Rough Green Snakes
Rough Green Snake Opheodrys aestivus
The rough green snake, so named for its vivid coloration and keeled scales, is indigenous to the Southeastern region of the United Sates. This primarily arboreal species is active during the day and spends the daylight hours hunting for small, invertebrate prey.
Rough green snakes are an adaptable species in nature and may be found in any number of habitats ranging from remote marshlands to the more populous suburbs. These animals are rarely spotted as a result of their cryptic color and twiglike appearance, but nonetheless rough green snakes are abundant in the wild and it is this population that has led to the ready availability of this species to American hobbyists
Size and Longevity
Rough green snakes are a small species in comparison to some of their North American relatives. Most specimens will not exceed 3 feet in length and have no more girth than that of a pencil. Some smaller individuals may become fully mature at lengths as short as 2 feet.
Despite being a somewhat challenging species for first-time snake keepers, properly maintained rough green snakes can be expected to reach ages of up to 5 years. Longevity data for this species in the wild is lacking, but it is assumed that even in nature these snakes mature and age quickly.
As a result of their small size, these snakes are simple to house in standard glass reptile tanks. Smaller specimens will thrive in enclosures the size of a 10-gallon terrarium, while one or two adult animals should be given a habitat equal or greater in size to that of a 20-gallon tank.
For these natural climbers, taller enclosures provide the most suitable homes. The additional height allows for the inclusion of live plants and other climbing structures that are often necessary for making rough green snakes feel comfortable.
A secure screen lid is an absolute must. Rough green snakes are very good at escaping from improperly covered enclosures. Furthermore, a sturdy screen lid allows for adequate ventilation and as a place to position any applicable light fixtures.
Heating and Lighting
Throughout their natural range rough green snakes experience mild weather during most of the year. Although they are capable of surviving harsh winters in their more Northern locales, these snakes do best when maintained at constant temperatures year round.
Daytime temperatures in the low to mid 80's are ideal, with a nighttime temperature drop of 10 to 12 degrees being acceptable. Heat can be provided in a number of ways depending on the size and design of the enclosure. Standard and infrared heat bulbs are good choices, as are ceramic heat emitters and under tank heating pads.
Unlike most colubrid snakes, rough green snakes seem to do best when exposed to full spectrum ultra- violet light during normal daytime hours. In this sense, the lighting requirements of this species are more similar to those of diurnal lizards than those of most snake species.
Special lights designed specifically for reptile use should be utilized. These bulbs emit light in the ultraviolet (UVB) range of the light spectrum. These rays, which are similar to those of the sun, allow the snakes to properly biosynthesize vitamin D3 and in turn to efficiently metabolize dietary calcium.
While some hobbyists have had marginal success rearing these snakes without the benefit of UV lighting, most experts still agree that their use is merited, and may even improve the animals overall well being and activity levels.
Substrate and Furnishings
In the terrarium, rough green snakes do best when provided with a substrate that promotes moderate to high humidity levels. Among the best choices are coconut husk products, orchid bark, cypress mulch, and sphagnum moss. All of these products hold moisture well and are resistant to mold and fungal growth.
The habitat for these snakes should contain a variety of branchy limbs, live and plastic foliage, pieces of cork bark, and even terrestrial hide spots. If kept in a barren enclosure rough green snakes can become stressed and fail to thrive. Instead, provide a dense jungle for them to explore and hide amongst.
Water and Humidity
Water should always be available to rough green snakes in the form of a shallow, sturdy bowl. Although these snakes will rarely drink standing water the inclusion of the bowl will aid in raising ambient humidity levels.
Drinking water should be provided by heavily misting the entire cage contents once or twice daily. The water droplets that will form on the enclosure walls and foliage will be lapped up by thirsty snakes while increasing the cage humidity to the proper range.
Rough green snakes are somewhat unique among commonly kept snake species as a result of their strictly insectivorous nature. In captivity this species feeds upon appropriately sized crickets and other feeder insects. Some specimens will readily accept mealworms as well but due to their inactive nature they often fail to attract the attention of the snakes.
This species should be fed frequently to support their active metabolisms. A feeding of half a dozen crickets two or three times a week is typically adequate, but slight adjustments to this schedule may need to be made.
Prey items of the proper size should be no larger in diameter than the snake at its thickest point. Larger prey can be safely consumed in extreme cases but are usually not digested as efficiently as smaller prey items.
All feeder insects should be dusted regularly with a high quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement as well as a multivitamin designed specifically for reptile consumption. Both of these products are available as a fine powder that will stick to the insects and increase their nutritional value. Always consult the manufacturers guidelines for dosing information as it can vary greatly from one brand to another.
Although beautiful and readily available, rough green snakes do best when looked at but not touched. They are gentle creatures that will rarely if ever attempt to bite, but nonetheless do not tolerate the restraint involved in regular handling.
Rough green snakes can be safely handled for examination or during routine cage maintenance, but excessive handling will likely prove stressful to the snake and could potentially result in medical issues or shortened life spans.