If you have any interest in seeking out a pet snake, familiarizing yourself with the colubrid family is a great first step to choosing the pet that’s right for you. 5 colubrid snakes in particular have dominated the pet trade. Now, we are going to look into what exactly these snakes are and why they can make good pets. Before that, let’s take a step back, and look into the colubrid family of snakes in a bit more depth. From there, we will take a deep dive into what exactly to think about before making the leap and taking one of these guys home.
What Are Colubrid Snakes?
The colubrid family is the largest and most common group of snakes in the world. To give some perspective, there are some 1,760 species of colubrids, accounting for approximately 2/3rds of the world’s snake population. Found all around the world, they eat everything from snails to rodents and bugs and even other snakes. Some are aquatic, a few are mildly venomous, and many make excellent pets. While many colubrids stay at a moderate 2-5 feet in length, some do grow fairly large. The indigo snake, for instance, is the largest colubrid reaching a mighty 9 feet. Some varieties of colubrid are indeed venomous – such as the boomslang- many are perfectly harmless and may not even have fangs. You will not be able to find any snake capable of envenomation in the pet trade.
You have likely heard of some of the animals in the soon to be examined top 5 colubrid snakes. However, there are many lesser known individual species that you may not be aware of. These animals all have differing habitats, geographical ranges, and ecological niches.
As you can imagine one example of this family can be fairly different from another. However, there are still a few defining traits that classifies a snake into this family. Some of the common attributes colubrids share include:
- A lack of hind limbs.
- No teeth on the premaxilla.
- Few head scales.
- Reduction of the left lung.
- A loose facial structure.
5 Colubrid Snakes Commonly Kept as Pets
Seeking out colubrid snakes for sale isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. This is a highly varied group of animals, after all. Not all of them make great companion animals for every home. With that being said, the following list is of the top 5 colubrid snakes that make good pets. They are noted for their ability to thrive in captivity due to their moderate size, docile temperaments, and cool looks.
These colubrids are a brightly colored snake native to the Southeastern US. Known for their excellent temperaments and over 800 color morphs available on the market today, they are fairly well-known in the pet trade. In fact, this is likely the most popular entry in this list of the top 5 colubrid snakes.
Yes, they are docile, tolerant pets when socialized properly. However, a new corn snake may be fairly shy, preferring to spend most of its time in a hide. These snakes get their name from the scales on their belly, which resemble kernels of corn.
Found almost everywhere in much of the Americas, the milk snake is another modestly sized constrictor. Unlike other snakes on this list, this reptile was subject to an urban legend stating that these snakes would drink milk directly from the udder of cows. Some of the more commonly kept varieties of milk snake include the Nelson’s, Pueblan, and Honduran.
A stand out in this list, the king snake is unique in being Ophiophagus (a snake eater). While these snakes are harmless and make great pets, you should still take measures to ensure that their enclosures are secure. Especially around other snakes. The California, Florida, and Mexican black king snake do indeed have some distinguishing features between them, but they all make good companions.
As the name implies, the hognose snake has a small, pushed in nose. Many people find this particularly cute. Known for their dramatic way of “playing dead” as a defense mechanism, this snake is recognized for its idiosyncrasies.
Rat snakes are a harmless, relatively thin constrictor. Found all around the Midwest, South, and Southeastern US, these snakes are appreciated for their ability to keep pests at bay.
Note: If you see any of the above snakes in the wild, it is best to leave it alone. These snakes play an important role in their various ecosystems, and would not react well to extended human contact or captivity.
What to Consider When Choosing Colubrid Snakes
Whether you choose one of the 5 colubrid snakes listed above or seek out something else, it is important to keep certain factors in mind. You should never purchase an animal impulsively. Ultimately, what makes a snake a good pet will be determined by your needs and preferences. Keeping certain attributes in mind can ensure that you’re prepared to bring your pet home and set you up for long term success, including but not limited to:
One of the most important physical attributes of a snake to take into consideration before choosing one as a pet is its size. This will have an impact on the amount of space it needs and size of any food item you plan on feeding it. Fortunately, most of the colubrid snakes sold as pets tend to stay at a fairly manageable 2-5 feet. Regardless, it is important that you take your snake’s size and space needs into consideration – and prepare properly – before bringing it home.
Temperament and Unique Behaviors
Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not all behave similarly. Some are slightly shyer than others, and need a bit more patience to show their true personalities. Eating behaviors, in particular, can be fairly different between species. Some can have entirely different diets. For instance, while the corn snake can feed exclusively on mice, some – such as the eel-eating rainbow snake – have more specialized diets.
Of course, the best way to understand these animals is to spend time with them. Eventually, you will gain a better understanding of the behaviors of both your individual snake and the species it belongs to. Soon enough, you will be able to raise your snake with confidence.
Now, looks should never be a hard deciding factor on choosing a pet. However, it is still important. After all, you are possibly going to be looking at your snake for the next 20 or so years. Thankfully, the 5 colubrid snakes in this list have a wide array of beautiful morphs, pelt colors, and scale shapes/sizes. Many breeders have even spent decades trying to express certain genes in their lines to give their snakes a certain appearance. This will, without a doubt, have an impact on the type of snake you choose.
Questions To Ask Before Buying a Colubrid Snake Where am I going to be 10-20 years from now?
Many snakes have a lifetime that can span decades. While you don’t need to have an exact plan for your life 15 years down the line, it would be prudent to consider what you are going to do with your snake in the event of moves, familial changes, and potential financial difficulties.
Where am I going to keep my snake?
We have already reviewed the importance of having the space to accommodate your snake. However, finding an appropriate room in your house – quiet and away from excess stimulation – can be a challenge.
What is my budget?
Getting a general idea of how much you can expect to spend on your snake a month can make all the difference in your pet-owning experience. Want to get a good idea on how much the care for a colubrid can possibly cost? Check out our article “How Much is a Corn Snake“.
How much time can I devote to it?
Any pet is going to require some amount of time dedicated to its care. Snakes are certainly less time intensive than many other animals. Of course, it’s important to be available for your pet when it needs you. At a minimum, you will need to take the time to feed it three times a month. This is in addition to spot-wiping its cage on a daily basis and regular deep cleanings.
Should I only look at the top 5 colubrid snakes?
There are many colubrid snakes that make wonderful pets. Some of which aren’t on this particular list. Known for being relatively beginner friendly, they don’t typically have any special care requirements. As you familiarize yourself with the world of these wonderful reptiles, you can branch out to rarer, more exotic species.