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Hi! Opinions About Semi-atypical Starter Snakes...

Discussion in 'Snakes - General' started by giveuptheghost, Oct 12, 2011.

  1. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Hi all!

    So currently I don't own any reptiles. I spent the last of my money on college and am now living at home, working part-time, and trying to save up enough to move out on my own and when I do, I will finally be able to get the pets I want (gradually, not all at once, and finances permitting obviously). Of course, if I find a way to convince my mother to allow me to get a snake, then I wouldn't have to wait so long... ANYWAY, I wanted to get some people's opinions on several things because I am a planner and even if it'll be several months, possibly over a year before I can actually get a snake, I will have every detail worked out before he comes home.

    For starters, my personal, hands-on experience with reptiles is somewhat limited. Aside from catching alligator lizards and garter snakes as a kid, it's basically handing and caring for the reptiles at Petco, where I work. So as far as snakes are concerned, this means baby corn snakes and ball pythons. That said, I'm not particularly interested in either of those species. I want a python or boa, not a colubrid, but since I don't see myself as the sort of person who will slowly acquire a vast collection of snakes, I want a snake that is both interesting and pretty. I've done a fair amount of reading online and in several books from the library on recommendations for starter snakes, and in addition to the usual colubrids and Ball Pythons, quite a few people mention Red Tails. However, I think they might get a tad big for me.

    Size-wise, and beauty-wise, I'm rather intrigued by Jungle Carpet Pythons and Brazilian Rainbow Boas. If I get a male in either species, he shouldn't get longer than 7 feet (and that would only be a very big boy, in my understanding). A lot of people seem to say that Jungle's aren't bad beginner snakes. BRBs get a more difficult rap, but it seems that is only because of the humidity issues. And I think that, so long as I get a proper cage set up, that shouldn't be a huge problem. Some people say they can be irritable adults, but frankly, one takes that risk when one adopts a kitten. And I've known plenty of ****y Balls and Corns, so that's just a risk you take. At least, neither species seems to have the reputation that Emeralds or Chondros have for being irascible, which is why, gorgeous as they are, I know it would probably not be a good idea for me to get one.

    As a baby or juvenile, I'd probably go the shoebox rout, with paper towels and hide and a water dish. But for the adult habitats, I was thinking either a home-made cage (my dad is a contractor and we could build a nice wood cage) or one of the plastic ones-- either the Vision Cages or maybe Showcase Cages. Does anyone have any particular recommendations or criticism of either of these companies? Vision seems more popular, but the Showcase ones come in more color options and seem to be the same sort of thing. Or is there another recommended brand with a similar setup (3 walls, one window) that isn't priced higher than these?

    If I went with a BRB, I'd probably cover one of the back vents to increase humidity. I seem to be getting different opinions all over the place as to where to place the water dish-- in the cool end, warm end, or in the middle-- so any thoughts there? Also, half the things I've read say not to use incandescent bulbs because they'll dry out the air, but others said not to use heat mats because they could burn the snake. Heat rocks seem to be an obvious no, though. And fluorescent is unnecessary, except for my viewing pleasure. What night-lights could I use for viewing that wouldn't have a tremendous affect on the ambient cage temperature? And is there a preference between the black lights or the red lights for viewing either of these species at night? And if incandescent bulbs are OK, what wattage would be best for an adult-size terrarium?

    Substrate is another area I keep getting mixed opinions on and all I know is I want something that is appropriate for the animal, looks natural, and, since it would need to retain moisture fairly well, I don't want it to rot. In other words, I'm not up for newspaper (except probably in the baby shoebox habitat). Substrate seems a little less of an issue for the JC, since the humidity req's aren't as strict, but nevertheless, I'm curious as to people's preferences for either species.

    Which brings me to another point-- if I went with a home-made wood cage, what sealants are recommended to resist the inevitable water damage? I thought maybe lining the interior with linoleum? At least the bottom will nee to be lined with something. A stain just won't cut it long term.

    Also, would a 36 x 24 x 24 work well for both of these species? Or would a 48 x 18 x 24 be better for a BRB?

    Anyway, I think I'll end it there for now. I'm sure I'll have plenty more questions coming up soon, especially since I have all this time to plot and plan.

    One last, unrelated question... in people's sigs, where they list their pets, you do it with 3 digits separated by periods (i.e., 0.1.0 Bearded Dragons). I assume one number is the quantity of animals, but I can't figure them out otherwise. I thought one was maybe age, but that didn't seem right. It's probably really obvious and just going over my head, but I figured I'd just ask and that'll be that.

    Thanks for reading my ridiculously long post (if you made it this far)!
  2. hennisntacanibal

    hennisntacanibal Elite Member

    Hi there! I will try to answer as many of your questions as possible, and I'm sure others will be along to help as well.

    Going backwards, the numbers thing is a reference to how many of a certain species of animal someone owns, and what gender they are. The order for the numbers is male.female.unsexed. So for example I have two beardies, one male and one female, so I'd say 1.1.0 beardies.

    Okay, next question: what snake to get? Hopefully since you work at Petco, I wouldn't necessarily call you a "beginner" in terms of caring for reptiles, even though some of their husbandry choices are geared toward making sales instead of giving the animal the best possible living conditions. That and what you said in your post makes you sound like you know pretty well what you'd be getting yourself into, so obviously you've done a lot of reading. As far as handleability on both of the two species you mentioned, I know I've heard lots of people on here with Carpets who have had a thing or two to say about their nippiness, especially as babies. And while I've also heard the same thing about the BRB, I think in general the Carpet tends to be more feisty. As I haven't kept either of these animals and have had only limited interaction with both species, I'll leave more about their particular nuances to others.

    Whichever snake you do choose, you will want to get it from a reputable breeder or pet store, preferrably one with a guarantee for healthy animals and that feeds frozen/thawed versus live. Feeding live prey can cause serious injury to a snake when that prey is a fully grown mouse or rat, so having a baby that will readily take f/t pinkies or fuzzies will eliminate many problems in the future. Also, researching breeders is a good way to find a specific morphy you may be looking for, and also good for building a rapport with the one you choose to buy from.

    For the enclosure: I'm a little uncertain what you mean by "shoebox". Do you mean an actual shoebox, like the ones I keep my high heels in? Because not only is any snake you buy quickly going to outgrow that, I don't see how you'd be able to keep the proper temperature gradient and humidity inside such a small space, not to mention making it escape-proof. For a baby/juvenile, I'd recommend a Sterilite-type tub that comes with a nice locking lid. They come in pretty much all sizes, and can stand a good amount of heat and humidity. As for the adult cage, I really like the look of custom wood enclosures, and I know there are people out there who will make one (and beautifully) any way you want if you are willing to spend the money. There are plenty of people who have made some seriously nice enclosures on here if you want to go that route and need some tips/advice. And for size, I'm going to say for most snakes, bigger is better, especially for species who like to climb.

    As far as substrate goes, I'm a serious fan of aspen shavings. They are relatively cheap, are non-toxic, easily replaced in the event of a spill or potty break, and handle humidity very well. Also, as long as you are not feeding directly on your substrate there is very minimal risk of impaction.

    For heating, I use a people heat pad, set on low and plugged into a thermostat to keep it from getting too hot. My husband had a black light on for a while in our room over my snow corn's enclosure and that did fantastic things for his coloration when he'd be out at night. It was one of those that doesn't give off any heat as well, so I'd recommend that over a red light if you have an alternate heat source.

    Hope that answered at least some of your questions. Feel free to ask many more!
  3. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    The numbers in the signature are the animals by sex.
    1.2.1 would be 1 male, 2 females, 1 unknown sex.

    I am going to go out on a limb here.
    Your experience with colubrids and ball pythons should not be your standard of how these snakes actually behave. In the Petco environment they are frequently not healthy and crammed together which is stressful. Also you constantly have people coming in and banging on the front of the glass, more stress. Ball pythons and corns are wonderful little snakes and corns in particular are arguably the best starter snakes.
    For larger enclosures, the Visions and Showcase cages are attractive and viable options. But they aren't cheap. You can build a great wooden enclosure for a fraction of what you would spend on them. But if you have the money available be my guest.
    The standard for sealing wooden enclosure is Minwax Polycrylic, 4-5 coats in a high humidity situation.
    Both the carpets and the rainbows are nice snakes but have their drawbacks. The young ones are notoriously nippy and even the adults can be a handful.
  4. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I have both a JCP and a BRB.

    my BRB is the only snake I keep on a dirt-like substrate - I prefer coco-fiber, but will also mix bark in with it (see pictures). It is essential to maintaining good humidity, but you will want to be careful about feeding, so as to avoid ingestion. I put a tile in my BRB enclosure, and she eats on top of that, but many people who use substrates opt to feed outside of the enclosure. It is totally your call. The pictures are of her old enclosure, and I fed outside of that one. Her new one has the tile in the corner (which is actually her warm spot)

    As long as you have a handle on your humidity and temps, a BRB is a fairly easy snake to maintain. A good hygrometer is absolutely necessary - a digital one, not an analog.

    Temperament wise, my BRB has mostly been a peach- very sweet, only rarely bites me, and I usually earn it. She is less bitey by far than my big common boa, or my JCP, or baby snakes in general. I have yet to hear her hiss. She is about....3-4 years old (I'd have to check her papers to remember for certain)

    You can use incandescent bulbs with your BRB. I use them to provide a photoperiod, and daytime heat. Most snakes will appreciate a slight temperature difference between night and day, just like you have in the great outdoors. During the day, I use a white incandescent, and at night, black light (also incandescent) both provide heat. They are on timers, so on and off time is consistent. You may also choose to heat your enclosure with a CHE, heat projector, or radiant heat panel, and use fluorescent just for lighting. It will depend on how you format your cage, and what you feel like doing.

    You can place your water dish anywhere you like. Where you place it can influence your humidity, but if you maintain your humidity, the location of the dish won't matter. You will want your water dish to be big enough for your BRB to soak. They will do so on occasion.

    My BRB at least does like having height to climb with. She does utilize tall spots, tall branches, and tall places to hide when I place them in her enclosure.

    As far as a warm spot, I attached flexwatt to the bottom of a ceramic tile, and attached a dimmer switch to that, which is adjusted to 95ºF. She uses it on occasion, but usually only after meals. She did spend a whole day on it after I put her back in her cage (when she had escaped, and been absent for 3 weeks.)

    I attached pictures of my old setup (she outgrew it, but it was about 24x24x36.) She is now in a larger 24x24x48, and it seems to fit a little better. She is now about 5 feet long.

    My JCP has earned the nickname "Mr. Bitey" because of his temperament, though it is improving. He came to me secondhand, and with mites, so I really don't blame him. He has indoor outdoor carpet in his cage, I have 2 identical pieces cut. while one is in the cage, the other is being cleaned. Makes maintenance very easy. He likes to climb more than any of my other snakes (semi-arboreal) and only really ever goes to the floor to poop or eat, or drink from his water dish.

    Attached Files:

  5. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Oh, and Neodesha is another cage manufacturer. They were out of business for a while, but last I knew they were back...
  6. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the quick replies! :)

    I have read that both of these species can be nippy youngsters, but that is something I expect from any young snake, so I'm not too worried about it. Most likely, they will grow out of it and if not, well, I'll just have to deal with it then, won't I? I'm not the sort to abandon an animal if it is nippy, especially if it's just a snake. If I had a large dog that was super aggressive, well, then I'd probably have to take action simply because it would be a serious risk to myself and others (and even then, I'd spend quite a lot of time working with the dog first), but one of these guys isn't going to kill anyone with their bite. My cat is nippy as ****.

    Also, my main thing with colubrids is that they are so much quicker. I like the slow bulk of pythons and boas. I know they can strike quick, of course, but their general movement. I feel like a corn snake, if it did escape, would be harder to find again. Especially the babies since they are so, so small. And it would be at a far greater risk of getting turned into a cat toy. I want something bigger, though not so big that I couldn't safely handle it on my own-- which is what's nice about BRBs and JCs, they don't have so much girth, though more than a corn, but still get a decent size. As for Balls, my cousin had one for quite awhile, so I have seen them outside of a Petco environment (which I know is far from ideal, believe me-- I think I've really started to annoy my GM with my numerous complaints about the reptile habitat in particular and that I keep trying to move animals to the back room, the "wellness room", off the sales floor so they can get some proper heat and space-- just last week I moved a Beardie to the back because he wasn't eating and had a clogged up vent. Well, one day in his own cage, which was much more adequately heated, and he pooped, ate, and ran all over the place. Of course, now that he's better, he's back on the we'll see how long this lasts. And what's worse, we have four iguanas in one enclosure, two of them have gotten quite big so they're marking them at 50% off to clear them out-- which I know means someone who shouldn't buy one is going to, especially if I'm not there to talk them out of it, or one of a few of the employees that know better. Couple weeks ago I had a woman who wanted to get one as a birthday present for her 7 year old... *shakes head*) ANYWAY, enough of that rambling tangent...

    There is a local reptile shop that I go to and they have theirs in more appropriate housing as well. Thing is, from what I've read, Balls are actually not good starters because they have a tendency to be picky eaters and because they are easily stressed with over-handling-- which I know would be any snake, but it seems the bar of what constitutes over-handling is different between species. JC's, since they like climbing so much seem to be more amenable to handling, once they've outgrown their nippiness. Balls would much rather be left alone to curl up in their hide. And, on top of this, since I'm not intending on having a vast collection ever (though it seems like the sort of thing that might become a little addicting, lol), I wanted a snake that I thought was really pretty. Balls just don't interest me as much, unless I could spring for a really pricey morph, but I can't. And even then, the handling and activity issue is still there.

    By "shoebox", I mean one of those plastic tubs with the lid that clicks on (with holes drilled in it, of course). I've read that quite a few people use those for baby BRBs and that they maintain the humidity quite well. Better than a glass aquarium, at least, and cheaper... which is a good thing since it's only temporary housing. The plastic enclosures are super pricey. My main concern with a wood enclosure is potential rot with a BRBs humidity req's. Has anyone had specific issues with that though?

    Aspen shavings don't seem like they'd be good for a BRB-- the necessary humidity req's seem like they would inevitably lead to rot unless the bedding was changed very, very frequently. But would probably be fine for a JC. Coco fiber is one I've read about and heard good things. What about cypress mulch? I've read that getting it from a garden store and baking it works well and is more cost effective than getting it from a pet store.
  7. teach920

    teach920 Subscribed User Premium Member

    Regarding the starter snake....just a thought, but you might want to look into getting a rosy boa...they are obviously much smaller than other boas, but they can indeed make great pets.

    When it comes to temperments, and overall GREAT snake, I do think the ball python is going to be your best bet..I know you stated you wanted a "pretty one" but couldn't afford an expensive morph, however if you find a good breeder, you can actually get VERY nice morphs for a very reasonable cost.
    For example at the reptile expo I was at just last week, the "normals" (which were beautiful IMO) could be purchased for $25, and more than a few "specialty morphs" could be purchased for around $100...(so keep in mind all specialty morphs aren't going to cost an arm and a leg.)
    Good to know you are researching and making plans well before you get one...Definitely keep looking around, and again, basically just wanted to mention the rosy boa, in case you hadn't thought of those.
  8. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I like the coco-fiber, but I do let it dry out between saturating, to help inhibit mold growth. I have not seen mold in my coco-fiber, but I do see it on wood decor in the BRB cage. It drives me a little nuts, sometimes.
  9. annaj328

    annaj328 Elite Member

    im gonna throw in a vote for carpet pythons, but im gonna suggest you look into other subspecies, there are so many! (and some are calmer than others) i have a jcp and she is beautiful but her appetite has lead to a few bites, she isnt really aggressive, just always hungry...haha. Once I get her out of her cage she is really really fun to hold but I would not count on a jcp to be slow, she is quick! and I would assume that rainbow boas would also be kinda quick but I dont have any personal experience.

    also for a cage, my dad and I built a 4x2x2 for Maji and it was only about 200 for everything including the radiant heat panel (best investment ever).

    good luck with your decision!
  10. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I thought about Rosy Boas, but I've read that they're super secretive and tend to hide a lot, whereas I've read that both JCs and BRBs tend to be a little more active once they've grown out of their fearful juvenile phases-- especially the JCs. I like the idea of a snake that will spend a lot of time climbing or even just sitting up on a limb, where he's visible. I didn't really want a species that was big on burrowing.

    As far as the quick vs. slow thing, I suppose I mean it more comparatively. Thinner snakes seem to be quicker and so colubrids tend to be quicker than boas and pythons. *shrug* At least, as far as I've observed. Another thing I like about the boas and pythons is their constricting method of killing prey is more interesting to watch. I would, of course, feed pre-killed prey, frozen/thawed ideally, but I love the way the constrictors strike and coil, verses just taking the prey and swallowing it. Of course, sometimes they do just that as well. I don't know. I've read a fair amount and I'm pretty much set on a boa or python.

    Who knows though. Perhaps someone will sway me in the coming months while I still work at getting my mom to allow it.
  11. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Hatchling colubrids are squirmy, but they do calm down as they age.
    But they will be more mobile than the run of the mill python or boa. Just not in the spastic, gotta get away, manner. My corns are quite calm and I can even loop them around my neck while cleaning the cage.
    As for the constricting, both colubrids and boids constrict in the same manner.
  12. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Really? Whenever I feed the corn snakes at work they just take the pinkie and then start swallowing, whereas the pythons grab and twist and do that whole song and dance.
  13. hennisntacanibal

    hennisntacanibal Elite Member

    That wouldn't work for corns who actually have to kill their food! I have even seen my corn, who has eaten f/t all his life, do the strike and constrict. If I want to elicit that kind of response from him I will sort of wiggle it in front of his nose until he goes WHAM! I have a huge interest in hognose snakes. I think when I finally have the time and money for a new animal (who knows when that will be!) that will be my next snake.
  14. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    a BRB will sometimes burrow in their substrate a little, but not near to the extent of a sunbeam snake.

    I like the display factor about my JCP. He is often just sitting coiled on a branch in a very picturesque pose. I have to wait to see my other snakes do what he seems to do fairly often.
  15. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Pinkies are often treated that way by many snakes. They know that the pinkie is no threat and will even swallow a live one whole.
    My adult corns will occassionally just take and swallow the mouse but most of the time they latch on and constrict.
    And they haven't even seen a live mouse in years.
  16. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Yeah, that's something I really like about them. And that puts them ahead of the BRB. BRBs are just so ridiculously gorgeous and since humidity seems to be the only 'difficulty', I just really don't think it should be too problematic...but they are more secretive in general. And I reckon he'll spend a lot of time in the requisite moist hide. But then, we're talking snakes here and they are discreet animals overall. In general, carpets seem to be more active snakes than most pythons and boas. But that can vary between individuals too.

    For an adult JCP, would a 3' x 2' x 2' enclosure be big enough? And at what age/size would he be big enough to move into his adult enclosure? Would that same size work for a BRB? Or do they do better with more floor space and a little less height?
  17. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I think 3x2x2 would be on the smaller end of acceptable size for an enclosure for either species. I started with a 3x2x2 for my BRB, and she outgrew it. My Carpet utilizes his 41"x18"x24" pretty well, and he is still growing.

    My BRB seems to have no objections to laying out in the open from time to time, as long as the ambient humidity is high enough. The way her previous cage was designed, there were some areas that while not enclosed, where small, or tight fitting, but still open, and she used them frequently.
  18. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    I suppose that's yet another perk of building my own cage then, huh? I could make it a custom size and not be stuck with the standard dimensions the plastic ones come in.

    So when the snake it little, if I just had it in a plastic box with a water dish and a hide, how do I determine what is too much or too little ventilation? I'd have to drill holes in the box and I know for a BRB you don't want to do too much because you want to keep the humidity, but since JCs don't need as much... Would I want to drill holes in the top for a JC? Or just the sides? If the sides, every one every other inch or so? And what's the best way to go about heating these types of plastic storage bins?

    Something like this is what I have in mind...

    33 qt Clip Lid Clear Storage Box Iris CB-30
  19. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    You will have to determine the correct amount of ventilation by trial and error. Keep in mind though, that with too little ventilation, and lots of humidity, mold can quickly become a problem. You will need to be very studious about cleaning things out frequently to prevent/minimize mold growth. Increasing your ventilation, and misting more frequently (allowing periodic dry times to help discourage mold) will help.

    I let my BRB humidity drop to about 60-65% humidity once a week or so to help keep mold from g rowing in her cage. It seems to work, and she does not seem to mind. As long as they have a moist hide anyways, it should not be a problem for the snake.

    Drill small holes. If you drill too many, you can always cover them with tape until you find the right mixture. Or cover them when a snake is about to shed to increase humidity.
  20. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Or just construct a screened over vent with a sliding panel that lets you open and close the size of the vent space.

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