The average cost of pet snakes varies based on the color (morph) that you select and the ongoing expenses associated with snake ownership.
The more common corn snakes and ball pythons cost from $30. But you can pay hundreds (or even thousands of dollars) for very rare snakes with unique morphs (colors and patterns.) You’ll also need to pay for food, substrate, heating, lighting, housing, and vet bills/pet insurance.
We will look at how much pet snakes cost at leading online pet stores. We’ll then explore the other ongoing monthly/annual expenses, which will normally amount to more than you paid for your pet snake.
- 1 Are Snakes Expensive to Keep As Pets?
- 2 How Much Do Pet Snakes Cost?
- 3 Can You Catch a Snake for Free?
- 4 What’s the Real Cost of Owning a Snake?
- 5 Budget Snake Setup
Are Snakes Expensive to Keep As Pets?
Between the initial outlay on a vivarium and everything in it, and the cost of the snake, you’re looking at quite a sizeable bill.
Like other pets, the more interesting the pet you’d like to buy, the more it usually costs. Snakes, though, also require special equipment that you can’t pick up from a local Walmart or similar.
It’s vital that you can only get a snake if you can afford one. Snakes can live for twenty years or more. Use our in-depth guide below to determine whether you’ve got enough money to buy the snake and their setup, and to care for them for the next two decades.
How Much Do Pet Snakes Cost?
If you’re thinking of getting a pet snake, and you have to keep to a budget, you should pick one of the cheaper snakes available.
Like any store—and like with other pets in a pet shop—the more rare, exotic or interesting the pet you’re going to buy, the more it costs.
1) Ball Python
If you’re on a budget, you should consider a ball python.
Ball pythons, also known as royal pythons, are a kind of snake that comes from sub-Saharan Africa. That means countries like Nigeria, Togo and the Ivory Coast.
They’re easy to keep because of their good behavior, their defense mechanism, and their small size. They’re so well-behaved that they’re known as pet rocks.
That’s because when you handle them, they’ll sit with you, and won’t try slithering off or making trouble. The fact that they’re small also cuts down on long-term costs like feeding and housing.
You can buy a ball python for as little as $30, although the price varies depending on the age of the snake. For a female royal python that’s a proven breeder, you might expect to pay $100. Rare morphs can costs thousands of dollars.
However, if you’re buying a ball python, you’re not just limited to a normal morph. If you didn’t know, a ‘morph’ is a snake with a different pattern and color to your average snake of a species.
Albinos are the best-known example. There are more than a hundred different defined morphs, which you can pick up at pet shops, trade shows and online. A few examples include:
|Ball Python Color Morph||How Much Do They Cost?|
|Axanthic ball pythons (black and white)||These cost $300 on average, up to $2500.|
|Albino ball pythons (light orange)||These cost $200 on average, up to $1500.|
|Banana ball pythons (yellow)||These cost $300 on average, up to $1500.|
|Piebald ball pythons (a mix between spots of normal color and plain white)||These cost $500 on average, up to several thousand.|
Whatever the price, add on more if you’re thinking of buying a female of breeding age.
2) Corn Snake
Corn snakes are a North American breed, a rat snake that would normally live in the southeast, around Florida. They make an excellent starter snake because, like ball pythons, they’re well-behaved and easy to care for. Here’s some information on the diet of a corn snake.
They can also grow up to six feet long, which is a captivating idea for anybody who wants to own a snake—the idea that they can buy a hatchling, care for it, and at the end of it have a snake that’s as big or bigger than them.
Corn snakes are about the same as ball pythons. Because of the popularity of both snakes, the market has been flooded by breeders looking to sell as many as possible, which naturally drives prices down. So, again, you can buy a normal morph corn snake for as little as $20.
Do bear in mind, though, that it’s always worth buying from a reputable (and maybe more expensive) breeder for three reasons:
- The decreased likelihood of parasites like ticks, mites, and worms
- The increased risk that the breeder followed optimal husbandry guidelines
- The increased possibility that your snake will already have fed (and won’t reject your food)
So, it might be worth paying more than $20 to buy from a good breeder. This is the case for any snake you buy, corn snake or not. And, again, you can get morphs of corn snakes. There aren’t as many as you can find for ball pythons, but there are still plenty. You can find:
|Corn Snake Morph||How Much Do They Cost?|
|Scaleless corn snakes||These are about $500 but can be up to $1000.|
|Hypomelanistic corn snakes (lost most of their dark pigmentation, but not the light brown/yellow/orange/red)||These are about $150 but can be up to $1000.|
|Palmetto corn snakes (white with colorful dots along their back)||These are about $600.|
|Caramel corn snakes (caramel color)||These are about $125.|
Of course, there are many more morphs than this and interbreeds between morphs. So, for example, you can have a scaleless albino corn snake, which might cost even more.
3) Garter Snake
Garter snakes are most people’s first encounter of a snake in the wild. They also make good pets.
Garter snakes come from all across North America, from Canada to Mexico, and New York state to L.A. If you ever go hiking or exploring, then you might find one, wherever you go.
This is reflected in the fact that they’re very forgiving regarding care, and suited to varying temperatures, humidity, and lighting. This makes them good starter snakes, just like corn snakes.
They’re very active and need to be kept entertained. This means regular handling and exercise, as well as more frequent feeding, which ups the cost of keeping them ever so slightly.
Regarding buying one from a pet store, garters aren’t as common as other snakes. You might be able to buy a baby garter snake for $100, merely because they’re less common.
Regarding morphs, you don’t have as much variety. It’s a shame, because garter snakes are naturally beautiful, both in their patterns and coloration.
You might buy an albino garter snake for $200, and other morphs up to $1000. But don’t expect the same variety as you would with a ball python.
4) California King Snake
The California kingsnake is another Colubrid, like corn snakes and gopher snakes, that lives here in North America. They’re another of the most popular pet snakes.
The kingsnake is shorter and shorter-lived than many other species. It can only reach four feet and lives for about ten to fifteen years. If you want to find one in the wild, head out west, to Arizona, Utah, Nevada or California, hence the name ‘California’ kingsnake.
They have a banded/striped pattern along their bodies, and they have a relatively typical black/brown, white and yellow coloration. And, if you didn’t know, they’re called kingsnakes because they can kill other species like rattlesnakes.
Kingsnakes are great starter snakes because of their size, but you do have to bear in mind that young hatchlings are quite skittish.
Take the time to learn how to handle a snake before picking a kingsnake. If you want a normal morph, you can buy a kingsnake for between $50 and $70. Other morphs are available, including:
|Kingsnake Morph||How Much Do They Cost?|
|Lavender Kingsnake (distinct lavender coloration instead of black)||These average $90-$100.|
|Albino Kingsnake||These average $100.|
|High white kingsnakes (almost entirely white)||These average $200.|
They will also cost less on average than other snakes over their lifetime, since they’re smaller, and therefore require smaller enclosures and less food.
5) Ringneck Snakes
The ringneck snake is a harmless Colubrid. Again, they’re widespread throughout the U.S. and can be found in Mexico and Canada too, just like the garter snake.
There are more than a dozen subspecies, but like always, herpetologists aren’t sure which species are related to which others! You can find them most often in woodlands and wetter environments, not dry and arid settings, like a desert kingsnake.
They’re unique in that they have a brightly colored underbelly, which is a striking red, yellow or orange color. But they’re also small and thin, reaching a maximum of two and a half feet.
Why are they called ringnecks? They have an obvious band around their neck, which is the same color as their underside. This gives them a distinct appearance.
They’re a great snake if you’re starting out, and you’re on a budget. The only downside is that they’re not as common a pet as others like corn snakes, so there aren’t any morphs available.
If you’re looking for a normal morph, you can expect to pay as little as ten dollars for a ringneck snake. That’s because babies are so small, just seven or eight inches.
6) Hognose Snakes
Hognose snakes are many species from different families, all of which share a similar characteristic (their noses.) You can find out more about them in our hognose snake care guide.
Hognoses have upturned snouts, almost like tiny piglets. The nose itself is an extension of their underbelly, which curves up to meet their top jaw.
They’ve developed this adaptation to be able to dig into the loose earth or other materials so that they can hide from predators or cool down in the heat of summer.
Hognoses come in a variety of shapes and sizes because they’re many species from across the world. You can get North American hognoses—western hognoses are the most commonly found in stores—but you can also get hognoses from Madagascar or South America if you like. If you want a regular western hognose, you can pick one up at a pet store for $20.
They’re a common snake, and as such, there are quite a few morphs. You can pick up an albino western hognose, in a beautiful creamy orange color, at $200 on average.
Axanthic hognoses are grey and white and are $400 on average. There aren’t as many exciting morphs as you’ll find with ball pythons, but you can probably find more from specialist breeders.
7) Boa Constrictor
Boas are the world’s most famous constrictor. They don’t poison their prey to kill them. They bite them to get a hold, before literally squeezing the life out of them.
But even though they sound fearsome, boa constrictors make excellent pets, so long as you’re prepared for owning one. They can get quite heavy at 30lbs, and will happily exceed 10 feet if you feed them well enough (the females, at least).
Normal boa constrictors are a little more expensive than your average snake. You can find them online for between $80-$100. But there are almost as many boa constrictor morphs as there are for ball pythons, with many different kinds available. These include the following boa morphs:
|Boa Constrictor Morph||How Much Do They Cost?|
|Snow Boas (almost entirely white, generally with just a little yellow coloration in the usual pattern)||These cost $500 on average but can cost thousands for even purer white.|
|Hypomelanistic Boas (lighter coloration, but both color and pattern vary)||The price is between $500 and $1000, depending on the genetic makeup.|
|Anerythristic Boas (dark coloration)||They average at $500.|
|IMG Boas (range from a little bit darker than usual, to almost completely black)||The darker the snake, the higher the price. Pure black boas sell for $2000+.|
Because boas are quite big, they’re also a little more expensive to care for in terms of their enclosure and food. But if you wanted to save money, you wouldn’t go for a boa.
Can You Catch a Snake for Free?
Given that snakes are common across the U.S., can you catch a snake and keep it as a pet? The answer is either no, because it’s illegal, or no because it’s unwise.
The picture is different across the country (i.e., between states) but it’s often illegal to capture wild snakes, let alone keep them.
In Georgia, it’s illegal to capture water moccasins, let alone keep them. And in Kentucky, it’s illegal to either harm or possesses a copperbelly water snake.
This is because it can disturb them in their natural habitat, and the snakes may be endangered. But it’s also so that people don’t endanger themselves, trying to handle venomous snakes.
It’s also unwise, both for you and the snake. Wild-caught snakes can have any number of parasites, infections, and diseases which can lead to them infecting or infesting other snakes in your collection through contact. Not only that, but almost all snakes carry salmonella, which can kill you if you fall into a high-risk group, such as babies and older people.
Even besides that, wild-caught snakes aren’t a good idea, because:
- They’re more likely to be cage aggressive. This is where the snake doesn’t like you coming near them when they’re in their cage and showing it by backing away from you or getting defensive.
- They’re less likely to want to be handled and will do anything to try and get away from you.
- They’re more likely to have trouble adapting to a diet of dead, thawed rodents. The diet you’re trying to feed them doesn’t smell like the food they’re used to.
- They’re more likely to fail to thrive and die early. Unfortunately, the change in diet and surroundings can take their toll on a snake and cause illness and death.
What’s the Real Cost of Owning a Snake?
So, you can spend more to get a bigger snake or a less common snake. But the true cost of the snake isn’t in buying the reptile itself. It’s in keeping it fed, sheltered and healthy.
Not only does that cost more initially, but it presents an ongoing cost of snake ownership. And that applies whether you’re looking to buy basic equipment or a high-end kit.
Let’s take a look at what it all involves, and how much it might cost you.
How Much Do Vivariums Cost?
A vivarium is the snake’s enclosure (where your snake will live). You can find information on vivariums for corn snakes in this guide. You can choose between three main kinds of vivarium:
|Enclosure Material||Features and Description||Cost|
|Glass:||This the smartest looking option and provides the easiest means to view your snake. They’re also good at holding in humidity, which helps keep it at a constant level. But, it can be hard to heat in the winter, especially if it’s quite large.||High|
|Wooden:||These look attractive and stylish but don’t allow you to see your snake from many angles. They usually have a glass viewing panel at the front. This can be quite nice for any snake that tends to feel more comfortable in an enclosed space.||Average|
|Plastic:||These are the cheapest option. They hold on to warmth quite well and are easier to clean, but they aren’t as visually appealing. They’re a great starter option, though.||Low|
The price also depends on the size of the vivarium you need. If you buy a hognose snake, for example, then you need a smaller enclosure. But with a boa constrictor, you’ll need to buy your snake a much larger enclosure.
Vivarium prices range from $30 to several hundred pounds. It’s impossible to give an exact average, but glass enclosures are more expensive than wood, and wooden enclosures are more expensive than plastic.
If you want to save money, you should buy a vivarium for a full-size snake, even if you’ve only got a hatchling. Get one that they can grow into so that you don’t have to replace it later. But, make sure to fill the tank with hides, environment, and plants to prevent your snake feeling vulnerable.
Don’t house more than one snake in the same vivarium. Snakes aren’t naturally social. They might enjoy being handled by you every once in a while, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy around other snakes. Housing two males together can cause the pair to become aggressive and territorial, which will be detrimental to their health, both through stress and injuries.
Snake Vivarium Decoration
Having decorations in your vivarium is a necessity for your snake.
For you, decorations help your vivarium look much better. Even if you have a basic plastic vivarium, decorations like hides, vines, and backgrounds can make it come alive and not look so man-made.
You’ll have much more fun owning a snake if it looks like they’re in a wild, natural habitat than if they’re sat in a plastic tub like something from the kitchen.
Not only that, but it’s crucial that your snake has things in their enclosure that keep them entertained and happy. You’ll need the following decorations for a snake’s vivarium:
|Natural or artificial hides||These are necessary because snakes love safe, enclosed spaces. If they’re feeling frightened, they will take time out on their own in a hide. Examples include fake hollow rocks, hollowed out logs, or upturned decorated plant pots.|
|Backgrounds||These sit against the back of the enclosure and make it look realistic, such as wood bark or natural rock. A snake might find them in their natural environment.|
|Plants||Live or fake plants make the enclosure look more realistic. Snakes don’t like to eat leaves, so there’s zero chance of them eating plastic plants and becoming sick.|
Decorations help your pet adjust to living with you. If they’re living in a big, open space, they can feel vulnerable and unhappy. With decorations around them, especially decorations that are natural for them, they’ll feel less exposed. You can decorate a vivarium for $30 on a budget.
Snake Bedding Costs
Snake bedding, or substrate, is what you line the bottom of the tank with. This is essential.
- Snakes like to burrow. Hognoses, for example, like to dig down into the ground and hide from predators or to cool down in the summer. Having substrate makes this possible.
- Bedding helps you keep their tank clean. When you get the chance to clean their tank, you can scoop up the substrate, along with any ‘waste’ the snake might leave behind. It’s important that you do this regularly or your snake could become sick.
A substrate is quite cheap and can be made even cheaper depending on what kind you use. Let’s take a look at the different kinds and how much they cost:
|Type of Substrate||Features and Description|
|Newspaper:||This is the most basic option and is virtually free.|
|Paper Towels:||Basic and cheap, but more absorbent than the newspaper.|
|Bark Chips:||This is called orchid bark because it’s used to pot orchids, but it can also work like a snake substrate. They’re like medium-sized wood chips that hold onto some moisture and are natural and aesthetically pleasing.|
|Coconut Fiber:||These are similar to bark chips, are good for burrowing, and look pleasant.|
|Aspen Shavings:||It’s made from chipped aspen trees. It’s like straw, a similar color, just woodier. This is the best material for burrowing snakes because it holds its shape after a snake burrows into it. Aspen costs about $20 a bag, and this will last for about two months.|
Sand is a bad choice. It can get stuck under a snake’s scales, and easily be ingested by accident. Not only that, but it’s a nightmare to clean if/when your snake poops and pees in it.
You scrunch up the newspaper and throw it away. With sand, you have to spend ages scooping it out. It’s more expensive and difficult to use than any other bedding, plus it causes health problems.
Snake Heating Cost
The exact kind of heating and lighting that your snake needs depends on what species you buy. Tropical snakes, for example, will need their vivarium to be warmer than average.
A snake that usually lives in the woods (like a corn snake) doesn’t need their environment to be as warm. That being said, every snake benefits from having a basking zone and a cooler zone in their tank, one at each end. The precise temperature depends on the type of snake that you buy. Here are some ways to heat a snake’s vivarium:
|Heating Method||Features and Description|
|Heat Mats:||These sit underneath the vivarium and provide heat through the floor. Don’t use these for burrowing snakes, because burrowers burrow to cool down, not heat up.|
|Heat Rocks:||These sit inside the vivarium and provide a snake with a warm place to sit.|
|Basking Lamps:||Basking lamps create concentrates, localized heat that a snake can bask under. They’re both a source of heating and lighting.|
|Ceramic heaters:||These are like basking lamps but without the light. These are perfect for heating the air, whereas heat mats only heat the floor, and the air to a small extent.|
The cost of this equipment varies. You can easily find a heat mat for $20, although this might not heat evenly. Be prepared to pay more for a heat mat with a built-in thermostat.
You may need to purchase a separate thermostat so that you can maintain a steady temperature automatically, which can cost another $20.
You may also need another thermometer to make sure that the heat in the cooler zone is correct. A hygrometer measure humidity and this may be another $20.
You can achieve a good setup for $90-100. Bear in mind the small monthly energy costs for heating your pet snake’s tank.
Snake Lighting Cost
Lighting is needed to illuminate the tank so that you can see inside. It’s also useful as an additional heat source. Many owners also offer their snake UV lighting that they believe acts as a source of vitamin D and trigger their natural seasonal responses.
Proper lighting for a snake is important because they might not get enough sunlight. Along with temperature, this helps them know the season. This affects hibernation, breeding, and feeding.
Lighting can interact with other factors in their vivarium, like humidity. It can cause more water to evaporate, increasing the humidity in a tank. However, it may also heat the tank too much, and dry it out. Use a hygrometer, a thermometer, and a thermostat to keep the heat and humidity in check.
You can get away with just having a basking lamp. A recent scientific study in the journal Veterinary Record found no link between UV lighting and vitamin D in snakes, so it isn’t necessary.
Because basking lamps provide both heat and light, they’re a good option for maintaining daytime heat in the warm part of a snake’s vivarium, all on their own.
How Much Does Snake Food Cost?
Snake food is probably the biggest expense over the lifetime of your snake.
Snakes can live for upwards of 20 years, depending on the species. Even a tiny hognose can live for eighteen years, and you have to feed them consistently over all of that period.
And the bigger your snake, the bigger the prey you have to feed them. All of this adds up over the course of their lifetime. Let’s take a look at what snakes eat, and how much it might cost you.
Pinkies Fuzzies and Hoppers
No matter what snake you buy, you’re most likely going to start them on pinkies.
These are dead baby mice, often frozen. There are three sizes: pinkies, fuzzies, and hoppers. Each of which is slightly bigger than the grade below. You can also buy small adult mice, large mice, extra large mice, and even rats.
Ideally, you want to feed your snake a meal that’s a maximum of one and a half times the size of their head. This might seem too big at first, but it’s just the right size for a snake that can dislocate its jaw. You’ll want to feed them once a week on average, although the diet plan depends on age, breed, and the size you want them to grow to.
You can buy pinkies in bulk online. They’re not much more than cents when you buy a large bag. The bigger the prey item, the more it costs. But that cost is offset by the fact that you have to feed large, fully-grown snakes less often.
Depending on your snake and what you buy, you might pay $50 to feed your snake for a year.
How Much Do Vet Bills Cost?
Unexpected vet bills are inevitable and can be expensive. Fortunately, vet bills for snakes aren’t as bad as they can be with other animals. Find a local vet, but be sure to find one that specializes in snakes and reptiles, because not all do.
A visit to the vet might cost $40-50 for a check-up, or $100-$150 for a more severe problem like prolapsed hemipenes or a respiratory issue. You may wish to take out pet insurance.
Budget Snake Setup
If you’re short on money, but you’d still like a snake, here’s a budget snake setup:
- Vivarium: A cheap, 20-gallon container made of plastic. $20.
- Heating and lighting: A heat mat for $25, and a basking lamp for $50. A hygrometer and thermometer combo for $25.
- Decorations: A cheap background, a hide, and some basic plants for $30, plus some safe DIY decorations.
- Substrate: Newspaper for the time being, until you can afford something better.
- Food: A bulk bag of fuzzies suitable for a hatchling snake for $10.
That entire setup would cost $160, which is definitely on the cheap side. If you factor in the cost of a basic corn snake morph, you would be able to get your new pet for a cost of less than $200. Bear in mind that lower-quality kit may break down, or may not function as intended.
It’s far better is to spend your money on higher quality equipment, with good ratings, and from brands that are widely used by other snake owners. Remember, that if you buy cheap, you often have to buy twice. Think carefully about the hidden costs before getting a pet snake.