Bamboo Ratsnake Care Sheet

Bamboo Ratsnake Care Sheet

The bamboo ratsnake (Oreocryptophis porphyraceus) is a 32-36” long, terrestrial, nocturnal snake native to east and southeast Asia. They can be found at a variety of elevations, usually in montane forest, rainforest, and bamboo thicket habitats.

Bamboo ratsnakes have slender bodies, oval heads, small eyes, round pupils, and shiny scales. Exactly coloring and pattern varies by subspecies, but they’re usually red-brown to orange-red in color, with pairs of thin dark bands down the length of the body. Color may alternate between these bands. All bamboo ratsnakes have dark stripes behind each eye and one on top of the head. Some have no pattern except for the eye stripes continuing down the length of their body.

Bamboo ratsnakes are intermediate-level pets due to not being very handleable and requiring lots of humidity.

Minimum terrarium size for bamboo ratsnakes

The minimum terrarium size for a single bamboo ratsnake is 36”L x 18”W x 16”H. Of course, larger is always better in order to provide more room for the snake to stretch out fully, explore, and even do a bit of low climbing. As long as they have enough places to hide, a large enclosure will not stress them out.

Cohabitation (keeping multiple bamboo ratsnakes in one enclosure) is not recommended, as they’re not a particularly social species.

Do bamboo ratsnakes need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for bamboo ratsnakes. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits. The light will not stress out your snake as long as it’s not on 24/7.

The best UVB bulbs for bamboo ratsnakes are:

  • Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 22”
  • Arcadia Forest 6%, 22”

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 9-11” above the snake’s back if over mesh, and 12-14” above the snake’s back if not. 

UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

Lights should be on for about 12 hours/day. All lamps should be turned off at night.

Best temperature for bamboo ratsnakes

Like other reptiles, bamboo ratsnakes are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively.

Specifically speaking, bamboo ratsnakes prefer an environment that is on the cooler end of the spectrum. They should have a basking area temperature of 80-84°F, and a cool side temperature between 68-72°F. Temperatures should be measured with an infrared thermometer to make sure your snake’s environment is always comfortable.

Provide heat for your snake with one or two low-wattage heat bulbs, placed close together over the basking area (ex: a piece of flagstone or stone paver) to evenly heat the snake’s entire body. Do not use colored bulbs, as these are not as effective. 

The warm hide should be placed directly below the basking surface. If the heat lamp is not enough to get the warm hide to an appropriate temperature, use a heat mat connected to a thermostat to control the warm hide temperature.

Best humidity levels for bamboo ratsnakes

Bamboo ratsnakes need humidity levels between 70-80% during the day and >90% at night. Humidity can be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium. 

Increase humidity by misting your snake’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist each evening and then again in the morning if needed. Alternatively, using a cool mist humidifier connected to a hygrostat can be helpful. Mixing water directly into the substrate also helps with maintaining high humidity. The substrate should stay moist, but not wet or soggy. There should also be a humid hide for your snake, located on the cool side of the enclosure and lined with moistened sphagnum moss.  

Best substrate for bamboo ratsnakes

Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help cushion your snake’s body, maintain correct humidity levels, provide a burrowing medium, and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for bamboo ratsnakes:

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity and provides extra cover for your snake!

Substrate should be at least 3” deep and completely replaced every 2-3 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

How to decorate a bamboo ratsnake terrarium

An empty terrarium makes for a stressed snake, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

Since bamboo ratsnakes are strictly terrestrial, everything will need to be at or near ground level. Here are some ideas for making an engaging, enriching enclosure for your snake:

  • hides/caves
  • sturdy, low branches
  • cork tubes/flats
  • live/artificial plants

What to feed to a bamboo ratsnake

Bamboo ratsnakes are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Here is a basic feeding schedule based on snake age:

  • Juveniles should be fed once every 4-6 days.
  • Adults should be fed once every 7 days.

Prey items should be 5-10% of the snake’s weight and/or no wider than the snake at its widest point. Although live prey can be offered, it’s best to use frozen whenever possible. Prey should be thawed in a BPA-free plastic bag in warm water until it reaches ~100°F, then use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake.

One of the keys to great nutrition is variety, so aside from offering mice and rats, button quail can also be used to add diversity to your snake’s diet.


Bamboo ratsnakes can survive without dietary supplements, but using them every once in a while can help prevent your snake from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on the prey item before offering.


Of course, don’t forget a large water bowl for your snake to drink from and soak in! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

How to handle your bamboo ratsnake

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Bamboo ratsnakes generally prefer to be left alone rather than handled regularly, and can be skittish. 

If you need to pick up your snake, be gentle and try to pick it up from the side or below rather than from above. Avoid chasing it around the enclosure. If you are worried about getting bitten, wear a pair of gloves. Support as much of its body as possible, and NEVER pick it up by its tail, as this can damage its spine!

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!

"Oreocryptophis porphyraceus pulchra, Red bamboo rat snake - Doi Phu Kha National Park" by Rushen! is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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