Checkered Garter Snake (Thamnophis marcianus)

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Checkered Garter Snake
Thamnophis marcianus
Checkered Garter Snake (Thamnophis marcianus)
Name Checkered Garter Snake
Name Lat. Thamnophis marcianus
Family Colubrids
Family lat. Colubridae
Order Scaled Reptiles
Order lat. Squamata
Origin SW-USA, Mexico
Habitat Water proximity
Diet Amphibians, fish, worms
Humidity 50-70 %
Behavior Peaceful
Keeping Individual, pair, group
Care Level Easy
Reproduction Ovoviviparous
Housing Semi-humid terrarium
Life Span 5-10 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 70 cm
Temperature 20-25 °C
Temperature Local 28-30 °C
Housing Size 100 x 60 x 50 cm
US Units
Size 28"
Temperature 68-77 °F
Temperature Local 82-86 °F
Housing Size 40" x 25" x 20"

Distribution and habitat

The distribution area of the predominantly diurnal checkerboard garter snakes is the south of the USA and Mexico as well as in isolated populations in Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica. There they prefer to live in dry areas always near slow flowing or stagnant water.


Minimum dimensions for the terrarium, according to the size and number of animals:

1-2 animals 1,25KL x 0,75KL x 0,5KL (L x W x H)

Body length (KL) is measured on the largest animal. For each additional animal the floor space should be increased by 20%. A terrarium of e.g. L 100 x W 60 x H 50 cm is recommended, which should be placed in a quiet and vibration-free place.

They need a terrarium structured with roots, climbing branches, cork tubes and bamboo sticks (hiding places and visual protection) with a moisture-retaining substrate, e.g. of sand-humus mixture with peat and foliage, as well as a large, easy-to-clean water basin as drinking and bathing possibility. Part of the substrate should always be kept slightly moist (no waterlogging). Several times a week, preferably in the evening, the inside of the terrarium should be finely sprayed with water (humidity), but a rain or mist system is better.

Temp. day: 20-25 °C Temp. night: 18-22 °C Temp. local: up to 30 °C Humidity: 50-70

Thermostatically controlled floor heating is recommended. Lighting duration must be 12-14 hrs depending on the season. Daylight fluorescent tubes supplemented with UV lamps are ideal.


The food supply consists of live fish, lizards, amphibians, earthworms, dewworms and mice according to their size. After successful acclimation, the changeover to dead food animals (commercial frozen food) is often successful. Juveniles should be offered food every 3-5 days, adults every 7-14 days, with occasional periods of fasting (e.g., skipping a feeding). If the snake is disturbed after feeding, this may result in vomiting of the prey. It is better to offer several small feeders, rather than one large one. If it does not eat for a long period of time, both the timing and the food should be varied. It is important to fortify the food animals with vitamins and minerals. Since the snake could be injured by live rodents, it should not be left unattended with them.

Reproduction and breeding

Probing by the veterinarian is the only reliable method of sex determination

They are viviparous (ovoviviparous). The gestation period is 4-6 months. The young are fully developed at birth and only need to pierce the egg shell surrounding them. Litter sizes of 6-18 animals are the rule

Life expectancy can be 5-10 years.


They need a dry sunny place warmed by radiators. Special attention should be paid to an escape-proof terrarium, as they can squeeze their bodies through the smallest crevices. When threatened, they can emit strong-smelling feces

For the resting phase, the lighting duration is reduced by 4-6 hours for 2-5 months and the temperature is lowered to 10-15 °C, depending on the origin.

Always have snake hooks and protective gloves ready when handling.The terrarium must have good ventilation without drafts and meet the species-specific needs. Measuring devices such as thermometers, hygrometers, etc. are necessary. The lighting has to correspond to the species-specific day-night rhythm and has to be placed in such a way that the animals cannot injure themselves. The terrarium should be locked in such a way that neither unauthorized persons can open it nor the animals can escape. Contamination must be removed regularly

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Christian Sänger: petdata; Image: Alex Rinesch

Source: BMELV (1997): Tierschutzgutachten -  Mindestanforderungen an die Haltung von Reptilien; ENGELMANN (2006): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Reptilien und Amphibien, Harri Deutsch Verlag

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF