Are you fascinated by snakes but don’t know what kind of snake would make a great first pet snake? Do you want a snake that you can provide a good home for?
And do you want a snake that is completely safe for you, your family, your children, and your other pets?
Consider owning an African House Snake, Ball Python, Baird’s Rat Snake, Brazilian Rainbow Boa, California King Snake, Children’s Python, Corn Snake, Garter Snake, Gopher Snake, Hognose Snake, Kenyan Sand Boa, Milk Snake, Rosy Boa, Tarahumara Locality Boa Constrictor, or Woma Python.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know to choose one of these great pet snakes in this article.
But if you have never owned a snake before, there are four things you need to know upfront.
Four Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Your First Pet Snake
- All snakes are carnivores. They don’t eat plant-based foods for even a small part of their diets. Most snakes eat thawed, previously frozen mice. (It isn’t safe for you to feed a live mouse or rat to your snake. They can bite and sometimes even kill your snake.)
- All snakes need a heat supply. Snakes are cold-blooded. They won’t do well if their enclosures aren’t warm enough. They usually need an enclosure with a basking area to warm up as they digest their food, and a cooler area for resting. You’ll need a thermometer to make sure the heat is right and a hygrometer to make sure you have the right relative humidity.
- The larger the snake, the longer its life span. Some Boas and Pythons will live to be over 30 years old. If you anticipate the possibility of a change in lifestyle, and you don’t want to have to rehome your snake, choose a smaller snake.
- Not all snakes are legal. Some are banned all over North America, like the Yellow Anaconda. (It has become a problem species in South Florida.) Others may be banned by your state, city, county, condo board, or lease agreement. Make sure your snake is permitted before you bring it home.
Now let’s take a closer look at 15 great possibilities for your first pet snake.
African House Snake, also known as Brown House Snake
African House Snakes thrive under a variety of conditions.
This makes them a safe choice for beginners learning how to provide good conditions for their pet snakes.
African House Snakes need one end of their enclosure to have a basking temperature of 90° F (about 33° C) but an ambient temperature of 72° F to 80° F (22° to 26° C), and humidity at 40 to 60 percent.
Many pet snakes thrive under these conditions.
However, African House Snakes can survive if you get the temperature and humidity wrong as you are learning to adjust the controls.
Ball Pythons are shy, short (3 feet/90 cm for males, 4 feet/1.2 meters for females), calm constrictor snakes that come in over 1000 different morphs (1000 different color and scale patterns).
There are Ball Pythons that are stark white, Ball Pythons that are neon yellow, and Ball Pythons in black, lavender, and more.
It takes time for your Ball Python to get to know you and to feel comfortable being handled.
Because Ball Pythons are nocturnal animals, they need a warm spot to bask and digest their food, but it has to have a heat source that doesn’t make light.
They prefer to move around in their enclosures in stealth mode as much as possible.
Ball Pythons may not eat when the weather outside is cold.
It takes some time and maybe some guidance from your veterinarian to know how long your Ball Python can fast and stay healthy, and when feeding is required.
Brazilian Rainbow Boa
Brazilian Rainbow Boas are a kind of “advanced beginner” pet snake. The beautiful black and orange rosette pattern of their scales makes them conversation starters.
They will certainly get a lot of attention.
But Brazilian Rainbow Boas need to be able to climb inside their cages to stay healthy.
They need multiple places to climb and multiple hiding places.
These beautiful snakes look their best in UV lighting. Their health requires constant heat and humidity, and they don’t do well in a glass enclosure.
And they grow up to 6 feet (nearly 2 meters) long, making as big a snake as a beginning snake enthusiast should try to care for.
California King Snake
Every California King Snake seems to get out of its cage at least once. These slender, graceful, 6-foot (2 meters) snakes are superior escape artists, the David Copperfields of the snake world.
You can keep just one California King Snake in a single enclosure because if you put two California King Snakes in the same cage, within a month you will have just one, well-fed California King Snake, especially if they are adolescent snakes.
It’s especially important to keep California King Snakes by themselves when they are feeding.
California King Snakes don’t like to be handled at first, but they become friendly with humans over time.
Children’s Pythons aren’t really pythons for children. (There aren’t any pythons suitable as pets for small children, and small children definitely need to be kept away from larger, hungry pythons.)
Children’s Pythons were named for John George Children, the herpetologist who first described them in the scientific literature.
Most Children’s Pythons are a drab brown with darker spots, but color morphs are becoming available.
These snakes from Australia only grow 2 to 4 feet (70 cm to 1.3 meters) long, but they are muscular climbers and jumpers. In the wild, they can catch a bird or a bat in mid-flight.
Children’s Pythons need enclosures with hiding places and climbing poles to stay happy.
Hatchlings of this species are too nippy to be kept as pets by children.
Once these snakes reach adulthood, however, they are unusually calm and manageable.
There’s probably no easier snake to care for than a Corn Snake. They are also among the more beautiful snakes that are easy to keep as pets.
They are inexpensive, easy to keep, and gentle. They are also easy to feed, seldom rejecting food. Just be aware that they will let you see them and handle them on their own schedule.
They will burrow into the bottom of their cages until they are ready to come out.
Corn Snakes can live as long as 25 years and grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) long.
Garter Snakes are probably the most common snake in North America, and they exist in great numbers and diversity on other continents.
These 2- to 3-foot (60 to 90 cm) snakes are active during the day, and fun to watch. They watch what is going on outside their habitat and can be trained to respond to television.
If you are looking for a snake without a long-term commitment, the Garter Snake is your best choice.
They only live to be five to 10 years old. They won’t make it to that age if you don’t keep them separated at feeding time.
Garter Snakes tend to feed on each other. Once a Garter Snake accidentally or intentionally bites another Garter Snake, it physically cannot withdraw. It must eat the other snake.
Gopher Snakes look like Rattlesnakes.
They shake their tails when they are on the offensive like Rattlesnakes, although they do not have rattles.
They will often rear back and strike at people when they are out of their cages, but they will typically just hit people with their noses.
Many owners find this activity entertaining, especially if the snake is behind glass.
Gopher Snakes are hardy, easy to find, and easy to care for.
They can live to be up to 30 years old.
Hognose Snakes aren’t exactly playful, but they are active, and their antics, like hitting you with their nose, are an endless source of amusement.
Hognose Snakes have an upturned nose they can use to dig through dirt and sand to find worms and insects to eat.
They use their noses to get the attention of their human caretakers. They don’t bite, but they will touch their people with their noses.
They can flatten their heads like a cobra to let you know they are upset and ready to do something about it.
Female Hognose Snakes grow up to 3 feet (about a meter) long. Male Hognose Snakes usually max out at 20 inches (50 cm).
The main challenge in keeping Hognose Snakes is that they are picky eaters.
Don’t buy a Hognose Snake unless the breeder tells you that it is already eating pinky mice, or you may have to get your vet to deal with a severely malnourished or starving snake.
Kenyan Sand Boa
It’s hard to tell whether a Kenyan Sand Boa is coming or going. That’s because the heads and tails of these chubby, short snakes look a lot alike.
Kenyan Sand Boas have a distinctive appearance that snake enthusiasts tend to either love or hate.
The odd placement of their eyes can take some getting used to.
They like to bury themselves in the sand with just their eyes showing as if they were waiting for their next meal to walk by.
Unlike most pet snakes, Kenyan Sand Boas need low humidity.
If you live in a humid climate, you may need to invest in a dehumidifier to keep them healthy and happy.
Milk Snakes have red, yellow, and black bands like Coral Snakes, but they lack the Coral Snake’s deadly venom.
They also lack the red-against-yellow coloration of the Coral Snake. Milk Snakes always have red bands next to black bands.
Milk Snakes may be as short as 1 foot (30 cm) or as long as 6 feet (nearly 2 meters) when they are mature.
They are known to eat their cage mates, so it is best to house them individually. A Milk Snake can live to be up to 20 years old.
Milk Snakes are diurnal.
They are a great pet if you want to observe an active snake during the day. And they are certainly on the colorful side.
Are you looking forward to getting a Boa as your first snake, but you don’t want something 12 feet (4 meters) long that might eat your cat? Then you should check out Rosy Boas.
These natives of the USA grow to just 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) long.
They are usually off-white or white with gray, brown, and/or orange stripes running the length of their bodies.
Rosy Boas are very calm. Bites are rare, and usually happen during feeding, so put food in their cages with tongs, not fingers.
Rosy Boas come from the deserts of the Southwestern United States, so they need their enclosures kept on the warm side.
Rosy Boas don’t lay eggs. The females give live birth to wriggling baby snakes.
Tarahumara Locality Boa Constrictor
Tarahumara Locality Boa Constrictors come from the mountains and canyons of Chihuahua State in northwestern Mexico.
Because they live in an area that can get cold winters, they won’t get sick and die if you have problems heating their enclosure.
They aren’t particularly picky about what they eat, as long as it is an animal (rodents preferred), and you can get them used to be handled so they don’t stress out.
There’s a major drawback to most Boa Constrictors.
They get long. Really long. Tarahumara Locality Boa Constrictors are dwarf Boas, usually no longer than 5 feet (1.2 or 1.3 meters), which most owners find manageably small.
These beautiful brown and tan pythons from Australia are becoming increasingly popular because of their easy, docile temperament.
They are also popular because they aren’t fussy about their food. And although the natural skin pattern is very attractive, there are Woma Python morphs that have tiger stripes.
Woma Pythons are native to the red sand deserts of Western Australia. They like to hide in the sand and in cracks and crevices of desert rocks.
They need hiding places in their enclosures. Woma Pythons will come out of hiding to be active day and night, however, and they are a lot of fun to watch.
The main health problem with Woma Pythons? Obesity! They are so easy to feed that they tend to become overweight.
Keep in mind that Woma Pythons can and do eat other snakes, so keep them one to a cage. Woma Pythons grow up to 6 feet (1.5 meters) long.
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