Why do some people think that cages are inherently better than racks?

I saw a post on another site about someone moved their BP into a cage from a rack. Nothing wrong with that, but they were talking about how they felt terrible for “abusing” their snake, and everyone replying seemed to agree? What’s up with this? Do these people really have such a poor understanding of how snakes work, or have ball pythons suddenly turned into golden retrievers and I haven’t noticed yet?

There’s also all this “every ball python needs a 4x2x2 enclosure or it will keel over and die” stuff I’m seeing. Why do people think that? People have been keeping healthy ball pythons in the equivalent of 3’ x 1.5’ enclosures (FB70 sized tubs) for decades, but all of a sudden people don’t think that’s enough.

I keep my snakes in large semi-naturalistic cages. I do this because I think they look better than a rack, but I’m certainly not under the delusion that enclosures are significantly better for the snake’s health than an adequately sized and designed rack. However, it seems to be very common to think that they are. Why is this? Is it just because tubs give the impression of a storage space, or is it something else? Am I missing something? I’m so confused. I totally get how people are mostly just concerned with the well-being of the snake, but why have they fixated on this? It seems to me that problems with heat gradients and screen-topped cages are much bigger deals, and yet nobody is fixated on those.


Cages do allow ball pythons to climb, explore, move and provide light and more opportunities for heat gradients then they would get in a rack. I moved away from racks because I’d rather keep less snakes than force them to live in a small enclosed space without those things. There’s all kinds of cool behavior that you can see them participating in when you provide them the opportunity to do so. Mine love sky hides or those bearded dragon hammocks, and will be hanging out on a branch in the early evenings and mornings. They develop routines, and can be found in different hides depending on time of day. Mango is often drinking water when I take my dog on a walk around 6:30 AM, and Pesto comes out and sniffs the air whenever I’m cooking. It’s incredible to watch their behavior and routines

I absolutely think it’s preferable for people to provide their animals with space and enrichment when possible for the same reason I don’t kennel my dog. Certainly they won’t die without a large cage, but I think if you have the means to provide a nice life for an animal you care about, why wouldn’t you?


Agreed that providing a good life for your snakes is the important thing, but I don’t think that there’s that much of a difference between tubs and cages. An FB70 tub has the footprint of a 40B cage, and lots of people seem to think that the 40B is big enough while the FB70 isn’t.

I’m not sure if there’s a huge behavioral difference between snakes in cages and in racks. After all, you can see the snake moving around in an enclosure, but unless you have racks with internal lighting and windows, you can’t get a good view of the snake.

My snakes are all in 48" x 32" x 15" PVC cages. They have lots of climbing opportunities, cover, and a natural day/night cycle. They seem pretty happy, and I like watching them do their thing. I think they’d be doing about the same thing in a rack, as long as it was well designed. Multiple hides, a thermal gradient, dimensions of at least 36" x 18", and visual/physical barriers, that sort of thing. The reason why they’re not in racks is because I wouldn’t be able to see them as well.

I’m not a fan of the mass-production “breeding racks” with just a few paper towels, a water bowl, and a single hide. I don’t think that’s good for the snake at all. However, I think that a well-done rack can be just as good for the snakes as a big cage. The virtues of ease of cleaning and the small usage of space also can’t be denied.

My point isn’t that cages are worse than racks. My point is that both are good ways to keep snakes as long as the limitations of each (heat + humidity in cages, vertical space in racks) are kept in mind and adjusted for. Racks aren’t animal abuse, and neither are enclosures. Both are fine ways of keeping snakes.


There’s a huge focus on people trying to support better treatment for exotic animals that were not always understood 5/10/15 years ago. While some of them mean well, others can be a bit over the top and aggressive.

The important thing is trying to do best for your animals and maintaining a safe and clean environment.
After that, it can absolutely be up to the individual animal and their personality.

I have seen so many new owners lately who are getting enclosures that are massive for a hatchling ball python because they’re being told that that is absolutely what they need, nothing else is good enough…and then when the brand new baby is too stressed to eat, the owners are afraid of causing abuse by putting them into a rack or tub for monitoring and feeding, controlling stress or simple quarantine.

I have a couple of bps that do fine in a larger enclosure. But one of my first girls is absolutely unable to be housed in a glass or acrylic front tank. Or anything with enough open space for her to even get a bit of height on. She will go to the open area or tallest branch and anything that she sees moving, she strikes at, even her own reflection at times. She’ll refuse to eat. She just does best in a large tub with a few fake plants scattered where she can coil up in the back comfortably. Trying to maintain this girl in a large enclosure like that would definitely be far to stressful for her and lead to injury.

For me, it’s definitely a nice thing to work towards for ownership… but the animal’s personalities and well being are more important to me than the reddit ire.


Hey @monty_pituophis! This is a subject that is useless to pursue! Lol! It’s like religion and politics! It’s a no win situation. There are pros and cons for the 4 x 4 x2’s and the 20, 40, 60, 80, etc qt tubs and whatever else there is out there that people keep snakes in.

The first best thing you can do is take the very best care of your snakes as you can by keeping them healthy, clean and fed. The second best thing you can do is not worry about the opinions of everyone else. And until someone breeds a snake that can talk, we will never know just what it is that a snake wants whether it’s a small, mid sized, large or humongous in the way of housing……:thinking:


Yeah, it seems like discussions like this go nowhere most of the time. Just ranting a little after seeing people hating on rack systems for no particular reason.


I think a lot of people equate racks with those tiny ones that you described that some breeders unfortunately use, with no space for the snake to stretch, no enrichment, nothing but a water bowl and maybe some substrate if the snake is lucky. The really big tubs, decorated similarly to a tank, are fine imo, the only downside being a lack of climbing opportunities and UV/overhead heating, both of which you could have in a tank. So imo tanks are better 9/10 times, but tubs can be just fine if done correctly. It’s more a case of good care vs great care than racks being inherently bad


I agree with all points made above, especially about providing more enrichment, individual choice for the animal, etc.
One more point is visibility: I won’t be breeding snakes (and I can see why racks, especially for grow outs can be useful for large scale operations), so imo there would be no point at all in purchasing an animal if I’m going to put it in a box and hide it away.
A huge part of the hobby for me is always going to be designing and creating big enriching enclosures that allow my animals to thrive AND let me see them do so, so for myself a rack not only seems lacking in enrichment but also…kinda antithetical to the whole point I keep reptiles.
Very personal take, the other more objective takes hit the big points better.


I think tanks, racks, tubs, or PVC enclosures can all be just fine, provided they’re an appropriate size and are outfitted properly for the species in question.

Personally, I vastly prefer front-opening PVC enclosures to tubs and racks. I kept my blood python in tubs until she was big enough for her adult enclosure (sizing up as she grew), just because I’m not made of money and it seemed pointless to spend a bunch of money on a series of enclosures she’d just outgrow. The tubs were fine, they got the job done and she seemed perfectly content in them…but my goodness, it was SO nice to move her into a nice front-opening PVC enclosure where I can actually see her and watch her doing all her cute little snake things. I’m not sure that she cares one way or the other, but I very much prefer an enclosure that lets me observe my animals freely.

That said, it’s worth mentioning that I only have two snakes and will likely never have more than a few more, so I don’t need the most space-efficient setups, and I’m okay if things take a few extra minutes to clean. For someone who has dozens of animals, I can certainly understand why racks would be more practical. But for the sort of keeping I’m doing, I enjoy my snakes so much more when I can easily observe them.


Its about the height not the floor space. Ball pythons don’t stay in areas 5 inches or less their whole life in the wild that’s why people are against racks


Certainly there are terrible enclosures of all type, from stark and barren 20 gallon aqariums filled with aspen and no hides with ball pythons on craigslist, to bleak lightless rack tubs with only a paper towel and a small cup of water to weird homemade enclosures out of furniture that somehow meet none of the snake’s needs, so good (and bad) comes in all types and flavors.

I think one of my main gripes with the whole rack thing is how often they’re used as simply an opportunity to hoard as many snakes (lets be honest, usually ball pythons) as possible, as cheaply and as minimalistic as possible. If we saw someone doing the same with pretty much any other species, we’d call it like we see it - animal hoarding. But somehow when it’s ball pythons people get really defensive and start justifying it with “well this is how ball pythons are bred” and “the termite mounds”. Ok, but are they bred that way because that is genuinely, 100% the best way to raise that animal, or is it to maximize profit, minimize effort, and keep as many snakes as possible?

I would love to see ball python breeding turn a corner with less people keeping hundreds of animals in minimalist tubs, and instead what if it was more like reputable dog breeding, with lots of small breeders who each kept a manageable number of animals they provided optimal care for? It would help with the overpopulation problem, and we could find some middle ground between “every single animal needs a 4x2x2 or it’s abuse” and “I’m going to keep 600 animals in shoeboxes in my basement”


Agreed. I will point out that if you’re going to house more than 5 or so snakes, the price of the PVC enclosures needed will start to get very high. For instance, the smallest cage made by AP Cages appropriate for BPs (the T3, 36x24x12) costs about 225$ each with accessories. By contrast, an FB80 rack system holding tubs of about the same size will run you 135$ per tub. It gets even harder when you’re housing babies. It isn’t always cost effective to use cages. I don’t think there’s many breeders of smaller snake species with systems designed around PVC cages.

I would like to see someone develop an affordable line of PVC cages which can stack in a small space. Maybe 36" back, 20" wide, and 8" tall. About 175$ for something like that seems reasonable. More expensive than racks, yes, but cheaper than full-blown PVC enclosures.

I mainly think that racks are good for relatively inactive species like hognoses and BPs, as well as babies and fossorial species. It makes me die inside a little to see adult boas and larger species like retics jammed in racks. Not only are they too big, but they will make better use of space given to them. Even adult boas are semi-arboreal, it’s really sad to see them in spaces less than about 1’ high. Yes, BPs do climb in the wild, but they don’t spend extended periods of time up there. They hunt and sleep on the ground. I can imagine happy BPs in racks, and I often see them that way. More active species just look shut away. Of course, there’s little choice but to house babies of almost any species in racks. Nobody builds tiny little front-opening cages.


Hmmmmmm That’s interesting @tattedup1 So does that mean that Ball Pythons are categorized as “Arboreal” and not “Terrestrial”?

Granted 5 inches is minimal but all of the “fact/care” sheets I have ever read indicate that Ball Plthons are terrestrial. Reptile Magazine is one that comes to mind.

If you have any information on this could you share it with me because I would like to learn as much as possible?

Thanks @tattedup1 Have a blessed evening!


My adult boas are in Boaphile 4x2x2 Boaphile enclosures from Jeff Ronne Boaphile cages and they are always in n one hide or another and I have never seen them use any overhead space at all and they are now 5 years old and this includes a 4 year old BRB…….


Arboreal means all the time in the trees. Ball pythons don’t live in a hole 24 7 in the wild so one can say uts bad to keep then. In a small tub with no height to it


It’s my understanding that ball pythons are primarily terrestrial, but will climb opportunistically. For example, apparently in the wild they’re found in trees more often in the wet season…which makes sense, as the ground tends to flood in the wet season. They’ve been known to climb to hunt birds and escape predators as well.

It’s sort of like how humans are mostly terrestrial, in that we lack specific adaptations for living in trees or in water…but we’re certainly capable of climbing and swimming (to a point) if we have a good reason to do so. That doesn’t mean we’re arboreal or aquatic creatures by nature, just that our physiology is generalized enough to allow us to temporarily exist in more arboreal or aquatic habitats when the situation calls for it.


That’s good information, @jawramik not just a comment! I think this is a great topic @monty_pituophis because I can totally understand. It seams more so on coldblood then here in the community that if you don’t have your hatchling ball python in a 4x2 you are a horrible human being. Almost as if people are pushing only pvc enclosures!! There is no reason for us as a hobby to be so judgmental!

Like @armiyana stated:

Everyone thinks there way is the right way and is always going to have different opinions on this subject.
@caron said it the best!

If your animal is thriving it doesn’t matter if they are in tubs or glass cages, or pvc enclosures, or wood cages, melamine, converted jewelry cases, a closet, whole room, ect!
This is my method for a new owner of a ball python or most snakes: I always recommend a bin, just for ease of environmental control which is imperative for the animals natural behavior such as eating, feeling secure and even breeding(if you do chose) Then when said new owner has some hands on experience and knows/understands how to properly adjust any kind of husbandry/environmental issue that comes up to go ahead and use whatever enclosure and method of keeping THEIR animals they want.
That’s the best method-FOR ME!
Your way of keeping is probably different and is also the best way-FOR YOU!
As long as the animals are thriving we are all doing great! There is NO reason to bash other people for not keeping their animals the same as you! This hobby needs to support and stick together, too many organizations are trying to kill it, and make all exotic pets gone! by legislation, negative/fictional media, destroying animals(even a boa mistaken for a python by ignorant people!) and so on….


I think there are a lot of factors. First we all tend to personify our animals. If we would be bored and unhappy it’s easy to project it like then.

I think there are a lot of videos out there with terrible racking systems. The animals are mistreated and neglected. This is what 99% of people associate with racks.

Finally, it’s just like people man. We think our choices define us. And we cling to them even when it makes no sense to do so. We then mistake these beliefs for who we are. So we get angery and lash out. It’s what people do.


I think this is my main issue with racks. There are absolutely good keepers here and everywhere using racks with lots of enrichment and space to move (ie Snake Discovery has substrate, multiple hides, and enrichment even in their breeder hognose racks).

However most of the time I see racks its a paper towel and water for space maximization for breeding (as mentioned, ESPECIALLY for ball pythons) and it just reminds me of puppy mills. Gives me the ick for the whole rack idea.

Again not saying all people use racks this way, especially on this site, or all non rack enclosures are done well/to benefit the animal. It just doesn’t feel right to me to have essentially heated dresser drawers with a snake in it. Again, not harshing anyone who has racks with good results and puts the care for their animals first.

I also think external stimulation is a fantastic idea if the animal is handleable and not stressed coming out of their enclosure to explore, and if possible people using racks should do that more often. Some time in a larger more enriching environment with natural UV, etc. I know a few of the boa breeders on here use super large racks with a simple design because their boas obliterate enrichment, but they bring the animals out for handling and outdoor exploration multiple times a week, which seems like a decent compromise considering the other aspects of those specific situations.


Most racks I’ve seen my friends use are big enough for the python to stretch completely out and move plenty. I have a ball python in a 40 breeder and he stays in his hide most of the time no matter what goes in the tank, no climbing or exploring very much at all. I think people just like to be judgemental and in this scenario as long as you’re not neglecting your animal just do you. I dont need anothers opinion to provide proof that my animals are housed correctly or are taken care of correctly. Personally I prefer PVC front opening enclosures but that’s me.