There are over 2,900 species of snake in the world, and while only a small proportion of these snakes are regularly available as pets that still provides a vast range of options. Unsurprisingly of course some of these species are far more suitable for beginner snake keepers than others.
Generally there are a number of features that the best snakes for beginners possess:
Firstly the perfect beginners snake must remain generally calm and docile through its life, with minimal contact required to maintain this. Some snakes that are very friendly as adults are prone to be snappy as babies while others seldom bite yet wriggle and struggle so much as to make handling a challenge.
Instead the perfect pet snake species can be picked up at any age with the minimum of fuss. In this way not only will maintenance be easy, but you too will be safe when caring for your snake. You may even enjoy getting your pet out for handling sessions from time to time.
Very few snakes are what we might call “small” but some reach far more manageable dimensions than others. The ideal snake is typically somewhere between one and two metres in length at adulthood. This size makes it large enough to be safely held, even by an amateur, yet small enough to be satisfactorily housed in the home.
Particularly large snakes like some of the pythons can also arguably pose potential health risks as they are so large as to be a danger to other pets, or even their owner. Typically once a large snake reaches a certain size a minimum of two people is required to safely handle it. In this way, should an emergency occur, there will be a second person on site to assist.
Easy To Feed
Many of the more popular snake species are quite easy to feed. However some are rather less so. Some snakes, for example, can be fussy and will regularly refuse food if they are not in the mood to eat. There are also snakes that require rather unusual diets such as quails eggs, amphibians or fish which can also be rather a struggle to provide on a regular basis.
The perfect snake for beginners should be easy to keep and reasonably forgiving. As you’re getting familiar with keeping snakes it is natural that the odd mistake might occur. The hardier your chosen snake species is, the better they will be at dealing with these situations and the longer they will live as a result.
The rarer a snake species is, the more expensive it will be to buy in general. In addition, should you ever decide to transport your snake abroad you will often find it far more difficult with a rarer species, which may require all manner of paperwork such as CITES certificates. If you’re just starting with snakes, go for something reasonably common to begin with and develop your hobby from there.
The Best Snake Species
A quick search on the Internet will reveal all manner of pet snakes available, but only a few are really suitable for beginners. Here are some of the most reliable species in our experience:
The corn snake is probably the perfect beginners snake. They are being regularly bred in captivity meaning a large range of snakes available. Corns are also being bred in all manner of morphs meaning that no matter what your taste there will likely be a colour form that appeals to you.
Corn snakes typically achieve a reasonable length of around 120-150cm, are easily handled and feed reliably on dead mice of varying sizes that can be bought from your local reptile shop.
Garter snakes were once the most common pet snake for beginners, but have now been taken over by the corn snake. While garter snakes don’t generally achieve the same proportions as corn snakes, they are often far more active, therefore requiring a similar sized vivarium.
In the past it was normal to feed garter snakes on fish (whitebait, goldfish and so on) however now this practise is generally frowned upon. The reason isn’t just how troublesome feeding fish can be, together with the risk of fish bones lodging in a snake’s throat, but also how fish are lacking in vitamin B. Snakes fed primarily on fish are therefore prone to suffering vitamin B deficiencies.
Should you be given this advice therefore you would be best recommended to avoid it and instead feed suitably-sized rodents just like with other common snake species.
Royal (Ball) Pythons
Royal pythons are sometimes known as ball pythons because of their tendency to “roll up” into a ball when threatened. These snakes may achieve a similar length to corn snakes but have a far greater circumference. This generally rather “stockier” appearance can make them appear far larger than they are.
Royal pythons, despite this girth, generally don’t require overly large caging, due to the fast that they are quite sedentary. Indeed, ball pythons provided larger vivariums will sometimes go off their food due to feeling insecure in such a sizable enclosure.
Ball pythons also come in a huge range of different colour morphs, are one of the most docile snake species of all to handle and can be very long-lived indeed. Definitely a species worth considering. The only downside to this species being that it will sometimes go off it’s food from time to time. Assuming your snake is not losing condition this is rarely anything to worry about but can be frustrating and stressful for a new snake owner when their pet refuses to eat for weeks or even months a t a time.
One final species which is less commonly seen in the trade yet can still make a suitable starter snake species is the rainbow boa. Seen in the wrong light these snakes look just like a boring brown colour. However under the right light – either the artificial light of a reptile cage or natural sunlight – and you will notice a beautiful rainbow-like blush all over their bodies.
This means that in appearance alone rainbow boas are one of the most intriguing and unusual snake species for beginners.
While they can sometimes be a little snappy at first most rainbow boas calm down admirably with a little effort and are typically very reliable feeders. Growing up to six feet long they are probably the largest snake species recommended here.
While generally we would recommend one of the other three species mentioned here, if you’re looking for something a little bit different then the rainbow boa may be a suitable alternative.