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Most people think of Garter Snakes (Thamnophis species) as a beginner's snake or that they are plain or boring. Those of us who have had the pleasure of owning Garters know that it is far from the truth!

Garter Snakes are one of the best beginner snakes because of their size, temperment, and cost, but they are a beautiful species of snake with many qualities to make them great pets for first-time owners and long-time reptile fans both! One of the greatest things about them is they are very active in their cage and if provided with branches and a large dish you can watch your garter climb and swim. When you put live feeder fish in their bowl you can witness their hunting skills as they smell their prey and dive in the water "fishing" for their food.

*the plains garter is a wonderful pet*

Here are some interesting facts and information on keeping Garters.

*a flame garter*

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS - Garter snakes are very thin snakes. None grow over about 4 feet long and most stay smaller. Most have longitudinal stripes in many different colors. Garters come in a wide range of colors including: green, blue, yellow, gold, red ,orange, brown, and black.

BEHAVIOR - Garters are active during the day, which makes them great to watch. They are fast, alert, and intelligent. If a wild Garter is caught it will thrash about, release an awful smell, and bite (although the bites do no damage). In captivity they calm down a lot. Garter snakes love to swim and lay in water.

*the sanfransisco garter is endangered*

HOUSING - When keeping a Garter as a pet a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium will be the right size for one or two snakes. A bigger cage wouldn't harm the snake though. The lid for the cage must be very secure because these snakes are escape artist and can fit through very small cracks. They need to have a hiding area in their cage for when they are frightened and rocks or sticks to climb on and to rub on when it is time to shed their skin.

WATER - Garters love to swim and spend a great deal of time in the water. To keep them happy they should have a large bowl or a large, shallow tub as their water dish. You can even build them a cage with a small pool for them as long as they have a dry area to rest on.

TEMPERATURE - The exact temperature that Garter snakes need varies. About 75-85 F (24-30 C) is good for most. To keep them warm you can keep their cage in a warm room, use a spot lamp, or use a heating pad or hot rock for them. Unlike most other snakes it is usually not difficult to keep them warm enough.

FEEDING - Garter snakes eat a variety of food. The most common food item is feeder fish (such as goldfish, tuffies, or guppies). Garters also will eat earthworms, amphibians, and other bugs. Some will take pinky mice. It is good to feed them a variety of food.

AS FAR AS PET QUALITY GOES THE GARTER SNAKE IS HARD TO BEAT! If you want to know more about Garter snakes get the book GARTER & RIBBON SNAKES by W.P. MARA c. 1994 T.F.H. publications.

*a bluestripe garter*


Thamnophis Online
Alan Francis' Garter Page
The Manzanita Project

10 Reasons why Garters make great pets...

  • Easy to handle
  • Active in their cage
  • Tame easily
  • Stay relatively small
  • Easy to feed
  • Easy to house
  • Very affordable
  • Many colors and patterns
  • Have large litters and give live birth
  • You'll be joining the Garter-loving crowd