An adult extreme red female and an adult anaconda male western hognose.
This is a brief explanation of how I personally keep western hognose snakes. It should not be the only resource you rely on when researching them! It’s just an overview of the basic husbandry requirements that I employ. Western hognoses are great for the beginner-intermediate hobbyist, and their attitudes, small size, and color morphs make them appealing to a broad range of people! I do not think they make great snakes for first time reptile owners, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep one as a first time owner- you just have to be very aware of their temperaments and feeding habits before getting into them and make sure you are well prepared to deal with any issues that may arise. Overall, hognoses are some of my favorite snakes that I keep.
Male hognoses reach a maximum length of 2-3 feet and typically weigh less than 200g. Females are larger and heavier bodied and can reach up to 4 feet, though this is uncommon. Females typically weigh less than 600g at adulthood. My adult male hognoses range in size from 60-130g and my adult females range from 200-500g.
Surface Temperature: 72-95F
Ambient (Air) Temperature: 70-85F
Cage Size (Adult Males): 20g long or similarly sized tub / enclosure
Cage Size (Small Adult Female - 200g or less): 20g long or similarly sized tub / enclosure
Cage Size (Large Adult Female 300g+): 40g breeder or similarly sized tub / enclosure
Diet: Primarily mice
A juvenile male super arctic western hognose.
Cage size is probably the most important factor in getting your hognose feeding properly besides temperature. This is what has worked best for me when working with hognoses. Many people recommend keeping them in small tank sizes permanently but for MOST individuals this is not necessary. Unlike a lot of other snake species, it REALLY is important to keep these guys in tight quarters until feeding reliably, and it's not usually feasible to put a baby or juvenile hognose directly into an adult enclosure size- no matter how "cluttered" and well decorated it is.
Hatchlings (less than 30g)
I start my hatchlings in Reptile Basics I80 tubs. These are usually referred to as "pencil boxes" and are roughly 13"x3"x2". I keep them in these tubs until they've fed 10 times and weigh at least 10g. Unless you are keeping a lot of hognoses it's not practical to use this tub size for hatchlings. A 6qt tub (with a tight fitting lid) will be appropriate for the vast majority of well-started hatchlings. (I move hognoses to 6qt tubs after they've met my initial feeding / weight requirements)
First off, wait until your hatchling hognose is feeding consecutively and confidently in it's hatchling enclosure before upgrading it. Juveniles can be kept in 15/16qt tubs or 10g aquariums. You may need to use supplemental (overhead) heating if using an aquarium, as well as "blocking out" (using cardboard or contact paper) 3/4 sides of the aquarium to get them to feel comfortable and secure enough to eat.
Adult Males (50-100g+)
Most males will thrive in something in the 20g long aquarium range. If you are building or buying a custom enclosure for your male hognose, I usually recommend a 2'x2'x18" sized enclosure (again, as long as he is eating reliably in his juvenile enclosure). Although hognoses do not climb much, I recommend 15"-18" of height for any lighting and heating elements. You may want to try him in a 32qt tub for a while before moving him into the custom enclosure just to ensure he's ready for an upgrade to that size. Some male hogs just do not do well in "larger" enclosures. You can keep your hognose in an enclosure as large as you like as long as it continues feeding consistently!
Adult Females (less than 200g)
Small females can be kept in 20g long aquariums, tubs of similar size, or custom enclosures (again, I recommend a 2'x2'x18" enclosure). Females tend to adapt better to larger enclosures than males, so I consider a 20g to be the minimum size for a small adult female. I keep my small adult females in 32qt tubs in a rack.
Adult Females (300g+)
Large females can be kept in 40g breeder (36"x18"x16") or similarly sized tubs or custom enclosures. If you want to build or buy a custom enclosure for a large adult female I would recommend a 36"x24"x18" enclosure. I currently keep some of my large adult girls in either 41qt tubs (rack) or 3x2x1 cages. Most adult females are very reliable eaters and it's really up to you how much additional space you provide them. Do what works best for your snake.
A sub-adult female "Neon" line Toffeeconda.
An adult male snow hognose.
An adult male anaconda hognose.
A sub-adult male extreme red albinoconda, produced here at Sunfish Exotics!
An adult female granite western hognose.
I recommend new arrivals be kept on several layers of paper towel (to allow basic burrowing) for around 2 weeks after you get them to make tracking health and checking for external parasites (mites) easier.
Once that first two week period is over you will need to switch your hognose up to loose substrate! Hognoses love to burrow, and will often go off of food if they can’t dig to their heart’s content! The substrate should be kept around 2-4″ depending on the girth of your hognose.
Aspen is a cheap, convenient, and easy to clean substrate that works well for hatchlings all the way up to adults.
Naturalistic substrate is also a good option for hognoses. I keep my males and young females on a mix of topsoil and sand with a bit of coco fiber and clay mixed in, although there are also now many companies offering pre-mixed substrates for sale that work perfectly well! If using a natural substrate with your hognose please keep an eye on their nostrils, they can get clogged more easily when kept on dirt or dirt-like subs (it can happen with aspen as well). It usually happens when the substrate is too dusty and the small particles get stuck in the nose while burrowing.
There are a few commonly available substrates that I find to be poor choices when used on their own for hognoses:
Coco Fiber - Used on it’s own, coco fiber is too dusty if kept dry enough for hognoses, and can clog their nostrils easily. It’s fine to use coco in a substrate mix though, especially in a humid hide or micro-climate.
Sand - Regular play sand is an unnatural substrate type for hognoses. They’re not from the Sahara. As with coco fiber, it’s dusty and can clog their nostrils. It’s fine to use in a mix with other substrate types.
I usually recommend keepers new to snakes and / or new to hognoses start out using a more traditional substrate like shredded aspen.