How to Keep Mexican Black Kingsnake – 15 Crucial Things to Know
Mexican Black Kingsnakes are impressive reptiles and great pets but they are not for everyone. Here’s all you need to know about the Mexican Black Kingsnake.
Mexican Black Kingsnakes are one of the most gorgeous, captivating, as well as easy to look after snakes. Excellent for rookie snake owners, Mexican Black Kingsnakes will offer you little trouble if you’ve done your research and you know what to do. They also have a fairly long lifespan so they are a great long-term pet.
What are the 15 crucial things to know about how to keep Mexican Black Kingsnakes, however? We’ll go over each point below.
The 15 things you should know before getting a Mexican Black Kingsnake
- The Mexican Black Kingsnake is a medium-sized snake. The average size of an adult Mexican Black Kingsnake is between 3 and 4 feet (90 to 120 cm). Some snakes can grow up to 5 feet (152 cm) in captivity and a weight of anywhere between 3 and 4 pounds. This makes the Mexican Black Kingsnake a medium-sized snake – not too small and not too big.
This reptile has a fairly docile and friendly nature which makes it quite beginner-friendly. In addition to their medium size, Mexican Black Kingsnakes also have a pretty mild personality. This makes them great snakes for handling and an excellent reptile pet for first-time snake owners.
Of course, some socialization is required if you want your snake to feel calm and safe with you. In addition, some basic hook and handling training is also a must if you don’t want to get bit. For an example, check out this instructional video:
With a 20-year average lifespan, this is a long-term pet. Mexican Black Kingsnakes have a very decent lifespan in captivity which makes them even better pets. With the right care, this snake can live as long as 30 years and a bit more!
The Mexican Black Kingsnake is non-venomous too. Like other kingsnakes, the Mexican Black Kingsnake is non-venomous. Instead, it kills its prey by grabbing It with a bite and then coiling around it to suffocate it. This means that getting snake venom in you is not a risk but you can still get bit – that’s why the hook and handling training is important.
This Kingsnake subspecies is active both during the day and the night. This snake is not strictly nocturnal which is great for you – it means that you can handle and interact with the snake during the day too.
Feedings should be done during the day. These snakes are used to hunt and eat during the day so there’s no need for midnight meals. They do hunt after dark too when the temperature is too hot during the day but there’s no need to expose them to overly hot temperatures in your terrarium.
Mexican Black Kingsnakes aren’t actually black. Also, note that this snake isn’t necessarily black. Instead, it has a glossy blacking and even a dark chocolate kind of color. It’s still captivatingly beautiful, just keep it in mind in case you’re expecting a pitch-black snake.
These snakes do have a couple of fascinating defense mechanisms. The Mexican Black Kingsnake is one of those non-venomous snakes that specializes in imitating venomous snakes for self-defense. In particular, the Mexican Black Kingsnake can rattle its tail like a rattlesnake.
What to do if your Mexican Black Kingsnake rattles its tail at you? There’s no need to worry about venom, obviously, but if the snake is rattling its tail there may still be a bite coming. And that can still hurt, so don’t bother your snake to that point.
Another noteworthy defense mechanism of the Mexican Black Kingsnake is its habit to expel a foul-scented musk or even to defecate in order to dissuade its predator from attacking. And that’s just not pleasant to deal with which is all the more reason to keep your snake happy and calm.
- Mexican Black Kingsnakes’ diet consists of mice and chicks. As we recommend for other kingsnakes, however, pre-killing the prey is usually recommended. You can even freeze the mice and chicks to store large quantities more easily and then just thaw the snake’s dinner before mealtime. This is done for several reasons:
- Minimizes the risk that the prey will scratch or harm the snake.
- It’s easier to store the food and feed that snake that way.
- Live prey trains the snake’s hunting instincts which can cause the snake to bite you. Pre-killed prey doesn’t lead to
As for a feeding schedule – juvenile Mexican Black Kingsnakes should be fed once a week and adult snakes – every 10 to 14 days. The size of the prey should be just large enough for the snake to eat it at one bite. This means that it shouldn’t be wider than the snake’s widest body section.
What do you need to prepare before getting a Mexican Black Kingsnake?
- The right terrarium is everything. For such a large snake, any tank smaller than 40 gallons will be insufficient.
And that is the minimum – the rule of thumb, if you want your Mexican Black Kingsnake to be happy is that the tank
should be twice as long as the snake and just as wide.
As for the material – glass is the obvious choice. It should be thick and sturdy, and the tank should have a secure cover on the top. You do not want such a large snake escaping and wandering around your home.
Another key point about the tank is that it should have an opening on the side - Mexican Black Kingsnakes don’t like it when things approach them from above.
Your Mexican Black Kingsnake will need the right substrate. The substrate is the stuff you place at the bottom of the tank to acts like the snake enclosure’s “ground”. As every snake is used to a different climate and ground, every snake’s substrate should be different.
In the case of the Mexican Black Kingsnake, the proper substrate should be dry as these snakes have evolved on rocky and desert ground. We’d recommend cypress mulch or aspen shavings. Paper can be a good option, especially if you’re on a budget or your snake is shedding and you want to make the cleaning easier.
Temperature control is key. Mexican Black Kingsnakes need an average daytime temperature of 75o to 80 o F (24 o to 27 o C). There should also be a basking light spot that reaches 88 o to 90 o F (31 o to 32 o C). Nighttime temperature can be ~5 degrees lower.
It’s also strongly recommended to leave one area/half of the tank with a similarly lower temperature during the day too – this way your Mexican Black Kingsnake can choose where to spend its time.
As for how to achieve all this, the easiest way is with a good mercury vapor bulb and/or a ceramic heating pad. You’ll obviously need a couple of thermometers as well to help you monitor and regulate the temperature in the different areas of the tank.
Humidity is also important. The relative humidity of your Mexican Black Kingsnake’s enclosure should also be maintained with a lot of precision. As a desert-dwelling snake, Mexican Black Kingsnakes can tolerate a drier climate which makes it easier for the pet owners to simulate – anything between 40% and 60% is generally OK for a Mexican Black Kingsnake.
As with the temperature, it’s good to separate the snake’s tank on a drier and a more humid half. This way, the reptile can go wherever it’d feel better at any given time.
Maintaining the exact relative humidity you’re going for can be done easily – you either need to spray some water from time to time or you can set up an automatic sprayer. Just make sure the device isn’t very loud and doesn’t bother the snake.
Additionally, you’d want a couple of hygrometers to go with the thermometers – they will help you monitor the exact humidity in every part of the terrarium 24/7.
Your Mexican Black Kingsnake will enjoy a good humidity box. While we’re on the topic of humidity, it’s strongly advices to consider making a humidity hide/box for your snake. These are as easy to make as they are invaluable – here’s a good video guide by Snake Discovery on how to make a humidity box yourself.
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- The water bowl is not as simple as it sounds. Water bowls are more important for snakes than many people realize,
which is why they deserve a separate mention. Snakes don’t “drink” water like most other animals, instead, they need
to literally soak in it.
So, your Mexican Black Kingsnake will require an extra-large water bowl – or an outright water basin – in which the snake can coil itself whenever it needs to. Cleaning this water bowl should also be done on a pretty much daily basis given that snakes have the habit to defecate in the water as they soak.