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  1. #1
    BPnet Veteran aSnakeLovinBabe's Avatar
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    Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    I wrote this in an effort to save as many beloved thamnophis and nerodia as I possibly can! Yes, I REALLY, TRUELY care about the health of your snake, no matter how big or small... this much.

    Also, anyone who ever has ANY questions or issues concerning garter, ribbon, or water snakes... you can come STRAIGHT to me.

    I am writing this in the name of my number 1 most favorite animal in the world: garter snakes!! I own over 50 garters... they are the world to me. This is some very important information that 90% of new garter snake, ribbon snake, and water snake owners, as well as many other aquatic snake species keepers are not familiar with.

    Feeder goldfish, and also their counterpart, rosy reds (aka tuffies, flathead minnows, and remember these come in both pink and brown colors) and catfish contain an enzyme known as thiaminase. Feeding your snakes these fish will result in horrible things down the road. it can even take years, or it can take just a few months, but thiaminase kills either way. This enzyme prevents the absorbtion of Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine. Over time, not being able to absorb this vitamin due to ingesting fish containing thiaminase, they will start having seizures, losing voluntary muscle control, crawling funny... and this eventually results in death. Sadly, I expierienced this myself, as when I was younger and had no idea, I too fed my garters goldfish. None of my first garters are alive today because of that, and they should be!!

    Many ask if it's acceptable to supplement these fish with a vitamin powder loaded with Vitamin B1. The answer is no, because the enzyme literally prevents the snake from absorbing any at all!

    There are other options out there if you snake is finicky and wants fish, and believe it or not they are at you local supermarket! Trout, tialpia and salmon are all available at most grocery stores, and you can buy a pound or two and cut it into minnow-sized strips, and it usually comes out to about 2 cents a piece where as most people pay 10 cents or more for one dinky feeder fish. If you fish... save some bluegills and cut them up as well. You can then portion all the pieces out into meals and store them in your freezer, and thaw out a new portion whenever you need to feed!! Freeze all of it for at least a week before use to help kill any parasites that may be lurking! This does not kill all parasites, but it can help. Not only is it cheaper in the long run, but it is saving your garter's life. Note: don't buy catfish, or smelt! (which i mistakenly for a while thought were safe) they also contain thiaminase! You can use feeder guppies if you are having trouble getting your snake to eat dead pieces of fish. Put the fish strips in with the guppies in the water bowl and as the garter is fishing, he will inevitably grab a strip. But please... make sure they are GUPPIES... some pet stores will give you rosies when you ask for guppies! See the pictures at the end of the article. There are also recipes out there that involve using filets of fishes, gelatin, and vitamin/calcium supplements. I use these as a part of my feeding regimen with great success!

    I must also stress though, that if you have a garter snake, a varied diet is a must!!! Most of us experienced garter keepers wean our garters as babies onto pinky parts, easily done by chopping up fish and worms and pinkies and mixing it all together in a little dish. Over time you increase how much pinky is in the dish and they pick it up very quicky! I find that many adult garters will take a pinky for the first time out of pure curiosity. If not, usually all you have to do is rub the pinky on some fish or a worm! Beware that too many rodents will give you an obese garter snake. The best possible diet for your garters is a mixed diet consisting of small appropriately sized rodents or pieces, Safe fish (salmon, tilapia, trout, guppies), and eathworms or nightcrawlers. (don't use red wrigglers, those little trout bait worms that have a reddish tint and rings and secrete nasty orange slime, they are toxic). Remember to supplement any food items that are not a whole prey item with a vitamin/calcium supplement.

    In the wild a garter snake will eat just about every day. They relish amphibians such as small frogs and tadpoles, and also forage for fish, earthworms, and possibly the occasional rodent's or even bird's nest. Garter snakes have a very fast metabolism, so it is recommended that you feed at least twice a week. I feed small portions 3 to 4 times a week, that's basically every other day. I make the rounds and offer each snake one food item of whatever I have that day, I alternate between nightcrawlers, fish gelatin, rodents, strips of trout and occasionally frog legs!

    I hope someone out there finds this information useful... because if you are feeding your snake dangerous thiaminase containing fish, you will stop if you truly care about your snake! As pet owners it is our responsibility to see that they get the very best care and a proper and safe diet, you wouldn't slowly poison your dog, would you??? The responsible thing to do is to drop the feeder fish idea and save your snake's life while you still can. The goldfish diet is why many pet garter/ribbon snakes live shorter lifespans and never reach their real size potential in captivity. A healthy robust female garter of many subspecies, particularly Easterns, Plains, Wanderings, Red Sideds and Checkereds, can often approach 3.5 feet and be a thick in the middle as a large corn snake, as well as give birth to over 50 babies!


    NOW here are some pictures to help you identify what the heck I am talking about.


    These are feeder guppies. they are SAFE for your snake.

    Males

    http://courses.washington.edu/fish34...es/guppies.jpg

    Females

    http://www.fishforever.co.uk/images/guppy.jpg





    These are Rosy Reds, a.k.a "tuffies", fathead minnows... etc... they are NOT SAFE for your snake.

    Gold variety

    http://www.fishpondinfo.com/rosyred1.jpg


    Brown

    http://www.dnr.wi.gov/org/water/wm/w...20(female).jpg


    These are smelt a.k.a. Silversides, these are NOT SAFE for your snake

    http://www.fisheries.vims.edu/ctils/...ilversides.jpg

    These are goldfish: These are NOT SAFE for your snake

    http://www.msstate.edu/dept/srac/baitgold.jpg

    These are Red Wrigglers, a.k.a. driftworms, trout worms, a toxic species of worm that often causes snakes to vomit immediately after eating. They are identified by reddish colored distinctive rings that earthworms and nightcrawlers lack. When provoked they secrete a foul smelling orange liquid. Notice the colored RINGS. Snakes who eat these for a prolonged period of time and keep them down often spontaneously die.

    http://www.songbirdgarden.com/store/...dWorms-3sm.jpg

    **Update**

    I have an important news bulletin.... I was misinformed!!! SILVERSIDES are NOT a true smelt, and do NOT contain thiaminase. SO, they actually are safe for our snakes to consume. I am one happy camper because my snakes really really LOVE silversides and I was so upset when I was told they had thiaminase in them.
    Last edited by dr del; 04-15-2009 at 05:29 PM. Reason: Adding updated information from the O.p.

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  3. #2
    BPnet Veteran truthsdeceit's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    Thank you very much! That was both informative and easy to follow.

    Are you going to post your specific 'diet' that you use for garters the one with gel and vitamin supplements? I'd be interested in reading it.
    ~TruthsDeceit~
    My house? ... 13 snakes, 3 geckos, a tarantula, a boyfriend, a roommate (yes the roommate and boyfriend make the "animals" list), 3 cats, a roach colony and don't ask me to count the rodents.

    www.rodentworks.net Local to Bremerton, WA
    >Rats >Mice >ASF >Rabbits >Custom racks/cages

  4. #3
    Registered User rainglow's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    You are the garter snake queen!

    This should really be a sticky, theres a ton of info in here that took a lot of time to put together. Really good post!
    ~Stacy~
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  5. #4
    BPnet Veteran Beardedragon's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    I vote sticky Its the same with turtles as well.
    - Matt

    Come here little guy. You're awfully cute and fluffy but unfortunately for you, you're made of meat

  6. #5
    BPnet Veteran blackcrystal22's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    I highly recommend this become a sticky. If I had gotten a garter, I would have had NO IDEA.

    Thank you for this information, it was very useful and important. I'm sure it will save a lot of trouble.

    Real quick, if someone had been feeding their snakes the wrong things, what would you suggest they do to help the snake re-absorb the vitamin? Are there any supplements that you think could help?

    Obviously, immediately switch food items, but I was just curious if there was anything else.

  7. #6
    BPnet Veteran aSnakeLovinBabe's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    Quote Originally Posted by blackcrystal22 View Post
    I highly recommend this become a sticky. If I had gotten a garter, I would have had NO IDEA.

    Thank you for this information, it was very useful and important. I'm sure it will save a lot of trouble.

    Real quick, if someone had been feeding their snakes the wrong things, what would you suggest they do to help the snake re-absorb the vitamin? Are there any supplements that you think could help?

    Obviously, immediately switch food items, but I was just curious if there was anything else.
    Simply switching food items and occasionally using a vitamin supplement. The enzyme will not stick around forever. Slowly it will go away and the body will be able to start resuming regular absorbtion. Thiamine deficiency convulsions can SOMETIMES be reversed with injections at the vet, but i do not know much about all that because I tend to avoid issues with thiamine altogether.

  8. #7
    BPnet Veteran aSnakeLovinBabe's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    I also should note, there are some debates out there about silversides, smelt, etc. The difference is not 100% decided upon, and although I know that the ocean nutrition silversides and the smelt at MY grocery store are the SAME exact fish, and that these are supposed to contain thiaminase, there are other varieties or smelt/ silversides in different species and much is confused because of common names. The fact is though, that those fishes are not covered on the thiaminase registry tables and quite frankly, I am not taking any unknown risks when I can simply use what I KNOW to be safe.

  9. #8
    BPnet Veteran aSnakeLovinBabe's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    Quote Originally Posted by truthsdeceit View Post
    Thank you very much! That was both informative and easy to follow.

    Are you going to post your specific 'diet' that you use for garters the one with gel and vitamin supplements? I'd be interested in reading it.
    I am not sure if you saw it but I did post it up in this same forum.

  10. #9
    BPnet Veteran Argentra's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    Oh man, that was a great post!! I vote sticky as well.

    If only I'd seen this a few years ago... then maybe my red-checkered garter would still be around. I gave him goldies, rosies AND wigglers (as well as nightcrawlers)!! Always wondered why he regurged the worms. He was with me a year, and I thought (at the time) that was a good length of time for a garter.

    Well, if I ever get another garter snake I'll know what to do! Thanks!
    **Adriana - White 'N Nerdy!**

    1.0 BP 'SunSpot', 0.1 Corn 'Freya', 1.0 IJ BTS 'Topaz', 1.0 ND bunny 'Licorice'




  11. #10
    BPnet Veteran truthsdeceit's Avatar
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    Re: Do NOT feed Goldfish. A Must read for fish-eating snake keepers!

    I vote sticky as well!

    Quote Originally Posted by aSnakeLovinBabe View Post
    I am not sure if you saw it but I did post it up in this same forum.
    No I didn't but I've found it now. Thanks.
    ~TruthsDeceit~
    My house? ... 13 snakes, 3 geckos, a tarantula, a boyfriend, a roommate (yes the roommate and boyfriend make the "animals" list), 3 cats, a roach colony and don't ask me to count the rodents.

    www.rodentworks.net Local to Bremerton, WA
    >Rats >Mice >ASF >Rabbits >Custom racks/cages

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