Controlling Humidity is extremely important for reptiles. Keeping the humidity levels just right is one part of a healthy environment for your pet snakes. It is important to remember that different snakes come from different places where the humidity levels can vary greatly. The right humidity level helps the snakes keep their respiratory tract and skin moist. The key to a healthy snake is to mimic their natural habitat as closely as you can in their enclosure.
Maintaining optimum humidity inside the snake tank also helps to keep your snake healthy and free of diseases. It is also necessary for the snakes to shed their skin. Low humidity levels inside the tank can lead to the snake having problems in shedding. When the humidity is too low their old skin can stick to their eyes and tail.
The first thing you need to know is the humidity level your snake needs. Different snake species require different levels of humidity. The humidity needs can range from 30% to 80% depending on the type of species you have. For example, Garter snakes need 30 to 50% humidity while African Ball Pythons need a humidity closer to 60%. Knowing the exact humidity range of your snake will help you take the necessary steps to keep their enclosure at the right level.
We suggest that you purchase a hygrometer. A hygrometer, just like the thermometer, is an electronic device that lets you measure the humidity level inside the tank. Next to water and food a hygrometer is a must or you’ll never know what the humidity is at in your snake’s tank.
The humidity is displayed as a percentage on the device. Having a hygrometer will help you measure the moisture in the room where your snake is kept and also inside the tank. These can be two very different numbers because most people don’t like their house to be at the same humidity that their snake needs.
Once you know what humidity level your snake needs, you should measure the humidity level of the room or area where your snake tank is kept. Garter snakes require a humidity range of 30 to 50% and if the humidity in your room falls in this range then you will not have to adjust the humidity inside the tank.
In this case, you may only have to slightly increase the humidity level when your snake is shedding its skin. If the humidity level is not at the optimal level then you can use the following ways to increase the humidity level inside the tank.
This is one of the easiest options. You can use a humidifier to increase the relative humidity of the room where your tank is placed. If your home has a central humidifier then you can use that or you can purchase one at your local big-box store. This is the easiest method and will increase the humidity range of both your room and tank. It can be a preferred option for snakes that require average humidity like Garter and Corn snakes or when you have multiple snake enclosures in your home.
Using a humidifier may not be as efficient for other snakes or when your snake is shedding its skin. High humidity can also damage your furniture or electronic devices.
To increase the humidity level inside the tank you can place a bigger water bowl inside the tank. You can also move it near the heating source of the snake tank. If you have a heating pad then place the water bowl over where the heat pad is kept. If you have a heat lamp or ceramic emitter installed then you should place the water bowl under it. Water placed near the heat will increase the evaporation of the water and raise the humidity level in your snake’s enclosure. Check the humidity level inside the tank using a hygrometer to see if evaporation increases the humidity enough for your snake.
You can also mist the tank to increase the humidity. This can be done by using water to spray the entire tank, including the hides, tank walls and the substrate. It is a cheap and efficient way of increasing humidity. You are not required to buy anything. The tank should be misted one or two times a day. Monitor the humidity level to see when misting is required.
One of the most common ways to increase humidity is by using a humidity box. You can buy these or make your own custom one to meet your specific needs.
To create a humidity box take a small plastic container or rubber box that is the size of a bowl and add some sphagnum moss. If you do not have sphagnum moss you can also add damp paper towels. Cut a small hole in the lid and it will allow the snake to get inside the moisture box if it wants. Now it is ready to be placed in the tank.
It is important to make sure the sphagnum moss or paper towels are not too wet and only damp.
Adding a water bowl or moisture box is not the only thing that can be done to control the humidity. To maintain the humidity other things that can be looked at.
The bedding of the snake tank can play a major role in maintaining the humidity inside the tank. Bedding like aspen shavings and wood barks tend to dry out faster and you may have to add water to keep them damp. Cypress mulch substrate is better at retaining moisture and helps to promote humidity inside the tank. Different snakes have different substrate needs. Depending on what the humidity level needs to be you can use what you like based on your ability to control the humidity.
Depending on the type of substrate you use, you may need to frequently dampen the substrate. By monitoring the hygrometer you will know if you need to mist the tank or not.
There are also soil moisture meters that are fairly inexpensive. By measuring the moisture in the soil you will be able to use it to help identify any problems you might be having keeping the enclosure hydrated. If the soil is too try, it will pull moisture out of the air. If the soil is moist then over time it will release some of its moisture into the air. The substrate you have acts like a battery, either pulling or releasing moisture.
If your tank has a screen or wire mesh lid, then your substrate or moisture box will dry out faster. If you notice that maintaining humidity levels for your snake is difficult, you can cover one half of the lid with a plastic cover or towel. This will help slow down the rate that moisture escapes from your tank. If you are using a moisture box, plastic cover or towel should be kept over the section where the moisture box is placed inside the tank.
When the snakes are shedding their skin, they may require slightly higher humidity than what they normally need. If you see your snake having problems shedding then you should increase the humidity using the methods mentioned above. A visible sign of the snake having problems shedding is when they are unable to shed the skin in one piece or when eye caps fail to come out. Maintaining the necessary humidity will help them shed their skin.