Image Credit : Bestioles Room
Lampropeltis mexicana is a smooth-skinned, slender, sub-cylindrical snake, member of the genus Lampropeltis. It has a wide head, large eyes and a long tail. Males are larger than females. Tail length varies by gender. Males have longer tails than females as it is with most colubrids.
Lampropeltis mexicana have a ground color from light gray to brownish to nearly black with red blotches/saddles that taper towards the ventral scales. Each blotch is bordered with black. The red is variable and males are typically brighter than females.
- Scientific name : Lampropeltis mexicana
- Distribution : Mexico
- Average Size : 0.80 m (2.6 ft)
- Life Span : 15 years or more
- Difficulty : Beginner
Hatchling Mexican kingsnakes are typically 0.2-0.3 meters (0.6-1 feet) in length. For newborn/hatchling Lampropeltis mexicana a shoebox sized enclosure is sufficient for its first year. Depending on the feeding frequency your mexicana can live in this size enclosure for nearly a year or so. A typical adult Lampropeltis mexicana can be housed in an enclosure of 0.6 x 0.4 x 0.4 meters (2 x 1.3 x 1.3 feet). It’s recommended to decorate the enclosure with logs and foliage to offer to your snake more security. Make sure that your enclosure is escape-proof.
Lampropeltis mexicana are nocturnal and like dark hides that allow them to squeeze tightly into. Colubrids like to squeeze into tight spots not only to hide from predators but to also protect itself from dehydration. Make sure to offer a hide at both ends of the enclosure so that the snake can thermoregulate and feel secure.
There are many sufficient substrate options on the market like shredded aspen, Sani-chips or Care-fresh. It is best to make sure it is deep enough to completely cover the snake anywhere it may choose to burrow under it. This helps with an optimal thermal gradient and provides unlimited hiding spots at the temperature your Mexican king wants to be at, at any given time.
Lighting – Heating
Lampropeltis mexicana are nocturnal snakes but it’s always good to stimulate their natural environment by providing a natural light pattern that mimics normal daytime according to the season. They do benefit from a thermal gradient. It is beneficial to provide underbelly or back heat with heating pads, flex watt tape or heat rope. A hot spot of around 29 °C (85 °F) is optimal while keeping your snake room around 22 °C (72 °F). Your snake will eat its meal and metabolize the meal in the warmer side of the enclosure. It will then go to the cool side to conserve energy. A deep substrate will assist in isolating a nice hot spot while not heating up the entire enclosure. Also, you must use a thermostat with a temperature sensor to achieve the recommended temperatures.
The ideal temperatures to truly brumate your kingsnakes is anywhere between 8-13 °C (45-55 °F). During the brumation period I keep my snakes in total darkness. One proven schedule for brumation is from mid-November until the beginning of March. By March, the ambient temperature should be gradually increased to room temperature up to 72 degrees over a week’s time.
Clean water should be available for your L. mexicana at all times. Water bowls should be large enough for the snake to submerge and not allow the water to spill over the top. It is recommended to replace the water at least weekly but one should replace the water immediately if the water gets substrate in it or if the kingsnake defecates in it.
Depending on the ambient humidity in your location you may or may not need to provide artificial humidity. This is best achieved by providing a “humid hide” with damp sphagnum. Proper humidity levels of 50% or above is advantageous. It keeps your kingsnake from dehydrating and it aids in proper shedding.
If a proper thermal gradient is provided your growing kingsnake will want to eat every 3-5 days. When it is on the cool side conserving it is ready for another meal. A growing snake not only uses caloric intake to live it also uses it to grow. An adult snake uses caloric intake to mainly live as their growth rate slows down tremendously. When optimal husbandry is provided a growing kingsnake cannot be “powerfed” and will not become obese. An adult snake will become obese if overfed. Some keepers have done well with a weekly feeding schedule though. Hatchling L. mexicana can sometimes be difficult to get feeding on frozen/thawed pinky mice. There are numerous techniques used by breeders to get them going on readily available rodents. These include lizard scenting, braining, boiling, and tease-feeding along many other tricks of the trade. If you are planning to brumate your kingsnake be sure that the kingsnake has a clear stomach prior to lowering their temperature.
Many Mexican kingsnake breeders do not see the need to handle their snakes frequently, definitely if they are being fed on a schedule the snake requires to thrive in captivity. If one must handle their snake make sure they have not eaten for 48 hours given they have been provided a temperature in which to metabolize the meal. If your snake seems as though he thinks you are a meal that typically means it is hungry. Be sure to clean your hands before and after each handling to keep the spread of any virus or bacteria being spread throughout your collection.
A clean enclosure will keep your kingsnake healthy. Spot clean your substrate each time your kingsnake defecates or as soon as you notice the water has been spilled. Once every couple of months completely replace the substrate and clean the enclosure with bleach and water (cap full of bleach per gallon of water). Allow the enclosure to dry completely before adding your new substrate.
A hatchling Mexican kingsnake will shed about one week out of the egg. After this shed the frequency of shedding will be determined by its amount and size of prey provided by the keeper. A shed cycle is noticeable when the snake becomes a bluish/gray color. If humidity is correct it will typically shed in a week or so and it will shed its old skin in one piece. If your snake is shedding in pieces the humidity is incorrect.
Potential Health Problems
There are no health problems that are specific to Mexican Kingsnakes. Inbreeding has yet to have any ill effects. All snakes are susceptible to respiratory infections but that can be alleviated with proper husbandry. Hatchling L. mexicana can develop malnutrition kinks if they have not consumed enough. These kinks are different than malformation kinks and can be reversed if nutritional input is achieved. When you add a new snake to your collection please quarantine your snake from the rest of the collection. Keep new snakes away from your collection for at least a month to see if it feeds well, defecates normally and sheds correctly. Some will go as far as getting fecal exams done on their new additions.
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.