The mandarin rat snake (Euprepiophis mandarinus) is a 4-6’ long, terrestrial, crepuscular snake native to southeast Asia. They can be found at a variety of elevations, usually in montane forest or shrubby rocky slopes, but they can also be found in farmland and fields.
Mandarin rat snakes have slender bodies, oval heads, dark eyes, and smooth scales. This species usually has a gray, brown, or reddish base color, with black diamond-shaped blotches down the length of the body, each outlined with yellow and containing a yellow spot. The head is also marked with a series of broad black bands.
Mandarin rat snakes are intermediate-level pets due to their not being very handleable and requiring lots of humidity. You can expect this pet to live at least 10-15 years with appropriate care.
Minimum terrarium size for mandarin rat snakes
The minimum terrarium size for a single mandarin rat snake is 48”L x 24”W x 24”H, such as our affordable 4x2x2 (120 Gallon) Reptile Enclosure. Of course, larger is always better in order to provide more room for the snake to stretch out fully and explore — in fact, larger is required for mandarin rats that are longer than average.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple mandarin rat snakes in one enclosure) is not recommended, as forcing individuals to share the same space can result in violent conflict.
Do mandarin rat snakes need UVB?
Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for mandarin rat 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. The light will not stress out your snake as long as it’s not on 24/7.
The best UVB bulbs for mandarin rat snakes 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 11-13” above the snake’s back if over mesh, and 14-16” 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 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter.
Best temperature for mandarin rat snakes
Like other reptiles, mandarin rat 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.
Specifically speaking, mandarin rats prefer an environment that is on the cooler end of the spectrum. They need a basking area temperature of 82-85°F, a cool side temperature between 72-78°F, and nighttime temperature between 60-70°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 two moderate-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 mandarin rat snakes
Mandarin rat snakes need humidity levels between 50-70% during the day and higher 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 mandarin rat snakes
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels, provide a burrowing medium, and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for mandarin rat snakes:
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Zilla Jungle Mix
- Galapagos Blond Sphagnum Moss
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 4” deep and completely replaced every 2-3 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a mandarin rat snake 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 mandarin rat snakes 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:
- sturdy low branches
- cork tubes/flats
- live tropical plants
- artificial plants
As you arrange the décor in your pet’s terrarium, make a priority of creating as many hiding opportunities as possible. When your snake feels secure, it’s more likely to hang out within sight.
What to feed to a mandarin rat snake
Mandarin rat 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 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. Multiple smaller prey is better than one large prey item. 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, 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, quail, chicks, geckos, and anoles can also be used to add diversity to your snake’s diet. One of the best ways to overcome a picky juvenile mandarin rat snake is to try offering lizard prey!
Mandarin rat snakes 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 heavy 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 mandarin rat snake
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Mandarin rat snakes generally prefer to be left alone rather than handled regularly, and are generally regarded as nervous in disposition, especially as juveniles. When stressed they may musk and attempt to bite during handling.
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!
"高砂蛇（Euprepiophis mandarinus)" by Wild for Wildlife is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.