity, plastic vivariums can be considerably more expensive that a wooden viv of a similar size. Compare prices carefully before making a decision about whether or not the benefits of a plastic vivarium are worth the extra cost.
Increasingly popular over recent years have been the specially-designed glass vivariums for reptiles. These tanks are generally an all-glass design, with two hinged doors at the front that allow for easy access. These doors can be tremendously useful for routine maintenance and feeding, eliminating the need to lift lids or slide glass panels. This can also mean that in come designs it is possible to stack glass vivariums one ontop of another, making for a very space-efficient way to keep your snakes.
Possibly the biggest benefit of glass vivariums is just how smart they look. In most cases they are the most attractive and professional-looking form of housing possible. As well as looking smart they also provide excellent visibility. Unlike most wooden or plastic vivariums, with their glass viewing panels at the front, an all-glass vivarium provides visibility from all angles.
This can not only provide a unique viewpoint of your pet but also makes it easier to keep an eye on your pet and carry out health checks without needing to get your snake out.
For all their attractiveness, glass vivariums for snakes have a number of potential downsides. Firstly of course they are typically quite heavy and are fragile if dropped or knocked during transportation. Their all-glass construction can also make it hard to keep them warm in winter if you live in a cold country; the heat after all can travel across the glass surface quite easily.
Arguably the biggest weakness of glass vivariums for snakes is what a challenge it can be to fit electrics; after all one can hardly drill a hole in the side to fit an electric cable through. Most of the better manufacturers of glass vivariums try to make this as easy as possible by building holes into their designs specifically for cables, but just be certain you have all the necessary holes – and that they’re in the right place – before purchasing such a vivarium.
Converted Glass Tanks
One final type of snake vivarium still seen in the pet trade from time to time and a converted glass aquarium. Essentially one can use an unwanted fish tank and then purchase a reptile-safe lid to put over the top and keep it secure. This is often a very cost effective way to house snakes in captivity though many people move away from the idea over time due to the impracticalities,
The main benefit of converting a glass tank is how readily available these are. Even in areas where very few reptile shops may be found, most people will still be able to lay their hands on an aquarium. Even better, buying second-hand can save a load of money and give you a suitable cage for minimal investment.
All you’ll need to do is to track down (or build) a suitable lid. These are generally orderable over the internet for a reasonable price.
Aquariums are, of course, tremendously heavy so some consideration must be given to exactly where your vivarium will dwell. However this is only a small weakness, typically overshadowed by the two rather larger issues at hand.
Firstly, all-glass aquariums like this for snakes can be very difficult to fit electrics into. They don’t after all, come with any holes. Some creativity may therefore be needed if you are to use an old aquarium as a reptile cage.
Secondly some people find that having to access their vivarium from above proves rather impractical. This limits where you can place the cage as you’ll need to be able to remove the lid for all routine maintenance.
There is no such thing as the best snake vivarium. Each snake keeper has their preference and it’s just a matter of considering which options are available in your local area and, further to the details given in this article, to decide on exactly which solution would be most appropriate for your needs.