California Kingsnake’s Temperature Needs: The Do’s And Don’ts

Snakes have special enclosure requirements, and knowing the California Kingsnake’s temperature needs, is essential before owning one. 

California Kingsnakes, aka Cali Kings, are excellent beginner pet snakes because they have a calm and unique personality. Captive-bred Kingsnakes are available from breeders, pet shops, and reptile shows or shops. 

This snake species can live for more than 20 years, so you need to carefully set up their enclosure for maximum comfort. In this article, I share my Cali King knowledge to help you take the best possible care of yours!

Quick Facts About Cali Kings

Before we get to their ideal enclosure temperature, here are some quick facts about California Kingsnakes:

  • A mature Cali King can be up to 6 feet long.
  • Cali Kings live in swamps, deserts, woodlands, and grassland, so they’ll adapt well to an enclosure that mimics any of these habitats.
  • They have smooth, shiny scales that typically consist of dark and light rings in different color combinations.
  • Cali Kings like to be handled, and with the proper care, they can even be labeled friendly. 

If this sounds like a pet snake you’d love and could care for, read on for their temperature requirements below!

Learn more about Are California King Snakes Good Pets? Read This To Decide!

California Kingsnake’s Temperature Needs

In the wild, Cali Kings thermoregulate. This means that they adapt to the temperature of their surroundings by moving around to find and maintain one they like. 

California Kingsnakes live in different habitats, but the temperatures they prefer are between 70°F and 88°F. If they warm up enough during the day, the nighttime temperature in their surroundings can safely drop to about 65°F. 

When setting up an enclosure for your California Kingsnake, you should create a cooler and warmer end that they can freely move between as it suits them. Typically, the cold end should be around 70°F to 75°F, and the warm end should be around 85°F. 

You can use a heating pad to create a warm basking spot for your Cali King or place a heater near a large rock to raise its temperature. I don’t recommend using lights to create heat. Even if it warms the air, the enclosure’s floor might still be too cold for your snake.

You also don’t need to install heating lights to use at night since the temperature can drop at this time.

Learn more about Large Snakes: Are Gopher Snakes Good Pets?

Do California kingsnakes need basking light California Kingsnake's Temperature Needs: The Do's And Don'ts

Find more information about California Kingsnake Tank Size: Having The Right Enclosure Matters

What Happens When A California Kingsnake Gets Cold

Snakes need heat to digest their food, and if your California Kingsnake is too cold, they will stop eating. This can lead to anorexia, lethargy, breakdown of their immune system, and ultimately death.

The Signs

If your Cali King is too cold in their enclosure, they will alter their normal behavior. This changed behavior could lead to several health complications, so paying attention to what your pet snake does is essential. 

When an enclosure is too cold, your snake will:

  • Actively look for a warm spot to bask 
  • Regurgitate food from their throat and vomit anything in their stomach that they can’t digest
  • Struggle to maintain respiratory or circulatory functions

The Treatment

If you notice that your Cali King is too cold, you should check the temperature of their basking spot, adjust it and place them there to warm up again. Also, check the enclosure temperature and look for any areas where heat might be escaping. 

Another way you can help your snake heat up is by placing a bowl of warm (not hot!) water in their tank. Guide them to it and allow them to bathe for about 15 – 20 minutes. After this, their temperature should be back to normal or at least close. 

What Happens When A California Kingsnake Is Too Warm

If the heating in their enclosure is uncontrolled, your Cali King can quickly overheat. This will cause a fever build-up, and your snake will literally burn from the inside out. If you can’t get their fever under control, it can be fatal. 

The Signs

If you notice any of these behaviors, your snake’s enclosure might be too hot:

  • Actively seeking cool spots and staying on the cooler side of the tank
  • Spending time in their water bowl in an attempt to cool down
  • Wrapping themselves around cold enclosure structures like their water bowl
  • Hiding under cooler objects

The Treatment

To treat a fever in snakes, you need to immerse them under cool running water until their body temperature is under control. If the heat has already spread too far, there isn’t much that can help.

To Conclude

California Kingsnakes make great pets, and if you take proper care of them, they a lifelong friends! These snakes are pretty to look at and friendly to hold. If you’ve never owned a reptile before, Cali Kings isn’t a bad option, depending on precisely what you’re looking for. 

Like other snakes, California Kingsnakes need ideal temperatures in their enclosure to live a healthy life. Not regulating their tank’s temperature can lead to health complications and death. When setting up their tank, you should ensure that it has a large enough cold and warm area to meet your snake’s needs.

I hope this article was helpful and that you can now easily prepare for your Cali King’s arrival. If you have any more questions about their temperature needs or something in general, pop them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you!

Do California Kingsnakes need a heat lamp?

California Kingsnakes don't necessarily need a heat lamp since they rely on their environment to control their body temperature.

Do California Kingsnakes need a basking light?

If you place their cage in a room with plenty of natural sunlight and warmth, you won't need a basking light.

What is too hot for a Kingsnake?

Kingsnakes prefer a temperature of 84 - 88°F. You can consider anything above this as too hot. While many will argue that snakes will be okay up until 95°F, it's not a risk worth taking.

Do Kingsnakes hibernate?

Sort of.

During colder times, Kingsnakes can enter a hibernation-like state called brumation.

Read more about Choosing Your California King Snake Substrate