What should you expect from your ball python?
Snakes do not respond to their owners like dogs and cats do and generally prefer to be left alone. Ball pythons are exceptionally shy. Because they are small and docile, they may appear to be a good beginner snake; however, the new ball python owner must be prepared to deal with potential feeding problems, parasites and secondary healthy problems. The beginner should acquire only young captive-bred specimens or imported specimens that are proven eaters. A frightened snake may lash with its tail, hiss, or in rare cases, bite.
Housing should be an escape-proof enclosure that is the appropriate size for the snake. The best type of enclosure is one specifically designed for housing snakes, which includes a fixed screen/hinged glass top. A dark, secure hiding box inside the enclosure is mandatory for a sense of security.
- Hatchling: 10 gallon tank (20" x 10")
- Young adult: 20 gallon tank
- Large Adult: 30 gallon tank (12" x 36")
Proper temperature regulation is even more important than the physical enclosure in maintaining a healthy snake. Room temperature is not adequate for the digestive process and health of the snake. Heating may be provided by special reptile heating pads or incandescent light bulbs in reflector hoods, placed to avoid direct contact with the snake.
Proper humidity levels help ensure successful sheds for your snake. Although the ideal humidity of the enclosure should be between 60 and 80 percent, this is difficult to maintain in a dry climate. An alternative is to provide a shedding box. Sphagnum moss placed in the box maintains an agreeably moist environment.
Ball pythons are fed at night. A prey item appropriate to the size of the snake should be fed at each meal. Ball pythons are constrictors; that is, they coil around their prey and suffocate it. Only stunned or pre-killed prey should be offered to avoid injury to the snake.
Gerbils are the initial prey of choice, although dark colored mice or hamsters might work as prey items in a reluctant eater. Some snakes do not recognize red-eyed white mice as a food item. Rubbing mice with a gerbil can impart the scent of the gerbil to the mouse and aid in converting the snake to a mouse diet. As your snake gets larger, small rats are ideal.
- First 2-3 years (18"-36" long): feed every 7-10 days.
- Older snakes: feed every 2-3 weeks.
How can you keep your ball python healthy, happy and safe?
- Buy from a reputable breeder because a young, captive-bred ball python is less stressed and more willing to eat than a frightened, wild caught snake.
- Take your new ball python to a reptile veterinarian, such as the ones at Saukville Veterinary Clinic, for a general health exam and test for parasites.
- Leave a newly purchased snake alone it its enclosure for 1-2 weeks to acclimate it to its new home.
- Provide heat to your snake by special reptile heating pads or incandescent light bulbs in reflector hoods.
- Interact with your ball python during evening hours when it becomes active.
- Use a pillowcase as a transport container for short trips.
Housing for your ball python should:
- Be a relatively large enclosure.
- Maintain ambient daytime temperatures of 80-85 degrees through the use of heating elements.
- Provide for a basking areas of 90 degrees.
- Have access to fresh water in a bowl that is large enough for the snake to soak.
- Maintain high relative humidity (a large plastic container with moist spaghnum moss may help proper shedding).
- Include suitable substrates that are easy to clean: newspaper, paper towel, indoor-outdoor carpet, Astroturf.
- Provide a climbing branch with greenery for basking
Things you must keep away from your ball python:
- Live prey that may injure them
- Household temperatures cooler than 75 degrees
- Unsuitable substrates such as corncob, wood chips/shavings, gravel, dirt or rocks
- Hot Rocks, which are considered a potential hazard
- Direct contact with heating elements
- A soiled water bowl
- Cats, dogs, other pets
- Unsupervised children
For more information: Association of Reptile & Amphibian Vets