If you take a close look at a North American hognose snake, you will notice that it has round pupils rather than the typical slitted pupils most people expect from snakes. No, this doesn’t mean that they are nonvenomous. Round pupils actually indicate that hognose snakes are diurnal, meaning that they are awake during the day.
Because hognose snakes are diurnal, providing a source of light in the enclosure during the day is good for their mental health. For best results, use a timer to automatically turn them on and off. Standard practice is to create a day/night cycle of 12 hours on, 12 off.
If you would like to stimulate more natural behaviors, however, you can program your timer to mimic seasonal daylight as occurs in North America:
- Spring — 14 hours on, 10 hours off
- Summer — 16 hours on, 8 hours off
- Autumn — 10 hours on, 14 hours off
- Winter — 8 hour on, 16 hours off
Do not place the enclosure directly in front of a window! The natural light may be tempting as a way to save electricity, but sunlight is well known to overheat reptile enclosures.
Do hognose snakes need UVB?
Because hognose snakes won’t die without UVB lighting, many say that it is not necessary for keeping them as pets. However, UVB is highly beneficial, as snakes can and do synthesize vitamin D3 from exposure to UVB wavelengths. Studies are finding that there are also other benefits which improve the snake’s overall wellbeing. Many keepers have observed more activity and overall better health in their snakes after adding UV lighting.
For these reasons ReptiFiles recommends providing UVB as part of your hognose snake’s setup. For more information, read my article, What is UVB, and Why is it Important to Reptile Husbandry?
How to set up UVB for hognose snakes:
As a fossorial species, hognose snakes are classified under Ferguson Zone 2, which means they should receive a maximum UVI of 2.0-3.0. The UVB should be roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of the terrarium’s length. So if your enclosure is 36″ long, then you will need an 18-24″ long bulb.
The strength of UVB that a reptile is exposed to depends on its distance from the bulb, so it’s very important to take distance into consideration when you’re installing the basking area. Specifically, you need to pay attention to the distance between the UVB bulb and the snake’s back when it’s on the basking surface:
Lamp mounted above mesh (recommended for safety):
Without mesh obstruction:
The above distance recommendations assume a ~35% mesh block. It is strongly recommended to use a Solarmeter 6.5 to determine the best placement whenever possible. For more details on adjusting basking distance based on mesh obstruction, see the Facebook group Reptile Lighting > Guides > Guide 1: Using T5-HO lamps above a Mesh Screen.
Your UVB will need to be changed every 12 months to remain effective, even if it still seems to be working.
Snakes are cold-blooded, which means that they don’t produce their own body heat like humans do. Instead, they rely on the temperature of their environment for the heat they need to move, digest, etc.
There is no one “ideal” hognose temperature. Instead, they need a range of temperatures inside the enclosure so that they can warm up and cool down when they feel like it.
Eastern and Southern hognoses —
- Basking zone: 86-88°F (30-31°C)
- Mid-range: 75-85°F (24-29°C)
- Nighttime temps: no colder than 60°F (16°C)
Western hognoses —
- Basking zone: 90-95°F (32-35°C)
- Mid-range: 75-85°F (24-29°C)
- Nighttime temps: no colder than 60°F (16°C)
Measure and keep track of the temperatures in your snake’s enclosure with a pair of digital probe thermometers: one probe on the basking spot, and another on the cool end of the setup.
Heating your hognose snake enclosure
Conventional wisdom for achieving the right hognose temperature is to use a heat mat, and some people will argue in favor of heat mats until the day they die. But nature doesn’t have heat mats, and temperatures underground tend to be *cooler* than temperatures on the surface, not warmer. Heat mats also have trouble penetrating the thick layer of bedding required for hognoses and often don’t affect air temperature.
Instead of using a heat mat, use a heat lamp like the Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome fixture to create the temperatures that your snake needs. To best create a temperature gradient, place it on the far end of the enclosure — temperatures will naturally get cooler farther from the heat source. Many reptile keepers use halogen floodlight bulbs instead of reptile-specific bulbs because they tend to last much longer than the ones you get at the pet store. Go figure!
- PRO TIP: If your heat bulb is installed inside of the enclosure rather than behind a screen lid, install a mesh guard to create a barrier between your snake and the super-hot heat bulb. Hognose snakes may be fossorial, but they still like to climb!
What wattage of heat bulb will you need?
I wish I could give you a direct answer, but it depends on the size of your enclosure and how far away the light is installed from the basking surface. Generally speaking, a pair of 50w halogen flood bulbs like the Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp is a good place to start. Using two bulbs rather than one create a larger basking area with more even heating for your snake to warm up more efficiently. But be aware that you may need to increase or decrease the wattage in order to get the right temps.
Hognose snakes have also been observed basking on rocks in the wild, so placing a flat stone underneath the heat source will help them warm up more efficiently.
Hognose snakes don’t need any kind of “night bulb” to keep them warm at night. These products were developed back in the day when we believed that reptiles needed to stay warm when their normal heat lamps were turned off. Providing a nighttime heat bulb can prevent a diurnal reptile from sleeping well, weakening their health.
DO NOT USE HEAT ROCKS!
Heat rocks (also known as hot rocks/rock heaters/etc.) are manufactured and distributed under the same premise as an electric blanket — convenient heat whenever your reptile needs it. Sounds like a great idea, right? However, heat rocks are notoriously unreliable, and many a reptile has lost its life due to severe burns caused by these devices. They’re also not a good choice for heating your enclosure, as it only warms the rock’s surface, not the surrounding air.
For best health, hognose snakes should be cooled and allowed to brumate for 2-3 months each winter. For information on brumation and how to do it, visit this page.
Western hognoses need relatively dry conditions — 30-50% is a comfortable range. This may not require any additional work on your part to maintain appropriate humidity levels for this species. However, if you live in a dry climate, you may need to pour water into the (cool side) substrate occasionally to increase ambient and soil humidity levels.
Eastern and Southern hognoses prefer slightly higher humidity — 50-60%, especially when they’re about to shed. Offering a humid hide (hide stuffed with moist sphagnum moss) and mixing water directly into the bedding is a good way to help accommodate this need, but it’s also helpful to keep the substrate on the cool side of the enclosure slightly moistened.
Keeping a pressure sprayer full of water on hand is a good way to provide a quick humidity boost.
Keep reading about hognose snake care:
- Introduction to Hognose Snakes
- Hognose Shopping List
- Species of the Heterodon Genus
- Terrarium Size Guidelines
- Temperature & Humidity Requirements
- Substrate Options for Hognose Snakes
- Environmental Enrichment: Decorating the Terrarium
- Feeding Your Hognose Snake
- Handling Tips & Body Language Info
- Common Diseases & Hognose Health Questions
- Additional Resources