Ringneck Snakes as Pets: Everything You Need to Know

Ringneck Snakes as Pets-Everything You Need to Know

Ringnecks are popular among those looking for a pet snake, but their delicate nature makes them less suitable for beginner owners. This is because ringnecks are sensitive, requiring precise habitat conditions and diet to remain healthy.

If you have your heart set on a cold-blooded pet and are considering a ringneck snake, there are some things you should know about them. What to feed them, how to handle them, and if they are aggressive or not are just a few of the questions people ask.

Are Ringneck Snakes Good Pets?

At first glance, their small size and calm nature might make them seem like the ideal small pet snake. However, you should also consider their specific care needs and traits to decide if a ringneck is the right pet for you.

The Appeal of Ringneck Snakes

  • Small size: Adult ringnecks, reaching lengths of only 10 to 15 inches, can fit into a medium-sized terrarium or enclosure.
  • Mild temperament: Ringnecks tend to be calm and docile when handled.
  • Uncommon pet: Having a less common snake like a ringneck can be intriguing for some enthusiasts.

Challenges of Keeping Ringneck Snakes

While ringnecks have many qualities that look good on paper, the reality of caring for them poses some notable challenges:

  • Delicate feeders: Although they eat little, it can be difficult to establish a consistent feeding routine for ringnecks.
  • Escape artists: Their slender bodies allow them to squeeze through tiny gaps in enclosures. Preventing escapees can prove challenging for owners.
  • Specialist veterinarian needed: Finding exotic vets who treat snakes is hard, and it’s even harder to find those experienced with rare, small species like ringneck snakes. This makes adequate medical care difficult to find if health issues arise.
  • Relatively short lifespan: Captive ringnecks unfortunately don’t tend to have very long lifespans. Consider the ringnecks’ relatively short lifespan when deciding on the commitment to care for them.
  • Specialized care: While their care doesn’t need to be complex, there are particulars to factors like temperature gradients that require specific knowledge. Ringnecks have different needs than popular beginner snakes like ball pythons or corn snakes.

The challenges in feeding them, preventing escapes, and managing stress make their care more difficult than it seems at first.

How Long Does a Ringneck Snake Live?

A ringneck snake living in the wild, and who is lucky enough to avoid its natural predators, can live up to 10 years, although the longest living ringneck on record has a lifespan of 20 years.

In captivity, however, the ringneck’s lifespan isn’t anywhere near that. You can expect your snake to live up to six years provided you give it a safe, stress-free home with plenty of good insects to eat.

How Big Do Ringneck Snakes Get?

A fully grown ringneck snake can grow to a length of between 10 and 15 inches. The length will vary depending on what subspecies the snake belongs to. In diameter, they grow to about the thickness of a pencil. The average weight is 1.32 grams. Females ringnecks are larger than their male counterparts.

Ringnecks won’t outgrow a 10-gallon terrarium over the course of its life so it will never need an upgrade from its original home. Although it is rare to see them in daylight, some people capture ringnecks in the wild and bring them home and keep them in a shoebox.

They may live just fine in such a confined space and it is also possible they may even thrive for a time, but a terrarium with a bedding of soil, sand, or peat moss is a far better home for them.

Are Ringneck Snakes Poisonous?

The ringneck is a constrictor. When attacking their prey the ringneck snake will grip it with their fangs and then wrap themselves around it. While their saliva does contain venom, it is in a very small amount and it is completely harmless to humans and pets.

While it may be possible that some individuals could experience an allergic reaction to a bite, it is unlikely given the small amount that would be injected.

Another interesting feature of the ringneck snake is its fangs which face backward. This also makes it more difficult for it to bite something as big as a person or even a dog or cat.

Are Ringneck Snakes Aggressive?

Ringnecks are not an aggressive species of snake. This makes them a good choice for first time snake owners or younger owners. The ringneck snake much prefers to flee instead of fight and they are experts at hiding, which is why they are so rarely seen in the wild.

When a ringneck is confronted by a predator and escape is not possible, they will curl their tails up and may even flip over to expose their brightly colored underbellies which is a deterrent to many animals.

Bright colors in the animal kingdom sends the message: “I am poisonous. Do not mess with me!” That said, the venom of the ringneck is so mild and delivered in such small amounts that it is no danger to humans.

Do Ringneck Snakes Bite?

Ringneck snakes have tiny teeth located at the back of their mouths so it is doubtful their bite would even break the skin. That said, this species is not known to bite when they feel threatened. Of course, they would rather slither off and hide than attack a predator.

The ringneck is a constrictor so they wrap their bodies around their intended victims (small lizards, frogs, and insects) and inject their venom. They are not capable of doing this to humans or even cats and dogs. When a ringneck is startled or confronted by a bigger predator it may try to bite but this is usually just a warning and it will make a hasty retreat right after.

Can a Ringneck Snake Kill a Dog?

It is not possible for a ringneck snake to kill a dog. While the ringneck is technically a venomous snake and it is a constrictor, it is far too small to harm a dog in either of these ways.

Their natural prey is very small reptiles, amphibians, and insects and nothing so large as even the smallest dog or puppy is in danger of being killed by this snake.

If a ringneck was able to bite a household pet it may startle them, but would not result in injury. The more likely outcome of any confrontation between a ringneck and a dog would be both snake and dog would be confused and afraid of each other.

How Many Babies Do Ringneck Snakes Have?

A ringneck snake will typically lay a clutch containing between 1 and 18 eggs although this will vary by location and subspecies. Females usually deposit their eggs in late spring and early summer with the eggs hatching in about eight weeks. Baby ringnecks measure about eight inches in length. Male and female ringnecks reach their sexual maturity in about three years.

Once a female ringneck snake gives birth, the babies are on their own to fend for themselves. As a result of this lack of parental supervision, juvenile snakes have a high mortality rate in the wild. Snakes born in captivity have a much better chance of surviving to maturity.

Do Ringneck Snakes Hibernate?

In the wild, ringneck snakes hibernate. This is called brumation when it occurs with cold-blooded creatures. Brumation is a survival technique for cold-blooded animals. When temperatures drop during periods of cold weather, the snake slows down its body functions and reaches a catatonic-like state. It is lethargic and may not move for the entire duration of winter.

Ringnecks in the wild will only use brumation during the winter months and only in areas that experience cold winters. A ringneck found in Mexico or the southern parts of the U.S. will not undergo this state of brumation. A ringneck in captivity will not undergo brumation either as long as it is kept in a heated terrarium.

Care of Ringneck Snakes

Ringneck snakes are very easy to care for, which is why they are such a popular choice as a pet. They are not aggressive, they don’t eat mammals, and don’t require a lot of space. Here are some more things to know about caring for your ringneck snake.

What Do Ringneck Snakes Eat?

In their natural habitat in wet woodlands and near streams and ponds, the ringneck eats small frogs, salamanders, and lizards as well as a variety of insects, slugs, and worms. They may even eat the baby snakes of other species if the opportunity presents itself.

Pet owners don’t have to worry about feeding their snakes reptiles or amphibians as they are also perfectly happy eating earthworms, slugs, and crickets. A big enough ringneck snake can eat small mice or voles, but they are not a required part of their diet.

How Often to Feed?

Ringneck snakes should be given between 2 and 4 feedings per week. A shallow water dish should be kept filled in the container.


The ringneck is a very shy snake. They are not aggressive and rarely bite their handlers. They prefer to avoid conflict and will burrow and hide in their terrarium for much of the time.

They will try to escape if given the opportunity, but would not attack you or a household pet if they did. They are not poisonous to humans or cats and dogs. They are quite docile and are more than happy to lie under their terrarium lining or a small rock.

Terrarium Size

A 10-gallon terrarium is ample space for a snake of the ringneck’s size. The container should be covered with wire mesh to prevent the snake from getting loose.

Ringnecks like to hide, so providing plenty of objects for this purpose will make it happy. This can be sticks, branches, or small rocks. Their terrariums can be lined with about three inches of soil, sand, or peat moss which should be kept moist.

The ringneck will burrow into the soil and cover itself to hide. The soil can be kept moist with water in a spray bottle as it dries out.

Do Ringneck Snakes Need a Heat Lamp?

Depending on what part of the country you live, and how low the temperature can drop, will determine whether you will need a heat lamp for your pet ringneck. The cage should be kept at a temperature between 70 and 75 degrees during the day and between 65 and 70 degrees at night.

If you find that a heat lamp is the only way to maintain these temperatures then you should use one when necessary. If you just need a slight bump in heat, an incandescent lightbulb may be enough to generate sufficient warmth.

Do Ringneck Snakes Like to be Held?

Ringneck snakes may be quite shy at first, but they can be handled and will grow accustomed to it over time. They may even curl around your finger but will probably try to keep moving. Since these snakes are very small, it’s important to not try to hold them too tightly.

Doing so could cause them injury. Be patient with the snake and it will eventually become more comfortable being handled.

14 Recognized Subspecies of the Ringneck Snake

  1. Key ring-necked snake
  2. Pacific ring-necked snake
  3. Todos Santos Island ring-necked snake
  4. Prairie ring-necked snake
  5. Dugès’ ring-necked snake
  6. Northern ring-necked snake
  7. San Bernardino ring-necked snake
  8. Northwestern ring-necked snake
  9. Coral belly ring-necked snake
  10. Southern ring-necked snake
  11. Regal ring-necked snake
  12. San Diego ring-necked snake
  13. Mississippi ring-necked snake
  14. Monterey ring-necked snake

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