What's the best small snake for a pet?
Questions About Snakes

17 Small Pet Snakes That Stay Small

Small snakes that stay small are so much easier to handle safely and care for as pets. The problem is that tiny hatchlings grow into large adults.

The best small pet snakes are the ringneck snake, western hognose, ball python sand boa, egg-eating snake, rosy boa, garter snake, and California green snake.

The Barbados threadsnake is the smallest snake in the world, but it doesn’t make a good pet. Of the small snakes for beginners, perhaps the best option is the ball python. This is due to its relaxed temperament.

Best Small Snake for a Pet

Pet snakes that don’t grow big make excellent pets. That’s because they’re easy to care for, even if you’re inexperienced with snakes or live in a small apartment. There are many species that hatch small, and stay small too.

To get started, here’s a table in size order showing the best beginner snakes that stay small with size information:

List of Small Pet SnakesHatchling LengthAverage LengthLongest LengthAverage Weight
Barbados threadsnake0.4in4in4.1in0.6g
Bimini blind snake0.4in2-4in6in0.5-1g
Ringneck snake4-5in10in15in1.3-1.5g
Smooth green snake4in14-20in26in30g
Scarlet kingsnake3-7in16-20in27in50-70g
Anthill python8in20in25in200-220g
Western hognose5-9in14-24in30in800g
Rosy boa10in17-30in34in400g
California kingsnake8-13in30in 40in600-800g
Rough green snake7in35-37in46in9-26g
Ball python14in36-50in60in1500g
Corn snake8in24-40in60in900g
Sand boa 8in20in27in150-1000g
Children’s python10in36-50in60in250-300g
African egg-eating snake5-8in (several species and subspecies)18-30in36in300g
Ribbon snake7-9in16-35in40in100g
Garter snake8in18-20in54in150g

All of these are small, non-venomous pet snakes. They’re most of them easy to handle, and none get too big for even a novice, provided you adhere to safe handling guidelines.

1/ Barbados Threadsnake

The Barbados threadsnake is the smallest known snake species. It’s found on the islands of Barbados, Antigua, and Barbuda in the Caribbean. While it isn’t commonly kept as a pet, it’s certainly the smallest snake on earth.

The species was only first found by herpetologists in 2008. They had previously been discovered, but specimens were incorrectly classified as belonging to another species.

You can hardly tell that it’s a snake at all. It looks more like a tiny worm than a snake. It has a thin body compared to its length, and doesn’t have a clear head like most snakes do.

Length & Weight

The average length of a Barbados threadsnake is only 10cm/4in. The largest specimen found was only slightly longer, at 10.4cm/4.1in.

They are smallest when they hatch, at a tenth of the size of an adult, i.e. 2cm/0.4in. These snakes don’t have a great variety in size.

They also hardly weigh anything, at only 0.6g. This is exceptionally light. For reference, a pencil weighs 6 or 7g.

2/ Bimini Blind Snake

nonvenomous blind snake

The Bimini blind snake, also known as the Brahminy blind snake, is similar to the Barbados thread snake. You may also know it by the names of common blind snake, island blind snake, Hawaiian blind snake or flowerpot snake. It was indigenous to Africa, but has been introduced to the Americas.

According to the Florida Museum, this snake looks a lot like an earthworm. While the Barbados thread snake is smaller than a worm, the Bimini blind snake is roughly the same size. It’s much thinner than it is long, and has a shiny body without obvious scales.

Unlike the Barbados thread snake, this snake has been kept as a pet before. But it isn’t as interesting as bigger snakes, as it doesn’t do much. It also spends its time underground, hidden in the soil where you can’t see it.

They get their name from having tiny eyes that they can hardly see through.

Length & Weight

The Bimini blind snake is more variable than the Barbados thread snake. Specimens of different sizes have been found.

Adults can measure between two and four inches (5-10cm). The longest specimens found are 6in/15cm long. They are light too, from 0.5g to 1g.

3/ Ringneck Snake

The ringneck snake, or ring-necked snake, is a harmless snake native to the Americas. Because of its size and range across the U.S. And Mexico, it’s many people’s first pet snake.

The ringneck snake is instantly recognizable. It’s longer and fatter than the snakes listed above. You couldn’t confuse it with an earthworm, because it has a somewhat distinct head and tail.

But it’s the pattern of this snake that sets it apart. As its name suggests, it has a ring around its neck. This ring looks like a collar. It’s a different color to the rest of the snake’s back, ranging from cream through to yellow or red.

The underside of this snake is the same color. If it’s threatened, it rolls its tail into a large coil and shows it to you. The idea is to scare you away. It can also flip onto its back, showing all of its belly colors at once.

Length & Weight

The ringneck snake is much longer than the Bimini blind snake and the Barbados threadsnake. That’s because those two species are much smaller than any other.

Ringneck snake adults grow to between 25-38cm/10-15in. Juveniles measure 20cm/8in, and grow an inch or two each year. Adults weigh between 1.3g and 1.5g.

However, there are several different subspecies of ringneck snake. So, don’t be surprised if yours is a little longer or a little shorter than this average.

4/ Smooth Green Snake

smooth green snake

The smooth green snake is long, slender, smooth, and green. It’s native to the Americas, and is found in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. It’s non-aggressive, which makes it a good pet. But they’re difficult to care for, and may randomly choose not to eat.

Length & Weight

This snake is the first in our list that you can start talking about its length in feet. The smooth green snake is a small to medium-sized snake, which measured 36-51cm/14-20in as an adult. The longest ever found was 66cm/26in. This may seem long, but for a snake, it’s not.

It’s slender for its length. Juveniles weigh 1.1g on average. Fully-grown smooth green snakes weigh around 30g.

Unlike other species, its tail makes up a significant portion of its body, at between 1/4 and 1/2. This makes it even more slender-looking.

5/ Scarlet Kingsnake

lampropeltis elapsoides

The Scarlet kingsnake can be found in the southeastern and eastern parts of the U.S. It’s non-venomous.

The pattern and color of the scarlet kingsnake are its most interesting features. It uses a well-studied form of ‘mimicry‘, which is where an animal attempts to look like another animal. The scarlet kingsnake has red, black and yellow stripes along its back, which make it look like a venomous coral snake.

Unlike the coral snake, the scarlet kingsnake (and all kingsnakes) are non-venomous. Instead, they kill prey by wrapping around it (constriction).

Length & Weight

The scarlet kingsnake grows to between 40 and 50cm/16-20in. The longest ever found was only 68cm/27in, which is a little longer than two feet. Again, this may seem quite long, but it’s a short length for a snake. And as a pet, a two-foot snake is still easy to handle.

Hatchlings are between 8-18cm/3-7in. But they grow quickly to reach their maximum size. Figures on the weights of these snakes are usually wrong; they weigh around 50-70g as adults. But don’t be surprised if your snake weighs something different, because this species is variable.

6/ Anthill Python

Anthill Python

The anthill python, or the pygmy python, is the first python in this list. Its name gives away the fact that it’s small for a python, although like all pythons, it’s a heavy-bodied snake. This species is the smallest member of the python family, and is often found on anthills and termite mounds.

This snake is found in Australia, specifically the northwest of Western Australia and on certain islands off the coast. It has a dull pattern without much color or contrast. It has spots along its body, almost like a leopard, which aren’t much darker than its red-brown background color.

Length & Weight

The pygmy python only grows to 50cm/20in. Hatchlings begin life at 20cm/8in long. Like all pythons, these snakes only have short tails.

But because it’s heavy-bodied, these pythons weigh a lot more than the average snake of this length. Yours will weigh somewhere between 200-220g, but they can weigh more if they were fed lots of food from an early age (e.g. through power feeding).

7/ Western Hognose

Hognose snake Life Expectancy

The western hognose is another common first pet, because it’s common all across North America. It has an interesting pattern of stripes along its back and dots along its sides. Its background color is a variable brown, while its contrast color is a lighter tan.

This pattern looks like that of a rattlesnake to the untrained eye. But hognoses are much smaller than rattlesnakes, and are non-venomous. Like pythons, these snakes use constriction to kill prey instead.

This snake gets its name from its unique nose. Unlike any other genus of snakes, these snakes have upturned noses. They look like tiny shovels, and that’s what they’re used for. Hognoses use their noses to dig into the ground, to better hide from threats.

The western hognose, and other species of hognose, are known for their defensive displays too. When threatened, these snakes will play dead. They flip onto their backs, releasing a foul musk that smells like a dead animal, lolling their tongues from their mouths.

Length & Weight

The western hognose isn’t a big snake, but it is variable. Males reach somewhere between 14 and 24 inches/35-60cm in adulthood. Females can grow to 36in/90cm, which is three feet long. These snakes are somewhat heavy-bodied, so they can reach 800g in weight.

8/ Garter Snake

The garter snake is another small-to-medium-sized snake that’s common across the whole United States. You can also find it in Canada, but it’s most common in Mexico.

Because there are many different species of garter snake, their color and pattern are variable. But whichever species you have, they are interesting to look at. The coast garter snake, for example, is a deep red with black spots. It has a light cream line running from its tail to its neck, and two less obvious stripes on its sides.

If you spot these snakes in the wild, you may see them in a mating ball. This is a behavior unique to garter snakes, where they all get together during mating season. There can be hundreds of snakes in only one ‘ball’.

Length & Weight

Garter snakes are the first highly variable snake in our list. They aren’t one species. They are a genus, which is a grouping of animals that contains several species. The smallest garter snake adults are the size of the snakes above it in the list, at around 45-50cm/18-20in.

However, the biggest are much bigger. They can grow to 137cm/54in or longer, which is a medium size for a snake. Again, this might be surprising, but there are many snakes that are longer than that which are kept as pets. However, that length snake may be difficult for a beginner to care for.

Like their length, their weight is variable.  They weigh on average 150g, but smaller species weigh less.

9/ Rosy Boa

rosy boas as pets

The rosy boa is one of only two boa species native to the United States (the other being the rubber boa). It’s a short but thick-bodied snake with an indistinct head and a short tail. It’s not the most popular pet snake, but is kept by many people.

This snake has several subspecies, so its coloration can vary. Its name fromes from the salmon pink belly found on rosy boas from California and Baja Mexico. But not all subspecies have this same belly color, others having dark orange spots on a light background.

Length & Weight

The rosy boa is variable in size as well as appearance. It reaches a length somewhere between 17-34in/43-86cm. Certain subspecies are longer than others, the Californian kind being longer, for example. So, if you want your rosy boa to stay small, check which subspecies it is first.

Like other boas, the rosy boa has a heavy, thick body. This means that it weighs more than other snakes of the same length. A rosy boa of 30in will weigh somewhere around 400g.

10/ California Kingsnake

California kingsnakes as pets

The California kingsnake is another kingsnake species, like the scarlet kingsnake listed above. It’s one of the most common snakes kept as pets, and its small size plays a part in that.

Like other snakes on this list, the California kingsnake has many different subspecies. This means that its color and pattern are variable. But the most common wild specimens are a deep brown with light cream or tan stripes from side to side.

However, as they’re so popular, many morphs have been bred which are completely different colors. These snakes are constrictors, and are stronger for their size than any other snake. That’s because they frequently feed on reptile prey, which needs to be squeezed harder than mammals to be killed.

Length & Weight

California kingsnakes are longer than many of the snakes in this list. But they’re still short when compared to most species of snake. They reach between 30-40in/75-100cm. The biggest ever found was six feet long, which is a solidly medium-sized snake. Hatchlings are 8-13in/20-30cm in length.

However, while this is longer than the other snakes on this list, they aren’t heavy. Their thin frame makes these snakes seem smaller than fatter ones, e.g. rosy boas.

According to the San Diego Zoo, the very largest kingsnakes reach 3.3lbs, but California kingsnakes aren’t that big. These snakes will only weigh around 600-800g, or around 1 1/2lbs when they reach their full adult sizes.

11/ Rough Green Snake

A complete guide to rough green snake care

The rough green snake is similar to the smooth green snake. It’s bright green, and is exceptionally slender. It looks like a whip. The only difference is that the rough green snake grows longer than the smooth green snake.

Length & Weight

Whereas the smooth green snake only reaches around 20 inches, the rough green snake is much longer. This snake will grow up to 116cm/46in. But according to Animal Diversity, females will reach 95cm/37in, and males will reach 89cm/35in on average.

Hatchlings begin life at 18cm/7in in length, so have lots of growing to do before they reach full size. Other snakes hatch at larger sizes and grow less quickly, so this is unusual.

However, the slender body of this species makes it seem much smaller than it is. They only reach an inch in diameter. You can hold this species easily in your hands, while a rosy boa (for example) is thick and heavy.

The average weight of a male is only 16g, with a range between 9 and 27g. The average weight of a female isn’t much more, at 26g, with specimens found to weigh between 11 and 54g. This is much lighter than all other snakes of this length.

12/ Ball Pythons

ball pythons as pets

What is the friendliest snake? Probably the ball python. Ball pythons are perhaps the most popular pet snake out there. They’re longer than many on this list, but are still considered a small-to-medium-sized snake.

They make excellent beginner pets, and are easy to handle as well as not too long. They are gentle and hate biting.

These snakes are originally from northern Africa, where they live burrowed in the sand. Their name comes from a habit they have. Rather than retaliate if threatened, they curl up into a ball to protect themselves.

Because they’re so popular, ball pythons have been bred extensively. All BPs (as they’re known) for sale in the U.S. Were bred in captivity. Breeding programs have also created many different colors and patterns. Some of these unique snakes are highly valuable and sought after.

Length & Weight

Ball pythons are short snakes, but heavy. So, they seem bigger than they are, even if they aren’t long. The average length of a ball python is between 3 and 5ft. Hatchlings are smaller, but not much smaller, at only 14in. This is small to medium-sized for a pet snake.

On average, a ball python weighs around 1500g/3.3lbs. However, these snakes are highly variable, and will weigh more or less depending on how you raise them. If it’s consistently underfed from a young age, your ball python adult may weigh 600g/1.3lbs. Or, if overfed, it can weigh up to 3000g/6.6lbs.

As such, even though they stay small throughout their lives, ball pythons can get heavy.

13/ Corn Snakes

Do corn snakes make good beginner pets?

Corn snakes are another common type of pet. Unlike ball pythons, these snakes are found in the Americas. There are many different subspecies of corn snake, each of which is different. If you like the outdoors, you may have encountered one in the wild before.

They are most common in the southeast, around Florida. But you can find them in various places along the east coast, too. They are a light orange-red color, with deeper brick red saddles. These saddles are bordered by a brown ring.

But like the ball python, there are many morphs of these snakes. This means you can buy them in all different colors, and some with different patterns. So, yours may vary in appearance.

Length & Weight

These snakes are variable in length. Again, it depends on how you feed your pet. If you overfeed, they will grow longer. On average, they reach between 2 and 6ft long. Males have thicker and longer tails, but females are longer than males.

As for weight, corn snakes are slim, or at least slimmer than ball pythons. This means that they weigh less. The average weight of a corn snake is 900g. But you may find larger or smaller specimens, e.g. From 450g to 1200g. If your snake is overweight or underweight, adjust its diet as appropriate.

14/ Sand Boa

kenyan sand boa as a pet

The sand boa, also known as the Kenyan sand boa or East African sand boa, is becoming increasingly popular. They have similar ‘personalities’ to the ball python, in that they’re relaxed and unlikely to bite. They also have simple care requirements that make them easy beginner snakes to care for.

The Kenyan sand boa is like a fatter version of a ball python. Ball pythons are already fat and short, but sand boas are even more so. They have a deep brown background color with lighter irregular splotches along their backs.

Unlike other small to medium-sized snakes, they don’t have a distinct head. This makes them similar to smaller snakes like blind snakes. Combined with their fat tails, this makes sand boas look like large worms.

Length & Weight

Sand boas are short snakes. Males reach between 16 and 18 inches on average, and can occasionally get longer than 20 inches. Females are bigger than males by around a third.

It’s the body of the Kenyan sand boa which makes it big, though. These snakes are exceptionally stocky, perhaps wider for their length than any other snake. Females are the heavier of the two, reaching a maximum of 1000g.

Males only reach a maximum of 150g. This means they’re a lot thinner, as well as being shorter.

15/ Children’s Python

children's python

The children’s python is an uncommon pet. Contrary to what some owners think, it’s not named because it’s a good starter snake for children. It’s so-named because it was named by the scientist John Edward Gray after his mentor, John George Children.

This snake has a dull pattern without much contrast. Its background color is tan, but it has irregular brown spots along its back. These spots are only a couple shades darker, so that it doesn’t stand out.

Length & Weight

This snake is roughly the same length as a ball python, at between 3 and 5 feet. It weighs between 250g and 300g, with females at the lighter end of the scale.

There’s a big discrepancy between the size of hatchlings and the size of adults. Hatchlings only weigh 10g or so when they first hatch, and are around 10in long. So, while they stay short, they grow much fatter as they get older.

16/ African Egg-Eating Snake

vegetarian snake food

The African egg-eating snake is one of the most interesting species kept as pets. Whereas most other species eat rodents, and a select few eat insects or fish, these snakes eat eggs.

They developed especially to do so. Their jaws can open even wider than those of other snakes. They got rid of their teeth, because they get in the way of an egg when it’s swallowed. And to crack the eggs that they eat, they have small spurs on their spine that they jab into the egg’s shell.

These snakes are a dark gray-brown color. They have brown stripes running across their backs on a dark gray background, with a light gray underbelly. The grayness of their scales becomes more apparent when they swallow eggs, which cause huge lumps in the snake’s throat.

Length & Weight

These snakes reach a length of 45-76cm, which is between 1.5 and 2.5ft. They’re also thin, which means that they remain easy to handle.

Adults weigh upwards of 300g, but as always, this figure can vary depending on how much you feed your pet.

17/ Ribbon Snake

Ribbon snakes

Ribbon snakes get their name for two reasons. First, they have very long and thin tails, like ribbons. Second, they have long, clear stripes running along their backs. They are kept as pets, but aren’t as common as other species like ball pythons or corn snakes.

These snakes have a deep brown, even black background color with cream/tan/yellow stripes. Their undersides are a lighter brown, sometimes bordering on brick red.

Length & Weight

The ribbon snake’s length is highly variable. You can find specimens between 16-35in, which is 41-89cm in length. Hatchlings are between 7 and 9in when they first hatch, so depending on your snake, it may only double in size from when it’s hatched. For a snake, this is hardly any growth.

And because they’re so thin, they seem even smaller than that. Ribbon snakes only weigh around 1-3g when they hatch, and will only reach around 100g.

There are many more species aside from these, but most of them are longer and heavier. However, don’t discount these before considering them. Even larger snakes can be easy to handle and care for.