Ball pythons are one of the most popular breeds of pet pythons. They originate from Central and South America and can grow up to 3 or 4 feet long.
Ball Pythons as pets are a great choice for those who want to have a snake but are not sure if they have the time or the space. They are also a good option for those who want to be able to handle their snake more often than other types of snakes.
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Ball Python Care Sheet
Ball Pythons (Python regius), also known as Royal Pythons, are native to Central and Western Africa. They get their name from the defensive behavior of curling into a tight ball when spooked. They are extremely popular pets because of their very docile nature. With over 100 unique morphs, or color variations, to choose from, you are sure to find them to be a beautiful and rewarding animals to keep in your collection.
Size: Adults typically average a very manageable length of 4-5 feet.
Life Span: 20-30 years in captivity.
What Are The Ball Python Housing Requirements?
Enclosure: You will need a secure enclosure, such as an aquarium with a locking lid. Snakes are great escape artists and will find a way out if there is one. Hatchlings will do well in a 10 gallon aquarium. Adults will need at least a 20 gallon long or a 30 gallon aquarium. It’s always advisable to go bigger if possible. A 40 gallon breeder aquarium is ideal.
Substrate: There are many things you can use for the substrate in your ball python enclosure. The most common are:
Aspen shavings – this bedding looks nice, and is easy to spot clean, but is not good for high humidity as it will mold quickly.
Cypress Mulch – This can be purchased in bags at any garden center. Always sterilize mulch by baking it in the oven at about 300°F for at least 20 minutes. Cypress mulch looks nice and holds humidity very well.
Reptile Bark – Looks nice, holds humidity well, but can get expensive.
Newspaper – Cheap, easy to clean, but obviously not as attractive.
Astroturf/Outdoor Carpet – A little better looking than newspaper. Easy to clean. Just make sure to cut two pieces so that you can just replace the soiled piece with a clean one without having to wait for the soiled piece to get washed and dried.
DO NOT USE: Sand, gravel, pine or cedar shavings (toxic), alfalfa pellets, or corn cob bedding.
Furnishings: Your enclosure can be as elaborate or as simple and inexpensive as you wish. The snake doesn’t care how fancy looking your enclosure is, as long as its needs are met, and there are a few things that are absolutely necessary to properly care for your Ball Python.
You will need 2 hide boxes. One should be placed on the warm side of the enclosure and the other on the cool side. Snakes are solitary animals and will be stressed if they do not have a place to feel safe and secure. If you do not provide this, the Ball Python will likely be aggressive because of the constant stress of not feeling safe. The hide box can be a cardboard box with an entry hole cut in the side, or you can purchase a nice cave from a reptile supply retailer. The snake doesn’t care.
The only other piece of furniture you will need is a water dish. That’s it. Many people like to provide a tree branch for climbing. This is not necessary, but it does look nice.
Make sure all cage furnishings are sterilized and cleaned regularly. Change the water daily.
Temperature: A heat gradient should be provided. This means that the ambient temperature of the cage should be about 80°F, while a “hot spot” of about 90°F is provided so your cold blooded Ball Python can regulate its body temperature as needed. At night, the ambient temperature may be allowed to drop to no less than 70°F.
Hot rocks should not be used. They have been known to burn reptiles causing serious injury. An under tank heater is the best way to heat the enclosure and should be large enough to cover around 1/3 of the floor surface of the enclosure. Basking lights or ceramic heat emitters can also be used. Always monitor your temperatures using a temp gun, indoor/outdoor thermometer. A thermostat or rheostat is a worthwhile investment because it can regulate temperatures automatically.
There is no evidence that photoperiod is required for these animals, but we suggest keeping them in a room that gets at least a little daylight so that your ball python can establish a day/night cycle. Do not put the enclosure in direct sunlight as this will heat up the enclosure very quickly and most likely cook your snake.
Humidity: Ball Pythons do not require a constant level of high humidity, but during shedding periods, a daily misting of the cage will help them to shed easier. Some people provide a “humid hide” box with damp sphagnum moss in it.
Ball Python Illness
Check Your Ball Python for signs of illness:
Mouth rot will appear in your Ball Python as caseous matter around the gum area.
Respiratory infection may be accompanied by bubbly mucus inside of the Ball Python mouth.
Eyes should be clear (except when the Ball Python is shedding or about to shed).
Broken ribs may appear as collapsed areas along the sides of the Ball Python.
Infections may appear as raised and/or damaged scales.
Check the Ball Python for ticks and mites.
CARE FOR YOUR Ball Python It is suggested to have the Ball Python stool checked for parasites. Parasite treatment should be as indicated by the veterinarian. The Ball Python should be handled as little as possible for 2 weeks.
Ball Python Shedding
When your Ball Python sheds, the shed skin should remain in one piece. If it does not, you will need to check the snake carefully to be sure that the entire skin came off, especially around the tail and eyes. If the skin did not come off completely, try rubbing it gently with a wet warm washcloth. If that does not work, then try soaking the snake in lukewarm water for a few minutes, then try rubbing the skin with the washcloth again. If all else fails, there is a product called Shed Ease that should take care of it.
If your snake has had trouble shedding, it’s because there is a problem. You should try increasing the humidity in the enclosure, especially around the time you see signs the animal is about to shed. Providing a humid hide box would help as well.
Ball Python Feeding
We all know the coolest part about owning a snake is feeding time. Watching them devour their prey whole is just fascinating! We recommend feeding your Ball Python frozen mice or rats, thawed in warm water. This eliminates the threat of a bite from a live rodent. Some Ball Pythons may reject a dead mouse at first so there are cases when you must feed live. However, all snakes will eventually convert to frozen/thawed rodents, so keep trying. It’s worth the effort.
Food Size for Hatchlings: Small mice to small rats
Food Size for Adults: Adult Rats
The rule of thumb is that prey should be no more than 1.5 times the thickest part of the snake’s body.
Feed hatchlings every 5-7 days, and adults every 10-14 days.
Feeding Problems: Ball Pythons are known to be problem feeders sometimes so don’t be surprised if your snake turns down a meal. When this happens, make sure all of the environmental variables are taken care of. Check the temperatures in the enclosure. Make sure the snake has two hides, and clean water. If everything in that area is right on, then just wait a couple of days and try feeding again. Don’t worry. These animals have been known to go months without eating so you have time to convince the animal to eat.
And you can read a detailed article on feeding ball pythons snakes, from the link >> What to feed ball pythons.
What Are The Best Tips For Buying A Ball Python?
Buying a Ball Python: When choosing your ball python, the skin should be firm, not wrinkly, and the eyes should be clear. The snake should be alert and its tongue should flicker when handled. It’s normal for young snakes to be nervous, but they should settle down quickly. Be sure to buy captive born animals only, as you may have trouble getting wild caught snakes to feed. This should not be an issue since there are plenty of captive born animals on the market today. You should make sure the snake is already feeding on mice or rats before purchase, as this will reduce the risk of purchasing a snake with feeding issues.
Ball Pythons are amazing animals that will reward you with many years of satisfaction if you put in the effort to provide them with the proper care.
They are relatively low maintenance pets, as long as you follow the advice in this care sheet.
Ball Python care is not hard, but it’s important that you provide your pet with a comfortable home. Remember, you chose to put the animal in a cage.
The animal did not choose this life so it’s your responsibility to make it a good one.