What Do Garter Snakes Need In Their Tank? The Perfect Habitat!

by | Sep 22, 2023 | Garter Snake

Garter snakes, with their vibrant patterns and curious nature, make captivating pets. But how do you create the perfect haven for these slithery wonders? Dive into this comprehensive guide where we unravel the essentials of garter snake care.

Garter snakes require a spacious tank with a secure lid, a substrate for burrowing, and a water dish. They benefit from a temperature gradient, including a basking area under a heat lamp. Climbing structures, hiding spots, and controlled humidity levels are also essential for their well-being.

From the intricacies of their habitat to the nuances of temperature, lighting, and cleanliness, we’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re a seasoned snake enthusiast or a newbie, this article promises insights that’ll ensure your garter snake thrives in comfort and style. Let’s embark on this scaly adventure together!

Garter Snake Caging

Garter Snake Caging

Just like any pet, they have specific needs, especially when it comes to their living quarters. Let’s dive into the world of garter snake caging, shall we?

Suitable Types of Cages

Garter snakes thrive in environments that mimic their natural habitat. So, think plastic tubs or glass aquariums.

These types of cages allow for easy viewing, proper ventilation, and are relatively easy to clean. Plus, they provide a controlled environment where temperature and humidity can be maintained at optimal levels.

Recommended Tank Sizes for Different Life Stages and Genders

Size does matter! Especially when it comes to the comfort of your garter snake.

  • Hatchlings and Juveniles: A 10-gallon tank is a good starting point. It provides ample space for them to move around without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Adults: As they grow, garter snakes need more room to stretch their long bodies. A 30 to 50-gallon tank is ideal for a single adult garter snake. Remember, these creatures are active and curious, so the more space, the better!
  • Males vs. Females: Generally, male garter snakes are smaller than females. While a male might be comfortable in a 30-gallon tank, a female, especially if she’s gravid (pregnant), might appreciate the extra space of a 50-gallon tank.

Tips for Ensuring the Tank is Escape-Proof

Garter snakes are notorious escape artists! They’re curious and will exploit any small gap or opening. Here are some tips to ensure your snake stays put:

  • Tight-Fitting Lids: Always ensure the lid fits snugly. A mesh or screen lid that snaps onto the enclosure is ideal.
  • No Gaps: Check for any gaps or openings, especially around filters or wires. If a garter snake can get its head through, the rest of its body can follow!
  • Locks: Consider cage locks or clamps. They add an extra layer of security, especially if you have kids or other pets around.

Importance of Providing Climbing Structures

Garter snakes might not be arboreal, but they do enjoy a good climb now and then. Climbing structures, like branches or vines, not only provide exercise but also enrichment. It’s like a mini-adventure for them every time they decide to ascend!

Recommendations for Multiple Garter Snakes

Planning to have more than one garter snake? Great! They can be quite social. However, always ensure there’s enough space. A good rule of thumb is to increase the tank size by 50% for each additional snake.

Also, provide multiple hiding spots and basking areas to prevent territorial disputes.

Lighting, Temperature, and Humidity

When it comes to creating the perfect environment for garter snakes, it’s not just about the space. It’s also about the ambiance! Let’s delve into the nuances of lighting, temperature, and humidity.

The Role of UV Light

Now, here’s a fun fact: garter snakes, like many reptiles, can benefit from UV light. While they don’t strictly need it like some reptiles do, it’s a nice bonus. UV light helps them synthesize vitamin D3, which is crucial for calcium absorption.

This ensures they have strong bones and a healthy metabolism. If you can, provide them with a few hours of natural sunlight or invest in a UVB bulb. Your snake will thank you with a radiant glow!

Basking Area Requirements

Imagine lounging in the sun after a long day. That’s precisely what basking is for garter snakes! They adore their warm spots. This area, ideally situated under a heat lamp, should be the toastiest part of the enclosure, hovering between 85-90°F.

It’s where they’ll stretch out, soak up the warmth, and digest their meals.

Importance of Temperature Gradient

But, just like us, sometimes garter snakes prefer cooler spots. That’s where the temperature gradient comes into play. By having a range from warm to cool in their enclosure, they can choose where they’re most comfortable.

The cooler end should be around 70-75°F. It’s all about giving them options!

Maintaining the Right Humidity Levels

Humidity plays a pivotal role in a garter snake’s well-being. Aim for a sweet spot of around 50-60% humidity. Too low, and they might struggle with shedding. Too high, and you’re looking at potential respiratory issues. A trusty hygrometer can help you keep tabs.

If you need to up the humidity, a light misting should do the trick.

Tips for Winter Care

Winter is coming! And while garter snakes don’t watch TV shows, they do have a winter routine. In the wild, they brumate, which is a fancy term for a period of reduced activity. In captivity, it’s a good idea to offer them a cooler, quiet spot during these months.

And remember, their appetite might wane as their metabolism slows, so adjust feeding accordingly.

Choosing the Right Substrate

The ground beneath their slithering bodies, the substrate is more than just a pretty base. It’s about comfort, cleanliness, and behavior.

Popular Substrate Choices

When it comes to laying the foundation, choices abound! Aspen shavings are a top pick. They’re absorbent, non-toxic, and easy on the snake’s body. Newspaper, while not the most glamorous, is absorbent and super easy to replace.

Reptile carpet? Another fantastic choice, especially if you’re aiming for a more aesthetic look.

Substrates to Avoid

But, beware! Not all substrates are created equal. Cedar and pine shavings might smell lovely to us, but they’re a no-go for garter snakes.

Why? They contain oils that can be harmful to our slithery friends, potentially causing skin and respiratory irritations.

Importance of Depth for Burrowing

Ever seen a garter snake burrow? It’s a sight to behold! These creatures love to dig, hide, and play peek-a-boo. Ensure your substrate is deep enough for these antics. Around 2-3 inches should suffice. It’s not just about fun; it’s also a security thing.

A good burrow can make a garter snake feel safe and at home.

Importance of Water

Water, the essence of life! For garter snakes, it’s not just about quenching thirst. Let’s dive into the watery world of these fascinating creatures.

Ideal Water Dish Size

When it comes to water dishes, size does matter. The dish should be large enough for your garter snake to comfortably curl up in, but not so deep that there’s a risk of drowning. Think of it as a mini spa where they can lounge and hydrate.

Benefits of Soaking

Beyond hydration, water offers garter snakes a place to relax and soak. This isn’t just a snake’s version of a bubble bath; soaking can help them shed more easily. If you ever spot your snake spending more time in the water, especially during shedding season, now you know why!

Frequency of Changing Water

Clean water is happy water! For the health and well-being of your garter snake, it’s essential to change the water daily. It ensures they always have fresh, clean water to drink and soak in, free from any contaminants or debris.

Cage Furnishing

A house becomes a home with the right furnishings, and the same goes for garter snake enclosures. Let’s explore how to make their space both functional and cozy.

Importance of Cage Furniture for Security

Furniture in a garter snake’s cage isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about security. Snakes, being prey animals in the wild, have an innate need to hide. Providing them with ample hiding spots can make them feel safe and reduce stress.


  • Plastic Bowls: Simple, easy to clean, and versatile. They can serve as water dishes or even temporary hideouts.
  • Cardboard Boxes: While they might not win any design awards, they’re perfect for hiding. Just replace them regularly as they can get soggy.
  • Toilet Paper Tubes: An eco-friendly option that’s perfect for smaller garter snakes to slither through and play.
  • Snake Hide Boxes: Specially designed for reptiles, these offer a secure and dark spot for your snake to retreat to.

Additional Decorative Items

  • Fake/Real Plants: Not only do they add a touch of greenery, but they also provide additional hiding spots and climbing opportunities.
  • Wood: Driftwood or branches can be great for climbing and basking.
  • Rocks: They can serve as basking spots, but ensure they’re smooth to prevent any injuries.

Remember, while decorating, always prioritize your snake’s safety and comfort. With the right furnishings, their enclosure can be a haven they love to explore and relax in!

Cleaning the Enclosure

When it comes to garter snakes, a clean environment is paramount. Let’s unravel the ins and outs of keeping their enclosure spick and span.

Frequency of Changing Substrate

The substrate, while comfy for your snake, can get dirty pretty quickly. Depending on the type of substrate you’re using, you’ll want to spot clean daily, removing any waste or uneaten food. As for a complete change, aim for every 2-4 weeks.

If you’re using newspaper, you might find yourself changing it more frequently, given its absorbent nature.

Complete Cleaning Routine

Every month or so, it’s good practice to give the entire enclosure a thorough cleaning. Here’s a simple routine:

  • Remove Your Snake: Place them in a secure holding container.
  • Dispose of the Old Substrate: Toss it out and scrub the tank with a reptile-safe cleaner.
  • Wash and Rinse: Ensure all traces of the cleaner are gone.
  • Dry the Enclosure: A damp environment can breed bacteria.
  • Replace the Substrate: Lay down a fresh layer.
  • Disinfect Furniture: Clean the hides, water dish, and any other items in the cage.
  • Return Your Snake: Once everything’s dry and set, let your snake explore their refreshed home!

Importance of Cleanliness for Snake Health

A clean environment is more than just pleasant; it’s crucial for your snake’s health. Dirty enclosures can lead to a host of problems, from bacterial infections to mites.

By maintaining cleanliness, you’re ensuring your garter snake remains healthy, happy, and free from potential ailments. After all, a clean home is a happy home, whether you have legs or slither on your belly!


You’ve journeyed through the essentials of garter snake care, from the perfect tank setup to the nuances of temperature and lighting.

Remember, creating a comfortable habitat is key to your snake’s well-being. With the knowledge you’ve gained, you’re well-equipped to provide a thriving environment for your slithery friend.

Embrace this rewarding experience, and watch as your garter snake flourishes under your attentive care. You’ve got this!


Ah, the burning questions of many garter snake enthusiasts! Let’s tackle some of the most frequently asked queries about these slithery companions.

What is the best habitat for a garter snake?

The ideal habitat for a garter snake mimics their natural environment. Think spacious enclosures (like a 30-50 gallon tank for adults) with a mix of hiding spots, climbing structures, and a basking area. A substrate they can burrow in, a water dish, and controlled temperature and humidity levels complete the picture.

Does a garter snake need a heat lamp?

Yes, they do! Garter snakes are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources to regulate their body temperature. A heat lamp provides a warm basking spot, essential for digestion and overall well-being.

Do garter snakes need supplements?

While a varied diet can provide most of the essential nutrients, occasional supplements, especially calcium and vitamin D3, can be beneficial. Dusting their food with these supplements ensures they get all the goodies they need.

What is the best bedding for garter snakes?

Aspen shavings are a top pick. They’re absorbent, non-toxic, and allow for burrowing. Newspaper and reptile carpet are also popular choices. Just steer clear of cedar and pine shavings, as they can be harmful.

There you have it! A quick dive into the world of garter snake care. Remember, every snake is unique, so always monitor and adjust to ensure they’re living their best life!

You Might Also Like:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *