Ball Python vs Garter Snake: Which Makes the Better Pet?

There are so many snake species, and each has unique characteristics. Ball pythons and garter snakes are examples of snakes with distinctive qualities, so you might be interested in learning more about them.

Ball pythons are medium-sized, non-venomous snakes and originated in West and Central Africa. These snakes are submissive and get scared easily, so they curl into a ball and hide away. Garter snakes are small and slightly venomous, but it’s generally not enough to poison someone.

There are many things you should know about garter snakes and ball pythons, especially if you want to buy one as a pet. Keep reading this article to learn more about them.

Ball Pythons and Garter Snakes Compared

Ball pythons and garter snakes have many similarities and differences. To get a basic understanding of them, check out the table below.

Ball PythonGarter Snake
Threat levelLow (non-venomous)Low (only slightly venomous)
OriginsWest and Central AfricaNorth and Central America
SizeStandard female ball pythons can be as long as 5 feetStandard female garter snakes can be as long as 3 feet
AppearanceBrown, gray, and black, in most casesUsually Striped. Black and red or black and yellow
TemperamentCompliant and calmCompliant and calm but can get aggressive if threatened 
LifespanUp to 30 years (in captivity)Up to 15 years (in captivity)
Good as pets?YesYes

Now, let’s look at these similarities and differences in more detail below!

Threat Level and Temperament

Snakes have different temperaments–while some are highly dangerous and aggressive, others are submissive and easy to control. When it comes to ball pythons, they are calm and scared of threats

Instead of trying to scare off or bite an attacker, a ball python is more likely to curl into a ball and hide (hence the name). However, this doesn’t mean they won’t bite. But as long as a ball python is in a calm and relaxed environment, it shouldn’t show aggression. Plus, they are non-venomous, so you don’t need to worry about getting poisoned from a bite.

Like ball pythons, garter snakes are also docile and generally easy to manage. However, they are slightly venomous, so it’s good to be more careful with these critters. Generally, garter snakes are safe, but bites can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Garter snakes produce a foul-smelling musk when threatened to fend off attackers. They also get into a coiling position, indicating they’re about to attack and bite. A garter snake should remain calm and happy once there are no perceived threats.


Ball pythons and garter snakes originated in different places. While ball pythons are native to West and Central Africa, garter snakes are native to North and Central America. However, you can purchase both species worldwide (including in the US and Europe) as pets, so you don’t need to travel to Africa or Central America to find them.

Garter snakes can function well in cold and warm weather, making them easy pets to manage. On the other hand, ball pythons prefer warm, moist environments. 

Size and Appearance

Female ball pythons range in size but are usually 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5 meters) long. Males, on the other hand, are smaller because they don’t carry eggs. Their average size range is between 2 and 3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters). Hatchlings are between 10 and 17 inches (25 and 43 centimeters) in most cases.

For the most part, ball pythons have black and brown patches around their skin. There may also be gray patches on certain snakes.

Female garter snakes generally reach around 3 feet (0.9 meters) long, while males only get to about 2 feet (0.6 meters) or below. Again, this difference is because the females need extra body space for eggs.

Garter snake hatchlings are usually between 4 and 5 inches (10 and 13 centimeters), so they’re much smaller than ball python hatchlings. They are typically striped and colored black and red or black and yellow.

As you can tell, ball pythons are usually bigger than garter snakes, and they have different colors and patterns on their skin.


Ball pythons have impressively long lifespans, with the average in captivity being around 30 years! But ball pythons in the wild are only likely to live between 10 and 15 years due to predators like humans and other animals. 

Unfortunately, garter snakes have much shorter lifespans. They generally only live up to 14 years in captivity, so you can expect a wild garter snake to have an even shorter lifespan than this.

According to Britannica, larger animals are more likely to live longer. Since garter snakes are more petite than ball pythons, this could be why they don’t live as long (even in captivity). 

In the wild, garter snakes usually only live 4 or 5 years, and this is likely due to their small size because it’s easier for larger predators to catch them.

Are They Both Good Pets?

Ball pythons and garter snakes are good pets. Both species are generally calm and easy to manage, and they’re known to be compliant with handlers

That said, if you’re looking for a small snake, it’s best to go with a garter. However, if you want a bigger snake or one with a longer lifespan, consider a ball python. 

Here are some reasons why ball pythons are good pets:

  • They are docile
  • They are easy to manage
  • They are gentle and hide away from threats
  • They are non-venomous
  • They live long, healthy lives if looked after

Here are some reasons why garter snakes are good pets:

  • They are docile
  • They are small, so they don’t need as much cage space as a larger snake
  • They aren’t poisonous, even though some are mildly venomous
  • They can function well in both cold and warm weather


Ball pythons and garter snakes have similarities and differences. Both have calm temperaments and are docile, so they work well as pets.

However, ball pythons are bigger than garter snakes and have longer lifespans. While ball pythons are more scared of threats and like to curl into a ball and hide away, garter snakes prefer to threaten an attacker by coiling and biting.

They also have different origins–ball pythons originated in West and Central Africa, while garter snakes originated in North and Central America.

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