Arboreal snakes: Definition guide and basic care

The article will help you know about arboreal snake and how do you care for it.

There are numerous species of snakes around the world. Their classifications are based on numerous factors including their way of killing prey and where they spend most of their time.

There are snakes that crawl on the ground and spend most of their time doing so.

In addition, there are those snakes that live up in the trees for most of their lives. Understanding this requires us to focus on knowing what arboreal snakes are.

Green Tree Python
Green tree python is arboreal snakes

What are Arboreal Snakes?

In the last article, we talked about harmless snakes, which is quite suited for new beginners. This topic will share with you what is an arboreal snake and answer the question: does it suit for reptile beginners?

Imagine the time you walked down a park or a forest while on vacation. The hope was to see some animals within the jungle.

You look for all possible hiding points where animals or birds could be hiding. As you look into your binoculars to see the higher and further edges of the trees, you see a green snake with markings on the body curled around a branch.

The definition of arboreal snakes

What you have just seen is an arboreal snake. Arboreal snakes are snakes that spend the majority of their time in the trees[reference]. These snakes vary from their size and species. The focus of this article will be small arboreal snakes.

Arboreal snakes include both venomous and non-venomous. We will focus on various characteristics of these snakes and how they can be kept as pets.

Arboreal nakes spend majority of their time in the trees

the definition of arboreal snakes

Where do you found arboreal snakes?

At times, these snakes can be found on the ground, but they mostly hang low on the trees as they search for prey. Their prey mostly consists of birds, tree mice, rats, bats, and in some cases, lizards. Some of the arboreal snakes are opportunistic feeders.

Arboreal snakes list

List of 14 species of arboreal snakes. Some of them are rare and you will hard to get one as pet.

NameSizeRangeFood
Green Tree Python4ft – 6ftNew Guinea, Indonesia, Australia, and surrounding islandsBirds, Mice, Rats
Amazon Tree Boa4.5ft – 7ft Amazonian South AmericaBirds, Mice
Emerald Tree Boa4ft – 8ft South American rain forestsMice, Rats, Birds, Chicks
Malagasy Tree Boa4ft – 5ftMadagascarRats, mouse, lemurs, frogs, small birds, and small mammals
Mangrove Snake5ft – 6ftThailand, Indonesia and PhilippinesFrogs, lizards, slugs, rats, small birds
Rough Green Snake1.7ft – 2.5ftNew Jersey to Kansas, Southern USA, and North East of MexicoCrickets, Waxworms, Larvae, Wild-insects
Eyelash Viper1.1ft – 3ftMexico, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, EcuadorMice
Red-Tailed Boa Constrictor6ft – 12ftNorth and Central AmericaRodents, mice, rats, birds
Spotted Python4ft – 5ftAustraliaMice, rats
Green mamba6ft – 7ft Southern Africa from TanzaniaMice, rats
Carpet Python6ft – 7ftCoastal Northeastern, AustraliaRats
Bush Viper- rare snakes1.3ft – 2.3ftNigeria, Kenya, Angola, Tanzania, Equatorial GuineaMice, frogs
Brown Tree Snake3ft – 7ftNew Guinea, Australia, Saipan and GuamLizards, amphibians, eggs, other reptiles, bats, and rodents.
Egg-Eating Snake3.3ft – 3.8ftSub-Saharan Africa, Middle EastSmall bird eggs
Vibers are arboreal snakes

What are Small Arboreal Snakes?

Small Arboreal Snakes are the arboreal snakes with a small size. As the list of arboreal snakes species above. The Bush Viper is one of the smallest arboreal snakes.

The Bush Viper is one of the smallest arboreal snakes
The Bush Viper is one of the smallest arboreal snakes

Basic Care Sheet of Arboreal Snakes

Getting your snake into its new home requires preparation. It means that not only do you need to be ready for the tasks involved, but your family needs to be kay having the new reptile pet around.

You need to ensure no one in the family is scared of snakes.

Furthermore, if you live in a rented space, ensure that the landlord allows pet snakes on the premises.

Arboreal snake: Bush vipers
Arboreal snake: Bush vipers

Additionally, understand basic issues regarding snakes. They are carnivorous and consume their prey whole.

You need to have proper food access and storage mechanisms in place.

Also, you need to think around all these items and more discussed below before deciding to purchase a pet snake.

Among the basic care items to think when dealing with arboreal snakes include:

  • Vital equipment
  • Feeding
  • Shedding
  • Handling
  • Home environment
  • Exercise
  • Regulation and licensing

Vital Equipment

Snake in general require vary of equipment in it cage. You should know things you need in a snake cage and things to avoid.

Snake enclosure/terrarium

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As it is the case with all other snakes, a pet arboreal snake also needs an enclosure. The enclosure should have space for hiding and climbing just like they would do out in nature.

However, note that unlike for other pets, such as birds, crabs, and fish, a bigger home is not the best option for a snake.

When you keep your small snake in an enclosure that is too big, it tends to become anxious.

In general terms, arboreal snakes need tall enclosures.

Therefore, when looking for a terrarium for your arboreal snake, ensure that its height exceeds the length.

Before shopping for the pet, but after confirming the kind that you would like, please also check out different terrariums that will fit its needs.

Advice from breeders and pet storekeepers, plus online research should come in handy when deciding.

Choose the best snake substrate

You also need to choose the ideal substrate material for the snake.

Ensure that it matches the natural environment where the snake lives in the wild as much as possible. The close to the wild you can make the enclosure for your pet, the healthier it will be.

Rocks, branches, vines and other accessories in the terrarium should match the snake’s needs.

Ensure that the terrarium also has a section where the snake can hide. This can be a cave made from rocks or cardboards.

Snakes need to hide and rest in a place where they feel safe. Depending on your snake, provide the appropriate ultraviolet-B (UVB) light as needed. Note that not all snakes require it and it can harm those that do not need it.

Addition for home env of arboreal snakes

Additionally ensure that there is some basking rock or branch near a basking light within the terrarium.

Snakes have special requirements regarding humidity and temperature. Assemble necessary tools including hygrometers and thermometers to measure them. Ensure that you understand the specific needs of your snake.

Add some under-tank heating measures in place. Caution should be instituted when placing the heating pad. Snakes do not need the entire floor heated, but only a specific area. Depending on individual snake species needs, ensure that proper heating is done. A heat gradient in the terrarium should be attained.

Prior to bring the snake into its cage, monitor temperature and humidity in different parts of the terrarium a few times during the daytime and nighttime too. They need to be stable and ideal for the snake. Failure to do the same will result in suffering of your favorite arboreal pet snake.

Feeding arboreal snakes

With the exception of egg-eating snakes, others survive on meat. They eat whole animals with their bones and innards intact.

Majority of arboreal snakes survive on rats, mice and birds. A few also eat other reptiles and amphibians. Large insects are also meals for some small species.

large insects can be food for Feeding arboreal snakes
Large insects

Luckily, most snakes are okay with eating dead prey.

Dead prey should be kept frozen in a separate freezer and fully thawed before presenting it to the snake.

Pet stores sell dead prey for snakes.

You can also get these food items from breeders who keep mice for snake food.

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Arboreal snake food amount

It is also advisable to separate where you keep the snake’s food from other food items from your family.

The number and size if the meal will depend on the snake’s needs.

Some will only eat a single mouse while others consume more than one. If new to snake feeding, begin with prey that is same size as the mid-section of your pet.

In case the snake seems reluctant when presented with dead prey, wiggle the meal slightly. You also need to have some sort of cover in the terrarium to increase privacy. If not comfortable and settled, a snake will most likely eat only if there is ample privacy in the cage.

Leave the meal in place and let the snake eat in peace.


In case these tricks do not work on your snake, try to feed it live prey.

However, in that case, you need to watch as the snake “hunts” and eats the meal.

This is mainly because it is highly dangerous to leave it with another live animal in the cage without supervision. A scared prey could injure your snake using its teeth and claws.

Finally, you have to provide clean water for your snake at all times. At minimum the water bowl needs cleaning twice a week or anytime the water gets dirty.

Shedding of arboreal snakes

Every snake sheds its skin often, in some cases, it happens monthly or so.

Grooming during this time is critical for the process to happen.

When the temperature and humidity are right, and the shedding process goes on well, the snake will do everything on its own.

When the process starts, it can take up to a week to complete.

In case some problems arise during the process, it is vital for you to come in and assist.

One main problem that causes difficulty shedding is dry air. As such, one of the first things to do is raising the humidity in the enclosure. At the same time, add some damp paper towels in a box as well as some additional soft substrate.

Ensure the cage has ample items for the snake to rub on. You can add soft stones and branches. These items aid in the scratching of the snake’s body. Note that if these approaches do not work and your snake still suffers from the difficult shedding, you need to make a visit to a vet.

Handling arboreal snakes

Over time, most pet snakes get used to being handled. However, even for arboreal snakes, do not try to handle the snake with your hands until it has taken at least four meals. This period can be about a month after it arrived as most small snakes only need one meal per week. When ready to handle the snake, start with the slow touching of the middle third of its body.

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Note that your vet may instruct for some other forms of handling including when cleaning the head or tail as necessary. When you start, watch out for your snake’s demeanor to ensure it is not agitated. Once a relationship has been established and the snake gets used to handling, do not go for a week without handling.

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Home Environment for arboreal snakes

Ensure that the home environment where your snake has its cage is calm. It needs to enable the snake to relax and digest its meal without distractions.

There is a need to always tend well to the snake no matter the level environment. Getting a snake home means you need to be prepared to ensure its comfort. 

In case you live in a noisy area, some level of noise cancelling is vital to prevent startling the snake.

A startled snake is normally agitated and uncomfortable, which also increases its agitation and may bite or attack when you try to handle it. Also avoid unnecessary handling as the snakes need rest. The same applies for your other family members.

Exercises

All pets require exercises but snakes only do so to a lesser extent. You need to provide your snake with ample space to move around the cage.

There should be good climbing equipment including branches for the snake. Arboreal snakes will do a lot of climbing, which is the necessary exercise that the snake needs. 

In case the specific snake species also does well in water including swimming ensure there is a wading pool available.

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The water should be kept clean at all times. These forms of exercise are what is required for snakes. Do not put your arboreal snake and take it for a crawl 

Regulation and Licensing

Depending on where you live, there may be necessary licenses or regulations on some snake species.

Regulation and Licensing are required for some arboreal snakes

In the case of United States, each of the states has its regulations on reptile keeping as pets.

These regulations are important t understand as some species may be illegal to keep. Furthermore, you may be moving from a state where it is legal to keep the snake, but illegal in your new state.

Therefore, ensure that you have clear understanding of the pet species and regulations around it.

You also need to be concerned about the origin of the pet. Illegal pet snake trade could result in your snake coming from one of the areas where it is illegal to export snakes.

What are the Best Arboreal Snakes for a Beginner?

Arboreal snakes are not ideal for beginners in general. From research conducted, there is only one snake ideal for a beginner, which is the spotted python.

All the other snakes are ideal for intermediate and advanced keepers. Someone needs some understanding of keeping pet snakes before they can start keeping arboreal snakes.

Spotted Python

You need to know that spotted pythons are not dangerous, which also makes them ideal for beginners.

Spotted Python
Spotted Python

These snakes can live in captivity for more than 20 years. They

The snake is among the smallest pythons and they have bold patterns with a dark body, as well as, lateral splotches. It is a nocturnal species that also thrive in the shrubs and woodlands.

In general, spotted pythons do well with regular handling making them appropriate for beginners.

This snake needs a clean enclosure that is also well ventilated. You should provide them with platforms and branches for them to climb since they are arboreal.

You should also provide your pet with a hide box in the cage. The captive snakes need fresh drinking water. Place the water in bowls that are made of nonporous materials.

Bonus: are black snakes arboreal snakes?

Black snakes, in general, they are non-venomous. Which is means black snakes are not poisonous. This is a semi-arboreal snake, which is they can climb to the three or your wall. Check out our article about semi-arboreal snakes to read more about it.

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