There are several reasons why Ball Pythons are a popular choice when it comes to snake ownership.
First, they come in many different colors, commonly referred to “morphs”. Secondly, Ball Python Care is typically pretty easy.
There aren’t many nuances to owning a Ball Python, making them a great beginner pet snake.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know when it comes to proper Ball Python care and ownership.
From the best terrarium/enclosure to how humid Ball Pythons prefer their environment… you’ll learn it all right here, right now. Ball Pythons make a great first snake for owners of all ages.
Table of Contents
Ball Python Care Sheet Basics & FAQs
At this point, you’re probably wondering if a Ball Python is right for you your kids. Well, here’s some great news: Ball Pythons make a great beginner snake for first time owners. Likewise, they come in many different colors or “morphs” that appeal to more season snake owners.
There are some key piece of info you need to know to ensure proper Ball Python Care. While this breed is often referred to as the most popular kind of captive snake to own, you’ll need to do a bit of research before ownership.
Ball Pythons are easy to maintain and take care of, which is why they are so popular. Plus, they are one of the smaller breeds of python. They don’t get too big, and are fairly docile and shy.
Below are the absolute must-knows when it comes to Ball Python care and ownership.
What Size Cage Do I Need for My New Ball Python?
Ball Python cage size is key for a happy and healthy snake. Ideally, you can get the proper size Ball Python terrarium right from the get go. Although it’s best to get a cage that will last in the long run — you can get a smaller Ball Python Cage to start and scale up later.
The proper Ball Python enclosure size is typically a 20 gallon tank. All snakes like at least enough space to stretch out 3/4ths of their max length. A 20 gallon tank should be more than enough for a Ball Python. If you don’t really want a 20 gallon tank and have stumbled across an alternative, that’s ok — especially if you have a male Ball Python. A standard enclosure that is at least 36 inches long by 18 inches wide should do the trick.
Also, if you are purchasing a baby Ball Python, you can start out with a smaller tank, shoebox, or any other temporary enclosure. Eventually, you will need to upgrade to a larger terrarium with the proper equipment for your Ball Python though.
What is the Life Span of a Ball Python?
You need to make sure a Ball Python is a pet you’re ready to commit to for the long run.
The reason for this is because Ball Python’s have an average lifespan of about 25-30 years, and some specimens can live up to ~35 years. That’s a long time to care for a snake, so make sure you have a long term Ball Python care plan in place before getting one.
While these snakes do live a long time, they are fairly easy to maintain. With that in mind, it’s not like a dog or other pet that requires a ton of your time and dedication. While Ball Pythons do require certain levels of care and interactivity, it’s much easier to take care of this type of animal and species compared to others.
Also, if you’re buying your kid a Ball Python as a pet, know that the snake will likely stay alive long after your young one goes off to college. Many dorms do not accept snakes (or any pets for that matter). It’s good to think long term when owning a snake for the first time, because they survive a lot longer than many people think.
How Big do Ball Pythons Typically Get?
As mentioned above, it’s best to get at least a 20 gallon tank that has a length similar to how long your snake will get. That holds true for any snake, not just Ball Pythons.
What’s nice about Ball Pythons is that they don’t get very large. This makes them easier to feed, maintain, and care for. Plus, you don’t have to worry about what to do with a 10-15 foot long snake that still has growing to do down the road.
It’s important to know what sex your Ball Python is before purchasing, because the sizes can be quite different. Because the average length of a Ball Python differs between male and female, you’ll need to take that into account when getting your Ball Python enclosure set up. Below are the specs for how big Ball Pythons typically get:
Average Male Ball Python Length: 90-110 cm, or around 3-3.5 feet
Average Female Ball Python Length: 120-140 cm, or around 4-4.5 feet
What is the Best Bedding/Substrate for a Ball Python?
Getting the proper substrate (fancy word for bedding) is key to a happy Ball Python. There are a few types you can use, and definitely some you should avoid.
The main reason it’s important to get the right Ball Python substrate is because something too small or toxic can be harmful to your pet.
In general, avoid substrate that is too fine. Ball Pythons can sometimes ingest substrate, and fine bedding like sand or wood chips that are too small can be dangerous for them. Additionally, keep an eye out for any treated bedding or substrate that has been processed with chemicals. It’s best to avoid those, as treated substrates can have negative effects on a Ball Python.
RECOMMENDED BALL PYTHON SUBSTRATE: ReptiChip Premium Coconut Substrate
This Ball Python bedding is highly recommended. It’s large enough to help minimize the chances that your ball python will ingest it. Plus, it’s all natural, and is not treated with any chemicals. That checks all the boxes when it comes to the best Ball Python bedding.
How Often Should I Change My Ball Python’s Bedding?
It’s recommended to change substrate around once every month. Ball Pythons, like all animals, go to the bathroom. The good news is that Ball Pythons (along with many other snakes) relieve themselves fairly infrequently.
Consequently, it’s best to change your Ball Python’s bedding every 1-2 months. Also, you should check the cage daily, sift through the chips, and remove any feces or clumped together substrate.
It’s important to note that when you do change out the substrate for your Ball Python, you should also disinfect the inside of the terrarium. As for the solution you should use to disinfect the enclosure, we recommend Carolina Custom Cages Chlorhexidine Solution. One of those bottles should last you several years to come.
This is another reason why Ball Python care is fairly low commitment. A Ball Python enclosure is very easy to maintain.
Ideal Ball Python Enclosure Temperature and Climate
Since Ball Pythons are a tropical snake, they require a specific temperature set up in their cage. Below you’ll find a quick overview of what you’ll need, and we provide a more in-depth heating/humidity guide further along in the post.
It’s very important that your Ball Pythons terrarium has properly regulated temperature. While it’s not too difficult or complex to get the set ua p right, this is by far the biggest undertaking when it comes to proper Ball Python care.
Like many other snakes, Ball Python’s like to have variation when it comes to the climate of their terrarium. Here’s the basics of what you’ll need to get things right:
1. Ball Pythons need a basking area of around 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use either a heating pad or a heat lamp for this.
2. Ball Pythons also require an ambient temperature of 76-83 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the snakes to not overheat, and it gives them a comfortable temperature to burrow and cool down.
3. Ball Pythons also seem to like a standing humidity of around 50%. There are easy ways to measure and regulate this. The water bowl will provide a fair amount of humidity, and if you live in a dry area, you may need to get a small reptile humidifier.
The Complete Guide to Setting Up the Best Ball Python Enclosure
The right terrarium is key to ensuring the proper Ball Python care. We outlined a few FAQs about general Ball Python terrariums above, now we are going to dive into the specific equipment. Everything you need to know about getting your Ball Python up and running in it’s new home is right here.
You’ll need a few different, key items outlined below.
Ball Python Cage Setup Starter Kit
|REPTIZOO Reptile Glass Terrarium 36x18x18|
When it comes to caging, REPTIZOO makes a aquality product. This terrarium comes with everything you'll need to get your Ball Python set up in a proper enclosure.
|ReptiChip Premium Coconut Substrate|
This is one of our most highly recommended substrate, and is perfect for a Ball Python.
This Ball Python bedding is easy to clean up, doesn't put off an odor, and is sourced from organic materials. Although this substrate isn't required, it comes highly recommended. More below on how often you should change your Ball Python's substrate.
|Zilla Reptile Habitat Décor Shale Rock Den|
Ball Pythons enjoy being in cover. In the wild, they spend most of their time curled up in a natural hide. This will do the trick, and feel free to add a few more hides to your Ball Python's terrarium as well.
|iPower Tank Heat Pad/Digital Thermostat|
Ball Pythons don't require a light cycle, so this should do just fine when it comes to a heat source. Make sure you have the properly regulated temperatures, though. More below on what the climate should be for a standard Ball Python cage.
|Exo Terra Water Dish|
When Ball Pythons shed, they like to soak in their water bowl for a while to loosen up their dead skin. It's important to have a larger water bowl in general when owning a snake. This bowl should be plenty big enough for your new python to get a get soak and stay hydrated.
|iPower Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller for Reptiles|
You'll need at least one thermometer for your Ball Python's cage. One side of their cage should be around 90 degrees F and the other should be more ambient, in the range of 76-83 degrees F. These digital thermometers should do the trick & will help you make sure you're giving your snake a comfy living space.
|Fluker's Repta-Clamp Lamp Ceramic with Dimmable Switch|
This heat lamp should do the trick for your Ball Python if you choose to go this route. You don't necessarily need a light-emitting bulb, as Ball Pythons don't need a light cycle to survive. Whatever heat source you choose for your Ball Python, be sure to get a thermostat so your Ball Python terrarium is properly heated.
That will be everything you need to get set up for your first Ball Python’s enclosure. Keep in mind, these are just the very basic setup items you’ll need to get started. Eventually, you’ll need to incorporate different hides, caves, rocks, and other things into your Ball Python terrarium.
At very least, this will get you off the ground and able to house your new Ball Python! While you don’t need each specific branded product above, it’s recommended to at least get those items in general.
Just to reiterate, we want to give a little more info on our recommended tank for Ball Pythons. It truly is a great terrarium for Ball pythons, and many other snakes for that matter like California King Snakes.
Like most snakes, Ball Pythons enjoy water. They enjoy drinking it, soaking in it, and they also enjoy the humidity emitted from the water bowl it self. The latter especially applies to Ball Pythons since they are a tropical snake and prefer more humid climates.
There are a few best practices when it comes to water and proper Ball Python care. Below are the steps you need to take to ensure that your Ball Python stays healthy and enjoys clean, fresh drinking water.
- Make sure you give your snake plenty of fresh drinking water. We recommend dumping and filling your Ball Python’s drinking dish once every day. The reason is because often times, they like to soak in their dish. They can sometimes defecate in the dish, which makes it a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Sanitize your Ball Python’s water dish once every 3-4 days. Red slime tends to build up in snake dishes rather quick, and it’s good to wipe it down with a snake-safe sanitizper spray on a regular basis. As for the spray, we highly recommend Carolina Custom Cages Chlorhexidine Solution .
- Know that your Ball Python will takes regular baths. it’s totally normal for them to do this, but can also be an indicator that something is wrong. You’ll find more info below on why Ball Pythons like to soak in their dish, and what it means if they are in there for too long and are showing other signs.
Snake is Soaking in Water Bowl – What Does it Mean?
It’s COMPLETELY normal for your Ball Python to spend time in it’s water bowl. They like to soak for a number of different reasons, and it’s very important to observe how often and for how long they spend in their water bowl. Below we’ll go over when it’s totally normal for Ball Pythons to soak, and when you should be alarmed about your snake being in it’s water bowl too frequently or for too long.
So just why do Ball Pythons soak in their water dish? Here are the main reasons, the last being rather uncommon:
Reasons Why Ball Pythons Soak in Their Water Dish:
- Your Ball Python is getting ready to shed. This is the utmost common reason that Ball Pythons hang soak in their water dish. It’s totally normal, and they should not be disturbed when this process is happening. Give it a few days, and chances are you’ll find skin shed in your Ball Python’s cage. It’s a regularly occurring, natural thing that happens with any snake and with many reptiles. No need to worry if your snake only takes temporary soaks in it’s water dish. Now, if your Ball Python spends a lot of time in it’s dish and does not shed, it could be due to one of the two reasons below.
- Your Ball Python Could be Dry or Overheating. If your Ball Python continues to bask in it’s water dish without shedding, it’s likely too hot or too dry in the terrarium. Be sure you have at least one thermostat, and you may want to get a humidity tester, too. Remember – Ball Pythons like to have a basking temperature of around 88-90 degrees F, an ambient area of 76-83 degree F, and enjoy about 50-60% humidity.
- Your Ball Python might have mites. This is absolute worst case scenario. If you’ve followed this guide and kept proper care of your Ball Python, your pet likely doesn’t have mites. However, if you have brought your Ball Python outside and in the grass, or if you brought foreign, un-sanitized objects (like rocks, sticks, branches) into it’s terrarium, there’s a chance it has mites. If this is the case, look up your local specialist veterinarian and give them a call – there are plenty of solutions to ridding your Ball Python of mites.
Recommended Water Dish
Recommended Water Dish for Proper Ball Python Care
Water is an essential part of your Ball Python’s enclosure. The Exo Terra Water Dish is a great option for Ball Pythons of all sizes. It holds plenty of water, and will ensure that your Ball Python is hydrated and has plenty of room to soak.
We find this water dish easy to clean, too. The light colored interior makes water mold and other residue easy to see, which is a huge plus. Snake water bowls can be a breeding ground for slime and bacteria, it’s it’s really nice to be able to easily see any residue that should be cleaned and sanitized.
Ball Python Feeding
Feeding your snake the right meals at the right time is key to ensure the proper Ball Python care. Feeding isn’t difficult with Ball Pythons, and you will have two options when it comes to how and what you feed them. (Hint: the two options are frozen mice and live mice).
If you choose to get an infant Ball Python, you’ll need to change the size of mice you feed it over time. It’s fairly easy to plan out, and we recommend training your Ball Python to feed on frozen mice. Trust us, frozen mice are much easier to manage than live mice. We’ll get to more on that later. In this section we will outline how often to feed a Ball Python, how big of mice to feed a Ball Python, and what type of mice you should feed a Ball Python.
Ball Python Care Pro Tip:
Before buying your Ball Python, ask the breeder about it’s eating habits. Some snakes can have odd eating habits, and checking with the breeder can ensure your get a “normal” eater. Avoid the snakes if the breeder mentions any eating habits that seem sketchy or unusual.
How Often Should You Feed a Ball Python?
The short answer to this question is, “it depends”. While your Ball Python is growing, the best practice is to feed it once every 7 days. You can continue to feed your Ball Python once every 7 days throughout it’s life, too.
That said, if your Ball Python begins rejecting food or seems disinterested in food after it’s full grown, try feeding it every 12-15 days. Snakes have a very slow metabolism, and when Ball Pythons become adults, it’s fairly common to stretch out their feeding frequency with longer periods in between meals.
Note that Ball Pythons usually go through a period of time during the year when they will not eat as much. Although it can be unnerving to the owner of the snake, it’s completely normal for this to happen. Usually, healthy Ball Pythons will eat more sparingly during dry, winter months. Don’t be alarmed if your BP rejects food during this time. Also, try to space out their feeding a little more than normal if your BP rejects food in the winter months. That will give them a chance to build up an appetite.
More about Feeding
Ball Pythons are a rather “thick” snake, and have a good size girth. You can even feed some Ball Pythons crawlers or baby rats at a young age. The right size food really depends on a case-by-case basis, as some Pythons prefer different sized rodents. Rule of thumb, try to feed your Ball Python a rodent that is 1-1.5 times the size of the largest part of your snakes body. Try not to go any smaller than that, because you’ll run the risk of underfeeding your snake.
Another good method to feeding your snake is to feed it based on how much it weighs. Usually, you want each meal to be about 10% of the Ball Python’s total body weight. This is a really convenient way to understand how much to feed a Ball Python because when buying bulk frozen mice, the different available feed sizes are typically broken down by how much they weigh in grams. So if your Ball Python weighs 300 grams, go with large mice/small rats that weight 25-33 grams.
Feeding Your Ball Python Live Mice vs. Frozen Mice
You essentially have two options when it comes to feeding your Ball Python: live mice or frozen mice.
Live mice are one route to go, although you will have to either plan a weekly trip to the pet store or breed your own. It can be done, but it usually more consuming than the alternative. If you don’t have a pet store near you in a convenient location, or you don’t want to have a cage full of mice, steer clear of feeding your snake live ones.
Plus, once you start feeding your Ball Python live mice, it can be difficult to transition them to frozen ones. Lastly, live mice can seriously damage captive Ball Pythons. Why take the risk? Avoid the hassle and potential threat to your snake by opting for frozen mice.
We highly recommend starting your Ball Python off with frozen mice as their regular diet. It’s far easier to manage than buying a new live mouse each week. Plus, you can buy frozen mice in large quantities on Amazon. How convenient is that?
Frozen mice are far more manageable than live ones. It’s really a no-brainer.
Recommended Feeding Mice
Proper Handling Best Practices
Ball Pythons are by nature docile and reclusive animals. In the wild, they spend a lot of time hiding out in trees and in enclosures. They are not aggressive, and they have a great tendency to warm up to humans. That’s a big reason why Ball Pythons are such popular pets.
While the breed tends to be friendly, there are a few best practices to note when it comes to handling your Ball Python.
Handle on a Regular Basis
Ball Pythons like to be held, and are normally friendly and docile snakes. To make sure they stay friendly and approachable, it’s best to handle your Ball Python at least a few times a week. This will ensure that your snake becomes comfortable with you and remembers all of your smells.
Be sure to avoid any fast movements when handling your Ball Python. You need to build trust with it, and this breed of snake is typically shy at first. Once you establish trust with the reptile, they will remember you and be more willing to be handled.
Lastly, be aware of your Ball Python’s temperament when tempting to pick him or her up. If it seems abrasive or skeptical, it might be best to leave them be and try again a different day. Below, you’ll find the situations when it’s best to avoid handling your Ball Python.
Ball Python Care Pro Tip:
If you haven’t purchased your Ball Python yet, ask the breeder about the temperament of the different available snakes. Some will likely be more friendly and social than others. It’s best to identify ones that could possibly be mean or aggressive before purchasing. While Ball Pythons are typically less temperamental than other breeds, they are still wild animals.
When to NOT Handle Your Ball Python
Although it’s recommended to handle your Ball Python frequently, there are certain times when it’s best to leave them be. Is your BP acting aggressive, or is resisitent to being picked up? While they love the warm-blooded warmth of your touch, sometimes Ball Pythons like to be left alone.
To ensure proper Ball Python Care, be wary of handling your snakes during the following times:
- Right before or after feeding. It’s best to not handle a Ball Python, or any snake for that matter, before or after feeding. Rule of thumb, give them a day before and after feeding before handling again. If you try to pick up your Ball Python too soon after feeding, it could regurgitate as a defense mechanism. Snakes feel vulnerable right after a meal as they are typically slower and more dormant during the digesting period.
- When they are about to shed. Has your BP been hanging out in it’s water bowl for a day or so? It’s probably about to shed, and it’s best not to disturb them at this time. Watch for signals that the snake gives you; if it doesn’t seem to want to be held, it’s best not to handle them. Just like after they eat, snakes are vulnerable when they are shedding, too. So it’s best not to spook them.
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