What to look for when buying a snake

The first and most important ingredient in choosing the right snake is the health of the animal. Once that’s out of the way, a host of other elements enter the equation. Species, age, temperament, color, pattern, sex, feeding habits, and price are points to consider when looking for a snake.


If you’re looking at a snake at a pet store or other venue, don’t just look at the snake. Look inside and outside the cage for signs of a dirty and unsanitary environment. No matter how good the store is, you will inevitably find shed fur, feces, and other dirty materials in the cage. However, note the consistency of your findings and the excessively dirty environment. Overcrowding in tanks should be avoided, and if dead animals are found in nearby enclosures, avoid purchasing the animal. Be sure to buy captive-bred cattle; Wild-caught snakes can harbor all sorts of problems and should be avoided by beginners.

Look at the shape of the snake in its resting position. Never buy a snake that you see lying on its side, with its head bowed to the ground. If his mouth is slightly open, back away. The spine of the snake should be visible, but not excessively so. If the snake looks skinny, don’t buy it, regardless of its feeding habits. Most snakes are generally very consistent when they shed their skin, so if you see one with bits of skin stuck all over it, be careful. Loose folds in the skin are evident on dehydrated snakes, let the store owner know if you see this in their inventory, but DO NOT buy the animal.

‘Never buy a snake or any other reptile based on your feelings for that animal. Many pet stores have come and gone, the best ones have always stuck around the longest. Negligent garages soon find out about their problems and either fade or correct their problems. Buying a snake that has suffered from the store’s neglect will only cause the store to continue its attack. As difficult as it may be, remember that the death of one snake could save many more.”

If you buy an animal knowing there are any potential problems, make sure you get it checked out by a vet as soon as possible. Save the most recent fecal sample from the snake and store it in the refrigerator until the vet can examine it. Never introduce newly acquired snakes into other snake enclosures without thoroughly examining them. Larger breeders should keep quarantine areas separate from the rest of their collection. Newly acquired snakes should be quarantined for at least 3 months if this is feasible for the breeder.


With snakes, age is often an irrelevant factor in deciding which species you would like. Small corn snakes are good beginner snakes and although they can be a bit feisty, they calm down quickly and can grow into beautiful animals. One thing to be careful about when shopping for a baby is to make sure that it is fed. If you are unsure of its feeding habits, purchase a slightly older juvenile. Adults or raised on snakes that have already been handled and are guaranteed feeders, perhaps a better choice for the complete novice. However, baby snakes can be more rewarding to anyone who raises them successfully.


Always ask yourself; ‘quality or quantity?’ If something is cheap, there is reasoning behind it. Often paying less for something you really want can turn out to be something it wasn’t bought to be. If you pay too much, you will lose money in the worst case, but you can be sure of getting something of quality. Do not look to buy any animal that is excessively cheap. Instead, buy the animal you really want to buy and pay what the animal is worth.

Where to buy?

There are several places to look when buying a snake. I urge anyone to find a reputable breeder who has vast experience and a good reputation in the industry. Honesty is the most important factor for any breeder selling animals; don’t buy from anyone you know has misrepresented animals in the past.


It is important to realize that a breeder does not have to breed many hundreds of snakes. In fact, some of the best snakes will come from dedicated hobbyists, who often only have a couple of a particular species. If you are buying the most commonly seen species, you may want to seek out private individuals and seek advice from them. With more expensive snake species and color morphs, there are fewer breeders to choose from. Always contact the breeder before purchasing the animal. Ask questions about the age, size, lineage, temperament, health and eating habits of the animal in question. A good breeder will spend time trying to help you, while many other breeders will shrug their shoulders, provide minimal details, and answer only what needs to be answered. As a breeder, keep in mind that with hundreds of snakes to care for, in addition to doing various things in your personal life, time can be a virtue. Don’t expect an essay when you email a breeder, expect a courteous reply with all the necessary information.

Most breeders will not offer a refund after the sale; this is commonplace when it comes to animals. Unfortunately, with animals, the buyer can easily make mistakes. Therefore, it is too risky for the seller to guarantee the life of an animal, when it is completely out of their hands. However, he tries to be confident when dealing with a breeder, that they will help him even after the sale. If he has any problems, they will be there to give him more advice.

Reptile shows/exhibits

Reptile shows offer a great place to meet new people and see lots of new things, not only with snakes but with other reptiles as well. Look for breeders who have spent the money showing their animals. Well-constructed, elegant-looking exhibit stalls with clean cages and tubs show that the breeder is going the extra mile to sell their animals. It shows that breeders are dedicated and that their efforts go beyond raising and selling animals. These people are often the ones who will go out of their way to help you the most if needed after the sale.

If you buy a snake from a show, be careful. You must realize that you do not know the people in front of you, nor do you know the background behind any of the snakes. Many good breeders will have photo albums of their adult animals on the tables. This is a great advantage; allows you to view the parents and lineage of the particular animals you wish to purchase. It also shows that breeders are once again putting more effort into selling their animals and taking pride in their cattle.

Avoid any breeder who cannot answer your questions. Request hatching dates, parental information, and feeding records. These are minimal details that any good breeder should be able to offer without a problem. Any vendor at the show who cannot provide this information should be avoided.

Do not be in a hurry to buy from breeders at the table. Ask as many questions as you feel are appropriate and take a look at what they have to offer. Ask for the contact details of the breeders, email, website and their phone number. If they are not willing to offer their phone number, try to stay away from them. Not giving out your phone number allows them to choose whether or not to reply to your emails. These people are unlikely to help you after you make a sale.

Newspaper Ads / Internet Classifieds

This is one way to pick up some fantastic animals, but at the same time the most common way for buyers to get scammed and often get stuck with unhealthy animals. Many breeders, good and bad, will use internet classifieds. Remember to ask all the necessary questions before you buy, ask for photos whenever possible, and expect a polite and informative response. When viewing photos, be careful that they are in normal color and not distorted or have an odd appearance. Look for other objects in the photo to get an idea of ​​the exact size and color of the animal. It is commonplace to see people falsely advertise animals and enhance images to better fit their descriptions. Try to establish a relationship with the seller before you buy the animal.

Also remember, ‘you get what you pay for’. Don’t expect to get bargains; you get what you pay for and rarely anything else. Look for the people who are least willing to give you a good deal, these are often the people who trust their animals and trust that another buyer will come if you don’t buy.

Beware of ‘free’ snakes. It is common to see ‘Free to Good Home’ advertisements. Ask yourself why and check if the snake is really what you want. He states that the snake is quite expensive; would you still buy it? If not, don’t get it.

For more information on reptiles and their care, visit: http://whitepython.com/reptile-care-articles/

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