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 Looking for help and general advice (xpost general forum)

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sbostaph
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PostSubject: Looking for help and general advice (xpost general forum)   Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:50 am

Hey all,

I'm a very very new snake owner. I was given some snakes to 'snake sit' for a few months to a year - I have no idea yet how long I'll have these guys, but I want to take decent care of them in the meantime.

This is my first time owning anything but cats!! When I got them, I had no idea how awful their living conditions were, and only through some research and talking to other snake owners did I start to get an idea of how badly I got shafted!

To give you an idea: I got the three snakes (two BP's and a red tailed boa) all living in one 40 gallon glass tank with two heat lamps, one water dish, and one hide. The constrictor was shedding in patches, and he and the little BP were on top of each other constantly competing for space in the hide (I thought they were cuddling!!!).

The BPs are both female, and seem to be normal sized - the older is about 16 years old and is about 5 feet long, and the younger is about 5 and is about 3 feet long.

The constrictor, however, was a different story - he's 4 years old and just under 3 feet long. I asked the owner about it when I found out how big he SHOULD be, and she told me "oh they only get that big if you feed them like crazy."

She'd been feeding them every 2 weeks, a rat for the big BP and two mice for the smaller snakes.

So the changes I've been able to make so far:

-Purchase another tank, lamp, and hide for the constrictor and put him in his own tank
-Get heat pads to put on the sides of the tanks for additional heating (ambient temp in the tanks was about 75 degrees except directly under the heat lamps)
-Start feeding them every 7-10 days instead of every 14-16 days; moved the two smaller snakes up to rat pups instead of having to give them two mice each

My question now is - are there any rescues or organizations around that might be able to provide some mentorship and maybe donate or sell some used things so I can keep improving their living conditions? I've already dropped easily $200 on these guys, and I'm living paycheck to paycheck as is. However, I know I still need to get a third tank for the little BP, and some more thermometers and humidity gauges. I'd also like to learn more about general snake care, humidity, shed cycles, etc etc. I feel like there's so much I don't know, and there is so much contradictory info on the internets! i'd love to just go spend an afternoon with someone who can give me the basic rundown and maybe more advice on my specific setup.

Any help would be much appreciated; I feel like I'm totally floundering here!!
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ClarkeReptiles
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PostSubject: Re: Looking for help and general advice (xpost general forum)   Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:56 am

This forum is a great source of info and the people are really friendly. Its so nice to see someone looking to improve their care instead of assuming everything was right.

You've done a great job so far. Getting the boa into his own tank is a good start. Be careful with the heat pads. I've seen them overheat. Its best to put them on a thermostat or at the very least, make sure there is adequate air flow under the tank. I get my thermometers at Walmart. They are located where the outdoor yard supplies are. Its an Accurite indoor/outdoor thermometer. They cost about $15. You really only need one per tank as the thermometer comes with a temp probe. You put the unit on one side and it will take the temp and humidity there. You then put the probe on the other side and it takes the temp there as well so you can check both on the same unit. And it tracks min and max temps throughout the day so you can always check to make sure it didn't get too hot or too cold while you were out. These are much better than the thermometers you get at the pet store and they last forever on the same batteries. I actually don't remember the last time I had to change mine and I've been keeping snakes since 2007.

Great job on increasing their feeding as well. Every 14 days is considered a "maintenance feeding schedule" which means its enough to keep the snake going, but the snake isn't going to grow well. I'll admit there are times I let some of my males skip a week but its not a regular thing.

If you are able to, get some pics of the enclosures and post them (or you can email them to me and I can post them for you) and we can give you some better advice on how to improve. Sometimes its just little things once you get the basics.

The biggest things for the ball pythons is heat and hiding. You'll want to make sure they are warm enough (but not too warm, hence the need for thermometers), and have enough hiding space. Its possible to keep ball pythons together, but its not recommended as they tend to compete and stress each other out.

As for getting a third tank, check craigslist. I see tanks being offered for free from time to time. You'll just need a way of getting it and cleaning it most of the time. Once I get my rat rack built, I'll have a 15g (about the footspace of a 10g, but taller) available, but your ball pythons sound a little big for that. I'd recommend a 20g long tank.
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sbostaph
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PostSubject: Re: Looking for help and general advice (xpost general forum)   Fri Aug 14, 2015 11:08 am

Thanks!! Things have been a bit confusing to start out, but the Internet has been a great place to get some starting advice since I don't know anyone else who has reptiles!!

That's great info on the thermometers from the outdoor section - they sound a bunch better than the little pet store thermometer I have going now. And as for the heating pad, I originally had it under the tank, but then read that the snakes can burn themselves! I moved it to the side, so now it's just providing some ambient heat to raise the general temp of the enclosure. I got another one for the big tank with the two BP's, but I'm hoping to get some more this weekend, since the 'cool' side is still way too cold!! The poor girls are sitting on top of each other under the 'warm' side of the tank, since I don't have enough heat lamps to go around.

I actually got in touch with someone from a reptile rescue, so she should be able to help me out with some cheap equipment! Until then, I kind of MacGyvered the tanks - I put some of that foam board insulation on the sides and on top (not completely blocking airflow, just enough so that all the heat/moisture doesn't escape), and the girls seem to be much happier. I think it managed to raise the temp a few degrees, so that helped!

I'll definitely see if I can get some pics; I'd love help with the setup. I think I need to get the heat up in the BP enclosure, since neither of them are hiding - just hanging out right under the lamp. So the equipment I get this weekend should be a big help with that. The boa seems to be fine - he hangs out hidden under the substrate at the cool end (which hovers around 76 degrees) pretty much all the time, despite having two hides!! He's a strange little guy.

Re: feeding - yeah, I definitely think that bumping up to every 7 days (10 days for the BPs since they don't seem as enthusiastic on a 7 day schedule) is really helping, especially considering how undersized the boa is!! I had no idea he was supposed to be nearly double how big he is now; I asked the owner about it, and she told me "oh they only grow that big if you feed them like crazy." -___-
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ClarkeReptiles
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PostSubject: Re: Looking for help and general advice (xpost general forum)   Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:20 am

The growth a boa has on an every 7-10 day schedule is appropriate. Intentionally not feeding them to keep them small is just cruel in my opinion. When I had my boa she was undersized at first because she was a problem feeder (very picky) but once she got her act together and began eating every 7 days like she was supposed to, she grew and she grew fast.

Im glad the rescuer is able to help with some equipment. We really need more people like this in the hobby. People who help those who ask for it. A lot of people get reptiles and have no idea what they are getting themselves into so it's good you asked questions and you are looking out for the wellbeing of your snakes.
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bcr229
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PostSubject: Re: Looking for help and general advice (xpost general forum)   Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:50 am

ClarkeReptiles wrote:
Great job on increasing their feeding as well. Every 14 days is considered a "maintenance feeding schedule" which means its enough to keep the snake going, but the snake isn't going to grow well. I'll admit there are times I let some of my males skip a week but its not a regular thing.
Depending on the boas age and body condition, feeding every 14 days may not be enough, it may be fine, or it may be too often. My largest female eats a one pound rabbit every four weeks, and all of my adult males are fed a large rat or half pound rabbit every three weeks. OTOH my 2015 baby eats a rat fuzzy every five to seven days.

Boas have much slower metabolisms than pythons so I wouldn't throw a lot of food at it in a short time period to try to get it caught up on growth. Remember these animals can live for decades so he will get up to size eventually if he's fed properly. Also, in the short term overfeeding can lead to a regurgitation which will put him further behind in his growth and recovery, and long term it leads to fatty liver disease and a shortened lifespan for the critter.

A boa should have a square body shape, not round like a milk snake or pleasingly plump like a ball python. An appropriately-sized feeder should leave a minimal visible lump in the boa's stomach.
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