How To Take Care Of California Kingsnake – Species Profile, Facts And Care Guide

California kingsnakes are creatures of fascinating contrasts. According to some, its name derives from its willingness to eat other snakes, including some venomous ones. In spite of snake venom’s debilitating effects, king snakes have an amazing resistance to it. Taking care of california kingsnake is easy and won’t take much effort.

The California king is recommended for anyone who wants to get started with snakes. These snakes make an excellent option for beginners.

Life Cycle and Origin

California kingsnakes are scientifically known as Lampropeltis Getula California and they are native to central Oregon, south-central Utah, northern Sonora, and much of Baja California. Pets are typically captive-bred and hatched. In particular, the many color and pattern variants that have been developed by hobbyists today are evidence of this. Yet, the pet trade still collects these snakes from the wild. California kingsnakes have a life span of 20 years or more.

Physical Appearance

The California kingsnake is about a foot long when it hatches. In the first two years of their life, they can grow up to 4 feet long, but the average adult size of this snake is 2.5 to 3.5 feet.

A California kingsnake has smooth (non-keeled) scales and a rather narrow head. In addition to their black and brown colors, they also occur in a wide variety of patterns and colors. Despite appearing translucent, hatchlings have the same pattern and color as adults. Specimens found in the wild have a brown or black ground color and white or cream stripes of varying widths. A white vertebral stripe may be present on other wild specimens in lieu of bands. Occasionally, wild specimens can have both bands and stripes. Both phases of albinos exist in the wild. Herpetoculturists have developed a variety of non-natural color morphs including half-white, half-brown California Kingsnake, striped and banded, either or both. As a result of the interbreeding, new colors and patterns frequently develop.

Are California Kingsnakes Good Pets?

The docile yet outgoing temperament of this species makes it a favorite among new keepers. Additionally, they are hardy snakes that thrive in captivity.

The setup for captive kingsnake is not complicated, and they do well on thawed frozen mice. They need a safe 40-gallon tank, a basking spot, and a temperature of 80 degrees during the day.


  • The tank setup is not difficult and the kingsnakes are easy to care for.
  • Comparatively, they are very inexpensive and cost less than $100.
  • Many colors and patterns are available.


  • Due to their eager nature during feeding, they may bite accidentally.
  • Kingsnakes can reach a length of four feet and require a larger tank than most pet snakes.
  • Because of their flighty temperament, juveniles can be hard to handle.


California kingsnakes are relatively gentle. They become entirely tractable when handled regularly and gently.

Although the California kingsnake can climb, it is essentially a terrestrial snake that stays on the ground. They are secretive, especially when shedding their skin, but they may occasionally emerge from beneath boulders or debris on the surface to bask.

Many people see them crossing roads at night. Most of their activity occurs during the daytime, but they may also be active at dusk and in the early evening. Until they are hungry, they tend to remain quiet. When they are hungry, they emerge to seek food.

When they are ready to breed, males go hunting for females. California kingsnakes need to be separated from one another due to their cannibalistic tendencies.

California Kingsnake Care Guide

If you are the proud owner of a California kingsnake, you will want to make sure you know how to take care of it properly. This includes providing a safe and comfortable habitat, making sure it has the proper food and water and keeping it healthy.


In order to accommodate a 4-foot adult, there should be at least 12 by 30 inches of floor space (the size of a 20-gallon aquarium). You should provide furniture for the cage, such as cork bark or commercial hides. Your snake should not be injured by shifting or falling furniture.

To prevent kingsnakes from pushing at a weak spot in their cage, make sure the terrarium or cage has a tightly fitting cover that locks in place.

Newspaper, corrugated cardboard, paper towels, dry leaves, or dry mulch may be used as substrates for bedding. Make sure the snakes do not come in contact with bare bulbs or ceramic heating units.

There are also under cage heaters you can use. Temperatures in the cage should be 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 82 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. You can keep your snake warm and active all winter long if it is merely a pet. You will have a better chance of breeding your California kingsnake if it is chilled or hibernated.

Ensure that there is always a shallow bowl of freshwater available.

Temperature and Humidity

The basking spot in their enclosure should be slightly hotter than the rest.

A temperature of 80 degrees should be set during the day and 90 degrees should be set for basking.

If natural light can reach their enclosure, they do not require specific UVA or UVB lights.

Around 72 degrees should be the temperature at night.

It is possible to maintain 72 degrees using under-tank heaters. However, they should be regulated frequently, since if not used properly they can cause traumatic burns. Only one-third of the vivarium should have an under-tank heater. Overheating will be prevented.

They should have a dry substrate that won’t absorb moisture. By keeping the skin dry, they will be healthier.

The best substrates for California Kingsnakes are aspen shavings. Shavings from aspen trees closely resemble their natural habitat and do not absorb moisture. Pelletized paper bedding or cypress shavings are also suitable substrates.

To shed properly, California Kingsnakes need a humidity of around 50%. Keep their enclosure moist by misting twice daily.

Do not mist more than twice, as too much moisture can result.

A large enough water bowl should be included in the enclosure for your snake to soak in. When your snake is soaking, ensure that the bowl is deep enough to prevent water from flooding the rest of the cage.

It is important to change the water every day and to scrub the dish every week. Various bacterial infections can be transmitted to snakes through dirty water.

It is recommended to replace the bedding once a week and to thoroughly clean the cage once a month using soap and water.


If there is enough natural light, snakes don’t require artificial light, and California kingsnakes are no different. When possible, keep your snake’s enclosure close to a window, but make sure the enclosure is never exposed to direct sunlight. The sun will heat up the enclosure beyond what is recommended above.

There may be a place in your home where you can simulate day/night cycles through artificial lighting. A bright LED bulb placed right above the enclosure should accomplish the task. You will need to take steps to combat the heat that will be produced by artificial lighting.

Using UV lighting is also recommended as a way to provide snakes with UV light on a daily basis. A UV bulb installed in the enclosure may prove beneficial to your snake’s health, even though California kingsnakes can survive without UV light.

Your California kingsnake should not be kept in a room with artificial light at night. Red bulbs that are marketed as “nighttime” are likely to irritate your snake.

You can try to simulate moonlight through very dim lights if you wish to see your snake at night, but no light is the best.

Substrate (Bedding)

In snake enclosures, the substrate is an underlying substance or layer. The California kingsnake burrows. Unlike in the wild, they usually find unused burrows to regulate their temperature, so it is a good idea to simulate this environment in your enclosure.

For your snake, you can choose from a variety of substrates and bedding. Check out these substrates:

You can use ReptiBark, orchid bark, or coconut husk. California kingsnakes prefer burrowing with materials like these. All of them are fairly affordable and look like wood chips.

Shavings of aspen trees. Snakes burrow in tree shavings that hold their shape and allow them to hold their shape while burrowing.

Regardless of what substrate you choose, you should change the vivarium’s material every month to keep it fresh, clean, and healthy.


In captive rodents are the only prey, but in the wild, this snake consumes a wide variety of foods. Aside from rodents and insectivorous mammals, the diet of this species includes ground-nesting birds and their eggs, turtle eggs and hatchlings, snake eggs, and snakes of all kinds (including their own species), as well as frogs and lizards. During constriction, prey items are killed, but large items may be too large for kingsnakes to swallow. Prey should have a diameter that is slightly smaller than that of the snake’s head.

The bite of a live rodent, if it is not eaten immediately, or if it is gripped incorrectly by the snake, can cause death or serious injury to your snake. Pre-killed prey should only be offered to snakes.

Handling Your California Kingsnake

California kingsnakes need to be handled quite regularly. The snakes might consider you a threat at first. That’s totally normal. As long as you handle them frequently, they’ll get used to you quickly. These are a few things to avoid when handling king snakes, though not all of them are mentioned here:

  • Squeezing or gripping your kingsnake. Keep your hands open when handling your snake.
  • Shedding before handling. If your kingsnake’s eyes turn murky or hazy, it’s time to shed
  • You should not handle your snake within 24 hours after it has been feed.

The bite of a California kingsnake is not uncommon. It is possible that these snakes bite if they smell like prey. If you smell like a snake, they might bite you. They eat other snakes. In fact, they might even bite you because you smell like them.

While their bites could draw blood, they are unlikely to cause serious damage. There is usually no problem with these snakes because they have small teeth.

You will become more comfortable handling your snake as you handle it regularly. Generally, California kingsnakes are easy to handle and well-tempered. Despite this, some snake breeds are known to be nippy.

Common Health Problems Of California Kingsnakes

Knowing California kingsnake health issues is an important part of proper care. Respiratory infections, infectious diseases, and parasites are some of the most common health problems. 

Preventing pneumonia and colds is primarily a matter of maintaining the right temperatures.

If your snake makes a wheezing sound when it breathes, ask for veterinary help. One of the signs that your California kingsnake has a problem is if it holds its head up and keeps its mouth open. Consult your veterinarian if you notice these signs.

Other common health issues include mouth rot and ulcerative stomatitis, which occur when something gets stuck in your snake’s mouth. The gums and teeth can become infected, and you will notice yellow pus around them. Your mouth and gums may also swell. You should seek medical attention immediately if this happens.

Lastly, parasites can be a problem. Buying a healthy captive-bred California kingsnake is the best way to prevent this. Additionally, do not bring anything from outside, such as rocks or logs, into the snake enclosure.

Nevertheless, your snake is still susceptible to parasites. The most common parasites are ticks and mites. Snake mites are likely to be a problem if you plan to keep snakes.

If you see any kind of bug or what looks like small, circular dots on your snake or in its cage, you might have an issue with mites. California kingsnakes can suffer fatal injuries from ants. As soon as you see mites, you should handle the situation immediately.

Snake mites can be removed with a variety of great products.  You should not only remove mites from your snake’s body, but also from its enclosure. Use products designed for cleaning enclosures.


California kingsnakes make terrific pets when they are properly cared for. First-time snake owners will find them a great choice. However, they live long lives and can be a bit nippy. If you plan on getting one, make sure you are prepared for the commitment.

They require little space and are relatively mild-mannered. Only informational purposes are intended with this California kingsnake care guide. Be sure to research a California kingsnake thoroughly before purchasing it.

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