How Do You Build a Custom Snake Tank?

Written by nicole papagiorgio
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How Do You Build a Custom Snake Tank?
A snake cage should be customised for the species being housed. (pet pine snake (baby) image by Kevkel from

Many snake keepers choose to build their own snake cages, perhaps because they would prefer a customised look or want special functions that store-bought cages don't have. The materials, tank size and heating or lighting elements required are all based on the kind of snake that will inhabit the cage.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Enclosure
  • Table saw
  • Power drill
  • Screen or vent
  • Heating element
  • Lighting element
  • Substrate

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  1. 1

    Determine the appropriate building materials. For example, a glass tank with a screen lid won't be suitable for a Brazilian rainbow boa because it won't maintain the needed humidity. It would work well, however, for a corn snake. A rainbow boa will do best in a plastic tub with a solid lid and ventilation holes at the sides. If the snake is a larger species, like a boa constrictor or Burmese python, a large cage made of melamine is the best choice. Melamine, plastic tubs or moulded plastic caging are best suited to humidity-loving snakes, while snakes from drier, more arid regions will do well in glass tanks or custom wood cages.

  2. 2

    Create a door in the cage. Plastic tubs or enclosures that come with lids won't require an extra opening. Otherwise, you will need to create a door by attaching the front of the cage with hinges, as well as a lock so it cannot be easily opened.

  3. 3

    Ventilate the snake cage. A glass tank with a screen lid will have enough ventilation through the lid, but cages made of melamine or plastic tubs will require additional ventilation. This can be achieved by installing a vent purchased from a home hardware store or by placing screening over openings in the cage.

    In plastic tubs for snakes that need higher humidity, holes drilled into the sides of the tub will maintain the humidity much better than ventilation at the top.

  4. 4

    Heat the cage. A heating pad can be attached to the bottom of the cage, or a heat cable can be strung along areas of the cage where the snake may frequent. Species such as ball pythons will spend their time near the bottom of the cage, while arboreal species like green tree pythons will spend their time near the top.

    Heat lights should not be used as they can dry out the cage, and snakes need belly heat, not ambient heat, for proper digestion.

    Keep in mind that a thermal gradient needs to be created, making one end of the cage warmer than the other. A thermal gradient allows the cold-blooded snake to warm up or cool down as it chooses.

  5. 5

    Light the cage, as appropriate. Snakes do not need any supplemental lighting, and as noted, warmer lights may dry out the cage. However, if the room where the snake cage will be is dark or the snake is meant to be displayed, fluorescent lighting is not very warm and can be kept on for 12 hours each day to simulate natural sunlight. In most cases, an opening can be cut in the top of the cage, wire mesh placed across it and the light placed over the mesh. It is important not to allow the snake to come into direct contact with the light to prevent burns, even with cooler fluorescent lights.

  6. 6

    Add substrate to the cage. The substrate is what the snake will sit upon when inside the cage. It can be paper towels, coconut husks, aspen shavings or AstroTurf, for example. You can choose the substrate, although some hold humidity better than others. At this point, decorations can also be added to the cage. Most snakes will require something to hide under, and arboreal species in particular benefit from branches or dowels that they can coil around.

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