Will your adult snake outgrow its tank?
What helps a snake grow?
Snake growth surprises new owners all the time.
But it’s crucial to know what to expect from growth and how to help snakes grow well.
Let’s start at the beginning with the question:
How fast do snakes grow?
A snake will, on average, reach sexual maturity in two years. There are exceptions. Growth in length generally happens very quickly until a snake reaches adulthood. However, growth does not stop after adulthood. Snakes continue growing slowly until the end of their lives, which could be anywhere from four to twenty-five years.
Neonate to Adulthood
Generally, snakes grow at the quickest rates between when they are born and when they reach sexual maturity.
This mirrors the growth in other animal life, including human beings.
Different snake species generally grow in length at different rates.
A baby snake, or neonate, will generally look the same as an adult member of the same species, just smaller.
There may be color differences between an adult and a neonate.
Emerald tree boas, for example, start life in a variety of colors, from yellows to reds to browns.
Once they reach adulthood, they change into the bright green we recognize as a hallmark of the species.
Younger snakes will need to eat more often than adult snakes, as their bodies are going through rapid growth and change.
Twice a week is a general recommendation.
Consult information about your specific species if you need clarification.
On average, snakes reach sexual maturity at two years old.
There are exceptions, however.
For example, Burmese pythons take about four to five years to reach sexual maturity.
A rat snake may take up to seven years, or even longer.
When a snake reaches sexual maturity will also depend on its nutrition and overall health.
A female snake will only be willing to breed if she is in her best health.
Unfortunately, since a snake keeps growing throughout its life, it is not generally possible to tell if a snake has reached sexual maturity just based on its size.
What Is Indeterminate Growth?
Indeterminate growth is a phenomenon where a form of life continues to grow, even after it has reached what could be called adulthood, until its death.
While this is most commonly seen in plant life, indeterminate growth is common among snakes, amphibians, fish, corals, and mollusks in the animal world.
Given a supportive environment with plenty of nourishing food, a snake will slowly grow in length after it reaches sexual maturity up until it dies.
In the wild, a snake may encounter predators or diseases which shorten its lifespan.
The longer a snake lives, the more predators it will encounter.
Even though snakes never stop growing, external factors in the wild guarantee a small number of really huge snakes.
What About My Pet Snake?
Unfortunately, for most snakes, there are no sure visual signs of aging.
It takes years of training and experience to tell a snake’s age.
A reptile expert or your exotics veterinarian should know where to look for signs of maturity.
They are your best bet at estimating your snake’s age.
With proper feeding and a healthy environment, a snake in captivity will generally mature faster than one in the wild.
As a reptile owner, you will control how much and how regularly you are feeding your snake.
A wild snake would not have this luxury and would also have to fight to survive.
Your snake, living in captivity, will hopefully not encounter predators or other adverse conditions.
Ensure your snake’s tank is big enough to fit the largest size of your snake’s species.
You may have heard your snake will not grow larger than its tank.
This is a myth.
You may need to buy a bigger tank or tanks as your snake grows from neonate to adult.
No matter your snake’s age, you should be keeping it well-fed and healthy.
Make sure its environment is suitable for its species.
With these factors guaranteed, your snake should grow at a standard rate for a snake kept in captivity.
You may want to know your snakes’ approximate ages specifically for breeding purposes.
Captivity will provide you with more environmental controls to facilitate mating.
Depending on where the species lives in the wild, you may want to regulate seasonal temperatures and the environment.
The best way to tell if your snakes are ready for breeding is to weigh them.
Snakes reach particular weights between two to three years of age.
A female ball python, for example, should weigh at least 1200 grams before mating with an at least 700-gram male.
The proper weight, and overall good health, will signal your snakes are ready to mate with each other.
Snakes which live in cooler environments generally mate in early spring after their hibernation is over. In warmer, more tropical environments, mating happens year-round.
If you want to facilitate breeding in a cooler-environment species, change the tank’s environment to reflect the environmental changes from winter to spring.
You should rely on information about your specific species to determine whether your snake will need more or less food during the mating season.
We hope we have helped you in understanding how fast snakes grow.
Snakes grow quickly between their neonate stages and sexual maturity.
Beyond sexual maturity, a snake will continue to grow slowly until it dies.
This natural phenomenon is called indeterminate growth.
Other factors which determine a snake’s size and rate of growth include their environment, food availability, and the average size of the species.
While a snake in the wild is more likely to encounter predators and potential sources of disease, which could shorten its lifespan, these should not be a problem for your pet snake.
A snake in captivity will generally grow faster than a snake in the wild.