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Best Beginner Pet Snakes

Updated on August 5, 2010
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.

Choosing a Pet Snake

 There are a wide number and variety of snakes that are available on the pet market, but that doesn't mean that every snake will make a good pet for every person. Beginner keepers do not need to start off with a large snake, such as a red tail boa or a Burmese python. It's best that you make sure your experience level matches the level of care required to raise the specific species.

Each species of snake will require different husbandry requirements in terms of size of aquarium, temperature, humidity, and other specifics, so you'll want to make sure that you do your research before you purchase a snake. Never limit your knowledge to a pet store employee; purchase books and search the internet for the best information.

Below, you'll find some of the best pet snakes. Just remember that not all snake species will be legal for everyone, everywhere to have as a pet. You want to make sure that the snake that you want to have as a pet is legal to have in your state. Also, make sure that you know your terms; some pet stores will sell corn snakes as rat snakes just so that they can get away with selling corn snakes, even though they may be illegal to have as pets in that state.

Corn Snakes

The Pantherophis guttata gutatta, also known as red rat snakes, make great pet snakes. They come in a wide variety of patterns and colors ranging from yellow to black and white to pinks and yellows. They are native to woodland, pinelands, barnyards, and the edges of agricultural fields, generally ranging from New Jersey south through Florida and west to Tennessee and Louisiana; there are some corn snakes that thrive in New Mexico and eastern Utah, as well.

Corn snakes are powerful constrictors, and feed best on frozen/thawed prey items. Generally, adults will eat pre-killed adult mice, but nothing much larger.

Corn snakes typically live about 10 to 20 years. They can reach up to 3 to 6 feet, with 4 feet being about average, making them more manageable since they're a little smaller than many pet snakes on the market. You can house one adult in a 20 gallon long aquarium.

California Kingsnake

The Lamprpeltis getula californiae, is a very hardy snake, much like the corn snake. They come in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from black and brown to cream, albino, lavender, and yellows. They are native throughout the western United States and the Baja Peninsula; they also range south from southwestern Oregon, east to Arizona, and southwest to Colorado.

Kingsnakes generally grow to about 3.5 to 4.5 feet in length, and like the corn snake can live in a 20 gallon tank (for one adult) (some kingsnake species may require larger tank). They have an average lifespan of about 15 years.

These snakes will eat a varied diet to include insects, amphibians, other small reptiles (including lizards, baby turtles, and snakes), small birds, and of course small mammals such as mice.

You'll find that kingsnakes can be very secretive and prefer to hide in the bedding where they feel safe.

Variable Kingsnake

The Lampropeltis mexicana is common to Mexico, ranging through Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Nuevo Leon, San Lui Potosi, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas. These normally range from gray to tan to tri-color, as well as albino.

This species of kingsnake typically reaches about 2 to 3 feet in length, and have the same 15 year average lifespan as the California kingsnake. They are best kept in a 20 gallon tank, but one adult can live in a 15 gallon.

You'll find that kingsnakes can be very secretive and prefer to hide in the bedding where they feel safe.

Honduran Milksnake

The Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis, is one of about 35 different species and subspecies of tricolored kingsnake and milksnake, but it's one of the favored pet snakes. They're commonly found in tricolored phase of red, black and white (or yellow) bands; tangerine with red, orange, and black or white bands; or bicolored with black and red bands. They also come in a wide variety of designer morphs, such as hybino, albino, albino tricolor, peach, snow, ghost, etc.

The Honduran milksnake naturally ranges in the low elevation points of Nicaragua, Honduras, and northeaster Costa Rica. They generally grow to about 4 to 4.5 feet long and live about 12 to 18 years.

A 20 gallon long aquarium will house one adult milksnake.

You'll find that milksnakes can be very secretive and prefer to hide in the bedding where they feel safe.

Common Garter Snake

 The Thamnophis sirtalis ssp. is common throughout the United States, such as through Florida, Texas, California, Alaska, and New Mexico, as well as parts of Canada. There are at least 12 subspecies of garter snakes that come in colors and patterns ranging from patternless black to tricolored to striped in colors from red to yellow.

Garter snakes can reach up to 4 feet, but most subspecies will range from 1.5 to 3 feet long. They live about 10 to 15 years in captivity.

One adult garter snake will live comfortably in a 20 gallon tank. These snakes can be gentle to handling, but may still bit in defense. It may take some time to make a garter snake docile, as it generally can take time to fully acclimate common garter snakes. They will usually hide most of the time.

Brown House Snake

Lamprophis fuliginosus is one of about a dozen species of house snakes, but it's the only one that has gained popularity in the pet trade. They are generally a shade of brown or terra-cotta. Brown house snakes range from sub-Saharan Africa to the south and eastern areas of Africa.

These snakes range from about 1.5 to 3.5 feet, and one adult can live in a 10 to 15 gallon. They live 12 to 15 years.

Brown house snakes will eat prey including lizards, frogs, and small rodents. They usually do really well on a diet solely consisting of mice.

House snakes typically do not bite, but their temperament will vary greatly. Generally, until they've been fully tamed, they will smear musk and poo on you when you try to handle them, which isn't uncommon to many snake species.

Rosy Boa

 Charina trivigata has about 4 different subspecies that are common to the pet market. The coastal rosy boa (C. t. roseofusca) commonly found in southeastern California and northwestern Baja California with stripes ranging from pale rose, deep tan, or orange, against a gray background. The desert rosy boa (C. t. gracia) ranges from southcentral California to central-western Arizona; it has a similar appearance to the coastal rosy with brown stripes on a gray background. The Central Baja rosy boa (C. t. saslowi) is common to southern and central Baja California Norte. It has well-defined, straight stripes ranging from orange to russet against a steel gray backgroung. The Mexican rosy boa (C. t. trivirgata) is common to northwestern Sonora, Mexico, southern Baja Peninsula, Isla Cedros, and south-central Arizona.

Rosy boas reach about 2 to 4 feet, and live about 15 years or more. They do well in 20 gallon aquariums.

This snake is usually easy to handle, but can develop an avid feeding response if you have the smell of mice on your fingers or hands. Rosies need to be handled regularly in order to prevent them from becoming aggressive.

East African Sand Boa

Eryx colubrinus is common to East Africa; most have been imported to the United States from Tanzania or Kenya. They range in colors from orange and black to light gray and black. There are designer morphs such as snow, stripe, tiger, and albino phases. You can also find the rough and smooth scale sand boa in the pet market, as well.

One adult sand boa will live happily in a 20 gallon tank, as they generally don't get any longer than 2.5 to 2 feet long. They have an average lifespan of about 15 years.

Sand boas like to hide a lot, and you'll find that they really don't have to be on sand, aspen makes good substrate, too. Sand boas can be nippy as baby and younger juveniles, but as they age they calm and become less nippy.

Ball Python

The Python regius, or Royal Python, is one of the more popular pet snakes. They are very docile, and come in a variety of colors, most of which can be quite expensive, such as the albino, piebald, pinstriped, clown, pastel, leucistic, cinnamon, spider, etc. A basic ball python is shades or brown and black, generally you can ID a ball python because of the "alien" markings most have. Ball pythons are naturally found throughout the tropical dry forests and savannas throughout much of West and Central Africa.

They average at 3.5 to 6 feet long; females are generally much larger than males, as adults. Ball pythons live about 15 to 25 years with optimal health and care.

Royal pythons do best in 40 to 50 gallon tanks, even though they're not the most active when in the cage. These guys are generally shy and hide when in the cage (unless they're hungry, when you'll notice they'll start to roam more), but when handling they are docile and quite interactive.

Ball pythons are known to be picky eaters, so keep that in mind; they can go up to 6 or more months without eating, usually due to simple changes in temperature or enclosure that can stress them out.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      An adult ball python does not need a 50g tank. And adult will thrive in a 35g tank just perfectly. They can even live quite happily in 32q-41q sterillite tubs. They prefer tight dark spaces.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      odd, i have a corn snake that's almost 3 and is 5 feet long, almost the world record for longest corn snake that is 6 feet.corn snakes are pesonaly my favorite but would make a snack for my 8 lbs. cat, he loves to eat snakes, i found that out the hard way by letting my watersnake play with him. IN SNAKES WE TRUST. well i do anyway i dont know about you. I love all snakes.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Honestly I'm scared to death of snakes but I just bought a corn snake about a month ago and I'm looking into getting another snake. Maybe a smaller boa, a ball python or possibly a milk but right now I'm just looking into things but in conclusion snakes aren't as bad as you think

    • Shaddie profile image


      7 years ago from Washington state

      Excellent hub and a great compilation of different snakes.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 

      8 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I didn't know garter snakes can get that long. The ones I see outside are always 2 feet at the most. Interesting.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      All snakes have the potential to bite. Even docile snakes may bite. No one would be able to tell you any species of snake or any animal, for that matter, that will never, ever, ever bite you or anyone else.

      But, that doesn't mean that you couldn't get a snake and it never bite you. One just can't say that an entire species of snakes will never bite.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      so this still doesn't answer my question??? kind of snakes DO NOT BITE?????

    • Chemical Brains profile image

      Chemical Brains 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      Excellent choices. I've personally kept most of these snakes and I couldn't agree with you more. Well-informed.

      - CB

    • Philipo profile image


      10 years ago from Nigeria

      I never knew that snakes could be pets as well. Some of the snakes look really beautiful but I can't keep one as a pet. Just scared. Thanks for sharing.

    • Waren E profile image

      Waren E 

      10 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

      Very well researched hub!But I think you should make another on poisonous snakes that resemble harmless ones,remember kids read hub pages too!:D

    • mattd365 profile image


      10 years ago

      I miss my snake. Thank you for your Hub. lots of great info on these beautiful creatures.


    • dohn121 profile image


      10 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Although I love all animals, I wouldn't want to keep a snake for religious and personal reasons. Besides, my better half would probably wouldn't like it.

      You really did some great research, Whitney. Great touch by mentioning that Royal pythons gets shy!


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