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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many novice herpers dream of the day they can have their own giant snake to feed and care for, and to watch grow into a magnificent, gigantic beast of a pet that will impress all who behold it. That was certainly the case for me as a high school snake lover. Although my first “big snake” pet was a large bull snake, my dream was for a Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), and by the time I graduated high school, that dream was fulfilled. But as the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for…”

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I did keep and breed a number of Burmese pythons, and also kept some of the other giants, such as reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), green anacondas (Eunectes murinus), and a large boa or two (Boa constrictor ssp.). But after several years of back breaking lugging around of giant snakes, and super-sized poop scooping, I eventually found the size and colors of corn snakes to be much more appealing! Because of the difficulty of safely and properly housing and caring for the giants (those species that commonly reach more than 10’ in length), because of the increasing amount of regulation regarding species perceived as dangerous, and because of the huge numbers of captive-bred small and medium species of great beginner boas and pythons available in every color and pattern imaginable, I will recommend these smaller species as “best beginner pets” instead of suggesting that you follow in my footsteps, starting with the giants. There will be plenty of time to ‘graduate’ to those later, if you still have the desire after gaining experience with the smaller types of ‘giant snakes’. Remember, most species of boas and pythons will live for 15 – 20 years, OR MORE! They will be your responsibility for a long, long time, so weigh the options carefully before deciding which is right for you!

For those who want an impressive, yet manageable boid (< the collective term for snakes in the boa and python families), I feel that nothing tops the age-old choice of the boa constrictor (Boa constrictor ssp.). Due to the large volume of captive breeding over the past decade or so, and also its huge natural range from northern Mexico through Central America and down into the more temperate areas of Argentina, the species has almost unlimited variations in size and colors. Even personality can range from mellow to rather unfriendly, at least in wild-caught specimens.

Although the typical Colombian boa may easily reach 6 – 8’ or more (especially the females), I have seen a few from various parts of northern South America that were in excess of 12’. So if you choose bloodlines carefully, and maximize growth, you can still have a giant of sorts – if that is what you truly desire. But for most people, the good news is that they can purchase a boa from other lines – perhaps those originating from island races in Central America for example, and end up with a boa that may never top 5’. The smallest of these boas may never require a cage more than 2’ by 4’, while the largest might be best accommodated in a 4 by 8’ cage, or even a walk-in cage.

Choice is great! And your choice extends to colors as well. The proliferation of breeding programs has provided customers with everything from those with no black (amels) to small amounts of black (hypo), without yellow (axanthic) to very light to very dark. The amount of pink background color that increases with age has been amplified in many strains. Even the contrast in the red tail has been targeted.

Boas require proper temperatures, usually provided by an under tank (or under cage) heat mat of some type. Their tropical (or sometimes, subtropical) nature is generally satisfied with temps of around 70 – 80F or so on the cool side, and a nice basking area of 90 - 95 on the warm side. About the only caution with boas is that they seem to be prone to respiratory problems if you neglect the proper warmth. They are not nearly as forgiving of cool temperatures as colubrids are. However, I would assume that races from the extreme northern and southern edges of their range would tolerate temporary low temperatures much better than the tropical specimens that have evolved in northern South America and Central America. If you are prone to power outages, you might consider keeping a supply of the chemical hand-warmers similar to those used for shipping reptiles in winter.

The cage furniture can be simple – a heavy water bowl that can’t be tipped, a climbing branch (especially for juvenile boas), a thermometer, and substrate. Juveniles might enjoy a hide box as well. I prefer shredded cypress mulch for my tropical boas and pythons, but others have successfully used everything from newspaper to outdoor carpet. Just be sure to avoid cedar for any reptile. Pine also has some volatile oils in it, although not as much as cedar. It is best to avoid any wood products that strongly smell of resinous or oily content.

The boa dinner menu will consist of rodents for the most part. Many boas will eat birds of the appropriate size as well, and a few have even consumed cold-blooded prey. But the proper sized rodent can range from a fuzzy mouse to a rabbit, and if raised on a complete diet, rodent prey will supply all of the nutritional needs of your pet.

What about ball pythons (Python regius)? Many probably feel that these African natives actually deserve the title of “best beginner boid”. And I was tempted to elevate them to #1, if only because I keep and breed them myself, and I really like some of the colors and patterns available. Ball pythons possess most of the positive attributes of boas – and are a ‘perfect’ medium size (usually around 3’ – 5’), easy to house, keep and breed, are generally docile, affordable, with lots of variety available. The only reason I would recommend boas over them is because adult balls can have rather unusual feeding habits, and it can drive keepers crazy!

Baby ball pythons are usually eating machines! It is LOTS of fun to feed them and watch them grow, almost by the day it sometimes seems! I start my babies on ‘squinter’ or hopper mice (just starting to open their eyes and run around some). They rapidly graduate to weaned mice, retired breeders, and then rats. But once they get to ‘puberty’, at around 800 – 1200 grams or so, they suddenly change and become moody ‘teenagers’ that may decide to go on a several month long fast before returning to gorging themselves again. This ‘feast or famine’ behavior continues lifelong for many of them. Although some will become good feeders on frozen / thawed rodents, you will probably end up discarding more thawed food than you would for other species. And some may refuse thawed food entirely, demanding live only. I have switched to feeding live food to my adult BPs because I got tired of throwing out thawed rats.

Other than their sometimes bizarre feeding routines, balls are very much like smaller (4 – 6’) boas in their requirements. Their metabolism is rather slow, so skipping meals for months at a time has little impact on their girths. If you can deal with a sometimes finicky feeder, want a docile couch potato that will probably hang around your neck while you watch TV, and a species that can be purchased in designer colors to fit in with your décor, then a captive-born baby ball python may be exactly what you want!

My third choice of medium to large size species is the carpet python (Morelia spilota ssp.) from Australia and New Guinea. They tend to be a little more nervous than the previous two offerings, but usually settle down nicely with gentle handling. They do offer some choice in size, ranging from 5 – 6’ jungle carpets with their often bright yellow and black contrasting pattern, to the larger 6 – 8’ coastal varieties, with their more reddish -brown hues. But take note that some specimens have grown to over 10’ long! Check with the breeder concerning their bloodlines if you want a particular size.

An adult carpet may seem a little smaller than a similarly-sized boa constrictor or ball python because the carpet will be somewhat more slender. Some color and pattern varieties, such as the highly contrasting ‘jaguar’ mutation, are now available. Considering the yellows and red tones in some of the races, I suspect much brighter colors and more variety will be produced in the future.

Feeding will not vary much from the previously discussed ‘formula’ of an appropriately-sized rodent approximately once per week, perhaps slightly more often for babies, and a little less often for mature adults.

Housing and temperatures will also be similar to the first two species discussed. However, carpets are somewhat more arboreal. A taller cage with a well-placed branch or two may reward you with some entertainment as your pet explores its surroundings. Activity level is usually a little higher than for the previous species. If you want a fairly large, relatively active python, you may enjoy one of the carpet pythons.

Please keep in mind that the purpose of this article is only to whet your appetite and fuel your quest for more knowledge about whichever species seems right for you. Please be sure to research before purchase. Read several, good, comprehensive care sheets as a good starting point. Once you have decided on a particular species, please read the appropriate species books, and then ask questions online or at your local herpetological society.

P.S I did not right this, it was found on a website i was searching and thought it might be handy for novice keepers wanting to move up.
 

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Thats a hell of a long post, but if you didnt write it you may want to put the link of where you found it to give them the credit for it.
I am starting to move away from saying one species makes a better beginner snake than another as if you have no enthusiam for that species then you will have no joy from keeping it, I think anyone with a level head can take on pretty much as species as a beginner with the correct research and guidance. But I do always think with royals only take them on if you have the patience of a saint :lol2:
 

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I am starting to move away from saying one species makes a better beginner snake than another as if you have no enthusiam for that species then you will have no joy from keeping it, I think anyone with a level head can take on pretty much as species as a beginner with the correct research and guidance.
It is a great post but I would add this to the bottom of it to balance it out.....
Two great posts in fact that could be one great sticky...
 

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Agreed. deffo a sticky!!: victory:: victory:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thats a hell of a long post, but if you didnt write it you may want to put the link of where you found it to give them the credit for it.
I am starting to move away from saying one species makes a better beginner snake than another as if you have no enthusiam for that species then you will have no joy from keeping it, I think anyone with a level head can take on pretty much as species as a beginner with the correct research and guidance. But I do always think with royals only take them on if you have the patience of a saint :lol2:
Agreed i will add the link right now ;) But on the link you need to scroll across the page it's laid out wierd :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

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:blush:

Sorry but what is a sticky?
They are the threads that stay at the top of the first page of the section, in the snakes section they are the live feeding laws, feeding tips, blister disease, etc. They are stuck to the top above the normal threads so cant disappear into nothingness hence the term sticky. A very few threads ever become a sticky, but you never know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
They are the threads that stay at the top of the first page of the section, in the snakes section they are the live feeding laws, feeding tips, blister disease, etc. They are stuck to the top above the normal threads so cant disappear into nothingness hence the term sticky. A very few threads ever become a sticky, but you never know.
Ah great thanks :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
bump.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
bump havent spoken on this thread in a while
 

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[QUOTE=a1Boas require proper temperatures, usually provided by an under tank (or under cage) heat mat of some type.

I dont want to appear picky of a generaly usefull post but in a viv that is the last type of heating I would use for any heavy bodied snake.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
im thinking of getting a red tailed boa soon :p
 

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Some of the boas I have had in the past have been a nightmare to handle ! unpredictable to say the least. I question, whether the logic that "size" alone dictates the perfect beginners snake, is correct?

My Burmese are probably the easiest snakes I have kept in many ways. Currently I have a Ball python female that literally takes off from her cage when she smells food and can strike a good 2 feet outside of her viv with her mouth gaping wide LOL She is as blind as a bat, heat senses me over the food. I literally have to swing the rat into her gaping mouth. Wouldn't want her anywhere near a "beginner". Otherwise though she is a sweetheart :)
 

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My most unpredictable snake is my 'beginner' snake - a Cali King. He has bitten me more times than the rest of my collection put together!
:no1: I think a few people will know exactly what your talking about lol

I do sometimes question (in my head until now) the list of beginner snakes I see suggested on here sometimes ......

Royals....... Picky eaters at times (and I've been bitten by more royals than anything else :bash:

hognoses..... Mildly venomous. Says it all I think :lol2:

cali kings..... Will bite at will for food or fun :lol2:

corns... Now they are pretty bullet proof but people tend to get these 1st and within weeks lose interest and move on to bigger and sell them (I still have my 1st ever snake which is a corn :no1:)


My opinion is choose whatever snake YOU actually want and do your research before buying it, understand what it needs, food, temps, viv size etc and then decide if it's still the snake for you and if it is find a reputable breeder and buy it and yourll have decades of enjoyment :no1:
 
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