10 Best Pythons and Boa Constrictors to Have as Pets

Best pythons and boas as pets

Pythons and boa constrictors may be intimidating to many people, but these reptiles are laid-back and low-maintenance pets that have a lot to offer the people who decide to keep them in captivity. The pythons and boas to keep as pets might depend on what exactly you are looking for.  

Below you’ll find 10 of the best pythons and boa constrictors to have as a pet. Most of these snakes are suitable even if you don’t have that much experience keeping reptiles since they’re hardy and easy to handle. 

#1 Ball Python

Skill Level: Novice

Lifespan: 20-40 years 

Size: 3.0-6.0 feet

Temperament: Shy as juveniles, but more curious as adults

Native Habitat: Western/Central Africa

Ball pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes on the planet and with good reason. Their small size and friendly temperament make them manageable to keep even into late adulthood. Because they stay smaller than most pythons, they can easily be kept in a 40-gallon aquarium and don’t require the same large enclosures that a full-sized boa might. 

Thanks to extensive and long-lived captive breeding programs, ball pythons also feature some of the most beautiful morphs seen in the snake trade. Some ball python morphs even cost thousands of dollars, but a wild-type ball python is significantly cheaper. 

For ball pythons, temperature regulation is important. Making sure that they have constant access to clean, cool water as well as hides on both the hot and cool sides of their enclosure will allow the snake to keep itself as cool or as warm as it needs to.

Ball pythons are one of the least aggressive snake species available as a pet, and they’re named for the way they will defensively roll up in a ball to protect themselves rather than attack when threatened. They’re also known as the “royal python” because historically members of African royalty have used these live snakes as ceremonial jewelry.  

#2 Hog Island Boa

Skill Level: Intermediate

Lifespan: 15 years 

Size: 4.0-6.0 feet

Temperament: Docile, more docile than mainland boas

Native Habitat: Honduras

Hog Island Boas are one of the subspecies of the common boa constrictor that are found specifically on just a few islands in the nation of Honduras. These boas are both calmer and smaller in size than their mainland boa cousins. 

When the Hog Island Boa was first introduced to the pet trade in the late eighties and early nineties, it was almost driven to extinction by demand. However, its wild populations have since recovered, and the Hog Island Boa is now bred in captivity. 

There is still heated debate in some scientific circles whether the Hog Island Boa is its own species or is simply a subspecies variant of the common boa constrictor. There are convincing arguments on both sides, but for now, the Hog Island Boa is treated as its own type. 

One of the biggest advantages of a Hog Island Boa is that it offers all of the benefits of the full-sized boa constrictor in a smaller tropical package. Along with their smaller size, they also possess a lighter level of melanin that results in the snakes having an attractive peaches-and-cream coloration. 

#3 Common Boa

Skill Level: Intermediate

Lifespan: 20-30 years 

Size: 5.9-9.9 feet

Temperament: Calm and docile

Native Habitat: Northern Mexico to Argentina

Even though they aren’t as easy to care for as a ball python, boa constrictors are the most widely traded reptile in captivity. These medium-large snakes (also known as Columbian boas or red-tailed boas) can be found in nine separate subspecies and are commonly found in the jungles of both Central and South America. 

Common boas are considered better for intermediate reptile keepers since they live for a long time and can get quite large in size, requiring special housing in order to contain them safely. Baby boas can be found quite cheap at reptile shows, but as with ball pythons, designer morphs of boa constrictors run in the thousands of dollars. 

Keep in mind when housing a boa constrictor that they have simple housing needs. Elaborate habitat decor is largely wasted on them, especially when they’re young. Boa constrictors are not arboreal and won’t make much effort to climb branches or other vertical decorations placed in the tank. 

Unlike some snakes, boa constrictors give birth to live babies that are independent and capable of caring for themselves within minutes of birth. This is one of the reasons the boa constrictor is so popular in the captive pet trade too. 

#4 Sand Boa

Skill Level: Novice

Lifespan: 20 years

Size: 2.0-3.0 feet

Temperament: Passive

Native Habitat: Arid and semi-arid regions worldwide

Unlike some snakes that do well with regular handling, sand boas can be easy to stress out by handling and are usually considered more of a display animal. They’re still a good snake for novice reptile keepers though. They have simple maintenance requirements. These snakes are found around the world, and scientists currently recognize thirteen different types.

Sand boas enjoy the sand about as much as their name implies, which means that these snakes enjoy having plenty of sand in their habitats to bury themselves in and dig around. Flat basking rocks and succulents are also a good choice for some desert-themed habitat decor. Sand should be periodically replaced in the tank since it has the potential to harbor bacteria.

When feeding a sand boa, it’s important that the thawed mice you use to feed the snake are dry rather than wet. This is because sand can stick to the wet dead rodents and cause the snake to suffer a digestive impaction in their bowels from it. Sand boas should also be fed pre-killed prey rather than live rodents to prevent them from suffering lethal wounds trying to subdue their prey. 

Sand boas are prized for their dark chocolate markings and their bright orange base color. This gives them a distinct look from other types of pythons and boas. Like other fossorial pythons and boas, the sand boa has a small head with a pointed nose designed for burrowing and digging. 

#5 Spotted Python

Skill Level: Novice-intermediate

Lifespan: 20 years

Size: 2.5-4.5 feet

Temperament: Shy and sometimes nervous

Native Habitat: Northern Australia

The spotted python is also known as an eastern children’s python. It gets its name because it was named after John George Children. Not because it is the best pet snake for children. Its earth-toned spots and recognizable pattern make it a common choice among keepers who prefer wild-type snakes to artificial morphs. 

Despite its somewhat shy and nervous temperament, especially when it is a juvenile, it has an even typically temper as a mature adult. This snake species is not known for being aggressive towards people. While it might show some head shyness early on if it is exposed to jerky movements or there are too many attempts to touch it around its face, it will tolerate being held otherwise. 

An advantage of the spotted python is that even though it’s naturally a little shy, it can be tamed easily with regular handling from its keeper. Owners who make a point to handle their snake every day that it’s not going to be fed will find that spotted pythons become relaxed and friendly over time. 

Spotted pythons are also popular because they have similar builds and markings to their much larger cousins, such as the reticulated python, but they can be kept easily in much smaller tanks and enclosures than large pythons. Even though the spotted python is a miniature snake compared to some of its larger cousins, it is actually the biggest snake in its genus.  

#6 Carpet Python

Skill Level: Intermediate

Lifespan: 20-25 years

Size: 5-9 feet

Temperament: Calm

Native Habitat: Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand

Carpet pythons are also known as jungle carpet pythons due to their native habitat of humid rainforests. Unlike other boas which make their home in or on the ground, carpet pythons are semi-arboreal and are known for climbing trees. This means that, unlike some other pythons, they will often appreciate some horizontal features in their enclosures that allow them to climb.

Carpet pythons are named for their striking markings of crosses, stripes, and spots, which are said to resemble the pattern of an oriental rug or carpet. Carpet python markings range from black to gray in color and can lay over a base color of light yellow to dark brown. 

One of the disadvantages of this python species is that it can be somewhat more uncommon (and more expensive) than other common constricting snakes. It makes up for this by having a smaller size that is easier to maintain than its larger python relatives and a calm temperament that makes it easy to care for. 

Even though they don’t get as large as some boas and pythons, adult carpet pythons are still very large snakes. Adults will require an enclosure that is at least four feet in length to house them properly. 

#7 Woma Python

Skill Level: Intermediate

Lifespan: 20 years

Size: 4.5-6.0 feet

Temperament: Gentle and tolerant of handling

Native Habitat: Central/Western Australia

The Woma python is a popular Australian python that is well-known for its striking sand-colored striped pattern and its thick, stout body. These snakes are masters of camouflage and are just as comfortable in grassland environments as they are in the forest. 

One of the coolest features of the Woma python is the texture of its scales. This snake is especially smooth and glossy to the touch, making it delightful to hold for all ages. These ultra-smooth scales point to the Woma python’s origins as a fossorial python or a python that spends the majority of its time burrowing in the ground.

When feeding the Woma python, it’s important to use tongs or blunted tweezers to offer food rather than offering it by hand. While Woma pythons are known for being gentle and easy to handle, they can also get very enthusiastic around mealtime and might accidentally bite the hand that feeds them.  

An interesting fact about the woma python is that while it does kill its prey through suffocation and crushing, it doesn’t usually constrict its prey by surrounding it as other pythons would. In the underground burrows where it hunts, there’s no room for this type of constriction. Instead, Woma pythons are known for killing their prey by crushing it against the sides of its burrow. 

#8 Rosy Boa

Skill Level: Novice

Lifespan: 15-30+ years

Size: 2.0-3.0 feet

Temperament: Docile and easy-going

Native Habitat: Southwestern United States

The rosy boa is the only boa on this list that comes from the United States, but it’s a popular pet around the world. This little boa comes in several different subtypes and colors, and it’s also available for a very reasonable price compared to other species. This makes it a great option for beginners, especially since it also has a laid-back personality. 

The housing requirements of rosy boas aren’t complicated, but it’s very important to make sure that the snake’s tank is completely escape-proof. These small snakes are capable of squeezing through some seriously tiny gaps, so if you don’t want to have an impromptu snake search in your house, you’ll make sure there aren’t any gaps for them to find. 

It’s also important to make sure there isn’t anything on the cover of the tank that could cause the rosy boa’s nose to become scraped. Abrasion wounds in snakes from trying to escape their enclosures can lead to bacterial infections and other medical complications. 

Rosy boas are nocturnal snakes, which means that you might not see much activity out of them during daylight hours. The best time to see this snake active is at dawn and dusk since it will still be active from the night, but won’t have settled down for a day of basking yet. 

#9 Dumeril’s Boa

Skill Level: Novice- Intermediate

Lifespan: 20 Years 

Size: 3.0-7.0 feet

Temperament: Calm and docile

Native Habitat: Madagascar

These medium-sized snakes from Madagascar are popular snakes because they feature a light iridescent sheen similar to the Rainbow Boa that causes them to reflect a rainbow-colored glow when exposed to direct light. Dumeril’s Boas have a light cream-colored body with a dark splotchy pattern overlaid on their base coloring. 

In Dumeril’s boas and other snakes with iridescence, this effect is known as thin-film interference. This causes the light to be broken up into its spectra as it strikes the top layer of the snake’s skin, which refracts light at a different index than the layer of skin directly beneath it. This is the same effect that causes a rainbow pattern on oil spilled in a puddle of water. 

As far as snakes for beginner snake keepers, the Dumeril’s boa is vastly underrated. This cuddly snake is one of the most tolerant boas or pythons when it comes to handling. This species is so mellow that its scientific name, Acrantophis, means “lazy snake”.

Even though there are no significant threats to this snake species in the wild, they are killed by Madagascar natives as a symbol of bad luck. They also have the bad luck of being common in areas where humans have heavily settled, which makes them a threat to local free-range livestock such as chickens and guinea hens. 

#10 Rainbow Boa

Skill Level: Intermediate

Lifespan: 20-25 years

Size: 4.0-6.0 feet

Temperament: Nippy as juveniles, calm as adults

Native Habitat: Amazon river basin

Rainbow boas are so named because they display a strong iridescence that changes their color like a living opal depending on where the light is hitting them. This is especially attractive since rainbow boas are more active than many other python or boa species, so the light is always hitting them in new and beautiful ways. 

The most common rainbow boa is the Brazilian rainbow boa, but the designation “rainbow boa” is given to many different boa subspecies that display an irridescent sheen to their scales. Even though they are found in many different regions around the world, all rainbow boas can be kept with generally the same type of care.

Because these snakes originate from the rainforest, they appreciate a high level of humidity. However, these snakes also require ventilation and regular cage cleanings to prevent them from developing respiratory issues.

Like many other jungle-based boas and pythons, rainbow boas are semi-arboreal. This means that while they will spend a lot of their time on the floor of their enclosure, they also appreciate having a few branches or other vertical decorations in their tanks to climb.  

Boas and Pythons Make Great Pets

Though they might seem an odd choice for someone who has never kept a snake as a pet before, boas and pythons are some of the easiest types of snakes to care for if you’re just getting started in the hobby. With their beautiful markings and their calm dispositions, these serpents are the perfect choice for both new and veteran snake keepers. 

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