How to Care for Your Ball Python
Ball Pythons (Python regius) are small, nocturnal, terrestrial non-venomous snakes native to the tropical grasslands of central and western Africa. Males, which are smaller than females, are generally 2’-3’ long and females can reach a size of 3’-5’ though they may appear smaller when they are coiled. They can live up to 30 years.
Ball Pythons in the wild are black or dark brown with light brown blotches on the back and sides. They have white or cream colored bellies with black markings. One reasons for Ball Pythons’ popularity in the pet trade is the wide variation of colors and patterns (morphs) that have been created. Ball Pythons get their common name from their tendency to curl into a ball when stressed. Ball Pythons are generally considered to be a beginner pet.
An appropriate sized enclosure for a single Ball Pythons is generally 40 gallons (36”18”x18”, though a 12” height for these terrestrial reptiles is fine). Although Ball Pythons don’t climb, it’s important that the enclosure have a lid to keep other animals or curious children out. Ball Pythons may be kept on a newspaper or paper towel substrate for ease of cleaning. They may also be maintained on a cypress mulch or aspen shaving substrate. Cedar and pine shaving should not be used due to the toxic oils they contain. The enclosure must be cleaned regularly, though if a bioactive set-up is created, much of the cleaning will be carried out by scavenger bugs. Ball Pythons often hide during the day and require at least one hide placed on the hot side of the enclosure and one on the cooler side. A shallow water bowl should be provided that is large enough for the Ball Pythons to soak in if desired. Clean out the water bowl regularly, especially if they soil it.
Heating and Lighting
Ball Pythons are nocturnal, and consequently don’t require overhead lighting as long as the room in which they are kept has ambient light to distinguish night from day. They do require a “temperature gradient” from hot side to cool side. The temperature on the hot side should be in the low 90’s. Some keepers achieve this by installing an under tank heater (UTH) and others do set up a basking spot with an overhead light. The UTH will require a thermostat or a rheostat to regulate the temperature. The cooler side of the enclosure should be 75-80F. Ball Pythons require humidity of approximately 55-65%. Since heat and light tend to decrease humidity, it’s important to monitor the humidity level with a digital hygrometer and to take steps to maintain the appropriate level This could include: use of a larger water bowl, periodic misting, covering part of the screen top with a towel or plexiglass, use of a mulch substrate.
Food and Supplementation
Ball Pythons are carnivorous and primarily eat rats though they may also be fed chicks and quail. Vary the size of the rat with the size of the python. Most Ball Pythons are fed a single frozen and thawed rat every 1-2 weeks. If live prey is used, the snake must be supervised during feeding to insure that it’s not harmed by the feeder. Ball Pythons may eat less during the winter when their activity level goes down. They should not be handled for 1-2 days after ingesting their prey to prevent regurgitation. Although Ball Pythons should be able to obtain all their nutritional needs by ingesting the entire rat, it’s a good idea to provide additional calcium, vitamin D3 and a variety of other vitamins and minerals by dusting the feeders with an appropriate supplement such as Repashy Supervite multivitamin and powdered calcium.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to Ball Pythons, please do additional research to obtain further information from more detailed care sheets.