Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to create an amazing snake habitat

All snake enthusiasts know these charming creatures can make fantastic pets and friends, but they also have particular needs. One of the most important things you’ll ever do for your snake is set up her enclosure, which will vary based on breed and size. You’ll want to have this project completed before you bring her home since snakes can’t be left without the basics for long. Once you fashion her a nice snug snake habitat, you’ll be ready to bring her home and introduce her to your household.

Snake sits on a branch in terrarium
Thomas Evans/

Choose your enclosure

Of course, this habitat will change drastically depending on the size of your snake and the breed. For the average beginner snake, like a corn snake or a garter snake, you will need at least a 20-gallon snake aquarium.

Don’t be fooled if she’s tiny when you bring her home, as snakes grow pretty fast and she’ll fit into her new place in no time. If your snake outgrows her terrarium, move up a size. Really big snakes like pythons and boas need much larger enclosures, but we don’t recommend those pets for beginners. One more word of advice: Your animal will try to escape at some point. It’s not that she doesn’t like her home; she’s just eager to explore. Get a good lid that she won’t open and triple-check the latch every time you feed her or play with her.

Python sits on a branch in habitat
Karsten Paulick/

Set up the environment

You might feel overwhelmed looking at the empty tank and knowing how much you still have to do. But break it down, piece by piece, and this becomes a surmountable task:

  • Your snake is a natural burrower and needs a nice layer of substrate at the bottom of the tank. You can get this at any pet store, and it will probably consist mostly of wood chips, but may also include leaves and sand. Get a lot extra so you can change it often to remove her waste and keep the place clean.
  • Then add some bark, rocks, and branches for her to explore. We don’t recommend bringing wood in from the yard: You may unintentionally introduce bugs or parasites into her home. (Rocks should be okay with a good, pet-safe cleaning first if you find smooth ones that won’t hurt her.)

Adjust heat, light, and humidity

You’ll need a few things to set the optimal climate for your snake:

  • Heating source
  • Two thermometers
  • A hygrometer

Your new pet will like it a lot warmer than you do, so you should add a heating source like a lamp or a pad. Make sure you place the heating instrument on one side of her terrarium so that she can decide to lie out in the “sun” or spend some time at the cool end. Additionally, give her a little under 12 hours of light per day. It’s best to set up a timer for this, so you don’t forget to switch the light on and off. Certain breeds need a UVB light, but you should be good without it if you’re sticking with a beginner snake.

Install two thermometers — one on the heated side and one on the cold side — and monitor the temperature closely. You’ll want to keep the minimum at about 78 degrees and the basking area closer to 90.

Lastly, humidity plays a crucial role in snake shedding, but the optimal moisture level also varies widely based on the breed. Think of it this way: You’ve probably heard of desert snakes and water snakes, so it makes a big difference which type you have. Get a hygrometer to measure the levels and check both the room and the snake enclosure when you’re setting up. You can add water via a mister if necessary.

Corn snake suns on a rock in his housing

Add accessories

We like to call this the fun part. You’ve gotten the necessities down, and now it’s time to put in a little something extra. Think of this as interior decorating your snake’s home. What you put in will depend a bit on your animal, but most serpents will want somewhere to hide, like a small cave. You may also add plants to the habitat, provided you can still maintain optimal humidity. Remember, she’ll need a water bowl and a feeding spot, too, if you’re not using live prey.

While it may feel like a big project, you’ll surely have your snake’s terrarium set up and ready to go in no time. Keeping snakes in a main room can enliven your own decor as well. While the basics are necessary (your snake’s nothing if not particular), have fun with the decoration. Add some snake-themed figures, paintings, or books to the area to complete the ambiance. She might even enjoy looking at them.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
Everything you want to know about the reptile life cycle, from egg to adulthood
These are the four stages of the reptile life cycle
Chameleon reptile sitting on a branch

You've been familiar with dog years, and you've heard that cats have nine lives. But what do you know about reptiles?

The class Reptilia is a diverse group of animals that range from the tiniest lizards to the largest turtles. They're the distant evolutionary cousin of birds defined by a few unique characteristics, including the internal fertilization of their young and scales covering at least part of their bodies (via Britannica). Apart from these essential traits, reptiles are incredibly variable and can only be classified into a few large groups.

Read more
How to tell when a hamster is sick or in pain: Look for these 4 signs and symptoms
Signs your hamster needs a vet
Beige hamster stands on its back paws

Because they're a species so different from our own, it's not always possible to discern the signs of a sick hamster. They hide pain and distress rather well, though you'll be able to tell when something is off if you know what to look for. Some symptoms are more noticeable, especially if they come on quickly, but others might be nearly invisible. You may have to listen or even smell closely to pick up on something your hamster is trying to tell you, but you'll be glad you did.

Remember that "normal" is different for every pet, and your vet will always be your best resource to diagnose your hamster's illness. However, these are four common ways hamsters show you they're sick or in pain. So keep a look out!

Read more
Can you take your bearded dragon on a walk? We tried so you don’t have to
Bearded dragon on a leash with a harness

Everyone understands that Fido needs to be walked, typically multiple times per day. But many other animals enjoy an excursion to the great outdoors too — we've all seen cute pics of cats, bunnies, and even ferrets rocking a leash. Want to give it a try with your lizard? It is possible to walk a bearded dragon, and both of you can enjoy the experience, provided you don't have dog-level expectations. It might take a little extra preparation, but with the right equipment, you can take a trip out to explore the wide world together. 

Do beardies like to go on walks?
Well, define walks. You won't be able to take your reptile out and do laps with him around the neighborhood. Make sure you only intend to go for a tiny outing and that you start really small. Truth be told, he'll probably just look around a little bit and then decide to go back inside where it's temperature and humidity-controlled and there's unlimited free food. But you may find that he looks forward to these short jaunts into his natural habitat. If that winds up being the case, you should continue them even though it's not the same as a "real" romp.
What type of harness does my bearded dragon need?
Especially at first, you'll need some way to secure your animal, and that's where the harness comes in. Just as you'd put your dog or cat on a leash attached to a collar, so too you need something to maintain control and keep track of your reptile. Don't go outside without something to keep him close by since it only takes seconds to lose track of your pet, who can get away quickly and go under or over things you can't. Some of these contraptions come in different sizes, and you can try a few out and see what works best for the both of you. Choose one specifically for this species, though — do not repurpose a mammal harness or try to make your own if he hasn't tried it out yet. You need him to stay secure for the entirety of your expedition.
How do I know if my beardie is comfortable?
You certainly want to ensure that the harness fits and that you aren't dragging him around, much as you would with any other pet. On top of that, though, check the temp outside before scheduling your journey. It needs to be extremely warm for him to do well outdoors. As in, well into the 80s preferably with a gentle sun beating down. Don't go out in the rain or cold as that does not match his natural habitat, which is often the desert and other warm climates. However, he also needs the opportunity for a cooldown at a moment's notice. Stay within reach of some shade as that will allow him to escape there as needed. Along these lines, keep the walks short to start, maybe five or 10 minutes until you adjust to his preference. 

Read more