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The Ten Best Pet Snakes for Beginners

green tree python

You have finally decided to take the plunge and buy your first pet snake. Or, at least you are seriously considering it.

How do you know if a snake is the right pet retile for you though? And if so, which pet snake species is the best choice?

First, it shows a lot of maturity and responsibility that you’re doing research and not just making an impulse buy. Snakes, like all pets, require the right environment and care to thrive and not simply survive. Surviving is important too of course.

To get an idea of what you might be getting yourself into, you can first look at some of the top species people often choose as their first pet snake. Then, if you think you’ve settled on one, you can keep reading to see what you’ll need.

Top Snake Pet Options

When searching for a new pet snake, it can be difficult to determine which one is best. There are so many different types of snakes and they all have their own unique needs. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the ten best pet snakes for beginners!

Table of Contents

1. Corn Snake

Corn snakes are fairly friendly and easy to care for. They’re small, don’t require a lot of space, can be handled by children with supervision, and will eat frozen or live rodents (though frozen is recommended for the safety of your pet).

An average corn snake will live for about 20 years in captivity, so it’s important you are committed to taking care of it for the long haul before bringing one home.

They are also on the larger side. Corn snakes require at least 30 gallons of space and have a tendency to be escape artists. It’s important you provide the appropriate habitat for your snake’s comfort and safety.

2. Ball Python 

Ball pythons are one of if not the most popular pet snake in North America. They’re small, easy to handle and can be kept by even the most novice snake owner.

With an average lifespan of twenty to thirty years, they’re also the most long-lived. So, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

ball python

Ball pythons are fairly easy to care for as previously mentioned. The can be fed a diet of live mice and rats, but frozen rodents are recommended by most experts.

They do best in a warm environment with some humidity to mimic their natural habitat. You will also need an appropriately sized tank, at least 20 gallons to start, but a 40 breeder is recommended for adult ball pythons.

The ball python is one of the best snake pets for beginners if you’re looking to start off with a low maintenance snake.

3. Milk Snake 

Not quite as common as the first two on this list, milk snakes are a great option for those looking to start off with something different.

Milk snakes are on the smaller side, very docile and make an excellent first pet. They can live up to 20 years with proper care.

They make great first snakes because Milk snakes are fairly easy to care for. They do best in a warm environment, so you’ll need an appropriately sized tank, substrate and heating to ensure they’re comfortable.

They can also be fed a diet of frozen or live rodents but may need some supplements to make sure that they are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals.

4. Garter Snake 

One of the more common snakes you might accidentally stumble upon in your yard is the very cute garter snake. They make great pets too, but a captive bred garter snake is the best option if you want to keep one as a pet.

Garter snakes have an average lifespan of five to ten years, which is significantly less than that of the three types of snakes listed above. That can be both good and bad depending on your point of view.

garter snake

Regarding their diet, you should start to see a pattern forming. Garter snakes are carnivorous and require a diet of live rodents or frozen mice.

As far as their tank, a ten gallon tank is recommended for a single garter snake. But, they can grow to be quite large so you might need to upgrade eventually.

5. California Kingsnake 

Though they have a scary sounding name, California kingsnakes are one of the best pet snakes for beginners. Sometimes referred to instead a the California King Snake, they’re very docile, and with an average lifespan of 15-25 years are actually the longest living snake on this list thus far.

They’re also pretty easy to care for without any major special requirements. You will need the right sized tank, substrate, heating and lighting. But, you will need those for any of the snakes on this list.

California kingsnakes eat live rodents or frozen mice with no dietary supplements required other than a little water to keep them happy and healthy.

6. Rosy Boa

Sometimes people assume any type of boa is going to be too big or scary to keep as a pet, but that just isn’t true. For example, the rosy boa is one of the best pet snakes for beginners.

Rosy boas are fairly small with an average lifespan of 15-25 years, which is similar to the California kingsnake above. They’re also very docile and slow-moving, making them a great option for those who want to start off with something more tame.

Rosy boas require a 20-gallon tank, substrate and heating, but nothing too crazy. Most pet stores will have everything you need.

7. Rat Snake

The rat snake, or black rat snake, is not nearly as calm as the rosy boa above. But, they’re one of the best pet snakes for beginners if you can handle a more active snake.

Rat snakes are fairly small. They live in captivity for around 15-20 years and don’t require any special dietary supplements.

rat snake

Their lifespan is actually shorter than the rosy boa but longer than garter snakes.

Rat snakes are sometimes confused with corn snakes due to their appearance and even rattlesnakes sometimes because of how they coil up before striking prey. They aren’t venomous like rattlesnakes though, so nothing to worry about there.

8. Western Hognose Snake

One of the more recognizable snake species is the Western hognose snake. They have a triangular shaped head with dark markings on their back and light coloring or spots.

Western hognose snakes are known for being calm. If properly cared for they live in captivity for around 15 years. They’re fairly small, so you can find a tank at your local pet store if needed. The right size tank for a full grown an adult is around 20 gallons.

They have similar diets to the other snakes on this list.

One thing that makes them a little different is that technically they are venomous. But, they rarely bite. Also, they are a rear-fanged snake and like other rear-fanged snakes their venom is not harmful to humans unless you have an uncommon allergy.

The Western hognose snake also has the ability to feign death in order to defend itself.

They’re easy enough for beginners but still interesting, making them one of the best pet snakes for beginners and great if you want something a little different.

9. Gopher Snake

Moving onto the less common pet snakes, but still great options, we have the gopher snake. Gopher snakes are fairly large, so they’ll need a larger tank for sure. They also have fairly big appetites and require might cost you more in dietary upkeep compared to some of the other pet snakes on this list.

They on average live for 10-15 years, but can amazingly live up to 30 years!

Because of their appearance, gopher snakes are often confused with rattlesnakes. They have a bright yellow or white belly and dark brown, black and olive coloring on their back. They do not have rattles and are not venomous.

Due to their size, they may not be the best option for newer snake owners, but if you a bigger snake they may be exactly what you’re looking for.

One thing to keep in mind before making a purchase though is that some municipalities may have regulations banning gopher snake captivity, so you’ll want to check your local laws first.

10. Children’s Pythons

Native to Australia, children’s pythons are one of the best pet snakes for beginners. Their unusual name comes from zoologist John George Children who first recognized them as a new species.

They’re small and not venomous, so they make a good starter snake if you don’t want to jump right into getting a larger species right from the get go.

Children’s pythons are docile and generally friendly. They live for a rough average of around 15-20 years.

These pet snakes require a 20 gallon tank, which is on the smaller side since they don’t get too big (about 4 feet in length at a maximum). They like to climb though so bigger is better, especially if you can invest in a taller tank.

They are voracious eaters, so you’ll need to provide them the amount of food that’s appropriate for their size.

They aren’t as colorful as some of the other snake species on this list, especially compared a species like ball pythons with all of their various morphs, but breeders are working on developing new morph for this fun pet snake.

Runners Up

While this is a top ten list, there are other snakes that make great pets for both experienced and beginner snake owners. It would be a disservice not to at least mention them.

Kenyan Sand Boas – They are fairly small and have a life span of about 20 years on average. The Kenyan sand boo docile and, contrary to what their name suggests, they are not always sandy colored.

Rough Green Snake – They are a very vivid green, thus their name. Unlike many snakes they either kill their prey with venom or by constriction, rough green snakes cool looking snakes just gulp it down whole.

Smooth Green Snake – A subspecies of the rough green snake, and just as docile, the smooth green snake is a slender small species that’s widely consider one of the better beginner snakes for those worried about larger species.

African Egg Eating Snake – They’re small and are a favorite among snake owners. They are very cool looking and instead oof eating a rodent heavy diet, they eat eggs!

Now, let’s take a deeper look and see if you’re a good fit to provide a great home for a new slithery friend.

Getting Prepared

There are a couple of things you need to do before purchasing your first pet snake. Doing them will make your experience (and their’s) a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

Do Your Research

If you are reading this then you have already started this very important process. Learning about different snakes, which ones make good pets, do you want a more common species like a ball python or maybe you want to go with something a little more exotic like a hognose, what to expect when you get them home, and so on.

You’ll also want to look into how much care and maintenance the species you think you are eventually going to choose. You might at first want one that you can not adequately care for, which is why doing your research first is so important.

Set Up an Enclosure

Your new snake will need a new home. They are often referred to as enclosures.

Snake enclosures range from very simple to extremely ornate. You’ll most likely settle on something in between.

Your enclosure consists of much more than just a container. You need to consider heat sources, substrates, hides, and meeting the instinctual needs of your new pet snake.

For example, the before mentioned ball python should be fine with an enclosure with a relatively low ceiling if all its other needs are met. But, an arboreal species like green tree pythons need an enclosure with adequate height for climbing.

Choose a Reputable Breeder or Pet Shop

This cannot be stated enough. It’s very important to purchase your snake from a place that treats their animals well. That means doing a little research on breeders if you make a purchase inline, and likewise, do some research on the pet shop if you’re making an in person purchase.

Almost all reptile lovers will suggest you avoid the major pet store chains. We aren’t going to name them, but you know who they are.

The key reasoning behind this is that by purchasing snakes from them, it reinforces their bad practices by putting more money in their pockets. Support the smaller ethical breeders instead of the large corporations only concerned with their bottom line.

Common Pet Snake Questions (FAQ)

Thought the questions below are very general, and you will want to check more detailed information about the particular species you choose, having some kind of general understand can help you decide if a snake is right for you, or if maybe you want a different reptile instead.

What do pet snakes eat?

Most pet snakes are going to eat rodents like mice and rats. But, you don’t and probably should not feed them live feeders. You can purchase frozen ones. It’s both more ethical and less dangerous for your snake.

Other foods some snakes may eat are gerbils, hamsters, and even birds and other retiles.

How long do pet snakes live?

Pet snakes on average live anywhere from 8 to 30 years in captivity depending on the species. So, make sure you’re in it for the long haul if you want to get one.

The tend to live only half as long in the wild due to the much harsher living conditions and abundance of predators.

How much are pet snakes?

Money is certainly a factor when deciding if you will buy a snake. Common pet snakes like common ball pythons can be found for less than $100, but more exotic species or special morph can go for thousands.

Where to buy pet snakes?

You can buy a snake either in person or online, just try to do your research and buy from a reputable source. Also, make sure you buy captive bred snakes and not wild caught, as that is a much more ethical approach. Plus, you will most likely get a much healthier pet.

To make an in person purchase we recommend looking for a nearby breeder or independent pet store with a solid reputation.

If you have any other questions about purchasing your first pet snake, please let us know


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