The Garter Snake is probably one of the most popular snakes for the beginner.

Garter Snakes are small, attractive and inexpensive. A very docile even-tempered snake that is quite tolerant of frequent handling. The Garter Snake is very hardy, easy to feed, easy to maintain, and will live up to about 12 years.

Scientific Classification

Species: sirtalis


  The Garter Snake will grow up to four feet (60cm). They are slender-bodied with a narrow head. Their natural color is brown to olive brown with three yellowish stripes running down the back, and squarish blotches are running down the body between the stripes. The scales are heavily keeled.


  Their diet consists of small fish, earthworms, insects and frogs. Feed every few days as they don’t eat much at once and are very active. Fresh water in a shallow dish should always be available.

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
Image Credit: J.D. Bennett, Shutterstock


   They do not eat other snakes, and so they can be housed alone or in groups with other snakes of similar size and habits.

You can set up their terrarium as either a woodland terrarium or an aqua terrarium. Although they need high humidity and are often aquatic, you must keep the basking side of their terrarium very dry to avoid skin infections, especially boils. See the terrarium types described under Basic Reptile and Amphibian Care for more information.

The Garter Snake needs a hiding place, a small water dish, and they like to climb, so a vertical or semi-vertical tree limb with some plant vining is great.

Temperature and Lighting requirements

   They are a cool temperature snake, so do well at 68 – 74° F (20 – 25° C) in the daytime. Full spectrum lighting is important for your snakes well being and its long-term maintenance. You can use a low wattage full spectrum incandescent daytime bulb and a blacklight bulb or red incandescent bulb for nighttime heating if necessary. Be sure you use a thermometer so you don’t let the terrarium become overheated!


   Garter Snakes range from Canada in the north and south through the United States, Central America and extreme northern South America.  Garter snakes are found in Alaska and are found farther north than probably any snake species in the world.

Plains Garter Snake
Image Credit: Joe Farah, Shutterstock


   These snakes become sexually mature at three years. They are livebearers and have about 24 babies. They breed readily in captivity.


  The Garter Snake is very common, readily available, and very inexpensive.

Featured Image Credit: pixel1, Pixabay