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Neal

Thinking of Starting or Advancing?

Rating: 5 votes, 4.20 average.
I tend to ramble on from time to time about different subjects when I have time to think about something good to blog about. This one is going to be for anybody that's looking to get into the hobby, or advance to different steps in the hobby and by that I mean from starter snakes to the not so stater snakes, to the higher level of experience needed snakes.

I'm sure for any of us that have visited reptile shows, or even pet stores tend to see people that are interested in getting into the hobby or maybe you're thinking of advancing into different species which may require more experience.

I want to start off by saying, although snakes are relatively easy to take care of in the sense that they don't make a mess in the house, you do still have to feed them, clean up after them whether it be urates, poop, shed etc... However, they do require maintenance, you do need a proper enclosure, and I would never recommend just a regular aquarium as my base recommendation would always be an exo-terra enclosure but preferably a enclosure similar to Animal Plastics. On top of that you need a heating source, some hides, bedding and a decent thermostat. This may or may not be cheaper than some other animals starting off, but once you've gotten that, the food versus a bag of dog food or cat foot etc is quite a bit cheaper.

Anyways, ball pythons are great snakes, although I would say a king snake or corn snake would be a better choice to start off simply because ball pythons can be highly picky eaters. However, if you pay attention, ask questions and heed advice, ball pythons are great starters. Some ball pythons may taken f/t rodents right away, some may switch eventually and some may never eat f/t. So if you don't have access to live, then I would perhaps think about getting a king snake or a corn snake. I've seen ball pythons refuse rodents because of them not being all white, or having spots, and it's completely individual based.

You get what you pay for product wise. Two of the most expensive things you'll have to buy aside from possibly being the snake depending on what you choose, will be the thermostat and the enclosure that you keep your snake in. I'll make my recommendations on those two here in just a moment and give some advice on bedding and other things.

Enclosures
This part is strictly about enclosures and is all based on my experience and preference. If you have the money and plan to keep your snake or get other snakes in the future then I prefer Animal Plastics enclosures. They're very well built, reasonably priced, easy to clean and help with heat and humidity. If you're getting the enclosures from them, you're able to customize with different features like lighting, heating, and security.

If you're going for a bit cheaper route which isn't much cheaper I would recommend the Exo-Terra enclosures as you're able to lock them and you don't have to worry about your snake pushing the top off. With these you can open the top if you turn the fastener type things at the top to remove the top, but what I really like is you have access through the front of the enclosure.

Now a rack style system is another option, but if you're not breeding and have a lot of snakes then I don't agree with it and this is purely my opinion.

Heating
The options of heating are plentiful as you have under tank heaters, heat panels, heat tape, bulbs, etc... Whatever route you go, you will need a thermostat and a reliable one, which I will touch on after this. The most expensive way of heating is going to be heat panels and in my opinion is the best way, however you would really want an enclosure like Animal Plastics because they screw on to the top of the enclosure and with enclosures like exo-terra you can't do it, at least not safely. This is also the most efficient way to heat in my opinion as in the long run it's the best option. They last for years, and they radiate heat, sort of like the sun.

Heat tape is a really good option because you can get different length and width and it's relatively cheap. The tricky thing with this is taping it with the proper tape so it holds in place and makes contact. You can't use just any tape or you'll run into issues. With this you want to make sure that under the substrate isn't really hot, which will be a different temperature versus the top of the substrate in case your snake burrows or moves the substrate out of the way. So you have to find a balance, which can be a little time consuming if done properly.

UTH's are good option, but cost more than heat tape. The one thing about them is the backside is the adhesive side so they're easy to stick to the enclosure. I would stick with a more known brand if you go this route as some of the other brands have had issues in the past.

If you go the bulb route it can be cheaper than the heat panel, depending on what you do and where you shop. It's more expensive than the other two routes though. The one downside of using any type of bulb, whether it be incandescent bulb or a ceramic heat emitter is it will hurt your humidity. You can counter this by misting the enclosure daily or doing other things as well. If you go this route, I would recommend using a ceramic heat emitter as it doesn't emit any light so your snakes have some sort of a day/night cycle if they get light during the day. I personally give all my snakes day/night cycles.

Thermostats
The first and my favorite thermostat that I recommend is the Herpstat, as I've used them for a long time and never had any issues.

The second would be Vivarium Electronics as I've had them before and never had any issues either.

I would avoid the cheap thermostats as when they fail and they normally get stuck wide open which can kill your animals, especially if they have no way to escape the heat. I know they have other thermostats, but I've never used them and can't speak for them with first hand experience.

Hides
I like the Reptile Basic hides as they come in a huge variety of sizes and are easier to clean than others. I'm not going to touch too much on this subject because they have numerous brands and different things you can use as hides. I will say this though, the best hides are the ones where they can touch all sides of the hide and only have one entrance. This allows snakes to feel more secure because they will curl up in the hides and put their head by the entrance.

Substrate
This is another subject where you have so many options, and some are better than others. Aspen is often used because it helps with any smells, it's relatively cheap and is overall a good substrate. It can be dusty, so misting it before placing it in the tank will help with the dust and misting it a few times a week will help with humidity as well. This substrate isn't the best for humidity but it works.

Another option is coco husk, which can definitely make maintaining a certain humidity level much easier, and it's also relatively cheap compared to other options. I've used this in the past as it's a good option.

Some people who use rack system often use newspaper, which is cheap, but it has a lot of downsides in my opinion. The only time I would ever use this or papertowels would be if I had a new snake in QT and treating for mites as a precaution.

I switched to bioactive in some of my enclosures years ago and find this is the best option. In the beginning it can be more annoying to get situated, but once you get everything going it's the easiest to maintain. If you have springtails and isopods, with proper food for them(dead leaves) and other stuff that was properly treated then they will eat snake sheds, poop, urates and so on. In two of my enclosures I've not had to do any cleanup in months because of this. However, you should do your research if you ever decide to go this way.

Advancing To Another Stage?
So say you've been keeping awhile and are looking to advance to another stage in keeping, something that requires more experience or knowledge. If you're moving to something that I would really hope you've done your proper research as the animals in our care depend on us to give it the proper care. If I had to quote it, a book I read years ago said it best when they said that most keepers have phases they may advance to(Bigger, Meaner, Rarer, Hot). Most people won't go through all the stages, and some may skip some, but most won't ever reach the last stage, Hot being slang for venomous.

When you start dealing with Bigger, Meaner and Rarer snakes you start getting into snakes that require more experience and knowledge. Anywhere from certain humidity levels, temperature levels to name a couple. When you start dealing with bigger snakes, depending on how much bigger, you can easily get overwhelmed. Some species of snakes are more prone to bite than others, some get bigger so can do more damage in a bite. If you plan on getting into those snakes, I would ask a lot of questions, and do a lot of research on what you want, what's required and so on because the financial aspect can drastically change, along with your mind set towards a snake after a negative encounter. When you start getting into snakes that get 6+ feet or longer, it cost more for food, especially when you get into double digits. That's not the only thing that gets more expensive though, as with a larger snake comes the need for a larger enclosure and once you get past a certain point, that number can quickly rise.

Now what I mean about a negative encounter is say you have a 13-14 foot burmese or retic. If you get nailed by one whether it be a defensive bite or a feeding response, that can easily make you scared of the snake and not want to interact with it again which could lead to you having to sell or rehome the snake and that's not easy to do when you have a snake that large. I've seen bites from a snake that big and I've seen the damage that can't be repaired due to those bites.

With the rarer stuff, the way of keeping them can be harder meaning you may have to maintain a certain humidity level or you run into issues. The temperature can be a tighter range and harder to maintain. They have other issues, but I just wanted to touch base on two of the more frequent ones.

Venomous
Now if you ever want to get into this stage, you need to have training and when I say training I mean hours upon hours. This is not something to be taken lightly as one mistake can be the difference between life and death. Along with that certian precautions and requirements should be met, or in my opinion must be met. Venomous snakes have some of the most amazing, unique animals, but there's so much to consider.

Some states or even if your state allows, some counties/parishes or even cities may not allow you to keep venomous. A lot of states require you to provide documented experience in order to acquire the proper license. A reputable person who sells venomous will always require that you show them proof of a license if your state requires and some even go further and won't sell certain species depending on how dangerous they are to people without prior experience.

Another thing to consider is the medical bill if you get bit. Even if you have insurance, they have clauses that could allow them to deny your claim because you put yourself in a dangerous situation. It's not the same as getting bit by chance outside as owning venomous snakes and having that risk day after day. I know this sucks, but it's perfectly legal for them to do this. If you simply google snake bite bills you will see a range from anywhere to $14,000 to $150,000. A lot of factors play part in this, how many vials, what type of anti venin, and the hospital. I know a couple people that have been bitten, and both of their medical bills would of been over $50,000.

Now even with insurance and antivenin if you get bit, depending on what has bitten you then you may still not make it. If you were to go in anaphylactic shock from being bit, or have an allergic reaction to the anti venin then you run into an entire different problem on top of the snake bite.

One of the most important things I can say is know your limits. I've been around venomous since I was a kid and I used to catch copperheads and cottonmouths. I've also owned venomous for a few years and there are certain venomous snakes even I wouldn't really feel comfortable with owning and two of those I've actually dealt with first hand from a friend. Among those are King Cobras, Black Mambas, Green Mambas and Forest Cobras. One of the most important things to learn is how to use a hook, but even having a lot of hook experience a snake can either make it easy or difficult. When you start dealing with 8 foot venomous snakes that are really fast, it puts a whole new meaning to the word danger.

If you ever find yourself wanting to get into this level of keeping, I'll list a few things that I would say are mandatory.

Locking Enclsoure - This is the most important thing, as this should be a top priority.
Bite Protocols - This can be the difference between life or death, this is a must have.
Emergency Plans - Aside from bite protocols, you should have plans, especially if you have a family. You need to know which hospital you're going to go to. If you live far away from hospitals, like out of city limits then I know you can make arrangements with different EMS services. If I recall correctly Erik from Fascination Herps pays so much a year to the air med service, so in the event if he ever gets bit it won't cost an arm and a leg. I remember talking to him about it one day, but I don't remember the whole conversation. Also if you do get bit, who is going to take care of your snakes, feed them and so on.

Additionally, certain species of snakes have different types of venom and some can and will cause permanent damage. An example is they have a snake where you may lose your sense of smell, or taste as I don't recall the article 100% but it's more than one snake. In the end you have to ask yourself if it's worth it.

I hope that this helps people that are interested in the hobby or advancing as I did over the course of my life. I know I missed some stuff as I can't really think with all the information I had in my head and wanted to put, so if you have any questions or anything I'll gladly help if I can.
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Comments

  1. Zincubus's Avatar
    Fabulous blog !
  2. Neal's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Zincubus
    Fabulous blog !
    Thanks!
  3. ScarletGamerArtist's Avatar
    this was very helpful. Thank you!
  4. Neal's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ScarletGamerArtist
    this was very helpful. Thank you!
    You're very welcome.
  5. miechBIG's Avatar
    Nice and very detailed
  6. MR Snakes's Avatar
    Very informative. Thanks
  7. CrunchyBalls's Avatar
    Thanks great read!
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