Record Keeping Made Easy: A DIY Method Using Google Forms and Sheets

By Billy Sveen

Billy Sveen is a herpetoculturalist, physician, and bioethicist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Follow him on Instagram at @creepersherpetoculture

As a reptile and amphibian enthusiast, maintaining accurate records of your captive population is important to monitoring health and tracking significant events, whether you keep a single animal or operate large breeding groups. However, organizing data efficiently can be a daunting task. Fortunately, technology can help. In this blog post, I’ll explore a streamlined and customizable DIY method of data entry using Google Forms on your phone and collecting the results in Google Sheets, perfect for herpetoculturalists looking to maintain accurate records of their collections. It’s also free to use for anyone with a Google account and a smartphone. I’ll be showing the basic steps, but YouTube guides are readily available for any details on how to use specific features of Forms or Sheets.

1. Creating Google Forms for Data Entry

The first step is to create Google Forms tailored to your specific needs. These forms can be as simple or as complex as you want and are easy to modify at any time. You can add multiple choice, drop-down selections, and free text as needed. For example, the form for my ball/royal python (Python regius) Dahlia includes sections many pet keepers may want on feeding, weights, shedding, stooling, and any other enclosure notes where I record changes in temperature, lighting, and humidity. By contrast, the form for my Cameroon dwarf geckos (Lygodactylus conraui) is much simpler with only a section to take general notes as I don’t track their regular feedings and don’t weigh them. One benefit of using Forms is that the date and time of each entry will be automatically recorded, so you won’t need to track that specifically if you use them in real-time, but I always have at least one option for free text notes where I can note a late entry.

The form for my yellow-banded poison dart frogs (Dendrobates leucomelas) was similarly simple until they started breeding. Once they started reproducing, I easily added sections to track eggs, tadpoles, and froglets. Initially, I added separate areas for the number of total eggs, the number of infertile eggs, the hatching of individual tadpoles, etc., but I quickly found this too cumbersome, so I easily streamlined the form a few weeks later.

The possibilities here are endless. I have one form to broadly track my invertebrate feeder colonies and another to detail every plant I obtain, where I obtain it, how I quarantine it, etc. A pet keeper with an elaborate enclosure or two may want much more detailed notes while a professional breeder may want a physical card system to track feeding breeders and hatchlings but may want forms to track pairings and incubation data.

2. Accessing Forms via Smartphone Shortcuts

Once you set up a form, the next step is to make data entry quick and convenient. I suggest creating shortcuts on your smartphone for each form. This allows you to access the forms immediately while tending to your animals. Recording information promptly minimizes the chance of forgetting crucial details.

The first step is to get the URL for the form. When viewing the form, click the “Send” button and either copy the link or email it to yourself. Next, open the website in a browser on your phone and add it to your home screen as a website shortcut. Android users will be able to customize the icon in this process, but iPhone users will have to use a slightly more involved Shortcuts app to make custom icons instead of having the default icon associated with the Google Forms website. Once you make the shortcuts, you can group them together in one folder or hide them all together and search for them as needed.

For those working alone, shortcuts on your smartphone can be sufficient. However, if you have others assisting with your collection, you can take it a step further by generating QR codes for each form’s link. Placing these QR codes on the enclosures makes data entry accessible for an entire team without having to enter the shortcuts into their phones.

3. Linking Data to Google Sheets

The real power comes from linking all the data collected from the forms to Google Sheets. To do this, first access a form from which you want to import data. Then click on the “Responses” tab at the top of the page. Next, click “Link to Sheets” where you can create a new spreadsheet or link it to an existing spreadsheet. Repeat this with all of your forms.

If you have a small to medium-sized population of animals like me, you’ll probably like to have all your data as separate sheets within the same file. For example, I’ve titled my file “Creepers Herpetoculture Records” and then have separate sheets for each of my forms. If you have a large or commercial operation, you may want multiple files separated by species or room or something else.

Once in the linked Google Sheet, you can see that sheets actively linked to forms have a purple form icon. This means that these sheets will automatically update every time you enter new data through the corresponding form. Every submission is a separate line. If you change the form, new columns are added so you don’t lose data in the sheet either. However, you can manually edit or delete data in the sheets.

4. Organizing and Analyzing Data

Now that your data is easy to enter, store, and find, what do you do with it? Well, if you want a specific detail such as the last weight of your snake, you can simply look it up. This is incredibly valuable to reference but doesn’t tell you trends. Furthermore, the raw data in the sheets is not particularly easy to interpret because it’s hard to read. To fix this, you can add specific sheets to track topics that are important to you.

I am most interested in a detailed roster of all my animals, invertebrate colonies, and plants so I have separate pages for each of them. On the animal page, every animal has its own row. The columns are the animal’s name, scientific and common names, locale or morph info, sex, source and lineage info (blacked out for privacy), date of birth, date of acquisition, and age. I also keep a section of notes where I track anything significant about the animal. I also track animals I formally kept down lower in the same sheet and record the date of death as appropriate for those as well. The invertebrate sheet is similar but I only track colonies as a whole, not individual animals.

One benefit of using spreadsheets is the ability to use functions which are equations ranging from simple arithmetic to complicated if-then coding and statistical analysis. For example, the age of each animal is automatically updated every time I open the file. One cell (M1) has the Today function “=TODAY()” which will update with today’s date. Since spreadsheets think of dates as numbers, I can easily calculate the age of the first animal in years by typing “=(M1-H2)/365.25” where “M1” is the cell with today’s date, “H2” is this animal’s date of birth, and 365.25 is the average number of days in a year (don’t forget leap years!). The answer will likely have lots of decimal places, so use the formatting option to decrease the display of decimals to your desired amount without losing any of the data. I can then calculate the average of those ages by typing “=AVERAGE(K2:K11)” where “K2:K11” are the cells that contain the ages of all my animals.

Another advantage of spreadsheets is the ability to easily make graphs. This is my first year breeding Dendrobates leucomelas poison dart frogs, and I am still figuring out what metrics I want to track. If I track how many eggs I collect, how many tadpoles develop, and how many froglets grow out, I can track any changes in reproductive success across the major stages of egg production, fertilization, and metamophorphosis. I added the relevant summary data at the end of the Dendrobates leucomelas sheet (along with data for 2024 and 2025 that I made up to illustrate the idea) and easily graphed the data to visualize trends.

For my plants sheet, I track the scientific and common names, native location, date acquired, and source (blacked out for privacy) of each plant. Then I track where I currently have each plant, whether it’s currently in a propagation bin, in one of the animal enclosures, or as a house plant. Since I track any new plants in my Plants Form and update any new or lost plants in the relevant animal forms when I do enclosure maintenance, these lists are easy to maintain. Similar to the animal sheet, I keep track of the plants I used to have lower down on the same sheet and note any reasons why I lost them.

The possibilities for application are endless. You could chart the growth of a single animal or the productivity of a commercial breeding project. You could track feeding success based on the food type offered for hatchling snakes. You could summarize husbandry and incubation parameters for each breeding season and the relevant outcomes. You could do basic pedigree mapping and calculations of inbreeding coefficients for a breeding program. I’d love to hear what other ideas you have!


In conclusion, this system of using Google Forms and Sheets is a valuable tool for herpetoculturalists who want to maintain organized and up-to-date records of their captive populations. It offers speed, ease of customization, and adaptability, making it a versatile solution for keeping track of your beloved animals. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, this method can help you better understand and care for your animals and evolve with you as you continue to advance in your practice.

Billy Sveen is a herpetoculturalist, physician, and bioethicist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Follow him on Instagram at @creepersherpetoculture.

Environmental Enrichment: Risk Vs. Reward

Environmental Enrichment: Risk Vs. Reward

Currently, a percentage of the reptile hobby finds itself tilting towards “industrialized” and “sterilized” care. As a result, you might encounter the commonly spouted myth: “The risk of adding enrichment into your reptile’s enclosure is too high, due to the potential of harmful bacteria growth”. In other words, the claim is— you might as well keep your reptiles in an environment that can be sterilized quickly and easily (i.e. paper towel substrate, plastic tub, etc.) to ensure optimal health. Is that true? Is the risk of environmental enrichment truly higher than the reward?

Greater Risk Than Reward—

Certainly, there is a “risk vs. reward” component to providing enrichment to your reptile’s environment. However, enrichment is not always about precisely replicating your animal’s wild environment. Hard-core bio-active folks might argue that point, but the risk of a bio-active enclosure is quite high for beginner hobbyists. An advanced hobbyist will take the necessary time to properly set up a beautiful bio-active enclosure that functions as a proper ecosystem. However, fully bio-active setups can be complicated and should not be where a beginner hobbyist starts. This is one scenario where the risk of harmful mold and bacteria growth is higher than the reward of supplying your reptile with enrichment.

Greater Reward than Risk—

The ability to create a successful bio-active setup is great but there are levels of care simpler than that which can be used to enrich your reptile’s habitat. This would include adding décors such as climbing branches, and natural substrate which can be removed and cleaned. Of course, natural décor (such as wood branches) can not always be completely sterilized or at least not easily sterilized and this tends to act as evidence to support the claim in the first paragraph. However, there does not seem to be any academic evidence to support the claim that a reptile’s environment needs to be 100 % sterile. To be clear, this is NOT a suggestion to keep a dirty environment. This is only meant to point out that reptiles do not need to be kept in a clinically sterile environment (sterile meaning “free from bacteria or other living microorganisms; totally clean”).

Large-scale breeders with thousands of animals under one roof may be able to make a case for complete sterility, but the average hobbyist cannot. In fact, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from various zoos and wildlife centers that avoid “over-cleaning” their enclosures to promote health. For example, some zoos will even leave old skin sheds and urate pellets inside the enclosure to induce breeding behavior. This works because a reptile will become familiar and comfortable with the sights and smells around them. Fully sterilizing your animal’s enclosure and plopping it back into its newly cleaned home is nearly the same as introducing it into a brand new environment, inevitably inducing a stress response. Therefore, the risk of using décor that cannot be fully sterilized as a form of enrichment is much smaller than the reward.

The Reward: Species-Specific Behavior—

The goal of environmental enrichment is to promote “species-specific behavior.” If your animal is not displaying wild-type behaviors, your setup is lacking in necessary environmental enrichment which can lead to stress. Observing your animal move around their enclosure is a great place to start analyzing their well-being.

Of course, reptiles are commonly quite sedentary but keep in mind, there is a massive difference between an animal that is seldom active and an animal that is never active. Having said that, there is a major caveat with using “movement” as a sign of well-being as not all movement is healthy.

Ideally, you have created an environment that promotes animal activity that correlates with healthy species-specific behavior (digging, climbing, basking, swimming, etc.).  Healthy activity will act to replace any abnormal behavior/unhealthy activity such as pacing, aggression, absolute sedentarism, nose rubbing, etc. that may occur in captivity. Your animal will exhibit activity and movement patterns, whether the activity patterns are healthy and positive is totally dependent on how the reptile’s enclosure is set up.

Captive Reptiles Aren’t Wild—

Another classic myth thrown around in the community is that since “we are not dealing with actual wild animals,” there is no obligation to care for them that way.

While it is technically true, at an obvious level, that captive reptiles are not wild, it is important to understand that the animals are not domesticated either. We owe it to the reptiles we own to provide them with an experience that has elements of what they are genetically predisposed to deal with in the wild. We must allow the reptile to act out the behaviors it is biologically designed to act out to ensure the greatest potential of well-being. This should be at the core of the exotic animal-care philosophy. Promoting species-specific behavior through environmental enrichment is more than a mere husbandry recommendation, it is a moral obligation.

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: 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


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:
Photo from:
  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!


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 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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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 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.

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


BSFL: Best Feeder Insects

BSFL or black soldier fly larva are some of the best feeder insects available for your reptile. They are my go-to feeder for my giant day gecko. They are very easy to care for, extremely nutritious and can provide some great environmental enrichment when they turn into flies!

Watch the video below!

ALL BSFL are not made the same!

There are many different brands of black soldier fly larvae but the only brand I can recommend is Phoenix Worm.  

Phoenix worm's
Phoenix worm’s: Best feeder insects

Phoenix Worm feeds their BSFL an enriched grain-based diet which causes the larvae to be very high in calcium. You may be able to find other brands you are satisfied with but always I stick with Phoenix Worms

Phoenix Worm: Best feeder Insects

Why Choose BSFL?

Black soldier fly larvae produced by Phoenix Worm are a far superior feeder than most of the other common feeders available. The main reason for the difference is their nutritional makeup as you can see in the chart below.

Feeder Insect Nutrition Chart
Feeder Insect Nutrition Chart (from

BSFL (especially from Phoenix Worm) have a VERY high calcium to phosphorus ratio. This means you are not required to dust them before feeding!

You also do not have to gut load them. They can survive for weeks inside the tub you purchase them in. When I say you don’t have to gut load… I really mean— don’t gut load! Guting loading can cause your colony to die off and rot inside the container.

Ideally, you keep your container of BSFL at a temperature of around 50-60°F as this will slow down their life cycle considerably. In the winter months I keep my container on a window sill (it is very cold where I live) and in the summer I don’t worry about it. i.e. I just deal with the quicker life cycle.

Feeding BSFL to your Animal

When you first open your container of Phoenix Worm’s you’ll think: “what? the container is empty?” but if you dig around you will find plenty of worms!

BSFL: best feeder insects

Here is what one looks like up close:

Black soldier fly larva
Black soldier fly larva

When I am getting ready to feed my animal I dig out about 8-12 worms (larvae) and place them in a glass dish. The larvae don’t move around a ton but they do wriggle around enough to draw the attention of my gecko (and yours too probably).

BSFL: best feeder insects
BSFL: best feeder insects

And again, no need to dust with powdered supplements so once I have removed them from the container the feed dish can go directly into the enclosure!

Black soldier fly larva
Black soldier fly larva feeder


Day Gecko eating Black Soldier Fly Larva

Ruby loves these things!

Day Gecko eating BSFL
Day Gecko eating BSFL
Day Gecko eating BSFL
Day Gecko eating BSFL

Can you Feed Black Soldier Flies to Your Animal?

So, what happens when the larvae start to pupate?

Eventually (if you don’t go through your colony fast enough), the larvae will begin to pupate. BSF pupae look like this:

Black Soldier Fly Pupa
Black Soldier Fly Pupa

They are stiff, black, cacoon looking things. They still have essentially the same nutritional value as the larvae but they don’t move! Therefore, your animal will likely not eat them.

But, that doesn’t mean they are useless! When the larvae enter this phase of their life it means they are getting ready to metamorphose into the adult form: the black soldier fly!

Black Soldier Fly Pupa
Black Soldier Fly Pupa

Black soldier flies are great to feed your animal as it forces them to really hunt which is very fun to watch (click the video to see that in action). Every few days I collect any pupae I find in the BSFL container and I chuck them into the soil of my giant day gecko enclosure.

Over the next few weeks (sometimes months) the pupae will complete their life cycle and you’ll find a fly buzzing around the enclosure. Usually, they have fairly short lives… it typically takes my gecko about 3-5 minutes to grab them.

Black Solider Fly: Best feeder insects
Black Soldier Fly: Best feeder insects
Black Solider Fly: Best feeder insects
Black Soldier Fly: Best feeder insects

Watch the video below to watch a giant day gecko hunt down some black soldier flies!

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!


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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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


Remove Decor!

Remove all decor
Remove all decor


Remove Animal!

Pull out snake!
Pull out snake!


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


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


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!


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


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.

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!

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:


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!


  • 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!)


  • 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

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.


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
  • 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


  • 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.


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


  • 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


  • 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.


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


  • 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


  • 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 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.
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.     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. 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!  

How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles

How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles? I am guessing you are here because you recently had the experience below:

Every pet owner has had this experience:

Hey, I am going to stop by the pet store to pick up a climbing branch for my animal…

$35.00 for a stick?! HUH? 

Don’t you hate that? I know I do.



If you follow my blog or my YouTube videos you know that I am all about including natural features in your reptile’s enclosure to enrich their environment! Adding real branches to the enclosure is a great way to achieve that… but who wants to spend a bunch of money on something you can get outside for free!

How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles

Collect your Wood!

First you need to find some wood! Here are somethings to keep in mind:

  • Stay with hardwood trees (Oak, Ash, Maple, etc.), softwood trees contain sap that can be toxic to your animal. Likewise, stay away from any hardwood trees that seem to be very “sappy” for whatever reason.
  • Find an area that that is unlikely to have pesticides or chemicals sprayed. I.e. stay away from areas close to farmers fields (pesticides) or areas that may have been fogged for mosquitoes.
  • I look for trees that have recently fallen down. You don’t want something that has been decaying for a long period of time. I guess live trees would work fine as well.
Forested Area
Dead tree

Clean Up the Branches

Once you have found a suitable branch you need to “clean it up”. In other words, use a hand saw and sandpaper to smooth out any areas that could cause an injury for your animal.

Tools: Sandpaper and saw

I generally use a hand saw to remove any sharp leftovers from smaller branches.

Remove any loose bark. Then,  smooth out the entire branch, once with course sand paper and once with fine sandpaper.

It is perfectly okay to leave some rough edges here and there as some animals will use it to scratch and/or shed themselves against, but you should remove anything that feels sharp to your touch.

How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles: Method #1

If your branch is small enough to fit inside your oven, than you can follow the directions for Method #1 (and consider yourself lucky)!

  1. Set your oven to 250°F
  2. Set yourself a 10 minute timer (reoccurring)
  3. Place your branch in the oven and bake for 2 hours
  4. Check it every 10 minutes to ensure there is no charring
Bake wood for reptiles
10 Minute timer: Bake Wood for Reptiles

The heat of the oven will slowly kill any bacteria and microbes found deep inside the tissue of the wood. Using a higher temperature DOES NOT make this process any faster and increases your chance of starting a fire! I promise… 2 hours is not that long, especially considering how long Method #2 takes!

Once 2 hours has surpassed, pull the branch out of the oven, wait for it to cool off and you are done!

How to Bake wood for reptiles

How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles: Method #2

If your branch is too large to fit inside your oven then you are stuck with Method #2! This method is equally effective, but takes much, much longer!

  1. Find a barrel, bin or tub large enough to contain your branch.
  2. Fill the tub with water, roughly keeping track of the volume of water you are using. I use a pail to fill my tub to keep track, i.e. 10 pails full of water is around 30 gallons total.

    Filling the tub, pail by pail
  3. Add bleach, using a ratio of 1/3 – 1/2 Cups of bleach for every gallon of water. Make sure you use regular bleach, do not use any products that have additives for laundry use, etc.
    Bleaching Reptile wood

    Bleach Ratio
  4. Let the branch soak for a full 24 hours. If you have a portion of your branch that is above the surface of the water (like mine in the photo), change the orientation of the branch after 12 hours so the exposed portion is now submerged.

    Bleaching reptile wood
  5. After 24 hours, drain the tub of the bleach solution. You will notice the color of your branch will be lighter, the bleach pulls the tanins and pigments out of the wood. You now need to flush the wood to remove the bleach. Soak the wood for at least 48 hours in fresh water, change the water every 2-8 hours.

    Flushing the bleach from the wood
  6. After the wood has been flushed of the bleach you now need to let it dry. Wood will take anywhere from 3-5 days to dry depending on the size and the climate you live in. You MUST wait for the wood to dry out completely before adding it to your reptiles enclosure for one of two reasons: 1) If you add it to a humid environment it will never dry and likely grow mold or 2) if you add it to an arid environment it will spike the humidity of your enclosure for several days.

Adding natural wood to your enclosure can really enhance your animal’s environment and I highly recommend you do it!

How to Sterilize Wood for Reptiles

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Quarantine Setup

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup:

Consider this a “check mark” off my wish list! I have recently added a Brazilian Rainbow Boa to my collection and I could not be more excited! In this article I will breakdown how I setup the quarantine tub for this new addition (scroll to the bottom for the video).

Brazilian Rainbow Boa

Brazilian Rainbow boas are some of the most beautiful snakes in the world. They range from deep to bright orange in color with a very interesting spotted pattern. Although, what really sets them apart from other snakes is there brilliant iridescence. A rainbow boa under sunlight (or artificial light), explodes with color. They truly glow.

Naturally, when a 2 year old female was posted on my local classifieds I had to scoop her up!

I plan on building her a new adult sized enclosure in the coming weeks but first she must be quarantined!

Why Quarantine? 

Anytime you bring a new animal into your home, a quarantine period is highly recommended. An animal may appear healthy but could be carrying parasites, or bacteria/viral infections that could be transmitted to your other animals. A isolation period of 60-90 days is recommended, some people even do 5-6 months to be safe. This means, your new animal should be kept in a separate room (or floor or building if possible) and any tools should be cleaned with bleach before/after use.

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup

For the enclosure, I used a  Sterilite 110-Quart. This is definitely a little small for her — she is about 44″ and 650 g — but it will work well for the next 60- 90 days as a quarantine enclosure.

The tub has been placed in a quiet corner in a separate room.

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup
Tub: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup


Brazilian Rainbow boas do not require a ton of heat… actually prolonged temperatures over 85°F can be dangerous. That being the case I just went with a medium sized Exo Terra Heat Mat 8 WattThis mat is more than enough to do the job. Here are the temperature perimeters I aim for:

Cool Side Ambient: 72° – 74° F

Warm Side Ambient: 75° – 80°F

Hot Spot: 83° – 85°F

Heat Mat: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup
Heat Mat: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup

Of course, no heat mat should ever be installed without a thermostat to regulate it! I ordered Inkbird Temperature Controller off of Amazon.  It is a good little thermostat so far! Very easy to set up, it was inexpensive and the probe itself is long and detachable which is great!

My only regret is I just noticed they make a slightly more expensive model that is capable of doing Day/Night temperatures!  Dang I wish I had noticed that before. Next time that will be the one I order!

InkBird Thermostat: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup
InkBird Thermostat: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup

Here is how I set up the heat mat and thermostat probe:

  1. Stick the thermostat probe to the heat mat with foil tape.
  2. Stick the heat mat to the bottom of the tub (the probe is between the mat and the bottom of the tub)

Normally I would secure the heat mat to the tub with foil tape, but since this is only a temporary Brazilian rainbow boa setup I didn’t bother.

DIY Snake Hide

Here is a quick DIY snake hide for ya! This is a take home food container from Boston Pizza… not sure if you have that restaurant where you live. Anyway, we have a bunch of these laying around and I decided to turn this on into a hide.

Here are the intricate, complicated steps:

  1. Use pair of scissors and cut out a door
  2. Use sand paper to smooth the edges
  3. Done…

Ta Da!


For a thermometer I ordered this: Indoor Outdoor Thermometer HygrometerI put the actual device on the cool side of the enclosure, the strung the probe up through the lid, around the back and through a small hole I drill through backside. The device is very basic but seems to be accurate for both the temperature and humidity.


Since this is a quarantine tub I have decided to use paper towel as a substrate. Although I hate the look of paper towel as well as the mess it makes when the snake eliminates waste (aspen and/or coco husk tend to absorb more urates and reduce smell), it is much easier to monitor the health of the animal. Mites are much easier to spot and you can inspect their waste much easier.

I treat quarantine tubs the same way I would treat a “hospital tub,” i.e. I err on the side of making things more clinical than visually appealing.


If you know anything about Brazilian Rainbow boas you know they need a high level of humidity. These tubs easily hold humidity but a large water dish is necessary to get there.

With a sub-adult to adult rainbow boa you want the humidity to be above 75%, keeping in mind that as long as the substrate isn’t wet there is no such thing as “too humid” for them.

I haven’t had to mist or spray the tub at all and the humidity has balanced somewhere between 85-95%, luckily without producing any condensation.

Basic Setup: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup
Basic Setup: Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup


Again, I didn’t plan on adding much decor to this tub. I did however add a branch to climb on. I purchased Closet Pole Sockets from Home Depot to suspend the branch in the air. Brazilian Rainbow boas aren’t avid climbers but they will climb from time to time. I also added a second hide on the cold side, I just bought it the day after I took the photo below.

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup

Setting the Thermostat

Now that the Brazilian Rainbow boa setup was complete, I was able to set the thermostat and wait to see if my temperature and humidity perimeters fell in line.

The top temperature is when the heat mat turns on and teh bottom temperature is when the mat turns off.

I simply, set the temperatures, plugged in the heat mat and the probe and that’s it! The red LED comes on when the heat mat is on and the temperature on the left hand side of the screen is the current temperature reading.

A few days later I picked up the new snake! So far she seems to be in great health. After letting her settle in for a week, I have been handling her every couple days for 3-5 minutes at a time, she has been very relaxed.

Again, this is an appropriate Brazilian Rainbow boa setup for a smaller animal ( I would say up to 3.5′ and under) or in this case is ideal for a quarantine tub for the next 2 months or so.

I will be doing another DIY snake cage build for this animal so make sure you subscribe on YouTube so you don’t miss it!

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Setup

Boa Constrictor Feeding Chart

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

Please send any questions to:

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!


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
overweight boa
Overweight boa. Picture form

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.

Underweight boa. Picture form

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: 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.

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
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

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!

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