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  1. #1
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    Trans-pecos eating insects?

    Hello! I am working on an arid bioactive enclosure and am considering the Trans-Pecos ratsnake as one of my top choices. Currently, I have blue death-feigning beetles in there and am wondering if I could run into an issue where a Trans-Pecos would eat them. I know this is not naturally their prey in the wild, but would guess that some parts of their natural habitat could overlap. I am hoping they are too crunchy for a snake to want to eat, but does anyone know whether they (or another snake such as a gopher snake, which is my second choice) would spontaneously decide to have a beetle snack?

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    I've kept a number of both species, & while I've never tried feeding either one any beetles, I also don't think either would be at all tempted. I'm not the least bit familiar with these blue death-feigning beetles- I assume they aren't toxic/poisonous if consumed & pose no other risks to the snakes? (like a bite or sting?) When young, wild Trans Pecos rat snakes do consume small lizards, but they don't require them- most easily accept pinkie mice. (& as adults, they're also known to take bats sometimes, & fyi, they do like pinky or fuzzy rats too) Gopher snakes wolf down rodents of any kind, & sometimes birds or eggs, & as adults, can take baby rabbits etc. Both make great pets, & fairly active snakes, with Trans Pecos being much easier on "the furniture". (ie. not pushy as gopher snakes can be sometimes)

    You mention this will be arid bio-active, which is also something I've not worked with, but what sort of humidity do you expect to have? Keep in mind, both Trans Pecos & gopher snakes are desert creatures that need plenty of fresh dry air- I do not recommend housing them in the plastic plastic enclosures that so many prefer for keeping B.P.s (with their humidity needs). I've only ever kept these species in large glass tanks with screen tops. Not saying it won't work, just a cautionary note.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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    Re: Trans-pecos eating insects?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    You mention this will be arid bio-active, which is also something I've not worked with, but what sort of humidity do you expect to have? Keep in mind, both Trans Pecos & gopher snakes are desert creatures that need plenty of fresh dry air- I do not recommend housing them in the plastic plastic enclosures that so many prefer for keeping B.P.s (with their humidity needs). I've only ever kept these species in large glass tanks with screen tops. Not saying it won't work, just a cautionary note.
    Death-feigning beetles are not poisonous as far as I know. I just want them to be safe because I have become quite attached to them!

    My terrarium is a glass 4' x 18" x 18" Carolina Custom Cages terrarium. I have already set it up and have the beetles living in there; I have seven of them. It is a screen top so there isn't really any humidity being trapped in there, although I do not yet have a humidity gauge in there. The substrate is basically even parts sand, coconut fiber, a smaller portion of earthworm castings, as well as a small addition of powdered clay. So far I have planted a variety of desert plant seeds and have watered it very sparingly on only one side of the tank. I have a daylight fluorescent tube for the plants as well as another plant light placed on the one side I watered; I plan to switch it once the plants on one side are established, then work on growing the other side. It'll be well into next year by the time I'm ready to add a snake, but I hope the end result will be worth it and will look nice.

    I will be quarantining the snake once I get him, as I have an iguana who lives in the same room free roaming, so I will probably get a smaller temporary glass enclosure (and the snake will likely be younger, too, so hopefully the size difference won't be so bad for a few months?) like a used fish tank or something? Or would a plastic bin be better if it's larger but would also be more humid?

    Another big reason I'm considering a TP is because I had seen in another topic on here that you said they don't mess up tank decor as much, so I'm hoping the plants will be safe, especially once established. Gopher and related snakes might burrow and take out the plants? I'm still researching and not ruling them out yet. The 18" tall is 6" short of what I usually see recommended for rat snakes, though, which also gives me pause.

    Anyway, sorry to tangent, just have a lot of snake thoughts in my head lately! Will likely have more snake thoughts on this forum as I get closer to purchasing one.

  4. #4
    BPnet Veteran Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Sand isn't all that good to keep snakes on, as it has microscopic sharp edges that can cause skin infections when it gets pushed under their scales & cuts into their skin, allowing the bacteria to enter. I know you're using a mix, & certainly they live on a mix in the real world also- so hopefully that will work. The difference is that more germs get trapped in cages & they don't get baked away in the desert sun.

    Of all the snakes I've ever kept, Trans Pecos are by FAR the most 'respectful' of their cage set-ups, and they enjoy climbing on some branches too, which they do gracefully. I can picture them climbing on your plants however, if they don't have branches. They have a quiet mellowness about them, but they're nosy too, & good eaters. Just very pleasant snakes, with those adorable big eyes. Yes, gopher snakes are more apt to burrow & up-end your plants. They are pushy, but TPs are not. It's like they were taught "manners" or something...they're different from most snakes. A corn snake would also be a better option than a gopher snake in this situation.

    I don't picture any of these snakes wanting to eat your beetles, though I stop short of a guarantee. BUT...what do the beetles eat? Some insects (like crickets) have been known to chew on snakes in a cage. It's not the same thing as being in the wild, where they can easily avoid each other. And another potential problem is Trans Pecos rat snakes are nocturnal, & they won't appreciate your bright plant lights. Personally, I wouldn't do this for that reason, besides not trusting the beetles not to chew on the snake. Bright lights hurt their eyes & will stress a TP unless they have very deep hides for darkness, & lights are ONLY on during the day?

    A new 10 gal. tank won't cost much, & considering that used tanks need a LOT of disinfection to make sure that whatever a previous occupant might have died of doesn't get passed along to your new pet, I'd just get a new 10 gal. for the time being. The chain pet stores regularly have $1 per gallon sales. I don't recommend using tubs for TPs either- due to the humidity/air restriction. My TPs are never sick...so I can only suggest you stick with glass tanks & screen tops, as I know that works for them & why. An tank that's 18" tall is just fine for a TP, btw.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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    Re: Trans-pecos eating insects?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    And another potential problem is Trans Pecos rat snakes are nocturnal, & they won't appreciate your bright plant lights. Personally, I wouldn't do this for that reason, besides not trusting the beetles not to chew on the snake. Bright lights hurt their eyes & will stress a TP unless they have very deep hides for darkness, & lights are ONLY on during the day?
    I did think about this, although with the plant grow light at least, I plan to wean the plants off of it once they are no longer seedlings. Once the plants get larger, they will actually grow too tall and be too close to the light, so will probably get burnt. Then, I'll just have the regular fluorescent tube light on during a normal day cycle only. Unless having any light at all is bad?

    There are already burrows in the tank, which I made. I have some rock slabs dividing them under the substrate and covering them from above. There is one on the warm side and one on the cool side, and sort of an in-between burrow. The warm-sided one is deeper and probably has 3-4 inches of head room, where the cool-sided one is like 2-3 inches of head room? I can always change these as well, before I get a snake. I did read TPs live in rocking outcroppings, and when I saw that, it was like my terrarium was made for one lol. I may expand the warm end hide so more of it touches the UTH, but actually haven't turned on the UTH yet for just the beetles.

    I have some driftwood, but will place these once the plants are larger so I can figure out what looks best.

    Oh, and regarding the DFBs, they are detritivores and eat vegetable scraps and stuff. People keep them in tarantula cages and I have heard of them being used in snake cages as well as arid leopard gecko enclosures, but they seem pretty uncommon so it is somewhat of an experiment. I'm actually not sure how well they clean up snake poo so I will probably still do some cleaning on this front, or will get a dung beetle or two, or both. I think the DFBs mostly eat wood, seeds, and stuff like that, but apparently will eat dead insects. I don't think their little mouthparts are strong enough to bite into a snake but if that happens, they are definitely being exiled to another terrarium.
    Last edited by TofuTofuTofu; 11-19-2020 at 08:01 AM.

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    Re: Trans-pecos eating insects?

    I can't promise the lights won't bother a Trans Pecos rat snake. I've never used lights on their cages, & they're more active at night, but often sleep in their branches (& 'treehouse' baskets) during the day in ambient (not bright) room light only. I love seeing them snoozing- it's pretty cute.

    Be careful about rock slabs...they could crush a snake, especially a small one. I use both UTH heat for my TPs, & also an overhead (very dimmed) black incandescent light in the winter or whenever room air is cooler & they're sleeping in their "treehouses" (baskets) near them...they obviously enjoy this set-up. I'm sure they'd enjoy some creative faux-rock outcroppings too. They're inquisitive snakes, but not "steam-rollers", they seem to tip-toe over cage furnishings, compared to many other kinds of snakes. I get such a kick out of them, honestly.

    About the diet of your beetles, it says much the same things about the diet of crickets, yet I know for a fact they will bite a snake, but you might not see the marks, they'll be tiny, but could stress the heck out of a snake, or even get infected. I know there are such things in the wild too, but they aren't caged in together, so I'm still not sure it's a good idea to co-hab a snake with those beetles. Dead insects would take more force to bite into than the soft skin between the scales on a snake. Personally, I wouldn't risk the snake, but it's your call. You sound pretty creative & I hope it all works out okay. Do keep us posted?
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    I haven't kept any trans pecos rat snakes so take this with a grain of salt lol, but as far as lighting goes I do know of a keeper who has quite a few subocs and keeps them with UVB and halogen lighting. They all seem to be doing well and she has made many observations of them basking. Additionally in the book The Complete Suboc by Dusty Rhoads, he mentions that although subocs are naturally nocturnal, in captive settings they do just fine with overhead lighting. Again, I have no personal experience but I thought this was information worth sharing
    0.1 Speckled Kingsnake

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    Thanks for the replies everyone. I did actually order Dusty Rhodes' book the other day, and I look forward to looking through it. It's possible this idea will evolve more over the next several months, as like I said, I'm still sort of in the earlier researching stages. I may glue the rocks together so the snake cannot move them and get injured; they aren't glued now but it would be pretty easy to use silicone or whatever people use to glue aquarium rock displays together.

    I want to make a more natural environment for the snake I end up getting, and I know that keeping a snake indoors in a confined space is fundamentally not natural, but I'm sort of of the philosophy that they will be more relaxed with things familiar to their natural environment. I would really like more natural cover, like plants, branches, and burrows, to work, and also because it would look better to me than a more "pet store" kind of aesthetic with bedding and plastic hides.

    Oh, on the sand; like I said, my substrate is a mixture, but I did read that if you use play sand (which I did), it is manufactured in a way where there aren't any sharp edges to the sand particles, so I hope that will prevent or minimize any scratching?

    I'm willing to not have the beetles with the snake and move them to their own setup if they don't work out. But I will be really observing them together. They just wedge themselves under stuff during the day; I only really see them active in the evening, but admit I don't keep night owl hours so I'm unsure whether they are active at night as well. The beetles seem kind of scared of everything (I mean, the first thing they do if I poke one is play dead) so it would seem really out of character to me that they would be grumpy towards an animal larger and faster than them, but like I said, I want to see if it works and would be fully willing to admit if it doesn't, and relocate los beetles. People have used them in, I think leopard gecko enclosures as well as tarantula setups without anything bad happening, and those animals are much closer to the beetles' own size than a snake would be.

    I have been taking progress photos and may end up doing a video or something once everything is put together, but I expect that will be about a year from now, by the time I actually get a snake and it moves from quarantine into the setup.

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