When I was 17 years old, my uncle gave me a Ball Python named Pedro. While my uncle meant well, he had little knowledge of snakes and how big they can get. I was thrown into the deep end and had to find out if my snake would grow to the size of its tank or whether I’d have to keep investing in a new enclosure as Pedro grew.
Snakes will grow in size regardless of their habitat, as long as they have access to the correct diet and climate. However, some snakes exhibit stress when in a tank that is too large or too small. A snake’s tank size should be increased as it grows.
There’s a lot to understand about how snakes grow in relation to their tanks and what you need to know about it to ensure your pet is safe. Thanks to my research with Pedro the pet python, I’ve got you covered.
Table of Contents
Do Snakes Grow to the Size of their Tanks?
Snakes do not grow to the size of their environments. In fact, the very opposite is true! Snakes are what are known as ‘indeterminate growers‘. This means that it’s actually difficult to know the exact size a snake will grow to.
Just like many lizards and amphibians, as indeterminate growers, most snakes continue to grow throughout their lives until they die. The rate of growth does change, however.
When they are very young, also known as a snakelet, snakes grow at a fast rate until they reach adulthood. After that, the rate of growth slows, but they can still keep growing until they reach the end of their lifespan.
Where Does this Myth Come From?
It’s likely that the myth about snakes growing to the size of their tank comes from two places:
- Other pets like goldfish growing to the size of their tanks (which is actually not true either)
- Unscrupulous or ill-informed pet shop owners trying to sell snakes and make it look less hassle to care for them.
What if a Snake is too Big for its Tank?
So, you have a python or another breed and it’s getting BIG. What will happen to the animal if the tank gets too small?
Two things will inevitably happen in this circumstance if you don’t do something about it. You will either be forced to give your pet up or it will get sick.
It’s common for inexperienced snake owners to have a safety plan in the back of their heads: If the snake gets too big, I’ll just give it to a pet shop or a zoo!
Good luck with that!
Zoos and many pet shops won’t be interested in keeping your pet snake because it could carry disease and is probably a very common breed.
Your best bet is to get a new tank, one that is suitable for your snake’s breed and age. If you don’t and you keep your snake in cramped conditions, your snake will start to show symptoms of animal abuse, including:
Like any animal, if a snake doesn’t have enough space to happily eat, sleep, and live, then it will become stressed.
Stress has been proven to negatively impact the immune system, increase the risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease, and raise blood pressure. Essentially, a highly stressed animal will get sick eventually.
A snake that isn’t able to move around and explore its environment somewhat, is liable to suffer from lethargy. This manifests as reduced movement and response to stimuli.
This varies wildly depending on the species. Some snakes don’t move around very much and like to hide, while others are more naturally active. This will influence the size of the tank you should buy (more on that in a minute).
If your tank is too small, your snake might feel uneasy about the way food is presented to it. Snakes are great hunters, but they prefer their food to be in front of them when they go in for the kill, not climbing all over their bodies!
Escape Response: Most animals have what’s known as an escape response if they feel in danger or feel trapped. This is an instinctual behavior designed to immediately remove an animal from a threat.
Depending on the snake, this can manifest itself as aggression, playing dead (death feigning), or trying to escape the immediate environment.
What Does Stunt Snake Growth?
Even though tank enclosure size won’t stop your snake from growing, there are a number of other factors that can limit your pet snake’s size, and in some cases permanently. These include:
- Not eating enough
- Poor habitat conditions such as incorrect temperature or lighting. These can cause feeding confusion.
General neglect can therefore result in a snake not reaching its adult size, but don’t worry, if you’re a caring snake owner you can make sure your snake gets all the care it needs. Many snakes are not that demanding, you can even leave your snake alone to go on vacation!
Should I just get the Largest Tank?
It can also be a mistake to get the largest tank available for your snake. You would think this would be a good thing, but the truth is that some snakes will become stressed if their environment is too large. But why is this?
Snakes like to hide. A large environment can be too open for a snake, making the animal unsetted.
While creating a more secluded environment so that your snake has plenty of hides is a great idea, you’re better to buy a tank based on the exact snake species and its age.
Younger snakes will require a smaller tank. This can also make looking after a young snake easier as, in a smaller environment, it’s easier to keep an eye on them and know where they are.
Recommended Tanks Sizes for Pet Snakes
While it’s impossible to provide an exhaustive list of every snake species and their ideal tank size, here’s a handy table listing the more common snake species and their habitat requirements.
|Ball Python||20 gallon||30 – 40 gallons and up|
|Blood Python||20 gallon||40 gallon|
|Black Rat Snake||20 gallon||30 – 40 gallons. Tall Tank.|
|Burmese Python||10 – 20 gallon||4ft by 8ft floor space|
|California King Snake||10 gallon||20 gallon|
|Carpet Python||10 – 15 gallons for the first year. 40 Gallon after.||At least 4ft by 2ft floor space, 2ft in height.|
|Corn Snake||10 gallon||20 gallon|
|Garter Snake||5 gallon||15 – 20 gallons|
|Gopher Snake||20 gallon||30 – 40 gallons depending on size|
|Green Tree Python||20 – 30 gallon||40 – 50 gallons. High height is essential.|
|Kenyan Sand Boa||10 gallon||10 – 20 gallons at most.|
|Rosy Boa||10 – 15 gallon||20 – 30 gallon|
|Red-Tail Boa||10 gallon||8ft – 10ft by 2ft. At least 2ft high.|
|Milk Snake||10 gallon||20 – 70 gallons depending on size.|
I hope this article has been helpful. It’s a common myth that enclosure size stunts snake growth, and so it’s good to put the record straight.
If you have any questions about your snake and the size of its enclosure, leave a comment and I’d be delighted to lend any assistance I can. Thanks for reading!