The average cost of pet snakes varies based on the species and scarcity of the morph that you intend to buy. You’ll also have to factor in the price of snake equipment, not to mention the ongoing cost of snake ownership.
Pet snakes, such as ball pythons, cost just $40. But rare morphs are far more expensive. For example, an amelanistic palmetto corn snake is $850+. There are fixed costs. Expect to pay $20 (basic tub) to $400 for a vivarium. You’ll need a heat pad, lighting, humidifier, two hides, and a water bowl. You’ll also have ongoing costs to pay: food, bedding, cleaning products, and vet bills (pet insurance.)
We’ll look at how much pet snakes cost at pet stores and from dealers. We’ll explain what else your snake needs for its enclosure, and then move on to ongoing monthly expenses. The annual cost of snake ownership will normally exceed the amount that you initially paid for your pet snake.
Are Snakes Expensive to Keep?
Between the initial outlay on a vivarium and everything in it, and the price of the snake, the cost of snake ownership is at least $160 (budget setup). Much depends on the size of the snake species and the quality of the equipment.
Remember that snakes can live for 20-30 years in captivity. You’re going to be buying snake food, bedding, paying vet bills, etc. for 2-3 decades. You need to be 100% sure that you’re willing to show that level of commitment.
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.
Ball pythons come from sub-Saharan Africa. They’re easy to keep because of their good behavior, defense mechanism, and manageable size.
When you handle them, they won’t try slithering away. The fact that they’re relatively small also cuts down on long-term costs, like feeding and housing.
You can buy a ball python for $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 cost thousands of dollars.
There are more than a hundred different defined morphs, which you can get at pet shops, trade shows, and online. A few examples include:
|Axanthic||Black and white||These cost $300 on average, up to $2500.|
|Albino||Light orange||These cost $200 on average, up to $1500.|
|Banana||Yellow||These cost $300 on average, up to $1500.|
|Piebald||A mix between spots of normal color and plain white||These cost $500 on average, up to several thousand.|
Corn snakes are a North American breed, a Colubrid that would normally live in the southeast, around Florida. They make an excellent starter snake because they’re well-behaved and easy to care for.
Because of the popularity of both snakes, the market has been flooded. So, a normal corn snake morph can cost as little as $30-40.
It’s worth buying your snake from a reputable breeder for 3 reasons:
- The decreased likelihood of parasites like ticks, mites, and worms
- The breeder followed correct snake husbandry guidelines
- Your snake will already have fed and is less likely to reject food
So, it might be worth paying more than $30 to buy from a good breeder. This is the case for any snake you buy, corn snake or not. You can get a wide variety of corn snakes morphs:
|Scaleless:||Anerythristic corns have no scales||These are about $500 but can be up to $1000.|
|Hypomelanistic:||Lost most of their dark pigmentation, but not the light brown/yellow/orange/red||These are about $150 but can cost up to $1000.|
|Palmetto:||White with colorful dots along their back||About $600|
|Caramel:||Caramel-colored snake||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.
Garter snakes can be found all across North America, from Canada to Mexico. They only have basic care needs, and make good starter snakes.
They’re very active and need to be kept entertained. This means regular handling and exercise, as well as more frequent feeding.
You can buy a baby garter snake for just $25. Regarding morphs, you don’t have much variety. However, you can get an albino garter snake for $50.
The California kingsnake is another Colubrid that lives in North America. They’re another of the most popular pet snakes.
The kingsnake reaches about 4 feet and lives for over 20 years in captivity. They have a banded/striped pattern along their bodies, and they have a relatively typical black/brown, white, and yellow coloration.
Kingsnakes are great starter snakes because of their size, but you do have to bear in mind that young hatchlings are quite skittish. Most people find California kingsnakes easy to care for in captivity.
If you want a normal morph, you can buy a kingsnake for $70. Other morphs are available, including:
|Lavender:||Distinct lavender color||$100|
|Albino:||No dark color pigments with red/pink eyes||$100|
|High white:||Almost entirely white||$200|
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.
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 want a regular, captive-bred western hognose snake, you can pick one up at a pet store for $20-$30.
They’re a common snake, so there are several morphs. You can buy an albino western hognose, in a beautiful creamy orange color, for $200. Axanthic hognoses are grey and white and are $400 on average.
Boa constrictors make good pets. They can reach 30lbs, and will often exceed 10 feet if you feed them well. Female snakes grow larger than males.
Normal boa constrictors are a little more expensive than your average snake. You can find them online for between $80-$100. Here are some of the morphs and how much they typically cost:
|Snow||Almost entirely white. Some yellow in their usual pattern||These cost about $500, but can cost thousands for a pure white|
|Hypomelanistic||Lighter coloration, but both color and pattern vary||The price is between $500 and $1000, depending on the genetic makeup|
|Anerythristic||Darker coloration||They average $500|
|IMG||These range from a little bit darker than usual, to almost entirely black||The darker the snake, the higher the price. Pure black boas sell for $2000+|
Because boas are quite big, they’re also more expensive to care for in terms of their enclosure and food.
What’s the Cost of Owning a Snake?
So, you can spend more on a bigger snake or less on a common snake. But the true cost of the snake isn’t in buying the snake itself. It’s in keeping it fed, sheltered, warm, and healthy.
How Much Do Vivariums Cost?
A vivarium is where your snake will live. You can choose between three main kinds of vivarium:
|Glass:||These are by far the smartest-looking enclosure and provide the easiest way to view your snake. Unfortunately, they’re not good at holding on to humidity and can break.||$350+|
|Wooden:||These look stylish, but don’t allow you to see your snake from many angles. However, snakes feel more comfortable due to the enclosed space.||$200+|
|Plastic:||Plastic enclosures hold on to warmth quite well and are easy to clean, but they aren’t visually appealing. They’re ideal if you’re on a tight budget, though.||$75+|
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.
Enrichment and Decor
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.
Not only that, but it’s crucial that your snake has things in its enclosure that keep it entertained and happy. These include:
|Hides:||Snakes loveenclosed spaces, and 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.|
|Plants:||Live or fake plants make the enclosure look realistic and provide an additional place to hide.|
If your pet snake is living in a big, open space, it can feel vulnerable. Certain types of decor make snakes feel less exposed. It’ll cost about $30.
Substrate And Bedding
You’ll need snake bedding to line the bottom of your snake’s vivarium. It’s useful for holding on to humidity and soaking up urates, making the cage easier to clean. It’s also essential for snakes that like to burrow.
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 of snake substrate and how much they cost:
|Newspaper:||This is the most basic option and is free. You can shrew newspaper for burrowing pet snakes.|
|Paper Towels:||More absorbent than the newspaper, but virtually free.|
|Coconut Fiber:||These are similar to bark chips in terms of appearance and qualities. They are good for burrowing and look great. A 20-liter bag costs about $15, and lasts up to 1-2 months.|
|Aspen Shavings:||It’s made from chipped Aspen trees, and is ideal for burrowing snakes because it holds onto its shape. A large 26-liter bag of Aspen snake bedding costs about $20.|
Sand is a bad choice as it’s detrimental to a snake’s health. It can get stuck under a snake’s scales, and easily be ingested by accident. If your snake ingests sand, it can lead to impaction (constipation.)
The heating that your snake needs depends on the species. Tropical snakes, for example, will need their vivarium to be warmer and more humid. A snake that usually lives in the woods, like a corn snake, doesn’t need its environment to be as warm.
However, every snake needs a basking zone and a cooler zone at each end of its tank in order to regulate its temperature. Remember that snakes are cold-blooded (ectothermic). Here are some ways to heat a snake’s tank:
|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. Heat rocks can be unsafe.|
|Basking Lamps:||Basking lamps create a 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 ideal for heating the air, whereas heat mats only heat the floor, and the air to a lesser extent.|
The cost of this equipment varies. You can easily find a heat mat for $20. 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.
A hygrometer measures humidity and this may be another $20.
Lighting is needed to illuminate the snake’s living environment, and can also be used to provide an additional heat source.
Because basking lamps provide both heat and light, they’re a good option for maintaining daytime heat in the warm part of your snake’s vivarium. You can buy a basking lamp for around $50.
Food (Rodent-Based Diet)
Snake food will be the main ongoing expense. Snakes can live for 20-30 years in captivity, depending on the species. The bigger your snake, the bigger the prey you have to feed it, and consequently, the higher the cost.
Pinkies, Fuzzies, and Hoppers
Pinkies, fuzzies, and hoppers are pre-killed mice that are fed to pet snakes. Each type is slightly bigger than the grade below. You can also buy small adult mice, large mice, extra-large mice, and rats.
You can buy pinkies in bulk online to save money. Depending on your snake’s size, you might pay just $50 to feed your snake for an entire year.
Vet Bills or Pet Insurance
Unexpected veterinary bills can be expensive. Fortunately, vet bills for snakes aren’t as high as they can be for other pets. Find a local vet, but be sure to find one that specializes in snakes and reptiles.
A visit to the vet might cost $40-50 for an initial 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 to cover these unexpected costs.
How Much Will a Budget Snake Setup Cost?
If you lack money, but would like a pet snake, here’s a budget setup:
|Pet snake:||One of the most common snake morphs.||$40|
|Tank:||A 20-gallon tub made of plastic.||$20|
|Heating and lighting:||A basking lamp will provide your snake with warmth and a source of heat.||$50|
|Bedding:||Shredded newspaper to line the tank.||Free|
|Two Hides:||Make DIY hides from hollowed-out logs. Bake the logs for 30 mins to kill any bugs/mites/bacteria.||Free|
|Plants:||You can get fake plants or snake-safe plants.||$30|
|Food:||A large bag of fuzzies.||$10|
That entire setup would cost less than $200. Bear in mind that lower-quality setups won’t last as long and/or may not function as you’d hoped.
It’s better to invest in a quality snake setup from trusted brands. If you buy cheap, you often have to buy twice. Also, factor in the ongoing costs of snake ownership such as food, heating, lighting, and vet bills.