Grey Banded King Snakes as Exotic Pets - Care Sheet

Grey Banded King Snakes are excellent Exotic Pets available from Predators of Shipley

Grey Banded King Snakes are excellent Exotic Pets available from Predators of Shipley

The Grey Banded King Snake (Lampropeltis alterna) make an interesting Exotic Pet due to their energetic and inquisitive nature.  Growing to no more than 3 feet, the snake is a relatively docile reptile.

The Grey Banded King Snake can be easily tamed and make a good choice for the new snake keeper. The King Snake may try and bite when cornered, but this is a defensive tactic that will cease when the snake becomes more comfortable with your presence. The bite itself rarely hurts and as an Exotic Pet, should not put you off buying the Greay Banded King Snake.

King Snakes are an active snake and will love time outside of the vivarium to exercise. Being known to be nippy, the King Snake with regular handling will calm down over time.

For beginners, the King Snake is a good choice as an Exotic Pet and with regular handling remains safe.

If you are unsure, please contact us so we can answer your questions.

King Snakes Size

King snakes grow to approx 4 feet in length. Although this sounds quite large they are only slim and they are a relatively small snake.

King Snakes Temperament

Friendly and active but they can be nervous when young. Excellent for a first reptile or for children to handle. They are diurnal so are awake and active during the day and sleep at night.

King Snakes Vivarium Setup

A baby king snake should be kept in a vivarium approx 18" x 12" x 12". This should be large enough to house your snake until it is approx 9 or 10 months old and then will need upgrading to an adult size vivarium. It is important not to put a baby snake into a large vivarium as this can put them off feeding as they don't feel secure. Adults will require a 36"x18"x18" vivarium.

King snakes are cannibals so must be kept by themselves.

Temperature Control

King snakes are exothermic so their vivs require a hot end and a cool end to enable them to regulate their temperature. The hot end should be around 34?C (90?F) and the cool end around 28?C (80?F) during the day. The temperature at night should not drop lower than 22?C (70?F).

Heating / Lighting

Use a flat sided reflector bulb in the hot end of the viv to regulate the temperature this is your main heat source in your viv so needs to be replaced as soon as the bulb goes the bulb should be on 10 to 12 hours a day and switched off at night.

A heat mat no longer than the length of the viv should also be placed in the hot end this can be left on all the time to provide some heat during the night. (Note in a baby snake vivarium a heat mat is normally sufficient to heat the tank a bulb would not normally be required.)


Recommended substrate would be beech chippings but you could also use Ground Walnut Shells or Aspen.

Feeding / Water

Baby king snakes require feeding twice a week, adults will sometimes drop to once a week feeding but some continue to take twice a week this will depend on the appetite of your snake. They feed on rodents the size of the food will depend on the age and size of your snake. If you are unsure what size to offer please ask for advice. All food offered should be already dead it is illegal to feed live in the UK. Rodents can be bought frozen and stored in your freezer. Food should be fully defrosted at room temperature before offering to your snake. Once defrosted if a mouse is not eaten remove it the following day and throw away do not try and re-freeze. It is normal for a snake to miss a feed if they are in shed if they miss a feed wait until they have finished shedding then offer when they are next due feeding.

Snakes should always have access to clean, fresh water. Keep their water bowl in the cool end of the viv and change daily or every other day.


When your snake is coming up to shed you will notice it's eyes go a milky colour, they will normally then shed a few days later. They should shed all in one go but if they have a "patchy" shed and have places where the old scales haven't come off you can give them a warm bath or buy shedding spray to help remove the old scales. It is important that you make sure all the shed comes off the tip of the snakes tail or it can cut off the circulation and the tip of the tail may go dead and fall off.


Spot clean twice a week and remove any mess, as they only eat once or twice a week they will only mess once or twice a week. Give them a full clean out every 3 weeks or more regularly if required. Do NOT use any household or domestic cleaners in or around the vivarium as they contain harmful and potentially lethal chemicals. Reptile disinfectant can be used in the tank and as a glass cleaner.

It is good practice to wash your hands before and after handling your animal and especially after cleaning your tank or removing waste.

King Snake Vital Stats

  • Experience:  NOVICE - A good snake as your first Exotic Pet.
  • Life span:  The average King Snake will live for around 15 in captivity but can live up to 20 years with the appropriate care.
  • Size:  King Snake reach a mature size of 4.5 - 6.5 feet but can grow up to 7 feet.
  • Price:   The King Snake is a relatively inexpensive snake.
  • Enclousure:  King Snakes do not require a large vivarium and as a rule, the enclosure should be a minimum of 36" x 18" x 18".
  • Feeding:  Your King Snake will eat mice.
  • Legal issues:  There were no legal issues when keeping a King Snake as a pet in the UK at the time of writing this article.

Warning:  King snakes are known for their cannibalistic tendencies, so it is important that they are housed individually to avoid any mishaps.

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