10 Tips for Noodle Friend Tub Setups

January 26, 2019

In October 2017, I decided that I would finally give in to myself and order a Mexican Black Kingsnake. I'd done my research, learned a lot about the species and snakes themselves, and I felt I was ready. I considered it my holiday gift to myself. After checking rescues and rehoming organizations (unfortunately no MBKs or even kingsnakes for adoption in my area) I ordered my snake (my first time ever) online through MorphMarket. I took the breeder's word for it that she was a female, and named her Celestina. The instant she arrived I held her gingerly to transfer her to a hide in her new enclosure. I adored her.

She hid for a good long time...

...but finally came out to investigate.

At first, baby Celestina lived in a minimalistic 20-gallon aquarium with fine aspen shavings, under-tank heat, and a couple cheap hides. But after all that research, I had already made my first mistake. A few weeks in, Celestina managed to scale the walls of her tank, squeeze through the lid, and escaped. After an awful couple weeks of looking for her and the worst case of physical stress sickness I'd ever had, Celestina reappeared (near the never-used fireplace downstairs, ugh, weirdo) and I got her a proper tub.

She stayed that way for several months, until I moved and happened to see this monstrosity at a thrift store. (Seriously, thrift stores are the best.)

It was glorious. And it was $45. And it came with tons of hides and decor inside. I squeezed it into my car and sang the song of victory. We later found the dresser sitting outside the dump at our apartment (the dump here also sometimes doubles as a gift exchange. We've left things there ourselves and found that someone took them home before the garbage man arrived.) I used scotch tape to secure the doors since it did not come with a mechanical lock, and all was well with the world.

It was nice being able to see (now adult) Celestina poke around and check out new people when we would sit near her at the dinner table. But that was the problem.

This thing was truly a monstrosity. We had just downsized, and Celestina moved into a mansion in our tiny apartment. As a kingsnake, Celestina does occasionally do some climbing, but not nearly enough to warrant this behemoth. Plus, I felt that, were I a snake, I'd feel stressed in there with clear walls on all sides. She needed more coverage.

Things weren't so bad, though. The baths were good. :)

A month or so ago I decided to move Celestina back to her old tub - which after comparing to the above terrarium setup, was almost the same floor space as her old tub enclosure. The only thing she was really sacrificing was all that vertical space (which cost us a lot more extra energy to keep in the proper heat range than a more shallow tub).

So I cleaned out and sanitized the old tub (we had been using it to store fitness and sports equipment) with vinegar, loaded it up with a few inches of aspen shavings, and started moving over her hides. The finished result looks like this:

I later added one large leaf that adds even more coverage, but it doesn't really make for good pictures. And, of course, she is hiding in her favorite log. She's taken to clinging to the inside of that log so that when I do my wellness checks on her we basically do a cartoon comedy routine.

The important things to remember when setting up a bin are:

  1. Your snake does not know the difference between an all glass terrarium and a tub.
  2. Size the tub the same as you would for a tank, and noodle friend will be happy. Be generous if you can.
  3. Ventilate by drilling holes in the tub! You will have to experiment with how many holes you actually need to keep the humidity inside appropriate for your specific kind of snake. My snake needed a dryer climate, and it took a lot of holes to keep the humidity at a solid 40-50.
  4. Treat it as if it were a viewing tank. Your snake wants to feel secure, which is part of why I love tub setups - the opacity of the walls seems much less vulnerable than an all glass enclosure. But you have to keep in mind the kind of snake you own. Mine is a fairly active kingsnake - so she has things to hide in, things to crawl on, a dish deep enough to bathe in, and some rough surfaces to assist her sheds. When you look inside, it doesn't seem empty.
  5. You can make it a viewing tank. There's a lot of examples of people modifying tubs with glass or acrylic so that one section of the tub has a viewing window. You can have the best of both worlds. :)
  6. Make sure you have under tank heat since overheat heat lamps will NOT work here, and keep an eye on the temperature throughout the day, just like with a standard tank. The heat may cause discoloration in the bottom plastic, but will not cause significant damage to the bin or corrupt it as an enclosure.
  7. Get a bin with a lid that locks! A flimsy lid is as good as a tank with no lid at all. My lid locks in six places - one on each end, and two on each side down the length. It's a weather sealed bin from Iris, so there is no nudging or sneaking through to go for a walk. The escape-proofing is the #1 advantage of a tub setup! There are too many horror stories of clever snakes disappearing from traditional enclosures, and you can count mine among them! Never again!
  8. Do your wellness checks. You will want to check in on your snake frequently, especially if they are active hiders and move frequently from hide to hide. Check on them not to the point of stressing them out, but enough to know if they need anything and are doing well.
  9. Tub setups take a little do-it-yourself power, but because of this, you can be more creative with your enclosure. Want a two-story tub? Two or more tubs connected by tubing for snakes to sneak through like a crazy hamster tower? A decked out viewing rack? You can get it done, and you can bet someone already has!
  10. Upgrade when you can! Tubs are affordable, easy to transport, and fairly easy to turn into a snake enclosure. I plan on getting a longer tub in the future and adding a viewing window as our space allows for it. Right now, though, she is settled happy in under my desk.
By the way, we sold the monstrosity terrarium for $150. It sold a day or so after we posted it for sale. It cost me $45 originally, and we kept all the decor and hides that came with it! Win win win!

Are you thinking of getting a snake? Another kind of pet? What pets do you have at home, and what are your dream pets? I'd love to hear about them! :)