Due to an issue with broken tanks our fish stocks have been quite low for a few months. We have now re-installed some of the tanks and are pleased to announce that our tropical fish stocks are climbing back up to where they normally are.
I have updated our livestock list to show our current tropical fish stock. Obviously this list changes all the time so do check out our webstore which will have all the current stock on a day by day basis.
We quarantine all our tropical fish for seven days before putting them on sale to be sure they have no issues and you can be confident of healthy stock. As with all our livestock they are covered by our livestock policy so you can buy with confidence.
Pop in and see us for tropical fish. We have lots of FREE parking and are convieniantly located on the main route out of Gloucester, handy for Cheltenham and Stroud.
There are around nine sub species of the snake species Pituophis catenifer. These go by the common names of Gopher Snake and Bull Snake, depending mainly on regional variation. Rather confusingly the common name Bull Snake is also used to describe certain sub species of the closely related Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus). Care for pine snakes is similar to gopher snakes so this care sheet will cover most aspects of both species, although as I own a Bull Snake (pituophis catenifer sayi) myself it is to this species I am refering when I use the term. Gopher snakes originate from the far western United States and the pine snakes across the south and east, up to New Jersey. Gopher snakes resemble rattle snakes in colour and pattern and will mimic them when threatened. The largest sub species the Bull Snake (Pituphis catenifer sayi) gets its name from the bull like snort it emits when angry. Mine used to do this when I first got it but it soon calmed down with handling and has become one of the most docile, predictable snakes I have ever owned.
Gopher snakes, bull snakes and pine snakes are the largest snakes found in north america (not including the invasive pythons in Florida).The adult size varies from 1m up to 2.3m. You are going to need a large enclosure, I would suggest a minimum of 4′ x 2′. You will not know, until it grows just how big it is going to get so I wouldn’t bother getting a smaller viv. than this. They are also very active, inquiistive snakes, so they do need the space of a larger enclosure and regular changes of layout to keep them stimulated. They really appreciate a bit of excercise out in the house and on a warm day, as long as you keep a very close eye on them you can take them out into the garden for a little explore (depending on the layout, if there is a hole to hide in they will find it). There should always be a large water bowl in the enclosure with fresh water. From experience my bull snake will only drink the water when it is fresh and every time I replace the bowl he will spend a few minutes drinking. I never see him drink at any other time so keep it fresh. It is not necessary to dechlorinate the water in the UK. I often see it stated that the water should be dechlorinated first but this information comes originally from the USA where, historically the chlorine level at the tap is significantly higher (an order of magnitude higher) than the UK. Here it is usually lower than 0.5mg/l and often only a fraction above 0. Our water treatment processes make high levels unecessary. I used to manage a water treatment works and we would have enquiries from US servicemen on whether the water was safe to drink as they couldn’t smell the chlorine!
At least one hide is required, preferably two or more. These can be placed at opposite ends of the vivarium to allow the snake to rest in the correct temperature. Snakes can only thermo regulate by using the ambient temperature around them (unlike us – we can produce our own heat) so need to move around to control their temperature. Whilst shedding, which they will do from every few weeks when young and growing rapidly and every few months when adult, place some damp moss under the snakes preferred hide. This will create a microclimate with raised humidity, making shedding the skin easier. You do not want a raised humidty constantly in the vivarium. Gopher snakes come from arid environments, so dry air (not so for some pine snakes, Florida and Louisianna are pretty humid at times!).
Suitable substrates would include, beech chip, aspen bedding and lignocel (e.g. PR snake life) for a utilitarian set up. I have used them all and they are all fine and have the advantage that the poop is easy to spot and to clean. The darker orchid bark or “bark chips” is fine too, although it is much harder to spot the poop. For the more humid subspecies of pine snake this may be a better choice as it can help maintain the humidity. More “natural” looking substrates are also fine. Gopher snakes live in arid areas with dry, often sandy soil. The gopher snake in the shop is on PR toroise life as a suitable approximation to the natural environment and it works well. Don’t be dictated to by the “keyboard warriors” who will try to tell you what you “must” use. This is at best just their opinion, although they will try to present it as fact and at worst just something they have heard somewhere without the slightest idea as to why it should be.
For smaller snakes a heat mat would be OK but especially if the mat is floor mounted, a larger snake may cause “thermal blocking” (completely covering the mat with its body) so I prefer a ceramic heat emitter with a suitable heater cage to prevent the snake burning itself. A suitably rated pulse proportional or dimming thermostat gives the best level of control over the output of the heater but a simple on/off stat (correct wattage rating) will do the job but with a few peaks and troughs in temperature. A temperature range of 30-32 celcius at the hot end to 24 celcius at the cold end gives a good target range. Allowing the temperature to drop lower overnight gives a more realistic representation of the natural environment and having a lower overall temprature duiring months with shorter days can stimulate them to come into breeding condition. However for basic care the normal temperature range will suffice. Having a thermostat is essential. Reptiles can tolerate lower temperatures for some time, simply becoming less active but over temperature can kill them very quickly. The thermostat prevents this happening. Have a seperate temperature guage as well. Thermostats have been known to fail so knowing what the temperature actually is can be vital.
UVB lighting is not necessary to keep your gopher snake healthy and active. However a day night cycle does help this diurnal snake replicate normal behaviour patterns. Also, you want to be able to see your snake so some form of lighting is beneficial. I like to use LED lighting. This has two advantages, the LEDs produce hardly any extra heat so do not interfere with the control of your heating system or cause burns if touched by the snake and they last many tens of thousands of hours longer that an incadescent lamp or even an energy efficiant fluorescent tube/lamp. You can use the other types of lighting but if using incadescent or halogen, the lamp must be protected by a cage to prevent burning. Energy efficient lamps don’t genreally produce enough heat to burn, which is after all why they are energy efficient.
As the name “gopher snake” suggests, these snakes eat mainly small rodents in the wild. In captivity you will have no trouble feeding defrosted mice and rats. Size the food items appropriately to the snake, generally not more thatn 1 1/2 times the snakes head diameter, although that is a guide and they will take slightly larger. It is illegal to feed live vertebrate animals to other animals in the UK, unless the animal in question is at risk if not fed live food. There is no way this could be claimed for any gopher snake. All the specimens I have ever come across are good feeders on defrosted mice/rats. Feeding live rodents is a bad idea in any case as they bite back and could well end up injuring your prized snake. There will always be someone who insists they have to use live. I have a few words to describe these people. Pop in and see me in the shop if you want to know what they are, I can’t publish them here. Defrost the food naturally, not in a microwave. This can heat up the inside of the food and activate necrotic bacteria and give your snake food poisoning. Once defrosted, pop the rat in a poly bag and stick it under your arm to raise to blood temperature and the snake will feed. In the 16 years (at time of writing) I have had my bull snake it has only had two bouts of not feeding, one lasting five months and one three months. Both times were as an adult and there was nothing wrong with the snake. If your snake misses a feed I would leave it for a couple of weeks before attempting again or you may just waste a few rats.
In the wild, gopher snakes have a lifespan of around 15 years. Captive snakes suffer far less risk and stress throughout their lives (or should do if you are looking after them properly). No predation, environmental controls giving all year round good weather and food on a plate. This leads to much longer lifespans. The oldest I have heard of was reported to be 33 years old. 20-25 years is common. Mine is currently sixteen and is just as active as when he was two.
So gopher snakes (and bull snakes), make excellent first snakes as an alternative to the commoner corn snake or as a next snake for something a little larger and more active. They are much less commonly avaiable however so you may have to shop around to get one.
We have two Exo Terra Mini Wide (30cm x30cm x 30cm) glass terrariums on offer as part of complet set up deals. These versatile small terratriums make ideal enclosure for a range of animals including spiders and other invertebrates, small frogs and small geckos (such as our Kotschys geckos).
As an example of price, a set up for an Asian jungle scorpion would total £60, including the Exo Terra terrarium, a heat mat, substrate, hide, water bowl and of course the scorpion. A Kotchys gecko set up would be £125, including the enclosure, canopy, UVB lamp, heat mat, substrate, water bowl, hide and gecko.
As the Exo Terra mini wide enclosures are made of glass, we cannot send them by courier and we do not courier any animals in any case. These set up deals are only available for collection from our Hucclecote store.
We are changing suppliers of fish food and so are clearing space for the new stock by selling the existing products at HALF PRICE.
We have developed our business relationships with our suppliers over a nmumber of years to make the process of obtaining our customers’ products as smooth as possible. Unfortunately, occcssionally we have to change suppliers where the restocking process becomes an issue. There is nothing worse than customers coming in for stock that, for some reason beyond our control we are unable to get. Although we have used our current supplier of fish food for a number of years, the re-ordering process (never ideal) has become increasingly difficult and unreliable. A few months back I made the decision to change suppliers and we are now in a position to start stocking alternative products.
We are however a small shop with only so much shelf space so, in order to make room, we need to sell through our existing stock as quickly as possible. So we are putting all Natures Grub fish food on offer at 50% off, in store, for telephone orders and on line.
This fish food was very reasonably priced in the first place so now it is a real bargain. Just as and example, Algae Wafers 250g in Pets At Home are £14.99 but our 230g pot was only £9.99 but is now £4.99.
Angell Pets monthly offers are now available in our Gloucester pet shop and on line in our web store. These offers are always popular and our wholesaler may well run out of the more popular stock lines so it is worth grabbing a bargain whilst you can. There are a lot of small mammal offer this month, food and treats. There were also two other dog food offers this month but the quality of those products is so poor that we won’t stock them, so we have left them off this list. Just because we can stock supermarket brands for less than the supermarkets doesn’t mean we will. If we feel that using a product is not in the best interest of the animal it would be hypocritical of us to encourage owners to buy it.
Pet shops have been required to have a licence to sell animals for years. Other establishments have also had licenced activities, such as Zoos, boarding establishments, animal display etc. Every year we have had to apply for a renewal, have an inspection and receive our licence. In October 2018 a new instrument was introduced, the Animal Activities Licence. The idea behind the change was to bring several licenced activities under one licence and to introduce a large number of changes, supposedly designed to improve animal welfare and also to try to stop the growing number of unlicenced, on line sellers of animals who, so far, had escaped any scrutiny and who were responsible for a lot of suffering.
The system for administering and issuing the new licence is the responsibility of the local council of the establishment applying. Ours falls under Gloucester City Council. The old licence was just pass or fail but the new one has different levels . We had our, now much more rigorous, inspection at the end of February. The new licence has a star rating award. The minimum of one star is awarded to establishments that are licenced but may have minor failings that need to be resolved or reported issues in the past or are new and so have no track record. It is only awarded annually, to check on progress. The ratings increase up to five stars for establishments that have been judged to be low risk due to their practices, procedures, qualifications and professionalism. Our old pet shop licence expired at the end of December 2018 and we applied for the new AAL licence a little before the expiry date. I am very pleased to say, we have just been awared a Five Star Licence, the highest level acheivable.
This award comes after months of hard work by all of the team. All our staff are qualified to above the minimum standard required and most to a much higher level. We also have the benefit of having George as our technical adviser to oversee everything we have done and act as an expert in various fields of animal husbandry, having been through the process for other establishments. We have measured every enclosure, monitored all the required parameters (temperature, humidity, UVB output and lamp age, cleaning routine, feeding and watering schedules, health inspections etc. etc.). We have written procedures for everything from training, to cleaning, to emergencies such as power failure, fire and escape. All this has to be reviewed at least annually and daily records kept of every animal and enclosure, including where we got it, its health and welfare whilst in the shop and who we sold it to. All this information has to be kept and we must be able to produce it, on demand to the relevant authority for at least three years.
All this work obviously has a huge cost to a business such as ours, both in terms of staff time and equipment purchase. The offset of this cost should have been the shutting down of businesses that are flouting the law and not having to comply with any of these regulations or welfare demands and therefore selling animals “cheap”. Sometimes this is in poorly run, low grade pet shops but it is usually on line or in the local paper or even down the pub. Unfortunately we have yet to see this happen and there are sadly still some pretty poor shops just getting by on a one star licence and a plethora of unlicenced private breeders and sellers, who are running businesses but claiming it’s “just a hobby”. We wait to see if any change occurs here.
In the mean time, when considering buying an animal you should really make sure you are buying from a five star establishment. You can be confident that the animals are being looked after properly before you buy and you have recourse in the unlikely event something goes wrong.
You can also be confident it won’t have some of the nasty conditions we see when people bring in their animal that they bought elsewhere and then want our advice, either on how to look after it or what is wrong with it. This happens pretty much every week and is almost always an animal that has been bought on line or from a “breeder”. We do resist the temptation to just say “well, what did you expect”, as difficult as that is and do try to help as much as we can in the interest of the welfare of the animal but well… Put it this way, where would you rather buy your lunch, a five star rated food outlet or one of those illegal, unlicenced hot dog stands they have in London. You really shouldn’t complain about the food poisoning if you chose the latter.
So when you are looking for an animal, always check the licence status of the seller. As a condition of the licence the holder MUST display a reference, including the licence holders name and licence number wherever animals are offered for sale. That obviously includes the shop, where the licence MUST be on display but also any websites or pages. No licence displayed (with star rating) means no licence, so don’t buy. Oh and do check the number against the local authorities database, there is little to stop unscrupulous sellers putting up someone else’s number!
So congratulations to all the team involved in securing us this top level seal of approval. I know just how much work is involved behind the scenes getting us to this point and maintaining the standards we have set ourselves. In truth there were very few physical changes we had to make. The vast majority of our existing practices would have complied anyway as we have always tried to stay ahead of the field. Indeed we have previously been consulted on our procedures by other establishments during their own quest for a high level licence. Putting all we do into the required format for the new licence however was a lot of work, so well done everyone.
We have one set up with the base stand shown above and one with the hanging stand shown below. All this for the incredible price of only £79.99. Please note we only sell enclosures appropriate for the bird or animal concerned, so these are the smallest cages we would sell for a budgie but are twice the size sold elsewhere for the same bird.
Of course we also stock set ups without stands, cages in black as well as white and other birds. So if you arleady have a place for the cage to go, or would prefer a canary , finches, cockatiels or something else we either have in stock, or can pre order, do come in and see what we have available.
Spring is here, although as I write this the temperature is dropping again after the warm end to February. Ho hum. Our March offers are now in store and also available on line. Last months offers proved very popular so make sure you get in early before we run out.
Sometimes there is just not room for a large vivarium suitable to house a larger snake. However there are a number of interesting snakes that would be suitable for smaller enclosures. Commonly available are Kenyan Sand Boas, Children’s Pythons, Western Hog Nose etc. The Banded Water Snake (also known as the Southern Water Snake) is an often overlooked alternative. We rarely stock them as we only stock captive bred animals and these are just not often available.
The banded water snake is an attractively patterned, non venomous, semi aquatic (in the wild), reasonably heavy bodied, although fairly short snake from some of the southern states of America. On average the snakes grow to just under a meter with the males a bit less and the females sometimes slightly more. It fills the niche occupied by the grass snake in the UK (and actually has similar colouration, especially the underside – although different patternation). It is semi aquatic, spending much of its active time around the banks and fringes of lakes and rivers where it commonly feeds on fish and amphibians. In captivity it will eat small rodents so don’t worry about feeding, you won’t have to get hold of frogs.
The UK regulations
guidelines on housing for snakes suggest a vivarium length of not less than
2/3rds the adult length of the snake, so an 18 inch (45cm) minimum vivarium for
a male or a 24 to 30 inch for a female. In the wild the banded water snake is
semi aquatic. but this does not mean a semi aquatic vivarium is necessarily
best for captive snakes. If you have the time (and money for kit) this would
make an attractive set up but I would not recommend this for beginners, busy
people or people on a budget. In an aquatic set up it is very important to keep
the land area fairly dry to prevent scale rot, the air well ventilated and
turning over regularly to prevent fungal growth and have a good filtration
system for the water. Banded water snakes have a habit of defecating in the
water. You will need a more efficient filter than you need for an equivalent
sized fish tank. It would be more beneficial to the snake for most keepers to
set up a terrestrial viv. using substrate suitable for increased humidity and
have a larger than normal water dish, which would need refreshing daily. In
this type of set up the snake will thrive but not be at risk of all the
potential problems of the more complex semi aquatic vivarium. Glass vivariums
(or terrariums if you like) are ideal as they will tolerate higher humidity
without issue but wooden are fine as long as the ends of the panels are sealed
and also the joints when assembled. This prevents moisture getting into the
joints, vents etc. and causing the vivarium panels to “blow”.
As with most snakes UVB lighting is not really necessary for a banded water snake but a day/night cycle is and of course you will want to see it. There are various lighting options available and it depends a bit on how you are heating your viv. My preferred lighting would be an LED strip or screw in LED lamp. But other lamps will work (such as energy efficient lamps – the curly fluorescent ones that take an age to brighten up). Just remember that incandescent lamps (the old “light bulb” or “spot lamp”)and halogen lamps are inefficient at producing light and waste a lot of energy producing a lot of heat (which is why they are used for heating and for basking areas). There will need to be a method of controlling that heat (thermostat) and a guard to protect the snake from burning itself if you use this method, which is why I tend to avoid it now better methods are available. You can use incandescent to create a basking area for the snake if you wish but from experience this is not essential as long as you can maintain a good thermal gradient across the viv.
Banded water snakes are relatively small snakes so heating with a heat or “thermal” mat is fine. The snake will not grow large enough to cover the whole mat (and by doing so produce a phenomenon known as “thermal blocking”) and the heat will radiate and convect round the whole vivarium whilst still producing a “hot end”. Mounting the heat mat on the end wall of the vivarium rather than the floor produces a longer thermal gradient for the snake to enjoy and goes some way to preventing accidental damage to the mat by dropping something on it and inadvertently piecing it with a sharp piece of substrate. Not very likely but I have known two customers do this and it produces a lot of smoke as the hot spot this creates smoulders the viv. and/or substrate. An alternative would be to use an infra red lamp or a ceramic heat emitter and both would work well but you must also fit a heater cage to protect the snake from burning itself (unless of course the heater is above the mesh top of a glass vivarium).
Whichever heating system
you use you will need a thermostat to control the temperature. If a heater
fails the snake will be fine for a few days until you can replace it. If it
gets too hot it could be dead in hours (it could even suffer nervous system
damage within minutes if hot enough) so a thermostat is essential kit. The
on/off thermostats used with heat mats are typically half the price of the
pulse proportional or dimmer stats commonly used with heat emitters so this may
influence your decision.
A hot end temperature of up to 30C with a low end of 24C is what to aim for.
As said, unless you have a bit of extra cash and the luxury of some extra time, I would not go down the semi aquatic route. A simple set up with a hot end, a cold end, substrate such as coir or orchid bark (or a mix or the two), a couple of hides at least, one with some damp moss under it to create an even more humid microclimate for shedding, a bit of decor to make it interesting to look at and a larger than average water bowl placed somewhere in the middle to help with humidity levels, a temperature gauge and a humidity gauge is all you need. The banded water snake does seem to enjoy a more crowded vivarium so use decor it can get under, hide in and explore. The good old skull ornament usually features in our set ups somewhere! Ideally humidity wants to be up to 60% and no lower than 40%.
If you do want to go
for a semi aquatic set up it is vital that the barrier between the water and
the land area is sealed properly to prevent the substrate getting water logged.
If this happens it will lead to fungal growth (which can cause respiratory
problems in snakes) and scale rot if there is nowhere dry for the banded water
snake to hole up in. On top of that it will smell, as the lower levels become
anoxic and the substrate starts to rot. The water will require a good filter to
remove solids (waste from the snake and bits of substrate knocked in) and to
provide a medium for the bacteria that eat ammonia and nitrite to live in
(Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter). A gravel bed will also provide extra surface
area for bacterial growth. A few broad leaved plants in the water will provide
cover and make it more likely the snake will use the water to explore. It will
need to be treated like a fish tank; regular partial water changes and gravel
cleans (in situ) and de-chlorinator will need to be added to any fresh tap
water used (unless using rain water or RO water). Regularly check any wooden
matter such as branches, including the reverse side, for any signs of mould or
mildew. The snake itself will need to be monitored more closely to ensure it is
not suffering from any of the problems associated with much higher humidity already
mentioned. See why it may not be a good idea for a beginner?
Wild banded water snakes mainly eat small fish and amphibians. Wild caught specimens will tend to need this food, at least initially. This is another good reason to go for captive bred (and we only sell captive bred animals), aside from the ethical and health reasons (wild caught are likely to come with their own little cast of parasites and ailments). Captive bred snakes will eat defrosted mice (pinkies for hatchlings or very young snakes). A tip I read suggested that, as the snakes tend to hunt fish by corralling them in the shallows and then sticking their head amongst them and swiping round at anything that touched their necks, touching the snake on the side just behind the head will stimulate a feeding response. Now I always take things on the internet with a pinch of salt but I have tried this myself and it does work. Please note that it will be necessary to increase the size of the food as the snake grows. Seems obvious but I know of owners with two year old corn snakes still feeding pinkies because “that was what the shop told me to feed it”.
A little late this month but February’s discounts are now available in store and on line in our webstore. As always, with these prices we can run out of the special offer items, so do get your orders in quick. A short month this month too so even less time to grab a bargain.