Tyrannosaurus Pets

Asian Rat snake Care Sheet


Elaphe, Orthriophis, Euprepiophis, Coelognathus, Oocatochus, Gonyosoma, Oreophis spp.


Asian Rat snakes are a diverse group of snakes from several genera and numerous species. They range in size from 2-3 feet (elaphe bimaculata, Oocatochus rufodorsata, Coelognathus helena) to over 8 feet (Elaphe carinata, Orthriophis taeniura, Ptyas mucosus). Asian Rat snakes as a group are not known for their good dispositions but there are some species which calm easier and make better candidates for a pet. 


Most are from cooler tropical areas and do not like exposure to high temperatures. They also like very high humidity for the most part and appreciate heavy misting and humid hides similar to those used for leopard geckos.  


Heating the tank



  • Asian Rat snakes are tropical snakes and require a steady day, and relatively high night time temperature.  The easiest way to achieve this is to use a ceramic heating system; this provides the required heat at night with out lighting the tank so won’t interrupt the snakes sleep patterns.  Ceramic heaters get extremely hot and will melt normal light fittings.  The best type of fitting to use is a hanging pendant type.  These allow a greater air flow around the top of the fitting, and reduce overheating of the vivarium roof. Once the fitting has been wired using a heat resistant cable, it will need to be hung from the roof of the tank.  A small picture hook is sufficient to hold this in place.  Screw the lamp into place.  With the high temperatures produced by these lamps it is essential that a guard is placed around the bulb.  It is easiest to fix the guard if the tank is upside down.  Remove the glass before turning the tank over or it will fall out. 

  • Generally speaking Asian rat snakes need a basking temperature of 27’c – 30’c, dropping to 22-24’c at the cool end.  At night the temperature should drop no lower than 23’c.  The easiest way to do this is with a thermostat with an automatic night time drop facility.

  • Plug the heater into a thermostat.  The sensor from the thermostat needs to come into the tank at the top, around one third of the way in from the hot end.  Allow the sensor to hang down to 2” above the substrate.  To make the tank look neater the sensor cable can be held within some conduit, but make sure that the black section of the probe is exposed to the air in the tank to get an accurate reading.  Set the thermostat to 26’c.  The thermostat will heat the tank where the probe is to 26’c.  Under the heater the temperature will be slightly higher, and at the cool end slightly lower.  Leave the tank for two hours to settle.  Check the basking temperature and cool end temperature. If both temperatures are correct, leave the tank a further two hours and recheck the temperatures.  If the temperatures are not right adjust the thermostat. Only make a small change to the thermostat, as even a little tweak can make a large difference to the tank temperatures.  Always leave at least two hours before checking the tank.  Keep tweaking and checking until the temperatures have stabilised at the desired level.

  • If using a thermostat with a night time drop facility set the night time drop to the desired level.  With the microclimate range of thermostats the night drop is set on the right hand dial.  This dial needs to be set to the amount of drop required.  To find this deduct 24 from the setting on the day time temperature (this will normally be around 26’c so requires the drop to be set to 2-3’c).

  • If you are using a standard thermostat with one dial, then the night temperature needs to be adjusted manually.  Turn the thermostat down to 25’c at night, and back up to the standard setting in the morning.


Decorating the tank



  • These snakes are mostly found in the tropical rainforests and mountains/cloud forests of Asia, and need to be kept in a moist environment like the jungles they would normally live in.  To replicate this in captivity we use an absorbent substrate such as orchid bark chippings.  This absorbs water when sprayed and helps to keep the humidity in the tank slightly higher.  Take care to ensure that the tank is not wet through, as too high humidity is as bad as too low.  To maintain the humidity gently spray the tank four or five times per week.  When the snake is in shed spray the tank daily.  This should enable them to shed their skin all in one piece.

  • The snake requires a hide in both the warm and the cool sections of the tank. This allows the snake to feel secure at whatever temperature it wishes. Additional décor may also help the snake to adapt to the new enclosure.

  • Place the water dish in the cool end, more towards the middle of the tank if space is cramped.  


Daily Maintenance



  • The water in the dish needs to be changed daily.

  • When you change the water remove any mess in the tank.  If this spot cleaning is done regularly then the tank will only require a full clean out once every four to six weeks.  When cleaning the tank or any décor don’t use household detergents, as these can be toxic to reptiles.  Any good pet shop will carry a range of reptile specific pet disinfectants.


Feeding your snake



  • Young snakes should be fed once every seven days.  As the snake grows increase the size of the meals. If the next size of prey item is too big for your snake to manage then feed it two of the current size.  The snake’s behaviour will tell you when it is ready for bigger food.  If after eating the snake goes into its hide and you don’t see it for a couple of days then it is content with the current food.  However if after eating the snake spends thirty minutes searching the tank, or is out and active the day after, then it is ready for a larger meal.  It can take a snake several days to fully digest a meal.  If a snake is disturbed too soon it can cause the animal to regurgitate.  To ensure that this does not happen always leave a snake alone for forty eight hours after it has eaten. Asian rat snakes are not fond of large meals and so many will prefer to be fed small meals. Do not rush them to move onto the next food size.


Handling your snake



  • Young rat snakes can be quite nervous snakes, and may try to bite.  Most will grow out of this habit and should calm down. Do not try to handle your snake for the first couple of weeks, just let it settle in to the new environment during this time just spot clean the tank and change the water.  After one week offer the snake its first meal.  Leave the snake alone for another week, and then offer its second meal.  If the animal eats both of these then it has settled in. Leave the snake two days to digest it food, and you can then handle it for the first time.  Initially handle the snake for 5 minutes twice a week.  As the snake gets more used to being handled the length of time and the frequency can be increased.

  • Excessive handling can cause a young snake to go off its food.  If this happens stop handling the snake completely until it starts to eat again.


Shedding



  • Rat snakes, like all snakes regularly shed their skin.  While preparing to shed the snake’s colours will appear muted and its eyes will go milky blue.  While it takes about a week for the old skin to soften, it only takes a matter of minutes for the snake to peel it off.  When the snake is preparing to shed it can feel irritable and more vulnerable than normal.  Because of this don’t handle the snake or try to feed it while it’s in shed.

  • After the snake has shed, check no skin is stuck on, if left this can cause problems for the future.  Always check the old skin to make sure the eye caps have come off.  If any skin is stuck contact Tyrannosaurus Pets for further information.  The only time the snake can be handled during its initial settling in period is if it sheds, as it will need to be checked over.


The different species of Asian Rat snakes commonly seen in captivity:



Radiated Rat snake:Coelognathus radiata: 


These are fast moving and very active rat snakes from a very wide range. They are golden brown in colour with striping running the length of the body. They get their name from the 3 lines which “radiate” from around the eye. They are a medium sized species, generally around 4-6 feet in length and quite slender. They are nippy as youngsters but captive bred youngsters can become very tame and will allow regular gentle handling. They eat well and are often very gluttonous and will eat several food items in one sitting. They are good climbers and will utilise most décor in an enclosure. These enjoy basking at around 31’c and so will need a slightly higher temperature.


Sub-Radiated Rat snake:Coelognathus subradiata:


A very similar snake to the radiated rat snake. They do not have the same eye pattern and are a slightly duller animal. Care and other maintenance is the same as the radiated. These are not as common as radiated rat snakes.


Trinket Snakes:Coelognathus helena sp:


Trinket snakes are a small species of rat snake with a very similar appearance to the radiated rat snake. They grow to between 2-3.5 feet and stay slender. They eat well in captivity and because of their small size don’t need a larger enclosure. They like to climb and are quite active. They often calm down and make lovely pets but can be nippy and nervous as babies. There are several subspecies which all look very similar and are often confused. 


Twin spotted rat snake:Elaphe bimaculata:


These are very small snakes, most being around 2 feet in length. They are not commonly kept or bred but are subtly attractive. They are either spotted or striped and are usually tan or sandy brown with rust coloured spots or stripes. They can be slightly greyer than brown. They have attractive yellow chins. They are not aggressive snakes but can be very restless when handled.  


Russian/Korean Rat snake:Elaphe schrenki sp:


There are 2 subspecies E. schrenki. schrenki and E. s. anomala. They are very similar in size and build but the schrenki subspecies is dark brown to black with striking yellow markings, whereas the anomala subspecies is greyish green with very faded markings once mature. They reach an average of 4-5 feet in length and are stoutly built with large heads. These make a great first snake as they are docile and very easy to care for. They also don’t need the high humidity of other Asian rat snakes.


The Stinking Goddess/ Chinese King Rat snake:Elaphe carinata:


These are beautiful black and yellow snakes with a very distinct shape and build. They reach a heavy 5-8 feet and have very round short heads. They are not known for their docile natures and can be quite volatile when handled. However some captive bred specimens will calm down with handling and patience. They are secretive animals, but very active once settled into an enclosure. They have a very interesting defence method, when roughly handled or when they feel threatened they secrete a substance called musk. This is produced in a gland near the snakes vent and smells repulsive. This is how they get their local name of stinking goddess. 


Japanese rat snake:Elaphe climacophora:


These are dull brown/ olive snakes which reach around 4 feet in length. They are usually well natured and will allow handling. They feed well and do not need high humidity. These are also a good first snake. They may be wriggly as youngsters but they calm down well. They have a very faint saddled pattern which when freshly shed can be very attractive.


Dione’s Rat snake:Elaphe dione:


These small interesting snakes make very good pets. They like cooler temperatures, 26-28’c and don’t need high humidity. They are very variable in colour depending on the subspecies. Most are olive brown-grey with stripes or saddles. They are subtly attractive. They have good temperaments and are usually calm when handled. They also stay around 2 feet in length so do not require the space of most Asian rat snakes.


Mandarin Rat snake:Euprepiophis mandarinus:


Mandarin Rat snakes are an attractive small (2.5-4feet) snake from a wide range covering much of china. They are quite variable in pattern but most have diamond shaped saddles and a silvery base colour, with gold and sometimes red markings. They have short rounded heads and quite slender bodies. They are burrowers by nature and are very secretive. Most only emerge from hiding after dark. They are not aggressive but can be very fast moving. They prefer very small meals, most preferring rat pups over mice. No area of their enclosure should be hotter than 28’c; they are very susceptible to heat stress. 


Red Tailed Green Rat snake:Gonyosoma oxycephalum:


There could not be a more striking coloured snake! The best examples are bright leaf green with yellowish white throats and reddish brown tails. They are long (up to 9 feet) impressive snakes with a generally bad temper. They are excellent climbers and eat a lot of birds in nature. They will however eat rodents in captivity. They are shy, highly strung and very nervous and so are not the best beginner animal. They also like very high humidity and should be sprayed daily and given a large water bowl to soak in.


Chinese Corn Snake:Oocatochus rufodorsata:


 


These are small, semi aquatic, amphibian eaters. Wild caught specimens are the most commonly available and don’t do well as pets. However if well settled and feeding they can make interesting and active captives. They are usually golden-tan yellow with red striping along the back. They are attractive and do not reach large sizes. 


Thai Red Mountain/ Bamboo Rat snake:Oreophis porphyraceous:


 


These are truly beautiful snakes. they are bright orange-red with black stripes down the back or lighter orange-red saddles. The pattern is incredibly variable and the several subspecies are very different in appearance. This is a fast moving, nervous and sometimes aggressive species from the cool mountain areas of China. They will eat rodents of small size and should be kept quite cool as to avoid regurgitation. These stunning snakes are still very pricey in the pet trade but are becoming more available as breeders have more success with this strange and beautiful rat snake.


100 Flower/ Moellendorff’s Rat snake:Orthriophis moellendorffi:


 


Another cool climate snake, these Chinese rat snakes like cool wet weather in the wild and often are found in caves. They eat small nestling rodents and birds and prefer small meals in captivity. They are secretive ambush predators and can be quite aggressive, though most are just wriggly. They are usually greenish brown to tan with darker saddles. They have copper to bright orange heads and a bright red tail bearing the same saddles as the body. 


The Beauty Snakes:Orthriophis taeniura ssp:


 


This is a diverse and variable group made up of several races and subspecies. All are slender, active and often quite nervous snakes. The range of this group is huge, covering most of Asia. They inhabit warm tropical areas but most will experience a low night time temperature for several months of the year. Depending on the subspecies they reach 5 feet (Chinese Beauty Snake) up to 10 feet (Vietnamese Blue Beauty Snake and Ridley’s Cave Rat snake). They have a reputation as aggressive and irascible snakes. Some individuals deserve this reputation whereas some will calm with gentle handling to become nice pets. They are easy to care for and will eat mice and rats at all ages, making them a good introduction to Asian Rat snakes.

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