Small Snake pet
Get an aquarium. A baby garter snake should do well with a 5 gallon (18.9 L) tank, while a large adult would do a lot better in a 15 to 20 gallon (56.8 to 75.7 L) tank. Don't make it too small since garter snakes are very active creatures.
Layer the bottom of the aquarium with substrate. Paper towels and newspapers work well because they're cheap and easy to clean. You can also use butchers paper, cypress mulch, bark nuggets, and wood shavings (Aspen is best, Pine is probably all right, but never use cedar).
Add a hide away. A snake always needs a place to hide. It should be pretty small, the snake should be able to curl up tightly. It is even better if the snake can touch the the sides of the hide away when curled up. Make sure the hiding place can not fall onto your snake this can kill or injure your snake
Have some things for the snake to climb upon. You will find that garter snakes like to climb. Try a twisty tree climbing addition.
For the benefit of the snake when you first bring it home, put a cover, or a large towel (not a thick one, or it will run out of oxygen) over the tank. This helps it to de-stress, and feel a bit more safe, since the cover helps it to feel that it's not being hunted.
Part 2Regulating the temperature
- Buy a thermometer. A stick on thermometer is not terribly accurate, but gives you the general idea. It should be around 72 degrees at the cool end and 75 at the heated end. If your cage is higher than 80 on the cool side your cage is to hot.
- Get some heat. You can use heating pads/strips under one side of the enclosure, or a light bulb above it. Heating pads/strips should cover one third to one half of the enclosure. There should be a warm end of the enclosure and a cool end. When using a light bulb, never use more than 15 watts, they could be burned. Never use hot rocks. Garter snakes have been burned and killed by hot rocks. Also, never put them in direct sunlight, they can also be killed that way.
- Ensure that the humidity is accurate. The humidity should be 50 to 60 percent.
Part 3Feeding the snake
- Get a water bowl. It should be plastic, and big enough for the snake to bathe in. Don't make it too big. One of the most common mistakes with garter snakes is that they are semi aquatic. They are not aquatic, not even semi aquatic, it is their prey that is aquatic. If you keep it too moist, your snake could end up with a hard to treat blister disease.
- Change the water weekly, if not more often. Clean it out every one to two weeks, and clean and sterilize it every once in a while.
- Feed the snake. A garter snake is a carnivore and hunts prey, so you need to choose something for it to eat. It may surprise you that frozen mice are the best option by far. If you are uncomfortable with feeding your snake rodents you can feed them a mix of live or frozen fish, leeches, slugs, or worms. All of the provide all the nutrients garter snakes need, and will not have any parasites or bacteria that could hurt your snake (notice that frozen means dead mice).
- If your snake won't eat mice, It can eat a mixture of fish, worms, and maybe vitamin preservatives.
- Slugs can be a treat to be given sometimes, but they can be hard to get.
- Baby snakes can eat parts of a pinkie mouse twice a week, and adults can eat the appropriate sized mouse once a week. The mouse should be about as big as the largest part of the snake.
- A fish eater should eat every 5 to 6 days, and a worm eater twice a week. You need to avoid fish with thiaminase, like goldfish. Ask the person you buy the fish from about the fish.
- When feeding it, do not sling the snake's food at it. That will probably scare it. Leave its food in the middle. Remember, they don't like jerky movements. Be slow, but you can close the lid fast when putting the food in.
- If you choose to feed the snake food that is alive, (food that it hunts and kills), create hiding spots. Spread leaves and other things for the snake to hide behind, so it can sneak up. Uneaten killed food should be removed within 24 hours, to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Part 4Maintaining hygiene
- Clean the cage regularly. Cleaning the cage is not the most fun task in the world. But to clean the cage, catch your garter snake and put it in another container a bit larger than its cage, (with holes in the top) and take out all of the things that are in the cage. If you choose to use a type of soil, just dump it out and replace it.
- Spot clean fecal matter when it is seen.
- To clean the cage, hose it down and scrub it. The cage should be cleaned once every week or when ever it starts to smell.
- Don't overcrowd the snake. Give it a lot of room, as they love to move and they are normally very active.
Part 5Handling the snake
- Handle with care. Handling can be hard, but is a blast when done correctly. To handle the snake, approach it slowly. Let it slither on to your hand. Then, just make slow movements with it. Be careful and be nice.
- Do not handle the snake for one hour after it has shed its skin. The delay in handling will give the snake's new skin time to get used to the air and temperature, and your body salts and oils will damage its skin if held within the first hour.