Choosing a Species

Author: Scarlett Nightshade

 

Jump to section:

With so many different kinds of snakes, it can be difficult trying to figure out which species would be best suited for you. However, your search for the perfect slithery companion shouldn’t begin with the snake; it should begin with you, the keeper! Evaluating what you want in a snake as well as what you are willing and able to provide will help you immensely in finding the right snake for you.
 

Evaluation
First, evaluate the following characteristic categories to get a general idea of what kind of snake you are looking for:

 

Handleability: Would I prefer a more active snake or a slower-moving snake?
 

Size: Would I prefer a smaller, thin-bodied snake, or a larger, heavier-bodied snake?
 

Care: Do I want a simple snake that is easy to care for, or one that may require more research to care for properly?
 

Housing: How large of an enclosure can I provide? Am I able to upgrade the enclosure as needed?
 

Affordability: How much am I willing to spend on a snake and the supplies and care it will need?
 

Availability: Do I want a snake that is easy to acquire, or am I willing to search the market more for my snake?
 

Time Active: Do I want a snake that is most active during the day, at night, or at dawn and dusk?
 

Veterinary Care: Do I have access to a qualified reptile veterinarian that will treat my snake if/when necessary, and can I afford potential veterinary bills?
 

After answering these questions, review each snake species outlined below. These are the “most recommended” species for beginners; however, not all of them are as beginner friendly as others! With that in mind, we have provided a simple ranking system based on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the easiest to keep and 10 being the most difficult.
 

Cornsnakes

Difficulty: 1 (very easy)

Active, inquisitive snakes with several color mutations to choose from. Moderate size averaging 4-5 feet and very easy to care for. Lifespan of 10 - 15+ years. Hardy snakes with a great feeding response. They can be a bit hyper to handle as juveniles, but typically grow out of this as they approach adulthood. Generally docile temperament, but can vary. Very affordable snakes, but some factors such as sex, age and color mutation may contribute to the cost.
 

Kingsnakes

Difficulty: 2 (easy)

Active, inquisitive snakes with a high prey drive. Several color mutations available, depending on the subspecies. Size varies greatly among different subspecies, but most Kingsnakes are anywhere between 4-6 feet. Lifespan of 10 - 15+ years. Hardy snakes that are very easy to care for. Their feeding response is often intense, so occasional biting may occur. Temperament is otherwise docile. Relatively affordable snakes, but some factors such as sex, age and subspecies may contribute to the cost.
 

Milksnakes

Difficulty: 2 (easy)

Active, inquisitive snakes with several color mutations available, depending on the subspecies. Generally more hyper as juveniles than others with the tendency to musk (stinky secretion meant to deter predators). Size varies greatly among different subspecies, but most Milksnakes are anywhere between 3-5 feet. Lifespan of 10 - 15+ years. Hardy snakes with a great feeding response and very easy to care for. Relatively affordable snakes, but some factors such as sex, age and subspecies may contribute to the cost.
 

Garter Snakes

Difficulty: 3 (fairly easy)

Active, inquisitive snakes with several subspecies that come in a variety of colors. Relatively small size, averaging  3-4 feet. Lifespan of around 10 years. Can be hyper as juveniles and prone to musking, but more docile and calm as adults. Simple husbandry requirements, although a special diet may be necessary if the snake is not eating rodents; smaller Garter snakes often need pinky mice parts, or a combination of nightcrawlers cut to appropriate size and feeder guppies. Luckily these are easily obtainable and simple to feed. Garter snakes do possess the Duvernoy's Gland responsible for creating the same venom as rear-fanged (opisthoglyphous) snakes such as Hognoses, but they do not have rear fangs themselves. The venom is typically harmless to most individuals unless a severe allergic reaction occurs, which is very unlikely. Most notable characteristic is their ability to thrive in a colony of other Garter snakes, unlike most snakes which are too cannibalistic to do so. Very affordable snakes, but some factors such as sex, age and subspecies may contribute to the cost.
 

Sand Boas

Difficulty: 3 (fairly easy)

Small, docile snakes with relatively simple husbandry requirements, but can be finicky eaters, often having a strong preference for live prey over frozen/thawed prey. Size ranges from 2-4 feet, with females being larger than males. Lifespan can exceed 30 years. Water consumption must be closely monitored and controlled as they are known to regurgitate upon drinking too much. Very affordable snakes, but some factors such as sex, age and subspecies may contribute to the cost.

Ball Pythons

Difficulty: 4 (somewhat difficult)

Generally very docile snakes with the most color mutations available. Heavy-bodied snakes that grow to a moderate size; males average 2-3 feet while females average 3-5 feet. Lifespan can exceed 40 years. Requires high humidity in order to thrive, which can be difficult for many new keepers to achieve and maintain. Can be finicky about eating, usually as a result of poor or inadequate husbandry. More idle temperament, primarily hiding during the day and active at night. Can stress easily, but very handleable snakes otherwise. Most notable characteristic is their defensive mechanism of curling themselves into a ball, hence the common name “Ball Python”. Non-morph Ball Pythons are very affordable, but those with color mutations will vary greatly in cost.
 

Western Hognose Snakes

Difficulty: 4 (somewhat difficult)

Small, rear-fanged venomous snakes that vary in temperament; can be very docile, timid or harness an attitude. Various color mutations available. Males average 1-2 feet, while females average 2-3 feet. Lifespan can exceed 15 years. Often known for their food strikes and finicky eating habits, they can be stressful to keep at times. While their venom is very mild and severe reactions are unlikely, they can occur to those who happen to be allergic. Relatively hardy snakes with simple husbandry requirements. Notable characteristics include their upturned snout used for digging, and their ability to “play dead” as a defense mechanism, although this is uncommonly seen in captivity. Non-morph Western Hognose snakes are very affordable, but those with color mutations will vary greatly in cost.
 

In conclusion, while this list does not cover every snake species that is fit for beginners, we hope it provides a general overview of the most popular species that are often recommended for new keepers. Each species has its pros and cons, with some being more difficult than others; but if you are willing to put in the time, resources and research to properly accommodate your snake’s needs, we encourage you to keep the species you love most!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Quick Links

Get in Touch

(989) 545-0595 (text only)

Social

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

© 2020 Creatures of Nightshade