California King Caging?

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California King Caging?

Post by jack4rogers »

I currently have a young Cali King. He is in a 40g long tank, and is a little over a foot long. He has a hot side at 90 degrees F, cool side is room temperature (which goes up and down, but usually stays in between 74-80 F). Shredded aspen bedding, a cork hide, a log hide, a fake plant, a pretty good sized water dish in the cool side corner, and an empty turtle shell make up his current hides. Humidity can vary, but it is usually 40-55%, and I mist every couple of days. Is this adequate? I can post a picture if needed.
Also, is there any way I can make his cage look more "alive"? I am not a huge fan of how the aspen makes it look so...captive, I guess. I'd like to maybe put plants and dirt in. Is this ok? Someone on another forum recommended fresh topsoil.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: California King Caging?

Post by Kelly Mc »

That sounds nice. They are great snakes aren't they?

The aspen cant be beat for the way it holds a tunnel. The deeper it is the more actual activity the snake can have. But that doesn't mean you cant have a section of another sub or break up the surface uniformity (for the snake too - its not just decorative) with cork shards, oak leaves. I say for the snake because the leaves or dry tufts of moss give light surface cover and more surface values like flat cork bark shards ie grounded branches are often laid on I note more often then the plain aspen surface. That they look good is secondary but nice.

I have a Tupperware tub kind of shallow buried with a bed of moistened moss. moist enough to be soft with a curve of cork over it. She goes there in blue for the longest but makes short visits other times too. I find her in there.

I was just thinking this morning how my calking is the only reptile I keep in my room. Like just a little while ago.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: California King Caging?

Post by Kelly Mc »

Jack one thing that's compelling to see with the cork shards is how they are incorporated in the tunneling behavior of the snake, tight portholes at the edge; where a black and white snout will appear and disappear.

For this reason I try to locate the stool of the snake, which is often in one or two regular sites, rather then disrupt the entire encl with a wholesale bedding change.

As for plants I think you could do it but I use moist moss as vegetation inference.

Someone else might have some input on that here

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Post by craigb »


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Re: California King Caging?

Post by VICtort »

jack4rogers, you are off to a fine start, it sounds better thought out than many. You are facing conundrum we all cope with, the aesthetic vs. practical. I have seen both extremes work, see the recent post at the Austrian reptile exhibit, they have impressive but very labor intensive (I would think...) enclosures. At the other extreme are breeding drawers with just a card board shelter or paper towel, a water bowl and that is it.

I like Kelly's idea of offering a hide that is a humidity box, the snake will use it, a "tool" when it needs to shed for example. Always try to offer choices, such as light/dark, rough/smooth, dry/humid, etc. The snake knows what to do, if it has the options.

Aspen is a good choice for kings, as they do a lot of burrowing and the aspen sort of retains the burrows. It is reasonable cost (if you buy in bulk, 4.4 ft.3 bales). I think the deeper within reason the better. It gives them temperature choice, and obviously cover. Kelly is correct in you can increase the esthetic appearance by providing various bark/cork shelters. If you use rocks, I like flat slate types, or even tiles, and glue them together with silicon. Be wary of large rocks that might fall or pin them, as they burrow under it etc.

I have had poor luck with plants, but others better success. I would have a lot of plants and keep rotating them in. King snakes are accomplished burrowers, and they may uproot your plants etc. I found them too much trouble so I gave up, and I also was concerned about the dampness long term in the enclosure. This dampness may lead to skin infections etc. Remember they idea of offering a choice, the enclosure it mostly dry but the hide box Kelly mentioned offers increased and very localized humidity. Too many plants would make the environment pretty damp I think...OK for green snakes but I would not be confident it is best idea with kings.

Cal kings are wonderful animals, I have some that crept back into my life and one just laid eggs and another will soon. The hatchlings are typically easy to feed, hatch large enough to easily consume pinkies and grow fast, and it is so fun to see what colors and patterns you get. A fine choice, one of the best I think.

Using top soil and other mineral types soils is problematic because feces and liquid dissipates into it, and odor may follow. It may be difficult to find feces, but you notice an odor or gnats. It may be too damp or too dry, dusty or moldy. It is so heavy, it is inconvenient if you move the cage, and it is messy , often spilling on floor etc. when you lift out plants etc.

Zoos may have beautiful and labor intensive enclosures, and they are indeed attractive and great if you have the time for them. But if you have several snakes and a job, it may be hard to find the time to maintain them. craigb has some $ saving and time saving ideas, and I suggest you find the happy medium...there are several ways to achieve success but you must balance time and maintenance concerns with daily living.

Good luck, if you do try a planted vivarium we would love to see it and hear how it goes. It can be done, but I am too lazy...


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Re: California King Caging?

Post by ThomWild »

One recommendation I have if you decide to use live plants is to keep them potted. If you are worried about the esthetics of using potted plants you can build up the substrate and/or cage decor around the base to cover the pot portion. I have found they are much easier to keep alive and maintained in a healthy environment when they are potted.


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Re: California King Caging?

Post by SurfinHerp »

Hi Jack,

Sounds like your set-up is really good overall. Photos are always appreciated, so please add one if you can.
40 gallons is pretty large for such a small snake, but that's not necessarily a problem. It should still be adequate when the little guy matures.

I use EcoEarth (coconut husk) substrate for most of my snakes, and include a combination of fake plants and cuttings from my succulent garden for a naturalistic look. I recommend large cuttings of jade plants (Crassula), aloe, some types of Sedum, Haworthia, as well as certain types of Kalanchoes. I just cut large branches, remove the lowest leaves, rinse them off thoroughly, then stick them into the substrate. They last anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months depending on variety. Jade and aloe survive the longest, and will often grow roots into the substrate. Once most of the leaves turn yellow and drop off, I replace them with fresh cuttings.
Another way to improve the look of a glass tank is to add a scenic backdrop. I think backdrops can help animals feel more secure in their tank as well.

Here is a quick photo of my gopher snake set-up

It's pretty simple, but looks nice and is easy to maintain. I overflow the water dish occasionally in order to provide a moist spot. About once a week I remove the items from the tank and use a plastic spoon to stir up the substrate and remove feces. Stirring evens out the moisture level in the substrate and helps prevent moldy spots.

Kingsnakes and gophersnakes will frequently knock over and damage potted plants, so I gave up trying to use them long ago.

I don't recommend using topsoil for most reptile enclosures.

Hope this helps, and Good luck with your little king!


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