I became obsessed with snakes when I was a young teenager. The first time I went shopping for a pet snake, I had no idea what I wanted. Luckily, I ended up with a California King Snake; a breed known not to get too large.
Funny thing, I almost accidentally bought an anaconda. The baby anaconda in the pet store was so friendly and at the time, a small snake. That wouldn’t be the case several years down the road.
This short story is what inspired me to write this post about the best small pet snakes. Typically, the best beginner pet snakes tend to be small — there are some exceptions to that, though.
If you’re in the market for a small pet snake for either you or a family member, you came to the right place. Rule number 1: don’t by an anaconda even if it’s the friendliest pet snake at the store.
So, you want to buy a snake and don’t want a giant, 8-10 foot long beast growing in your basement. Seems perfectly reasonable. That’s exactly why we curated this list of the best small pet snakes available — now you can rest easy and know one of these small snakes are your best options.
Best Small Pet Snake #1: Rosy Boa
Now, we know what your thinking. Boa constrictor?! How can that possibly be the #1 best small pet snake on this list? Believe it or not, Rosy Boas (Lichanura trivirgata) don’t grow to be as large as say, a Boa Constrictor. These colorful little guys can make a perfect companion, and stay relatively small for their entire life.
For the most part, Rosy Boas will get to about 2 feet long. That’s not too bad, considering they are in the boa family. Also, they are very pretty snakes and can come in unique patterns that are visually pleasing. There’s a reason why Rosy Boas are so popular.
First, which we already covered, they don’t grow to be that large. Rest assured that you, your son, or your daughter can enjoy the companionship of a Rosy Boa without worrying about it growing into a monster.
Secondly, they are a tame breed and are easy to maintain and take care of. In most cases, a Rosy Boa will be happy in a 15-20 gallon snake tank (depending on the measurement). Overall, Rosy Boas are simply one of the best small snakes to have as a pet. They are small pet snakes that stay small, have a nice temperament, and are great beginner snakes all around.
How Big do Rosy Boas Get?
Unlike the more familiar Boa Constrictor, Rosy Boas tend to stay fairly small snakes. Usually, Rosy Boas range somewhere between a length of 24-36 inches. They rarely grow longer than 36 inches. Also, if you raise them in a smaller habitat, they will likely grow to be a few inches over 2 feet.
What Do Rosy Boas Eat?
Rosy Boas, like many other pet snake breeds, like to eat mice. They usually start out eating pinkies/fuzzies, and eventually will grow and have a bigger appetite. Once fully grown, they will either move to hoppers or adult mice. We recommend starting Rosy Boas off on frozen mice, because over the long run, frozen mice are much easier to manage than live ones.
Best Small Snake for a Pet #2: Eastern or Western Hognose Snake
The snake coming in 2nd for the best small snakes as pets is none other than the Hognose Snake. Now, there are many different types of Hognose. be sure you stick with Eastern or Western, because some other breeds like a Madagascar Hognose Snake can grow to be way too big.
Hognose Snakes make excellent small pet snakes, and are another very popular breed among beginners and long time snake owner enthusiasts.
Unlike the Rosy Boa, these snakes are not constrictors and are native to a more desert-like climate.
What makes this small snake truly unique is it’s flat, shovel-shaped head. It uses this to easily burrow underground. Hognose Snakes also have a nice pattern to them, too.
All-in-all, either an Eastern or a Western Hognose Snake makes for an excellent small pet snake.
How Big Do Hognose Snakes Get?
Some snake breeds vary in size depending on sex. Hognose snakes just happen to be a breed of small snake that varies greatly between male and female. So, if you do decide to go with a Hognose Snake, make sure you ask the breeder about the sex. That can greatly influence the size of your new small pet snake friend. Here are the measurements of males and female Hognose Snakes:
Average Male Hognose Snake Size: Range from 15-25 inches (or 38-64 cm)
Average Female Hognose Snake Size: Range from 28-36 inches (or 71-91 cm)
What Do These Small Pet Snakes Eat?
Like most other captive snakes, Hognose Snakes should be fed frozen mice. Because they are small snakes, you likely won’t have to go any larger than a small, adult mouse once they’re full grown. Depending on the sex/size, they may eat fuzzies/hoppers for most of their life. In any case, it all depends on how big your Hognose snake will actually get… and they usually stay pretty small.
Best Small Pet Snake #3: Garter Snake
Garter Snakes are likely the smallest snake on this list, and they are also a popular breed of pet snake. Not only are Garter Snakes small in the sense that they don’t get too long, they also don’t grow to have a lot of girth, either. Garter Snakes make a great small pet snake. The reason they are #3 is more of a matter of opinion.
First, Garter snakes aren’t as visually appealing as the other two snakes on this list. They’re kind of plain, and there are definitely prettier snakes out their when it comes to searching for small pet snakes.
Also, many Garter Snakes are caught in the wild and kept as pet snakes. That is something we advocate against. Non-captive bred snakes will usually die quickly once put in captivity. Also, they can carry harmful bacteria, mites, and other sicknesses.
With all that in mind, Garter Snakes still make great small pet snakes. Just be sure if you choose this breed, buy one that was raised in captivity from a reputable breeder. Leave the wild snakes where they belong — in the wilderness and their natural habitat.
How Big Do Garter Snakes Get?
As mentioned, Garter Snakes don’t grow to be all that large. Typically, these small snake will range from 2-3 feet. Usually, they tend to be on the smaller side of that range. Garter Snakes will do well in a 15-20 gallon terrarium, and can be housed with other Garter Snakes comfortably.
What do These Small Pet Snakes Eat?
Like every other small snake on this list, Garter Snakes held in captivity should eat frozen mice. The size of the mouse will probably not exceed a hopper. There’s a good chance your Garter Snake wont grow out of eating fuzzies. It all depends on the size, though. Rule of thumb, give them a meal that is only slightly larger than their head. If you’re ever unsure, it’s always best to consult a knowledgeable breeder or pet store owner.