Mexican Black Kingsnake Care: Everything You Need To Know

Mexican black kingsnakes are strikingly beautiful, intelligent, docile and curious snakes.

Being able to care for such a magnificent species is a desire that’s shared by many fellow reptile keepers.

Kingsnakes make amazing pets that are hardy and can be incredibly tame. They are brilliant for a beginners and experienced keepers alike.

Keep reading this care sheet for more information about how to care for your own Mexican black kingsnake. We also share our best habitat setup and many husbandry tips.

All About Mexican Black Kingsnakes

Mexican Black Kingsnake Scales

Mexican black kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula nigrita) are a sleek bodied, jet-black snake that average three to four feet in length.

These snakes can be found all across America and Mexico and are a nonvenomous species. A common myth about this species is that they are a venomous snake. This is not true, but they do eat other venomous snakes which is where the confusion comes from!

Mexican black kingsnakes are a subspecies of kingsnake that are known as the “common” or “eastern”.

There are 10 subspecies of common kingsnake that can be kept as pets. The Mexican black kingsnakes ranks first as the most commonly kept type, but you can see the full table below:

Rank Kingsnake Species Scientific Name
#1 Mexican black Lampropeltis getula nigrita
#2 California Lampropeltis getula californiae
#3 Eastern Lampropeltis getula getula
#4 Desert Lampropeltis getula splendida
#5 Apalachicola Lampropeltis getula meansi
#6 Blotched Lampropeltis getula goini
#7 Speckled Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
#8 Outer banks Lampropeltis getula sticticeps
#9 Eastern black Lampropeltis getula nigra
#10 Florida Lampropeltis getula floridana

Do They Make Good Pets?

Mexican black kingsnakes make brilliant pet snakes. They are not high maintenance, do not make much mess, are a manageable size as adults and their enclosure does not take up too much room in the house.

These snakes are capable of surviving in very harsh desert conditions. They are also known for their very calm demeanor. These two attractive traits have led them to become a hardy pet snake, loved by keepers all over. They often make their way on-to snake keeper’s top 10 list.

Depending on where you are in the world Mexican Black Kingsnakes can be tricky to find.

Most of the time you will need to attend a reptile expo where you can meet breeders and exchange details with breeders. When you do find one for sale, don’t be surprised if they are being sold for prices of around $250 to $400.

Species Overview

  • Common Names: Mexican black kingsnake.
  • Scientific Name: Lampropeltis getula nigrita.
  • Range: Mexico, Sonora desert, North western Sinaloa and Southern Arizona.
  • Size: 3 to 4 feet.
  • Weight: 3 to 4 pounds.
  • Color: Black.
  • Lifespan: 15 to 20 years.
  • Diet: Rodents, birds, lizards and snakes.
  • Tank Size: 48x24x24”.
  • Temperature: 75-82°F.
  • Humidity: 40-60%.
  • Price: $250 to $400.

Appearance and Colors

Mexican Black Kingsnake

Mexican black kingsnakes are covered in striking black scales all over their body. Under the right light these scales shine iridescent hues of blue and purple. Because of this they are sometimes known as iridescent or rainbow mexican black kingsnakes.

RELATED: Cute Snakes: 30 Adorable Species To Brighten Your Day

There are some different colors and pattern types of mexican black kingsnake, but most beginners start with the common wild type with black scales.

The albino morph is a popular species with breeders. These snakes do not have the black pigment of their wild type counterparts. They appear a pinkish white color, with bright red eyes.

There are also some Kingsnake hybrids. These hybrids can be bred by mating kingsnakes and milk snakes from the same genus (Lampropeltis). These snakes can be absolutely beautiful and highly desired by many hobbyists and keepers.

Size

Mexican black kingsnakes are a slender bodied species, with adult females usually growing slightly larger than males. Most full grown mexican black kingsnakes average three to four feet in length, but some females have been recorded reaching lengths of six feet.

You can see a growth chart below:

Age Size
Hatchling 1ft in length
Juveniles 1 to 2ft in length
Adult 3 to 4ft + in length

Mexican Black Kingsnake Care

Handling Kingsnake

These snakes have some fairly straight forward requirements when it comes to husbandry and care. This is one of the things that makes them a brilliant first pet snake for beginners. If you would like to know more about how to keep one happy and healthy, then the next section is for you.

Enclosure Size

Mexican black kingsnakes are a curious, active species that are intelligent enough to enjoy a large enclosure. This enclosure should have multiple hides and decorations for them to explore.

Adults should be housed in a long (landscape-oriented) wooden or glass tank that measures 48x24x24 inches, around 120-gallons. Their tank should have good ventilation to allow for proper air exchange.

Wooden tanks are excellent at retaining heat when compared to glass. This is important to take into consideration and is largely dependent on your room temperature and where you live.

Hatchlings and young snakes are kept the same as adults, just in smaller enclosures. For example, a yearling that is roughly one to two feet in length can be housed in an enclosure measuring 24x18x18 inches.

Temperature

Maintaining an ambient temperature gradient ranging from 75-82°F, with a basking area of around 84-90°F is essential for a Mexican black kingsnake to stay happy and healthy. A night time drop in temperature to 70-74°F is also important.

An easy way to replicate a natural temperature gradient is by using a 60W ceramic heat emitter. This heat emitter should be securely mounted at one end of the enclosure and used alongside a pulse thermostat with programmable night and day temperature options.

The ceramic heat emitter should be used with a heat guard that’s sized to allow a 2cm gap between the emitter and guard. This will prevent your snake getting too close to the heat source and receiving potentially fatal burns.

For smaller enclosures the same ambient temperatures can be created with a lower wattage ceramic heat emitter. Alternatively a heat mat can be placed underneath one third of the enclosure. Heat mats are best used externally with glass tanks.

Lighting

A light source should be provided by using a 2% UVB tube mounted on the roof of the enclosure.

Set the UVB tube light on a 12 hour light cycle. Most keepers use a simple 7am to 7pm cycle. Doing this will provide your snake with a natural amount of UVB light which will keep them healthy.

Substrate

Mexican black kingsnakes have a strong instinct to burrow and should be kept on a substrate that encourages this behavior. In the wild they use rodent burrows for shelter from the sun during the hottest parts of the day

Some of the best substrates include organic potting soil/peat (no fertilizers), coconut fiber and orchid bark.

Other popular substrates are aspen, newspaper and reptile carpet, although not all of these substrates will allow your snake to burrow.

Natural substrates will make it easier to maintain a humidity of around 40-60%. A good quality digital hygrometer can be used to check the humidity. You can use a water spray bottle to gently mist the enclosure to raise the humidity when needed.

Decorations

Artificial plants are an easy way to make your mexican black kingsnake’s habitat enriching, fun and beautiful. Wooden branches can also be used for climbing and log halves or flower pots can be used as hides.

Multiple hides should be scattered around the temperature gradient (in both hot and cool areas).

When shopping for substrates and decorations remember to never use anything made of pine or cedar as these are both toxic to reptiles.

Diet

Feeding a Mexican Black Kingsnake

Wild Mexican black kingsnakes have a varied diet. In their natural range it is normal for them to eat small rodents, birds, amphibians and other reptiles like snakes. Sometimes they are even cannibalistic and will eat their own species.

Pet Mexican black kingsnakes should be fed small rodents and birds. Foods like mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, multimammate rats, quails and chicks all work well.

Example food chart
Hatchling Yearlings Adults
Pinky mice
Bits of chick (to encourage picky feeders to start eating).
Small to large mice
Rat pup
Small chick
Quail chick
Dwarf hamster
Gerbil
XL mice
Rat weaners
Regular chick
Large hamster
Multimammate rat
Small adult rat (mainly for larger adult snakes).

A simple rule when it comes to feeding a Mexican black kingsnake is to find a food item that is the same thickness as the thickest part of your snake. A meal of this size will satisfy their hunger without the risk of regurgitating.

Mexican black kingsnakes can be fed once every 7 to 10 days. Some individuals will strike from feeding tongs, while others prefer the food to be left in their enclosure for them to eat quietly in their own time.

If you have a shy snake, do not leave food longer than a couple of hours in the enclosure. Ideally leave it away from a heat source to avoid speeding up the decomposition process.

After feeding you should not handle your snake for at least 48 hours. This gives the digestion processes time to work and also reduces the risk of regurgitation.

A Mexican Black Kingsnake will need a water bowl that is large enough for it to fully submerge in. The water will need to be changed daily and the bowl thoroughly cleaned with a reptile safe disinfectant once a week.

Lifespan

Mexican Black Kingsnake Social

Pet Mexican black kingsnakes can live for over 20 years if they are provided with the proper levels of care they require. In the wild they often don’t live for any longer than seven years due to predators, the harsh environment in which they live and disease.

Some common diseases and health issues that can affect this species are:

  • Retained shed
  • Respiratory infection
  • Mouth rot
  • Mites
  • Burns

Retained shed is when the snake is unable to properly shed its skin. Areas that are prone to this are the face/head, eyes, and the tip of the tail. Shedding issues can be avoided by maintaining the correct humidity levels within the enclosure and avoiding handling when the snake is due to shed. When a Mexican Black Kingsnake is close to shedding its eyes which will turn a milky white color.

Respiratory infection is a health issue that can happen if the enclosure humidity or temperatures are not correct. Symptoms usually include excess mucus around the nostrils and inside the mouth, a crackling noise while breathing, gaping and loss of appetite.

Burns are another health issue caused by a bad tank setup. Burns are completely avoidable by using heating equipment appropriately and with the correct heat guards to stop a snake getting too close.

Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that can be caused by an accidental injury or stress from poor husbandry. Symptoms usually include red, swollen gums and a white cottage cheese-like substance that forms around the infected area.

Husbandry Tips

  • They are best kept in a 48x24x24” long tank (120-gallons) with a basking spot temperature of 84-90°F and ambient temperatures between 75 and 82°F. Night-time temperature should drop to 70-74°F.
  • A 60 watt ceramic heat emitter fitted with a protective heat guard will work well for most enclosures. Make sure it’s paired with a pulse thermostat that has night-time temperature drop option.
  • Set up a 2% UVB tube light on a 12 hour light cycle of 7am to 7pm. Doing this will provide your snake with natural light which will keep them healthy.
  • Pick a natural substrate that will allow them to burrow and explore their enclosure. Organic potting soil or coconut fiber makes a great choice and will help to maintain a humidity around 40-60%.
  • Feed them a small rodent or bird once every 7-10 days. Make sure you do not handle them for 48 hours after feeding and always provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to submerge its full body in.

Mexican Black Kingsnake Temperament

Black Mexican Kingsnake

Mexican black kingsnakes are a solitary species that are well known for eating other snakes, including rattlesnakes. This behavior leads many beginners to ask are Mexican black kingsnakes venomous.

They are not venomous, but their ability to take down and eat rattlesnakes in the wild makes them a more than capable predator. They are also well known for being cannibals and even eating their own siblings. As pets they should always be housed separately.

When Mexican black kingsnakes feel threatened they will rattle their tail and thrash it against the ground. They hope this display of aggression will ward off any predator.

If this fails they release a foul-smelling musk and defecate at the same time.

After all this if the predator still continues its advance they will bite as a last resort. Mexican black kingsnakes are not venomous and kill their prey by constricting it.

Mexican black kingsnakes are known for being calm, docile and very curious pets. They are used to being in close contact with humans so it would be very rare for one to bite in captivity. This is one of the main reasons why they are a favorite species in the hobby.

Summary

Mexican black kingsnakes are a favorite species for many reptile keepers.

Their beautiful black scales, laid-back personality and interesting behaviors have given them a special place in keepers’ hearts. They are also perfect for beginner snake keepers by being such a hardy snake with simple husbandry.

It can be hard to find this species for sale, especially when compare to more common pets like Ball Pythons. However, their beautiful iridescent scales and relaxed personality make them worth the search.

Have we convinced you to adopt a Mexican black kingsnake? If so, make sure to read our best snake names and let us know which one you chose in the comments below.

About Nigel Robert

Nigel Robert Nigel is a lifelong reptile lover and has kept pet lizards since childhood. His first was a pet Leo which was shortly followed by a Beardie named, Rocky. For the last 10 years he has kept over 20 different species but his favorite is his Banana Ball Python, Monty.

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