23 Crucial Things to Know About the Green Snake
Small, adorable, safe, and very easy to look after, green snakes are likely the most underrated and unappreciated reptile pets. If you’ve never owned a snake and you want to try but you are a bit scared – look no further than the green snake. Also called “emerald snake” this small reptile has a simple but beautiful bright green color and can give you several years of fun and joy if you look after it well.
But how can you look after a green snake properly? Here are the 23 crucial things to know about the green snake.
9 things to consider before buying a green snake pet
- There are two main types of green snakes – smooth and rough green snakes. Both are pretty similar with the exception of the different textures of their scales and a small size difference. In terms of their personality, they are almost identical.
Green snakes are very fragile animals. Rough green snakes, in particular, get stressed out very easily and often don’t survive getting transported or being held in crowded containers. If you want to look after a green snake you’ll have to be very careful with both its physical and emotional well-being.
This is probably the most affordable snake you will find. You can buy a green snake from most stores for as little as a few bucks – often less than $10! If this sounds absurd, that’s because it is. The main reason is that expert snake owners aren’t particularly interested in green snakes and so they aren’t too sought-after.
Unfortunately for the green snakes themselves, this low price means that there aren’t many people who bother breeding them. Instead, people just capture wild green snakes and sell them as pets. This has absolutely devastated the wild population of green snakes in the US and has turned them into an endangered species. If you want to get a green snake, we sincerely recommend (and ask) that you find someone online who has just bred their green snake and get a pet from them rather than getting a newly-captured wild snake.
The green snake is relatively small and therefore – easy to house. Rough green snakes usually grow to about 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) in length and smooth green snakes are smaller and rarely grow beyond 2 feet (60 cm). This makes them a good choice for beginners who don’t want to have to buy a huge terrarium or don’t have enough space for one. Additionally, this makes green snakes quite easy and lightweight to handle.
The lifespan of this type of snake is not especially long – just around 6 to 8 years. There are unconfirmed reports of captive green snakes living up to 15 years but – even if true – these would be very rare. Whether that short lifespan is a good or a bad thing is purely subjective. If you want a pet for just a few years, the green snake is an excellent option. However, if you want a snake that will be with you for about 20 or more years, there are other alternatives.
Green snakes are non-venomous which makes them very safe. Add that to their small size and they become an excellent pet for novice reptile owners who are yet to learn how to handle or take care of a snake.
Are green snakes easy to handle? Yes, for the most part. Not only are green snakes non-venomous they are also small so their bites don’t hurt too much. Plus, they don’t even bite that often so handling them is extra safe. In fact, handling a green snake is more dangerous for the snake than it is for you – not only can you pass a pathogen to the snake but you can stress it out too much. From that point of view, you will still need to learn how to properly handle a green snake. Here’s a cool video to get you started.
Is it a good pet for me? If you want a small, safe, and an easy to look after beginner-friendly reptile, green snakes are a fantastic option. These snakes are literally one of those animals for which the maxim “They are more scared of you than you are of them” applies in full force.
Can you have more than one green snake in the same tank? Yes, you can! Green snakes are one of the very few snakes ( and reptiles in general) who are so peaceful that they can happily share their terrarium with other green snakes. Just make sure that you don’t put any other snakes in there with your emerald beauties cause they will likely get killed and eaten before you know it.
How to prepare for owning a green snake - the 8 things you should do before getting your snake
Get a good terrarium. Green snakes are small, so, fortunately, you won’t need that large of a tank for them – anything between 20 and 30 gallons is ok for a green snake. In fact, you can easily look after 3 green snakes in the same 30-gallon tank and they should be pretty comfortable in it. Naturally, the bigger the tank, the better for the snake – the general rule of thumb is that a tank should be twice as long as the snake’s body length and as wide as it.
Also keep in mind that green snakes are arboreal, meaning that they like to climb on plants and rocks and love to hang from trees. So, your snake’s tank better be at least as tall as it is wide or even more. Naturally, glass is the best option for a terrarium. Make sure that the tank is securely covered from all sides too – as they are both small and good climbers, green snakes can easily escape if the top of the tank isn’t properly secured.
A last note on the tank is to make sure that your snake’s tank opens from the side and not from the top – green snakes are so easily scared that it’s best if you don’t approach them from above.
Choose your tank’s substrate carefully. The substrate is the material you place at the bottom of the terrarium. For a green snake, reptile carpet is a good choice as they are an arboreal species. Simple paper towels or inkless newspaper works well too for when you plan on cleaning their terrarium (when they are about to shed their skin, for example). All substrate materials that can accidentally be ingested should be avoided at all costs.
Get some good vertical decoration for your green snake’s tank too. This can mean anything from tree branches and logs from outside, tall stones, or tall artificial pet store decoration. Anything your emerald beauties would love to climb on (and is safe) will do the trick.
You will also have to arrange a precise temperature control for your snake’s tank. This can be done either with light bulbs (white light during the day and red/blue during the night) and/or a ceramic heater at the bottom of the tank. It’s also best to create a smooth temperature gradient in the tank where one side is cooler and the other – warmer. This way your snake(s) can choose where they want to go when they want a change of temperature.
The recommended temperatures for green snakes are 70 to 80o F (21 to 27o C) during the day and 65 and 75o F (18 to 24o C) during the night. To make sure you’re maintaining the right temperatures you’ll also want to place two separate thermometers in the tank – one on each side.
Get a UVA/UVB light for your snake’s tank too. These snakes are active during the day so they need such a light to help them stay healthy. Keep the light on for 10 to 12 hours during the day but turn them off in the evening.
Humidity is the next key factor. This is as important for your snake’s well-being as the temperature. For green snakes, the recommended humidity levels are between 40 and 50%. As with the temperature, maintaining a slight gradient is a good idea. You will need a hygrometer or too to monitor the humidity in the tank. Fortunately, maintaining a 40-50% humidity range is pretty easy and the heating lamp/heater will usually be enough. If/when the tank’s humidity starts to drop, all you need to do is spray some water with a water bottle.
Make a humidity box/hide for your snakes too. This is an exceptionally easy DIY project that’s also very cool. Essentially, the humidity box is a cool and moist enclosure for your snake to hide in when it wants more humidity. Here’s a great video on how to make your own humidity box.
- The water bowl is the next key component of a good snake enclosure. This won’t be the main hydration method for your
snake, however – like arboreal lizards, green snakes prefer to drink the water droplets on leaves and tree
Aside from water droplets on trees, these snakes also “drink” water by dunking their entire bodies in water so the bowl will need to be big enough. Fortunately, green snakes aren’t too big so the bowl won’t have to be too huge either. In fact, it’s important to make it shallow to prevent drowning. Also, keep in mind that snakes often leave their excrements in the water so you’ll have to change their water regularly.
How to successfully keep a green snake pet - 6 tips for success
Properly feeding your green snake is absolutely crucial. Green snakes are insectivores so they eat only insects and worms. This includes (only pesticide-free!) crickets, moths, fly larvae, spiders, worms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, mealworms, etc. Be careful with insects that have tough exoskeletons as those can present a danger for your green snake. With worms, it’s also smart to pick only freshly molted ones.
With all of your snake’s prey, you should make that they are “gut-loaded” i.e. they’ve been fed well and with lots of minerals and vitamin supplements too. Dusting them with a calcium supplement a few times a week is also a good idea ( your snake’s prey, not the snake itself).
Does this sound complicated? Maybe at first. But, don’t worry, this is the most complicated part of looking after a snake and it gets very easy once you get the hang of it.
As for a feeding schedule, green snakes should eat on only one or two “feeding days” every week. On each feeding day, however, you should feed your snakes on multiple separate meals. Altogether, these separate meals should take no more and no less than 20 minutes. Feeding your snake at dawn and dusk is recommended as that’s their active period. If your snake isn’t too eager to eat even if you know it’s hungry, that’s probably because it doesn’t feel safe – it either isn’t used to you/the tank yet or maybe the tank isn’t properly set for the snake.
For a visual guide, here’s a neat video of feeding a green snake by hand. And here’s another video of feeding a green snake with tweezers.
Keep your green snake’s tank in a safe and quiet place. If you are planning on putting your emerald pet’s terrarium in the living room when you often have guests – that’s not a good idea. Your snake will always be stressed out, it will probably refuse to eat, and will likely get sick and suffer. Instead, place the terrarium at a safe and secluded spot where the green snake will feel safe and happy.
Learn how to handle your green snake properly. We alluded to that above but it bears emphasizing – a green snake won’t like to be handled improperly and will easily get afraid of you.
Consider getting a couple more green snakes if your tank is large enough and after your first snake has settled in. While these aren’t social animals, they also aren’t aggressive toward one another. Additionally, they can feel safer when there are a couple of other green snakes around as this signals that they live in a safe environment.
If you have kids you should teach them how to handle the snake or – even better – not to touch or approach it if they are still too young. These snakes aren’t dangerous even to kids but the children themselves can be pretty dangerous for the snakes.
Find a good reptilian veterinarian near you. Green snakes are susceptible to respiratory infections more so than anything else – if you notice that your green snake is breathing with an open mouth or is wheezing you should take it to an experienced vet immediately. Also, watch out for discoloration of the skin as that can indicate a fungal infection.
Hopefully, these tips will be enough to get you started preparing for your first/next green snake. Do you think we missed anything? Are you curious about anything else?