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Old 12-02-18, 12:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Talking Russian Rat Snake Help

Good to be here everyone! I made the mistake of letting my wife see my buddies Cobra, now she’s obsessed... So here we go..

I keep venomous spiders, scorpions and tarantulas.
(She doesn’t really like those)
So I’m experienced enough to know she needs to be patient to make sure we do it right!
With that said I decided on Russian Rat Snake because I heard they have good personalities and can handle room tempaure. It’s a cold Indiana here and the room barely leaves 70s. Any thoughts on a better suggestion?

The internet, as always, isn’t clear. And I am not one to trust card sheets over experience. For the enclosure, what do you recommend? I can put it in a 5 gallon as a baby but what kind of dimensions, substrate, lid, humidity, feeding, hides, climbing and heating (types and locations) do you all recommend? Also is the musk an issue?
Pictures appreciated

Looking forward to hear from you all and get into it!

Last edited by INDanny; 12-02-18 at 12:43 PM.. Reason: Addition
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Old 12-02-18, 11:55 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

Welcome to the forum! I'm not an expert on Russian rat snakes, so I don't know if they are for beginners or not. If you're so inclined to buy a rat snake and Russian ones aren't available, maybe you could get a red rat snake (a.k.a. corn snake).
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Old 12-03-18, 01:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

I donít have any personal experience with Elaphe schrenkii, but I know several keepers who do keep and breed them.

I am not familiar with sizes in Gallons, I found a reference terrarium 5 Gallon which is 19 x 10 x 12 in, is this similar to the size you would choose for your future snake? If it is, this would be a good size for a young snake, for an adult I would suggest an enclosure of at least 5 x 2 x 2 ft (since Russian Rat snakes are active, the bigger the better, especially offering more height gives them room for additional climbing).

This snake doesnít need any special settings for humidity, so any substrate might work. Personally I donít like aspen, I would use a sand/soil mix or fir bark (a product called ďReptiBarkĒ here in Europe), for the young snake as well as for the adult. If your current terrarium is top opening, make sure the lid is tight, especially young snakes can squeeze through the smallest gaps, so make sure there are none.

Provide the terrarium with ambient light for the complete length of the enclosure, either fluorescent or LED with light temperature of 6500 k, Elaphe schrenkii have good eyesight and are diurnal snakes, so they should be provided with light close to daylight. For heating I would provide an additional light. For the small terrarium a 35 W halogen spot light, placed above the lid of the terrarium and to one side (either more to the right or the left side, not exactly in the middle). This light will provide a hot spot for basking with temperatures reaching 90 F directly below it and by placing it to a side you will get a temperature gradient to the other side of the terrarium where the temperature will be room temperature. In this setup you will not need a thermostat, a halogen light with this wattage doesnít get hot enough to increase the temperature of the whole enclosure, just providing a basking spot.

For the larger enclosure I would use the same setup, ambient light over the full length and a metal halide spot light (which also provides some UVB light) of 50 W or 70 W over one side.

For Elaphe schrenkii you donít need additional heating, they are used to cooler temperatures. They will use the local hot spot for basking and very likely during digestion and will move to cooler places as soon as they feel warm enough. If the temperatures drop during night time this is no problem for them.

Donít worry about temperatures during winter, this snake should be (better phrased ďhas to beĒ) hibernated, some keepers will hibernate them with cool temperatures for 5 months. So if the temperatures in your room drop to 70 F or below, just shut off the lights (of course after preparing your snake) and hibernate it for 3 or 4 months.

Provide it with some hiding places like cork bark big enough for the snake to hide under it, one should be at the hot side, one in the middle and another one at the cool side. Provide additional cover like (fake) plants, leave litter etc. all over the ground and several branches for climbing.

Feeding depends on the size of the snake, for a young one baby mice or baby rats once every week, later fuzzy mice every 7 to 10 days and for adult snakes large mice, small rats, day old chicken and anything else in this size range every two weeks.

Many snakes might musk as a defensive action, so probably Elaphe schrenkii as well. However I never heard anybody complaining about the smell, so I donít think it should be as bad as the musk of the King rat snake (Elaphe carinata).

There is a close relative of the Russian rat snake, the Korean rat snake (Elaphe anomala). Care is more or less the same.
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Old 12-04-18, 10:32 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

First, I think ClockwerkBonnet has a good suggestion. Though I think Russian rat snakes are good for beginners but do also consider a corn snake. On average, I don't think they are as "friendly" as my Russian, but I would have gotten a corn snake as my first snake if it weren't illegal in my state. (Instead I ended up with my Brooks kingsnake.) Corn snakes are much more readily available and cheaper. They have a seemingly infinite number of color morphs available. All that said, I like my Russian a lot more than the corn snakes my sister kept. Even though I throughly enjoyed her snakes.

The following is based on my 2 years of experience as the owner of 2 snakes. (Meaning not a lot of experience.) Got my Russian rat snake just under a year ago. He is right around a year old now.

> For the enclosure, what do you recommend? I can put it in a 5 gallon as a baby but what kind of dimensions, ...

My Russian is very active all day long. He needs a lot more space than my less active kingsnake. I have two Zilla Critter Cages, 5 gallon and 15 gallon. You could get by with a 5 gallon for a hatchling but only very briefly & it wouldn't be ideal. Something equivalent to a 15-20 gallon tank is fine for a baby. A 40-50 gallon minimum would then work for an adolescent. Right now my Russian is in a 2'x2'x2' cube. He'll outgrow that soon. His adult cage will be a minimum 4'Lx2'Dx3'H but better would be 4'Lx2'Dx4'H. Had read these are semi-arboreal snakes and my guy definitely meets that description.

> ...substrate, ...

Am using aspen. It is very dry & I realize that can be a problem with some species but both my snakes have no shedding issue.

> ...lid, ...

The Critter Cages are glass tanks with sliding screen lids. We have two active & quite pesky cats. Fearing we'd sometimes find the cats on top of the cage (which did happen initially) I added a second, more heavy duty screen lid. It definitely did help keep the cats out, but it also ensured the sliding lid was completely closed. The send lid wouldn't fit on it if the sliding lid wasn't shut tight. The current cage is plastic with a hinged, glass, front door.

> ...humidity, ...

Our area is moderately humid. Depending on season, current weather & indoor climate control, the cage humidity ranges from 20%-90%. Shedding has never been an issue.

> ...feeding, ...

F/T mice of appropriate size. Initially he got a pinky twice a week, then 2 pinkies once & 1 pinky once, then 2 pinkies twice. When he moved up to fuzzies the process repeated. He's just moved to hoppers, one every 4-5 days. It's not an exact schedule. When I'm on vacation he can go 7-10 days without a meal. (I have a critter sitter who comes in daily for the other animals, but she'd scared of snakes. She just checks to make sure they have clean water. If they didn't I'd have to call a friend or relative to come change the water. So far, not necessary.)

> ...hides, ...

My guy has 3 hides, warm side, cool side, and humid hide in the middle.

> ...climbing...

YES! Lots of climbing, the more opportunities provided, the better. Mine has fake trees, natural wood branches, pvc pipe perches with vines wrapped around & connecting them. He uses all of those & propably would like even more.

> ...heating (types and locations) ...

The hot spot is 78-80F and the cool area is 68-74F depending on season & corresponding room temps. He seems to prefer temps in the low to mid 70's, but spends some time in the hot spot each day. In the 15 gallon tank, I used a 8w UTH on a thermostat and dimmer. The dimmer was for two reasons. It kept the heat mat from getting too hot and served as a failsafe in case of a thermostat failure. Our room temps in the Winter are between 66-68F. During that time I added a 25w CHE on a separate thermostat. Both UTH & CHE were used on the same side of the cage. In the 2'x2'x2' cube, I use a RHP on a proportional thermostat.

For lighting in the 15 gallon, I used a 13w tropical/forest UV, compact flourescent bulb in a mini dome set on top of the screen lid. In the 2' cube, I use an 18" D3 tropical/forest UV T8 bulb in a fixture attached to the front edge of the top. (It's a plastic cage with a solid top so fixture is inside cage.) The flourescent lights add some heat which became an issue this Summer in the cube cage. In a larger cage it probably wouldn't have been a problem. Because of the Russian and my gargoyle gecko, I finally decided to add a room a/c unit to the reptile room. It was cheaper than turning down the central a/c and cooling the entire house to Russian/gargoyle temps.

> Also is the musk an issue?

It did happen several times with my kingsnake but thankfully not much and not the super smelly stuff I'd read about. My Russian has never musked, even as a baby. He's also never bitten, struck, hissed or even rattled his tail. The kingsnake spent most of his childhood burrowed into the aspen or one of his hides. Though in the glass tanks, a couple of his tunnels included "spy holes" against the walls. I'd sometimes see his little face peeping out at me. It was utterly adorable! Even as an adult, 1/2 his time is spent hiding out. By contrast, the Russian has always spent most of his time out & about. He'd use his warm hide for 12 hours or so after a meal and then he'd be back out. He seems to sleep at night on the floor of his cage, basically out in the open. If you turn the lights on during the night he'll usually wake up and slither to the front of the cage as if to say, "Hey, what's up? Whatcha want?" If baby Russian rat snakes do this in the wild, it's a wonder any survive to adulthood.

In short, I love, LOVE, LOVE my Russian rat snake. He's exactly the king of snake I wanted.
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Old 12-04-18, 11:05 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

Roman wrote:
Quote:
for an adult I would suggest an enclosure of at least 5 x 2 x 2 ft (since Russian Rat snakes are active, the bigger the better, especially offering more height gives them room for additional climbing).
Just wanted to emphasize this part. If I had the room I'd go with 5-6 ft wide. I would not go any shorter than 2 feet for an adolescent or adult.

Roman also mentioned hibernating. While I'm not disagreeing with him, I've not done that with my Russian. He was active, busy and eating heartily last Winter. This Winter, I'm going to try feeding less and lowering his thermostat. I realize he comes from a colder climate than Georgia provides, but since I'm not going to breed him I'm not sure there's much to gain from hibernation. However, if he slows down on his own then I'd be willing to give it a shot for maybe Jan-Feb. Both my snakes are on a shorter light cycle for Winter. Just doing that to sort of mimic our own light cycle. It's not something I chose based on any real research or experience. It may or may not be a good idea, so I'm not advising anyone to do this, also.
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Old 12-04-18, 04:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

Russians are active, and would really appreciate a larger enclosure than other similar-size rat snake species when fully grown. A suitabe size sterilite tub with a locking lid would be a good start for a juvie of any species, I wouldn't keep any vertebrate in a 5 gallon tank. An ultratherm heat mat and a t-stat to regulate the temp on the warm end aren't expensive items.
A somewhat smaller species that I've found to be great for handling is Elaphe climacophora, aka Japanese rat snake. Great dispositions when they were babies, and now as adults they'll come right up out of their tubs to be handled, even though I rarely do so.
Regarding handling in general, IME boas and pythons tend to be more, satisfying (?) than colubrids in general, but that's a matter of personal perception or opinion.
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Old Yesterday, 12:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

I have some Russian and one Korean ratsnake. They do very well in the 70s with a small basking area of heat tape in case they decide they want to be warmer, even that I only have set on the low 80s. While you could keep an adult in large tote, they are a pretty cool species that are neat to look at so once they get some size on them, I would imagine you will enjoy them more in a terrarium where you can see them out and about. Mine seem perfectly fine in a 40ish" long tote for now, but I am keeping them to breed more so than to watch.
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Old Today, 11:03 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Russian Rat Snake Help

My Russian rat snake shed last night. It was perfect. He just slid right out of it, all in one piece. It appeared effortless. Was a little surprised as we've been running the furnace and that usually dries things out a lot. Don't usually have a hygrometer in his cage, but out of curiosity I put a probe in there by the spot he had been hanging out, waiting to shed. The humidity was only 20%. Clearly he can have a good shed in dry conditions.
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