snake-care

Vine Snake Care Sheet

November 01, 2021

vine snake

The vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina) is a 6-6.5’ long, arboreal species of snake widespread throughout south and southeast Asia. They generally prefer humid habitats with plenty of trees, although they are known to occupy gardens and agricultural areas as well.

Vine snakes have a distinctive look, with extremely slim bodies, a comparatively large, spade-shaped head; large eyes, and oval pupils. They are usually green in color with small white and/or black flecks, and a pale green, yellow, or grey underside. However, some individuals are yellow or brown.

Although interesting, vine snakes can make challenging pets due to their health and diet needs. Once they’re established, however, they can make an excellent display animal. With good care, vine snakes may have a lifespan of up to 20 years.

Minimum terrarium size for vine snakes

The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single vine snake is 6’L x 3’W x 6’H. Of course, larger is always better! Vine snakes may look small due to their slender bodies, but the fact is that they still need enough room to stretch out fully, explore, and hunt.

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

Do vine snakes need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for vine 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 provides other benefits. Plus, it’s quite likely that they are regularly exposed to low levels of sunlight in the wild, due to the nature of their habitat.

The best UVB bulbs for vine snakes are:

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

For best results, use a UVB bulb half the length of the enclosure and housed in a reflective fixture by Vivarium Electronics or Arcadia. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 11-13” above the basking branch if over mesh, and 14-16” above the basking branch 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!

It is also recommended to install a 6500K T5 HO fluorescent or LED grow light to span most of the enclosure’s length. This is essential for facilitating healthy plant growth if you are using live plants, and also helps create a distinct day-night cycle.

Lights should be on for 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter.

Best temperature for vine snakes

Like other reptiles, vine 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, vine snakes should have a basking surface temperature between 95-100°F. In the lower levels of the enclosure, the temperature should be 78-85°F. Temperatures should drop to 72-75°F at night. You can check your temperature gradient by using an infrared thermometer.

Provide heat for your snake with a cluster of two to four halogen flood 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 ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. If the bulbs are a little too hot, use a plug-in lamp dimmer to reduce output. If the bulbs are not hot enough, you will need a higher wattage.

If you need a way to keep the enclosure adequately warm at night, use a radiant heat panel regulated by an external thermostat.

Best humidity levels for vine snakes

Vine snakes are a tropical species that requires humidity levels between 60-100%. Humidity should be at the lower end of this range during the day, and higher at night. You can measure humidity with a digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure.

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. A cool mist humidifier connected to a humidistat can help with boosting nighttime humidity. We also recommend installing a humid hide for your snake, lined with moistened sphagnum moss, in the upper levels of the enclosure. 

Best substrate for vine snakes

Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for vine 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 vine 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!

Since vine snakes are arboreal, it is extremely important to provide branches for your pet to climb and perch on. Branches should be roughly the same width as the thickest point of the snake’s body, and should preferably have multiple forks. 

Here are some other ideas to consider:

Aside from branches, make sure that your snake also has covered areas to retreat to when it wants privacy. Foliage (live or artificial) works very well for this purpose, and live plants in particular can help maintain higher humidity levels!

What to feed to a vine snake

Vine snakes are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. They should be fed 2-3x/week, with each meal being roughly the same width or slightly smaller than the snake at its widest point.

Appropriate prey items for vine snakes include house geckos, anoles, small frogs, button quail, and Reptilinks. Crickets, smaller snakes, and pieces of fish filet may be occasionally offered as treats. 

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 room temperature, then use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake.

Supplements

Snakes can survive without dietary supplements, but using them every once in a while can help prevent your pet from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on the prey item before offering. This is not optional, however, when offering insects or fish fillet.

Water

Because vine snakes are strictly arboreal, it’s best to offer water via elevated platform rather than on the floor. Large gecko feeding ledges and cups work well for this purpose. Keep the water clean and free of debris, and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly or whenever it becomes soiled.

How to handle your vine snake

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Some vine snakes don’t mind handling, while others are best left alone. Get to know your pet as an individual 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!

Note: Vine snakes are mildly venomous. This venom is not considered medically significant to humans, but it can potentially cause an allergic reaction in the event of a bite. Fortunately, bites from vine snakes are extremely rare. But 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!


"Ahaetulla prasina, Oriental whipsnake - Kaeng Krachan National Park" by Rushen! is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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