Best pet snakes
Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
We often get questions about what is an ideal beginner-friendly snake for those new to the hobby. Beginner meaning fairly easy to care for with not a lot of requirements other than good husbandry and attention to detail. Of all the reptiles available in the hobby, snakes seem to be the most popular. Go to any reptile show, and the majority of the animals available are of the legless kind. Snakes can make great pets. They can be secretive or outgoing, depending on the individual snake and the species, and some of them are easy to care for. Here we present you five beginner friendly snakes, in no particular order, for those new to the hobby, or for those who wish to add a new animal to your collection that is fairly easy to keep.
5 Great Pet Snakes
- Corn Snake
- California Kingsnake
- Rosy Boa
- Gopher Snake
- Ball Python
Snake hatchlings can be started on pinkies.
Before the ball python captured the imagination of snake lovers, the corn snake (Pantherophis guttata) was the most popular pet snake available. Fairly docile, easy to handle and care for, what is not to like about this North American native? Corn snakes are still one of the most popular pet snakes because of their demeanor, availability, and their color combinations. They don’t grow too big, don’t need a big enclosure (I’ve had mine in a 20-gallon enclosure for 10 years), and if you wish to breed them, are very easy to breed.
gina cioli/I-5 Studio
Okeetee corn snake.
Corn snake hatchlings average around $25-40 depending on where you buy them and their color variation. Housing them is straightforward. My enclosure is a 20-gallon with a screened top, an under tank heat pad, a ceramic water bowl, two hides (paper towel roll and a commercial hide) and aspen substrate. No special lighting is required and when I feed them, I pull them out and place them in their own separate shoebox where they both get a frozen/thawed rat pup or F/T mice. They can live for a long time. Like I said, I’ve had mine for 10 years and they are still going strong.
California kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula californiae) are considered kings because of their capability to kill and eat rattlesnakes and other snakes. Here in Southern California, the California kingsnake is popular both in the trade and to observe in the wild. They are also super popular beginner snakes, though they can be a bit nippy if not handled often enough. In the wild, these snakes are fairly opportunistic feeders, eagerly hunting down and eating other snakes, including venomous snakes, small rodents, lizards, birds, and even bird eggs.
Kingsnakes don’t grow too large, averaging 3 to 4 feet in length.
Kingsnakes don’t grow too large, averaging 3 to 4 feet in length. You can house one in a 20-gallon enclosure with a screened top, a hide and suitable substrate. An under tank heater optimized for your tank size is necessary to help the snake thermoregulate and aid in digestion. The water bowl should be large enough for the snake to soak in, and heavy enough so the snake doesn’t tip it over. No special lighting is required to keep this species. Feed hatchling kingsnakes appropriately sized pinky mice (no wider than the girth of the snake) and as they grow, your feeders should grow with them (Pinkies, then fuzzies, hoppers, then small mice, and then adult mice, depending on how big the snake gets). Adult snakes can be fed frozen thawed mice or even frozen thawed rat pups. You can purchase a baby kingsnake for about $50 give or take, and that $50 can buy you anything from an aberrant black and white corn snake to a baby albino kingsnake (in the upper $50 range). Other than coloration, they are all Lampropeltis getula californiae.
The rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata), though not as popular as the corn snake or the California kingsnake, is still a popular pet snake in the hobby. Fairly docile, the rosy boa doesn’t get too large, growing to about 4 feet in length when fully grown, though average sizes are 2 to 3 feet in length. The rosy boa can be purchased for around $30-40 as hatchlings at reptile shows, reptile stores, and on the Internet. They are not typically found in the big box retail pet stores, where you can readily find corn snakes and ball pythons. The rosy boa is a long lived snake, capable of living 25+ years or more. My best friend growing up had a rosy boa that lived 16 years.