Reptile Care & Helpful Hints

Updated on March 9, 2016
Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum was brought up by an avid gardener, and has always had an interest in plants and growing vegetables. She also has pet snakes.

Questions I've Been Asked About Reptiles

Here are some of the questions I've been asked on my website about the care of reptiles. Hopefully, they'll help other people learn how to care for their reptiles.

There are also hints and tips I've learned over a few years living with reptiles, and I'll probably add a bit about the mistakes I've made too! Most reptile owners have made SFE's (Stupid feeding errors!) Many of these errors end up with the person making them being bitten.

The photos were taken by me, and are copyright, thanks.

Stormy the Stimson's Python.
Stormy the Stimson's Python. | Source

How Often Should Snakes Be Fed?

Opinion is divided on this one. Some say your snake should be fed every week, and others feel that once a month is fine. Of course, a lot depends on the age of your snake, and the time of year.

Hatchlings need feeding more frequently than older snakes, perhaps as much as twice a week. As they grow, and eat larger meals, then the food can be offered at longer intervals.

Older snakes don't need to be fed so often, and in the wild, it is possible that they may go for several months without a meal. So long as water is available, they will survive.

Some people have been known to feed their snakes as little as possible, to ensure they do not grow very quickly. This is wrong, and could be classed as cruel - don't do it!

My pythons are fed every three to four weeks, occasionally more often, and are usually cooled down for a couple of months in winter, when they don't eat at all. They are all perfectly healthy and friendly reptiles, who enjoy coming out of their cages and being handled.

It is really a matter of opinion, and how much the snake seems to want feeding, as to how often your pets are fed. Use some common sense and watch the health of your snake, and you won't go far wrong.

Pythons feeding.
Pythons feeding. | Source

Keep Your Snakes Friendly

If you've had your snakes for a while, it's probably that you don't handle them as much as you did when you first got them. This is a mistake, as they need to be used to your touch.

Take them out of the cage sometimes, at least once a week, and get them used to being with you. Savage, the little python in the picture, really enjoys hanging around my neck when I'm doing jobs that she can join me for.

My Bredl's python is fond of having his cage left open a little when we're watching TV, and likes to lie with his head hanging out. Sometimes he comes right out, cruises over us for a few minutes, then returns to his favourite pose in his cage.

All of my snakes are sometimes taken outside, as a little sunlight is good for them, and it helps to keep their skin from becoming too dark. The Bredl's python in particular needs sun to keep his colour, although he'll never be as red as a wild relative.

Whatever you do, don't let your snakes become cage bound, so that they never come out at all - it makes for shy and timid snakes, which are more likely to bite than those who are handled more often.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Python with slightly milky eyes. Close up of milky eyes.
Python with slightly milky eyes.
Python with slightly milky eyes. | Source
Close up of milky eyes.
Close up of milky eyes. | Source

Snakes Are Nearly Blind When They Are About To Shed

Did you know that snakes are almost blind when they are about to shed? The skin gets an oily coat underneath, which is meant to protect the new skin and help the old one to detach easily. The eyes of the snake can look really while, or milky when this stage of the shed is reached.

Usually, when my snakes have milky eyes, I know they will shed in about a week. When they are coming up to a shed, they stop defecating and will become quite unsociable, hiding away in their shelters. It's best not to touch a snake or other reptile at this time, as the new skin could be damaged by handling.

Once your snake has shed, it will probably rest for about a day before being really interested in food or socialising again.

Remove the shed skin from the cage as soon as possible, and don't forget to check it to see if the shed is complete. If any old skin is left on the snake, it could lead to health issues. (See further down the page "How Do I Know When My Snake Is About To Shed" for more information)

Above are a couple of photos of one of my snakes with white eyes - the shed will take place in about a week.

Keep Your Reptiles Warm In Winter

It's important to keep your reptiles warm in winter, because they can very easily suffer from respiratory infections, just like us. These can be fatal to your reptilian friends.

If you are cooling down your pet, in preparation for breeding, make sure you know exactly how to cool it, and stay within the recommended temperature range for the species.

Most reptiles will appreciate a basking light at this time of year, as with the Morelia bredli in the picture, who is enjoying the warmth.

Basking snake.
Basking snake. | Source

Reptile Poll

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Why shouldn't I use sticky tape in the snake's cage?

In a word: reptile safety.

Some people use sticky tape to mend items, or hold them into position. Did you know that this is an absolutely horrendous thing to do in any reptile cage?

Why? Because if the tape starts to unpeel, as it often does, the animal may catch its scales on the tape, and will have no way of getting it off.

This can cause tearing to the skin, and believe me, you don't want to see this type of injury to your much loved pet. It is very painful, and has even been known to result in death.

Please be careful, and keep those nasty sticky things out of your reptiles cages!

Green Tree Python.
Green Tree Python. | Source

This Makes Me So Angry - smuggling reptiles

Also very upset.........

Recently I saw a report on TV about reptile smuggling into Australia. Two suspicious parcels were x-rayed at Sydney Airport, and were found to contain two snakes. The parcels were taken to a secure quarantine area to be opened by a specialist reptile handler.

In each parcel was a mature and well fed green tree python, both in excellent condition.

What is so upsetting about this, as well as the risk to our native wildlife, is the fact that these beautiful pythons, which are on the CITES list, had to be euthanised.

What a waste of life! The poor innocent reptiles were sacrificed to some greedy person's whim. It's not as if these snakes aren't available in Australia, because they are - they're native to the North East of the country.

This isn't off topic for this article, by the way - it comes under care of reptiles, on the national level!

Snappy drinking.
Snappy drinking. | Source

Should My Reptile Have A Water Bowl

Simple answer: Yes.

Some reptiles drink infrequently, but it's important for them to have access to clean water all the time.

There are some reptiles, such as the keelback, which spend much of their time in the water, and of course, they will need a tank in their cage, containing rocks and vegetation.

Keep your pet's water bowl clean and change the water frequently. It's a good idea to fill the bowl half full, in case the reptile gets in. This stops water overflowing everywhere.

You may never see your pet drink, but supply water for it anyway - it will appreciate it.

Shedding Antaresia stimsoni.
Shedding Antaresia stimsoni. | Source

How Will I Know My Reptile Is About To Shed?

Reptiles may shed several times a year. Young ones, and those recovering from an illness or injury, will shed more often than healthy adult reptiles.

Before a snake sheds, it usually becomes very quiet and secretive, and may refuse food. Some snakes also become a little snappy at this time.

You will notice over a period of time that the reptile's skin is becoming dull and dark, and this is the first sign that a shed is on the way. When the time is closer, you will notice that the animal's eyes take on a bluish tinge, or become almost white. This is when the snake will be at its most vulnerable, as it is blind at this time. Once the eyes have cleared, the shed is imminent.

A shed should only take a few minutes, if all goes well, and the skin should be in one piece. If it isn't, check the cage to make sure all the skin has been shed, as a piece remaining on the animal can cause problems, and must be removed.

If you have a reptile, and it is having trouble shedding, you should ensure it has water, and also some rough articles in its cage to rub up against.

When the snake has problems, it can be placed in some warm water for about fifteen minutes, as this helps soften the skin, so that it is easier to shed. Keep the snakes head out of the water, of course. Another method of helping the animal is to put it inside a damp pillowcase for up to thirty minutes - this will help to soften the old skin and enable the reptile to shed.

If a shed is incomplete, or the animal is unable to shed, see a vet or a more experienced here keeper.

Keep Your Pet Clean

......and the cage too!

This isn't exactly the nicest subject, and it's not something I've been asked about, but it IS important. Please keep your reptile's cage clean.

This means removing faeces and other debris, such as shed skins. Not a fun job, but if you want to keep pets, then you have to take care of them properly.

The cage should be cleaned out fairly regularly, but don't use strong detergents, or dangerous chemicals. Clean water is best. If you have to use a cleaner, plain bleach well diluted in water is best; don't use the scented variety.

It's also necessary to give your snake or lizard clean water, and wash their water container. Once a day isn't too often for this, especially if they swim or defecate in their water bowls.

A large snake can make a terrible mess of a cage after a big meal. On one occasion, my largest python actually crawled through his faeces, resulting in my taking him to the bathroom and bathing him to get rid of the smell! :-)

Since the snake had crawled over my partner as well, he also had to head for the bathroom, and was not impressed. Of course, I had to laugh - it's not often there's a lighter side to cage cleaning!

Wandering python.
Wandering python. | Source

At What Temperature Should I Keep My Python ?

This depends on what species your python is, and where it comes from.

Most pythons are tropical, and so require temperatures similar to those of their homes.

Of course, if you are living in a tropical area, then your python won't need heating, as it will be in its natural area.

For the most part, keep your cage at about 25-32C at the hot end, and about 18C at the cool end, if possible. Your snake will then be able to self regulate its temperature by moving about as it wishes. A little cooler at night is acceptable.

I'd recommend some research online, into the needs of your particular species of python.

As well as the thermostatically controlled heating, my cages also have a manually controlled basking light, which I use a lot on chilly winter mornings, to imitate the rising sun.

What Do You Feed Bearded Dragons?

Dragons are omnivores, and will take a wide variety of foods. Adults can be fed once or twice a week and younger dragons two to three times a week.

Have a look at your dragon's face: the size of the food should be no larger than the space between the dragon's eye-sockets. Anything too big can give the dragon problems, and can even be fatal.

Bearded dragons need food supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D powder. This can easily be added to their food, or sprinkled over their meals.

Some of the items dragons enjoy include : crickets, snails, pet mince, mealworms, grasshoppers, worms, clover, lettuce (this is best chopped) and bananas. Also give green beans, peas, carrots, corn and broccoli, for vegetable matter.

These will give your dragon a varied and balanced diet, and I'm sure there are many other suitable items which your pet will enjoy.

Dragons like to drink water which is running down their faces in preference to that in a bowl It's a good idea to mist them quite often. They like to run through shallow water; approximately 2-3 cm deep should be deep enough for them to enjoy their splash around.

Eastern Bearded Dragon
Eastern Bearded Dragon | Source

Reader Reptile Feedback

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    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I've got a tortoise, which doesn't appear on your poll! I love reptiles of all types.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @MaryMitchell: I agree, and that's partly why I write about snakes, so see if I can improve their publicity! Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      MaryMitchell 5 years ago

      My friend has two corn snakes and I love to handle them - they're so smooth and silky. I'm always horrified when people say snakes are cold and slimy - they couldn't be more wrong!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @SteveKaye: Thanks for your visit and blessing, Steve. Yes, they are great pets. Spent time this morning cleaning their cages, and putting them in their outside enclosure for some fresh air. It was ideal weather for it, overcast and 28C. They loved it!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      These snakes must be amazing pets.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Kellie-Ryan: Thanks Kellie - I've been visiting your lenses too! Always wanted a pet snake since I was a child, and now I have four!

    • Kellie-Ryan profile image

      Kellie-Ryan 5 years ago

      Very informative lens, I'm sure this will be a huge help to new snake owners!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @anonymous: Hi There,

      Sounds very much as if your male at least is ready to mate. Most python males have vestigial hind feet, which are now not much more than a small spur, near their cloaca. This is used to stimulate the female during mating. Hope this is helpful. Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      So I've got this pair of diamond pythons. I'm sure they're ready for mating as I've noticed this prong, appear just under my male. Or is this an indication of something else. ?

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      So helpful to reptile owners.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a "found" I think red tail boa..he is about 2 feet long or so . Would you happen to have a resources list of places that take them to either adopt or at least keep? I would not want to see it destroyed. I have been feeding it live mice from the pet store. I am in Oklahoma.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Fascinating information on snake care.

      Some do make good pets, I know! :)

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @jadehorseshoe: Thanks for visiting my snake lenses, jadehorseshoe! :-)

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      Nice Informative Lens!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @anonymous: Hi Becca, Glad to be able to help you. Snakes are beautiful animals. :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I just wanted to say that all of this was very helpful! Thank your for taking the time go write it. I was a little worried that my terrarium wasn't the perfect temperature for my python, but reading your generalized heat gradient made me a lot more comfortable with the conditions inside.

      Thank you so much. I'm glad you're so enthusiastic about snakes and other reptiles. Just wanted to take the time to thank you :)

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 6 years ago

      Very interesting. I have never seen this information before, as I've never had a snake, but I do love reptiles. I've been down under and that was one of my favorite parts...looking for snakes and reptiles, though my nana almost had a heart attack when i walked in with a funnel web that I found out back. Not a reptile, but I felt that was related to the whole animal curiosity I have.