Building a snake Tank

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Forum topic by SabadoG posted 03-25-2011 09:59 PM 1631 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2043 days

03-25-2011 09:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hello everyone, I am new to Lumberjocks and I am here to get as much help as you guys can give me. I suppose the essential information is that I am attempting to build a box out of 3/4 plywood that will be 48” long by 24” deep by approx 18” tall. The front of the box needs have a removable plexiglass front(read: non load bearing). I have never attempted such a project before, and while my soon-to-be Father-in-law will be helping me, I hope to arrive with a good plan so that this remains “my project” and doesn’t become “his project” that I helped with. I am far less interested in the overall aesthetic of the piece and more interested in keeping the weight down as much as possible and having it last for a few years (maybe decades). It won’t have to support any weight other than it’s own. I know that just the plywood by itself will make this thing weigh like 75lbs, but I’m not sure if I can get by just screwing the plywood into itself. What I had in mind (if this makes any sense, I have a hard time describing the project without making a sketch) was the having the base and top be the full size of the box with the sides the full depth and the back fit inside the other 4 pieces of wood, flush with their edges. will that be sturdy enough or will I have to add more support? My experience in doing any sort of woodwork very limited (mostly some set building in college) I know this is probably a big first project to undertake, from the ground up, but any help that can be offered would be greatly appreciated.

A second, and related question has to do with the lid itself, I was planning on making several cutouts for things like light fixtures and a couple hinged lids. Since I’m planning on making this out of plywood, how much wood to I need to have between these various holes to keep the overall integrity of the plywood?

5 replies so far

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2495 posts in 2531 days

#1 posted 03-26-2011 04:43 AM

First, all snakes are born Houdini’s. Just how big of a snake are you going to put in this cage. If the Plexiglas is not fairly secure,(a 48×18 inch will flex enough for the snake to escape) you will have an escapee to deal with. If it is non-poisonous, this not to big of a problem, but if this a dangerous specie, then it is a great big problem.
Your constrictors are not only strong when constricting, but they can make things happen to an enclosure that will surprise you.
I have had a 12 foot South American Red Tail Boa raise a pine 1×4 in the middle of a 48×24 x 24 enclosure. If you would like my assistance, email me at Good luck. Rand

View Jacob's profile


85 posts in 2066 days

#2 posted 03-27-2011 12:44 AM

I have built a snake tank in the past, and have plans (but not time) to do a few more, If you Message me I can email you a few pics for some inspiration perhaps.

Why does the plexiglass have to be removable? Have you thought about framing around it and making hinged like a door? that would make securing it shut much easier.

Also, not sure about where you live, but keep in mind the inside of the tank will encounter heat and humidity necessary to keep your snake comfortable (depending on the species)

-- -Jacob Turetsky, Industrial Designer

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85 posts in 2066 days

#3 posted 03-27-2011 12:50 AM

Also, screwing into plywood becomes problematic when you have to butt joints together in the corners, I might suggest looking into simple joinery techniques like rabbeting the corners. If your using the right plywood (maybe 3/4) it should hold its integrity when made into a box shape.

Also, we all have our own preferences and methods for caring for our pets, but a heat lamp above the tank fit into a cut out sounds a little risky for heating reason, especially burning the snake or even causing a fire, I might suggest looking into under tank heating elements, like pads to create the temperature gradient.

Anywho, shoot me a message if you want.

-- -Jacob Turetsky, Industrial Designer

View SabadoG's profile


4 posts in 2043 days

#4 posted 03-27-2011 04:04 AM

The tank is going to be housing 4 snakes, so keeping it clean can be difficult. The reason I want the plexiglass to be removable it to make accessing the bottom of the tank as easy as possible. Since the front of the box is doing nothing for the structural integrity I figured it was best to make the top (or at least most of the top) perminantly attached to keep it as rigid as possible. If I want to be able to really clean the tank, that means the pexiglass needs to be removable. I have it worked out how to keep the glass secured, and while hinging the front is a good idea, it wouldn’t work due to space limitations of where the tank will be stored. As far as the heat and humidity, I was planning on sealing the bottom of the tank with fiberglass resin, going up about 2 inches on the sides and then painting the tank with an oil based high gloss to keep it fairly water resistant. I have considered using a pool paint, but what is available around here only comes in two or three colors, none of which I like.

I suppose my biggest question is potential sag in the top of the tank. Should I run some sort of beam across the front of the tank to keep everything square, or is 4 feet too short of a span to worry about that? The front center of the top will be about 2 feet from anything that really provides any support.

As for tank heaters, UTH’s won’t work because 3/4 plywood is too thick for effective hear transfer. I will probably end up using a thermo-regulated in-the-tank heat mat as well as a heat lamp. The heat lamp (ceramic) is necessary to keep the ambient temperature of the tank hot enough, a heat pad/mat will only create on hot spot for the snake to bask on. The heat lamp will be domed, so I’m not worried about fire. These are snakes I’ve had for years, and they have yet to burn themselves on a heat lamp, I don’t see why moving them into a larger enclosure would change that either.

View jusfine's profile


2405 posts in 2350 days

#5 posted 03-27-2011 05:57 AM

I raised snakes for a pet shop for years, found the best was to have the tanks made out of glass and made a wooden top. Easier to clean, better visibilty, natural light for them, and there is not as much odor due to the plywood absorbing and retaining the smell.

I made most of mine with glass that was cut on a slope, approximately 16” on one end to 24” high on the other (that was the front) and about 16” deep to give room to climb and move around, get away or closer to the heat…

All the best with your project!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

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