Old snakes – how do snakes age?

Some animal lovers are drawn to terrarium animals, particularly snakes. Snakes are fascinating creatures, and there is a lot to learn and know about them, such as how snakes actually age.

It depends on species: How long a snake lives varies from species to species. But a rule of thumb (with lots of exceptions) is that the larger a snake can grow, the longer it can live. Boas usually live for 25 to over 50 years. Many colubrids have a life span of between 15 and 25 years and smaller species live for 5 to 10 years.
There are around 3,000 different types of snakes with the widest variety of adaptations and specialisations. You can distinguish some young snakes from the adult animal by both their size and pattern. Young animals are often coloured differently to adults – this special colouration is called juvenile colouration. Snakes from the little known Xenopeltidae family (with only two species) even lose and grow new teeth, just like we do.


There can also be differences between young and old animals in terms of diet. Size plays a role, of course – a small snake eats smaller prey such as mice and a large, adult snake is more likely to eat rats. But there are also more extreme examples where the young animal eats insects, frogs or lizards, while the adult eats mammals.


How snakes actually age is the same for all species. Snakes grow continuously through their entire lives. Depending on the species and life span, there is a phase of strong growth, which usually lasts one to four years. During this time, growth is strongly influenced by diet. The more the animal eats, the faster it grows. Afterwards, snakes continue to grow very slowly (only a few centimetres per year). Reptiles’ scaly skin is not as elastic and doesn’t grow with them like ours does, so snakes have to shed their skin to be able to grow. Young animals and fast-growing species therefore moult more often. Moulting also occurs if scales are heavily worn-down.

A snake’s age doesn’t make much of a difference in how to care for them. Young snakes are kept exactly the same as adult animals. The only difference is that young snakes are often more sensitive when it comes to their water supply.
Call into your local store today to discuss your reptile’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.