Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dinner time.

Sorry for the long gap between the last post and this one, I have been unbelievably busy at work. Fear not, the time has come for an updated post. This post is going to try and provide some guidance, and highlight the method I use to select an appropriate sized meal for my snakes. 

The method which I use is to offer an appropriate prey item every 5-15days (or so) dependet on both the species and age of the snake.  Now I hear you ask how do you figure out what is classed as an appropriately sized prey item?  Worry not help is at hand.  I personally believe that an appropriate prey item is at minimum as thick as the snake at its widest part.  This doesn't mean that you should measure exactly, it is just a rough guide (a guesstimate if you will). Now we have a minimum, it is important to avoid excessively large prey items as this can lead to problems such as regurgitation. As a general rule of thumb I will offer a prey item around 1.5 times the thickest part of the snake (species dependent).  Once again this rule isn't hard and fast, meaning that there is room for slight deviation as variety is the spice of life. I occasionally will mix up the prey size for a couple of feeds or so, just to keep them on their toes. To be frankly honest I have never had a problem with any of my snakes feeding when using this method of prey size selection, and my thinking is why fix it if it isn't broken. 

As well as selecting a good size prey item it is important to highlight the frequency of feeding in order to promote healthy growth and avoid excessive weight gain. For my hatchling snakes of any species I will offer a prey item every 5-7 days.  I stick to this frequency for my hognose thoughout adulthood, however maintain prey size closer to the minimum size as I find this to work well for the species.  As the snake increases in size and age I will offer a larger food item less often, eventually offering a meal every 7-10 days (give or take) for my corn snakes and my royal pythons, and every 10-15 days (give or take) for my boas when they are adults.  I find that by providing this method of feeding it prevents excessive over feeding , which in turn helps to avoid health issues related to an overweight snake such as fatty deposits around organs.  It is also important to note that regular excercise will aid in conversion of the food in to well toned body mass instead of fat. Let's face it nobody likes a fat snake. 

Well that's it really. I know it is short and sweet, however I feel that trying to work out the percentage relation between the snake and prey item is too much hassle and does not result in any benifit for the snake.  Now I have slightly more time available I will be updating this blog more often, so stay tuned for more updates. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Cockroaches...... not always a pest.

Its not all just snakes that I blog about on here, so its time for a bit of a change.  In this entry I will be highlighting how to set up a dubia cockroach colony effectively in order to have them provide a steady supply of live food for you pets.

Dubia cockroaches (Blaptica dubia) is one of the most commonly kept cockroach species that is used as a feeder insect in reptile keeping, as well as a prey item for inverts.  The reason for this is because they don't smell, cant climb flat surfaces, they do not make noise, live longer and are more nutritious than a large variety of other feeder insects such as crickets.  To add to this dubia roaches have a large meat to shell ratio, meaning that your getting more bang for your buck per roach.

Equipment:

Container:  There is not hard and fast rule as to which tub is the best to use for dubia roaches, however there are some certain criteria which I think help in maintaining an effective breeding colony.  I use a tub which has opaque sides (light can't pass through), the roaches will thrive in a dark tub as they feel a lot safer when out and about.  It is also important to ensure that the containing has flat sides, by doing so it means that the roaches are unable to climb the sides of the tub. 

Ventilation: I use a plastic mesh with small holes in order to provide a means of ventilation within my cockroach colony tub.  The ventilation means that moisture cannot build up to an excessive amount.  Whilst humidity is important within the dubia roach colony, an excessive amount of moisture is their enemy, leading to bugs and bacteria building up.  I cut a hole about half the size of the roof of the enclosure and place the mesh on top using a hot glue gun.  The glue allows proper ventilation as well  as preventing any escapees.

Heat: It is important to provide a heat source for your roaches if you want to make sure that they are providing a good number of feeder insects for you to use.  I use a heat mat placed on the outside of the container, around this I place cardboard as an insulation medium to maintain a temperature of around 90-100 degrees farenheight within the tubs hot end, this provides a nice temperature gradient within the tub.  If the enclosure is too hot all the roaches will stay away from the heat in a clusterball or roaches, if too cold they will not reproduce.  This behaviour is usually a good indicator to whether or not the temperature is right.

Housing: Within the tub you need to supply somewhere for the roaches to hide and feel safe when they are not either eating, or being fed to your pets.  I use egg flats which are 30cm x 30cm, I stack them side by side and this allows them to scuttle through the holes in the egg flats.  They also mean that the surface area of where the roaches can hide is greatly increased.  I place the egg flats in the end of the tub where the heat mat is wrapped around.

Food:  Cockroaches, from my experience, will eat just about anything that you throw in to their enclosure.  I provide a high protein powder chow to my roaches which includes dry cat food and various other ingredients which contain high protein (I can't reveal my secret recipie to you im afraid).  The roaches go crazy for this whenever I put it in their enclosure, I also provide various fresh fruit and vegetable 2-3 times a week.  The fruit and veg includes; carrots, potatoes, a mixture of leafy salads, oranges, apples, bananas and grapes basically any fruit or veg we eat.  I also offer various dry foods about once a week in addition to the chow and fruit and veg, this includes various cereals, bread, cat food, dog food, chicken pellets and basically any thing we can eat.  By providing a varied diet of food it means that each roach is appropriately gut loaded prior to being provided to your pet, this means that the maximum amount of nutrients is passed from the roaches to your pet.

Water: water is essential in maintaining an effective breeding colony of dubia roaches.  It is mentioned that the roaches can get a sufficient amount of moisture from the fresh fruit and veg that is provided on a weekly basis.  Water can be provided by various methods, such as shallow water in a dish with a sponge submerged, shop bought water gel for insects or water gel made from polymer water crystals.  I personally use the gel made from the polymer water crystals, simply because it provides a good amount of water to the roaches, is clean and nearly mess free, has to be changed less often as well as being cheaper to buy. 

I am aware that there is a lot more depth I could have gone in to regarding the care for these feeder insects, however if I supplied all available information we would be here for hours, and it is for that reason I have kept it short and sweet. 

Please see below the various starter colonies of dubia roaches that I offer for sale, as well as dry food, water gel and egg flats.  When you like my Facebook Next Generation Exotics, you will receive free delivery on order made over £30.  Any questions please feel free to ask and I will be more than happy to help.

£18 colony:
-25 mixed adults (good ratio of females).
-25 medium roaches.
-50 mixed sized nymphs
£25 colony:
-25 mixed adults (good ratio of females).
-40 medium roaches.
-70 mixed sized nymphs
£29 colony:
- 35 mixed adults (good ratio of females)
- 55 medium roaches.
- 100 mixed size nymphs
All roaches have been fed on fresh fruit and vegetables, cereal and a high protein roach chow as well as water crystals. 300g tubs of either roach chow or water crystals are available for £2.50 each. As well as egg flats, 10 for £5.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Playing with fire .


I hope everybody had a nice Christmas and got what they asked fore.  I just thought I would post here to show a couple of post Christmas bargains you may be able to get your hands on.  I have available 2 CB13 female fire royal pythons.  These 2 girls are the last remaining hatchlings from my 2013 breeding season, and in my opinion are the pick of the bunch.  Both show a nice example of the fire gene, bright vibrant colouring which is getting better and brighter with each shed.  The sire to this clutch Is one of the nicest fires that I have seen, and this has been shown in all of the fires that were produced from this clutch.  Both of these girls are pooing and have shed fine, they will be ready after 3 more feeds, both show a really nice feeding response so I am happy that they will continue this.  I am looking for £190 each for these girls, which I think is a good price for a good example of the fire gene.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send me an email to nextgenexotics@gmail.com or via reptile forums, my username is lukeraymont, and I will happily answer any questions and queries you have.  I can deliver within a reasonable distance, both will come with full feeding, pooing and shedding records.   One thing to note is, if you like my Facebook page, Next generation exotics you will receive a 10% discount on any animal you buy from me.  Any way please take a look at the photos of the girls here and on the Facebook page, and let me know what you think, and remember to like Next generation exotics to keep up to date with everything that I've got going on here, and believe me there will be a lot to come in 2014.

Female fire 1:



 

Female fire 2:
















Thursday, 19 December 2013

Newest member...... Gerald.

It has been a while since I last posted here and thought it was time that I updated you lovely people with what is going on here.  I am first going to share with you the story of Gerald, the blizzard (not 100% sure) male corn snake.

Meet Gerald.
Here is his story.  I was sitting there on my lunch break enjoying a nice cup of tea and a egg sandwich (pretty boring I know), when I am tapped on the shoulder.   It was a lady who I had sold some hatchling corn snakes to last year.  She began to ask me if I was interested in a corn snake, I thought that she was offering me the ones I had sold to her previously.  I told her that I have no room at the moment but thanked her for her offer.  I was pretty surprised when she informed me that it wasn't hers, it was a friend of hers who had a "white" corn snake which was apparently very underweight and very unwell, and how she knew I kept corns and enjoyed looking after them.  She asked me again to take him and seemed very concerned about the snakes welfar.  The next day she approached me again saying that the corn snake was in worse shape than she initially thought and how she was worried that if I did not take him he would die very soon.  So as far as I see it I had no choice but to arrange to take him from the original owner.  I met my friend from work a couple of days after initial being asked to take Gerald, and collected him from her house, and I think it is fair to say I was shocked.  He was tiny for his age, apparently 3-4 years old, nothing but skin and bones and I think it is safe to say I have not ever seen a snake this thin (you may be able to see from the photo above), he looked as though he had forgotten what a meal looked like.  In addition to this I was slightly concerned about his breathing as I could hear a slight wheeze when he was, possibly signifying he had an R.I. I was pretty upset as to how any body would buy an animal without providing the appropriate care and attention needed to care for them properly.  From what I what I was told Gerald was kept in  a small kitchen container with no heat, and not enough hides, and hadn't been fed in months, and it was clear to see he lacked muscle tone and had a few small scars along his back.

So I began the journey home, with Gerald safely strapped in to the passenger side.  Once I got him home I gave him a nice soak in a warm bath, I then placed him in to the quarantine set up which is always set up (not plugged in) just in case I go on a snake shopping spree.  I placed his head near his water bowl and he made a mad dash to have a lengthy drink, making me wonder if water was readily available at his previous home, or whether that was too much to ask.  That very day I offered a small mouse, which he devoured in a matter of minutes, showing just how hungry he was, I am  planning on steadily increasing his prey items in weight within the next couple as I do not want to overload him too quickly if he hasn't eaten for a long period of time.  As soon as I have moved a couple of things around in the snake room, and Gerald is in full health, he will become a permanent member alongside Jake and Dot.

I think it is safe to say that Gerald needs a bit of a helping hand to get him back to full health.  Hopefully I will be able to do so and provide him with the highest level of care that I can.  I will be keeping an eye on his possible R.I. as well as his weight, muscle tone and scars on his back in order to stop anything else causing him too much stress.  I will keep you posted as to how he is getting on in the near future, fingers crossed all will be A-ok.

Monday, 9 December 2013

I MITE have known.


So your handling your new snake and showing him off to anybody and everybody that will take and interest and listen to you, and then bam all of a sudden out of the corner of your eye you see a small reddish black dot making a run for it.  You grab the little blighter and give him a squeeze, and then you realise that it has popped and blood has erupted from its body, you have mites something that no snake owner wants to discover.  I am going to give a couple of tips that I have used in the past to help reduce the likelihood of mites coming in to my collection, as well as the methods I have used to treat mites that have already settled in where they are not wanted. 

Ophionyssus natricis, more commonly known as snake mites are host specific ectoparasites, meaning that they feed only on snakes and do not affect other pets, e.g. dogs, cats, lizards etc. or humans.  Snake mites can lead to adverse effects on your snakes.  The most predominantly ailment being dehydration, blood infections and stress.  If an infestation is left untreated, and allowed to multiply and thrive, it can lead to large volumes of blood loss.  This is due to the sheer population of mites feeding on the snake, in turn potentially leading to death.  Although they pose a potentially catastrophic threat to a collection, being able to spread at an unimaginable rate, snake mites can be both easily avoided and treated with the correct knowledge.

I feel that vigilance is the best way to prevent the introduction of snake mites in to your beloved collection.  When picking up a new snake check the snake over looking for mites across the entire length of the body, paying particular attention to the eyes, mouth, cloaca and between ventral scales.  These areas are have a high blood flow and the mites love it.  Also look for signs such as the snake soaking in their water bowl, black specs within the water bowl and mites on your hands after handling which look like specs of dirt.  If you spot any signs of mites on a snake you are interested in purchasing I would personally steer clear as mites can lead to various other related ailments as mentioned above.  I would also avoid purchasing snakes from that shop/breeder/person as all their animals may suffer from mites.

Snake mites can be transferred by the snake owner, this can be done by visiting a friend, a collection, shop or reptile show which has a mite infestation.  The mites hitch a free ride on your clothing and have a new hunting ground when you get home.  t is surprising how far a mite can walk when they are in search of a fresh victim to obtain a meal from. In order to reduce the introduction of mites is to ensure you clean your hands and change clothes after visiting other collections, shops or shows prior to contacting your own snakes A snake with a mite infestation which is introduced in to a 'clean' collection can once again reek havoc upon your collection.  Snake mites can come from a substrate purchased from a reptile shop/dealer which has a mite problem, such as orchid bark, aspen and eco earth.  The mites do not come from the substrate per say, however the mites get in to the substrate from the shops own mite infestation and then are introduced to your own collection when the substrate is introduced in to your enclosures.  In order to reduce the likelihood of mites coming in to your collection via substrate there are certain steps that can be taken.  Various people say that you can freeze or microwave your substrate and they have used this method with no ill effects, however I buy in bulk.  By buying in bulk it means that when I need to use the substrate the mites have been away from snakes for too long, therefore they are starved, stopping their life cycle, I know that others used this method with similar methodology with great success.

My next tip is to have an effective quarantine method in place for any new arrivals that you bring in to your home.  Obviuosly if your getting your first snake you shouldn't need to quarantine them as they cannot pass the mites on to any other snakes.  In an ideal world a quarantine area should be in a room as far away from the rest of your collection as possible, however I know that this is not always possible.  by quarantining you are able to spot not only a mite infestation, and treat accordingly, but also identify other ailments that the new arrival may have, e.g. Respiratory infection.  My personal quarantine method consists of a vivarium with paper towels as the substrate, a selection of hides and a light colour (white or light blue) water bowl.  By having a relatively bare temporary enclosure it means that any mites can be spotted on the paper towels or in the water dish relatively easily.  Another benefit of the paper towels as a substrate means that the mature females cannot lay eggs, which stops the growth of the infestation due to ceasing the production of further generations.  After 2 months in the quarantine enclosure the snake is moved in to its permanent enclosure.  I have been very strict in sticking to my quarantine methods in order to reduce the spread of mites and I have effectively thwarted 2 attacks from these little blighters from snakes that I have purchased.

So we have covered what to do in order to identify mites before they become a problem to your collection.  Now I am going to share the methods that have worked well for me in treating mites.  I regularly check my snakes whilst handling as well as their water bowls for mites, just for piece of mind.  If I do happen to spot signs of mites the first thing I do is strip all my snakes enclosures and deep clean everything (and I mean everything) with a 10% bleach solution, as well as reptile safe disinfectant.  Pay particular attention to seals, joints and corners of the enclosure as there may be some eggs in those areas.  I then use my quarantine method (paper towels, light colour water bowl and various hides) throughout my collection, for the reasons previously mentioned.  I then soak each snake for 20-30 minutes in a warm water bath.  This is to try and drown as many of the mites on the snakes body as possible in an attempt to decrease their numbers.  Once the snake has been soaked it is returned to its enclosure.  I then leave the snake for 1-2 days as all of this is a bit stressful for them, after 2 days I use callingtons mite spray for the enclosure, here is a link to where I buy my mite spray from.  It uses a fine mist which gets in to all the cracks and crevasses within the enclosure, callingtons does not need to be rinsed off after application, meaning that it is constantly working against the attack of mite.  The only thing that you need to ensure is that water is not in the enclosure during application, nor is it introduced within 48 of use.  There is a lot of debate about whether or not it is safe to use with the snake in the enclosure, I personally don't but it has been mentioned that it is safe to do so.  I apply callingtons once a week for 4 weeks, this allows adequate coverage during the mites entire life cycle meaning that eggs cannot be laid, nor can the adults survive.  It also covers me for some time after just in case I have missed any hell raisers.  Just follow the instructions on the can and you cant go wrong, if I can do it, any body can.  I continue to soak my snakes once a week, clean the vivarium and change the paper towels when needed to aid in removing the mites, and breaking their life cycle.  I should note that callingtons should not be used with hognose snakes due to the adverse effects that it can have on this species, potentially leading to death, alternative methods are mentioned below which are suitable for this species.

I keep my snakes on the paper towels for 2 months following the last sighting of a mite, once again just to be on the safe side because I am a bit paranoid like that.  This is by no means an extensive list of how to treat snake mites, and I am aware that other methods work just as well.  There are various other methods which can be found here, however I have not tried these methods myself so cannot comment on their efficacy.  I have heard a lot of positive things about predator mites as a treatment, but I will only try these if the method I use no longer does the job. 

Snake mites do not need to be seen as the plague to snake keepers.  If appropriately managed snake mites can be controlled with minimal fuss and minimal stress to both you and your snakes.  Hopefully you don't encounter snake mites but if you do I hope you find these tips useful.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Class of 2013

The day has finally come and the waiting is over, my clutch of fire het pied x female DH albino pied have finally all vacated their eggs in to the big bad world.  I recently had growing doubts about the genetic make up of the parents and I believe that this clutch has reinforced this belief.  I no longer think that the parents are het for either the pied or albino gene (in the mother only apparently het albino).  Slightly disappointing that I was taken advantage of for being keen and na├»ve, but hey that's a lesson learned and I think I have learned from this.  However I am extremely happy on how this clutch has turned out in regards to the odds that I got in both morphs produced, as well as the ratio of males and females.















The clutch began to pip on the 26/11/13 and all eventually emerged as of 1/12/13.  The pairing produced 2 female fires, 2 male fires and 1 male normal.  All the hatchlings appear to be healthy, and all are a good size.  They have lovely markings and are extremely bright and eye catching which is ideal.  I will be holding back a female fire for myself to breed to my male fire in the future, to hopefully produce some black eyed leucistics in the future.  I love the morphs of royal pythons that show white colouration, e.g. pied, black and blue eyed leucistics, albino etc.  I will upload some photos once they have all shed and moved in to their individual enclosures.  There will be 1 female fire, 2 male fires and 1 male normal available for sale once they have eaten 6 frozen thawed rodents, shed and pooped, as well as showing good signs of growth and general health.

Here are some photos of them, like I said I will update when they have all shed:




Thursday, 28 November 2013

Rack city.

Hi, thought I would share an update here on the blog.  This update is going to show the racking system that I use to house my royal pythons as well as my corn snakes.  Snake racks are ideal in my opinion for housing larger quantities of snakes in a relatively small area, without compromising on their husbandry, or quality of life.  I decided to go down the hand built option of racking opposed to the professionally made version.  The reason for this is primarily the fact that when I was looking to buy a rack I was a university student, so funds were tight to say the least.  In total I would estimate the total cost to be around £240, which is not too excessive for a 9 bay rack.  Also the furniture in my bedroom (more like a snake room with a bed in) is white, so I didn't want to alter the feng shui of my room.  I enjoyed building my rack and I am happy with the result, pretty nifty looking if I must say so myself.

Each level is heated with a heat mat covering 1/3 of the shelf in order to provide a thermal gradient for the snake to thermo regulate. Underneath each mat is reflective aluminium tape to increase the transmission of heat from the mat to the tub.  I have the mats connected to a pulse proportional thermostat to control temperatures.  I find that a pulse stat keeps the temperature in the tubs within 0.5c of one another.  All the materials used to build the frame of the rack are from Ikea.  I used the Ikea Pax wardrobe frame, as well as Pax shelves for the skeleton of the rack.  The tubs used for the snakes enclosures are the largest size Komplent tubs.  Simply because it gave them the largest amount of floor space.  In all honesty I am happy with how the rack turned out, the tubs slide in and out with no drag or excess resistance, the airflow through the tubs is decent, and there is a large surface area for the animals to use.  I have had no health issues, e.g. R.I, mites etc. or problem feeders since using this rack, and I have had multiple locks between snakes, implying that they are all healthy and doing well since being moved in to their new homes.  Here is a peek inside one of the tubs to show how I decorate them. It also shows that when using a racking system the tubs don't have to just be a water bowl and a couple of hides.  This enclosure is for Dot, my female corn snake. 












Finally, you can find a link to a guide showing how I went about building my snake rack, as well as little tips I used in order to help me along the way.   Click here for the guide, not bad for a guy who struggles with DIY.