When it comes to snakes, bigger is definitely better. While laws vary considerably between different states and countries, you can own several large species of snake as pets. These species are known not only for their impressive size but also for their beautiful scales.
Green anacondas, Burmese pythons, and reticulated pythons are the 3 biggest snakes that can be owned as pets. Other notable large pet snakes are the infamous boa constrictor and the African rock python, the largest snake in Africa. The record for the largest snake in captivity is held by a reticulated python named Medusa. These big snakes are not overly aggressive animals, but their size and strength can make them a threat to small children and vulnerable adults.
Here we explore the world of huge pet snakes, learning about the 3 largest snakes that can be safely and legally kept in captivity by experienced owners. Then, we will discuss some things to keep in mind before you introduce one of these massive snakes in your home.
Table of Contents:
What Are The Biggest Pet Snakes?
Let’s learn about some of these record-setting snakes – where they come from, what they look like, and just how big they can get.
Large Snake Stats
|Snake||Average Length||Record Length|
|Green Anacondas:||10 feet male; 20 feet female||20 feet in captivity, and over 40 feet in the wild|
|Burmese Pythons:||12 to 18 feet||25 feet|
|Boa Constrictors:||6 to 10 feet||13 feet|
|African Rock Pythons:||10 feet||15 feet|
|Reticulated Pythons:||10 feet||25+ feet in captivity, and 30+ feet in the wild|
The green anaconda, Eunectes murinus, is native to South America, though some small populations of this snake have been introduced in Florida. This is a tropical, semi-aquatic snake found in rainforests, savannas, and grasslands. They prefer to live in shallow freshwater habitats, such as lakes, streams, and swamps.
These snakes have dark olive-green dorsal scales and yellow belly scales. On their backs, they have round, brown blotches with black borders. There is also a dark black stripe running between their eyes and their jaws. Green anacondas have small eyes and nostrils on top of their heads.
According to the Animal Diversity Web, green anacondas in the wild are the largest snakes ever found in the world. As adults, they can range between 10 and 40 feet.
Females are usually longer and heavier than males (sexual dimorphism). On average, male green anacondas grow to around 10 feet in length, while the female green anacondas grow to around 20 feet.
In the wild, a green anaconda will live to be around 10 years old. In captivity, they can live up to 30 years. These snakes are slow-moving ambush hunters that will eat any vertebrates they can find and swallow. They have a low metabolism and will go weeks or even months between meals. When they do hunt, green anacondas kill their prey by constriction.
Burmese pythons’ range includes locations across southern Asia, through China and Indonesia. Unfortunately, they’re also an invasive species in Florida. They prefer habitats with damp terrain and cover to hide under, including river valleys, grassy marshes, and rainforests.
These snakes, also known by the scientific name Python molurus bivitatus, have a mosaic-like rectangular pattern on their scales. The pieces of this mosaic are brown and a dark cream color, arranged on a black background. They also have a distinctive arrow shape on the top of their head.
Female Burmese pythons are both heavier and longer than male Burmese pythons. A Burmese python at maximum length can grow to be up to 25 feet long. These largest Burmese pythons may weigh as much as 300 pounds. In captivity, these snakes can live around 16 years on average.
Burmese pythons are not very active animals. They will move when they are threatened or when there is not much food in their area. While many snakes are ambush predators, Burmese pythons will more actively stalk their prey. They mostly eat live rodents and other mammals, but they will scavenge for already dead food if they need to.
Like other pit vipers, these pythons can sense the heat of their prey using the heat pits on the snake’s face. Burmese pythons can swim, too, staying submerged for up to 30 minutes without taking a breath. Between October and February, these big snakes brumate until warm weather returns.
The boa constrictor is a slightly shorter but no less impressive large snake. Even people who are not big fans of reptiles have heard of a boa constrictor. These snakes can be found and easily recognized throughout Central and South America. They also have the easiest scientific name to remember: it’s just Boa constrictor.
These snakes are semi-arboreal, living mainly in trees as juveniles and then moving to the ground as they grow up. Adult boa constrictors usually take over a burrow made by a burrowing mammal as a home, rather than digging on of their own. These large snakes will be found in most kinds of forest environment, including woodlands, rainforests, and thorn scrub.
Boa constrictors have a distinctive color pattern, with a brown or cream-colored base marked with darker bands in the shale of a saddle. Sometimes they have smaller darker spots all across their body. On the head of this snake are three distinct dark stripes, their most easily identifiable feature. They do not have the heat pits found on the faces of other constricting snakes.
It is commonly believed that the boa constrictor is the largest snake, and they do get up there in size. At their largest, boa constrictors can grow to be around 13 feet. More commonly, these snakes range in the 6 to 10-foot range. While this makes them the smallest of the large snakes we’re talking about here, they are still a force to be reckoned with in the pet world.
Folk legends abound about boa constrictors as man-eaters, but this is not the case. A boa’s diet focuses on smaller animals that can be easily fit inside their mouth, such as bats and birds. While boa constrictors are nonvenomous and do not have distinct fangs, they have rows of long teeth that shouldn’t be ignored. These teeth are continually replaced throughout the snake’s life, so it never has to worry for long about losing a tooth.
African Rock Pythons
The African Rock Python is the largest snake found in Africa. These snakes are native to sub-Saharan Africa and are nearly always found near a river or a lake. Their habitats range from evergreen forests with plentiful cover, to open savannahs with moist grass to hide in. They make their homes in rocky outcrops or, like the boa constrictor, in a mammal’s burrow.
Python sebae can be identified by the striking scale pattern on its small, triangular head. These irregular scales can be either black, brown, or gray in color. Over these scales, two lighter bands form a shape like the head of a spear on the snout. They also have a yellow arrow shape under each eye. The snake’s body is no less colorful, with either yellow, grown, or green scales covered in darker blotches in a pattern like a staircase.
Most African rock pythons grow to be around 10 feet long. The longest African rock pythons ever measured were over 15 feet long, meaning three humans would need to stand on top of each other’s shoulders to match that length. An adult African rock python can grow to weigh over 120 pounds. As with many species, the female snake is larger than the male.
African rock pythons tend to be more aggressive than most snakes, eager to attack their food and defend against threats with notable ferocity. They may not be venomous, but they can still deliver a nasty bite to a would-be predator.
These snakes prefer mammals as food, eating rats when they are young and monkeys and antelopes when they are bigger. People who live where African rock pythons are known to roam know to keep their pets and livestock safely indoors, especially at twilight when these snakes emerge to hunt.
The reticulated python, Python reticulatus, comes from southeastern Asia, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the islands west of New Guinea. These snakes have also been unintentionally introduced to the wild in southern Florida.
Reticulated pythons prefer tropical rainforests and wetlands, in hot, humid environments. They will spend most of their time hiding in a body of water, such as a swamp or a marsh. Retics will use the water or nearby brush as camouflage from which to ambush their prey.
These snakes are brown color, with diagonal black lines on their snout and skull. Along their backs, a pattern of black X-shapes creates a pattern of diamonds over their scales. In the wild, retics tend to live between 15 and 22 years. In captivity, the record lifespan of a reticulated python has been 32 years of age. These snakes can climb trees, but this is more common for younger and smaller retics.
On average, adult reticulated pythons grow to be around 16 feet. Individual reticulated pythons in the wild have been measured at closer to 30 feet, but these longer snakes have not been successfully kept in captivity. Female retics are more likely to reach 20 feet in length, while the males will only grow to be 8 or 10 feet long.
Reticulated pythons are carnivores, mainly eating mammals such as bats, shrews, and deer. Researchers from the University of Amsterdamobserved a reticulated python in Indonesian Borneo attacking and eating a Malayan sun bear. These bears are larger and tougher than the snake’s usual prey. The python surprised the bear while it was asleep.
Here’s our complete guide to keeping reticulated pythons as pets.
What’s The Longest Captive Snake?
According to the Guinness World Records, the longest snake ever kept in captivity is a reticulated python. This snake, nicknamed Medusa, was measured at over 25 feet long. Medusa is 10 years old and weighs 350 pounds.
This snake currently lives in a haunted house in Kansas City. Her biweekly meals consist of hogs, rabbits, and deer. A group of 15 men were needed to hold her out at her full length to take the measurement for the record.
While most reticulated pythons will never grow to be this impressively large, Medusa is an amazing example of just how big a snake can be and still be safely kept by humans.