IN THIS ARTICLE
- Snake Basics for Beginners
- The 10 Best Pet Snakes for Beginners
- Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pet Snake
- Common Mistakes to Avoid as a Beginner Snake Owner
- Embrace the Fascinating World of Snakes
Snakes have not had a good reputation for the longest time. However, snake enthusiasts have been on the front line to change the negative narrative about snakes and reveal just how fascinating the slithery reptiles are.
Most snake breeds have diverse patterns and bright, contrasting colors on their bodies that play a crucial role in their survival and interaction with the environment. Their distinctive personalities and temperaments make them interesting creatures to interact with. A number of them appear to be pretty docile and easy to handle in snake parks and shows. It’s no wonder that most people nowadays have snakes as pets.
Be that as it may, it's important to understand there are different snake species, and not all are friendly. Thorough research on requirements, such as diet and habitat preferences, is crucial in the care and maintenance of the snake. This ensures that owners can handle their snake companions safely and keep them healthy.
Below, we’ll explore the basics of snakes, look at the 10 best snakes for pets, the factors to consider when choosing snake pets, and the mistakes to avoid as a beginner snake owner.
Snake Basics for Beginners
Snakes do not have limbs like other reptiles. They move their bodies by slithering using an elongated spine that has up to 100 ribs, each connecting to strong muscles.
When it wants to move forward, it initiates a series of contractions from the head to the tail. As each muscle contracts, it creates a wave or curve that overlaps with the next, resulting in a continuous undulating motion. This coordination of muscles allows the snake to move forward smoothly.
Snakes use a pair of nostrils on their snout or head to breathe. The nostrils connect to the glottis, a vertical slit at the back of the mouth that opens into the trachea. When swallowing large prey, the airflow in and out of the lungs can get disrupted. To prevent this, the snake extends the glottis from the mouth to take air in and out. Like all reptiles, snakes don’t have a diaphragm.
Depending on size, snakes have a varied diet that ranges from small rodents to large animals like deer. Regardless of the size, most snakes swallow their prey whole, so technically, their digestion starts in their stomach. Their stomachs produce tons of powerful enzymes that digest even bones. The only thing a snake can’t digest is hair, which it excretes as pellets.
Each snake species has a unique temperament. While some are docile and easy to handle, others can be more aggressive or skittish. Learning about snake care is crucial as it helps the owner understand their snake's body language, respect it, and possibly create a bond with it.
The 10 Best Pet Snakes for Beginners
Most new owners look for snakes that are easy to handle and less strenuous to maintain. Because of the diverse snake species available, selecting a suitable one can be a tiresome experience.
To make it less daunting, we’ve compiled a list of 10 best pet snakes to consider:
1. Corn Snake
Out in the wild, corn snake habitats include grasslands, hillside grooves, and abandoned buildings. Usually, their size ranges between 24 to 72 inches (61 to 182 centimeters), and you can quickly notice them because of their belly scale, which looks like maize in varying colors and patterns.
Corn snakes might be shy at first, but with regular handling, they’re docile and friendly and less likely to bite compared to other snakes. This makes them the best snakes for pets. When in captivity, it’s important to replicate the corn snakes' natural habitat by maintaining their enclosure at 72 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
In terms of feeding, corn snakes do fine with frozen or thawed rats or mice. However, you should ensure the prey’s size is slightly smaller than the snake's girth.
2. California King Snake
You can find California King snakes anywhere in the world. These snakes got the “king” title because they cannibalized other snakes, including venomous rattlesnakes. However, these snakes are friendly when around humans.
The average size of an adult California King snake is 3 to 4 feet, and this manageable size makes them the best snake breeds for pets. A 40-gallon reptile terrarium maintained at 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool end and 84 to 88 degrees on the warm end can comfortably accommodate these snakes.
Like corn snakes, captive California King snakes' dietary needs are rats or mice at least once a week. If these snakes feel threatened, they can bite or release a foul-smelling musk. Naturally, they are also curious, so their enclosure should remain tightly closed.
3. Rosy Boa
If you go to rocky deserts, semi-arid areas, and scrublands, among the snakes, you’ll find there are rosy boas. These snakes make the best pet snakes for beginners for several reasons. First is their size. Even in their adulthood, they don’t grow past 4 inches. This makes them less intimidating. They’re also gentle and can tolerate human interactions.
In terms of their living conditions, rosy boas require a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit on the upper end and 70 to 75 degrees on the cool end. Since these snakes are naturally burrowers, their substrate should be deep.
Maintaining these snakes isn’t demanding because they can go for 10 to 14 days without feeding. However, they require an appropriate size of rodents.
4. Gopher Snake
For beginners who want medium-sized snakes, gopher snakes are an ideal choice. Though they have sub-species, their sizes range from 4 to 7 feet. In the wild, these species are habitat generalists, and you can find them in deserts, grasslands, and scrublands.
The fact that these snakes allow people to handle them without making a fuss makes them good pet snakes. In addition, they’re low-maintenance because you only need to provide them with a temperature of between 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and feed them every two to three days.
5. Ball Python
Ball Pythons are the most popular pet snakes thanks to their variety of morphs. Generally, these snake types are shy and will coil into a ball to feel safe. However, when they get used to human handling, they’re friendly and docile.
Although these snakes are native to West Africa, you can find them in other regions, mostly in grasslands and savannas. In captivity, they do well in temperatures of 78 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ball Pythons are picky eaters who refuse to eat stale food. So, it’s important to feed them freshly killed prey to keep them healthy. Besides, they also require a hide box to make them feel safe in their enclosures.
6. Western Hognose Snake
Western hognose snakes are popular for their distinctive upturned snouts, which they use for burrowing. They prefer arid sandy areas where they can burrow and feed on lizards and small amphibians.
These snakes measure a length of between 14 to 24 inches when fully grown. When bred in captivity, a 20-30 gallon tank with a closeable lid would suffice as a habitat. Pet hognose snakes feed on small rodents such as mice and rats and also require clean water for drinking and soaking their bodies.
They are generally docile and good pet snakes for beginners due to their small sizes and low maintenance needs.
7. Garter Snake
Garter snakes are a small, diverse species frequent near streams, rivers, and marshes. A 10 to 20-gallon enclosure can house one or two of these snakes since they grow to an average length of 18 to 48 inches.
Their diet consists of small fish, earthworms, and insects. They can also eat pinkie mice and feeder goldfish in captivity.
Garter snakes are some of the best and safest pets to keep as a beginner snake owner. This is because taming them is fairly straightforward, and their small size makes them easy to maintain. They are very alert and active snakes that love to explore and move a lot, so it’s crucial to be gentle when handling them.
8. Milk Snake
Milk snakes are some of the most beautiful snakes in the world because of their variety of bright colors and beautiful patterns. They are often mistaken for their venomous counterparts, the coral snake.
You can find milk snakes in grasslands and rocky areas. They grow to lengths between 20 to 60 inches when fully mature. Their diet in the wild comprises small birds and lizards, while those bred in captivity feed on mice and rats. These snakes are constrictors and like to squeeze prey before consuming it.
Milk snakes are extremely docile, an attribute that makes them an excellent choice as pets for beginners. They prefer hot environments, so a wooden enclosure with heating pads can help regulate temperature to their liking.
9. Common Boa Constrictor
Common boa constrictors are among the largest and heaviest snake species kept as pets. They grow to an average length of 6 to 10 feet, with females being larger than males. Boas are common in dense rainforests and semi-arid areas.
These huge snakes eat their prey whole after suffocating it. Their diets include rats and rabbits in the wild and small pigs. Due to their large size and weight, they require a large enclosure with plenty of space to move freely.
10. Children's Python
Children’s pythons are relatively small and grow to lengths of between 3 to 4 feet. These pythons are calm and tame and do not require large enclosures since they have fairly slim bodies. Young ones in captivity enjoy pinky mice once every few weeks and can feed on large rats as they mature.
Like all snakes, Children’s pythons are susceptible to respiratory infections and mites. Cleaning their habitats regularly and ensuring there’s proper ventilation can help prevent such health issues.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pet Snake
There are many important factors that aspiring pet owners should evaluate when choosing a pet snake. This is because each snake has different needs that contribute to its overall well-being.
Some of the factors include:
Size and Lifespan
All snakes start small when young and grow to various sizes depending on the species. Some grow quite long and have large, bulky bodies, while others have smaller builds and little or less demanding maintenance needs.
Aspiring snake pet owners need to research the type of snake they intend to keep as well as their average life spans. This informs them of the care required for each snake in terms of housing and feeding.
Diet and Feeding
Snakes are particularly picky about what they eat, and different species vary in their feeding habits. Those bred in captivity have a liking for frozen or thawed rodents, while wild-caught snakes prefer live prey. They may also opt for a different menu other than the common mice. Owners should highly consider each method as both have pros and cons for each snake breed.
Habitat and Environmental Needs
Habitats for snakes ought to be properly constructed or readily bought from pet stores. Owners should be able to mimic the snake’s natural habitat as much as possible.
Most snakes spend their days basking in the sun to absorb UV light, which is necessary for vitamin D. To replicate this behavior, snake keepers can install lighting such as UVB bulbs in the enclosure to produce day and night cycles.
Snakes, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded. As such, their enclosures should be fitted with temperature regulators that allow them to warm or cool their bodies. This includes basking areas with a higher temperature.
Their soft underbellies require bedding or substrate for a comfortable crawling space. Other snakes, such as the common boa constrictor, are semi-arboreal and require objects they can climb on to relax and explore.
Experts also encourage owners to install hide boxes in enclosures where snakes can have privacy when feeding or hide when threatened. These boxes are suitable for snakes that are naturally shy.
Common Mistakes to Avoid as a Beginner Snake Owner
New owners are prone to make mistakes when handling their snake pets due to fascination or excitement. Most of them fail to acknowledge the different personalities among snakes or the different habits they exhibit.
Some snakes will seclude themselves to feed or immediately after, while others are shy when shedding their skin. It is important for beginners to recognize this and avoid overhandling the snake in such instances to minimize the risk of indigestion and incomplete shedding.
Snake owners should research their pets' diet preferences depending on the age and size of the snake. This ensures that the prey is proportional to the snake’s girth. It’s also important to wash your hands before and after feeding the snake to prevent it from associating your scent with food or prey.
Beginners should take care when constructing snake enclosures since incorrect habitat setups can cause injury and discomfort to the snake. The habitats should also have secure lids that are escape-proof.
Even with temperature regulators, getting the correct temperature gradients for different snake breeds can be a big concern for new owners. This is because body temperature determines a snake’s activities, such as feeding and shedding. High or low-temperature gradients can cause stress and behavioral change in a pet snake, affecting its overall health and well-being.
Also, snake lovers are often tempted to adopt pet snakes from rescue centers. This can be a potential health hazard for the owner and other pets if the rescued snake has an infection or is not treated for mites. Some snakes, especially hatchlings, might need special care and attention that a new owner is unable to provide. As such, it’s crucial to research reputable rescue centers. This ensures that the snake has a good medical and temperament history to refer to when the need arises.
Taking a snake for veterinary checkups doesn’t necessarily come up for most owners, especially when the snake looks healthy. However, annual checkups are important to assess whether the snake is well-nourished and free of diseases or parasites.
Embrace the Fascinating World of Snakes
Contrary to popular belief, snakes make wonderful companion pets. If you’re an aspiring pet snake owner, this guide provides tips on the care and maintenance of pet snakes as well as some snake species to consider. However, it’s crucial to remember that each type of snake has its unique temperament and maintenance needs. But more importantly, they should have comfortable enclosures to keep them safe and healthy. Consider Quality Cage Collection to find the right items for your snake friend.
What is the friendliest snake to have as a pet?
Corn snakes are the friendliest snakes to have as pets because they’re docile and less likely to bite. Plus, they’re small and so less challenging to control.
What is the hardest snake to keep as a pet?
Technically, the difficulty of keeping a snake as a pet depends on the snake species and the owner's experience. For beginners, snakes with more requirements can be the hardest to keep as pets. For example, Green Anacondas might be hard to handle because of their size and aggressiveness.
Do snakes like to be pets?
Generally, snakes don’t like to be pets because they don’t have social or emotional needs. However, some, after getting used to human contact, become friendly.
Which pet snake is least likely to bite?
Rosy boas, corn snakes, ball pythons, and California King snakes are some of the most gentle and are less likely to bite.
How do I set up a proper temperature gradient for my snake?
Since snakes can’t regulate their body temperatures, they require both warm and cool temperatures. You can maintain proper temperature by putting the heat source in a strategic position of the terrarium to create a warm and cool part.
How can I ensure my snake's enclosure is escape-proof?
You can ensure your snake enclosure is escape-proof by locking it with a door wrap, wire loop, or solid grommet.
Have Questions About Snake Pet Care?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org