Mandarin Rat Snakes are beautifully marked with striking colours, they can be a little skittish but generally have a fantastic temperament and are easily handled. They come from rocky forests and farmlands across Asia, mainly China, Taiwan, Burma, and Vietnam.

Mandarins are a species of Rat Snake from the Colubridae family, originating from North America. They can grow to around 4 - 5ft and tend to have a lifespan of around 15 - 20 years. They are quite a compact snake, and not very large-bodied, so do well in an enclosure around 4ft x 2ft for an adult. They are diurnally active and enjoy using the space in their enclosure, as long as it is set up correctly.

This means there needs to be a good heat gradient within the vivarium, giving them a hot end of around 28-30C, going down to about 22C at the cool end, and including a drop to around 15C overnight to replicate a natural nighttime drop. This can be achieved best with the use of a basking bulb or ceramic bulb, anything used should be controlled with a thermostat, and any bulbs will require a bulb guard on them as well, as snakes do have a tendency to wrap around bulbs.

A heat mat could be used as a non-light emitting heat source for overnight, ensuring that the snakes get a good day and night cycle as well though this would depend on temperatures reached when the heating goes out, and may not be necessary. 


As with all snakes, rat snakes are often kept without UVB, however, it has been shown to be extremely beneficial for their general health and well-being, boosting their immune systems and overall wellness, so a low level, such as the Arcadia ShadeDweller is highly recommended, alternatively, for the larger vivariums such as the adult 2ft tall, a 6% strip with reflector may be more beneficial.


Mandarin Rat snakes are quite shy and may hide often throughout the day. When they do make an appearance they will enjoy moving around their enclosure, so plenty of decoration for them to utilise is recommended, such as branches, plants, and in particular leaf litter for them to shelter in and feel secure. It is important to have a few options for the Snake to hide in, ideally, at least one on the hot and one on the cold end, though more is beneficial, even if its just a hidden area created with plants over a branch, giving a shaded area underneath.

A water bowl, ideally large enough for the snake to submerge in, helps to keep them hydrated, as well as helping with shedding if required. This should be ideally located on the cooler end.

For substrate, Mandarin Rat Snakes should be kept on a forest type bedding so humidity is more easily maintained. Coco soil, Arcadia earthmix, Pro rep bio life forest with added moss and leaf litter helps to replicate their natural habitat a bit more. A light misting each day over the substrate ensures that the humidity is kept at the desired levels. This should be spot cleaned as needed, as snakes do tend to only defecate once a week, and then fully cleaned on a regular basis, ideally every couple of months.


Mandarin Rat Snakes are best fed on frozen-thawed rodents, ideally, mice, going up in size as they grow. An adult may reach the size to take a large or X-large mouse. As youngsters that are still growing, weekly feeding is ideal, though this may be extended to every other week for adults, using their body condition to judge this.

Alternative Species

There are many alternative species to the Mandarin rat snake, with similar care requirements. These include Corn snakes, Black rat snakes and Royal pythons. Some lizards are also worth checking out, like the Chinese water dragon.

Species profile:

  • Scientific name - Euprepiophis mandarinus
  • Adult Expected Size - 4 - 5 feet
  • Habitat - Open forests and rocky scrubland across China. Terrestrial living.
  • Required Enclosure Size - 4ftx2ftx2ft
  • UV Lighting - 2-3 UVI (use of shadedweller or 6% UVB enclosure height dependent)
  • Expected Lifespan - 15 - 20 Years
  • Temperature Gradient - 22C - 30C
  • Humidity Levels - 65 - 75%
  • Feeding - Defrosted mammals once weekly (mice recommended)
  • Handling - Docile, easily tamed and easily handled. One person handle. Handling to be avoided 48 hours after feeding and when shedding.