Red Sided Garter Snake Care Sheet
Red Sided Garter Snakes are a small snake from the Northern States of the USA and Canada. These snakes stay small with females averaging 60-75cm in length with males averaging 50-60cm in length. They are very pretty snakes with a black background with light brown stripes and red on the sides. Red Sided Garter Snakes are active snakes which spend a lot of time outside their hide boxes and are great display snakes unlike many other pet snakes such as Ball Pythons which spend most of the day in their hide boxes. Red Sided Garter Snakes are easy to care for and make great pets for those who want a smaller sized snake that doesn’t eat mice.
I keep my Red Sided Garter Snakes in Exo Terra Plastic Terrariums. You can also keep them in clear plastic tubs, wooden cages with sliding glass doors or glass terrariums. Red Sided Garter Snakes need small cages due to their small size and a single adult female can be kept in a cage measuring 60cm x 30cm x 30cm, adult males can be kept in slightly smaller cages. The cage must be secure and escape proof. Use coconut husk as a substrate and provide a hide box and a water bowl. Keep the substrate dry at all times to avoid your Red Sided Garter Snake getting scale rot. Garter Snakes of any species do not do well in a rack system with opaque tubs as they are curious snakes which like to see whats going on around them.
Red Sided Garter Snakes do well at a temperature of 25-28 degrees ( summer room temperature in most South African homes) and only need extra heat in winter. You can heat your cages using a heat pad placed under half of the cage to provide a hot spot. These snake are not fussy when it comes to heating and are very temperature tolerant. Remember that smaller snakes overheat quicker than larger snakes so you do not want to overheat them. Monitor your cage temperatures using a dial thermometer.
Red Sided Garter Snakes feed on fish, earthworms, frogs, tadpoles and nestling rodents in the wild. In captivity you can feed them on a diet of small fish such as guppies, fish fillets, earthworms ( worms from your garden not red wrigglers from the bait shop) and even tinned cat food they will also sometimes eat mice scented with fish. I feed mine on a diet of frozen/thawed lance fish and frozen/thawed pinky or fuzzy mice. These snakes have a high metabolism and need to be fed at least 2-3 times per week even more if you are only feeding earthworms. You can add calcium and vitamin supplements to your Red Sided Garter Snakes diet but this is not necessary if you are offering them a varied diet of more than one prey species.
Red Sided Garter Snakes must be cooled down to 5- 10 degrees Celsius for a period of up 3 months in order to breed. Place the male in the females cage after you have warmed them up and if they mate successfully your female will give birth to 20 or more live babies 3 months later. Babies are very small and can be housed individually or in small groups under the same conditions as the adults. Feed the babies on earthworms, small live fish or tiny pieces of frozen/thawed lance fish. Baby Red Sided Garter Snakes should be fed every two days in order to stay healthy and grow properly.
Although very rare in South Africa Red Sided Garter Snakes make fascinating pets that stay small, don’t need to eat mice and are much more active than other more commonly available pet snakes.