Snake Care: 6 Tips for Keeping Snakes as Pets

snake care

Did you know that there are over 2,800 snake species in the world, with more being discovered each year? Although many of these species can’t be kept as pets, there are still a variety of options, and that’s not even counting their morphs.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet snake, you need to provide the best conditions possible so that it can thrive in your care and not simply survive. Snakes are just as beloved as dogs or cats. Read on for our best snake care tips to become the best snake owner you can be.

What Kind of Snake?

The kind of pet snake you get determines its needs, such as how big the enclosure is, the humidity and heat levels needed, and their handling. No matter what kind of snake you decide to purchase, make sure it’s a captive bred snake from a reputable breeder.

Wild caught snakes may be less expensive, but they’ll be stressed, prone to disease, and difficult to tame. This isn’t worth the few dollars you’ll save.

Here are a few of the most common pet snakes that are great for beginners:

Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are native to Native America and have a great demeanor. They tend to be docile and easy to handle. They come in a large variety of morphs. They also don’t grow too large, so they don’t need a large enclosure compared to other types.

King and Milk Snakes

These snakes are closely related, and they come in many beautiful morphs. If you want a large snake, they can reach up to 6 to 7 feet in length. They also have lifespans of 15 to 20 years. They’re docile but also known to be active.

Ball Pythons

This is the most popular pet snake due to their shy demeanors and the huge amount of morphs available. Their price rises depending on how rare and in-demand their morph is. They can grow a maximum of 3 to 5 feet and are very docile and easy to handle.

They’re named ball pythons because when they feel threatened, they roll into a tight ball and tuck their head inside their coils.

Not Beginner-Friendly

These snakes are not recommended for beginners because they have more difficult care requirements and are harder to handle:

  • Boa constrictors
  • Burmese pythons
  • Tree boas or pythons
  • Water snakes
  • Green snakes

What Do You Need?

Before you even begin considering getting a pet snake, you need to consider all of its needs and whether you’ll be able to provide them. Here are the minimum amount of things you need to purchase before you get your pet snake.

1. Enclosure

All snakes are escape artists, so you need to find an enclosure that you can keep tightly secured at all times. Depending on the size of your snake when they’re adults, they’ll need different sized enclosures:

  • Corn Snake – 20-gallon long tank
  • King and Milk Snake – 60-gallons
  • Ball Python – 30-gallon tank

Be aware that for king and milk snakes, larger is better because they’re very active. House them alone in their enclosures – they will kill and eat other snakes.

2. Substrate

Newspaper is one of the easiest choices because it’s easy to clean, though it’s not very aesthetically pleasing for the enclosure. You can also opt for indoor/outdoor carpeting like AstroTurf.

Pine bark chips are another good choice because, like a litter box, you can scoop out the chips when they’re soiled. However, aspen shavings, cedar shavings, pine shavings, sand, soil, and corncob are not recommended because your snake can inadvertently ingest these substrates.

3. Decoration

Some snakes like to hide and burrow more than others, but they should all have at least two or three hides that they can choose to burrow under when they desire. This will help reduce stress.

Hides can be half rounds of bark, overturned flower pots, half coconut shells, cardboard boxes, and more.

Be sure to include a large branch or two, especially for active snakes that like to slither and climb.

4. Heat & Humidity

Overhead incandescent heat light is preferred over under tank heat pads or hot rocks. Heat pads can still work well, but you won’t be able to closely monitor the temperature.

Hot rocks are never recommended, even though you’ll frequently find them in commercial kits. They can burn your reptiles!

  • Corn Snake – Temperature gradient of 70 to 85 F
  • King and Milk Snake – Temperature gradient of 76 to 86 F and 70 to 74 F at night. 40 to 60% humidity
  • Ball Python – Temperature gradient of 80 to 85 F, basking spot of 90 F, 80 F at night

5. Diet

All snakes need a water dish available that is cleaned at least once a day. A large dish of water is recommended because many snakes love soaking, especially before they shed.

Corn snakes should be fed pre-killed mice. Make sure that their prey item is as wide or a little wider than the snake’s head. Young snakes need to be fed twice a week, while adults only need to be fed every week or 10 days.

King and milk snakes grow larger. When they’re adults, start with once a week, and if they appear too lean, increase their feeding to twice a week.

Ball pythons will need to be fed larger prey as they get older and can go up to two weeks without a feeding.

If a snake is about to start shedding, they’ll begin eating less.

6. Handling

All snakes need at least a few days to settle in before you should start handling them. When you do, handle them for short amounts of time with a gentle touch. With consistent handling, they’ll realize you’re not a threat and stop trying to slither away.

A good way to practice handling them is to feed them in a separate enclosure. They’ll associate their other enclosure with feeding, making it less likely to confuse your hand with prey when you reach into their cage.

Happy Snakes with Proper Snake Care

As a reptile-owner, you’ll find that just like cats and dogs, snakes have their own personalities, quirks, and preferences. By ensuring that you’re aware of the right snake care, over the years your snake will thrive.

Want to learn more about proper care for reptiles? Check out our reptile section to increase your knowledge!

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