When bringing home your first pet snakes, there is a myriad important thing to know in order to keep your snake healthy. California Kingsnakes, for example, are cold-blooded and need temperate options to control their internal body temperature. But do California kingsnakes need UVB lights as well?
California King Snakes do not require a UVB light in their containment spaces, however, new research suggests UVB light (when provided at the correct temperatures and allotted amount of time) may provide some health benefits for snakes. These benefits include: boosted immune system, healthier skin, and improved vision (specifically when it comes to color.)
Additionally, snakes require adequate light and temperature lamps to regulate their environment so that it is always between a maximum of 85 degrees F (on the warmer side) and a minimum of 72 degrees F (on the cooler side). You can provide your snake with a UVB light, but be sure it is high quality and one you can regulate so that you don’t overheat your pet snake.
How California Kingsnakes Get UVB Light In the Wild
The reason most snake forums, blogs, and books suggest it is unnecessary to provide your pet snake with a UV lamp is that, largely, most pet snakes are nocturnal. Meaning, they would not often be out in the sun during the day, as they do most of their wandering in the moonlight hours.
However, some snakes may benefit from the exposure to some occasional UVB light, as the intake of Vitamin D3 helps snakes to better absorb calcium, which they need to be healthy. Some would argue that calcium is ingested in their food, and therefore rendering the vitamin D3 unnecessary.
As a California kingsnake owner, the goal should always be to replicate a wild snake’s environment as much as possible, while doing so safely. And luckily, research from the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research has suggested it is safe, and likely beneficial, for pet snakes to receive small amounts of UV light depending on the breed. California Kingsnakes, which are cold-blooded, should receive a very small amount, a UVI: gradient scale of 0-.07.
Why UVB Light and Temperature Are Important for California Kingsnakes
Like in the wild, snakes enjoy different temperatures, which is why it is recommended you provide two different sides to your snake’s enclosure: a cooler side and a warmer side. Many snakes, especially cold-blooded snakes like that of the California kingsnakes, can regulate their own internal body temperature by moving to the warmer or cooler side as needed.
You never want to keep your snakes in a cage that is one single temperature, and to maintain their optimum health you want to be sure the temperature light you provide is high-quality, and accurate so you aren’t accidentally roasting or freezing your snake friend.
In the same way that humans can get sick from being exposed to improper temperatures, snakes can experience a variety of different maladies if their environment is not conducive to their bodies and needs. Some of the more common issues that arise from not providing proper temperatures are respiratory infections (like pneumonia or colds), infectious diseases, or parasites.
Must-Have Temperature & Light Regulating Items for California Kingsnake Enclosures
Now that you know how crucial it is to provide two different temperatures (warmer and cooler) on different sides of your snake’s enclosure, it is time to get familiar with the different gadgets and gizmos that can help regulate said temperatures in an accurate and easy to use ways. Below are the items that come most highly recommended:
Zoo Med ReptiSun UVB Light
Since getting a high-quality UV light for your California kingsnake is paramount, this Zoo Med ReptiSun is the best option there is. It comes with a 10.0 linear fluorescent bulb that emits UVB light. For snakes like California kings who need minimal amounts of UVB light, it is recommended you place this light above a screen cover. When you do this, it will effectively filter out up to 50% of the UVB wavelengths, which I the ideal amount.
This light is both UVB (10%) and UVA (30%). These low levels of UV, further dissipated by the screen, will be the right amount to help prevent your snake from illness and increase their immune system, activity level, appetite, etc. The fluorescence also helps to illuminate the terrarium and thereby aids in creating a natural day/night photoperiod.
As previously mentioned, it should always be a primary goal to make an environment as real and as lifelike as possible for your enclosed pet reptile.
Thermostat – High Quality
Whether or not you decide to provide a UVB light for your pet snake, you’ll need an ultra-reliable, high-quality thermostat to ensure your snake doesn’t get a chill or overheat. Since not every thermostat is made of the same stuff, its important this particular gadget be one you take your time to research. That being said, we’ve done some of the work for you!
This Inkbird thermostat plug-in controller is one of the best, most highly rated on the market. It is ridiculously easy to use (you simply plug it in and then set the temperature ranges.) This thermostat is ideal because it allows you to compare the warmer and the cooler regions of your snake’s enclosure which is crucial for the health of your California kingsnake.
Additionally, this reliable thermostat is less than $40 and comes in either a short or long probe, and provides the option of measuring in either Centigrade or Fahrenheit.
Under the Tank Heater
The Zoo Med Reptitherm tank heater is a high-quality heater that rests underneath your snake terrarium. It does come in multiple different sizes; which will all depend on the size of enclosure you have purchased for your California Kingsnake. What does the Zoo Med Reptitherm actually do? It essentially creates a primary heat source that can be raised 5-10 degrees above or believe room temperature.
This high-quality heater is made with a nichrome heating element that is UL/CUL approved and costs practically nothing to operate as it only uses between 4-24 watts of energy. It is also pretty affordable, costing less than $20.
Reptile Heat Lamp
One of the most highly rated heat lamps that are both inexpensive and come with a digital thermometer is the Zacro reptile heat lamp. This lamp emits 100 watts and provides 99% high thermal efficiency. It’s also a non-light heat lamp, which is ideal because it doesn’t disturb animals ‘wild nocturnal sleep patterns.
This heat lamp is made from ceramic – however – it is important to make sure you find a ceramic socket to match because this high-heat lamp might melt a plastic one. Get this heat lamp for under $15!
(*Note: Place this and the heat regulator on the warm side of the enclosure)
So then do California kingsnakes need UVB lights? California kingsnakes are amazing, cold-blooded reptiles that self-regulate their temperature by seeking out the most ideal environments. Providing options for your pet California kingsnake is critical to their overall health and wellbeing. They might not need UVB lights but most people would say that they are still beneficial.
Always provide your snake with a warmer and cooler section of their terrarium, and if you want to provide some added health benefits, include a high-quality UVB light. However, never install a UVB light without proper, reliable thermostats in place to ensure your snake never overheats.
If for some reason you can’t afford a proper thermostat, it would be wise to hold off on purchasing a UVB light until you can ensure you can monitor your snake’s temperature-sensitive home.