King snakes hatch out at approximately 10 inches in length. Adults range from 4 to 6 feet but are thin snakes and often look smaller than they actually are.
In captivity, with proper care, king snakes can live 15-25 years or more. There have been records of king snakes even living over 30 years old.
When designing your king snake’s enclosure make sure to remember that they are commonly found in rural, temperate climates. Hatchlings can be kept in a rack system or 10 gallon tank. Adults can be housed in 32 quart racks or 30”L x 12”W x 12”H tanks but larger is ideal.
Temperature & Humidity:
Providing a heat gradient with lows in the mid 70s and a basking spot of 85 degrees Fahrenheit is very important as reptiles are cold blooded and must be able to regulate their body temperature. Humidity should be kept around 40-50 percent and increased during shedding.
A great way to help control and maintain humidity and make your king snake’s enclosure more natural is with mosses. Golden Sphagnum Moss, Green Sphagnum Moss, Sheet Moss, Pillow Moss, and Royal Pillow Moss are all excellent at storing and maintaining humidity and work well with hides to create humidity hides during shedding.
Newspaper and paper towels are the least expensive bedding but be sure to keep a close eye on temperature and humidity as these options do hold up as well as other substrates. King snakes love to burrow which is why Aspen is the most popular substrate for this species. Cypress Mulch, Orchid/Fir Bark, and Coco Husk are also great naturalistic substrate options that help maintain and control humidity. Lastly, Coconut soil is another option that is very good at holding moisture. No matter what substrate you decide to use make sure to keep an eye on humidity as too much or too little can cause problems.
Providing a safe hiding place for your king snake is extremely important to the overall health of your reptile. King snakes need a secure, dark cave or hide that they can retreat to in order to reduce stress and feel safe. It is best to have two hides in the enclosure with one placed on the hot side and one on the cold side. This is so the king snake can properly control its temperature and feel safe no matter which side they choose. There are a variety of hides available on the market (Sapa and Moss Domes are popular naturalistic options).
Lighting is not necessary but can be used if desired. However, only use lightning up to 12 hours a day as too much lighting can be stressful.
You will want to feed your king snake an appropriate sized rodent every 7 days when they are hatchlings or juveniles. “Appropriate sized” meaning the same size as the largest girth of the snake, normally the mid section. Do not handle the king snake for at least a day after feeding so it can properly digest the meal.
Feed adult king snakes every 1-2 weeks. King snakes are known for going off feed during winter months so do not be alarmed if your king snake stops feeding for a month or two. Simply keep an eye on the snake’s overall condition and weight. Snakes generally do not eat during shed cycles.
Always provide fresh, clean water for your king snake. Make sure to check water daily as snakes will occasionally defecate in their water dish. The size and style of the water dish is up to you.
After the necessities, king snake enclosures can have any variety of decor that help to add enrichment. Spider Wood, Grapevine, and Driftwood are popular climbing implements that provide a different texture and aid in shedding. Natural stones, perches and vines are also a great addition for general stimulation and enrichment with the added benefit of a naturalistic look.
- King snakes often eat other snakes including venomous snakes like copperheads, Agkistrodon contortrix, which is responsible for the most venomous snake bites in the United States. It does this by clamping down on the other snakes jaws, but even if bitten they are immune to pit viper venom.
- King snakes play an extremely important role in the ecosystem by preying on rodents, which destroy crops and carry diseases.
- King snakes can spray musk as a defense mechanism to deter potential predators. This musk is an extremely smelly liquid from their cloacal scent gland and also contains urine and feces.
- Another commonly used defense mechanism for king snakes is to rapidly vibrate their tails. When the tail comes in contact with leaves or substrate it can imitate the sound of a rattle.