Ball Pythons are one of the most commonly kept pet snakes in the reptile industry. Their docile disposition, small size and ease of care are some of the reason why most snake keepers in one time or another had a Ball Python in their collection. Throw in the assortment of pattern and array of color morphs that are available in Ball Pythons, what’s not to like about them?
Ball Pythons are native to central west Africa in countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin. Today most of the Ball Python in the pet trade are produced in the US. They grow to about 3.5 – 4.5 feet and range from 1500-4500 grams. They have a longevity of 8-20+ years and we currently have a few females that we raised up from 1998 that still produce for us yearly.
HOUSING BALL PYTHONS
Ball Pythons in general need a very basic set up. How you like to decorate the enclosure besides the necessities is personal choice. The basic items to house a Ball Python would be the enclosure, water bowl, heating element and a hiding area.
The types of enclosures that are commonly used are aquariums, Tupperware boxes and assortment of reptile caging. Make sure that the enclosure being used have a lid or door that locks. That will prevent the snake from escaping the enclosure. With Tupperware bins, most collectors keep snakes in a rack system in order house multiple snakes in a limited amount of space.
Once an enclosure is selected, another item needed will be a substrate. Many items can be used like paper towels, newspaper, aspen shavings, cypress mulch or any kind of reptile bark substrate. I recommend for most people to use cypress mulch or bark substrate as it holds humidity better than the other items. Plus, there is less chance of molding. Remember not to use any cedar shavings as the oils can be toxic to reptiles.
Next item will be a heating element to keep the snake warm when it needs to thermo-regulate. Best item to use will be a heat pad, that will be place on the underside of the enclosure. Heat rock and heat lamps are not recommended but can be used. Reason why we don’t recommend them is that the heat lamp dries out the cage. Further down we will go over the importance of humidity and the heat rock itself must be placed inside the cage which can burn the snake if the temperature of the rock gets too high.
Lastly, two basic items you’ll need are a water bowl which should always have clean water and a hiding place for the snake to retreat and feel secure.
FEEDING BALL PYTHONS
Ball Pythons feed on mice and rats. They should be fed at least once a week to maintain proper weight and growth. Yes, Ball Pythons can go long periods of time without feeding but for the snakes well-being feeding once a week is the proper regimen. Babies start off on hopper mice or rat pinkies and move up to larger size meals as the snake gets larger. The meal should leave a small lump and the snake should not be handled for two days once being fed. That will reduce the chance of the snake regurgitating the meal.
As we said previously, a weekly regimen is recommended since Ball Pythons do typically slow down on feeding during certain times of the year. That is dependent on the seasons and the size of your snake. They usually start slowing down on feeding around 600-800 grams or during the breeding season (Oct-Apr). There is nothing to worry about as Ball Pythons can go for months without a meal if there is fresh water available.
We do not recommend force feeding any snake unless it is a snake that has never eaten before. Patience is the best remedy and if you feed your snake on a weekly basis there is nothing to worry about. Other tricks that have worked for us in the past to get a trouble feeder to feed are the following: Make sure the cage is clean at all times. If you introduced a meal that has not been eaten there can be urine or fecal samples left behind that can leave an odor that the snake constantly smells. Remove substrate and clean out cage a few days before offering food. A smaller size prey will be best. Another option is to place the snake overnight into a snake bag and put back into a clean cage then offer food a few days later.
TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
Ball Pythons are a cold-blooded animal. They cannot produce heat and need heat for cellular activity like digestion. Ball Pythons prefer ambient temperatures around 80-86F and a heat spot of 90-93F. Since most Ball Pythons are kept indoors in a cooler climate, a heating element would be necessary to provide heat.
As for humidity, that is something we really find important. With the heating element and AC inside the house taking away the humidity, we highly recommend misting the cage twice a week. That will increase the amount of humidity inside the enclosure. One way you can tell if there is inefficient amount of humidity is when the snake has a dry shed. If proper humidity is maintained the snake should shed in once piece and not have any stuck shed on its body. Other ways to increase humidity are to reduce the amount of airflow in the enclosure or add a box of moist moss.