Garter Snake care sheet

Housing: a wooden vivarium of at least 34" in length

Heating: basking temperature of 85oF, cool end of 80oF

Diet:carnivore with a diet comprising of frozen prey

Decoration: dry substrates and decor so not to raise humidity levels

Small thin snakes that love pools of water and humid hides.

Garter snakes require a wooden vivarium as their enclosure. This is because wood is an excellent insulator of heat and so a wooden vivarium will make it easier to control the crucial temperatures required inside the habitat. Other enclosures such as glass terrariums are far too efficient at releasing heat. The wooden vivarium should have good ventilation to allow air flow in and out of the enclosure.

The garter snake's vivarium should be at least 860mm (34") in length. There are 2 main reasons for this; firstly garter snakes are not small reptiles and can easily grow to 1200mm in length. They require a proportionate amount of space to live happily. Secondly, the vivarium needs to have a sufficient length to allow for the creation of a temperature gradient. The enclosure needs to be warm at one end, but have enough distance for the temperature to drop at the cool end.


During the day, garter snakes require a warm basking area . This is achieved by using a clear spot bulb at one end of the vivarium. To accomplish the required basking temperature of 85oF- 90oF we use one 40w basking light in a 3ft enclosure.

At night garter snakes require a slight drop in temperature and total darkness. The basking light should be switched off. A night time temperature of 80oF is created by using a heat mat. These radiate heat but produce no light. The heat mat should always ve controlled by a good quality thermostat. The thermostat will automatically turn mat on at night when the temperature in the vivarium drops. Temperatures should be monitored daily using a thermometer.


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Garter snakes should always be kept on a dry substrate so not to increase the humidity inside the vivarium. Whilst any loose substrate has the potential to be accidentally swallowed, we have found this to not be a problem with coarse beech woodchips and that is what we keep our garter snakes on. It is also very easy to clean.

Garter snakes do enjoy submerging themselves in water throughout the day so we would advise keeping a large water bowl on the cool side of the enclosure.Whilst garter snakes are not an arboreal snakes, they do like to climb on top of things to survey their surroundings. The vivarium should be decorated with various pieces of wood to enable them to do this.

The garter snake vivarium can be decorated with artificial plants for a more natural look. A hiding spot at each end of the enclosure will allow the snake to move freely and thermoregulate without feeling insecure.


As hatchlings, garter snakes should be fed weekly on defrosted pinky mice, as the snake grows the food size should be increased until the snake is taking large mice or even jumbos. Adult garter snakes can be fed once every two weeks as they can become overweight if fed weekly.

A water bowl large enough for the snake to get in to should be used providing it does not raise the vivarium humidity too much.


If you keep a male and female together, they may breed. You do not need to do anything to encourage this, providing they are healthy and the conditions are good, it will happen naturally. You need to consider whether you want this to happen. What will you do with the babies?

A gravid female should have access to a nesting box to help her with the livebirth. We would usually use a large plastic container containing soft moss like sphagnum moss. Once the babies have been born we would advise taking them from the enclosure and introducing them to a separate enclosure. It should be set up exactly like the parents but a bit more humid.


This is our 'How to set up a Corn Snake, King Snake & Milk Snake vivarium' video. We uploaded it to Youtube in 20010 and so far it has over 77,000 views!

It is a complete guide that will show you how we keep our corn snakes, king snakes and rat snakes at the Northampton Reptile Centre. It is based on our experiences accumulated over our 20 year history. This is the setup that makes the snake vivarium foolproof.


'How To' Video Guide