Enclosure sizes racks versus?

There is something I have been wondering about for a long time so here goes. As a pet owner and when doing research on care for a specific snake I am thinking of buying, I make note of the enclosure size needed and I usually read that bigger is better. From what I understand, the snake needs to be able to stretch out at least in an L shape to stay healthy and to avoid respiratory issues, etc.

I have seen a variety of breeding videos and rack systems in general and it seems as though in some instances, the larger breeding snakes do not have the room suggested in various care sheets.

I am not criticizing breeding rack systems in any way. I am just trying to understand the facts on minimum enclosure sizes for a healthy snake. Not that I want to know to skimp on any of my snake enclosures. I’m just curious because it seems a little confusing to me.


I fully agree that many breeders do not give their breeding animals adequate space, I used to think racks weren’t ethical but only because most of the people I was watching who used racks were not doing the right.

I use racks for all of my permanent breeders, adult females get 70qt. tubs which are nearly long enough for them to stretch their full length.
I start babies out in 6qt. but then they’re upgraded to 21qt. and so on.

How minimum is an important thing to consider, some breeders don’t give hides, some do, some do paper substrate, some coco, some fake plants, some don’t.

I personally use paper towels as bedding, I feel it’s more sanitary, they all get a hide on the warm side and fake plants to move through.

People do often go far too minimal, tiny tub that ‘is the hide’ and a teeny water bowl, I think the snake should be able to at least partially curl up in their water if they want too.

Anyways, my thoughts.


@caron You are right to say some breeders don’t give their snakes ample room. They want to maximize space for more snakes, no doubt! There are some good reasons for smaller enclosures though.

  1. I am just going to say it, in my experience ball pythons do way better in rack systems. Not just because of the ease of temperature and humidity control, but they are secretive, ambush type snakes. Smaller, darker cages like bins really seem to give them a more secure, less stressful environment.
  2. I have a few bps right now in smaller bin sizes then I want them in, not because I want to maximize space or am uncaring. It’s actually the opposite. I moved some around 3 year olds into bigger 41q bin sizes and a couple refused to eat and seemed stressed(even with multiple hides) so I moved the couple back to the smaller size (32q)and they started eating again and not constantly cruising around. Definitely they feel less exposed and more secure, I will of course try the bigger size again with them later on though.
  3. Unhealthy behavior- one of my female retics will push, which can cause very real damage in their sensitive facial scales/mouth when I move her to a larger enclosure. So she is in a smaller enclosure then I would ideally want her in for the time being because she won’t push in it at all. Totally for her health and well being!

These are some legit reasons why some snakes (which are all individually different in behavior) NEED smaller more secure enclosures.


Yes thank you for those thoughts! It sounds like you take the extra steps for your snakes/racks. I do so agree that a hide and an appropriate sized water bowl should be must haves. Bedding is debatable, especially where impaction is concerned. Again, not trying to criticize breeders at all. I just know if I have questions I will get honest answers here…… :wink:


I personally feel that most standard ball python racks do not provide enough space for an adult ball python and have been moving away from racks for a while now. I’ve tried both and found they take advantage of enrichment that you provide, whether it be branches, lighting etc, plus there’s the fun of being able to watch them. They’re still in hides most of the day, but in the evenings and mornings will occasionally explore, hang out on branches, beg for food, etc. Mine all still eat great, arguably better than they did in the rack, and it’s much easier to notice things like who’s starting to show interest in breeding, going into shed, whether a storm is coming, etc based on changes in their behavior. I’m still a bit in a transitional phase now as I’m planning on moving within the next year or so, but once I’m settled somewhere everyone is going to be in large, more enriched enclosures from here on out (with exceptions of young hatchlings and quarantine).


Totally agree about the BPs. My guys are thriving with their smaller tubs and black plastic hides. They eat consistently and stay pretty much secluded.

And yes I suppose there are plenty of exceptions like pushy retics, etc. to warrant smaller than the normal enclosures. So with what I have observed in the past, there is also a right way and also a this is not a perfect world way.

Thank you so much for your input! :blush::wink:!


As I was telling @banereptiles, my 2 BPs are snug in their tubs and thriving but after reading the past lengthy debate on whether BPs climb and hang around in trees or hunker down in burrows, I am thinking that when my girl outgrows her tub I might put her in a tub that has some climbing room. She is out at night on top of her hides so she might be a good candidate to experiment with. I just don’t want to ruin her eating habits.

I think my vet told me once that if snakes cannot stretch out occasionally there is a greater chance of respiratory issues, but I could be mistaken.

Anyway thank your thoughts! :blush::wink:


Good night everyone!


There are some XL rack systems out there, so racks themselves are not the issue. They do a fantastic job with smaller animals and for those with huge collections.

With that said, I dont feel like they should be the “go to” that is pushed on the hobbiest/enthusiasts/newcomer … but then again, its hard to stay in that hobbiest/enthusiasts lane with these.

I moved all my balls from racks to 4ft/5ft enclosures earlier in the year. It felt pointless spending so much money keeping all these beautiful animals that I only get to spend brief moments with them here and there.

While the set-up cost was ~10x the cost of a rack system, it was 100% the best decision I have made. I was close to selling them off and completely diving into gargs simply to be able to have beautiful enclosures.

I made the change selfishly for me, not the animals, but with that comes my increased enthusiasm and want to interact with them again.

Being able to eat Cheerios while I’m watching exotic animals at my dinner table is why I’m here!


I can agree with this. I’ve got a male who refused to eat for almost a year. Tried many different things, and ended up having to stick him in a 12 qt tub before he would eat. He loves it that way for some reason. He’s a mouser, basically always has been. But refused to eat if he’s in any size bigger tub


I’m not big on racks myself, mainly because I see a lot of people using incorrectly sized setups or just totally lacking in giving the animals any form of enrichment. That said, many of my animals are in enclosures that are smaller than preferred. To deal with this aspect, I make sure they can use as much space in their enclosures as possible.

Using corns as an example, a 4x2x2 is great, but if they can’t use the majority of the space because there’s no climbing opportunities, it’s not much different than keeping them in a smaller enclosure. It’s all about how you use the space the animal is in and maximize their ability to express more natural behaviours. Tailoring the environment to the species you work with to make them feel as “at home” in captivity as is possible.

Fossorial species are exceptionally suited for racks, for example, because they’re not exactly “display” animals due to their ground-dwelling tendencies. I know my hognoses would actually probably prefer life in a rack system, as they get fussy about eating without enough cover and burrowing ability.


Yes I have discovered that in my experience my BPs want close quarters and humidity. Besides that they are consistent eaters and that makes me happy!


I agree on the hognose rack systems. My little Hoagie pretty much stays hidden except for mealtimes! He would be a great candidate for a rack system!


some people let their dog on the couch, I wouldn’t do that or judge you for letting it happen.

I used to keep my Balls in 40G glass breeders… After problems here & there with all of them…I put them all in tubs. I used to be dead set against doing this…but all my Balls & my Solomon island ground boas & my rainbow boas are thriving in them. Now …the tubs Im using are about 60G equivalents…so their tubs are actually bigger than 40 breeders. I like the tubs… you can zip tie all kinds of fun plants into the backs & sides of them. I Breed Keyan sand boas…& trial & error…I keep all my babies in small critter keepers till they are established. They eat in the smaller cages everytime. However my Breeders are in 20gallon longs.


With the tubs…Ive found it much easier to keep my temps & humidity consistent. To be exact my Balls are in tubs that are 43"L 22"w 17" tall. They all have 2 hides…lots of cork & plants & branches. Not one problem with any of them since I did this. & actually I have a rescue spider ball with a bad wobble. & she is much better not in the glass… I think it is because they are opaque not clear.


This is a false equivalency, as a dog can get on and off the couch at will. Considering the scope of discussion on this topic, it’s more akin to keeping a Great Dane in a crate sized for a Border Collie, or keeping a working dog in an apartment without enrichment. These kinds of situations are up for judgement because they reflect on the hobby as a whole. I don’t think anyone is saying racks are outright bad, just that there are some folks who use them improperly and give them a bad rep.


Thank you noodle! Well said and my thoughts as well. :blush::wink::frog::lizard::snake:


Yes I thoroughly agree with the use of tubs with some snakes, especially BPs. I have all of my guys in tubs for all the reasons you suggested.

Thank you! :blush::wink::frog::lizard::snake:


As I mentioned in my original post, I am not judging in any way, shape or form. I brought up this topic because I truly question if bigger is always better. Mostly I wonder about snakes getting respiratory infections if they can’t stretch out to a certain extent in their enclosures. And actually I have yet to hear anything about that, although I have gotten some really good responses.

When I worked at a pet store for a few months a couple of years ago I saw people buy huge tanks with bright lights and all the whistles bells and bobbles for a teeny little baby critter. As for me, my method of reptile keeping is way far more simple and not flashy at all. I am all about keeping the way that’s best for the animal. As a matter of fact, I think I may have gotten the idea for tub enclosures from watching the breeder videos in the first place! Lol!

Again no judging. And btw my furr baby rules the house, furniture bed and all! So I would like to get your input on this……

Thank you! :blush::wink::frog::lizard::snake: