Paludariums, which can house both aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals, are becoming increasingly popular for their versatility. Snake enthusiasts, in particular, are looking at paludariums as an excellent alternative to vivariums. However, it’s essential to consider which snakes will thrive in paludariums.
Here are the top 4 best snakes for a paludarium:
- Garter snakes
- Green anacondas
- Plain bellied water snakes
These semi-aquatic snake snakes thrive when given access to both land and water in humid environments. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about keeping these snakes in a paludarium and the ideal conditions to create.
Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus), also known as water moccasins, are semi-aquatic snakes that love being around water. These snakes will feel very much at home in a paludarium.
Here are the defining characteristics of the cottonmouth snake:
- Size: Cottonmouths are giant snakes with thick bodies that can grow up to 48 inches (120 cm). If you keep a cottonmouth, you need to handle it.
- Appearance: Cottonmouth snakes can be either uniformly brown or black and have a brightly tipped tail when they’re younger.
- Behavior: Cottonmouth snakes are venomous and have typically been considered aggressive. However, recent studies have found that cottonmouth snakes only attack when they feel cornered or threatened. Handling your cottonmouth with care will protect you from its venom and attacks.
- Reproductive behavior: Cottonmouth females only reproduce every 2-3 years. However, they can produce up to 20 young in one reproductive cycle.
- Diet: Cottonmouths enjoy both attacking prey and foraging. So you can place live bait or hide prey around the palladium for your cottonmouth to find, whichever is preferred.
Keeping Cottonmouths in a Paludarium
Here’s what you need to know about keeping a cottonmouth in a paludarium:
- The paludarium should be at least 50 gallons (190 L) to accommodate the cottonmouth’s large size.
- The paludarium should include a hide box, cage, and dry substrate. (The substrate can be made with newspaper, cardboard, and paper towels.)
- To appeal to your snake’s aquatic side, the paludarium should include a clean water body big enough for the snake to submerge itself in. They may submerge themselves when they feel threatened or if they need to cool off.
- Include a basking lamp to increase the temperature in specific areas in your paludarium. Basking is important as snakes use it to regulate their body temperature.
2. Garter Snakes
Garter snakes are semi-aquatic snakes found near moving bodies of water, such as rivers and streams. There are several different subspecies of garter snakes, including black-necked garter snakes and checkered garter snakes. All garter snakes thrive in paludariums.
Here are the basic facts about garter snakes:
- Size: Garter snakes may be between 18-26 inches (46-66 cm) long, depending on the subspecies. Garter snakes are light in weight, with adults reaching only half a pound (.45 kg) on average. As a result, they’re relatively easy to handle and great for a beginner.
- Appearance: Most garter snakes have three light stripes on their backs and may also have black spots.
- Behavior.:While garter snakes are non-venomous, they’re relatively aggressive and quick to strike. They may also spray musk when threatened. To avoid scaring your garter snake before handling it, try to approach it from the side.
- Reproductive behavior: Female garter snakes begin reproducing when they’re two years old and can produce 20-40 live young at a time.
- Diet: As semi-aquatic snakes, garter snakes eat fish, amphibians such as frogs and earthworms, slugs and leeches.
Keeping Garter Snakes in a Paludarium
Here’s what to keep in mind when setting up a paludarium for a garter snake:
- Use coconut fiber, moss, or reptile bark for a soft substrate the snake can bury into when threatened or too hot.
- Keep a bowl of fresh water for immersion and drinking. The water should be changed daily.
- Place warm rocks and a basking lamp to give the snake plenty of opportunities to bask. Try to ensure the rocks are different sizes and textures.
3. Green Anaconda
Green anacondas are the world’s largest snakes and can grow up to 30 feet (9 m) long. These semi-aquatic snakes make impressive additions to a paludarium, but they must be kept in a large aquarium.
Here are some of the main features of the green anaconda:
- Size: Adult green anacondas can be between 20-30 feet (6-9 m) long and weigh up to 550 pounds (250 kg). Because of their size and strength, it’s best to only keep a green anaconda if you’re very experienced with keeping snakes.
- Appearance: Green anacondas have distinctive olive-brown skin with black spots lining their backs.
- Behavior. Anacondas tend to be active during the night and early evening. They’re calm, docile snakes, primarily when bred in captivity. Though non-venomous, anacondas are constrictors that can cause significant harm by squeezing and asphyxiating prey.
- Reproductive behavior. Female anacondas breed once a year and deliver two to three dozen live snakes.
- Diet. Green anacondas eat birds, wild pigs, and other medium-sized mammals in the wild. If you have a green anaconda, you can feed it live mice and rat pups. From time to time, you may also feed your snake a rabbit or other larger prey.
Keeping Green Anacondas in a Paludarium
If you’re looking to keep a green anaconda in a paludarium, make sure you have an enclosure at least 6 feet (1.8 m) long with both land and water areas. Here are some other tips for setting up a paludarium to house a green anaconda:
- Land-to-water ratio: Try to keep your paludarium maintained specifically at two-thirds land and one-third water.
- Water depth. Ensure the water in the paludarium is deep enough for your green anaconda to submerge itself completely. Also, use a built-in filtration system and gravel at the bottom to help keep the water clean.
- Mulch substrate. Ensure the land is made with mulch substrate capable of handling the humidity in the tank. You can use cardboard, newspaper, or bark, which are easy to clean.
4. Plain Bellied Water Snake
The plain bellied water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster) is an aquatic, non-venomous snake, making it an excellent choice for a paludarium. Plain-bellied water snakes are most commonly found near still, or slow-moving bodies of water and are likely to thrive in paludariums.
Here are some of the stand out features of the plain bellied water snake:
- Size: The adults can grow up to 24-40 inches (60-100 cm) long, which means they need a medium to large paludarium to live in.
- Appearance: The plain bellied water snake can be gray, brown, olive, or gray, depending on its subspecies. They can typically have a plain underside.
- Behavior: The plain bellied water snake is non-venomous, making it reasonably safe to handle. However, it’s quick to startle and may defend itself by striking out.
- Reproductive behavior: These snakes breed once a year and give birth between August and October. They can produce anywhere between 5-20 offspring in one go.
- Diet. As water snakes, plain bellied water snakes eat fish, frogs, and other small amphibians.
Keeping Plain Bellied Water Snakes in a Paludarium
Unlike some of the other snakes on this list, plain bellied water snakes need a higher water ratio to land. Here’s what you need to know about keeping a plain bellied water snake in a paludarium:
- Most plain-bellied water snakes will do well in a paludarium at least 30 gallons (114 L) large.
- Make a dry area to provide a space to bask and dry off. This helps prevent the development of scale rot. Place a stack of rocks or a hideaway box on one end of the paludarium with some substrate between this stack and the water.
- The paludarium doesn’t need a lot of lighting as water snakes typically thrive in darker conditions.
What Other Animals Are Suitable for a Paludarium?
If you have a paludarium but aren’t sure about keeping snakes, there are a variety of other animals you can keep in a paludarium instead:
- Amphibians. Along with snakes, amphibians are probably best suited to a paludarium because they need both water and land. Some amphibians best suited for a paludarium include frogs, newts, and salamanders.
- Fish. If your paludarium has more water than land, it’s worth including a few fish. Some species to consider include archerfish and killifish. Ensure that you choose the right kind of fish for the water you’re placing them in.
- Turtles. Turtles do well in a paludarium because all their necessary conditions are met. Just be sure that the type of turtle you keep matches the type of water you have in your paludarium.
Once you’re used to maintaining the paludarium, you may want to experiment with keeping a range of different species in one paludarium. For instance, fish, snakes, and frogs in a paludarium may mimic a natural environment. However, be sure to check which animals prey on others before introducing them into the same environment.
- University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) Herpetology: American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists: Defensive Behavior of Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) toward Humans
- Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection: Common Garter Snake
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Garter Snake (Thamnophis spp.)
- Embora Pets: Can Water Snakes be Kept as Pets?
- iNaturalist: Plain-bellied Water Snake
- Live Science: Cottonmouth snakes: Facts about water moccasins
- National Geographic: Green Anaconda
- Northampton Reptile Centre: Paludarium Set-up Guide: Plants Fish and Reptiles!
- Reptile Forums UK: Snake recommendation for a Paludarium
- Reptiles Magazine: Cottonmouth
- Reptile Range: Green Anaconda Care Sheet
- University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) Herpetology: Cottonmouth / Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus) – Venomous