Becoming A Snake Owner: Important Tips And Questions

Mysticism, elegance, and danger – people associate these qualities primarily with one animal: the snake. Despite their ambivalent image, the lambent reptiles are no longer unusual as pets these days. In Germany alone, terrarium fans enjoy the fascinating lifestyle of a total of 1.2 billion reptiles and amphibians. Bringing a piece of nature into the living room in a terrarium – this desire also shows the growing interest in exotic habitats and ideally makes people more sensitive to the value of global fauna and flora. However, snakes in particular have quite specific needs when it comes to keeping and caring for them. If you want to become a snake charmer yourself, you should therefore give some thought before purchasing your reptile.

1. Important Questions You Should Ask Yourself In Advance

Whether dog, cat, or snake – the acquisition of any pet needs to be well thought out. You should clarify the following points for yourself in advance:

Why Exactly Do You Want To Keep A Snake?

In their silent movement and exotic appearance snakes undoubtedly offer a fascinating sight. But the appearance should not be a basis for the decision for the acquisition – who degrades the terrarium including inhabitants to a decorative object in his living room, does himself and the snake no favor. Passionate snake owners, on the other hand, invest costs and energy to create a habitat for their reptiles that is as close to nature as possible and in which they can observe the broad spectrum of their behavior. If building a mini tropical landscape or a small piece of desert appeals to you and you don’t need a cuddly toy, a snake could be your ideal roommate.

Do You Know The Typical Pet Snakes And Their Unique Needs?


Which type of snake is right for you depends primarily on whether you can meet its needs. These can vary widely – after all, pet snakes come from all different regions of the world: from polar deserts to tropical rainforests. Therefore, your personal experience with reptile keeping should serve as a first clue for the appropriate breed.

  • For newcomers: Relatively easy you can start your life as a snake keeper for example with adders. They are relatively easy to care for and non-venomous – at least the following species, which experts most often recommend to beginners:

  • For advanced snake enthusiasts: More experienced snake lovers may also dare to keep a constrictor snake. Here specimens of the Boa constrictor-imperator group are suitable because they rarely grow over the 2-meter mark. Other species can reach more than 5 meters, so private keeping becomes difficult. This is because constrictor snakes can pose a physical threat to children, pets, and you. If you do decide to keep one, it should be able to handle all household residents.

  • For professionals only: venomous snakes belong only in the hands of proven experts. In addition, your landlord can prohibit you from keeping them in principle, if neighbors are concerned. The legislation of the federal state also has a say here: Lower Saxony, for example, generally prohibits the keeping of venomous snakes through the dangerous animal ordinance, in Bavaria a keeper must prove a justified interest, while in Rhineland-Palatinate there are no bans.

Can You Offer Your Desired Breed The Necessary Space At All?

This question is decided by the size and lifestyle of your snake. As a rule of thumb, a terrarium should be at least as long as the animal when it is fully stretched out. Height and width should be equal to half the body length. Pairs of snakes or groups will need more space accordingly, and breeds that like to climb will also need more freedom in height. If you want to start with a beginner snake like the corn snake or an African house snake, you should plan a terrarium of 120cm x 80cm x 80cm. Forest dwellers like the corn snakes want to have enough climbing possibilities, ground dwellers like the desert boa need a soft and sandy underground. The temperament of your snake will also affect its space requirements: While many adders are very active, the attractive king python is considered more of a slacker among snakes.

Do You Have The Necessary Funds For Basic Equipment And Maintenance?


Especially the initial equipment for your scaled roommate can be expensive: While experts calculate 200 to 300 euros for a corn snake plus a suitable terrarium, a boa in a special color variant can cost several thousand euros. In addition, the appropriate housing with lighting, heating, thermometer, hygrometer, interior decoration, and suitable bedding is needed.

The running costs are relatively low for low-maintenance and small species such as the corn snake. Here the expert sets only 100 euros per year. However, as a snake owner, you should be able to regularly set aside an amount to cover unexpected events. After all, your snake may unexpectedly fall ill or important accessories such as the heater may break down and need to be replaced immediately.

Can You Be Sure Of The Support Of Those Around You?

If you have a dog, you will need help from friends and relatives from time to time when it comes to vacation care or taking care of it in case of illness. In the case of a cute miniature poodle, helpful people can be found quickly in the circle of acquaintances. With a snake, it can look completely different. Also, it must be provided, if you plan a longer vacation or should come surprisingly into the hospital. For this case, you should ask already before the acquisition of the animal in your environment, who would support you and find out, who feels so much fear and disgust of reptiles that he would possibly not visit you at all.

Is There At Least One Experienced (medical) Contact Center In Your Immediate Area?

The fact that reptiles have become more popular as pets in recent years does not mean that snake owners can rely on a medical infrastructure as good as the one that exists for dogs, cats and rabbits. Many veterinarians specialize in small furred animals and have little familiarity with the needs of reptiles. Therefore, lists can be found on the Internet where reptile owners recommend competent doctors. Before you get a snake, you should make sure that you can reach a reptile specialist in the vicinity in case of an emergency.

Do You Know What Everyday Life With This Pet Will Be Like – And For How Long?

Snakes don’t need to play and run like cats and dogs, so in practice, they are considered low-maintenance pets. However, unlike dogs and cats, reptiles have special needs for their environmental climate. The temperature and humidity in the terrarium should be at ideal levels at all times – so you’ll need to keep an eye on them at all times, or have someone check them if you’re going to be away for an extended period. Like any other caged or terrarium animal, snakes want to live in a clean environment that you regularly clean of their droppings. In addition, snakes shed their skin periodically and need assistance with this as well. However, complete cleaning of the terrarium and the interior only needs to be planned once a year. Another advantage of feeding: Young snakes eat only every one to two weeks, older ones even only once a month.

Their slow metabolism makes the snakekeeper’s job easier, but also ensures a long lifespan: most species easily reach an age of 20 years. Even the small corn snakes, which curious people like to pick up spontaneously as offspring for about 10 Euros, live between 12 and 17 years. So consider before buying: If you buy a snake, you commit yourself longer than an average dog’s life lasts.

2. Tips For Life As A Snake Owner


What does everyday life with a snake actually look like? These points are especially important:

The Issue Of Live Food

Snakes are predators and recognize their prey by body temperature. From the point of view of species-appropriate husbandry, feeding with live food would therefore be advisable. This is also provided for in paragraph 2 of the German Animal Welfare Act, when it states, “Whoever keeps, cares for or has to care for an animal must feed, care for and house the animal in a manner appropriate to its species and needs.” However, feeding mice also have their rights, which are described in sections 17 and 18 of the same law. It says, “No vertebrate animal shall be killed without reasonable cause, and no suffering shall be inflicted upon it without reasonable cause.” Putting live mice or rats in front of one’s snake is therefore viewed critically by many people.

Food Animals Must Not Suffer

If you keep mice to feed your snake, be sure to provide them with a species-appropriate cage with hiding places and employment materials. When feeding, the small mammals must not be subjected to excessive stress under any circumstances. As a rule of thumb, if the mouse has not been eaten after 10 minutes in the snake terrarium, you must immediately return it to its den.

Alternative Frozen Food

In pet stores, snake owners can get dead mice and rats as frozen food for snakes. Before the reptile will accept them as food, they must be warmed to body temperature in a water bath. Especially for corn snakes, veterinarians recommend feeding dead mice, as live ones pose too high a risk of injury to the snake. However, some snakes strictly refuse inanimate food – if you want to care for them in a species-appropriate manner, you must feed live.

Snakes With Other Needs


If you can’t imagine feeding small furry animals, you should get a snake that follows a different diet. For example, aquatic snakes feed on fish and amphibians, tree snufflers feed on other reptiles, and some snake species also feed on insects. The rough grass snake, with a body length of 60 to 80 cm and an undemanding lifestyle, is well suited for beginners and prefers to eat grasshoppers, spiders, cockroaches and worms.

Background knowledge on grasshoppers: For some they are considered a nuisance, for others again as real lucky animals. This is the case in China, for example. But also in European countries the locust stands for luck and wealth.

Learn More About The Reptile License

Similar to the certificate of competence for dog owners, animal welfare activists have been demanding for years that reptile owners should also prove that they know enough about the needs of their pets. Currently, owners of non-poisonous snakes do not have to provide this proof, but you can take it voluntarily at the German Society for Herpetology and Terrarial Science. Possible are the two qualification levels “Sachkunde für Privathalter gemäß §2 TIERSCHG” and “Gefahrtier-Sachkunde”. You have to prove the latter if you want to keep poisonous snakes.

How Does The Training Work?

You prepare for the examination for private owners with teaching materials, which you can purchase from the company for 89 Euros. If you feel you are fit, you can register for a one-day training and examination offered by experts throughout Germany. The exam itself consists of 48 multiple-choice questions; there is a fee of 100 euros for the event. As a member of the DGHT, you’ll receive a discount on course materials and exams, as well as access to professional journals and contacts with like-minded snake keepers.

Start With Beginner Friendly Snakes

You’ve already learned quite a bit about the colorful corn snake as an ideal beginner snake. But if you want to have the feeling, at least according to the name, that you are not keeping a snake, but a “real snake”, you can turn to the African House Snake. It grows up to one meter in length and is considered to be a calm temperament among the lambent reptiles. Since it is very close to inhabited areas in its native West Africa and is hardly shy, it has been given the name “house snake”. Their even-tempered character is especially beneficial to those snake fans who have little experience in handling them. African house snakes need a temperature of 25 to 28 degrees during the day, at night it may be a little cooler with 18 to 20 degrees

Buy From Experienced Breeders

Experienced breeders can offer you terrarium offspring of your chosen breed. These offspring are much more balanced than animals from breeding farms or wild-caught, therefore the care and feeding is easier later. In addition, terrarium offspring are less subject to parasites and disease than farmed and wild-caught specimens.

Give Your New Housemate An Adequate Home

Placing a young corn snake in a huge terrarium is well-intentioned but ill-advised. Small animals do not do well in overly large dens and have trouble finding their food. Ideally, the terrarium should grow with its occupant; for very young specimens, a Fauna box can serve as an interim solution. A corn snake is ready to move to the adult terrarium at 9 months of age.

“More Beautiful Living” For Snakes

In addition to the right size, this also needs the right furnishings: retreats such as caves, water bowls and baths, as well as stones, roots and branches for climbing. The rough surfaces of the natural materials also help the snake to shed its skin. For this purpose, the adders also use moistened Sphagnum moss. Finally, each snake breed has different requirements for the appropriate bedding of the terrarium: desert dwellers do well with sandy substrates, tropical snakes, on the other hand, need a moist soil with special terrarium soil.

Even If It Is Tempting, Do Not Hang The Animal Over The Shoulders Of Every Guest

Snakes that are curious about people and even enjoy skin contact – this is the behavior some snake owners believe they observe in their animals. However, scientific studies prove: every touching, taking out of the terrarium, and moving causes snakes great stress. This is the main reason why you should not simply put your snake around your visitor’s neck. In the stress, the snake could eventually panic, defecate or even snap.

Pay Scrupulous Attention To The Correct Temperature And Humidity

Snakes are warm-blooded animals and regulate their body temperature through their environment. For this reason, you should temper the terrarium in a way that best suits the climate zone of origin of your animal, offering it several temperature zones. For corn snakes, for example, these are between 23 and 35 degrees. The animals can then decide for themselves whether they want to cool down or warm-up. You should secure the heater itself with a protective cage so that the snake cannot burn itself in case of direct contact.

Snakes Have Different Humidity Needs

Next to temperature, humidity is the most important climatic factor – if it is not right, problems with molting can occur. Breeds that live in the rainforest need up to 80 percent, desert dwellers live at 40 to 50 percent. You can increase the humidity by using moisture-retaining materials such as peat and coconut fibers, by setting up water basins, or by installing a UV nebulizer. You should always keep an eye on the value of a hygrometer and adjust it if necessary. Tip: You should also adjust the materials of the terrarium according to the humidity requirements. Desert dwellers live well in a wooden terrarium, while high humidity only works in a glass terrarium – wood would mold here.

Tip: In addition to temperature and humidity, you should also provide your snake with comfortable lighting. Ideally, you should not leave the light on all the time, but turn it off at night to simulate a day-night rhythm. This can be done automatically with a timer.

Conclusion: Snakes Are A Great Responsibility For Owners


If you’re not looking for a cuddly friend for life, but rather a window into an exotic landscape, a snake might be the pet for you. It demands expertise, DIY talent, and care over decades – in return, a snake rewards its owner with its mythical aura and a touch of extravagance. After all, overcoming one’s archaic fear and living with a snake is something not everyone dares to do.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Which snakes are there in Germany?

Snakes, grass snakes, smooth snakes, dice snakes, adders and aspisipers are native to Germany. Among these, adder and asp viper are poisonous.

What does it mean when you dream of snakes?

The dream symbol snake stands for duality and creative potential. The sexual aspect also plays a role in interpreting dreams. Professional snake dream interpretation requires consideration of certain criteria such as color, circumstances, and behavior.

How old do snakes get?

Many snake species can live to be very old, with some boa and python species having kept in captivity for over 40 years. Elaphe species also often reach lifespans of around 30 years. Little is known about the lifespan of snakes in the wild. Depending on the species and habitat of these cold-blooded animals, they can live between ten and 20 years on average.

What do snakes eat?

They look for a suitable food animal in the area, which can be a mouse, a fish or even a rabbit. They have a natural hunting instinct, which is why most snakes only catch and eat live animals.

Why do snakes shed theur skin?

Since the skin of snakes does not grow with them, they strip it off because it has become too small.

How do snakes mate?

When mating, the male climbs onto the female and wraps around her tail. It tries to reach its partner’s cloaca with its cloaca. The cloaca is a common body out let for the digestive, reproductive, and excretory organs, originally present in all vertebrates.

How do snakes see?

Except for species that burrow in the ground, snakes can see well. However, they can only see things that move well. And unlike you, they don’t see colors. They also focus differently on the objects they are looking at: they shift the lens and do not rotate their eyes.

How fast are snakes?

On average, the snakes achieved a speed of 2.1 to 3.5 meters per second (m/s) and an acceleration of between 98 and 279 meters per second squared (m/s2).

Why are there no snakes in Ireland?

Legend has it that Ireland’s national saint, St. Patrick, drove all snakes off the island. In reality, it’s the climate. During the Ice Age, England and Ireland were covered by a thick layer of ice. Snakes couldn’t survive there. When the ice retreated, they migrated back to England via land bridges that still existed at the time. But before they reached Ireland, the rising sea had cut off land route to the island.

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