You can identify a red bellied water snake by its coloring. It has a solid brown or reddish-brown body with a red or orange-red belly. Adults range in size from 30 to 48 inches and have large eyes with round pupils.
The species (Nerodia erythrogaster) can be kept as a pet, but it's not the ideal choice. Although they are nonvenomous, these snakes do not like to be handled and will discharge a musk or bite when restrained. If you do decide to get a red bellied water snake, you will need a cage at least as long as the snake. These snakes feed primarily on frogs and fish.
Juvenile Red Bellied Water Snake
Red bellied water snakes give birth to live young. Juveniles have a grey-brown body with dark patches or bands. Their bellies are pink or pale yellow. As the snake ages, the pattern on the back becomes a solid color.
Similar Snake Species
Juvenile red bellied water snakes can be confused with banded water snakes, but unlike banded water snakes, juvenile red bellied water snakes have a solid color belly.
Adults may also be confused with the Florida or Mississippi green water snake; however, unlike the red bellied water snake, the green water snake has scales on its upper lip and between its eyes.
Cottonmouth snakes are another water snake that may be mistaken for a red bellied water snake. The cottonmouth is venomous and has a triangular shaped head with elliptical pupils. You can also identify a cottonmouth by the facial pits located between its eyes and nostrils.