Best Pet Snakes For Beginners

Are you looking into snakes as a pet?

Do you like the fine line between scary and cute?

Then this guide can help you pick the right pet for you!

Snakes make unique but fun pets for any animal lover. 

However, there are many snake species out there, and not all of them may be the best for new owners.

But their dynamic personalities and beautiful colorations and style can more than make up for this.

In this guide, we go over some of the best pet snakes on the market and give you the information you need to pick the right one for you. 

Best Pet Snakes For Beginners

There are a lot of snakes out there in the world, but not all of them are a good match for a new reptile owner.

On the whole, snakes require a significant time commitment because they can live for up to and, in some cases, over 20 years. 

But they are among the easiest reptiles overall to care for.

For more details on these beginner pet snakes, check out our expanded section below.

Corn SnakesCorn snakes are the most common type of pet snake.

These snakes, also known as the red rat snakes, can grow to be 3′ – 5′ feet, and they live for 15-20 years.

What makes them so great for beginners is their docile nature. 

If a snake can be considered cuddly, it may be the corn snake.

They’re pretty hardy snakes as well and not prone to as many health issues when cared for properly.

They also are bred to create some fascinating color patterns making them pleasing to look at as well.

On top of this, while 3′ – 5′ feet may seem long to you, it’s a smaller size than many other snakes get when fully grown.  

King and Milk Snakes – King and Milk snakes are so closely related they’re often grouped.

These snakes grow to be around 6′ – 7′ feet in length and live for 15-20 years.

Like the corn snake, king and milk snakes have calm personalities. 

Their colors are also quite beautiful to look at.

This is partly because they mimic the bright colors of poisonous snake such as the coral snake. 

But don’t worry! 

These aren’t poisonous.

They’re a bit longer than corn snakes making them a bit more cumbersome to care for, but a king and milk snakes are still naturally healthy reptiles if you have the right setup.

Ball PythonsBall pythons are another extremely popular pet snake for beginners rivaling the corn snake.

They grow to be 3′ – 5′ feet in length and live around 15-20 years. 

Their smaller size makes them a little easier to care for when compared to other snakes.

Like the above snakes, the ball python is naturally calm and docile. 

Its primary behavior, when threatened, is to curl up in a ball which is where it gets its name.

If you’re someone worried about the “ferociousness” of snakes, then the ball python may be just the one for you.

Physically, they aren’t as beautiful to look when compared to all the colors of the corn and king snakes.  

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Expanding On Beginner Options

In this section, we go over our three picks for the best beginner pet snakes and offer more details on their care.

We go into detail on each pet and the following information:

  • Behavior
  • Care
  • Diet
  • Habitat
  • Health

Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are one of the top pet snake choices.

In this section, we go into detail on what it takes to own a corn snake. 

Use this information to help you decide if the corn snake is for you. 

Corn Snake Behavior

Corn snakes are considered one of the most chill and calm snakes and reptiles on the whole.

The behaviors many worry about with snakes such as biting, defecating, or constricting under stress aren’t one of their go-to responses. 

They seem to enjoy being handled occasionally unlike most snakes.

Corn snakes can be mostly domesticated or “tamed,” but some subspecies and baby corn snakes do slip back into their instincts.

As babies, corn snakes do nip a little, but after they’re used to being handled, and as they age, this dies down. 

Even as an adult, a bit will only draw a drop of blood at the most.

When they feel threatened, their natural behavior is to flee or shake their tail to imitate a rattlesnake.

It’s only under extreme duress when they’ll bite.

The biggest to watch for with corn snakes is the fact they can escape their enclosure unless you choose a great enclosure with a tight, sealed top.

Corn Snake Care

Caring for corn snakes is very low-key. 

Even as babies and juvenile corn snakes, you don’t need to feed or check on them daily.

On top of this, they have no need to be handled or interacted with, unlike lizards which require more attention.

The habitat setup is their toughest care need, and even this isn’t complicated to do. 

Corn Snake Diet

A corn snakes diet is easy to manage. 

They’re carnivores which means they only eat meat.

In the wild, they feed on warm-blooded prey such as birds, mice, and other types of rodents.

Like most reptiles, you need to watch the size of what you feed them, so they don’t hurt themselves trying to digest their meals.

A good guideline is to feed them food which isn’t much wider than their head size and no longer than one and a half the size of the snake’s body in its middle.

Corn snakes should be fed mice and small rats, but rats are only for fully grown corn snakes. 

They eat once or twice a week when fully grown.

Snakes do like hunting, so you may want to use live prey occasionally. 

But you could get by with pre-killed and thawed prey.

Baby corn snakes should start with pinkie mice (baby mice without hair).

When you feed your corn snake, follow these tips: 

  • Feed one prey animal at a time.
  • Wait 24 hours before feeding another one.
  • Don't leave live prey in the tank for extended periods.

Corn Snake Habitat

Corn snakes should be kept in a 20-gallon enclosure or aquarium which runs longer than tall.

Baby corn snakes can be kept in smaller enclosures, so they don’t get lost and stressed out. 

This way, you’re able to monitor them easier to see how they’re doing. 

The aquarium should also have a screened top for proper ventilation. 

Make sure if the tank has mesh on top, it’s not sharp.

Also, remember the corn snake’s reputation for escaping. 

Make sure the top is tight, or your pet will get out.

For bedding or substrate, pick any number of things. 

Don’t forget to focus on why you have substrate when you pick it out.

Here are some standard substrate features:

  • Replaceable.
  • Absorb poop.
  • Give snake traction to move.
  • Look nice.

The substrate can be as simple as a newspaper or as fancy as different kinds of wood chips. 

Aspen and cypress are good choices because they don’t have oils which may be toxic to your snake.

Add some branches and objects in your tank to look nicer and, more importantly, provide another place to hide.

Corn snakes aren’t tropical, so their tank doesn’t need to be hot. 

A warm 70° – 88° degrees Fahrenheit (21° – 31° C) is perfect.

Keep one spot in the tank warmer than the rest as a basking spot.

Corn snakes come from the humid southeastern US, and they need a relative humidity from 40-60%. 

Keep this in mind because homes are often drier than this, which can cause dehydration in your corn snake.  

Corn Snake Health

Corn snakes live for 15-20 years and grow to 3′ – 5′ feet in length.

Corn snakes are pretty tough if you make sure to keep the temperature and (especially) humidity.

The most common problem you may have to contend with is shedding issues. 

If the tank is too dry, the skin won’t shed in one piece and breaks off.

This piecemeal shedding can gather bacteria and result in life-threatening infections.

Other less common problems can be: 

  • Mites
  • Parasites
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Prey food bites

When in doubt, go to the vet!

King And Milk Snakes

King and milk snakes are very similar and are often grouped.

In this section, you’ll find more details on owning these snakes. 

We hope this information helps you decide if the king or milk snakes are right for you. 

King And Milk Snakes Behavior

As with the corn snake, king and milk snakes (referred to from here as only milk snakes) are known for their calm behavior.

These snakes are most active during dusk and at night. 

During the day, they prefer to hide and stay cool.

These snakes rarely bite and only when they feel severely threatened. 

Their natural reaction is to run away.

These snakes don’t seem to like being handled as much as the corn snake, and it takes time for them to get used to you.

When they are used to you, don’t panic if they start to wrap themselves around your arm. 

These snakes are constrictors, but they won’t be able to cause you harm with this.

Still, they can be handled on occasion without any problems as long as you take care not to stress them out.

King And Milk Snakes Care

The milk snake is a hand-off pet. 

You don’t NEED to spend a lot of time day after day checking and caring for it, although you certainly should.

These snakes are fun to watch when they’re active. 

The milk snakes have beautiful colorations and are known for their unique morphs (different color patterns).

The key to caring for a milk snake is to get their habitats set up correctly.

One thing you will need to watch is the water dish.

Since snakes often defecate in water, it may need to be cleaned regularly.

King And Milk Snakes Diet

The diet of milk snakes in the wild are warm-blooded animals, especially rodents and birds.

In captivity, you’re going to be feeding them mice and small or baby rats. 

The general rule for the size of food is the food shouldn’t be larger than the width of the largest part of their body (not including the head).

Adult milk snakes (3 years of age or above) should be fed once or twice a week.

You don’t want to feed them too much, or they’ll get obese and cause health problems.

Start with one feeding a week and pay attention to the shape of your snake’s body. 

If you notice it is too thin (seeing the reptile’s ribs is a good indicator of being too thin), it may be time to up the feedings to twice per week.

Snake’s under this age should be fed 2-3 times per week. 

Again, make sure the size of the prey is appropriate.

Milk snakes do enjoy hunting, so live prey wouldn’t be a bad idea on occasion. 

Other than this, your staple is going to be pre-killed or thawed mice.

Make sure to only feed the snake one at a time because it won’t eat if it’s full. 

This will leave the prey in the tank if you feed too many.

If the prey is live, it may bite at the snake causing injuries which can get infected.

If the prey is pre-killed, leaving it in the tank can cause it to rot and spread bacteria. 

King And Milk Snakes Habitat

In a milk snake habitat, take extra care to make sure the tank top is sealed. 

These snakes are famous for escaping through shockingly small holes.

Since milk and king snakes can get larger than the corn snake, you may need a larger enclosure.

Feel free to start with a 20-gallon tank, but if the snake grows larger than 5′ feet, you’ll need to switch to a 40 or 60-gallon tank.

During their active times, they like to move, so make sure they get a lot of room. 

Though there’s no research to back this up, many owners believe having a lot of space to move helps to lower the risk of respiratory infections.

With these snakes, a few different types of substrate or bedding are recommended.

  • Indoor-outdoor carpeting
  • Reptile bark
  • Mulch
  • Aspen shavings

Don’t use woods like cedar, redwood, or pine. 

These woods contain oils and aromas, which may be harmful to your snake.

If you’re using wood shavings or wood chips, make sure the pieces aren’t so small they’re accidentally eaten with the snake’s food.

Or opt for paper towels or newspaper to keep it simple.

The main reason you pick a substrate should be how easy it is to clean. 

Keeping a tank clean is key to avoiding bugs and infections.

During the daytime, milk snakes love to hide, so providing as many decorations to hide in is a good idea.

Here are some excellent examples you may want to include:

  • Rounds of bark
  • Rock hides from stores
  • Flower pots
  • Coconut shells
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Rocks
  • Branches

These look nice and help the snake feel safer.

The temperature for milk snakes should be around 76° – 86° degrees Fahrenheit (24° – 30° C) during the day and 70° – 74° degrees Fahrenheit (21° – 23° C) at night (a timer may be helpful for this).

Unlike diurnal snakes, use an under-the-tank heater instead of an overhead heater.

Like the corn snake, aim for 40-60% relative humidity. 

This is usually achieved with a small and shallow water dish kept in the tank at all times.

Just remember to check this dish regularly! 

Milk snakes tend to defecate in the water.

King And Milk Snakes Health

These snakes live for 15-20 years and grow to 6′ – 7′ feet long.

Their most common health problem revolves around inadequate shedding, but they’re also susceptible to common reptile health issues such as:

  • Mites
  • Parasites
  • Respiratory infections
  • Prey food bites

Ball Pythons

In this section, we go into detail on the ball python and what it takes to care for them. 

This may be helpful to you in picking which snake to go with as a pet. 

Ball Python Behavior

Ball pythons get their name from how they roll themselves into a ball when threatened. 

This just shows you how unaggressive they are!

Ball pythons can even be handled once they’re adjusted to you. 

They have little problems with this if you get them used to your handling gradually.

The main difference in behavior comes from wild-caught pythons and those bred in captivity.

The wild snakes take a longer time to settle down and get used to you. 

They often have more parasites, live shorter lives, and require more medical care.

Over time though, they calm down and make great pets.

Captivity ball pythons avoid these issues, but they’re also going to be much more expensive. 

These are so common though; you won’t have any problems finding one if you want.

These snakes are fun, but not active except when feeding.

Note: As with all snakes (and all animals in general), ball pythons could bite if they felt they were in severe danger. 

Ball Python Care

Ball pythons don’t require any extra care beyond feeding and cleaning out their tanks.

The trickiest thing with these constricting snakes is their tendency to carry parasites. 

Ball Python Diet

The ball python is a carnivore and eats mice and small rats in captivity. 

Make sure the prey isn’t larger than their bodies in the middle of the snake.

Pre-killed mice work best for these snakes. 

Live prey tends to bite the pythons more because they don’t always go in for the quick kill. 

Ball pythons are picky eaters and go 1-2 weeks between feedings.

With ball pythons, you may want to feed them in another enclosure, so they learn not to confuse your hand as prey in their usual home.

Ball Python Habitat

These smaller and less active snakes can get away with 10-20 gallon tanks. 

Still, make sure the top is sealed, so they don’t escape.

As with other snakes, the substrate can be newspaper, astroturf, or wood chips. 

Aspen works well for wood, but make sure you don’t use an oily wood.

Astroturf may be easiest because it absorbs feces well and cleans easily. It’s also affordable.

Ball pythons enjoy basking spots at 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) with a daytime range of 80° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit (26° – 29° C) and a night temp of 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C). 

You’ll need an overhead light/lamp to keep this tank warm.

These snakes don’t need decorations to hide in as much but feel free to spruce up the tank with some rocks and branches.

Use a shallow water dish to keep the humidity up to the magic 40-60% relative humidity.  

Ball Python Health

The ball python lives for 15-20 years and grows up to 3′ – 5′ feet long.

Shedding problems are common but avoidable if you keep the humidity up.

The next most common issue are parasites with wild-caught pythons. 

Make sure to take your pet to the vet if you’re worried.

Pro-tip: Always get a new pet checked out. 

You may want to consider a mini-quarantine from other reptiles for 3-6 months until you’re sure there aren’t any parasites. 

not Good Beginner Options

These snakes still make great pets, but they may not be a good fit for beginners. 

Nevertheless, these are a fun challenge to own.

Boa Constrictors – The main care concerns with boa constrictors are their much larger size and strong constricting ability.

They’re usually pretty docile, but if you panic when it’s wrapped around you, it’ll just squeeze tighter!

Burmese Pythons – These snakes grow up to 8′ feet long and aren’t afraid to take a bite at you if it thinks of you only as a food provider. 

It also constricts strongly if you don’t know how to handle it.

Water Snakes – While water snakes may seem to fit in as a good pet, their tendency to hiss and bite when approached makes them less than ideal for new snake owners. 

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed looking at the best pet snakes for beginners and others as well. 

Many people naturally find snakes scary, but their dynamic personalities more than make up for this.

Make sure to review the details in these sections to find the right snake for you.

Owning a pet snake may seem like a lot of work at first, but if you stop and think about it, they require less time and effort than owning a dog or a cat.

Their unique colorations and active personalities make them perfect for an oddly cute pet.

For more information on reptiles as a whole, check out our guide for the best reptile pets

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