Garter Snake Enclosure Help

Hey guys,

I’m preparing to get my first snakes in the next few days, and I decided on a pair of garters (instead of hognoses) as they’re generally less fussy about food and are very active and make use of their whole enclosure.

I bought a 30x15 breeding box to start them off in since they’re very small but I’m encountering some (potential) issues with humidity?

My atmospheric humidity is 81% according to my weather app.

The store clerk was really pushing me to get a bark chip substrate that was marketed for humid species, even though I’d read that they’re a dryer species, needing 50-60%. Lo and behold, the humidity in the tank was 80-100% yesterday when I set it up (no snakes in there yet, wanted to get a handle on parameters first)

So today I hooked up the heat mat, which I got since the enclosure is so small, and noticed condensation in the tank. I took out the substrate layer and replaced it with paper towels to see if that helped and I did manage to get the humidity down to 59% that way but that was without the water dish.

When I added the water dish today the humidity has jumped right back up to 67% even though the water is on the cool end of the tank.

At this moment I cannot confirm what the temperatures are at each end of the tank, waiting on a laser thermometer for that which will be arriving tomorrow.

Any advice?

There is a hide under the leaves btw.

I took the lid off to take the photo and the humidity has jumped back down to 62%

So, first, when making me enclosure for my boa, I added magnolia leaves that I sanitized, and my humidity was out of control 90 - 100% so that could be one issue. And by removing the leaves the humidity did drop about 20%. Second, water bowl can be smaller.

And before changing anything what are you using for measuring humidity?

Get a 10 gallon tank with a screen lid and set up a low wattage basking light. Put 2 hides on either end, and keep them on paper towels for the first couple months to monitor them. Garters are very active and bask a lot, and the light will help keep humidity down. Make sure to keep the water away from the light as well. Garters can also benefit from UVB lights since they are in the sun a lot in the wild.


I have a combi thermometer/hygrometer which is suctioned to the wall of the tank.

Do you have a thermostat regulating the heat mat?

Bummer, was hoping to make do with what I have but I’m guessing it won’t be possible?

I can use the breeding box for something else down the line though, or just as a place to put babies while I clean I guess?

You can definitely use it to keep them in while you clean, but a basking setup is best for them and will help keep humidity down. The smallest you can do that in is a 10 gallon tank.

Not currently, it’s arriving tomorrow. The store clerk was being weird about me buying one tbh. Said I wouldn’t need one even though I knew I would.

Not a big chain pet store either, it was a specialist aquatics and reptile store so I’m kind of disappointed, he was pushing the smaller enclosures too.

I’ll look into 10 gallon tanks now

How long would a 10 gallon be appropriately sized for them? (Roughly)

It depends on how big they are now and how quickly they grow. Once they get around 50-60 grams (roughly 15-17 inches long) I would upgrade them. Either to a 20 gallon long, or a 29 gallon so they can be set for a while and be able to climb.

They’re very small right now, they were first advertised at the beginning of May so they’re not quite newborns, but they’re dinky.

I’m really struggling to find glass tanks in a size equivalent to 10 gallon (I’m in the UK) ZooMed and Zilla are a bit harder to come by here and most of the Exo Terras I see are the front opening kind, which the babies might be able to get out of? According to what I’ve heard anyway

Would something like this be okay? I know I’d have to alter the lid somehow but do the dimensions seem okay?

Yes, that size of tank will work. You will need a completely different lid however. It needs to be a metal screen lid so you can put a dome light on it.

Cool, that’s doable. Thanks for your help, I’ll continue looking into metal mesh tomorrow (it’s 11pm now and I haven’t had dinner yet)

Sorry for more questions but I’m struggling to wrap my head around the basking light situation.

I’ve seen some care guides that don’t mention them being hooked up to a dimmable thermostat but others do. Some guides also mention providing under tank heating for the night.

If anyone can provide insight it would be much appreciated.

My anxiety is really playing up since I’ve already made some pricey mistakes :frowning: of course, I’m thankful I reached out for help before I got my babies and started having problems but yeah.

Here is a good video on setting them up in a 10 gallon and what you will need.

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Man thats funny. I love Snake Discovery and I’ve watched that video about 5 times in the last few days trying to absorb everything. I was trying to find the specific lamp they talked about but it’s hard to find here XD

They were the main example I was talking about not having a thermo/rheostat attached to the basking bulb.

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There’s someone locally selling a 4ft tank, it’s quite inexpensive.

If I filled it with enough decorations and hides etc would that be okay for them or would the space stress them out? Could I use something to divide the tank and just use part of it until they’re bigger?

Edit: there’s someone locally selling a more appropriate sized tank secondhand, messaged them and made arrangements to pick up! Things are moving thanks to all your help <3