Size: 2-4 feet
Enclosure: 30+ Gallons
Handleability: Very squirmy
Longevity: 10-15 years
Diet: Carnivore (Fish)
As hatchlings they can be kept in a 10 gallon terrarium and as adults they need at least a 30+ gallon terrarium. Aspen shavings, Fir Bark, or Coconut bark/shavings are all acceptable substrates. As with all reptiles, never use pine or cedar shaving as they can lead to severe respiratory problems. Hiding spots should be provided on both the warm side, and the cool side of the terrarium. Deep sphagnum moss also makes a great hiding place. Branches for climbing can be placed throughout. A large sturdy water dish large enough for the snake to fit and hunt in is needed on the cool side of the terrarium.
All reptiles, are “cold-blooded”. This does not mean that their blood is literally cold, only that they cannot produce their own heat like birds and mammals do. An external heat source must be provided. This heat source will provide a “thermo-gradient” (warm side fading to cool side) which will enable your reptile to “thermo-regulate” (control its own body temperature by moving to different spots in the terrarium as needed.)
The warm side of the terrarium should be kept at 85-88 degrees during the daytime with a white heat light. A digital thermometer will be needed to monitor the temperature of the warm side. Ideally a dimmable light fixture would be used so you can adjust the heat output throughout the year. The heat light should be kept on for 8-12 hours during the day. The easiest way to achieve this is with a timer. A heat pad should also be placed on the warm side (the side opposite of the water dish) and remain plugged in 24 hours a day, all year long.
Like most snakes, this species does not require UVA or UVB lighting at all. They do, however, need some type of day/night cycle. This can be achieved with incandescent or fluorescent lights, which should be kept on for 8-12 hours a day. A timer can be used to facilitate this and to reduce maintenance.
Never use heat rocks because they often have hot spots, and require the animal to be in direct contact with it, which can cause severe burns.
Because Ribbon Snakes eat live fish, they require an unusually large water dish. I t needs to be large enough for them to swim and hunt in. The water should be changed every day with room temperature water. Tap water has chlorine and must be dechlorinated with a reptile safe water conditioner.
In the wild, Ribbon Snakes will eat tadpoles, small fish, worms, crickets and other insects. In captivity the easiest and most readily available food source are guppies, minnows and goldfish. Because Ribbon Snakes are so active, they eat more often than most snakes and should have food available to them at all times. Please ask a reptile department employee for advice on proper food selection.
All reptiles periodically shed their skin as they grow. When a snake is getting ready to shed, its skin and eyes will become milky. Snakes in this state should not be handled unless absolutely necessary because they cannot see very well, and therefore will be extra defensive, and more likely than normal to bite. After a few days, your snake will snag its skin on something rough, like a branch or other piece of wood, and slither out of it, leaving an intact layer of skin behind. After a snake sheds it can be handled as usual, and their leftover skin makes a nice souvenir.
Every day the lighting should be turned on in the morning, and back off at night. A timer can help with this. Their water should also be changed once a day and the dish sterilized each week. New fish should be added to the water dish whenever it is empty. Feces should be removed as soon as possible, and the substrate should be completely changed and the entire enclosure sterilized with “Wipeout 1” every 3-4 weeks.
Ribbon snakes are very squirmy by nature and usually do not like to be held. As a defense, they usually “musk” (defecate along with a strong smelling musk) on a predator or what they think is a predator. This leaves behind a strong and foul smell on anything it comes in contact with. Because of their squirmy nature and tendency to musk, they do not make very good “handling” pets and are better left alone whenever possible.