How to Care* for Your King Snake
King Snakes (Lampropeltis getula) are small (3-4’ but up to 6’ is possible), non-venomous, constricting snakes native to the United States, central and northern South America. Given their large range, there are quite a number of subspecies that inhabit different climates. The most common King Snakes kept include California and Florida King Snakes.
King Snakes are generally banded, speckled or spotted with the particular pattern and color palette varying according to species. A variety of color and pattern “morphs” have been developed as well. King Snakes are generally considered to be a beginner pet.
An appropriate sized enclosure for a single King Snake is minimally a 20 gallon long tank (30”12”x12”). Larger than average King Snakes should be kept in larger enclosures. King Snakes can be active and curious so it’s important that the enclosure have a lid to keep them from escaping and to keep other animals or curious children out. King Snakes may be kept on a newspaper or paper towel substrate for ease of cleaning. They may also be maintained on a cypress mulch or aspen shaving substrate, which they will particularly enjoy because they like to burrow. Cedar and pine shaving should not be used due to the toxic oils they contain. The enclosure must be cleaned regularly, though if a bioactive set-up is created, much of the cleaning will be carried out by scavenger bugs. King Snakes often hide during the day and require at least one hide placed on the hot side of the enclosure and one on the cooler side. A shallow water bowl should be provided that is large enough for the King Snakes to soak in if desired. Clean out the water bowl regularly, especially if they soil it. Greater humidity should be provided to King Snakes originating from tropical habitats, such as Florida King Snakes, in contrast to King Snakes from drier climates, such as the California King Snake.
Heating and Lighting
Most King Snakes are nocturnal, and consequently don’t require overhead lighting as long as the room in which they are kept has ambient light to distinguish night from day. They do require a “temperature gradient” from hot side to cool side. The temperature on the hot side should be around 85F. The best way to achieve this is with an under tank heater (UTH). The UTH will require a thermostat or a rheostat to regulate the temperature. The cooler side of the enclosure should be 75-80F. The enclosure can get a bit cooler in the evening and can go down to the 60’sF.
Food and Supplementation
King Snakes are carnivorous and primarily eat mice or rats. They may also consume small birds, frogs or other reptiles. Vary the size of the feeder with the size of the snake. Most King Snakes are fed a single frozen and thawed prey item every 1-2 weeks. If live prey is used, the snake must be supervised during feeding to insure that it’s not harmed by the feeder. Although King Snakes should be able to obtain all their nutritional needs by ingesting the entire mouse, it’s a good idea to provide additional calcium, vitamin D3 and a variety of other vitamins and minerals by dusting the feeders with an appropriate supplement such as Repashy Supervite multivitamin and powdered calcium.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to King Snakes, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets