Hognose Snake Care Sheet

Hognose Snake Care Sheet

The hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus) is a 2-3’ long, fossorial, diurnal snake native to southern Canada, northern Mexico, and the central United States. They generally prefer arid habitats with sandy, loose soil, such as shortgrass prairie and dry rockland.

Hognose snakes have a robust body, triangular head, large eyes, round pupils, and upturned snout, and keeled scales. Coloring is generally cream to tan with an array of large, dark brown spots. Due to their pattern and scale texture, they are sometimes mistaken for rattlesnakes.

Hognose snakes can make great pets, but it’s important to note that they are mildly venomous. This venom is not considered medically significant, but it can potentially cause an allergic reaction in the event of a bite. When cared for well, a captive-bred hognose snake may have a lifespan of 15 or more years.

Note: Hognose snakes are illegal to keep in some states.

Minimum terrarium size for hognose snakes

The minimum terrarium size for one hognose snake is 36”L x 18”W x 18”H, although larger is recommended, particularly for larger individuals. The more room your snake has, the more opportunities it has for thermoregulation, exercise, and exploration!

Cohabitation (keeping multiple hognose snakes in one enclosure) is not recommended.

Do hognose snakes need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting to hognose snakes. 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. 

These are the best UVB bulbs for hognose snakes:

  • Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6%
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture such as Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, 11-13” above the basking surface. And don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

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. 

Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter. For best results, transitions in day length should be accomplished gradually.

Best temperature for hognose snakes

Like other reptiles, hognose snakes 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.

Hognose snakes should have a basking temperature of between 90-95°F. On the other side of the enclosure, the temperature should be around 70-75°F. Heating should be turned off at night so the enclosure can cool down. Make sure to measure the temperatures in your enclosure with at least two digital probe thermometers.

Provide heat for your snake with at least one halogen flood heat bulb, placed over the basking area (ex: a piece of flagstone or stone paver). Using multiple heat bulbs allows for more even heating of the snake’s body. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. 

Best humidity levels for hognose snakes

Hognose snakes don’t need much in the way of humidity as long as there is a humid retreat available, lined with moistened substrate or sphagnum moss. Humidity should average between 30-50%, measured via digital probe hygrometer.

Best substrate for hognose snakes

Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will provide a burrowing medium, maintain correct humidity levels, and also help make your enclosure more attractive! 

We recommend the following substrates for hognose snakes:

  • Zoo Med ReptiSand
  • Exo Terra Desert Sand
  • Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding
  • Exo Terra Snake Bedding
  • Zoo Med Repti Chips

Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced monthly. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

How to decorate a hognose snake terrarium

An empty terrarium makes for a bored 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!

Here are some ideas for items to add to your hognose snake’s new home:

What to feed to a hognose snake

Hognose snakes 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:

  • Babies and juveniles — every 3-4 days
  • Adults — every 4-5 days

Prey items should be around 1-1.5x the snake’s width at its widest point. Frozen prey should be thawed in a BPA-free plastic bag in warm water until fully thawed and at least room-temperature. Then use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake. To reduce the chances of substrate ingestion, you can use a paper plate.

One of the keys to great nutrition is variety! Although hognose snakes are amphibian specialists in the wild, you can try offering hairless mice, hairless rats, quail eggs, green anoles, and frog meat.

Supplements

Hognose snakes can survive without supplementation, 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.

Water

Of course, don’t forget a water bowl for your snake to drink from and soak in! Keep the water clean at all times and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly.

How to handle your hognose snake

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Some hognose snakes don’t mind handling, while others are best left alone. Get to know your individual snake and act accordingly. 

When picking up your snake, be gentle and try to pick it up from the side or below rather than from above. Support as much of its body as possible, but don’t squeeze it or restrain it too much - let it move and explore, which helps it stay calm. NEVER pick it up by its tail, as this can damage its spine!

If you are nervous about getting bitten by your snake, wear a pair of thick leather gloves during handling.


*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! Here are some great sources we recommend checking out:

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.