Ball Python Care Sheet
Quick Facts About Ball Pythons!
Species: Python Regius
Origin: Sub-Saharan Africa.
Natural Habitat: Inhabits termite mounds and animal dens. The regions where it lives are savannas, grasslands, and sparsely wooded regions.
Diet: Obligate Carnivore. Feeds on small animals must eat appropriately sized prey items to be healthy.
Activity: As ambush predators, they prefer to hide away and remain inactive for long periods waiting for food regardless of the time of day. May become more active at night.
Bioactive Enclosure: This does well in a bioactive enclosure as it helps maintain humidity while there is no risk of plants being ingested by the animal.
Lighting needs: Lighting is not explicitly required – we recommend the usage of LEDs. If supplemental lighting is used in an enclosure, 12 on, 12 off is ideal.
Heating requirements: Recommended temperature ranges are 88F-92F hot end, ambient 75-80F cool end. Do not allow the ambient temperature to fall under 75F. In Glass terrariums, underbelly heating is use. For our higher quality PVC enclosures, we use radiant heat panels.
Humidity requirements: A ball python requires 65%-80% humidity to live a happy life.
Décor Requirements: This species requires a hide box.
Life span: Average of 30-40 years.
About the Ball Python
The Python Regius is a shy snake famously known for being easy to handle and coming in hundreds of colors and patterns from breeders. First described in 1802 as boa regius, the word ‘python’ was proposed in 1803 to describe “nonvenomous flecked snakes.”
Unfortunately, due to their popularity in the pet trade, wild ball pythons are now classified as ‘near threatened.’ Destruction of habitat for agriculture, pesticides, poaching, and exploitation of the pet trade has caused their numbers to decline in the wild.
In Ghana, they are considered a savior from folklore, in which stories say a python turned into a log to save people fleeing from enemies. It is considered taboo to hunt or harm them in these regions. These snakes are revered by Nigeria’s Igbo people and consider ball pythons symbolic of the earth. They take great care when encountering one, letting the snakes roam freely or carefully moving them away from a property. If one of these sacred reptiles is accidentally killed, the tribe will build a small coffin for the remains and hold a short funeral for the deceased snake.
BehaviorsThis snake species gets its common name, “ball python,” from a defensive behavior in which it coils into a ball rather than strike, placing its head in the center of the ball. Once relaxed and feeling safe, it will un-ball itself. Juveniles are more likely to display this behavior than well-handled adults.
Typically, it is customary to see a ball python remain motionless within a hide most of the time, as they are ambush predators in the wild. They hide in animal burrows waiting for prey to come close enough to strike. Ball pythons are constrictors; thus, when they can attack their target, they wrap up and constrict the prey animal, squeezing the life out of the meal.
These snakes have the vestigial remains of legs, referred to as “spurs,” near their vent. Males use these spurs when coupling with a female to hold on and grip.
As they do not need much food to survive, they poop infrequently. Therefore, the animals require minimal cleanup. Some snakes will hold poop in for a time, as in the wild, as pooping in a burrow may signal to their prey (or predators) that a snake is nearby.
A female that has laid a clutch of eggs will coil around the clutch and sit on it to defend the eggs.
Ball Python General Care Sheet
Ball pythons are widely available animals, coming in many color patterns. They are a famous snake in the reptile hobby for their mild temperament and ease of care. We recommend a 48” x24” x18” enclosure for an adult ball python.
Feed one appropriately sized rat every week. Baby snakes should be able to eat pinkie rats. Size up the prey as the snake grows, with adult snakes able to eat adult rats. Never feed live rats, as they can turn around and injure or kill your snake with powerful bites.
It is not uncommon for ball pythons to sometimes go off food for a period. Continue to offer prey items and monitor the animal’s weight. If the animal does not lose weight and seems otherwise healthy, it could simply be one of their food strikes. It could be some time, but the python will eventually choose to eat again if it doesn’t lose weight during a food strike. If it is losing weight and not eating, you may consider a trip to the vet to check if an underlying health issue is causing your snake not to eat food.
A snake that regurgitates food is particularly concerning as it indicates a highly stressed animal. It may indicate husbandry needs attention (check that the enclosure is not too cold). If your enclosure and care are in proper order, it may mean a health issue requiring veterinary attention.
A ball python will periodically shed its skin. As a result, you will notice a gradual dulling of the snake’s colors and the eyes turning cloudy. When the eyes turn a hazy bluish color, the snake cannot see very well and may get a bit skittish and nippy. This phase is often referred to as being ‘in the blue.’ A shed will happen soon after the skin turns clear. The snake needs a humid enclosure – from 50% to 60% - and rough objects to rub against to ensure a whole, one-piece shed.
Snakes that had their shed come off in pieces rather than fully may not have the correct humidity levels. Another reason they may not entirely shed is snake mites – a complex problem that may require veterinary care and treatment to tackle. You may want to book a vet appointment if you see black spots on your snake where there are usually none, or if a site on your snake moved from its original position and have been having shed issues. Alternatively, there are OTC treatments available (follow the directions on the label).
If a snake doesn’t shed fully at any point, always check that the eye caps were not retained in the shed. Retained eye caps may cause issues that may lead to infections, in addition to the snake being unable to see out of the affected eye(s). If the snake retains eye caps and you are uncertain how to remove them safely, consult a veterinarian, as improper removal will injure the snake’s eyes.
Never pick stuck sheds off the snake, as you might take pieces of the snake with it. Remember, this was the snake’s actual skin at some point. To assist with removing the stuck shed, place some substrate (i.e., coconut bark, newspaper) in a tub and dampen it generously with warm water. Place the lid on the tub and return in 15 – 20 minutes to see if the sheds have been dislodged.
Building Your Ball Python Enclosure
A ball python tends not to receive many benefits from basking. Typically, glass enclosures will utilize an under-tank heater. In our PVC enclosures, radiant heating panels can provide the correct temperature to keep the hot and cold ambient sides at acceptable ranges. Always use either option with a thermostat to control the temperature for the health and safety of the animal.
We have heater brackets to help safely secure our sweeter heater radiant panels. It also keeps your snake out from behind the heating element, where it could cause it to fall or be injured.
In the wild, ball pythons love to hide in dark burrows and termite mounds. An LED in a display enclosure is an adequate light source during the day with a 12 on, 12 off routine. They do not need a UVB lamp as many lizards do.
Many kinds of substrates are available for ball pythons. Some people use coconut husk to help hold humidity in the enclosure. Another loose substrate option is aspen shavings (be careful to ensure it is aspen) to allow your snake to burrow around if it pleases. When using loose bedding, please put the substrate in the freezer for a month to eliminate the possibility of snake mites hitching a ride in on your substrate.
Newspaper is widely used as a clean, low-cost option, while the paper towel is another possible option. The soil used in bioactive enclosures is also an option if you choose to do so.
Do not use sand, pine or cedar shavings, recycled fluff substrate (commonly used for small animals), reptile carpet, or gravel.
We recommend keeping your snake in a display enclosure rather than a rack system if you are not breeding for enrichment. Provide multiple surfaces to climb up and down, such as branches and rocks. This enrichment style provides various temperature ranges and rough surfaces to sub against while shedding.
Additionally, provide multiple hiding places. Snakes are shy animals and like to feel safe and secure in a hide most of the time. Hides can be placed in different temperature areas around the enclosure to allow the snake to hide while regulating its body temperature as needed. We offer unique hiding options in our roof-mounted sky hides.
This animal can benefit from a bioactive enclosure, as it will not eat the plants and aids with holding in the required humidity. We offer an option with our PVC enclosures to convert a build to be bioactive-ready.
Snake Rack System (For Breeders)
Many breeders will keep ball pythons in a rack system instead of a display enclosure due to the number of snakes in a breeding program. The rack bins mimic the snake’s instinct to hide in a burrow in the wild. Some snakes seem to do better in racks than others. Check out our snake racks!
Enclosure Kit Available!
We offer a one-stop shopping kit for your ball python’s enclosure. So check out our ball python kit! We take the mystery out of providing the proper setup, as it has everything you will need for a ball python to thrive.