Hognose snakes have a unique, shovel-like head and they are a common and popular breed of pet snake. There are several reasons why Hognose Snakes are a good choice when it comes to snake ownership. First, they don’t get too large, especially in comparison to some tropical boas or pythons. Plus, they don’t have too many special needs that make it difficult to care for them. Hognose snakes are usually in most pet stores and are sold by most breeders.
Hognose snakes make excellent first time snakes for new owners!
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to ensure proper Hognose Snake care. Additionally, we will provide best practices and tips on how to get the right terrarium set up for your new Hognosed friend.
Right off the bat, you’ll need to know a few key pieces of information before moving forward with owning a Hognose Snake.
Eastern and Western Hognose Snake Care Sheet FAQs
First, this guide applies mainly to Western Hognose Snake care and Eastern Hognose Snake care.
If you’re considering a Hognose, we highly recommend you stick with Western and Eastern breeds. Most breeders will recommend these two types in the first place, as they are the most commonly owned type of Hognose Snake.
Be wary of Madagascar Hognose Snakes. Although they can be owned in captivity, this breed of Hognose is slightly venomous and should only be considered by more seasoned serpent owners. Plus, Madagascar Hognose Snakes are much larger than the Eastern and Western breeds. Not to mention, the Madagascar breed requires a much more hot and dry enclosure. With all that in mind, stick with the Eastern and Western Hognose Snake. Chances are you will not find many breeders who offer the Madagascar Hognose anyways.
Western vs. Eastern Hognose Snake
There aren’t many differences between Eastern and Western Hognose Snakes when it comes to care and ownership. For some reason, Western Hognose Snakes tend to be the more popular one to own. That said, both Eastern and Western are suitable for captivity and can be generally care for the same way.
How Big Do Western/Eastern Hognose Snakes Get?
One of the biggest reasons why Hognose Snakes are popular pets is because they do not get that large in size. You won’t have to worry about an uncontrollably large pet if you choose to go with a Western or Eastern Hognose Snake. Note that like many other breeds, there is a significant difference in size between male and female Hognose Snakes. In general, male snakes are smaller than female snakes. When it comes to Hognoses, this is absolutely the case.
When choosing your Hognose, be sure to ask the breeder if it is male or female so you know how large your snake will be.
Average Male Hognose Snake Size: Range from 15-25 inches (or 38-64 cm)
Average Female Hognose Snake Size: Range from 28-36 inches (or 71-91 cm)
Since female Western/Eastern Hognose Snakes tend to be larger, the sex of your desired Hognose Snake could play a role in how big of an enclosure to set up.
How Long Do Hognose Snakes Live as Pets?
Like many other snakes, both Eastern and Western Hognose Snakes can and will live a fairly long amount of time in captivity. It’s best to plan for the long run if you are thinking of diving into snake ownership.
When it comes to Hognose Snakes, they tend to live between 12-18 years on average in captivity. Some specimens will live longer, up to 20+ years.
How Big Should a Hognose Snake Enclosure Be?
The size and type of a terrarium for a Hognose Snake can vary. There are a ton of different options. On the cheaper side, you can easily convert a plastic storage container into a home for your Hognose Snake. Although not the most glamorous of setups, it can be done. Using plastic storage containers is a common practice of seasoned snake experts and/or breeders.
Another option is to go with a REPTIZOO terrarium. We recommend the 20 gallon version, and it is more than suitable for 1-2 Hognose snakes. You can opt for a smaller tank, too. Be sure your tank is long enough, though. Rule of thumb, get a tank that is at least 3/4ths the length of the full grown length of your snake.
Hognose Snake Habitat Guide
Hognose Snakes can survive happily in several different kinds of terrariums and enclosures. If you’re considering one of them as a pet, you’ll have a wide array of options at various price points.
Because Hognose Snakes are on the smaller side, you don’t need the worlds largest terrarium. Hognose Snakes do well in both glass terrariums, converted fish tanks, and modified plastic storage containers.
We will give you our recommendation below for a setup that will ensure proper Hognose Snake care. Plus, this guide covers all you need to know about heating components, substrate, and more.
|REPTIZOO Reptile Glass Terrarium 36x18x18|
While it's not required to get this large of a cage for a Hognose Snake, we do tend to recommend REPTIZOO enclosures. This one in particular has a lot of great features, and is compatible with all of the items on the list. The best part about this terrarium is that it opens from the front. That makes for easy handling and feeding.
|ReptiChip Premium Coconut Substrate|
You can't go wrong with the ReptiChip Coconut Substrate. Although Hognose Snakes are more "desert dwelling", it's best to get larger substrate for them in captivity. Sand can be digested, which can lead to health problems for your snake.
|Zilla Reptile Habitat Décor Shale Rock Den|
Like most snakes, Hognoses enjoy having some cover and places they can get away. This is what is commonly called a "snake hide". You'll need to get one for your Hognose's enclosure, and we recommend either this one or some form of hollowed out log. There are plenty of options to choose from, just make sure you get at least one to start.
|iPower Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller for Reptiles|
Thermostats are a must have for any terrarium. This will help you easily gauge and regulate the temperature in your new terrarium. You may want to consider having two thermostats; one for each side of the cage. That way, you can measure both the basking and ambient sides of the terrarium.
|Exo Terra Water Dish|
Another essential is the water bowl. While it may not seem like there's anything special about a water bowl, you'd be surprised. We like this one simply because it's easy to clean, holds a lot of water, and the inside of it is a lighter color. The lighter color makes it easier to know if and when the bowl should be cleaned.
Enclosure Temperature, Humidity, and Lighting
There are certain measures to take when it comes to providing proper Hognose Snake care. One of the most important parts of a cage for Hognose is it’s climate and temperature regulation. Three components come into considering in order to provide your Hognose Snake a healthy habitat. Temperature, humidity, and lighting. Below, you’ll find the proper instructions and recommended products when it comes to these three aspects of a Hognose Snake enclosure.
First, you’ll need to make sure your Hognose Snake has the right temperature in it’s terrarium. Like most snakes, Hognose’s enjoy both a basking and an ambient area.
You’ll need to have one side of the cage with more constant heat, and the other less heat. That way, your Hognose Snake can enjoy warming up, but won’t get too hot.
Plus, you need to make sure you have distinct daytime and nighttime heats for the terrarium. More on lighting and light cycles in the next section.
Below, you’ll find both the recommended basking and ambient temperatures for both Western and Eastern Hognose Snakes:
Daytime Basking Temperature Range: 88-90 Degrees Fahrenheit
Daytime Ambient Temperature: 77-80 Degrees Fahrenheit
Nighttime Temperature: 76-79 Degrees Fahrenheit
Note that it is not required to have basking and ambient temperature at nighttime. That said, if you want to provide heat for a Hognose Snake at night, use a heating pad rather than a light emitting heat source.
Also, If you live in a colder area, it may be necessary to provide a heat source at nighttime. This depends on how cold your home usually gets. In which case, a reptile heating pad should suffice.
To ensure proper Hognose Snake care, you’ll need to set up a terrarium with regulated lighting. Every snake is different – some require daylight and nighttime periods, and some do not.
With that in mind, both Eastern and Western Hognose Snakes require a fixed day and night period. Additionally, the required length of daytime differs for Hognose snakes throughout the year.
During the spring and summer, full spectrum lighting should be provided for approximately 15 hours each day. Consequently, full spectrum light should be changed to approximately 9 hours each day in the autumn and winter.
Now, lighting can be as hard or as easy as you want to make it. There’s a little trick that will make this whole ordeal so much easier for you: an outlet timer.
This timer makes automating your Hognose Snake lighting a breeze. It’s so, so very convenient. Trust us, it’s well worth the investment — trying to click on and off your snakes light at the same time every night and morning can be exhausting. That’s why we recommend using this nifty little timer. Not to mention, it’s pretty cheap and easy to set up.
Hognose Snake Humidity
For the most part, Hognoses are more “desert dwellers” than “tropical”. That means unlike Ball Pythons, Hognose Snakes prefer slightly more arid conditions.
While not totally necessary, we recommend getting a humidity tester to make sure that your snake’s terrarium is set to the proper climate.
Both Eastern and Western Hognose Snakes prefer a humidity of around 25-30%, the maximum being about 45%. In most cases, that humidity should not be hard to achieve. Unless you live in the dessert with 0 humidity or the rain forest with 100% humidity, you can probably get by without a humidifier/dehumidifier.
At very least, test humidity of the room, basement, or wherever you plan on keeping your terrarium. If it’s not in the ~25%-~45% range, you may need to take action.
If it’s too dry, often times a mister or spray bottle will do the trick. Also, always make sure your Hognose Snake has a full and clean water dish. That will help with humidity.
On the other hand, if it’s too humid, consider your heating lamp. Does it get hot enough? If not, it could be leading to an excess of water in the air, leading to a more than ideal humid environment. Additionally, you should consider adding a small dehumidifier near your serpents cage.
Hognose Snake Care: Cage Maintenance
Like any pet, it’s important to make sure Hognose Snakes have a clean and sanitary habitat. The good news is that maintaining a snake’s tank is far easier than say, taking care of a dog or cat. It requires minimal attention, but routine habits to make sure your Hognose Snake has a happy and healthy environment.
Even though Hognoses are from more desert-like habitats, sand is not a good substrate for them in captivity. When it comes to Hognose Snake bedding, it’s best to stick with larger chips. Small substrate is risky because it can be ingested by the Hognose breed. Bedding ingestion can cause all types of problems that are best avoided by choosing the right substrate in the first place.
When it comes to Hognose Snakes, we recommend Reptichip Premium CoconustSubstrate.
Terrarium Cleaning and Sanitation
When it comes to maintaining your Hognose Snake’s enclosure, three main factors come into play:
- Cleaning and changing substrate
- Remove any defecate as your snake eats and has bowel movements.
- Sift through the substrate at least once a week to remove any droppings.
- Change the snake substrate every 1-2 months to ensure proper Hognose Snake care
- Sanitizing the terrarium
- Rule of thumb, when you change out the substrate, it’s best to sanitize the terrarium with the proper cleaner. We prefer Carolina Custom Chlorhexidine Solution. One order of that will last you years.
- When removing substrate, sweep out any dust and fully wipe down the inside of the tank with the above solution.
- Let the tank dry fully before adding back substrate and your Hognose Snake.
- Cleaning and changing water
- It’s best to change your snake’s water once a day. Fresh water daily will ensure your snake stays happy and healthy. Water bowls are a breeding ground for mold, bacteria, etc.
- Wash, scrub, and sanitize your snake’s water bowl once a week. Water bowls are prone to building up nasty slime. When cleaning, you can use a diluted bleach solution or the above recommended cleaner. Either way, make sure you full rinse and dry the water bowl before filling it up and putting it back in the terrarium.
Hognose Snake Feeding Best Practices
Hognose snakes are for the most part, good eaters. They’re also really good at telling you when they want to eat. When Hognose Snakes are hungry, they often will slither toward you with their mouth open. If this happens, don’t be alarmed. It’s completely normal. They’re just telling you, “I’m hungry, give me food!”
Once your Hognose Snake is on a normal schedule, feeding should be easy and they are good eaters. That said, many owners report they have trouble feeding infant or young Hognose Snakes. Often times, they will reject food. The best way to avoid this from happening is to buy a Hognose Snake that is already an established eater.
Hognose Snake Care Pro-tip
When buying a baby Hognose Snake, ask the breeder if it has been fed 3-5 times already. Typically, young Hognose Snakes require an experienced breeder to feed them the first few times. Most reputable breeders will do this, and they will likely tell you, too. It’s always best to ask so you can avoid stressful situations down the road.
Even if a Hognose Snake is properly raised by a breeder, they can still be difficult eaters at a young age. Most baby Hognose Snakes will accept thawed pinkies dipped in warm water. If they don’t, try dipping the pinkies with canned tuna juice. Or, ask your breeder for recommendations on how to get them to take to food.
Once Hognose Snakes begin eating regularly, they will often “come at you” with their mouth wide open ready to eat. At this point, you shouldn’t have any problems feeding them.
What Size Mice Should I Feed a Hognose Snake?
Hognose Snakes typically eat a meal the size of their head. At a young age, feed them pinkies. Once they grow bigger, you can graduate to fuzzies, and then smaller mice. After your Hognose is full grown, depending on the sex and size, it can gravitate toward hoppers and possibly even small crawlers.
Again, it’s best to judge the proper meal size by how big the Hognose Snake’s head is. After feeding, they should have a visible lump going down their body.
How Often to Feed a Hognose
Rule of thumb, feed your Hognose Snake 1-2 times every week while they are growing. In many cases, once a week will be plenty enough.
Once your Hognose is fully grown, you can experiment feeding 10-12 days apart as opposed to 7 days apart. Snakes have a slow metabolism, especially as they grow older.
Hognose Snakes are easy to feed, especially once they are established eaters. Plus, this breed of snake will tell you when they’re hungry. Hognose Snakes are known to come toward people with their mouths wide open to express their hunger. Don’t be alarmed if this happens.
Why You Should Use Frozen Mice
When it comes to feeding your snake, you have two options: 1. Live mice, or 2. Frozen mice.
We highly recommend going with frozen mice. While you can feed a Hognose live mice, there are several reasons why you should opt for frozen.
First, live mice can damage a captive snake because they have sharp teeth. It’s best to use frozen so you can avoid any injuries to your Hognose.
Secondly, frozen mice are way more convenient to buy and store. You don’t have to worry about running to the pet store once a week. Plus, frozen mice are usually vacuum sealed & you can buy them online. Instead of worrying about running to the pet store every week, buy a bulk pack of 50 frozen mice and store them in your freezer. How nice would it be to only have to worry about snake food once every 6 months or so?
All-in-all, frozen mice are the way to go. When it comes to actually feeding your Hognose snake a frozen mouse, you’ll need to take note of a few things. It’s best to defrost the mice in warm water before feeding. Also, you should use tongs every time you feed your Hognose. They are fast strikers, and sometimes they’re not too accurate. Tongs will help you avoid any accidental bites.
Temperament and Handling
Both Eastern and Western Hognose Snakes tend to be docile and easy to handle. They are typically friendly, and rarely bite. In fact, most bites we hear about are due to feeding without tongs. As mentioned above, Hognose Snakes are fast and sometimes clumsy strikers.
Sometimes, Hognose Snakes will puff up or bluff at you. It’s best to leave them alone at this time to avoid causing any stress. They usually do this when they’re hungry, so wait until they are in a better mood to handle again. This type of behavior is pretty normal, and when it happens, they’re basically telling you not to bother them.
Also, Hognose Snakes have been known to play dead every now and again. If this happens, don’t panic. It’s a normal defense mechanism, and they should be back to normal in no time. Consider handling your snake at least once or twice a week so they become familiar with you. Once familiar, this should prevent them playing dead down the road.
Buying a Hognose Snake
OK, so you’re ready to buy a Hognose Snake. But where do you buy one? Great question.
First, you should run a few Google searches to see if you can find “Breeders near you”. Buying from a reputable breeder is the way to go. That way, you’ll be able to ask questions and get advice about the snake you’re buying. Also, it’s good to buy from someone who is passionate about snakes.
Pet stores are OK, but often times they have very limited selections.
Lastly, you can (strangely) buy snakes online and have them shipped to your front door. Sounds odd, right? Well, it’s absolutely doable. Try out XYZreptiles, they’ve been around for a long time, and are a fairly well known brand. They also have a ton of different options to choose from.