Conventional wisdom dictates that a snake vivarium should be a sterile environment with just the basic requirements available to enusre the survival of the animal in question.
What a load of rubbish!
Now I know I am probably going to tread on a few toes by writing this page, but I feel obliged to give my two cents' worth regarding this matter.
I am amazed at how many sites there are on the web offering information on the "basic requirements" needed for keeping snakes.
I can understand why breeders, pet shops, and snake dealers might emphasise the "basic requirements", they after all, want to sell their products as quickly as possible. No business wants to sit with stock that doesn't move.
True, all a snake needs is food, fresh water, a hide box, some form of heat source, and an adequately sized vivarium in which to live.
My pesonal belief however, is that any pet bought or sold based on the "basic requiements" it needs is unethical
If we has humans were to live our lives on the same principle of "basic requirements", we would all live in makeshift shelters and survive on bread and water alone.
This brings me to my point....
The difference between living and simply existing.
Yes, we can survive on bread and water, but what is life without pizza and the occasional piece of chocolate cake? Or plasma TV?
As far as I am concerned anyone that simply offers the basic requirements for their pets should not be allowed to have pets in the first place.
Nothing irritates me more than someone showing me their collection, and all I see are snake vivariums lined with newspaper , a waterbowl, a light/heat source and an artificial hidebox that looks like a rock. How would you feel living in an empty unfurnished house?
If you're looking for pet that is low maintenance....what's the point of having a pet in the first place?
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for low maintenance, but not at the expense of an animal that is going to spend the rest of its life under a hidebox. Believe me, that is exactly what that animal is going to do if you don't somehow enrich the quality of life of your pet.
Snake enrichment? Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing.
My point? Be creative. Think "outside the box" when it comes to providing a suitable snake vivarium.
The whole idea is to create a habitat rather than a "box".
Snakes love to explore if given the opportunity. It is your responsibility to provide your snake (or any pet for that matter) with the necessary stimulation that will encourage it to behave the way nature intended.
The fact that we are keeping these animals in captivity is already "unnatural" and I am aware that it is impossible to recreate nature within a vivarium, at least not in the purest sense of the word. However I do believe that if we are going to keep these animals in captivity then it is our duty to at least try.
Thankfully, I am not the only one that thinks this way, and there are many snake keepers that have moved away from the conventional methods of keeping snakes. Instead, many have gone the route of providing a micro-habitat rather than a conventional snake vivarium for their pets.
When first starting your natural snake vivarium start by considering the substrate. Use organic material which is chemical free. This can include compost, leaf litter, soil and vermiculite all mixed up to form the base of your vivarium.
A glass tank is better for this, but if you have one that is made of wood then remember to line the bottom of the tank with plastic or else the wood will eventually rot.
By using a natural substrate you are introducing all the natural micro-organisms that you would normally find out in the field. Believe it or not, these mico-organisms will break down the waste products within the vivarium (by using this method I only need to clean my enclosures every two to three months!)
Next, introduce some plants into the vivarium along with rocks, branches, or any other natural components that will suit your requirements.
The beauty of this is that you can be as creative as you want depending on the size of your tank. In fact, Go Wild!
There are no hard and fast rules, simply try to recreate the environment within which your species would naturally occur.
When I first started using this method I included a "hide", but surpprisingly none of my snakes used the hide. Instead they would use the natural elements of the vivarium for concealment rather than the hide. As a result they were almost constantly visible and more active than they had been in the past.
There are several sites on the web that will guide you step-by-step through the entire process. You can even have the snake vivarium custom built for you, depending on your needs.
Some sites may mail you the plans for building your own naturalistic vivarium.
Take a look at the following sites for some ideas to get you started:
You can do all this, including the "basic requirements", and transform your ordinary conventional snake vivarium into a work of art.
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