The rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) is a 3-4’ long, diurnal, arboreal snakes native to the southeastern United States and northwestern Mexico. They prefer wet, forested areas for habitat.
Rough green snakes have slender bodies, oval heads, gently keeled scales, and round pupils. Coloring is an eye-catching yellow-green on top and cream to yellow on the underside. The lower jaw matches the underside.
Rough green snakes are sensitive pets, especially when wild caught, so it’s best to buy them captive-bred whenever possible. But with good care, they are capable of living at least 15 years.
Minimum terrarium size for rough green snakes
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single rough green snake is 18”L x 18”W x 36”H. Of course, larger is always better! Despite their small size, this species is very active, and they need plenty of room to stretch out fully, explore, and climb.
Rough green snakes are particularly tiny as juveniles, so it’s important to make your terrarium completely escape-proof. Opt for a front-opening enclosure with hinged doors rather than sliding doors or a lid on top. Wire ports should be stuffed with bits of paper towel or completely sealed off with hot glue.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple rough green snakes in one enclosure) is optional, as they seem to do well in groups.
Do rough green snakes need UVB?
Yes! Most snakes can usually survive without UVB, but rough green snakes are an exception, and must have UVB lighting as part of their setup. 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 best UVB bulbs for rough green snakes are:
- Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0
- Arcadia ShadeDweller kit
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture that runs at least most of the length of the enclosure. Position the lamp close to the heat lamp on top of the terrarium mesh, about 6-11” above the basking branch.
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 in order to encourage natural hormonal cycling. All lamps should be turned off at night.
Best temperature for rough green snakes
Like other reptiles, rough green 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, rough green snakes should have a basking area temperature of 90°F. On the other side of the enclosure, the temperature should be between 72-80°F. Measure temperatures with a digital probe thermometer.
Provide heat for your snake with two low-wattage heat bulbs, placed close together over the basking branch to evenly heat the snake’s entire body. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Best humidity levels for rough green snakes
Rough green snakes need an average humidity of 50-75%. There should also be a humid hide for your snake, lined with moistened sphagnum moss and placed among the branches. Humidity should 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 first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. Mixing water directly into the substrate also helps with maintaining high humidity.
Best substrate for rough green snakes
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels, and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for rough green snakes:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a rough green 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 rough green snakes are arboreal, at bare minimum you will need at least one climbing branch and some live or artificial foliage for the snake to hide in. However, it’s best to include other items such as:
What to feed to a rough green snake
One of the things that makes rough green snakes unique is that fact that they are insectivores, not carnivores! This means that they need to get their nutrition from insects, not vertebrates like rodents or lizards.
Juveniles should be fed daily, while adults can be fed 2-3x/week. Each feeding should consist of 2-3 insects roughly the same size as the snake’s head. Avoid dumping in a bunch of bugs at once, as the excess of insects will likely stress your snake out.
Because this snake eats insects, you will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your rough green snake healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl and feeding ledge for your snake to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your rough green snake
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Rough green snakes are one of the types of reptiles that are best to leave alone rather than attempt to handle regularly. If you want to interact with your pet, try hand-feeding it with a pair of feeding tweezers.
*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!
"Opheodrys aestivus aestivus (Northern Rough Greensnake)" by Andrew Hoffman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0