Desert Kingsnake Care Guide: Tips & Tricks

Are you interested in owning a beautiful and fascinating nonvenomous snake? The desert kingsnake may be just the species for you. Found in rural, semi-arid habitats in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, these snakes are known for their striking patterns and docile temperament. However, as with any pet, proper care is essential for their health and well-being.

In this comprehensive care guide, you will learn everything you need to know about taking care of a desert kingsnake. From housing requirements to feeding instructions, breeding guidelines to general care tips, we’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced reptile keeper, this guide will provide you with the information you need to keep your desert kingsnake healthy and happy. So, let’s dive in and learn how to care for these amazing snakes!

Key Takeaways

  • Desert kingsnakes are nonvenomous and prefer to burrow into the ground, bask in the sun, and swim to catch their prey.
  • A full-sized desert kingsnake needs an enclosure of at least 30 gallons with enough height to accommodate a deep layer of substrate for burrowing.
  • To breed a pair of desert kingsnakes in captivity, one needs to select one healthy, well-fed male and female, condition them by not feeding them for 15 days, and establish a separate breeding enclosure with the same temperature and decorations as the home enclosures.
  • Caring for desert kingsnakes is easy as long as they are handled gently and housed in clean enclosures, and they can be infested with external parasites like ticks and mites.

Species Information

You’ll be happy to know that desert kingsnakes are nonvenomous and prefer to burrow into the ground, bask in the sun, and swim to catch their prey in rural, semi-arid habitats like grasslands, abandoned farms, woodlands, and deserts.

Their dark brown or black bodies with yellow patterning make them a striking sight to behold in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, the desert kingsnake population is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to urban development, agriculture, and livestock grazing. Conservation efforts are being made to protect their habitats and preserve their populations in the wild.

In captivity, desert kingsnakes can live for 10 to 15 years and require an enclosure that mimics their natural habitat. Their enclosure should have enough height to accommodate a deep layer of substrate for burrowing and their humidity should be between 50% and 75%.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to provide them with a clean and spacious environment to thrive in captivity.

Housing Requirements

To provide a comfortable living space for your pet, ensure that the enclosure has enough height to accommodate a deep layer of substrate for burrowing, such as Cypress mulch or aspen bedding. The enclosure should be at least 30 gallons for a fully-grown desert kingsnake. The size of the enclosure should be considered to allow your pet to move around and have enough space to burrow.

The humidity in the enclosure should be between 50% and 75% to provide a comfortable and healthy environment for your pet. The best substrate for a desert kingsnake tank is a natural substrate that’s soft enough for the snake to burrow in. The substrate should be deep enough to allow your pet to burrow and feel secure.

Cypress mulch and aspen bedding are good substrate options to consider. It’s important to deep-clean the enclosure once a week to maintain a clean and healthy environment for your pet.

Feeding Instructions

Feeding your pet desert kingsnake once a week is crucial to maintain its health and high prey drive. These snakes are carnivores and feed on a variety of prey options, including rodents, lizards, and other small animals. It’s best to feed them pre-killed prey that’s about the same size as the widest part of their body.

Live prey can be dangerous for both the snake and the prey, so it’s not recommended. When feeding your desert kingsnake, make sure to provide fresh water in a shallow dish, as they may drink after eating. Additionally, it’s essential to monitor their weight and adjust feeding frequency accordingly.

Overfeeding can lead to obesity and health issues, while underfeeding can result in malnutrition. By providing a balanced diet and maintaining proper feeding frequency, your desert kingsnake will thrive in captivity.

Breeding Guidelines

Breeding your desert kingsnake can be a rewarding experience if you follow these simple guidelines. First, choose a healthy and well-fed male and female for breeding. It’s crucial to condition the snakes by not feeding them for 15 days before placing them in a separate breeding enclosure with the same temperature and decorations as their home enclosures.

Once you have set up the breeding enclosure, put the male and female in it, and gradually reduce the temperature to around 70°F. Copulation takes between 10 minutes and several hours, and once the snakes have finished mating, remove the male from the enclosure.

The female will be gravid for up to 70 days and will lay between 5 and 12 eggs. Place the eggs in an incubator for up to 60 days until they hatch. Remember to maintain the incubation temperature at around 82-86°F for optimal results.

Care and Health Tips

When handling your pet desert kingsnake, remember to be gentle and always wash your hands before and after to prevent the spread of bacteria.

These snakes are easy to take care of, but they can suffer from respiratory infections like colds and pneumonia. To prevent these infections, make sure their enclosure is clean and well-ventilated. If you notice any signs of respiratory distress, like wheezing or discharge from the nose or mouth, take your snake to a reptile veterinarian for treatment.

Desert kingsnakes can also be infested with external parasites like ticks and mites. To deal with ectoparasites, thoroughly clean and sanitize the enclosure and decorations, and use commercial parasite treatments designed for reptiles. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully and monitor your snake for any signs of re-infestation.

With proper care and attention, your pet desert kingsnake can live a long and healthy life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any specific types of enrichment activities that are recommended for desert kingsnakes?

Enrichment ideas for desert kingsnakes include providing hiding spots, climbing structures, and puzzle feeders. Benefits of enrichment include reducing boredom and stress, promoting natural behaviors, and increasing overall well-being.

Can desert kingsnakes be kept with other snake species or should they always be housed alone?

Desert kingsnakes should always be housed alone, as they may become territorial and aggressive towards other snakes. Pros and cons of snake cohabitation include increased socialization, but also increased risk of stress and disease. Housing options for desert kingsnakes should prioritize a spacious enclosure with adequate substrate for burrowing.

How long does it typically take for a desert kingsnake to become comfortable with handling?

Handling progress with a desert kingsnake depends on the individual snake’s personality and previous experiences. It can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks for them to become comfortable with handling. Body language and communication are key indicators of their comfort level.

Are there any common misconceptions about desert kingsnake care that you would like to address?

Common misconceptions about desert kingsnake care include that they require high humidity and frequent handling. In reality, they prefer low to moderate humidity and handling should be limited. Important considerations include providing a suitable enclosure and proper feeding schedule.

Do desert kingsnakes have any unique behaviors or traits that make them stand out from other species of kingsnakes?

Desert kingsnakes stand out from other kingsnake species with their unique behaviors and adaptations to arid environments. They prefer burrowing, basking, and swimming to catch prey. Their hunting strategies include constriction and venomous bites.


Congratulations! You now have all the knowledge you need to care for your very own desert kingsnake.

Remember, just like any other living creature, your snake needs proper housing, nutrition, and care to thrive. Make sure to provide a spacious and secure enclosure with the appropriate temperature and humidity levels, and feed your snake a balanced diet of mice or rats.

Breeding your desert kingsnake can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to do your research and follow proper guidelines to ensure the health and wellbeing of both the parents and offspring.

With proper care and attention, your desert kingsnake can live a long and vibrant life, bringing joy and fascination to your world.

As you embark on this journey with your scaly friend, remember to always treat them with respect and care, and enjoy the wonder and beauty of this magnificent species.

Alain Grant

I'm Alain, a passionate reptile enthusiast and the creator A blog sharing my 15 years of hands-on experience in caring for reptiles, my goal is to provide valuable insights, practical tips, and reliable information to fellow reptile lovers. Contact me at for assistance.

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