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Buying a Pet Snake for Beginners- The Best Snake For Beginners

Updated on May 2, 2017

First Step In Reptile Care

So you have made up your mind that you want to be the owner of a pet snake. Maybe because they have always fascinated you, or because you know someone else who owns one. Whatever the reason may be. Although snakes are hardy animals that will more than likely survive World War 3 , You still need to make sure you are well educated on the topic. So you aren't going to bite off more than you can chew. Which could lead to a whole mess of undesirable situations. These are the things to lookout for when making a selection of the type of snake. Hardiness, temperament/docile, price, Feeding issues, breeding success, and size. Don't want your mother in-law coming over and seeing a 15 foot snake.

Grassy Mountains Garder Snake

Choosing The Best Snake For Beginners

There are thousands of snake species from all walks of life many of them being good for beginners. Each with its specific needs, and care. While some can reach lengths upward of 30 feet, others can fit on a dime. Some snakes are much easier to care for than others, so if you are a beginner, Obviously you would want a snake that had relativity easy care requirements, so you wont be stressing day and night on if you are providing your snake with the right care. The Best snake for beginners might surprise you, some of them are cheap snakes, while others are cute snakes.

Albino corn snake

Hardiness

This has to do with your snakes ability to live in harsh or rough conditions. In case you don't care for your snake properly on accident. Still being you provide it with its necessary requirements for survival Too put it simply, some snakes are much easier to care for than others. If you are afraid that you will not be able to provide the snake with the care and attention it needs, you are better off not buying one at all. This being said, a stronger snake would have a better chance of staying healthy, say you drop the ball quite a bit. In short, the stronger the snake makes it a good snake for beginners.

Temperament/ docile

Some snake species can be very docile and relaxed, while others can be nervous, full of energy, or aggressive. But even the most aggressive and nervous of snakes can be made more "tame" if handled on a regular basis. But this does not mean that you should go out and buy a non-docile snake just because they look cool. You should still as a beginner purchase an easy going snake. Still be aware that during the starting of the process of handling your snake, you still may need to prepared for a possible attempt to escape, musk, bite, or even make a poop while being held. With an easier going snake, the odds of this happening become less.

Pricing

Depending of the make and model of your snake, or in other words, the species, color, gender and age of your pet, you can be prepared to pay $15-$150 dollars for a typical snake on this list. For less common colors (morphs), you can expect to pay quite a bit more! Please understand this is only for the snake itself. Be prepared to spend more on a tank, bedding, head source, and hide away (which we will cover down below). Some snakes on this list also require a bigger tank size than others, so be prepared to obviously pay more for a bigger one.

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Corn Snake

Corn Snakes

The first snake on this list, and overall one of the most recommended snakes for beginners. Corn snakes are overall a great first snake to own. Corn snakes are always available at your local pet shops, reptile expos, and online directly from the breeder. While wild-caught specimens usual are able to adapt as pets. Corn snakes that are captive breed are highly recommended due to the amazing color and beauty that just can't be found naturally. Not too mention that wild caught snakes tend to have much more health problems than ones captive bred. As well as more detail surrounding the gender, age, and health of your snake. Corn snakes hatch around 8-12 inches long, and can reach 4-5.5 feet in length once they reach adult hood. With the right care a corn snake can easily live into its late teens with the possibility to live into its 20's.

Corn Snake caging


Baby corn snakes are most easily kept live in a plastic vivarium, around the size of a big shoe-box for the first few months to a year of there life. Whilst adult corn snakes should be housed in a 20+ gallon long aquarium, but you cant go wrong getting a bigger tank. You must only house one corn snake in a tank, unless they are already used to each other at the time of purchase, you could encounter cannibalism. As well as this being stressful for the snake, since they are not social animals. All snakes are great at escaping tanks, so you need to make the cage absolutely escape-proof. While climbing branches are appreciated by the snake, a couple of dark, tight areas to hind in are essential to make the snake feel secure in his enclosure.

Corn snake light and temperature


No special lighting is needed, but light from a nearby window can help your snake adjust to day and night cycles, But be careful to avoid direct sunlight making contact with the tank. As temperatures could quickly become deadly for your little friend. You will need a warm side and cool side of the tank, so the snake can naturally regulate its body heat. The warm side of the tank should be kept around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. While the cool end can remain room temp around the low 70s. One hide should be placed at each end of the tanks and make sure to have thermometers on each side of the tank monitoring temperatures.

Substrate


Most breeders prefer the use of aspen shavings as bedding because its soft, absorbent, and holds its shape when your snake borrows. While Cypress mulch works too, it is a more expensive alternative. Avoid using scented woods such as cedar or pine, as well as avoid using sand as they can cause impactions if ingested. Newspaper an reptile carpet also suffice, but the corn snake will get under it at any chance it gets, which can be a hassle.

Corn Snake Food

Corn snakes natural and most common food is rodents. While some baby corn snakes will also eat lizards or frogs. As well as Adult snakes eating the occasional birds or their eggs. Newly hatched snakes will eat newborn mice, with a slow increase in the size of the rodent as the snake grows. While these snakes will normally accept frozen and thawed mice, be prepared to offer a newly purchased and stressed snake a live mouse, until it can be weaned on too frozen. Make sure you move your snake to another smaller cage for feeding time, to encourage focus on the food, as well as to form a habit between the container and feeding time. You should feed your baby corn snake every 5-7 days, while adults should be feed every 7-10 days.

Water for your snake

Fresh water should be readily available in a heavy , shallow bowl. Which should be cleaned every 5-7 days, unless it is soiled by the snake. Place the water on the cool side of the tank in-case the snake needs to submerge itself to cool off. Make sure the snake can easily find this as it cruises it tank.

Temperament

While freshly hatched baby's can be semi aggressive and are naturally nervous. This will subside overtime with proper and frequent handling. While these corn snakes usually flee or defend themselves, it is true that they have no real potential to harm you. A family dog can do far more harm than even the largest of corn snakes . It is important to give a new snake a week or two to adjust to its new home, and feeding routine before you attempt to handle it. After 2-3 successful meals, your snake is ready to be handled. This should be done in short 5-10 minute sessions. When picking up your snake from its tank, it is important to come from the side, As grabbing it from above will scare the snake. Once the snake realizes that you are not trying to eat it, it will usually calm down and become tame quickly.

King snakes

King Snakes

Second on this list, and just about equally easy as owning a corn snake, king snakes are another great choice for a beginner to choose. The only reason these snakes are ranked number two on the list is they can be a little bit more feisty, and they can have a little bit more trouble getting to feed once introduced to there new habitat. None the less these snakes are relatively easy to care for and quite hardy. I personally have owned one for over 3 years, it was my first snake. It has given me zero problems, as well as only mistaking my hand for food one time, and nipping it. In the wild these snakes are quite motivated feeders, activity hunting down and eating snake, small rodents, bird eggs, birds, and even lizards. These snakes reach a lenth of 3-4 feet and become rather tame with age.

King snake housing

King snakes, don't reach quite the length of corn snakes and can be kept comfortable in a 15-20 gallon aquarium. While younger snakes can be kept in a 5-10 gallon aquarium. These snakes are also quite the masters of escape and should be kept in a secure tank at all times, with a screen lide and locks in place recommended


King snake lighting and temperature

King snakes do not require any special lighting, but they do require the right amount of heat for proper digestion. You should aim for 85 degrees on the warm end of your snake and low 70s on the cool end of the tank. High temperatures can quickly become deadly for your snake and should be avoided at all costs. Hot rocks should be avoided as it provide heat much to centralized and can cause burns.

King snake substrate

Most breeders prefer the use of aspen shavings as bedding because its soft, absorbent, and holds its shape when your snake borrows. While Cypress mulch works too, it is a more expensive alternative. Avoid using scented woods such as cedar or pine, as well as avoid using sand as they can cause impactions if ingested. Newspaper an reptile carpet also suffice, but the corn snake will get under it at any chance it gets, which can be a hassle.

King snake food


In the wild king snakes are notorious for eating other species of snake, including rattlesnakes. But in captivity, king snakes can thrive on frozen or live mice, and an occasional lizard. Be prepared to feed your baby king snake a live mouse and slowly transition it to frozen. Frozen is the best alternative as a live mouse has the potential to cause injury to your snake.

King snake water

Water for your snake should be always available as well as easy to locate. It should be provided in a shallow heavy dish, large enough for the snake to submerge itself when it needs to cool itself down. This dish should be left on the cool side of the tank, in order to keep bacterial growth at a minimum.

Temperament

King snakes, when compared to corn snakes are a little bit more feisty. But when compared to most other snakes, they would still be considered very docile. When picking them up, always come in with your hand to the side of them. Most king snakes enemy's come in from the air, and this scares the snake, and will increase the chances of you being bite. I have had a king snake for 3 years now, and have only been bitten once. They are my favorite starter snake

Ball Python

Third and cutest snake on this list is a ball python. These are some of the most beloved snakes in the reptile trade. They are arguably a "sweet" snake, They love being held and taken out on adventures outside with you. When they are scared, rather than striking, they curl up into a small ball for defense. They are slow tame snakes from the grasslands of Africa. These snakes would be the number one starter snake if they didn't have a little bit harder of care requirements than a corn snake or king snake. They require specific care or they can become sick, which turns into an expensive vet trip. Ball pythons require certain levels of humidity in-order to shed properly and thrive.

Ball python housing

Young Pythons perfer to be inside a smaller tank, as it makes them feel secure
Ball pythons are on the smaller size in length, but they can become pretty thick. Adults depending on size should be kept in a 30-40 gallon tank. With properly placed hides on each end of the tank.

Ball python lighting and temperature

Ball pythons require more heat than most snakes, since they are from the grasslands of Africa where it is regularly 90+ degrees Fahrenheit. They should have a warm side of the tank at 88-96 degrees, and a cool side of the tank around 76-80 degrees. Make sure you include a thermometer on each side of the tank. If it becomes to hot it can cause brain damage to the snake which can lead to a shorter life span. You can provide heat via a heat lamp, under the tank heating pad, heat tape or ceramic heat emitters. Regardless of how it is delivered, the temp must be constant and within the safe zones. The light should be on 10-12 hours a day, and off 12-14 hours a day.

Ball python substrate

Most breeders prefer the use of ground coconut grids, as they maintain moister and keep humidity up in the tank very well. While Cypress mulch, and aspen works too, it is a more expensive alternative. Avoid using scented woods such as cedar or pine, as well as avoid using sand as they can cause impactions if ingested. Newspaper an reptile carpet also suffice, but the corn snake will get under it at any chance it gets, which can be a hassle.

Ball python food

Ball pythons can thrive on a diet of all rodents, the smaller snakes will be fed on the appropriate size mouse, while larger adults will be fed rats. They like any other snake need to be fed once a week as a juvenile , and depending on the size of the adult. They can possibly be fed once every two weeks. Picking the right size of your snakes food is important but thankfully very easy. Just take the thickness of the thickest part of the snake, and times it by 1 &1/2, meaning if your snake is 1 inch thick , feed it a mouse 1 & 1/2 inches thick.

Ball python water

Ball pythons require a larger water dish than most snakes, since they love to curl up into the water and soak, it also provides more humidity which is very important for the snake to shed properly. To cut it short, there are many reasons they need a larger water dish than most snakes. For young snakes a water bowl 1 inch deep will suffice. For bigger snakes, obviously a larger disk is require so that they can submerge themselves. Many times your snake will decide to defecate in their water bowls, this needs to be taken care of ASAP to prevent bacterial growth, having a spare bowl can be handy for when the other is being cleaned.

Ball python temperament

Ball pythons as previously mentioned, are some of the most sweet, and docile snakes. It is almost unheard of for one to lash out and bite. Unless either the snake is very ill or you are just doing something you shouldn't be, you will not be bitten. These snakes are not very fast, and will more than likely curl up in a ball in your hand or wrap around your arm. This being said they are still great at escaping and you should resist the erg to fall asleep with your snake next to you as it more than likely will slither away into the night.

Ball python humidity

Ball pythons, require quite high humidity levels, in-order to not only shed properly but thrive, and who doesn't want that for their snake. They need a constant humidity of 45%-65%. If it is to low, your snake will not shed properly, will go off feed, as well as be sluggish and inactive. On the other end of the spectrum, humidity to high can lead to respiratory infections, which can be look like white bubbles coming out of the snakes nose or mouth. Which should be treated immediately. For this soul reason, ball pythons are a little bit harder to care for as this humidity always needs to be constant. A spray bottle may be required to spray into the tank occasionally to maintain humidity.






Snake Prices

Ball Pythons
King Snake
Corn Snake
$40-$100
$50-$80
$25-$75
Moderately easy
Easy
Super easy
 
 
 

Recommended Bedding

This is the bedding I use for my snake, cost effective, absorbent, and allows for snakes to burrow.

Recommended Thermostat

Again this is what I personally have been using in my snake cage for the past 3 years. Very reliable and responsive at reading changes in temperature and humidity. I recommend you buy one for the cool side of the tank and one for the warm side.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the best snake for beginners in my opinion is a king snake. While this is your own decision to make, if you feel you can meet the snakes care requirements, go for it. If you feel you can't meet a snakes requirements, do both you and the snake a favor and don't buy it. All of these snakes can easily live 15-25 years, so be prepared to care for this snake for quite a while, make sure you are 100% on this commitment, as it is a big one. Expect to pay upwards of $250+ dollars for your snake and all of the items needed to care for it. Also keep in mind depending on the size of your snakes food, it can cost $3-$8 dollars a week to feed your snake. Be mindful, be well informed, and enjoy your new slithery friend!

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