No rest for the wicked....
It's Anzac Day, the morning was spent reminiscing about War, sacrifice and paying respect to those that gave so much to make our country what it is today and the afternoon has been spent cleaning enclosures. We bred our Red-Bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus last year, sold some bubs and kept some bubs and these were just some of the enclosures cleaned. For those of you reading this that aren't familiar with this species we thought we would share a bit of insight with you. The Red Bellied Black Snake is a great species of starter elapid for those wanting to get into the keeping of venomous snakes. This is because of the toxicity of the venom combined with the fact that Red-Bellied Black Snakes are less inclined to bite defensively. We at Nature 4 You do not endorse the keeping of venomous snakes without suitable experience. A single Red-Bellied Black Snake needs a cage about 600mm wide X 1200mm Long X 450mm High. The housing of juveniles is best done by housing them in plastic bread box style enclosures with ventilation holes either drilled or melted with a soldiering iron (soldering iron is much easier as drilling can sometimes crack the plastic - just use the soldering iron in an extremely well ventilated area and watch for those stringy bits of hot plastic!) The brand often used is the see through one with the blue clips on the sides to lock the lid in place (Trademarking prevents me from using their name!) . This plastic tub can be placed inside the larger enclosure. Plastic tubs are often utilized for small snakes as they are cheap, easy to clean and seal very well. This is important as a small snake is able to escape through very small gaps, which are often present in timber enclosures. Juveniles can be kept in smaller conditions but should be kept by themselves. Red-Bellied Black Snakes have been known to be cannibalistic so therefor should be houses separately.
The cage can have a variety of substrates ranging from gravel (not recommended) to newspaper. We personally use either Kitty Litter made of recycled paper – excellent for absorbing and clumping “deposits” or Butcher's Paper as its easily to see any mess or mites on white paper and quite a quick and easy clean. Other effective substrates include fake turf and paper towel. If using fake turf you should have 2 pieces cut to size. So when one gets soiled the other can be put in while other gets washed. Red-Bellied Black snakes are a shy species that need cover in which they can hide. Hides are very easy - the snakes aren't overly picky - hollow logs, leaf litter, commercially bought hides in pet stores, a flower pot cut in half etc. Just make sure the hole in your hide is well bigger than the body of the snake as they tend to go and retreat to their safe space after a feed and if it is a tight fit you run the risk of your snake getting stuck. At least one hide should be in the warm end and one in the cool end of the cage, but if your hide is directly over or under your heat source you may not see your Red Belly often as they will be content to stay in their safe space with the heat. The use of trap boxes is an excellent idea with this species. The cage also needs to be well ventilated; a series of cupboard vents, cut into both the front and back work well allowing the air to flow though. The water bowl should large enough for the snake to soak in, which they will do if having a difficult time sloughing, or in the hotter days in Summer. This should be situated in the cool end of the cage. The cage should be cleaned out at least once a week to prevent the build-up of germs and algae. However, traces of faeces and urine should be cleaned as soon as it’s noticed.
All heating should be placed at one end of the cage and controlled by a thermostat. This creates a thermal gradient. This is vital for the survival of the occupants as if the cage is either too hot or to cool the snake has a place to retreat to. Ways of heating include a 40-watt colored light bulb(s) placed at one end of the cage connected to a thermostat. A heat mat at one end or both the light bulb and the heat mat. Excessive heat will kill your snake
very quickly, Any light globes inside the enclosure should be placed in such a way that the snake is unable to come in contact with them, a mesh type globe cover is ideal as it prevents the snake coming in direct contact with the globe but the allows the heat generated
from the light to escape. Heat cord under the enclosure is another way to heat the cage effectively. Ideal temperatures for the Red- Bellied Black Snake are about 32 to 28 degrees Celsius at the warm end of the cage.
If heating the cage with a globe set up, the cage must have dark colored globes such as green or blue. This will then not interrupt its photoperiod. The Red-Bellied Black Snake is mainly diurnal (active during the day). Thus the photoperiod of 14 hours light to 8 dark in summer and 12 hours light and 12 dark in winter is acceptable. Cooling allows for the males sperm to be produced and the in the females ova to be made. The temperature of cooling should drop to about room temperature. However this drop should not be sudden, by turning on the heat for 4 hours in the morning for 4 weeks either side of the cooling period (1-month) this will allow the snake to gently go into torpor. (In Australia most reptiles don't truly go into hibernation.).
Your snake should be feeding on mice or small rats. The size of the prey item and the amount of them is dependent on the snake in question. As juveniles, they should be fed weekly, but once at adult size this can be reduced to once every fortnight. Red-Belly Black snakes eat small frogs, tadpoles, fish, skinks, legless lizards, geckos, small mammals, other elapids etc in the wild, so they are generally quite good feeders. If you have a problem snake scenting might be needed to get the juveniles to eat. A suitable fed for the snake is a meal that will cause a slight bulge in the snake’s mid body. Food should generally not be offered while the snake is coming into or having a slough.
Red-Bellied Black are live bearers with a gestation of about 135 days. The litter can vary from 5 to 23 young with an average litter of 12. The young should be separated straight away and put into their own tubs as they can be cannibalistic.