Rough green snakes are a fantastic pet snake that everyone should consider. They’re beautiful, low-maintenance, and fun to observe!
This guide will cover everything you need to know about rough green snake care. You’ll learn about their diet, ideal habitat, size, and plenty of other useful facts!
Table of Contents
Whether you’re a new enthusiast or a seasoned herpetology buff, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) at some point!
This species is widely available and very affordable. It’s collected from the wild in droves and sold in pet stores across the world.
The rough green snake has a wide natural distribution. They can live in marshlands, near rivers and lakes, and even in the suburbs! Most go unnoticed thanks to their masterful camouflage and quirky behaviors.
Expert Tip: An excellent pet snake for beginners, rough green snake care isn’t as demanding as some other popular species. It has a manageable diet and relatively modest needs that are easy to meet.
Appearance & Colors
The rough green snake gets its distinct name from its scales. Instead of smooth, silk-like armor, this species has keeled scales with a tough texture. The unique plates offer ample protection on the ground and in trees.
The top of the snake’s body is vibrant emerald green. Meanwhile, the belly is a much lighter yellow-white. That light coloration continues on the mouth and chin area of the snake’s head as well.
Expert Tip: Males and females don’t have too many aesthetic differences between them. The most common way to differentiate the two is to analyze their girth and length. Females tend to be bigger (more on that later).
The lifespan of the rough green snake is tricky to pin down. On average, captive rough green snakes have a lifespan of five years.
However, they are capable of reaching up to 15 years of age with the proper care.
Many factors will impact the snake’s life expectancy. In addition to genetics and luck, the quality of care you provide comes into play. A well-cared-for rough green snake in top-notch living conditions is much more likely to avoid disease and poor health.
Rough green snakes are thin and long. When it comes to girth, most are only about as wide as a pencil!
For length, the average rough green snake size is typically two to three feet in captivity. The exact adult length depends on genetics! Some will only get to two feet long. However, some grow to just under four feet long!
Expert Tip: Rough green snakes are fast growers and usually reach maturity within a year.
Rough Green Snake Care
Rough green snakes have a reputation for being one of the easier species to care for. For the most part, the notoriety comes from a place of truth. The snakes are quite beginner-friendly pets.
However, they still have many needs you must fulfill. These snakes are one of the most exploited in the trade. If you don’t provide high-quality care, these snakes can easily succumb to stress and illness.
To avoid all that, stick to the care guidelines below.
Finding the proper enclosure size is one of the most nuanced aspects of rough green snake care. There’s a delicate balance between providing a habitat that’s too small and too big!
In excessively large environments, rough green snakes can get overwhelmed and skittish. In tanks that are too small, they can experience stunted growth and anxiety!
Most herpetology enthusiasts recommended going for a 30-gallon enclosure. That’s large enough for a single rough green snake to live comfortably. If you’re keeping a pair, a 55 to 75-gallon tank is ideal.
Expert Tip: These snakes do best in an all-glass terrarium-style tank. Choose a model that offers both floor space and height to ensure that the environment accommodates their lifestyle. And as always, don’t forget about the lid!
What To Put In Their Habitat
The best thing you can do for your rough green snake is to create a natural-looking environment filled with decor. These snakes thrive in lush habitats with plenty of hiding spaces and climbing surfaces.
Start with a couple of inches of substrate at the bottom of the tank. The best material here is gravel. The snake’s keeled scales are tough enough to handle the rougher material. It closely resembles what the snakes are used to in the wild. Not only that, but it resists parasites like mites!
Expert Tip: Gravel is pretty easy to clean as well. If you prefer something more earthy, you can also use coconut coir, orchid bark, or sphagnum moss. Those options retain water, which can help with humidity (more on that in a bit).
Next, add a variety of plants. You can go with live or artificial plants. The latter choice tends to be easier to clean! Try to get many different kinds of plants to create a dense jungle ripe for exploration.
A network of climbing surfaces is essential as well. Use cork branches, vines, and branchy limbs. Arrange them sporadically to give your snake plenty of choices as they climb.
Finally, provide a couple of hiding boxes. These accessories can be basic wood boxes, faux caves, or even PVC pipes! As long as the snake can slither in to find peace, it’ll work well. Add one box on opposite sides of the environment.
Temperature & Lighting
Like most species, the rough green snake thermoregulates. As a result, they need access to a temperature gradient that stretches across the entire environment.
- On the cool side of the habit, temperatures should be between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (low to mid-80s is preferred).
- For the opposite side of the tank, install a basking light. The light should raise temperatures in one spot to about 90 degrees.
Expert Tip: At night, the temperature can drop to 70 at the lowest. If it gets any lower than that, you’ll need to invest in a ceramic heater to keep your snake warm.
Make sure to keep your lights on a timer. Rough green snakes need a standard day/night cycle to keep their internal clocks ticking.
In addition to the standard heating lights, use a UV lamp! These snakes need UV light exposure to synthesize calcium and stay healthy. Choose a full-spectrum light that shines on the entire habitat. Then, set it on a timer to provide 12 to 14 hours of simulated sunshine.
Humidity is one of the most important parts of rough green snake care. These snakes live near water in the wild, so maintaining stable levels is a must!
This snake needs 55 to 65 percent humidity around the clock. Invest in a hygrometer and keep an eye on it throughout the day.
You can easily raise the humidity levels by misting the environment once or twice a day. The substrate material, decor, and plants you choose may help to keep humidity levels up as well.
You should provide a shallow bowl full of fresh water. The bowl should be sturdy enough not to tip over when your rough green snake interacts with it.
These snakes rarely lap up water. Most of the time, they will drink water that collects on plant leaves from your daily misting.
However, a bowl of water is still needed (even though they’ll rarely drink from it). Your pet rough green snake will also use it for cooling off and shedding.
Expert Tip: Replace the water daily and clean up any messes on the spot to avoid health concerns like bacteria buildup.
Rough Green Snake Food & Diet
Rough green snakes don’t eat rodents like other popular pet species. So if you’re squeamish about pinkies, these snakes are perfect for you!
Instead, these snakes like to eat a diet of soft-bodied insects. They will readily eat spiders, moths, caterpillars, mealworms, and more.
Expert Tip: Occasionally, they will also eat hard-bodied invertebrates like crickets and grasshoppers. Some will even eat small lizards! However, a snake’s preference for hard-bodied foods will vary. It’s best to stick to softer insects as the main diet staple.
Rough green snakes need to eat two or three times a week. During those meals, provide about half a dozen insects. As a good rule of thumb, provide enough food that they can eat in about 20 minutes.
You can provide both live and pre-killed insects. However, it’s better to lean more on pre-killed insects.
Live insects can cause undue stress for these snakes. Plus, they can injure them if the snake doesn’t eat them immediately. Rough green snakes enjoy the chase every once in a while, but already-killed meals should be the staple.
Potential Health Issues
These snakes are not immune to health issues! Rough green snakes can encounter all the usual health problems that plague captive snakes.
The most common ailments are respiratory infections. They usually occur when humidity levels exceed the recommended 65 percent. The snake will start to breathe through its mouth as discharge appears from the nose.
Fungal and bacterial problems can occur as well. Bacteria and fungal issues usually come from an unclean environment. They can lead to a host of health conditions like scale rot!
Most illnesses your snake can encounter are treatable with a trip to an exotic animal vet.
However, it’s best to avoid them altogether! While there’s no way to guarantee a clean bill of health at all times, proper rough green snake care and habitat maintenance makes a big difference when it comes to prevention.
Keep an eye on thermometers and hygrometers. Adjust the tank conditions accordingly to keep things stable.
Also, clean the enclosure regularly! Spot clean messes and perform a deep clean about once a month. During the deep clean, use a snake-friendly disinfectant to clean every surface.
Behavior & Temperament
Rough green snakes are non-aggressive (which is one of the many reasons why they’re so beginner-friendly). They will rarely attempt to bite humans. In fact, these snakes tend to be shy and prone to stress.
Many will display signs of “cage aggression.” This behavior is pretty standard when they first enter a new environment. The snake may react negatively whenever you open the cage.
Newer snake owners sometimes confuse the behavior with hostile aggression, but that’s not the case! Your snake just needs time to adjust.
Rough green snakes need a lush environment full of things to do and places to hide. These snakes don’t do well in barren habitats where they are exposed.
Expert Tip: Throughout the day, your snake will hide in the plants and climb on vines. They like to mimic the movements of branches swaying in the wind. Don’t be surprised if you find your snake sticking out from plants looking rigid!
Rough green snakes don’t mind occasional handling for inspection and movement. However, they’re not fans of excessive handling.
They are far too skittish for the restraint that comes with consistent handling, and too much human contact may lead to stress. It’s best to observe these snakes through the glass and reserve handling for times when it’s unavoidable.
Rough green snake care is very straightforward. That’s why this is the great pet snake species for beginners or even experts who don’t want a significant time commitment.
If you have any questions that weren’t answered in this care sheet we’re more than happy to help. Just send it to us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!