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includes rat, corn, african house and king snakes

These snakes belong to the genera of the Colubridae family. They are native to temperate and subtropical areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.


Colubrids Facts

Average Adult Size 1 to 6 feet long, depending on species
Average Life Span up to 15 years with proper care, depending on species
Diet carnivore

Will reach adult size in 2-3 years, depending on species and under ideal conditions; upgrade habitat size as your snake grows.


A well-balanced Colubrid diet consists of:

  • Appropriate size frozen rodents, thawed/warmed to above room temperature.
  • If feeding your snake live rodents, do not leave them unattended. Live rodents can injure the snake, sometimes fatally.


Things to remember when feeding your Colubrid:

  • Feed juveniles once or twice a week, adults every one to two weeks.
  • Feed in a separate tank so that your snake doesn't associate your hand or the habitat being opened with feeding.


  • Size – appropriate size and shape habitat for an adult Colubrid to accommodate normal behavior and exercise, at least a 20 long to 40 breeder. Substrate - aspen shavings, mulch-type such as coconut fiber bedding or reptile bark; dampened sphagnum moss. Avoid gravel and artificial turf (too harsh for skin).
  • Habitat – provide a hiding area just large enough for your snake to fit inside and a branch or decor to climb on. Maintain 40- 60% humidity; higher during shedding.
  • Temperature – temperature gradient (85°F for the warm end and 70° for the cool end); recommend radiant heat; use an incandescent light as primary heat source, use under tank heater as secondary source.
  • Lighting – snakes need a photoperiod light cycle; provide 8-12 hours of light daily. Don't leave white light on at all times; a black or infrared light should be used at night.
  • House adult Colubrids alone and do not house different snake species together.

Normal Behavior

  • As snake gets ready to shed, eyes will turn a milky blue/grey over the course of a few days and body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen. May become irritable, avoid handling if needed.
  • Appetite may vary.

Habitat Maintenance

  • Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week: place snake in a secure habitat; scrub the tank and furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all traces of bleach smell; dry the tank and furnishings completely and add clean substrate.

Grooming & Hygiene

  • Snakes will regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow snake to shed properly.


Signs of a Healthy Animal

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes (except when shedding)
  • Eats regularly
  • Healthy skin
  • Sheds regularly
  • Sheds skin in one complete piece

Red Flags

  • unusually frequent or infrequent shedding
  • vomiting
  • lethargic or reluctant to eat
  • abnormal feces
  • bumps or spots on skin
  • labored breathing
  • difficulty shedding
  • white, cheesy substance in mouth

If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Dermatitis Symptoms or Causes Blisters, rapid shedding caused by an unclean habitat or one that is too cold or damp. Suggested Action Consult your exotic animal veterinarian, clean the habitat and lower humidity.
Health Issue Respiratory disease Symptoms or Causes Labored breathing, mucus in mouth or nostrils. Can be caused by a habitat that is too cold or damp. Suggested Action Consult your exotic animal veterinarian and keep snake warm and dry.
Health Issue Stomatitis Symptoms or Causes White, cheesy substance in the mouth, loss of teeth and appetite. If untreated, can be fatal. Suggested Action Immediately consult your exotic animal veterinarian.
Health Issue Ticks and mites Symptoms or Causes Parasites on skin, can transmit disease. Suggested Action Consult your exotic animal veterinarian.


Ask an associate about Petco's selection of books on Colubrids and the variety of Petco Brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All Petco Brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all snakes are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your snake and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5 and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing and/or caring for a snake and should consider not having a snake as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about snakes and disease.

This care sheet can cover the care needs of other species.

Note: The information in this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please refer to the sources on the following page or contact your veterinarian as appropriate.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.