Ball pythons are one of the most popular starter snakes of choice, and it’s easy to see why. Friendly and non-aggressive, they allow the reptile-curious to see the sweet side of these cold-blooded creatures. They do very well with human interaction and can be handled daily, which is something that cannot be said for many other snake species. In addition to their sweet disposition, they stay a manageable size and have simplistic and straightforward care requirements. All in all, balls are the perfect introduction to caring for snakes. Once you’ve mastered the basics, here are some other more advanced-level snakes to consider getting next:
Pet Snakes For Intermediate Levels
Regarded as one of the cutest reptiles of all time, the Western hognose is a popular choice that just toes the line between beginner and intermediate. Its docile and non-aggressive demeanor is what one would expect of a starter snake and its small size (they rarely grow to be more than 30 inches in length) makes them highly manageable.
Why the hognose is not considered a beginner snake, however, is because of its dietary preferences. In the wild, they primarily eat amphibians rather than rodents. As a result, it will take training and patience to get them to accept frozen rats or mice. For those inexperienced with snake’s sometimes tricky-eating habits (or simply unfamiliar with a hognose’s preferences), being faced with a snake that seemingly refuses to eat can be very worrisome.
African Egg-Eating Snake
A beautiful oddball in snake circles, the African egg-eating snake is highly unusual in that it eats eggs rather than rodents. Because of their dietary preferences, these snakes have no teeth and carry absolutely no risk of being any danger to their owners. That paired with a sweet disposition is why these snakes are increasingly popular. The one caveat is what makes them unique: their diet.
Being such slender snakes, it can be challenging sourcing eggs that are small enough for them to safely eat. Adults can eat quail eggs and possibly extra small chicken eggs. These aren’t terribly difficult to find (check your local Asian market), but they can be expensive. Even more challenging (and pricey) is finding appropriately-sized eggs for young egg-eating snakes.
Finch eggs are what’s most commonly used, to say that they can be a mission to find is an understatement. Finch eggs aren’t sold in grocery stores and forget about trying to find them in the wild. The best bet is to contact local bird pet sellers and see if they have finch eggs and, more importantly, if they’re willing to part with those eggs.
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Boa Constrictor (Imperator)
Better known as the common boa constrictor or its scientific name, Boa constrictor imperator, this popular snake is not, in fact, a true red tailed boa constrictor. Still, that hasn’t hampered its appeal in the snake community a single bit.
One reason why they are best for snake owners with some experience is simply because of how big they are. These thick-bodied snakes cut an imposing figure. They can easily grow to be between 8 or 10 feet in length and a bit of a handful. As a result, there is some level of skill and familiarity required to properly handle a large boa like this.
Despite their large stature, however, common boas are surprisingly docile. They might look intimidating but they’re gentle giants. Further, they’re very entertaining pets as they’re quite active and enjoy exploring their enclosure.
Few snakes rival the rainbow boa in beauty. Its scales boast an iridescent shine in a beautiful spectrum of colors (hence its name). They are medium-sized snakes that typically range between 4 and 6 feet, an average size that’s similar to many beginner species. Their temperament is suitable for beginners as well with this species being known to be naturally docile and tolerant of regular handling.
Its care requirements, however, are a bit more high maintenance than is suitable for a total beginner. This snake species is native to the jungles of South America and as such, likes their environments to be very humid. Humidity, the amount of moisture in the air, is a tricky snake enclosure element to master. Too little humidity and the snake may have a difficult time shedding or lead to respiratory problems. Too high humidity can foster bacteria growth and cause an infection.
To ensure humidity levels are just right, you’ll want to invest in a hygrometer. This has a probe that goes into the enclosure to measure air moisture levels. However, it’s then up to the owner to know the methods of how to increase or decrease humidity levels and maintain them. Additionally, their enclosures should be outfitted with climbable branches since this species is semi-arboreal (they come from rainforests after all). As such, owners will need to spring for a larger tank than they would need for a strictly terrestrial snake.
Moving Onto Advanced Pet Snakes
Starting with a ball python is a great way to get a solid handle on the basics of snake care. Graduating to a more advanced pet snake species should be done gradually, with species that slowly add to the foundational knowledge established with balls. If you’re not sure which species you might want, consider the aspects that you enjoyed the most and also disliked the most.
For example, if handling your snake brings you a lot of enjoyment, then seek out an intermediate-level snake that does equally well with humans, such as the common boa. Did you hate every second of handling frozen mice or rats? If you’re willing to put in the legwork of finding a source of small eggs then the African egg-eating snake might be ideal.
Don’t simply search for intermediate snakes for sale because a species is recommended as a good “next step”. Be sure to incorporate your interests and strengths as a snake owner in your decision-making process. Lastly, you don’t have to choose a different species after owning your first ball python. They’re lots of fun and there are plenty of expert-level herpers that still keep ball pythons.