How to Choose a Pet Snake That’s Right for You
Learn how to choose a pet snake that’s right for you depending on your availability, income, and experience level.
Snakes are low maintenance pets
Snakes are generally low maintenance pets. They’re also very rewarding pets. Some are easily handled and even seem to enjoy time with their keepers. Others snakes, such as the Amazon tree boa, are better suited as display animals.
No matter who you are or what experience level you’re at, I’m going to help you choose a pet snake that’s right for you!
Things to take into consideration before buying a pet snake
- Are you able to feed them rodents, sometimes alive? Some people have a problem with this.
- Can you afford to feed a snake on a weekly basis? Feeding just one snake is cheap but bigger collections get pricey when it comes to feeding time.
- Do you have the room? Snakes actually don’t take up much space unless you go with one of the giants like Burmese and reticulated pythons. Still, they need an enclosure large enough to easily fit in and plenty of space to move off their heating element.
- Are you a first-time snake keeper? First-time snake keepers should go with snakes that are of the right experience level.
Let’s get started
If you go with a colubrid like a corn snake or a python such as a spotted python, care is pretty much straightforward. Have them in an appropriately sized enclosure for their size and feed them an appropriately sized rodent once a week. They should soil their enclosure only once a week but this may vary. Clean soiled substrate the moment you find it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about keeping snakes it’s that they hate being around their own feces.
House snakes separately
House snakes separately unless you’re looking to breed them. This helps prevent the spread of bacteria and possibly even parasites from one snake to the other (depending on the situation). Snakes that are unfortunately housed together also compete when it comes to feeding time and it’s not a pretty sight. It’s also stressful for the snakes.
How large of a snake do you want?
Large snakes are impressive ones, aren’t they? Still, if we’re talking about the giants which include anacondas, reticulated, Burmese, or African rock pythons, these snakes are better suited for those who have the room and experience to properly keep them. Believe me, a 12-foot reticulated python is more than a handful and the can get twice that size.
Something a little smaller
Instead, you might want to go with something a bit smaller such as a Colombian boa constrictor. Actually, Colombian boas can get pretty big too but ten feet is far less than twenty.
How about a dwarf boa?
Better yet, why not consider a dwarf boa species like a Hog Island or Nicaraguan boa? These are beautiful snakes that stay manageable their entire lives maxing out at five feet. Just be careful, many times dwarf boas species are crossbred with Colombians. This means you can still end up with a ten-foot snake. Just be aware of what you’re buying and that the bloodlines are pure.
Are you looking to make some money?
Breeding snakes for a living sounds like a dream job doesn’t it? Wait a minute, all that glitters is not gold and it’s not as easy as it looks. You still have to consider your overhead for feeding and properly housing them. This is where snake racks come into play although some people don’t like them. Such people need to step outside themselves and think as snake thinks, not a human.
Anyway, the big money in the reptile industry is still the ball python. You’re going to have to invest some good money in your breeders though. It’s not like having a corn snake, financially speaking. This is because expensive morphs are just that, expensive. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Are you in a place where you can afford some high-end ball python morphs?
One good thing about ball pythons is that they grow to a reasonable size. There’s a saying, little snakes equal big money. This saying actually came from someone heavily involved with producing dwarf reticulated pythons. They’re another option besides getting a boa but they’re also pricey!
How much time do you have to spend with your pet snake?
While having a pet snake isn’t as demanding as having a dog or cat, they still need caring for. You need to check on them (at least) once a day to make sure they have water and their enclosure is clean. Some snakes like to tip over their water bowls which can become a pain in the neck. No problem, just get a heavier bowl. That usually does the trick.
The time spent caring for your snake includes feeding, cleaning and handling them. That is, of course, if you go with a snake that handles well. All in all, keeping a pet snake is not a time-consuming affair but they can’t be locked away in a closet and forgotten. As with keeping any animal, be a responsible pet owner.
Time to buy your snake
Okay, you’ve found something you like that fits your lifestyle and wallet. Now I want to make sure you get a healthy snake that’s eating. Pricing is competitive and varies from seller to seller so let’s put that aside. Instead, let’s talk about the questions you need to ask the seller before you make a commitment. Remember, snakes can live twenty-plus years, so we are talking a long-term commitment here.
Mexican Black Kingsnake
Hog Island Boa
Northern Pine Snake
I prefer buying hatchlings. This is so I can raise them up the way I choose and help shape their personality. Depending on your experience level, you might want to start with an adult or a sub-adult. You’ve come to the right place because Snake Hacks covers all these subjects over the course of this website.
Feel free to spend some time researching here but for now, here are some questions to ask the person you’re buying the snake from. Hopefully, they’ll be honest with you. Luckily, sellers are much more honest these days because of their online reputation on Google, Facebook, and online forums. It’s not so easy to sell people snakes that aren’t feeding as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Too bad for them!
The questions are as follows
Is the snake eating?
The most obvious question. A snake that’s not feeding for whatever reason eventually dies. Is the snake taking live, stunned, or frozen/thawed rodents?
It’s obvious what a live rodent is but I don’t recommend it because it can hurt your snake. A stunned rodent is a live one knocked over the head and then offered to the snake.
The rodent is still fresh but unable to fight back. The third way of feeding is my personal preference. Frozen/thawed is the way to go.
Simply store the rodents in the freezer until feeding time. Then, completely thaw them out at room temperature or in warm water. Never microwave them. Offer the fully thawed rodent to the snake.
The only problem with this method is that not all snakes take frozen/thawed or even stunned for that matter. In such a case they must be conditioned to do so. This takes time and patience. It’s also why it’s one of the top questions you should ask the seller of your potential pet snake. If the snake isn’t eating for the seller, don’t buy it! Don’t take on someone else’s problem.
Does the snake have mites?
Snake mites are bloody sucking arachnids the size of specks of pepper. They were once a serious problem back in the 1980s and even part of the 1990s. Now there are several different methods of successfully treating snake mites. I have my favorite method of treating snake mites and it has worked for me every time since 1995. Nevertheless, you don’t want a snake that’s infested with mites, especially if you’re new to snake-keeping.
Mites are still an inconvenience at least to the experienced. They still can kill a snake owned by someone new to the hobby, at worst. That’s why you should ask and avoid buying snakes with mites. Who cares if they get offended or treat you like a newbie, it’s your money and you demand a snake that is eating, healthy, and parasite free.
Is the snake captive-bred or wild-caught?
Go with captive-bred unless there’s absolutely no other option. These days, there’s little reason to go with field-collected animals. Plus, wild-caught snakes tend to have defensive temperaments and are more likely to bite. They’re also more likely to harbor internal parasites which can make them sick, especially under the stress of being held in captivity.
This is why you should always go with captive-bred snakes and completely avoid such problems.
So there you have it. Some things to keep in mind before buying a pet snake and what you should ask the seller when it comes time to buy it. Choosing the right pet snake for you is all about taking your time and doing research on the species you intend to keep.
Never buy on an impulse and always have the snake’s enclosure ready to go before buying the snake itself. Ask questions and check online reviews for reputable sellers in the reptile industry.
Did you take the leap and buy a pet snake? Tell me your stories in the comments section below!