Sometimes referred to as the Chinese Trinket snake, this allegedly difficult to keep secretive and stunning rat snake can easily be maintained by the average hobbyist willing to let go of a few exotic snake keeping stereotypes.
Considering Mandarins come from rocky forests and farmlands within China, Taiwan, Burma, and Vietnam where the climate is fairly cool and humid, it is imperative that we manage them in captivity with the same environmental considerations. They will burrow and hide during the day and do well in smaller enclosures. The enclosure should not have ventilation in excess as humidity will be difficult to maintain. Mandarins can attain 4 feet in length and surprisingly will benefit from an enclosure smaller than that typically used for a four-foot snake, as it aids in the feeling of security. An enclosure similar to the footprint of a 30-gallon aquarium is adequate. Our adults have enclosures footprints between 4 and 6 square feet.
Unlike the more common colubrids kept in captivity, Mandarins like it cooler. Although a gradient of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is acceptable, steady temperatures in the mid-70s are preferred. Normal room temperature often suits them just fine. They tolerate cold much better than heat, and great care should be taken that their enclosures never get to more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The base line temperature in our snake room is 75F. The mandarin enclosures are on the floor under other enclosures and have only minimal heat from above via the heat mat heating the above enclosure and no part of their enclosure ever exceeds 78F.
Basking Spot Temperature: 78°F -82°F
Warm Side Ambient Temperature: 75°F-78°F
Cool Side Ambient Temperature: 70°F-75°F
Optional Night-time Ambient Drop: 68°F-70°F
Humidity of 60 to 70 percent is preferred. There is no need to have the enclosure approach atmospheric dewpoint as such levels will lead to a wet enclosure, bacterial growth and illness. These snakes are however sensitive to drying out. So how do we manage humidity allowing for some forgiveness of keeper error without compromising snake health? We use deep layer of coconut fiber bended with cypress much and shredded sphagnum. So that if the surface should dry out. This fossorial serpent will burrow to where the humidity is a little more comfortable.
Due to their cooler nature, mandarins have slightly slower metabolism compared to their heat loving tropical counterparts. They grow a little more slowly and therefore in captivity we feed our mandarins a little differently than most of out other rodent loving colubrids. They are fed approximately every 7 to 10 days with rodents that are smaller than the smallest part of their girth however we give them multiples that would equate to a volume of prey slightly larger than their girth this ensure they are able to digest more easily and all but eliminates the risk of regurgitation.