Environmental Enrichment: Decorating Your Hognose Snake Enclosure

Terrarium decorations are more than just silly accessories to waste your money and/or make your pet’s space look prettier. While they can serve an aesthetic function, they also enhance a reptile’s quality of life by mimicking their natural environment and providing mental stimulation. The best zoos do this all the time — it’s called environmental enrichment. A common misconception is that reptiles are stupid creatures that don’t need “toys” or decorations beyond their keeper’s fancy — modern reptile husbandry experts are working to disprove this. Read more in this article: Environmental Enrichment For Reptiles: What? Why? and How…?

Hognose snakes can actually be quite active when given plenty of things to explore, so don’t be afraid to go all out!

Water dish

A water dish is about as functional as décor can get. We’ll talk about this more in the Food section, but your hognose’s water dish should be large enough to accommodate at least most of the snake’s body, and heavy enough that it can’t be tipped over.

How to Decorate a Hognose Snake Enclosure

H. nasicus. Photo contributed by Kate Brown.

Hides

A hide is a cave-like structure where your snake can hide and snooze in security. While your hognose will likely be spending most of their time underground, it doesn’t hurt to also provide a couple of hides: one on the cool end and one on the warm side. If possible, providing a humid hide lined with moist sphagnum moss can make shedding easier.

Climbing branches

Hognose snakes may be fossorial, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a good climb every now and then. It’s good exercise, encouraging healthy muscle tone. It also makes the most of your enclosure’s vertical space. Don’t forget to install lid locks, though, or else you may find that you’ve given your hognose the perfect ladder.

How to Decorate a Hognose Snake Enclosure

H. nasicus. Photo contributed by Didi Windpassinger.

Hollow logs

Hollow logs are like branches and hides in one package. They’re also terribly attractive, especially cork rounds.

Rocks and stacked stones

Rocks add to the naturalistic appeal of an enclosure, and absorb heat when placed close to your heat source, creating additional basking spots. If you choose to use rocks in your enclosure, be sure to bury them into the substrate so your snake can’t burrow underneath them and get accidentally crushed.

Plants

Plants aren’t always the best idea with snakes, as their water needs can drive humidity too high, and snakes like to crush and/or uproot the plants. However, some succulents (spineless cacti) are hardy enough to do well in hognose enclosures.

How to Decorate a Hognose Snake Enclosure

Snow morph H. nasicus. Photo contributed by Krista Childers.

Grass

Grass is another way to make your enclosure look more like the grasslands that wild hognoses call home. Wild hognoses are actually frequently found hiding in knots of dead grass. In your enclosure, live grasses can increase humidity and provide hiding space; dried grasses just plain look cool.

Leaves

Leaves provide additional cover for your hognose to hide and burrow in. They also look wonderfully natural. Leaves can be collected from an untainted woodland near your home or purchased online by the gallon.

Can you collect enclosure decorations from outside?

As long as the decorations come from an area that isn’t exposed to pesticides or herbicides, and collection is legal, go for it! Collected décor is always free.

Because there’s no way of guaranteeing what bugs and germs collected materials might bring with them, it’s best to sterilize them before putting them in the enclosure. Give them a good scrub with water first, then bake them in your oven at 200°F (100°C) for 2-3 hours, depending on size. This temperature is too low for anything to catch fire.

Inspiration for decorating your hognose enclosure

The best inspiration for decorating your hognose enclosure comes from looking at pictures of their natural habitat. Do a Google Image search. Check out herping pictures of hognoses found in the wild. Watch herping videos — here’s one of some Western hognoses found in my home state!

If you need more, scroll through ReptiFiles’ Terrarium Goals board on Pinterest. You’re sure to get some ideas there!


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