All of the prices quoted in this article are in US dollars.
If you’re a snake owner, you know that they can be expensive pets to keep.
It is important to realize that owning a snake is a long-term commitment. Although there are some small snakes that only live for five to ten years, many snakes live to be 20, 25, or even older.
But just how much does it cost to own a snake?
In this article, we will tell you what to expect to pay for keeping a healthy, happy pet snake. We will tell you the upfront and ongoing costs of snake ownership so you can be sure that you can afford them.
Keep reading for more information on what you’ll need to budget for if you’re considering adding a snake to your family!
Overall Cost of Keeping a Pet Snake (Breakdown)
When you buy a snake, there would be one-time costs, such as the pet snake itself and its enclosure/heat/decorations, and then there would be some ongoing expenses such as food and vet bills.
Below I have tried to compile a list of expenses you will have to make to buy and keep a pet snake.
Most of these expenses are an estimate, and the actual value will vary depending on the type of snake and the equipment you buy for it.
Let’s first look at the fixed one-time cost of owning a pet snake:
|One-time Items||Est Cost in USD|
|Enclosure tank or terrarium||200-500|
|Escape-proof enclosure lid||20-100|
|Under-the-tank heating pad||10-25|
|UVB light bulb||10-20|
|Mounting for the light bulb||10-20|
|Gauges and timers||20-50|
|Substrate for the bottom of the enclosure||5-20|
|Fake plants for decoration||10-20|
|Fake driftwood for your snake to stretch on (optional)||10-30|
|Carrier for transporting your snake (to and from the vet, when you move, and so on)||10-50|
|Total Est One-time Cost of Keeping a Pet Snake||330-1100|
And below is a list of some ongoing monthly/yearly expenses that come with keeping a pet snake
|Recurring-Cost Items||Est Cost in USD|
|Health (Vet Care)||100-300|
|Substrate for the enclosure||10|
|Total Est Recurring Yearly Cost of Keeping a Pet Snake||210-510|
All in all, keeping a pet snake could cost you somewhere around $500-$1500 in the first year, and then $200-500 every year in food and vet bills.
Cost of Pet Snakes Itself (Common Pet Snakes)
There is a pet snake for almost any budget.
Below is a list of some of the common and cheapest pet snakes you can get:
- $15 to $30 for a ribbon snake
- $20 to $50 for a garter snake
- $30 to $100 for a gopher snake
- $40 to $100 for a corn snake
- $40 to $1500 for a ball python
- $60 to $300 for a California kingsnake
- $65 to $100 for a young Burmese python
- $75-$100 for a Rosy boa
- $100 to $1000 for a Western hognose snake
- $150 to $200 for a red-tailed boa
These are just the costs for the snake itself, and they are just for some of the most common, least expensive species.
Rare morphs of common snakes with beautiful colors may fetch thousands of dollars, and there are additional costs for housing, feeding, transporting, and providing veterinary care for your snake.
Snakes make great pets for the right people. They don’t require a lot of maintenance.
With a little patience and good advice from this site and experienced snake owners, you can find the snake that best matches your lifestyle.
You can find snakes of all colors and sizes, and you can find snakes that breed easily in captivity, so you can have more.
But the costs of owning snakes vary greatly. We will help you find the lowest costs in a number of categories for snake maintenance, so your year-to-year costs of keeping your snake are manageable.
Just be aware that snakes are among the longest-lived of all pets. Some species live 25 years or even longer.
In this article, we will go over all the details of what you will need to pay to become a snake owner.
Hopefully, we will give you all the information you need to make your own best estimate of how little you can spend on the snake you want to keep and the way you want to keep it.
Different snake owners will make different decisions on where to economize. Now let’s look at the particulars.
Also read: Best Place to Buy Pet Snakes
Should You Buy Pet Snake from a Breeder or Pet Store?
Some people specialize in breeding snakes. They mate snakes with known genetics to get sought-after morphs.
They take care to protect hatchlings from disease and competition, and they can tell you everything you need to know about when your new pet snake will shed, what it likes to eat, and what you can expect if you breed it.
Snake breeders can ship your new pet to you through the mail or with an animal forwarding service.
They charge a lot less than pet shops for common morphs, although they are your best source for the most exotic morphs.
Sometimes breeders come to shows, where you can get to know your snake before you buy it.
But they aren’t going to be around to get you set up with your snake, and they usually don’t sell food or supplies.
Pet shops charge more for snakes and have a smaller selection.
But you can go back to your pet shop frequently for your snake’s food and get the information you need about keeping your snake healthy and active.
When you start investigating exotic morphs of even common snakes, the one-time costs of buying your snake can come as a shock.
But the fact is, buying your snake is only a small part of what it costs to own a snake.
Cost of Pet Snake Start-Up Supplies
Every new owner of a pet snake needs certain start-up supplies.
While you may be able to get everything you need for bringing a small snake home for as little as $100, in addition to the cost of the snake, for larger specimens you will be spending at least $500 above the cost of the snake before you ever take it home.
What are the supplies every owner of a pet snake needs from the very first minute you have the snake in your home?
- Enclosure tank or terrarium, $20 for a plastic container (not recommended) up to $500 for a starter terrarium for large snakes.
- Escape-proof enclosure lid that admits air into the enclosure, $20 to $150.
- Under-the-tank heating pad, $10 to $25.
- UVB light bulb, $10 to $20.
- Mounting for light bulb, $10 to $20.
- Gauges and timers, $20 to $50.
- Water bowl, $5 to $20.
- Hiding places, $5 to $50.
- Substrate for the bottom of the enclosure, $3 to $20.
- Fake plants for decoration, $10 to $20. (Snakes will tear up real plants.)
- Fake driftwood for your snake to stretch on (optional), $10 to $30.
- Food for first feeding, $10 to $20.
- Carrier for transporting your snake (to and from the vet, when you move, and so on), $10 to $50.
Your biggest expense for getting a new snake is its enclosure. Don’t scrimp on the lid. Consider plastic tubs a temporary home.
Get a glass terrarium so you can safely enjoy your snake.
You can easily view your snake if you put it in a glass aquarium (without the water, of course, unless it is a water snake) or terrarium.
A terrarium offers better viewing and costs a lot more money.
But with a terrarium you can get features like a door that opens to the front, ventilation ports, a built-in lid with a built-in latch, and factory-installed mountings for heat lamps and lights.
Your snake, by the way, is much more comfortable being removed through the front of its enclosure than from the top.
Snakes need the right temperature to survive. You should not cut corners on their heating systems.
You need the right lighting to see your snake. Snakes don’t actually need UV-B bulbs for making vitamin D (they get it by eating the livers and fat of their prey), but UV-B light will kill some of the mites and other pests that can infest their scales.
Some snakes are OK with shredded-up paper towels used as substrate in the bottom of their enclosure, but for a better appearance, you may want sand, peat, or gravel, depending on the species of snake.
Hides and water bowls won’t usually break the bank.
How can you save money on these start-up costs? As a general rule, it is not a good idea to buy second-hand aquariums unless they have been used for fish, not other snakes.
It is also not a good idea to put your snake in a terrarium that has been occupied by another snake unless the terrarium has been thoroughly sanitized.
You can easily spend more on vet bills to treat your snake for parasites or bacterial infections than you save by buying a second-hand enclosure.
If you are rehoming a snake from a friend, however, it’s OK (and actually easier for the snake) if you keep the snake in its original enclosure.
Just be sure to remove the snake from its glass enclosure for the ride from their home to yours. Have a backup enclosure in case of the terrarium breaks while it is being moved.
Ongoing Expenses of Keeping Your Pet Snake
Most owners of pet snakes spend $30 to $75 a month ($360 to $900 a year) on food, vet bills, and maintenance.
Some of these costs can be greatly reduced.
Health care for snakes will either cost very little or cost a whole lot, depending on whether your snake develops an infection, is injured, or has a hereditary condition.
Vet bills will average $100 to $300 a year, but a single veterinary issue can cost thousands of dollars.
You need to get your snake a checkup as soon as possible after buying it. Don’t do this on the way home from the pet shop—that would be doubly traumatic for your snake—but get an appointment with the vet during the first week you have your snake.
It is a good idea to buy health insurance for your snake from a company like Pet Assure as soon as you get your snake.
If you have your snake insured from the very first day you own it, you will be covered for its whole life if you keep up your premiums.
Pet health insurance may pay for your snake’s annual checkup with the vet.
Even if you don’t have pet health insurance, and you have to pay $50 to $100 for a checkup, this annual vet visit can save you thousands of dollars or the necessity of euthanizing your snake later on.
Food is one of the most variable expenses in taking care of snakes. Most snakes just cost $10 to $20 a month to feed, as long as you don’t make this serious mistake:
Never offer unusual, wild, or extremely expensive food to your snake the first year you have it.
Young snakes can become picky eaters and starve unless you provide them with “gourmet” cuisine, grow their food yourself, or spend a fortune at the pet store if you start off with an expensive or unusual food item.
You should never feed the snake rodents that you catch in traps. They often have intestinal parasites and carry mites.
They may have been exposed to mouse or rat poisons, which they would pass on to your pet. You should never feed your snake live rodents, since they can injure your snake.
Save money by starting your snake on rodents, fish, or insects you buy frozen at the pet store or online.
Of course, you have to let their food thaw and come to room temperature before you serve it, but you can buy in bulk and always have the food your snake wants and needs.
Another option for simplifying and economizing the feeding of your snake is Reptilinks.
An additional consideration is the cost of feeding your snake is how you feed your snake.
Snakes can be very enthusiastic about feeding time. Offering them food with your fingers can result in an unintended bite.
Save yourself a painful experience and a trip to the doctor by always offering food to your snakes with tongs.
Similarly, there are fewer costly accidents when you feed snakes in a cage you use just for that purpose.
Your snake will come to associate going to a different enclosure with food. It won’t be ready to strike and eat until you take it to the second enclosure.
Snakes can have bad aim and bite their owners or other snakes living with them when they are fed in the enclosures where they live.
Substrate for the Pet Snake Enclosure
Another ongoing expense for keeping a pet snake is its substrate, lining the bottom of its enclosure.
Some snakes are OK with shredded paper towels. Others do better with sand or gravel or peat moss.
Every time your snake eats, it poops a few days later. You should remove your snake from its enclosure and place it in a temporary holding container while you remove the waste matter and make sure the tank is clean. You do this every time it poops.
When you remove the fecal matter, you also scoop up the substrate under it. Then you replace the substrate. The cost of replacing substrate adds up, but should be under $10 a month.
Minimizing Other Ongoing Expenses
Snakes tear up real plants in their enclosure. Save money by buying silk plants for decoration.
The substrate needs to be replaced regularly to keep your snake’s enclosure clean and odor-free; clean cages result in fewer vet bills.
You will also need to change the UV light bulb about once a year.
Saving Money on Bringing Your Snake Home
Two factors affect how much you pay for your snake:
- The species, some kinds of snake in much greater demand than others, and
- The morph, the rarity of the snake’s colors and habits within its species, and how hard it is to breed them to get those special characteristics.
The cost of snakes isn’t totally about supply and demand. Sure, when lots of people want a particular species or a particular morph, the prices dealers ask to go up.
But part of the cost of rare morphs is how hard it is to breed them.
Some of the most colorful boa constrictors, for example, inherit their color genes and genes for a neurological condition called stargazing on the same chromosome.
The breeder seeking that beautiful morph will get a lot of snakes that try to swallow their own tails or can’t tell a mouse from the breeder’s hand.
If you are new to keeping snakes, maybe an extremely expensive, exotic, beautiful morph is not the ideal choice for your first pet snake.
But what about the other extreme, getting your pet snake for free?
Free snakes – Worth it?
The chances are slim that anyone will give you a snake for free. You may know someone well who is seeking to rehome their snake.
If a friend wants you to take over caring for their pet snake, it is only prudent to make sure you know why.
Going off to college, getting married, or moving away for a new job are good reasons for seeking to find a new owner for your pet snake.
However, mounting veterinarian bills, chronic illness, bad temper on the part of the snake, and problems with issues can also be the owner’s concerns.
These concerns may become your concerns if you take on the care of their pet snake.
Snakes are very seldom available from animal shelters.
When they are, the animal rescue organization usually charges a nominal rehoming fee, under $100, to make sure you can take financial responsibility for the snake/
There are situations in which it could be a good idea to take care of a snake that you caught in the wild.
A rescue snake you save from certain death in a grass or forest fire, at a construction site, or from the clutches of another carnivorous animal is a good subject for animal rehabilitation—if you have a license from your state, province, or county to rehabilitate wild animals.
In most English-speaking countries, it is strictly against the law to harvest wild animals to keep as pets.
If a snake makes its home in your backyard or in your basement or sneaks inside your home, of course, you can give it reasonable care before returning it to its natural habitat.
There are professionals who obtain licenses for hunting wild snakes for resale to pet shops. But there are always problems with keeping a formerly wild snake as your pet.
Reason #1 Not to Hunt Snakes for Pets: Identification
Rattlesnakes and Western hognose snakes, for example, look and act a lot alike.
One can be a pet, while the other can do serious injury to a human or kill another small pet.
Reason #2 Not to Hunt Snakes for Pets: Parasites and Diseases
Snakes that are bred in captivity by scrupulous breeders are checked for parasites and diseases.
A snake you capture by chance is not.
At the very least, you would need to quarantine any snake you catch in the wild for six weeks to make sure it does not have any infections or parasites it can pass on to other snakes, other pets, or you.
Reason #3 Not to Hunt Snakes for Pets: Environmental Balance
Snakes have a role to play in the environment.
They keep mice and rats in check. If you collect too many snakes in the wild, there will be more rodents.
Reason #4 Not to Hunt Snakes for Pets: Reptile PTSD
Think about capture in the wild from the snake’s perspective. One minute you are slithering along in your woods, hunting for a nice nest of mice for your dinner.
The next, a scary biped leans over you and grabs you by the neck with a hook, and throws you in a bag with other hungry snakes.
If the other snakes don’t eat you, you eventually arrive at a pet shop and spend the rest of your life in a cage. It would be very hard for this snake ever to trust humans.
How Much Should You Budget for Your Pet Snake?
If you follow all of our recommendations for reducing costs, especially vet bills, you should be able to keep your pet snake for $500 to $1500 per year, about $20 to $50 per month.
Investing in insurance and buying quality food and quality equipment upfront will always save you money later.
How can you save money on your pet snake?
- Choose smaller snakes rather than larger snakes. They cost less to house and feed. They do less damage to decorations in their enclosures or their hiding places. They cost less at the vet.
- Invest in quality enclosures and equipment up front. You will enjoy your snake more and save money over the long run.
- Make your own hiding places, enclosure décor, and substrate. This can save you thousands of dollars over the many years you own your snake.
- Buy pet health insurance as soon as you get your snake and keep up the premiums. Pet health insurance can save you thousands of dollars in vet bills and keep you from having to euthanize your snake.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Owning a Pet Snake
Q. Do I need to buy vitamin and mineral supplements for my pet snake?
A. Snakes get all the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids they need when they eat healthy prey whole. You may want to give a female snake carrying a clutch of eggs a calcium and magnesium supplement to ensure strong shells.
Q. Do snakes need vaccinations?
A. There are no routine vaccinations for pet snakes.
Q. Do snakes need toys?
A. Snakes don’t “need” toys, but they seem to enjoy having a variety of branches to climb on. Buy sturdy plastic branches that can be bent into different shapes to give your snake a variety of climbing activities.
Snakes also enjoy crawling and hiding. Give your snake more than one hide or tunnel to explore.
Consider natural cork rounds, vertical exploration caves, jungle vines, and flexible fake driftwood. The driftwood doubles as a scraping tool when your snake is shedding its skin.
You can also give your snake the experience of new, safe smells. Place a few peelings from apples or pears or even onions in your snake’s terrarium. Avoid citrus peels, since they may irritate your snake.
Place a few clean bird feathers in your snake’s enclosure, or rocks or twigs from outdoors.
Do not place anything that has been in contact with your dog or cat or yourself in your snake’s enclosure, like a piece of cloth or a toy, because your snake may associate it with food.
These toys range in cost from free to about $20.
Q. Can you give me a shopping list of what I will need to buy and what it will cost before I bring my pet snake home?
A. Here is a checklist of items you will need from the very first day you have your new pet snake, with some approximate prices.
- Enclosure. This can be a tank or a terrarium. You may pay less than$20 for a plastic container (not recommended) or up to $500 for a glass terrarium with safety features for large snakes.
- Escape-proof enclosure lid. A latched lid that admits air into the enclosure is an absolute requirement for keeping a pet snake. Your lease or local ordinances usually require it. It will cost $20 to $150, depending on size and features.
- Under-the-tank heating pad. Some species of snakes don’t need a basking lamp. Make sure the heating pad is the right size to give your snake’s enclosure a warmer side and a cooler side. The heating pad will cost $10 to $25.
- UVB light bulb. Snakes don’t actually need UVB light to make vitamin D. They get it from the body fat of the prey animals they consume. UVB bulbs should cost no more than $10 to $20.
- Mounting for the UVB light bulb. You must make sure your snake cannot reach up to a hot light bulb and burn itself. Mounting costs $10 to $20.
- Gauges and timers. Many snakes require constant humidity. A humidity gauge will tell you whether the snake’s enclosure is too damp, too dry, or just right. Snakes are very sensitive to temperature. You need a digital thermometer to make sure your snake is neither too hot nor too cold. You also need a timer for your snake’s overhead lighting to give it a simulation of natural day and night. These tech items will cost just $20 to $50.
- Water bowl or soaking bowl. Every snake drinks water. Some snakes soak in water. Depending on whether the bowl is designed to fit in with other decorations, water bowls and soaking bowls cost $5 to $20.
- Hiding places. Snakes need places to hide—where you can easily find them. They cost from $5 to $50, with specially molded decorative hiding places costing more.
- Substrate (bedding) for the bottom of the enclosure costs $3 to $20. Don’t scrimp on substrate. Changing it regularly keeps both your pet snake and you healthier. Snakes that slither across their own feces pick up E. coli and Salmonella that can be transferred to their owner’s hands and clothes when they are picked up or held.
- Silk plants for decoration will cost $10 to $20. Snakes will tear up real plants in just a few days. They also tear up fake plants, but not as quickly.
- Molded plastic driftwood for your snake to stretch on is optional, costing $10 to $50. Use fake driftwood that won’t injure your pet snake’s scales.
- Food for your snake’s first feeding will cost $10 to $20. Be sure to get information from the dealer about when your pet snake will be expecting its first meal, and what foods it is used to eating.
- Don’t forget the carrier for your snake’s trip home. While Tupperware with a tight lid you have poked with air holes may be OK for getting a small snake home, you will want a larger carrier for future trips to the vet or when you move. Expect to spend $25 to $30.
Your biggest expense for getting a new snake is its enclosure.
Don’t scrimp on the lid. Consider plastic tubs a temporary home. Get a glass terrarium so you can safely enjoy your snake.
I hope this article helps you get an estimate of the cost of keeping a pet snake.
I have tried my best to give you the right estimates, but the real cost of a pet snake would vary greatly depending on the type of snake and the kind of setup you go for.
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