Animal Podcast | The Animals at Home Podcast

Animal Podcast | The Animals at Home Podcast

TL;DR: Just take me right to the Animal Podcast! CLICK HERE

Animal Podcast | The Animals at Home Podcast
Animal Podcast | The Animals at Home Podcast
If you have a passion for animals, then you are going to love this podcast! This show brings all members of the animal community, from pet hobbyists to wildlife experts, together under one roof to discuss anything and everything animal related. Listen to experts talk about reptiles, mammals, fish, birds and everything in between with the topics ranging from breeding, pet husbandry, scientific research, wildlife conservation and more! Dillon Perron, the podcast’s host, is also the creator of the blog and YouTube Channel, Animals at Home.

What’s the Show About?

If you are looking for an animal podcast to listen to than The Animals at Home Podcast is what you are looking for. Dillon Perron, the host, and creator interviews a diverse range of animal experts. The show has a tilt towards reptiles and the reptile hobby but Dillon makes it clear that this is an animal podcast, not just a reptile podcast. Guests will and have been featured from many different areas of expertise.

For more information on Dillon, check out the first episode:

Each episode runs about 60 mins in length. Within the hour, you can expect to not only learn fascinating facts about animals, you will also learn the stories behind those who work with animals, whether that be on a hobbyist or academic basis.

animal podcast
Animal podcast

How to Listen:

The Animals at Home Podcast is quickly becoming one of the most popular animal podcasts available and it can be streamed and downloaded in a number of ways:

If you are someone that likes to listen to podcasts on your way to work, then choose your favorite podcasting app to listen to the show!

 

If you’d like to watch the video version of the show, then check out The Animals at Home YouTube Channel:

 

Why Listen to this Animal Podcast?

Besides the interesting content and guests featured on The Animals at Home Podcast, there is even a better reason to engage in the content!

Animals at Home is an Offical Sponsor of The Amazon Rainforest Conservancy (A.R.C).  This means a portion of the profits generated by the Animals at Home Podcast, Youtube Channel and Blog is donated to the charity with the goal of protecting the Amazon rainforest.

 

Just by listening to the show, you are helping conserve the Amazon Rainforest. For more information on how it all works, visit: https://www.animalsathome.ca/save-the-rainforest/

Make sure you check out the episode of the podcast featuring the Founder of A.R.C, Jana Bell:

Check out all the episodes here: https://www.animalsathome.ca/podcast/

DIY Snake Hide: How to Guide (video)

DIY Snake Hide: How to Guide (video)

In this article, I show step by step how I created my own DIY snake hide! If you’d rather watch the video, then here ya go!

Before we get started two quick things:

  1. This idea originally came from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KCJA_WPIvs
  2. This is not cheaper or easier than buying a store-bought hide! You should only attempt this if you enjoy the crafting process. If you are someone who doesn’t want to spend the time building your own hides (I don’t blame you… it takes a long time!), then I definitely recommend using something like Reptile Basic Hide instead.

STEP ONE: TINFOIL

The first step is rolling out and folding up some tinfoil. I used 3  lengths of about 8′ long side by side and then folded it up to about a 2′ x 2′ square (roughly, probably slightly smaller).

Tinfoil Strips: DIY Snake hide
Tinfoil Strips: DIY Snake hide
Tinfoil folded: DIY Snake Hide
Tinfoil folded: DIY Snake Hide

Then, find a bowl or something of similar shape to use as a mold for your snake hide.  Stuff the tinfoil into the bowl!

Shaping the tinfoil
Shaping the tinfoil

Pop the foil out of the bowl and you’ll see you hide starting to take shape. You may also cut out a door hole at this phase.

DIY Snake Hide: How to Guide (video)

STEP TWO: MASKING TAPE

Now that we have a rough hide made from tinfoil, the next step is covering the entire hide with a layer of masking tape. Both the outside and the inside of the hide!

Masking Tape over snake hide
Masking Tape over snake hide

Once the entire snake hide is covered in masking tape you can use this opportunity to add shape detail to the hide. By that I mean you can make the surface of the hide look more like a rock by adding indents and angles to the surface. I found giving the hide a good “whack” with an object worked well to create realistic looking indents.

DIY Snake hide: Masking tape with indents
DIY Snake hide: Masking tape with indents

STEP THREE: PAPER MACHE

Next up, paper mache! The entire snake hide needs to have at least one layer of paper mache.

What to use:

Using the foam brush and glue, paint on the tissue paper in small strips over the entire surface of the snake hide (outside and inside).

DIY Snake hide: paper mache
DIY Snake hide: paper mache

Let the paper mache completely dry before proceeding to the next step. This usually takes anywhere between 6-12 hours. Use a fan to reduce drying time.

STEP FOUR: PAPER CLAY

Last step before we paint! Go to your local craft store, or Amazon and pick up some Paper Clay. I do not recommend making your own paper clay, store-bought paper clay is non-toxic when dry (be sure to read the package)… I can’t say the same about DIY paper clay.

Paper clay DIY Snake Hide
Paper clay DIY Snake Hide

Tear off chunks of the paper clay from the brick and begin spreading it across the top surface of the hide (no need to do the inside surface).

Paper clay DIY Snake Hide
Paper clay DIY Snake Hide

Paper clay air dries very slowly so this is your opportunity to etch in any additional details you may want to add, crevasses and cracks for example.

Once you have fully applied a layer of clay, allow it to dry and harden. This takes about 12-24 hours or 30-40 mins in the oven set at 170°F (keep an eye on it if you do this!)

STEP FIVE: PAINT!

Once your hide’s clay has hardened, you may paint it!

DIY Snake Hide: Clay
DIY Snake Hide: Clay

I painted my DIY snake hides in two different ways:

Acrylic Craft Paint:

If you are gifted in the painting department, this is a good way to go. Painting your hide by hand gives you WAY more opportunity to be creative.

DIY Snake hide: Hand Painted
DIY Snake hide: Hand Painted

Stone Spray Paint:

I am not the best painter to I much preferred this method (plus it was quicker).

There are many different brands of ‘stone-textured’ spray paint out there, choose any color you like!

Stone Spray Paint- Dark
Stone Spray Paint- Dark
DIY Snake Hide: Spray Paint
DIY Snake Hide: Spray Paint
Stone Spray Paint
Stone Spray Paint- Light
DIY Snake Hide: Spray paint
DIY Snake Hide: Spray paint

STEP SIX: SEAL & DONE!

Let your paint dry and seal it with a moisture sealer… then you are DONE!

Matte Finish Spray
Matte Finish Spray
DIY Snake Hide: Seal
DIY Snake Hide: Seal

Let your snake hide air out for at least 2-3 weeks before adding it into your animal’s enclosure!

DIY Snake Hide
DIY Snake Hide
DIY Snake Hide
DIY Snake Hide
DIY Snake Hide
DIY Snake Hide

Central American Boa Care

Central American Boa Care
Central American Boa care is really not any different than their Columbian cousins.  There is a wide range of Central American boa localities, each having their own distinct color, pattern and adult size range. Typically the Central American boas are smaller than Columbian boas making them appealing to people who want a boa but want also want something that will stay quite small. Common Columbian boas and Central American boas are the same species (Boa constrictor imperator or just Boa imperator). These are a separate species from your true Red Tail Boa Constrictors (Boa constrictor constrictor) As a complete generalization Central American boas will range from adult sizes of 3-5 feet in length. Island boas such as the Hog Island and Crawl Cay localities tend to be quite small and mainland boas such as the Costa Rican boa tend to be larger. If you want an in-depth description of each Central Amercian locale along with any variations in care for each, I would highly recommend Vin Russo’s book. The Complete Boa Constrictor: Central American Boa Care Vin goes into great detail regarding each specific locality of Central America Boa as well as any differences in care. You can find my review of the book HERE. However, I will say most of Vin’s advice is relevant if you are trying to breed. If you are just looking for general Central American Boa care, then the care sheet below will work just fine!

Central American Boa Care

Central American Boa care: Enclosure
Central American Boa care: Enclosure

Enclosure

The enclosure you choose should be at least the length of your snake when fully stretched out. Longer is even better provided you have ample hiding spots! Most likely you will require an enclosure that is somewhere between 4′-5′ long and somewhere between 18″-24″ wide. Central American Boas are light-bodied and many of them are keen on climbing! I recommend providing at least 18″-24″ of climbing space. There are plenty of caging options n the market these days, but PVC enclosures seem to be the most popular as they maintain humidity and heat nicely. Animal Plastics has some really nice options:
Central American Boa Care
Photo from: https://apcages.com/collections/terrestrial-cages/products/t12-48l-x-24w-x-24h
  If you follow my YouTube Channel you know I have built a few of my own cages as well. You can see the examples in the video below or visit my DIY Page. I recommend having plenty of climbing branches and shelves too! Watch the video below to see who I built shelves for my Central American Boa (Winston) and secured climbing branches inside the enclosure.
Want to save money on cage decor? Check out my article on “How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles” to learn how to use branches from outside!

Feeding

This section is SO important! So important that it needed its own post completely. I wrote an entire, in-depth article regarding how to feed your boa constrictor, Boa constrictor feeding chart Long story short, people tend to WAY overfeed their boas! Again, the Central American boa care is not going to differ from a Columbian boa but please do your research! The article above will provide you with what you need to know. I am intentionally leaving out specific feed routines and practices in this article because I’d like you to read the more in-depth article available.

Humidity

Humidity requirements are fairly straightforward for Central American Boas. I try and keep the relative humidity between 60-80% in the summer and 50-60% in the winter. Your snake should shed in one complete piece if they shed in pieces you need to bump up your humidity.
Click here to learn more about balancing your humidity levels: How to Increase the Humidity in a Terrarium
Central American Boa Care: Neonate
Central American Boa Care: Neonate

Temperature

This is another area where I personally believe people over-do i.e. keep their snakes too hot! Not too mention, some of the Central American localities can handle even cooler temperatures than their South American cousins. For example, in the wild Sonoran Desert boas are exposed to temperatures as low as 50°F in the winter months. As I said above, Vin Russo’s book goes into detail regarding temperatures for each locality but the general figures below will also work fine!

Summer (or year round):

  • Hotspot: 88-92°F
  • Ambient warm side: 80-85°
  • Ambient cool side: 72-78°F

Winter (cooling off the temperatures during the winter is not necessary if you do make sure you also reduce meal frequency):

  • Hotspot (no hotspot at night): 85°F
  • Ambient warm side: 78°F
  • Ambient cool side and night time: 70-72°F
If you cool down your boa in the winter, make sure you change the temperatures gradually over several weeks. You can use a heat mat, heat tape or even a radiant heat panel to maintain proper temperatures. You must use a thermostat! Read the article below to check out my favorite thermostats as well as how to properly set up your thermostat probe:
Best Thermostat for Reptiles: 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!
Your boa will tell you what you need to know if you observe them closely. They should oscillate between their warm hide and cool hide on a semi-regular basis (maybe once a week or once every 2 weeks). If they spend all their time on the cool side, I would consider cooling off the hotspot. If they spend all their time in the warm hide, I would but up your cool side ambient temperature. In my experience, boas like somewhat cooler temperatures. My boas spend the majority of their time on the cool side (usually 72-74°F) and tend to only go to the warm side to shed and digest.
How to Make: Radiant Heat Panel for Reptiles (Video)
Central American Boa Care: 3 year old
Central American Boa Care: 3-year-old, male.

Lighting

Central American boa constrictors do not have any specific light requirements but in my opinion, it is healthy to offer a regular photoperiod. I use LED strip lighting for my boas and I connect it to an outlet timer with a 12 hour on/ 12 hour off cycle in the summer and a 10 hour on/ 14 hour off cycle in the winter.

Substrate

There are plenty of great substrates to choose from! I personally like shredded aspen and coco-husk. Watch the video below or read the article for more information on the substrate.

Cleaning

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

Whether you live in an arid climate or you care for a species that requires a high level of humidity (such as a rainbow boa or amphibian species), you’ll certainly need to know how to increase humidity in a terrarium!

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR MY VIDEO REVIEW OF SPHAGNUM MOSS

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

Sphagnum Moss is one of the best, natural ways you can increase your humidity levels.

Humidity vs Relative Humidity

Before we go any further it is important we understand what we are talking about!

Humidity: as you probably know is the term we use to describe the amount of water vapor in the air.

Relative Humidity: on the other hand, is the actual measurement of the amount of vapor in the air represented as a percentage of the amount needed to fully saturate the air at its current temperature.

Relative humidity is what you are working with when discussing humidity levels inside your terrarium. The reason it is “relative” is due to the fact that air is capable of holding different amounts of water vapor at different temperatures.

Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air as shown in this image below.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
from: http://www.processtechacademy.com/its-all-relative/

An equal volume of water vapor will result in different levels of relative humidity at different temperatures. Therefore it is important that you are trying to balance your reptile’s humidity levels after you have established the proper temperature parameters.

If you are looking for how to increase humidity in a terrarium… then here are the first two keys takeaways:

  1. Higher relative humidity will require more water vapor in the air
  2. You must ensure your temperatures are set properly for the species you care for before trying to establish proper humidity levels.

How to Measure: Best Hygrometer for Reptiles

Okay, so I understand what relative humidity is but how do you measure it? What is the best hygrometer for reptiles?

There are many digital hygrometers on the market, typically you can save money by buying one off of Amazon rather than your local pet store.

You have two options when it comes to hygrometers:

  1. Inexpensive ($3-8), the two below are the ones I use (the white one seems to be more accurate, see below).Inexpensive hygrometers have two fairly serious faults. The first is that they are typically not that accurate and the second is over time they will become even more inaccurate as extended exposure to high humidity tends to damage the sensors.
    Best reptile hygrometer- DC103
    Best reptile hygrometer- DC103
    Best reptile hygrometer
    Best reptile – Brand: Amir

     

  2. Or expensive ($10-25). You’ll find high-quality hygrometers in the cigar hobby. Those guys are serious about there relative humidity! Cigar hygrometers are very accurate, can handle high humidity for a very long time and can be calibrated and recalibrated to maintain accuracy.
Best Reptile Hygrometer- Hydroset II
Best Reptile Hygrometer- Hydroset II

 

Best reptile hygrometer- Cigar Oasis Caliber IV
Best reptile hygrometer- Cigar Oasis Caliber IV

 

If Cheap Hygrometers are Inaccurate, Are they even worth it?

You don’t feel like spending the extra money on an expensive, more accurate hygrometer hey? I don’t blame you! I didn’t either. Fortunately, there is a way you can calibrate even the cheap units!

Calibrating a Hygrometer

How to Test a Hygrometer: 6 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow

Instead of a ziplock bag, I used a Tupperware container like in this video:

Note: You need to wait the full 24 hours, as the video says. Not 6 like the wikiHow article says.

Your inexpensive hygrometer will not have a button to adjust the reading it gives you so it is just something you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, this was my result after calibrating my units:

Best Reptile Hygrometer
Best Reptile Hygrometer

This meant that the white hygrometer bang on but the black ones seem to read about 10-12 % high. There is nothing I can do to the black ones to make them display an accurate figure, instead, I just have to do some mental math every time I look at them.

NOTE: I redid this calibration about 1 year later and the white one then displayed 72% (i.e. 3 % low) and the black ones displayed 79% (4% high). As I said above, over time the inexpensive hygrometers will fluctuate in their accuracy.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

There are several different ways you can increase humidity in your animal’s terrarium. Your goal should be to set your enclosure up in a way that the relative humidity stays within your animal’s requirements with little to no regular intervention.

In other words, you should not be fighting with your humidity levels on a regular basis. Things should be set up in a way that your humidity natural sits in the healthy range for your specific animal.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium: Various Methods

Ventilation:

The more ventilation you have the lower you relative humidity will be. If you have an animal that requires high levels of humidity than limited ventilation is in order.

My Brazilian Rainbow Boa enclosure only has eight vent holes, four of them are shown below:

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Ventilation- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Ventilation- How to increase humidity in a terrarium

Water Dish:

This one is pretty straightforward! The larger the surface area of your water dish, the more evaporation, the more water vapor in the air of your terrarium. Some people like to but their water dish on the warm side of the enclosure to illicit more evaporation. In my opinion that encourages bacteria growth in the water dish.

I like to use large plastic containers for my water dishes (without the lid obviously):

Large water dish- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
Large water dish- How to increase humidity in a terrarium

Substrate:

There are many types of substrates you can use to help maintain humidity in your terrarium. Cypress mulch and EcoEarthare my favorites, you can read more about that in this article: Best Ball Python Substrate.

Cypress Mulch- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
Cypress Mulch- How to increase humidity in a terrarium
EcoEarth- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
EcoEarth- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

These are great substrates but keep in mind there affects on your terrarium’s humidity is not permanent. They will slowly dry out over time and no longer provide as much moisture as they did right out of the bag.

Misting:

Misting your terrarium is one of those controversial methods! Many people say you should not use misting as a way to maintain humidity (unless of course, you are using it for your animal’s drinking water).

Generally, people say to avoid this method for two reasons: 1) it implies that you have not done a great job setting up your enclosure so it can maintain proper humidity on its own and 2) it can lead to too much sitting-water in the terrarium.

Exo Terra Mister- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
Exo Terra Mister- How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

“Anti-misters” definitely have a point! This is a method that should be used sparingly but I do think it has its place provided it is done properly. If you are like me and have to deal with an extremely arid climate then misting may be a necessity for you on occasion.

When I mist, I make sure to mix around the substrate while I do it. I am looking to create a slightly moistened substrate and that is it, not sopping wet!

Sphagnum moss for Snakes and other Critters!

Just recently I tried out sphagnum moss by Zoomed and loved it! It is a very easy (and reusable) product that holds moisture for a very long period of time! I added it to my Brazilian rainbow enclosure and it maintained a relative humidity of over 90% for more than 2 weeks straight without having to be re-moistened.

How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium

I highly recommend this product if you are needing a boost in your humidity levels. Watch my full video review below:

 

Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!

Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!

I am glad you are here! That means you likely understand the importance of using a thermostat in your reptile’s setup. Read below to see my list for the best thermostat for reptiles.

Thermostats are an extremely important piece of equipment and should be included in many reptile setups. Reference the chart below for when to use one:

HEAT SOURCE THERMOSTAT NEEDED?
Heat Bulb No (use a dimmer instead)
Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) Yes
Heat Cable Yes
Heat Mat or Heat Tape Yes
Radiant Heat Panel Yes

See a pattern? Yep, pretty much every type of heat source should be controlled by a thermostat.


 

Why Use a Thermostat?

I don’t want to spend to much time writing about why a thermostat is necessary but here are the Cole Notes—Your reptile does not feel the temperature in the same way you do. Because of this, your animal can EASILY burn itself on a malfunctioning heat source… Google it… it’s horrible to see. Also, having an unregulated heat source is a fire hazard… you can Google that too if you like.

Best Thermostat for Reptiles: Types of Thermostats

There are two main types of common thermostats:

  1. An “On/Off Switch” Thermostat
  2. A Proportional Thermostat

On/Off Switch Thermostat:

Best Thermostat for Reptiles
Best Thermostat for Reptiles

This type of thermostat operates in the same way your room thermostat works by setting a minimum and a maximum temperature.

For example, if you want to maintain a hot spot of about 90°F you would set you the maximum temperature to 90°F. When the probe reads a temperature of 90°F the thermostat clicks the heat source OFF. The thermostat will also allow you to set a temperature for the heat to be switched back ON, typically 1-2° lower than the maximum temperature setting.

Typically On/Off Switch thermostats are relatively inexpensive, although due to the constant switching from On to Off they enviability wear out and break. I recommend checking your temperatures manually at least once per week (see below).

Proportional Thermostats:

Best Thermostat for Reptiles
Best Thermostat for Reptiles

This type of thermostat is more advanced than the On/Off version above. A proportional thermostat operates by oscillating the electrical power being sent to the heat source.

In other words, it “smoothly” adjusts the heat source’s power to maintain a very stable heat. The heat source is on all the time but will go through waves of delivering more/less power.

These thermostats are usually quite expensive but for good reason. The quality is much higher than the On/Off thermostats and they are much more versatile. Typically they allow you to program in night drops and the really expensive ones allow you to run multiple heat sources with multiple probes. Definitely what you want if you have several enclosures in close quarters.

My Recommendations: Best Thermostat for Reptiles

Here is a list of thermostats I recommend because I personally use them. I will not recommend any “inexpensive” thermostats that I have not personally used.

 

Thermostat

Pros

Cons

Rating

Find on Amazon

InkBird Temperature Controller
Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!

•Easy to Set up

•Small size

•On/Off Temperature can be set within 1° i.e. Heat off at 88°F, on at 87°F for example.

•Detachable probe

• Relatively thick probe

•Device plugs in directly to the wall (could be an inconvenience if you need to access the controls regularly, although a simple extension cord would fix this)

★★★★☆

• Overall I rate this thermostat 4 out of 5.

• It is a perfect thermostat if you are looking for something simple, especially for beginner hobbyists.

Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!
WillHi Thermostat
Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!

•Very long probe cord

• Detachable probe

• Small/narrow probe tip (easy to tuck under heat mats)

•On/Off Temperature can be set within 1° i.e. Heat off at 88°F, on at 87°F for example.

•Easy to hang on wall or side of enclosure

• A little confusing to set up although doable

 

★★★★☆

• Overall I rate this thermostat 4 out of 5.

•I have and would buy this thermostat again.

Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!
Ringder ThermostatBest Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid! • It functions as it should…

•Complicated to program

•Temperature Probe is fixed

•Probe tip is very large

•Probe cable is short

★★☆☆☆

•This was the first thermostat I had ever purchased and as I said in the ‘pros’ column, it does work as it should.

•But honestly, I only give this thermostat a 2 out of 5. The probe is annoying because it is so short and the tip is quite large.

Again, the thing functions but your dollars can go much further on one of the examples above.

Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!

 

If you are truly looking for THE BEST THERMOSTAT FOR REPTILES than these would be your answer! Here is a list of the two main proportional thermostats on the market. I do not have personal experience with them but they are both highly valued and widely used in the reptile hobby.

Vivarium Electronics VE-300
List Price:$139.99
Price:$139.99
Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!
Price Disclaimer
Herpstat 2 Redline
List Price:$239.99
Price:$239.99
Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!
Price Disclaimer

 

If you are using a light bulb for your heat source a thermostat is not very convenient (you don’t want the bulb to click on and off) so instead, I use an outlet dimmer:

Leviton TBL03-10E Tabletop Slide Control Lamp Dimmer, 300-Watt, Black
List Price:$16.97
Price:$11.97
You Save:$5.00
Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!
Price Disclaimer

This allows you to control the output of the bulb and set the power to a level that gives you the hot spot temperature you are after. You’ll need an IR Temperature gun to monitor the hotspot:

Best Thermostat for Reptiles- 4 Great Options and 1 to Avoid!

 

 

How to Setup Thermostat Probe

The video below is a compilation of three clips from videos that I had previously made. In the video, I explain how to set up your thermostat probe and how to program the thermostat.

Time Stamps:

0:00– Installing probe using a heat mat

1:48– Programming the Inkbird Thermostat

2:56– Installing probe using heat tape, making an air gap

 

For more of those videos go to:

https://www.animalsathome.ca/brazilian-rainbow-boa-enclosure/

https://www.animalsathome.ca/brazilian-rainbow-boa-setup/

It is very important that the probe is kept outside of the enclosure (or if using a radiant heat panel the probe should be hovering in the air somewhere). If your animal has direct access to the probe i.e. if it’s on the floor, the temperature reading can be very inaccurate. This is because your animal can move the probe or even worse the probe could get wet and stop working.

NOTE: The temperature you set your thermostat to WILL NOT automatically equal the hotspot temperature inside the enclosure! Since the probe is between the heat source and the bottom of the enclosure, it will likely be reading a much higher temperature than the hotspot inside the enclosure is showing. This is because the heat has to penetrate the bottom floor of the enclosure meaning this is very dependent on the type of material your enclosure is made from.

Best Thermostat for Reptiles
Best Thermostat for Reptiles
Best Thermostat for Reptiles
Best Thermostat for Reptiles

The thermostats above are maintaining a hotspot inside their respective enclosures of about 90°F. As you can see I have had to overshoot the thermostat setting to reach my desired temperature.

This is a crucial step!! When setting up a thermostat to the proper temperature these are the steps you should follow:

•Buy an IR Temperature gun if you don’t have one (they’re cheap and useful!)

•Set your thermostat for the temperature you are aiming for and let it warm up for 1 hour or so.

•Point your IR Temp gun at the hotspot to read the temperature.

•Adjust your thermostat setting accordingly until you reach the desired temperature inside the enclosure.

This is NOT the Best thermostat for Reptiles!

Unfortunately (at least in my experience), decent thermostats are not often carried in chain pet stores. Considering how vital they are to your reptile’s health I can’t understand why that is the case.

Anyway, most pet stores do carry a device they like to pass off as a thermostat. This device is a RheostatThese are NOT thermostats! They basically act in the same way as the dimmer switch I described above. They allow you to control your heat source’s power output.

The issue with this is that it has nothing to do with temperature. For example, let’s say you set up your enclosure and find that you get a perfect hotspot of 90° with the rheostat set at the “medium setting.” Now let’s say your room temperature rises the next day unexpectedly… your rheostat is still going to be pumping out heat at a “medium” level, making the hotspot far hotter than your original test. Whereas a thermostat would have clicked off.

In other words, don’t buy a rheostat!

Best Thermostat for Reptiles: Things to Remember

1. You should always be checking your hotspot temperatures manually to ensure everything is functioning properly.

2. Make sure you set up the temperature setting properly. I.e. use an IR temperature gun to establish the correct setting.

3. Remember, the cheaper the thermostat the more likely it will fail but a cheap thermostat is better than no thermostat! Saving up for a high-quality thermostat should be on your list of things to do eventually, especially if your collection starts to grow.

How to Train a Snake Not to Bite- A Simple, Effective Technique

How to Train a Snake Not to Bite- A Simple, Effective Technique

How to train a snake not to bite? Can you tame a snake? How to pick up a snake without it biting you?

Well these are certainly loaded questions as there are many reasons your snake may be trying to take a piece of your hand every time  you reach into their enclosure.

In this article I  will cover common reasons for snakes biting (mainly bites that take place inside their enclosure) and will show you a simple technique (video) you can use to slowly train your snake not to bite.

Why Snakes Bite

“My snake hates me!” … that may actually be true…

There are a few things that we need to understand first:

1) Your snake does not enjoy being held. I know this can be painful for some to admit. Truthfully, some snakes do tolerate being handled quite well and some do not (really depends on the individual snake and species). However, even the ones that do tolerate being handled do not necessarily enjoy it . Remember, you are just another animal to them.

2) Having said that, I know we can’t resist handling our animals at least a little bit so luckily there are ways we can make sure it is an enjoyable experience for you (no bites!) and a somewhat relaxing experience for the animal. HINT: If your snake is biting you or striking at you, you can bet it is having a stressful experience.

How to pick up a snake without it biting you
How to pick up a snake without it biting you

Reasons your snake might bite:

If you are wondering how to train a snake not to bite… you’ll find below that it might be YOU who needs the training and not the snake! Here are some reasons that your snake might be biting and what do to about it.

1) New Arrival/ Environmental Stress: 
How to train a snake not to bite- Reasons snakes bite
How to train a snake not to bite- Reasons snakes bite

Give your new snake at least 2-3 weeks in its new home before you handle it (I know it’s hard!). It can take several months for a snake to become comfortable in a new enclosure and adding the stress of handling can easily draw a strike or bite.

General stress can also elicit a strike. For example, if your snake is in a high foot traffic area with lots of noise, etc. it could put the snake in somewhat of a “heightened state”, which could easily lead to a bite.  If you have a “biter” in a busy room, I would recommend moving the enclosure to a quieter space to see if that makes a difference.

2) Inadequate Husbandry: 

Again, another stress inducer and unfortunately quite a common reason for snake bites in the hobby! This is one of the first questions I would ask someone who is wondering how to train a snake not to bite. If your husbandry is off (wrong temperature, poor humidity/ventilation, food schedule, etc.) it can EASILY make your snake aggressive. Think about it… are you pleasant to be around when you are in discomfort? I know I’m not!

Great husbandry can turn an aggressive snake into a puppy dog and bad husbandry can turn a calm snake into a beast!

3) Going into Shed: 
How to train a snake not to bite- Snake in shed
How to train a snake not to bite- Snake in shed

Some (most?) snakes do not like being pestered when they are going through shed. Especially while deep in blue because at this stage they are almost completely blind due to the build up of secretions behind the eye cap.

Make sure you understand the signs of your snake going into shed. Dull appearance, cloudy eyes, normally spending time in their warm hide, etc. As a Rule of Thumb: don’t move your snake while it is in shed, let them be! Messing with a snake in shed is asking for a bite!

4) Defense: 

A defensive strike is something you snake might do if you are rummaging around in its enclosure for longer than it is comfortable with. Generally this is caused by surprising your snake with your presence in its enclosure (snakes hate surprises).

Your snake will react with a defensive strike if they are under the impression you are a threat. They will strike, bite and recoil before you have blinked.

5) Feed RESPONSE
Feed response- How to train a snake not to bite
Feed response- How to train a snake not to bite

I think this one is self explanatory. If you snake thinks your hand is food… good luck! A feed response bite is likely going to be followed with a constriction, which would be a real pain in the a..arm! Apparently running the snake under water will get them to let go…? I have never had it happen so I am no expert!

This is not likely to occur unless your hand smells like  your feeder rodents so always remember to was your hands!

Of course there are other reasons your snake may be biting, such as illness or breeding activity but I think those five cover the most common reasons.

How to Train a Snake Not to Bite?

As you can see from the list above, there are quite a few reasons your snake may be trying to bite you. The majority of the reasons have nothing to do with “training a snake not to bite” and everything to do with how you are caring for your animal.

However, we can use the technique of hook training to help reduce or prevent bites from taking place. I have consistently used the method of hook training from the first day I brought my snakes home. To date I have not been bit or even struck at by one of my animals. I certainly attribute this to hook training.

**DISCLAIMER**

Presently, it seems scientifically uncertain whether or not snakes can learn. In other words, it has not been made clear in any research that I could find that snakes can be successful taught or conditioned.  This means hook training may not actually work by technically conditioning the snake to respond to the hook… you’ll have to try it for yourself and see what you think!

What is Hook Training:

Hook training (sometimes called tap training) is a method used to condition your snake when removing them from their enclosure.

Here are the steps:

Hook training, snake hooks
Hook training, snake hooks

Buy a snake hook!I don’t recommend one of the cheap “collapsible ZooMed” ones.  The one below is very similar to the one I own and honestly it’s not even that expensive. Definitely worth the investment!

 

Tap Your Snake:

Now that you have you snake hook, the rest is very simple.

  • Open you snake’s enclosure
  • Reach inside with your hook and give your snake a few taps.
How to pick up a snake without it biting you
How to pick up a snake without it biting you

 

How to train a snake not to bite
How to train a snake not to bite

 

Tap with the Hook
Tap with the Hook
  • After the snake has been tapped a few times, they can be scooped out of the enclosure with the hook.
Remove from enclosure- How to train a snake not to bite
Remove from enclosure- How to train a snake not to bite

 

Remove from enclosure- How to train a snake not to bite
Remove from enclosure- How to train a snake not to bite
  • After the snake has been removed from their enclosure your snake can be handled freely by hand.
Handling a Boa
Handling a Boa

Why does Hook Training Work?

Here is the basic theory behind hook training—

Tapping your snake with your hook accomplishes a few things:

a) It warns the snake that you are there. Since the hook is not emitting a heat signature, your snake is not going to interpret its presence as a threat. This allows you to safely pull the snake out of its enclosure without risk of triggering a defensive strike.

b) By tapping the snake with the hook every time you interact with it (other than feeding) you are conditioning it to understand that the hook means it’s not being fed i.e. you will eliminate any accidental feed response bites.

If you are looking for how to train a snake not to bite, hook training is really your best bet in my opinion.

Calm snake- How to train a snake not to bite
Calm snake- How to train a snake not to bite

My Snake Never Bites, Should I still use Hook Training?

My answer is, yes! Even if you have a very docile snake that does not have an issue with being handled I still recommend using hook training.

Here’s why—

1) Hook training provides very consistent stimuli for your snake. Your hand is constantly a different temperature, and will have a different scent from day to day. The hook is always the same. This, in my opinion, reduces the stress experienced by the snake every time you pull them from their home.

2) If you have a larger species of snake, you’re going to want to trust that they aren’t going to bite when they are full grown. Hook training will give you the confidence to trust that your animal is not going to bite.

3) Snake bites are hard on the snake! Quite often snakes will loose teeth when they bite their humans. This is usually caused by the human pulling their hand away quickly, teeth stick in the skin and rip out. Try not pulling your hand away when being struck at…. good luck!

My Snake is Still Biting!

Be patient! It can take a lot of time to calm down a nervous snake. Every day is a new day, if your snake was on the nasty side today… try again tomorrow! Your snake is not going to hold a grudge against you (even if it seems like it), every day is a fresh start.

How to Clean a Snake Tank- 3 Methods

How to Clean a Snake Tank- 3 Methods

How to clean a snake tank? Well there is definitely more than one way to do this but I will layout the way I go about it and the reasons why!

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR A FREE SNAKE CARE LOGBOOK!

Spot Clean or Full Tank Clean?

Spot Clean: When people use the term “spot clean” they essentially mean they remove feces & waste when the see it. Basically the same thing you see people do with their dogs when they take dumps in the park.

During a typical spot clean, the owner scoops out the waste (and usually some of the substrate) throws it out and moves on to the next enclosure. This is a quick method for removing waste, especially if you have many animals to clean.

People who subscribe to this method normally do a full tank clean every few weeks so they can wipe down the floor, and replace the substrate etc. as spot cleaning does not normally take care of all the waste (especially urates).

 

Full Tank Clean: The other common way people clean their snake’s tank is by doing a full clean. In other words, they pull everything out (animal, decor, water dish, etc), throw all the old substrate out, and then sanitize the floor and the walls. Once clean, they re-add fresh substrate, decor and of course the animal!

This method is common for tanks with a paper towel or newspaper substrate because the urates are not contained very well i.e. snake pee tends to spread out over a larger foot print.

So what is the better of the two methods? In my opinion: neither!

Freshly Cleaned Cage
Freshly Cleaned Cage

How to Clean a Snake Tank-The Hybrid Method:

The method I use is a combination of both a “spot clean” and a “full clean.” First, let’s take a look at the reasons I don’t like the spot clean and full clean methods.

Why I Don’t Spot Clean:

Urates tend to remain in the enclosure. Feces are very easy to scoop up in a spot clean but urates (snake urine, which is both solid white clumps and liquid) are harder to pick up because the liquid seeps into the surrounding substrate.

This can leave the offensive smell of snake urine inside the enclosure. This is a very bad smell. If you’ve ever been to a reptile breeder or pet shop that doesn’t do a good job cleaning, the smell of snake pee will hit you like a truck when you walk into the door. I do not want my office smelling that way (the room I keep my snakes).

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How to Clean a Snake Tank- 3 Methods

Why I don’t do a Full Clean

There are a few reasons why I don’t like to do a full clean of my snake enclosures every time they defecate. The first (and less important of the two) is to save time and money, doing a full cleaning takes more time and you end up going through way more substrate because you replace all the bedding every time you clean.

The real reason I don’t like doing a full cleaning is because I think it is important to keep the snake’s environment as consistent as possible. Snakes are very sensitive to their environment, especially due to their powerful sense of smell. Drastically changing a snakes environment can actually induce a stress response in the animal.

Think of it this way— your snake has been crawling and borrowing all over its substrate and decor for weeks, it becomes familiar with the smells of the enclosure. I also think (me speculating) that the animal itself emits its own body odor throughout the enclosure, an odor which that maybe we can’t perceive but it can. In other words, its enclosure “smells like home.”

When you perform a full clean, you completely strip all of that away in one fell swoop. This thrusts the animal into a brand new environment, an environment it has not explored (even if it looks the same, it doesn’t smell the same), an environment that may not be safe.  Hence a stress response. Take a listen to this HerpNation Podcast @ 45:10 ,the whole podcast is good but the 45 minute mark discusses this in more detail.

In my opinion, the “hybrid” method I use is best of both worlds. It removes all the urates, removing the pee smell and allows most of the substrate to remain in the enclosure to hopefully keep environment slightly more familiar to the animal.

Step by Step How to Clean a Snake Tank 

Here are the supplies I use:

How to clean a snake tank-Supplies
How to clean a snake tank-Supplies

What is the best substrate to use? Check out this article:  BEST SNAKE SUBSTRATE

STEP 1:

Remove Decor!

Remove all decor
Remove all decor

STEP TWO:

Remove Animal!

Pull out snake!
Pull out snake!

STEP THREE:

Remove feces, urates and substrate! I ONLY remove the substrate that falls within about a 8-10″ radius around where the waste was found. Essentially I am trying to remove all substrate that has absorbed any of the urine.

Snake poop
Snake poop
How to clean snake tank with kitty litter scoop
How to clean snake tank with kitty litter scoop

Once I am left with only unsoiled substrate, I push what is left over to the sides of the enclosure.

Left over, clean substrate
Left over, clean substrate

STEP FOUR:

Next, I spray the area down with the 10% bleach solution.  I let the solution sit for 10-15 minutes to give it time to kill any bacteria.

Clean snake tank with bleach solution
Clean snake tank with bleach solution

Then I wipe up the bleach!

Paper Towel- How to clean a snake tank
Paper Towel- How to clean a snake tank

STEP FIVE:

Once the bleach is wiped up, I then mist the whole area down again but this time with fresh water. The idea here is that the water is absorbing any leftover bleach solution that remains on the floor of the enclosure.

How to clean a snake tank- water spray
How to clean a snake tank- water spray

Once I wipe up the water, I try my best to use my nose to determine if I can either still smell urine, or bleach. If I don’t smell either, I move on!

STEP SIX:

Time to replace the soiled substrate with fresh substrate!

Fresh Aspen
Fresh Aspen

Once the new substrate is in, decor can also be re-added!

Freshly clean tank
Freshly clean tank

STEP SEVEN:

This is a crucial step in my opinion! I know not everyone is going to do this but I highly recommend keeping a logbook. I have attached a PDF copy of the logbook I made and use below. Download it, print it and use it if you like!

Snake care is not complicated, but a lot of the care is “few and far between,” especially feeding and cleaning. A logbook just makes your life easier, and allows you to maintain healthier animals.

After every defecation I always weigh my snakes. Waiting until after they have defecated will allow you to get a more accurate weight, as you will be weighing close to “empty.”

Weighing a Boa constrictor
Weighing a Boa constrictor

A healthy snake should be always gaining or maintaining their weight (give or take). Of course if you are breeding your animals they will be subject to weight changes but generally you are looking for any unexpected changes in weight. An animal that is loosing weight unexpectedly could be ill, and if that is the case I would consider taking them in to see a vet.

Snake Care Logbook
Snake Care Logbook

Here is a snapshot of my logbook. First I write in the date, then the weight of the snake, next to the weight in brackets I right how much weight was gained or lost, then I will make a note regarding the waste itself (eg. usually I put an, “N”= normal, but if I notice anything strange or different I will jot that down instead), and finally I put another number in brackets indicating how many days since last defecation.

The particular example above the animal actually lost weight but if you look at the line above you will see why. The day before the snake produced urates only and when I weighed him he was still holding on to 50g of feces.

How to Clean a Snake Tank- 3 Methods

CLICK HERE to Download FREE Snake Care LogBook

Happy Snake: How to clean a snake tank
Happy Snake: How to clean a snake tank

I hope you found this article helpful! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or just want to say hi!  hello@animalsathome.ca

Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid

Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid
Question: What is the best substrate for ball pythons (or for any snake for that matter)? In this article I am going to give my review and opinion on 5 different substrate options you could use for your ball python, boa, corn snake, king snake, etc. I am all about NATURAL SUBSTRATES! The best substrate for ball pythons in my opinion is either aspen or coconut husk. If you own a different species of snake, you may find another substrate on this page to be beneficial.
Here are the 5 Snake Substrates I review in the article:

What is the Best Substrate for Ball Pythons and Other Captive Snakes- VIDEO:

ASPEN

Brands/ Where to Buy:

The most common brand available is Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding. There are other brands of “pet” aspen bedding widely available as well but the nice thing about the Zoo Med product is it is designed for snake use.
Aspen Substrate for snakes
Aspen Substrate for snakes
The issue with “general use” aspen bedding, i.e. bedding that is made for rodents, birds, etc. is that the chips are much larger (could potentially lead to digestion issues if swallowed), and they tend to be quite dusty.
Aspen Substrate for snakes
Aspen Substrate for snakes
Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding is “double shredded” for smaller chips (can safely pass through digestive system if they happen to ingested, this needs to still be avoided!) and they have also removed all of the dust!

Pros:

  • Aspen has a nice, natural “woody” scent
  • It absorbs waste well
  • Its texture and size make it a great substrate for burrowing animals
  • It is very light in color— this may seem like a random “pro” so let me explain. The light color makes it very easy to spot your snakes waste in the enclosure. Spot checking is much quicker with aspen when compared to darker substrates (the waste sticks out like a sore thumb!)
Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid

Cons:

  • Messy! No matter how careful you are… you will need to vacuum or sweep your floor on cleaning day. The light weight aspen will find its way to the floor no matter what!
  • If aspen is left damp for a long period of time it will grow mold
Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid

Final Thoughts:

Aspen is often considered the best substrate for ball pythons, boas, corn snakes, king snakes, hognose… well pretty much any kind of snake!  This is totally subjective but I definitely recommend trying it out to see what you think! This is a great substrate if you are looking for something natural looking (and smelling) and will give your animal something to burrow through. I would only advice against using it in very humid enclosures, for example I wouldn’t use it for my Brazilian Rainbow boa.

COCONUT HUSK

Brands/ Where to Buy:

There are many different brands of coconut husk available on the market, and it really comes down to your personal preference. A few of the popular pet brands are: But! This is also a very common product in the gardening industry and you can usually find large bricks of it in gardening stores or online:
Coco bedding for snakes
Coco bedding for snakes
Pros:
  • This substrate is highly absorbent! It does a great job of not only absorbing liquids but also smells too.
  • Like most coconut products, coconut husk is anti-bacteria/microbial meaning you do not need to worry about mold growing on the substrate.
Coco bedding for snakes
Coco bedding for snakes

Cons:

  • Coconut husk is made of fairly large “chips”. Because of this I am always extra careful when feeding my snakes on this substrate, as swallowing a large piece of substrate could cause digestive issues. On occasion one of my animals will ingest some coconut husk… It has never caused a problem but I still try and avoid it.
  • Due to its size it in not the best substrate for burrowing
    Coco bedding for snakes
    Coco bedding for snakes

Final Thoughts:

I highly recommend coconut husk as a snake substrate for pretty much any snake you own (ball python, boa, corn, etc.). Is it the best substrate for ball pythons or other snakes? Again, it is up to personal preference. I love coconut husk and it is pretty much all I use for my boas (although right now they are on a aspen/coconut husk mix). Here is a reason you might not want to use it: Due to its coconut husk’s color and amazing ability to absorb smells and waste it can actually make spot checking a little more challenging as your snakes waste is camouflaged better (both visually and scent-wise). Now this is hardly a “con” but it you have many animals to check on, you might gravitate towards a lighter color substrate (such as aspen) so you can more easily see your snakes waste.

CYPRESS MULCH

Brands/ Where to Buy:

The only brand of cypress mulch I have found locally is Zoo Med Forest Flooralthough you might be able to find better deals on Amazon for other popular brands. You can also find cypress mulch at your local gardening store but make sure it contains CYPRESS MULCH ONLY, some contain pine and cedar chips which are toxic to your animal.
Cypress mulch for snakes
Cypress mulch for snakes

Pros:

  • Cypress mulch is the go-to substrate if you need a bump in your humidity. When cypress mulch is bagged it begins to go through a decomposition process, this process releases moisture from the wood chips. You will notice when you first open a fresh bag, the chips are very damp.
  • Luckily cypress mulch is very resistant to mold growth so the heavy moisture level is not an issue.
Cypress mulch for snakes
Cypress mulch for snakes
Initially, cypress mulch will induce a humidity spike in your enclosure. Although, over time cypress mulch will dry out. After that you can mist down cypress mulch every few days to try and re-hydrate it, as it holds onto moisture quite well…although it will never be as wet as it is right out of the bag.
Cypress mulch for snakes
Cypress mulch for snakes

Cons:

  • I would not consider cypress mulch as an ideal burrowing substrate as it is not easily dug through (without feet and claws that is!).
  • The chips size is variable but some pieces are very large, and rather sharp. This is another substrate I am very careful when feeding on.
Cypress mulch for snakes
Cypress mulch for snakes

Final Thoughts:

Cypress mulch is not the best substrate for ball pythons, as most likely it would provide more humidity than you require. However, cypress mulch is a fantastic substrate for other snakes, especially humidity living animals such as rainbow boas. This is another GREAT smelling substrate too, it will give your animal’s enclosure a nice “woody” scent and provides some awesome environmental enrichment.

COCONUT FIBER

Brands/ Where to Buy:

Coconut fiber is the last natural substrate I am covering in this article. The brand I use is Eco Earth Loose Coconut SubstrateYou can find it in both a “loose” form and “compressed” form. The loose stuff is definitely easier to work with as the compressed stuff needs to be soaked first. This is another subsrate you may be able to find in a gardening store: Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber.
Coco fiber bedding for snakes
Coco fiber bedding for snakes

Pros:

  • Due to coconut fibers “soil like” texture it makes for a great burrowing substrate!
  • Again, just like coconut husk, coconut fiber is highly absorbent of snake waste (including smell).
  • Its high surface area allows it to retain much more moisture than coconut husk
  • Anti mold
Coco fiber bedding for snakes
Coco fiber bedding for snakes

Cons:

  • This is a messy substrate! When it is dry it gets everywhere and is actually quite dusty which is a definite downside.
Coco fiber bedding for snakes
Coco fiber bedding for snakes

Final Thoughts:

This is a snake substrate that I would again reserve for animals that require higher humidity, i.e. I wouldn’t rank it as the best substrate for ball pythons, and would actually recommend against using it for any snake that doesn’t require elevated humidity. Again it is quite messy and retains quite a lot of moisture. Used on its own is usually more work that its worth (gets in water dishes etc.) although, I have come up with a good solution: I am currently using a blend of cypress mulch and Eco Earth for my Brazilian Rainbow boa. I find the cypress mulch contains the mess of the Eco Earth and the Eco Earth allows for more opportunity to burrow than the cypress mulch would have to offer on its own.

PAPER TOWEL/ NEWSPAPER

Paper towel and newspaper are probably the most frequent substrate recommendations, however, are they actually the best substrate for ball pythons or other snakes? I think NOT! Although they can still play an important role in your animal’s care.
Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid
Paper Towel- the Best Substrate for ball pythons?
There are two scenarios (actually maybe 3) when I would consider paper towel to be the best substrate for ball pythons and other captive snakes. The scenarios are:
Paper Towel- Best Substrate for Ball pythons?
Paper Towel- Best Substrate for Ball pythons?
  1. Quarantine
  2. Hospital
  3. Neonate
Each of these scenarios require you as the caregiver to observe your animal more closely and more carefully. Eliminating the variable of substrate can be highly beneficial when monitoring an animal’s health.   Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid   If you are not using paper towel in one of the 3 scenarios listed above, I highly recommend against using it! Paper towel provides no enrichment for your animal. They can’t dig through it, burrow under it, or smell it. When they slither over it, it provides zero environmental feed back. Many claim paper towel/ newspaper to be the “easiest” and “quickest” substrate to use, clean and maintain. I totally disagree with that! Unlike the natural substrates listed above, paper towel allows for urates and waste to spread across a much larger area as it is not capable of absorbing as much liquid. I find the mess from your snake’s waste is much less contained (smell included!) and requires a much larger clean up. Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid All in all it is a boring substrate to use. As animal owners we can do much more to provide a more enriching environment for our captive animals! There is plenty of research showing, environmental enrichment leads to healthier animals… I find that very easy to believe, I hope you do too!  

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart: When, what and how often should I be feeding?

BEFORE YOU SCROLL, WATCH THIS QUICK CLIP!

Please send any questions to: hello@animalsathome.ca

Some of the most common questions surrounding boa constrictor care have to do with feeding. I would argue it is also the area where most mistakes are made.

Here’s the problem…

If you are like me, when you first started doing research on feeding you found 10 different answers that all contradicted each other.  I know how frustrating that feels! In this post, I hope give you the tools you need to be able to solve this problem on your own. Why should you be able to solve it on your own? Because there are no two animals alike and you need to know what is best for your boa.

Also I have provided a  FREE Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart to help you keep an accurate log.

Spoiler Alert: There is no simple, straightforward answer.  Every animal is different, it is up to you to understand your animal’s behaviors and feed appropriately. First, we must lay down a foundation of information to properly address the question of feeding. But since you have your animals best interest at mind I know you will read through the entire post 🙂 I promise it will be worth your while if you are a newbie to all of this!

Before we start, Let’s watch some Boa’s Eat!



Feeding my snakes never gets old! Anyway, let’s get to the important stuff!

Here are the two main feed related questions:

  1. What size should the prey item be?
  2. How often should I feed?

In this post we are going to look at both those questions as well as some other important information that is often left out of the discussion!

Disclaimer:

First, I should say: I am not an expert!  I am just sharing the experience I have had working with my animals. I also closely follow the care protocol Vin Russo, lays out in his book Complete Boa ConstrictorIf you own a boa and don’t have this book… you need to get it! It is 100% worth the buy. Vin is a legend in the Boa world, he has more experience than most people in the industry and in my opinion his recommendations are very valuable.  For my full review on the book, check out my Resources page.

Do you know what a healthy Boa looks like?

The first tool you should have in your arsenal is the ability to judge (by sight and feel) whether or not you have a healthy snake (by “healthy” I mean “a healthy weight”).

Overweight Boa constrictor:

It is pretty easy to make an animal fat! Boa constrictors are no exception. Over feeding a boa will quickly turn your boa into a stuffed sausage.  It may sound funny but it is actually quite dangerous. Snakes are not adapted to be able to easily store large amounts of fat.

Here’s why:

Mammals (including humans) store both subcutaneous (under the skin) and intra-abdominal fat. When discussing human health, you have probably heard people say something along the lines of “internal (sometimes called visceral) fat is more dangerous than the fat under the skin”. This is a true statement for many reasons, none of which we need to get into here. Snakes , like most reptiles store the majority of their fat intra-abdominally. In other words, they are predisposed to only gain what we call “the dangerous fat” in humans.

The bad news is…

Internal fat is only visible once an animal is direly over-weight. Excessive wrinkling and “ring” shaped fat deposits are a sure sign of an over-weight boa. An over-weight boa will develop Fatty Liver Disease and die prematurely, period.

Here are some very fat boa’s so you know what to look for:

fatty ring deposits boa constrictor
Fatty ring deposits in boa constrictor. Picture from http://reptile-talk.tumblr.com/post/125789581956/can-you-show-pictures-of-what-a-healthyunder
overweight boa
Overweight boa. Picture form http://reptile-talk.tumblr.com/post/125789581956/can-you-show-pictures-of-what-a-healthyunder

Underweight Boa constrictor

Having an under-weight boa due to poor feeding practices is a much less likely occurrence as boa’s have an incredibly slow metabolism and can go long period’s of time between meals. I would think an under-weight boa is more likely to be due to a parasite or illness in most cases.  But it definitely does happen from poor feeding habits as well!

An under-weight boa will have a slight triangular shaped body, i.e. the spine will begin to show. It will also have a reduced muscle tone.

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart
Underweight boa. Picture form http://reptile-talk.tumblr.com/post/125789581956/can-you-show-pictures-of-what-a-healthyunder

Side Story: Poor Feeding Routine!

Last year I “rescued” a 1- year old female Colombian boa from a lady who was selling her in the local classifieds.  This boa was in rough shape. She was over 1 year old, covered in stuck shed and very frail. I have no idea where the lady got this information from but she was feeding the boa 4-5 mouse fuzzies (2-3 g each) per week!!  She also did not provide the animal with any heat, I quote: “It’s a snake, they don’t need heat”. I thought she was joking, she wasn’t. This boa should have already been on 10-12 g hoppers at this point. So the snake was simultaneously being overfed and underfed, the meals were too small and too frequent. All that with no supplementary heat to aid digestion… it was terrible, some people don’t do an ounce of research.

underweight boa
When I received this boa she was covered in stuck shed, had never had supplementary heat and was used to being fed everyday!

 Healthy Boa constrictor 

Boa constrictors are very muscular snakes. A healthy boa should have a square shape to their body (remember I am talking about boa’s specifically here, some species of snake are round in shape naturally), with a slight grove running down the center of the back (often described a loaf of bread).  There should be no protruding spine and absolutely no rolls or fat rings (wrinkles in the skin are normal).

Here is the same from above boa 1-year later:

health boa
Healthy boa constrictor

Note you can also see a groove running down the middle of the tail indicating lateral muscle development on the tail. Also note there are no wrinkles in the tail even though it is tightly coiled i.e. she is not over-weight.

Healthy Boa constrictor
Healthy Boa constrictor

The picture above should give you a decent idea of what is meant by the “square” body shape. Each side of the snake should be relativity flat. In other words the animal should be more shaped like a square tube than a round one.



It is also a very good idea to track the weight of your snake so you can monitor its growth.

Boa’s are not Human!

As much as some people like to think of their animals as “children,” it is very important to understand the biological differences between us and them!

So now that you have an idea of what to look for when judging the health of a boa constrictor we can review a few more vital pieces of information that will help you understand you boa:

  • Ectotherms: Boas, like all reptiles are cold blooded (or ectotherms). This means they do not have to produce their own body heat, unlike you and I and all other mammals. Studies have shown that a snake can survive off just 10% of the food a mammal of the same size can (Snake, Chris Mattison). That is really an incredible stat, who know producing our own heat cost so much!
Ecto vs Endotherms
Ecto vs Endotherms
  • Opportunistic Feeders: If you own a boa you know they are incredible eaters! Boa owners generally don’t have to deal with “fussy” snakes… unlike ball python owners. Boa’s will eat essentially whenever a meal “wanders” by. In the wild not only does this not happen often, they are not always successful when they strike.  Your job is to mimic the wild conditions as much as possible. Your boa would likely take a meal everyday if you let it! This is where understand your snake’s behavior comes into play. Watch for when your boa starts to “hunt” i.e. comes out of its hide in search for food (usually at night), this is NOT a cue to feed but will indicate that it would take a meal and you can adjust your feed plan accordingly.For example: maybe you planned on spacing your boa’s meals out by 5 weeks. But on week 2 there was a bit of a heat wave outside and your animal’s enclosure went up a degree or two, speeding up its metabolism… now its week 3 and the boa is out every night looking for food. This is scenario where you might think about feeding it after 4 weeks instead of 5.
Waiting for food to walk by
Waiting for food to ‘walk’ by
  • Seasonal Eaters: There are natural temperature shifts present in the habitats boa constrictors are native to. As the climate cools in the winter two things occur. 1) A boa’s metabolism will slow down, meaning it will take longer to digest meals. This automatically stretches the time between meals. And 2) there are less options food items available to eat (some animals migrate to warmer climates, some burrow , periods of dormancy etc.). Both reasons cause boas to consume less food in the winter/cooler months. Seasonal eating (eating in summer, and little to none in winter) is so important to a boa’s biology that it induces the most important behavior of them all: breeding. This is why I seasonally feed my boas (even though I don’t plan on breeding). I want to properly replicate the conditions the snake’s biology is adapted to.*

 *You do not HAVE to seasonally feed and ONLY seasonally feed your boa if you provide a temperature drop during the winter months*

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart



Boa Constrictor: What Size to feed & how often?

Now you can see why this is not a simple question to answer! However, with the information above we can tackle those two common questions I listed above:

1)What size should the prey item be?

The prey item should be no thicker than the the thickest part of the animal! At the most, the meal should produce a slight lump. I know that is not a clear-cut answer. Below I have a chart that indicates the size of prey and the weight of my male boa at the time (He is 50% Colombian/ 50% Sonoran, i.e. he will be smaller than a normal common boa).

Prey TypePrey Weight (g)Boa Weight (g)
Hopper Mouse8-1267- 155
Medium Mouse17-20155-222
Jumbo Mouse27-35222-332
Weaned Rat35- 45333-455
Small Rat50-85455- 725
Small Rat (Large ones)85- 105725- 1026
Medium Rats120- 1401026- 1118*

*This is his current weight at 3 years old. I will update the chart as move up in prey size.

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart

Y-Axis:  Blue Line= Boa’s weight (g) and Orange Line= Meal Size (g)

Also please note: this is the way I fed! It is not an exact science, so don’t feel you need to follow this exactly. It is just a general idea. Try your best to pick a meal size that is slightly smaller or equal to the thickest part of the animal.

2) How often should I feed? 

Again, I will show you a breakdown chart of the feed schedule I have followed with by boas and what I plan on doing in the future as they mature. This chart indicates the days between meals in the two right hand columns. Note: I always transition from the “summer” to the “winter” feed schedule and visa-versa. I.e. I always gradually increase space between meals until I get to where I am shooting for.

 *ONLY seasonally feed your boa if you provide a temperature drop during the winter months*

Boa Age (yrs)Summer (days)Winter (Days)
0 (neonate in summer)7-1010-14
11421
21430
32142-45
43070-90
5- and up30-3790

The chart above is a rough outline of how feed my boas! This does not mean you should follow this exactly. Reason being is there are many factors that could alter how often you feed, the most important being temperature. The warmer you keep you boas, the faster their metabolism is, the more you’ll have to feed. 

You need to watch your animals, learn their body language. If you never see your boa “hunt” (i.e. exploring their cage at night, or perched somewhere waiting for a meal to walk by) you may be feeding to often. If they start hunting one day after you feed, you may not being feeding large enough meals. Watch their weight, look and feel their body tone, these are all good cues to keep your feeding schedule in line. 

The take away is this: The chart above is a general idea of what a feeding schedule should look like, but you need to be in-tune enough with your animals to know how to adjust it for their benefit. 

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart

Okay, last but not least! I personally think it is VERY important to keep a log book for you snakes. Especially if you have more than one or two! Boa constrictors are not hard to care for, but it is important that you stick to a proper care plan. A log book can help you do that.

It can be very easy to forgot when you last feed you animal if you didn’t write it down. I always lay out a rough feed plan for 2-3 months in advance (so I know how many rats to buy) and as I feed I make sure to log it so I don’t forget. I HIGHLY recommend you start doing this if you are not already! 

Logging your boa’s meals will help pull you in-tune with you animal. It gives you something to refer, especially when trying to figure out the animals behavioral patterns.

Below I have shared a PDF of the boa constrictor feeding chart that I use to keep track of food intake for my boas. I print these sheets out and put them in a binder (I like writing things by hand), but I also made the PDF fill-able so you can keep a digital copy instead. Please help yourself by clicking the photo or link below!

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart
boa constrictor feeding chart

OR Click this link: Boa constrictor feeding chart

Thanks for reading. If I had to sum this up in a few points I would say this:

  • There is no clear-cut, black and white answer to feeding
  • You can follow a general guide BUT you must stay in-tune with your animal by:
    • Watching body tone, keeping track of weight
    • Reading body language- remember the act of hunting itself is not a cue to feed, but hunting can indicate if you need to adjust your estimated feed plan.
  • KEEP track of your feeding! I can’t stress that enough. The only way to help you learn your animal’s body language and habits is by keeping a proper log so you have something to refer to.

If you have any questions, comment them below or shoot me an email!



How to Make: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels (Video)

Best Substrate for Ball Pythons- 5 Options, 1 to Avoid

This post is a breakdown of my How to Make: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels Tutorial.

As I stated in the How to Make Reptile radiant heat panels video, I did not record the process but hopefully this will give you a really good idea of how I made my own radiant heat panels! This radiant heat panel was designed with snakes in mind, but would work for most reptiles.

Try this at your own risk! I take full responsibility for the safety of this setup for myself, but cannot recommend anyone copy what I have done unless you are willing to do the same.

Scroll to the bottom to view the total cost breakdown and PROS and CONS of this project!

Brainstorm

I stumbled across a very dated post on Ball-Pythons.net, which the original poster described how he build he’s own radiant heat panel from Flexwatt Heat tape and plexiglass. Unfortunately, all the pictures were gone and it was pretty tough to fully understand how he did it (maybe you’ll have better luck?). But it got me thinking!

I already had some spare Exo-Terra heat cable, which in my opinion is slightly safer than heat tape for some reason. I think mainly there is less chance of user error with heat cable as it requires no wiring, etc.

The first problem was figuring out what material(s) to house the cable in. I tossed around a bunch of ideas from ceramic tile to acrylic sheets. Finally I decided to got with pegboard for the bottom and Styrofoam for the top.

The Materials: DIY Reptile Radiant Heat Panels

Below is a picture of the pegboard. You can buy pegboard in your local hardware store in the plywood section. It is very inexpensive. I settled on pegboard for a few reasons:

  • Light weight
  • Porous i.e. the cable has the opportunity to heat air as well rather than just the board itself
  • High ignition temperature (450-500°F)
Reptile Radiant heat panels
Reptile Radiant heat panels

As I said above, the top layer is Styrofoam. I went with 1″ thick pink Styrofoam that I found at my local hardware store in a 2′ x 2′ square. I settled on Styrofoam because:

  • Again, light weight
  • High ignition temperature (500°F)
  • Reduce heat transferring in the wrong direction i.e. I wanted to avoid (as best I could), heat through the top of the panel
Stryofoam for reptile radiant heat panels
Stryofoam for reptile radiant heat panels

**Ignition temperature refers to the temperature these materials will combust at WITHOUT a spark. These temperatures are well above anything the heat cable is capable of producing… although that doesn’t mean things can’t over heat and start melting/release fumes. I just means I won’t burn the house down.  In any case, they are on a thermostat anyway!**

It was also necessary to pick up a roll of Multi-Purpose Foil Tape to help reflect the heat in the right direction, more on that below!

Foil Tape: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels
Foil Tape: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels
And of course, I needed the heat cable! I went with Exo Terra Heater Cable-25-Watt. This cable is 5m long, they also make a longer (7m) cable that comes in a higher wattage (50W). The 25W cable was more than enough and it is the only size my local pet store sells.
How to Make: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels (Video)



The Process

Step One:

I cut the pegboard (actually I had the hardware store throw it on the table saw) into a 1′ x 1′ square.

Step Two:

I cut the Styrofoam into a 1′ x 1′ square.

Step Three:

I snaked the heat cable back and fourth on the pegboard. I used Gorilla Tape to hold it in place. DO NOT OVERLAP THE CABLE in any place! That can create a dangerous hot spot. You are looking to have each “row” of cable at least 3 cm apart. Luckily if you let the pegboard guide you, it will be perfectly spaced.

The picture below is my best attempt at recreating what I did!

How to Make: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels (Video)

Step Four:

Then, I took my 1′ x 1′ square of Styrofoam (the picture is of a scrap piece of Styrofoam, it is larger than 1′ x 1′ so you have to use your imagination) and completely covered one side with the reflective tape.

How to Make: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels (Video)

Step Five:

Now it was time to put it all together! At this point I had:

  • 1′ x 1′ pegboard with heat cable attached to one side
  • 1′ x 1′ Styrofoam with foil tape completely covering one side

I sandwiched it all together by taping the Styrofoam to the pegboard, creating a nice little package. I used the Gorilla Tape to hold the two pieces together and then sealed the sides with Foil Tape.

If you were to take a cross-section of my diy radiant heat panel you would see this:

TOP TO BOTTOM:

  • Styrofoam
  • Foil Tape
  • Heat Cable
  • Pegboard

Hopefully that is relativity clear!

Finished: DIY Reptile Radiant Heat Panels
Finished: DIY Reptile Radiant Heat Panels



Temperature Control:

As I stated in the video I will be running these on a thermostat to control the temperature.  It was suppose to be here already but it got damaged in shipping, I am now waiting for a different one to arrive. As you can see… I have a blank spot on my “control panel” waiting to be filled! Thermostats are very important as they help prevent injury to the animals and fires! 

**Since these are diy radiant heat panels, my risk of fire may be higher than a store bought RHP.  My first line of defense is a thermostat, and my second is the high ignition temperatures of the materials I choose. Both of these combined will make accidents extremely unlikely**

Thermostat is a must! Reptile Radiant Heat Panels
Thermostat is a must! Reptile Radiant Heat Panels

I am pretty excited to get my thermostat in the mail because it is WI-FI CONTROLLED… or at least that is what it claims.  The thermostat is: Willhi Wifi Digital Smart Temperature Controller:

How to Make: Reptile Radiant Heat Panels (Video)

 

Hopefully this will allow me to monitor temperatures when I am away from home! I do have another (non-Wifi) thermostat from this same company (as you can see in the photo above). I really like it! Here’s why:

  • It has a very long cable for the probe
  • The probe itself is very slim (not bulky like some probes)
  • The probe cable can be disconnected from the actual controller which can be very handy if you probe is taped in place like mine are. If the cable accidentally comes unplugged the controller beeps like all hell broke loose
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other herp thermostats

I will make sure to review the Wi-Fi model when I get it.

Even though I have two diy radiant heat panels running in two separate enclosures, I am only running them off of a single thermostat and I will set it to 85°F.  Most likely they will run constantly as I have never seen the panels get the warm side over 84°F. I will place the probe in the top enclosure. The metrics in each enclosure are basically identical meaning if the top enclosure gets to hot, the bottom one is likely too hot as well.

Worst case scenario: the bottom one malfunctions and begins to over heat. If this occurs, it will trip the probe in the top enclosure before any damage can happen due to the heat that transfer through the top of the RHP’s.

How I use them and Results:

The reptile radiant heat panel’s are set on a timer. They turn on at 7:00 am and turn off at 10:00 pm, this allows me to simulate a temperature drop during the night.

I have been extremely impressed with the way these have held up so far. They bring they warm sides up to about 81-83°F by mid day and even create some warm spots on the wood decor of about 85-86°F. Although keep in mind, I do have a heat mat for a hot spot.  In conclusion:

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to make
  • Creates ideal warm side ambient temperatures

Cons:

  • Not powerful enough to create a hot spot of 90°F i.e. a heat mat is still necessary (maybe higher wattage would help?)
  • The Gorilla Tape is starting to soften a little bit due to the heat, I would probably use a more heat resistant tape next time around.



Material List/Cost Breakdown (CAD):

** These are the prices I paid. Click the links below to view the current prices**

  • Styrofoam= $8.00 (Home Depot)
  • Pegboard= $10.00 (Home Depot)
  • Exo Terra Heater Cable-25-Watt= Click the link to view price (I paid $35 at PetSmart)
  • Foil TapeClick the link to view price (I paid $12 at Home Depot) 
  • Gorilla Tape= Click the link to view current price (I paid $15 at Home Depot, although I’d probably recommend a tape more resistant to heat)

TOTAL COST: $80.00 for two DIY Reptile Radiant Heat Panels! i.e. $40.00/RHP

Again, try this at your own risk!  Be aware that this is a less safe option compared to a store bought RHP! Always run these on a thermostat!

DIY Radiant Heat Panel for reptiles
DIY Radiant Heat Panel for reptiles