7 Pet Snakes That Stay Small

What are seven pet snakes that stay small?

Snakes that stay small often make better pets. They’re cheaper to feed, easier to clean and take up less space. Some snakes that stay manageable sizes all their lives include the rosy boa, prairie kingsnake, Arizona mountain kingsnake, Thayer’s kingsnake, ball python, and the corn snake.

1 – Rosy boa

The rosy boa is certainly a good choice for someone wanting a snake that stays a manageable size. They also have a great personality to match. Although these snakes stay small, they have rather big appetites. Be careful not to overfeed your rosy boa because they won’t say no often.

A great beginner snake that works well with small children. Just make sure children always wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after handling any reptile or amphibian.

Adult rosy boas usually max out to a modest three feet as adults. You have many options when it comes to choosing an enclosure for a snake such as this. They make a decent display animal but also thrive in snake rack systems.

The rosy boa makes a great pet.
The rosy boa is one of the smaller species of the boa family.

2 – The Arizona mountain kingsnake

While the Arizona mountain kingsnake is somewhat of a delicate specimen of the kingsnake family, they stay small and manageable their entire lives. Hatchlings may wiggle and defecate on you. They may even release their pungent musk.

Arizona Mountain Kingsnake
I like the Arizona mountain kingsnake so much I keep five of them.

The good news is, they quickly grow out of this. Once the Arizona mountain kingsnake grows out of its spaghetti-like stage, they become easier to handle and calm down quite nicely.

If you’re new to snake keeping, start off with a well-started sub-adult, or established adult. That’s the way to go. You should only buy a hatchling if you’re sure it’s feeding and it has been switched over to rodents. Preferably frozen/thawed.

Taking lizards as food

Sometimes hatchling Arizona mountain kingsnakes only take lizards early in their life. This is troublesome for those new to snake keeping. Scent pinkies with a lizard to get them switched over and do it as soon as possible.

Once they’ve switched over to rodents, you’re good to go. Handling adults are perfectly fine but avoid over-handling. They’re more prone to stress than other more hardy kingsnake species.

3 – Ball python

The ball python is a longtime staple of the reptile industry and that’s an understatement. These snakes are popular, mostly because of their various morphs and mutations but also because of their manageable size. Personally, I enjoy the natural phase the most. These snakes usually stay between three and four feet but specimens as large as six feet are possible.

7 pet snakes that stay small
One cannot deny the ball pythons popularity. Some say they saved the reptile industry during the great recession.

Nevertheless, they don’t take up a lot of space and are not especially active. Feeding issues are the only problem with keeping these snakes.

Long fasts

It doesn’t really matter if they’re hatchlings or adults, these snakes are known for going on long fasts. The good thing is, they can go a really long time without eating so not to worry.

Just make sure your ball python isn’t stressed and kept at the right temperature and it’ll eventually eat. These snakes are also known for being extremely docile, they have a great reputation overall.

4 – Prairie kingsnake

The prairie kingsnake is the most underrated snake on this list. These are hardy, even-tempered snakes that feed well and need little maintenance. They also stay rather small maxing out to about three feet as adults. Even though this snake is part of the kingsnake family, it’s a little different in body structure and appearance.

Prairie kingsnake
Prairie kingsnake

They have a peculiarly small head compared to the rest of their body.

The prairie kingsnake is a great escape artist so make sure the lid on their enclosure is always tightly secured. These snakes can squeeze through some tight areas, especially as hatchlings. Like all kingsnakes, the prairie kingsnake is cannibalistic so house them separately outside the breeding season. Regular phase prairie kingsnakes aren’t always easy to find but albinos are more common. 

5 – Thayer’s Kingsnake

Also known as the variable kingsnake and the Nuevo Leon kingsnake, the Thayer’s kingsnake averages out to three feet. What makes these snakes especially special is when a single clutch produces three different phases of the snake. Wow, what a score!

Thayer’s Kingsnake
Thayer's Kingsnake

That’s not including morphs or the rare jet black phase. Now that sounds like an interesting breeding project, don’t you agree?

Their popularity is catching on quickly and they’re relatively easy to breed. The only trouble hatchlings may present is a preference for eating lizards exclusively. Take the same action you would with the Arizona mountain kingsnake in this situation. The specimens I keep devour rodents voraciously so once they get started, there’s no holding them back.

6 – Corn snake

While the corn snake may reach six feet in length, they rarely exceed four. Another staple of the industry found just about anywhere. Only the ball python rivals them in popularity and variability in morphs.

Hatchling corn snake
A hatchling okeetee corn snake after a meal.

Both those new to the hobby and longtime reptile enthusiasts enjoy keeping and breeding corn snakes.

Speaking of breeding, they are one of the easiest, if not the easiest snake to breed. These snakes are known to produce healthy clutches without a cooling period. Nevertheless, I still suggest cooling them down over winter if you intend to breed them. This reduces the probability of egg binding.

Did I mention that they are one of the most docile snakes you can possibly own? The corn snake is often the first snake those in the hobby start out with. My first snake was a corn snake.

7- Ribbon snake

Finally, if you want to keep a snake that stays really small and waifish, the ribbon snake may suit your needs. Closely related to garter snakes but even smaller, the ribbon snake is so tiny you’ll feed it mostly live guppies placed in their water bowl. They may also take certain insects and earthworms. Not really a snake to handle due to its size, they do make decent display animals.

Ribbon snakes are occasionally offered online for less than $50. They are almost always field-collected. These snakes bear live young similar to garter and water snakes. What’s surprising is the growing popularity of the garter snake. More and more people have started breeding projects and they’re becoming common due to pricy morphs. 


So, there you have it. Seven snakes that stay small and won’t take up much space. All seven snakes are docile and easy to keep. They also all make great pets for first-time snake keepers. The only exception is the Arizona mountain kingsnake which is a bit more delicate and more of a finicky eater.

There are a lot more snakes that stay small. Do you a snake or two to add to this list? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below! 

7 Pet Snakes That Stay Small

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