Snakes, like lizards and other reptiles, are beautiful and fascinating creatures. As with any pet purchase, you should consider carefully the following before rushing down to the pet store with your money:

Why do I want to buy a snake?

Perhaps this question has to be asked first of a potential snake owner, just as one would question why a man might want to buy a large dog. There are good reasons for owning either, and there are also bad reasons. If you merely want to impress your friends or shock people, I would ask you to think again carefully. On the other hand, the uniqueness of snakes and their ease of maintenance (see below) makes them good pets, provided an appropriate species is chosen.

Do you have any idea which snake you would like to buy?

If the answer to the above is no, a good idea would be to get a book out of the library. In contrast to lizards, it's hard for a beginner to tell different types of snake apart - they all look pretty much the same apart from size and colour. Having kept reptiles for two years, I found I could distinguish different lizards quite quickly but still have to think about snakes. Books will show what is available, and at what level of cost and difficulty. Most are also well endowed with pictures, and as many snakes are display animals more than companion pets, you can see what takes your fancy.

When thinking about the sort of snake you want to purchase, you will need to consider the next lot of questions:

And, most importantly…..

If the answer to all of the above is yes, then it is still a good idea to trot down to the library and do a bit of research. Alternatively there are often books available from pet shops on the snake you are interested in.

Having listed all the potential pitfalls, I should also list the advantages of snakes over some over pets:

Note that the smell and food advantages listed above do not necessarily apply to very large pythons - another reason to avoid these as your first purchase.

In the following section I would like to consider some snakes that are commonly seen for sale, and give my opinion on the level of difficulty of keeping them. Those which I have direct experience of will be marked. All the others I have either read up on to a good degree or spoken to some of their owners.

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