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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 7   
April, 2005
Snakes - Presentation of Food
In this Issue

There are several ways that prekilled food can be offered to a snake. If your snake doesn't seem to respond well to one, try another. Many snakes will strike a rodent right off feeding tongs. You can use tweezers, hemostat-type locking forceps, even barbecue tongs for this purpose, depending on the size of the snake and its food. For obvious safety reasons, you should not dangle a rodent in front of a snake while holding the rodent in your hand, even by the tail.

The rodent should be held by its rear quarters and presented to your pet with the head of the food animal pointing toward the snake. If you position the rodent with the tongs in this way, when the snake strikes, it won't accidentally come into contact with the metal feeding tongs. Simply putting the food animal in front of many snakes is all that's required to get them to take it, but some may need to be coaxed a bit. By shaking the meal slightly, you can give the impression that it's alive, and this may help elicit a strike. Some snakes may like a more vigorous motion than others. A few snakes respond to having the rodent bumped up against their nose or along the side of their neck, but this technique is too aggressive for most snakes and shouldn't be tried unless all other methods fail. It's best to start gently and go slowly with a snake you're not familiar with because you don't want to be intimidating. You just want the snake to recognize that what you're offering is good food.

Bright lights will keep some snakes from feeding, so dimming the lights or offering food under red light at night may make a positive difference for some specimens and help them feel comfortable enough to take food off tongs.

Some serpents are slow to eat in front of their keeper, especially at first. If a new pet isn't responding or seems to be intimidated, it's best to put the thawed rodent down in the cage and leave the snake alone with it for awhile undisturbed. For some shy and/or baby snakes, it's best to start out this way. Just place the food item into the cage so it can be easily seen from where the snake is lying. If the snake is in the hide box, leave the rodent at the entrance with its head pointing toward the snake to make it as easy as possible for your pet to start swallowing. You should leave the food item in the cage overnight, if necessary, to get a shy animal to start feeding regularly. This is okay because dead rodents don't bite! Most snakes, however, don't need to be babied at feeding time. Many are very reliable eaters and don't require any special effort to get them to take the food. Even snakes that were timid feeders, and would only eat in total darkness when you first got them, will often become more comfortable with you over time and eat in daylight while you watch.

Extract from "Snake Keeping - Proven Techniques Everyone Can Use" by Barry Neilsen

The previous articles on can be found at:

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Snake Mites - Treatments for Snake Mite Part 3

Please note, Ark Reptile Group & are not in a position to recommend any of the treatments described below. It is therefore up to the individual's assessment, along with his/her Veterinary Surgeon's advice, as to which is the most appropriate treatment in any particular case.

Further Discussion and Alternative Treatments, posted onto the Ark Forums by their members.

From: Essex (2002)
Comments on the use of Vaseline and Frontline.

Vaseline will only kill a small percentage of the mites, it will irritate the snake and everything in the cage will stick to the snake. You will also get more on you than you get on the snake! Vaseline is good though, when removing skin, after a bad shed.
Frontline: Pop into your local vets, they should have it in stock, as it's used on other animals, not just Reptiles. If you do the job correctly, you shouldn`t have to do it again, unless you are unlucky enough to buy another snake, with its own mites.

From: Nils (2002)
Comments on the use of Pro-Zap, Frontline and Diemite

We have recently found an American supplier who is willing to ship small quantities of Pro-Zap strips to the UK, which has a different active ingredient but is very similar to Vapona in use and action.

To use Frontline on the snake, dilute the stuff vets supply for cat/dogs (Fibronil 0.25% w/v spray) by 50% with water. Spray onto a cloth and wipe down the snake really well (avoiding the head/eyes as it is alcohol based and will irritate).
Place the snake in a pillowcase or other breathable bag (again the alcohol will irritate the lungs if the snake is too enclosed and breathes too much of the fumes), in warm place while treating the viv.
Clean out the viv as far as possible and spray the viv surfaces, especially the corners and cracks with Frontline. Leave for 10-12 hours, air and return the snake to the viv.
The alcohol in the spray can dry out the skin, so rehydrate or increase the humidity for a couple of days to prevent any problems. As this won't kill the mite eggs, the process should be repeated in 7-10 days. You'll find that there is a little residual Frontline left and this will continue to kill off the mites for some time too.

Another product that we have used is DieMite from Naturerep. It's sprayed or wiped directly onto the snake and works very well in contact, but the viv would still need treating with Frontline.

From: Nils (2002)
The Ingredients of Frontline, BioMite, Mite Off and Diemite

Frontline – Fibronil 0.25% w/v spray, usually prescribed for treatment of fleas in cats and dogs.

T Rex BioMite mite inhibitor – ingredients are purified water, alcohol, eucalyptol, menthol, sanguinaria extract, other proprietary and inert ingredients.

ZooMed Mite Off – proprietary blend of cocoethanolamine, propylene glycol, glycerol, octoxynol-9.

NatureRep DieMite – a new generation formula specifically designed to eliminate snake mites without the use of harmful pesticides using naturopathic technology… in other words it doesn’t list the ingredients on the bottle! Whatever it is, it works well.

From: Lilacdragon (2002)
The Use of Ivermectin with Frontline, I think there are several concentrations and types of product... However, the treatment for snakes with mites in the new British Small Animal Veterinary Association Manual of Exotic Pets is suggested as:

Ivermectin: 200micrograms per kg. bodyweight injected intramuscularly every 2 weeks for 8 weeks, given along with Ivermectin diluted, 5milligrams per litre of water, sprayed topically once weekly on snakes and enclosure for the same 8 weeks.
The recommendation for lizards is different; there is a warning that there is a low therapeutic index (ie, it is very easy to overdose) and the author suggests only injecting twice, a fortnight apart, OR using the topical spray every 4-5 days for up to 4 weeks.
I would think it would be essential to enlist the help of a vet for this type of intensive medication. Some writers say that lizards should not be treated with Ivermectin at all.

From: Steve Woodward (2002)
The Use of Natural Predators

There is also a method (if you don't mind introducing bugs to kill bugs) whereby a Natural Predator is introduced, that in theory will live off the snake mites, and will not harm the reptile itself.
The bug Hypoaspis mite is available from DEFENDERS.
( ) and its effectiveness is going to be assessed in the UK shortly.

From: Essex (2004)
The Use of Natural Predators: New Success with Hypoaspis

Try these

Order a box of Hypoaspis mites.
When they arrive give each cage a quick spray with water to raise the humidity slightly then add a few spoonfuls of the mite mixture to each cage.
They will clear up all the problem mites within twenty four hours and then spend the next few days hunting down all the mite eggs hiding in your cages.
Once the food runs out they all die off. They don't upset your herps, can be used to clear spiders, insects etc of mites as well and you havent used any
chemicals or stress the herps by handling them.
One dose is all it takes, I've been clear of mites for over a year now. I'm going to stop now as I'm starting to sound like an advert for double glazing.

I gave the Hypoaspis mites a try at the start of last year, I’d brought one hatchling that managed to infect half my collection (with snake mites). Each cage was given a quick spray of water to raise the humidity. Then about half an hour later each cage was given between two and four table spoons of the mixture containing the mites.
By the next day I could hardly find any snake mites and everywhere appeared clear within forty eight hours. You could actually see spots of blood on the snakes were the predatory mites had attacked the snake mites.
I very lightly sprayed each cage every other day for a week to keep the humidity up so that the predatory mites would have time to hunt down all the other mites and their eggs.
After two weeks I did a massive spring clean on all my cages just to freshen everything up.
That was all about ten months ago and I’ve been totally clear of mites ever since.

Reproduced with permission from Ark Reptile Group. Original article by Chris Jordan


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Carpet Python Care

Carpet pythons make an ideal pet. They are non-venomous, quiet, require minimal maintenance, have minimal odor, fairly docile and feed a maximum of once per week.

General Information

They grow to a length of between 1.4 meters for jungle carpets to 3.0 meters for diamond pythons, depending on the sub-species.

The sub species are:

Centralian Python (Morelia bredli) - central australian desert

South-Western Carpet Python (Morelia spilota imbicata) - grasslands and woodlands of south west Western Australia

Jungle Carpet Python (Morelia spilota cheynei) - tropical forest of atherton tablelands in northern Queensland

Coastal Carpet Python (Morelia spilota mcdowelli) - coastal areas of Queensland and Northern New South Wales

Diamond Python (Morelia spilota spilota) - Coastal News South Wales to the Eastern tip of Victoria

Inland Carpet Python (Morelia spilota metcalfi) - Murray-Darling basin of NSW, Victoria and South Australia

North-Western Carpet Python (Morelia spilota variegata) (Darwin Carpet Python) - northern Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland


Carpet pythons are generally terrestrial but are also partially arboreal. Given a tree or branch in a cage they will happily climb it. Some species like to climb so some branches can be added. More important however it to make sure there is enough floor space for the snake to move about in. Glass enclosures should be avoided as they lose heat too quickly and are generally too cold for carpet pythons. The enclosure should be escape proof. Hides, such as hollow logs or commercial rock hides need to be provided.

Rocks are useful for shedding and also retain heat while plastic plants make good decorations (real are hard to keep and can cause health issues). Branches also provide areas for the snake to move about on.

Water should always be provided and kept clean, being changed at least once per week. Wash the water bowl out regularly to prevent algal build up.

Glass or plexiglass fronted timber enclosures are the most popular means of housing snakes.


Ventilation is essential but should not be overdone. Warmer climates will require more ventilation to prevent overheating, while cooler climates will only require minimal ventilation to prevent heat loss. Excess ventilation can cause too much temperature variation and lead to health problems.


Carpet pythons are maintained between 820°-90°F (28°-32°C) during the summer months. They may be dropped to as much as 72°F (22°C) in the winter months and 75°F (24°C) at night. The night time temperature should only be reached for a few hours. (Diamond pythons in particular tolerate lower temperatures and may in fact benefit from a wider temperature range, mimicking their wild environment).

A thermometer is an essential piece of equipment when keeping snakes and ideally you will have two or more in a cage.

Monitoring the temperature is an important daily task. Results should be recorded in a diary, along with note on any changes in the animals behavior.

Heat mats and lights are both acceptable forms of heating. The cage should also have a thermal gradient.

Some owners run two heat mats on separate thermostats. On will operate during the day and the other operates during the night using an alterante timer. This is a useful way of varying the cage temperature to mimic the wild while running it on automatically.


UVB is not a necessity but is useful from a psychological point of view as it mimics the light cycle if it is turned on for 8-12 hours per day. ZooMed Reptisun 2.0® would be recommended. Diamond pythons may be the exception to this but this is yet to be determined.


Allow the snake to move freely over your arms and do not hold it too hard. Continue this until the snake feels comfortable enough to cease moving. Restraining the snake by it's head should be avoided.

Avoid sudden movements and wash your hand before handling the snake, especially if you have been handling food such as rats or chickens. Any scent of food on you will make you appear to be a food source.

One tip I have heard that allows you to release a snake that has latched onto you to release its hold, is to blow air forcefully into it's mouth, although this may not always be possible. Make sure you are ready to grab its head as soon as it releases its grip.

Ideally you need to handle the snake regularly from a young age.


Carpet pythons should be fed dead prey. Two mice per week or one rat per fortnight is adequate for a 4-5 ft python. You can generally observe when a snake is hungry as will start to hunt.

Live prey should be avoided as they can cause injury to the snake if the snake is not hungry. Live pinkies are useful for young snakes but they should be weaned of these as soon as possible.

The food should be at room or body temperature before being fed.

Some owners remove the snake from the cage for feeding so that the opening of the cage door is not associated with food but rather with handling. The snake is then placed in a large container, such as a plastic bin, for the feeding.

Supplements can be used but many owners report good health without these.


"Keeping Carpet Pythons", 2001, Kortlang & Green, Australian Reptile Publications.


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When you purchase reptile cage plans you also get access to a copy of these plans as part of your purchase. They can be used for large lizards and large snakes quite easily, but you do need some room to put them in as they are quite large

They are easy to make and it does take a little time. But you get a great cage in return. You can alter the cage to suit your own personal style and there are hints and tips throughout the book.

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Tell Us What You Think!!

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Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans



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