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Thai Bamboo Rat Snakes
Thai bamboo rat snakes are small Asian colubrid snakes for the advanced keeper. These rat snakes live in a variety of habitats ranging from mountainous forests to plains with rocks and bamboo. In the wild they are terrestrial burrowers who spend most of their time in hiding under logs, rocks, moss and grass. They are mainly active in the early morning and late afternoon.
All Snakes should be housed according to their size. Smaller snakes will be comfortable in smaller terrariums and larger snakes need to be housed in larger terrariums. A general rule is that your enclosure should be at least the length of your snake. You shouldnít keep a very small snake in a large enclosure and let the snake grow into it because it will stress the snake out. You need to upgrade the size of the enclosure as the snake grows. Usually 2-3 upgraded terrariums should be enough in a snakes lifetime. You can use plastic or glass terrariums for Thai bamboo rat snakes. Make sure your enclosure has a very secure lid. Snakes are escape artists and they will find their way out if there is a way. You can buy screen lids that attach to the tank or you can make a lid yourself, but make sure it has good airflow.
Inside the enclosure you should have at least two tight fitting hide spots for your Thai bamboo rat snake to hide in. One hide spot should be on the warm side of the enclosure and one should be on the cool side of the enclosure. Thai bamboo rat snakes need high humidity areas. Create a humidity hut by placing moist sphagnum moss in a tupperware and cut a hole it the lid twice the width of your snake. Your snake should always have access to a water bowl large enough for the snake to fit its entire body in. The water bowl should always be full of fresh water.
All snakes are poikilothermal which means they create their internal temperature from the ambient temperatures around them. Poikilothermal basically means cold blooded. Thai bamboo rat snakes are from a semi-tropical environment. Their day time temps should range between 72 F - 85 F (20 C - 29 C). One side of the enclosure needs to be lower to offset the warmer temperatures. You can achieve this with an under tank heat pad on one side of the enclosure. Heat rocks are not a good source of heat because they often lead to burned reptiles. Night time temperatures can drop between 64 F - 72 F (18 C - 22 C). Always use a thermostat to control the temperature of the enclosure and monitor the temperature with a second thermometer or temperature reading gun. Full spectrum lighting is always best for any reptile. You can achieve 12 hours ON x 12 hours OFF with any timer. UVB lighting is not necessary but it can be used to increase the calcium intake of you Thai bamboo rat snake.
Thai bamboo rat snakes need to be misted regularly. Mist the substrate and sphagnum moss. Moisture is very important for these snakes. The most common husbandry problem with Thai bamboo rat snakes is lack of moisture. Spot clean the enclosure as necessary and wash the walls of the enclosure if the snake defecates on them.
A substrate is the flooring that you will provide for the snake. Thai bamboo rat snakes thrive with a good soil substrate or cypress mulch. Soil and cypress will hold the humidity which is essential for this species. Aspen is NOT a suitable substrate for these snakes. I mix coco-fiber and cypress mulch together for my Thai bamboo rat snakes. Never use Pine or Fir products of any kind. Pine and Fir can lead to respiratory problems with all reptiles. Thai bamboo rat snakes like to burrow under the substrate so provide enough that they can burrow when they want to. Coco-fiber and and cypress mulch are good for burrowing snakes.
Thai bamboo rat snakes should be fed according to their size. These snakes are enthusiastic feeders. Hatchling Thai bamboo rat snakes will eat one or two pinky mice each week. Feed your Thai bamboo rat snake frozen/thawed rodents (mice, rats) that are slightly wider than the thickest part of your snake. Feeding the snake rodents that are too large can lead to regurgitation. You should always try to get your snake feeding on frozen thawed rodents. This will save your snake from being injured by a live mouse or rat during feeding. Buying frozen rodents in bulk and keeping them in the freezer will also save you money. Live rodents are more expensive and you usually need to travel to a pet store to pick them up. Thaw rats before feeding them to your Thai bamboo rat snake. Use tongs to put some distance between your hand and the prey. Use your tongs to hold the rodent by the skin on its back, not the tail. Your snake will have better accuracy if you hold the rodent by its skin than dangling it by the tail.
BREEDING THAI BAMBOO RAT SNAKES
Breeding Thai bamboo rat snakes is simple but should only be done if you are prepared to take care of the babies. Breeding is not necessary for any snakeís health and can even be detrimental. Before breeding Thai bamboo rat snakes research about breeding and caring for the babies. Caring for baby Thai bamboo rat snakes can be time consuming and sometimes challenging. Always research, research, research before breeding any animals and make sure youíre ready. Breeding Thai bamboo rat snakes can be very rewarding and exciting along the way. Good luck breeding and raising your hatchlings.
The most effective way to breed Thai bamboo rat snakes is to fake a winter season. A Ďmock winterí will set your Thai bamboo rat snake into a very inactive state, when growth and development slows down or even stops. This is called brumation. Brumation is a state of dormancy in reptiles which is comparable to hibernation. This can be achieved by dropping the temperature of their enclosure to 55-65 F (13-18 C) and changing the light cycle. The closer to 55 F (13 C) you can drop the temperature the better. At 55 F (13 C) the snake may enter a full dormancy when their development ceases completely. This will enable the snake to obtain more fat and come out of the Ďmock winterí in a better breeding condition.
The first step before brumation is to fatten up your Thai bamboo rat snakes. Start feeding them a bit more often then regular or increase the size of their food slightly for about 2-3 months before brumation. Once your Thai bamboo rat snakes have a healthy size and weight stop feeding them 3-4 weeks before you drop temperatures. A 3-4 week gap between feeding and brumation is absolutely necessary. This allows time for the existing food in your corn snakes stomach to be properly digested and expelled. If you drop the temperature before the food is digested and expelled you run the risk of food rotting in the stomach of your snake; this can be fatal.
The second step is changing the light cycle. Changing the light cycle is not mandatory but itís an effective trick. Brumation will occur without this step if the temperatures are correct. However, I like to change the light cycle because days get shorter in the winter and the natural light cycle changes. A normal light cycle is (12x12) twelve hours of light and twelve hours or dark. I gradually change the cycle a half hour at a time (e.g. 11.5 hours ON - 12.5 hours OFF) so it is darker for a longer period of time. Change the light cycle until the lights are ON for 10 hours and OFF for 14 hours. Again, this is not a necessity but it works for me.
The third step is to drop the temperature gradually until optimal temperatures of 55-65 F (13-18 C) are reached. You donít want to go from regular temperatures to brumation temperatures over night. Lowering the temperature is a gradual process. If you canít drop the temperature where the snakeís enclosure is located put your Thai bamboo rat snake in a rubbermaid bin with substrate and a water bowl. When you put reptiles into brumation you must provide a water bowl. Reptiles in brumation will still be moderately active and need to drink water. Start the gradual drop in temperature in these steps that I use:
Step one: Place the rubbermaid somewhere the temperature ranges between 65-70 F (18-21 C) and leave it there for 7 days.
Step two: Place the rubbermaid somewhere that ranges between 60-65 F (16-18 C) and leave it there again for 14 days.
Step Three: Place the rubbermaid somewhere that ranges between 55-60 F (13-16 C) and leave the rubbermaid there for 30 days.
Now that your Thai bamboo rat snakes have been through the brumation process for a month and three weeks itís time to warm them up. This should be done in steps just like the gradual cooling process. Reverse the steps of cooling from step 3 to step 1 introducing your Thai bamboo rat snakes into a warmer climate and slowly change the light cycle back to normal. Once they have been introduced to their regular temperatures and light cycle you can feed them the same as you did before brumation. They might be a little on the skinny side, so feed them more often then usual or increase the size of food slightly. By this time your Thai bamboo rat snakes have been through a two and a half month brumation period and itís time to introduce them to each other between feeding. Your female Thai bamboo rat snakes should be ovulating now or soon. An ovulating snake looks like she has been fed a meal recently and it has dispersed through her stomach creating a slight bulge.
Introduce the female Thai bamboo rat snake into the maleís enclosure and leave them for up to a full day. Paper towel or news paper can be used as a substrate to see whether copulation has occurred. Remove the female for 4-5 days then repeat this step a few times. I introduce my breeding pair up to ten times to be sure of fertilization. If you are using a single male to fertilize multiple females you may want to introduce him less often to avoid burning him out.
Keep an eye on the female and continue to feed her regularly. If she begins to look gravid she will need to be fed more frequently. More food equals more fat and nutrients. Extra fat and nutrients helps the development of the eggs. So the larger the snake the healthier and larger the eggs usually are. As females get further into their pregnancy you will notice a difference in their overall size and weight. You may find it interesting to record her weight as she grows further into her pregnancy. It is usually about 6-8 weeks after mating that your Thai bamboo rat snake lays her eggs. Females generally experience a pre-lay shed 10-14 days before they lay their eggs. This doesnít always occur. Keep a watchful eye on her and continue to check every day until you find eggs. You can mist the enclosure more often to keep the humidity levels higher than usual and let her lay the eggs anywhere. Or a method commonly used is to create a humidity hut for her to lay the eggs in. Take a rubbermaid bin large enough for the snake to fit itís entire body in comfortably and cut a large hole in the lid. The hole should be twice as wide as the girth of your snake. Fill the humidity hut with moist (not wet) sphagnum moss, coco-fiber, or another recommended substrate for incubation. The Thai bamboo rat snake will feel comfortable in the humidity hut and will more than likely lay her eggs inside the hut.
Set up an incubator before you expect eggs. I set my incubator at 78-79 F (25-26 C) with the humidity as high as possible. When your Thai bamboo rat snake lays her eggs take them out and put them in the incubator in a rubbermaid bin filled with sphagnum moss, vermiculite, perlite or another commercial incubation substrate. Burry the eggs about half way into the incubation substrate. If they are laid in a clump burry the entire clump except the top eggs which should be half buried. The rubbermaid should have one or two small holes to allow air to pass through. Be sure not to flip or rotate the eggs when you put them in the incubator. The embryo will begin to grow when the eggs are laid and a small bubble of air is positioned at the top of the egg. If an eggs position is altered the baby will drown in itís own embryonic fluids, so once the eggs are settled into the incubator itís best not to disturb them.
The average clutch size is between 3-8 eggs. When the babies hatch youíre going to be busy so prepare yourself and buy a lot of pinkie mice ahead of time. The babies should readily eat frozen thawed pinkie mice. Keep the babies just like the adults.
Good luck breeding your Thai bamboo rat snakes. I always like to see interesting hatchlings so send me a photo of your new babies if you think they are unique. These snakes are a wonderful asset to any collection!