What to Know Before Getting Your First Snake

Few moments are exciting to a future pet owner as the day they get their first pet—and snake pet owners are no exception. 

While it’s important to be excited about picking out and bringing your first snake home, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared. 

A few things to keep in mind before getting your first snake are

  • enclosure requirements
  • space requirements
  • care specified to the species
  • feeding

Taking the time to do research about owning snakes can help protect both you and your new snake.  That’s why I’ve created this complete guide: First Snake 101, to teach you the basics of everything you need to know about owning a healthy, happy snake for the first time. 

Holding rainbow boa

First Snake 101

There are several things to keep in mind when you’re picking out your first snake—and not all relate to the snake itself. 

On top on finding the best beginner snake to be your pet, you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with a snake’s basic care. 

What is a Good First Snake?

When it comes to getting your first snake, it’s important to set yourself up for success by choosing a good first snake. While all snakes have particular needs, some species are considered better as a first snake pet. This is determined by a variety of factors, including diet, size, and handling ease. 

To better understand which pet snake is best for you? Click here. 

Do you have space for a snake? 

Enclosure requirements

Typically a 10-20 gallon tank or tub is large enough for most domestic snakes. 

No two enclosures are made equal when it comes to snakes. 

Different snakes will need different items and accessories in their enclosures, whether it’s items for climbing or water features. However, overall, a clear twenty-gallon tank is a good place to start for many of the most popular first snakes. 

Another option is clear plastic tub with a lockable lid, especially for stacking on top of one another. These require you to modify them slightly to allow for proper airflow and heating, but it’s a great option for a first-time snake owner, especially on a budget. 

Some snakes may need additional items in their enclosure. For instance, ball pythons love to hide, so adding as many hiding places as possible will make them more comfortable. 

Taking the time to learn about your specific snake before bringing them home can help them adjust and thrive

snake in enclosure

Enclosure Size

Even more important than the type of enclosure you get for your snake is the size of that enclosure. 

Some snakes, like ball pythons, thrive in tight spaces. Starting off with a small enclosure will ensure a ball python will feel secure and not stress out. 

For snakes like ball pythons you can opt for as big of an enclosure as you like as long as there is plenty of places for them to hide. 

You’ll also need to consider the height of your enclosure. 

Snakes like the green tree python are arboreal which means they live, sleep, and eat while hanging onto a tree branch. 

Since these types of snakes love to climb, its important to get them an enclosure with significant height, unlike a ground-dwelling snake that won’t need much height at all. 

The average pet snake will live to be around 15 years old, so consider the amount of space they’ll need throughout those years. 

Most common pet snakes can thrive in a 15 gallon tank their entire lives(although tanks are NOT ideal), but snakes like a reticulated python will need a much larger enclosure since they can grown upwards of 14 feet long. 

A good rule of thumb when determining what size enclosure to house your pet snake is that the enclosure should at least be half the length of the snake. If your snake can wrap itself around the perimeter of the enclosure it’s too small. 

Specific Care

In terms of grooming or similar actions, snakes are fairly low care. However, you will need to take extra precautions to ensure that they have the proper heat and humidity.

It’s also important to make sure they get the right amount of natural light each day.

Unlike mammals like humans, snakes can’t regulate their own body temperature. As a result, they’ll need warmer temperatures to help them digest their food and carry about regular daily body functions.

 You should strive to give your snake at least ten to twelve hours of natural light every day and only keep one half of the tank heated in order to provide your snake the opportunity to cool down if needed. 

Most pet snakes only require spot cleaning for their excrements about once a week. You can get away with deep cleaning their enclosure once a month including switching out their substrate and wiping down the surfaces inside. 

Other than the enclosure maintenance, snakes don’t need much more care. They don’t require any grooming and they only eat about once a week. 


cleaning pet supplies

For the most part, you’ll be able to use regular household cleaning supplies for your snakes enclosure—just be sure to research them beforehand since they vary from brand to brand.

For most snakes you’ll want to remove them from their permanent enclosure to clean it out, then place them back in once you’re done.  

However, on the off chance that your snake has mites or other dangerous conditions, you may need to isolate, quarantine, and perform a better, deep cleaning on their enclosure. 

You’ll need to change their bedding every one to two months at least, more often if they happen to make a large mess. The cleanliness of their enclosure can directly impact their health and help prevent different diseases and conditions. Your snake will also be much happier in a clean tank. 


A snake’s diet depends on its species. Smaller snakes can eat insects and small rodents while larger species will need to eat frozen/thawed rats or mice.

Regardless of the snake species you get, there is no way around feeding your snake rodents because they have the right nutrients that they can’t get eating anything else so be sure you can handle that before considering a pet snake. 

You should never live feed your snake in order to prevent injury or even death. 

snake eating mouse


Snakes are one of the easiest pets to care for, especially when it’s a beginner snake. Your first pet snake should be one that you are passionate and curious about. 

No matter which one you choose, they all have similarities in  their care so you just have to find one that fits you best. 

The key takeaways of what to consider with your first pet snake is what they eat, their enclosure size, and their proper care.