If you are considering getting a snake as a pet, understandably, you will have some questions about their environment. You’ll need to know how to optimize it and ensure that it provides everything that they will need to survive and thrive. Heating is one such factor. Do you need to provide supplemental heating? I decided to conduct some research into the topic. I would like to share my findings with you here today.
So, do snakes need heat lamps? Snakes do require a heat lamp or under-cage heating pads, to offer warm zones where they can bask and get energy. Snakes cannot produce their own heat; they are ectothermic. They depend on their environment to keep them at top functioning temperatures. If their temperature drops too low or rises too high, some bodily functions cease to operate in the way they should, like digestion.
In the wild, these reptiles know what they must do to maintain the same temperature so they can stay healthy. If you are keeping a snake as a pet however, you must take on this responsibility on their behalf.
Let us now take a closer look at some of the most important aspects of heat requirements for snakes. We will cover topics including whether snakes can survive without heat, what temperature is too hot for snakes and signs for overheating among others. So be sure to keep reading to the end to ensure that if you own a pet snake, you can optimize their environment for their needs.
Can Snakes Survive Without A Heat Lamp?
Snakes are unable to produce their body heat, so it must come from an external source. In nature, these serpents rely upon the sun to provide them with the heat that they need to keep their organs healthy. A snake that is removed from its natural surroundings and forced to live in a different environment needs heat to come from another source.
If you own a snake as a pet, you must furnish it with a heat lamp or a heating pad.
When it comes to providing a heat lamp, you are going to need two pieces of equipment; a clamp lamp and an incandescent bulb designed for reptiles.
For my setup, I chose the Exo Terra Glow Light Porcelain Clamp Lamp from Amazon. It’s the best clamp lamp I found on the market. As for the actual bulb, I opted for the Fluker Labs Reptile Incandescent Daylight Bulb, also from Amazon. They offer a 40, 60 and 100-watt bulb which are all blue. They’re excellent for snakes to bask in and provide the heat they need through infrared light.
For a heating pad, the iPower pad and thermostat combo from Amazon is ideal. You can safely and closely monitor and control the environment, plus its easy to use, energy efficient and you have the ability to use either Fahrenheit or Celsius readings.
Keep in mind that a cold snake is an unhealthy snake. These serpents will become susceptible to illnesses due to the cold. Their immune systems will become weak, which in turn opens the door to all kinds of bacteria, viruses and the risk of infections.
Some owners will fail to recognize the signs of a cold snake, and it is important to catch them early. If a snake makes jerky movements; twisting and turning, it is already too late. Any attempts to warm them up at this stage may prove futile.
This is why you need to be proactive, and purchase the right heating equipment ahead of time. This will ensure they do not ever enter this life-threatening state.
In the case of a power outage, your pet snake might be without heat for some time. Being without power with a snake is not ideal, your snake may only last a few hours during a power cut.
Consider getting an alternative source of power like a generator, especially if your location is prone to lengthy outages, and if you own a lot of reptiles. Heat packs and power inverters are ideal for a few snakes.
Do Snakes Need Heat?
Snakes simply need heat. You must ensure that there are warm-zones in your pet’s enclosure. Warm-zones are ideal as your snake can decide how much heat they needs. When a snake becomes too hot, they can move off to a colder area of the enclosure.
Aside from heat, snakes need ultraviolet light; this is true this of most reptiles. The sun provides snakes with the ultraviolet light they require to build strong bones and keep a healthy metabolism. Vitamin D is necessary for processing calcium efficiently. Some species need more of the sun’s exposure than others, and in the wild, even nocturnal species get the ultraviolet light they need.
In captivity, snakes can’t forgo ultraviolet light; putting UVB lights in their cage, can make all the difference to your pet snake and help them to absorb the necessary vitamins.
This is why you should not just simply provide a heating pad alone. You do require a heat lamp for the above reasons at the very minimum.
What Temperature Is Too Hot For Snakes?
Now that we know snakes need heat, and that you need to ensure their environment is heated, you’ll likely have some questions about how much heat to provide. How much is too much?
Snakes being ectothermic animals, whose bodily temperature are reliant on the surrounding environment (as opposed to internally regulated), thrive on temperatures between 68 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the wild, if temperatures rise beyond this, they retreat under bushes/burrows, hide in shaded areas or retreatunderground to cool down.
Snakes as a species live on every continent apart from Antarctica. This means that they have had to adapt to a varied range of ecosystems. As such, they have learned to adapt by finding a way of maintaining thermoregulation and homeostasis in every environmental condition.
Whether this be extreme heats or colder climates; finding and retaining heat is something that a snake has had to develop. Its a biologically driven trait passed down from thousands of years of adaptation.
Snakes, like many reptiles, are busiest during the day, and they rely on the sun’s rays to warm their bodies as they bask or hunt for food.
Heat increases their metabolism, thus, providing them with energy and support for digesting their food.
When conditions become too hot, snakes will respond by retreating to a cooler place and environment. Again, this supports the concept that your snake enclosure should have ‘zones’ and areas where your snake can freely move to and from. Getting the heat they need when they need it, and cooler spots when they do not.
Signs Of An Overheated Snake
Snakes can overheat, and there are a lot of wild snakes that fall victim to such events. The hotter and more sparse the environment, the higher the chances of succumbing to its effects.
If a snake has nowhere to cool down, being overheated can cause neurological damage and, at worst, death.
The first signs of overheating with your pet might be too subtle for you to notice. A hot and bothered snake will spend extended periods at the cooler end of their enclosure. They may wrap their body around the water bowl, or hide underneath it.
Your snake will start to move faster, and it will become very aggressive, looking like it’s about to mock-strike or bite.
At higher temperatures, you’ll notice more erratic movements like waving their head aimlessly, rolling over, losing their balance. They will rub their face on surfaces to the point of damaging their snout. All of these are attempts to cool down and reduce the heat.
When you see your snake being unable to move in any specific direction or stay upright, this is a clear indication of neurological damage. If you fail to resolve the environment quickly, they will die.
To avoid overheating with your snake, make sure that you have a thermometer in their enclosure and make the necessary adjustments to their habitat if the temperature is uncomfortable.
Provide your snake with heat-zones from where they can bask and derive their energy.
They need cool areas like hiding places and substrata (like this) where they can burrow into to cool down.
Make sure that they get plenty of water and are well hydrated.
Snakes need heat lamps if you keep them in captivity.
Like many reptiles, these serpents are ectothermic and do not have an internal way of producing heat or regulating their body temperature. In their natural habitat, snakes get all the warmth they need from the sunlight, but as pets, it must come from another source.
If you own a snake, you are responsible for its heat, and lighting needs. It is up to you to regulate the temperature in your pet’s enclosure and ensure that conditions are neither too cold or too hot.
Snakes are resourceful in the wild and capable of self-care from the moment they hatch, it is coded into their DNA; however, there is little that they can do for themselves while kept in a cage. You need to take this on – it is your responsibility.
Snakes require heat; it doesn’t always need to come from sunlight – however, sunlight is the best source of heat for snakes.
For this reason, ensure that you purchase and invest in the best equipment ahead of time. Spend time researching and learning how to optimize their enclosure – ensuring they have areas of heat, cooler areas and plenty of water with easy access.
If you suspect your snake is getting too hot/too cold, respond quickly. You need to monitor and stay on top of this as drastic changes in temperature (either way) can have fatal consequences for your pet. Whether this be long-term health consequences, or in the worst case, death.
Ultimately, this does not or shouldn’t be the case with a little bit of planning.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.