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Ball Python Care Sheet

Sammy

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5 Year Member
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Common Name: Ball Python
AKA: Royal Python
Scientific Name: Python Regius

Origin:
Ball Pythons come from the grasslands of Western and Central Africa.

Lifespan and Size:
Ball Pythons are a hearty snake that can live 40 plus years in captivity. Hatchlings are typically 9 to 12 inches at birth and they typically weigh 60 to 80 grams. As adults they are a thick bodied snake that can reach lengths of 6 plus feet, although reaching 6 feet would be considered rare. Males average 3 to 3 1/2 feet as adults and females average 4 to 4 1/2 feet as adults. Adult weights can vary greatly. Adult males typically weigh between 1200 and 2000 plus grams, adult females typically get over 2000 grams and can reach 4000 grams or more.

Housing:
Your Ball Python's enclosure can be as simple or as elaborate as your imagination allows. As long as you provide the following essentials your Ball Python will do just fine. First, providing an enclosure that is big enough to provide a proper temperature gradient is vital. Being cold blooded they will regulate their body temperature by alternating between the warm and cool ends of the enclosure. So with that being said, adults should do well in an enclosure that measures roughly 36"L x 18"W x 10"H . Baby and juvenile Balls tend to do better in smaller enclosures where they can feel more secure. Typically a 24"L x 12"W x 10"H will work well. There are a variety of enclosure types you can choose from. Sterilite/Rubbermaid containers, rack systems and plastic caging like Animal Plastics and Boaphile Plastics to name a few. Aquariums work as well, but with the screen lids are very hard to maintain humidity.

Hides are also essential for your Ball Python. Without hides your snake will live in constant stress. I do NOT consider the "half logs" to be hides. You want your hides to be more like caves with a single opening. You should have at least 2 hides, one on the warm end and one on the cool end. That way your snake will not have to choose between security and temperature. It will have a secure area in both temperature ranges.

Substrates:
You have a variety of good substrates for Ball Pythons. Aspen, Cypress, Newspaper and Reptile Carpet are all good choices. I am a big fan of the Sani-Chips brand Aspen bedding from Harlan Teklad myself.

Water Dish:
I can't stress enough how important it is to keep fresh water on hand at all times. I change my water dishes every other day at least. Often every day and any time I notice the water is tainted by substrate or anything else. The size of the dish is really up to you. Although I would recommend it to be at least 2 1/2 inches deep and 4 inches in diameter.

Temperatures, Heating, Humidity and Lighting:
Your Ball Python needs a basking area (warm side) of 88-92 degrees. The cool side (ambient) temperature should be 78-82. It should never drop below 75. Another thing I can not stress enough is how important it is to KNOW your temps. Do NOT guess and do NOT rely on analog or stick on thermometers. They are unreliable at best. I recommend using a digital thermometer with a probe and/or a digital temp gun. Those are the only ways you are going to get accurate temperature readings. Again I can't stress enough how vital this is to the overall well being of your Ball Python.

Heating: You can heat your enclosure a variety of ways. There is not a one size fits all solution. There are just too many variables. From the temps and draftiness in your home, to the enclosure location in your home, to the type of enclosure you are using, etc. I find the best way to provide heat for Ball Pythons is with a under tank heating devices. Be it a traditional UTH, Flexwatt, heat rope, etc. You can also use Ceramic Heat Emitters, Radiant Heat Panels and Heat Bulbs to name a few. In some cases you may need to use a combination of heating devices. Also, it is my opinion that ALL heating devices should be used in conjunction with a thermostat or rheostat. With a little trial and error you should be able to maintain your temps in the ideal ranges.

Humidity: Maintaining proper humidity levels are very important. Not just for shedding but for the health of your snake. Keeping your humidity too high can be worse for your snake than keeping it too low. So keep that in mind when you are setting up your enclosure. With that being said, you want your humidity in the 50-60 percent range. I personally try to maintain humidity between 55 and 60 percent. Easier said than done though. There are many ways to get your humidity in the proper ranges. The type of enclosure and substrate you use will have a direct effect on how you accomplish getting your humidity in the proper range. Some of the strategies people use to control humidity levels are size of water dishes/multiple water dishes, placement of water dishes, misting the substrate, humid hides and controlling the humidity of the room itself that your enclosure is in. Again, this is a matter of trial and error because there just is not a one size fits all solution.

Lighting: Special UV lighting and overhead lighting is not needed for Ball Pythons. What is needed is a well lit room, be it from natural sunlight or lamps, that will properly simulate a day night cycle for your Ball Python. For most keepers a 12 hour day and a 12 hour night cycle works just fine year round.

Feeding:
There are many different feeding strategies out there. I am just going to cover how I personally feed my Ball Pythons. I prefer feeding rats myself. I typically feed a single appropriately sized rat at every feeding. I define an appropriately sized rat as a rat that is no bigger around than my snake's body is at its widest point. For babies and young juvies I feed every 4 to 5 days. Older juvies and adults are fed every 7 to 10 days based on the condition of the individual snake. Also, I only offer food on the designated feeding day. If they do not eat on that designated day, for whatever reason, I do not offer again until the following designated feeding day.

Cleaning: I spot clean my enclosures on a daily basis. Feces, urates, excessively urine soaked substrate, sheds, etc are removed immediately upon being noticed. Any hides that may have feces or urates on them are also cleaned immediately upon being noticed. Water dishes are cleaned and sterilized on a weekly basis or sooner if needed (water itself is changed every other day). The entire cage itself and all furnishings ( hides, branches, logs, etc) are cleaned and sterilized every 4 to 6 weeks. I use a mild dish soap for cleaning and Nolvasan to sterilize. A 5% bleach solution works too. Be extremely cautious when using a bleach solution and make sure it is thoroughly rinsed and allow to air dry completely before exposing it to your snake again.

Quarantine: I can not stress enough how important it is to quarantine any new addition to your collection. You should quarantine for at least 30 days, although I personally quarantine for 90 days in a separate room from the rest of my herps. There have been some very unfortunate people out there who have lost their entire reptile collections by not practicing proper quarantine procedures. It does not matter if your Ball Python came from the most respected breeder on the planet or your local pet shop, you NEED TO QUARANTINE. Washing your hands between handling each Ball Python or between doing any kind of work in each Ball Python's enclosure is another way to help prevent spreading illness/parasites from one Ball Python to the next.

In closing I would like to recommend that you get your enclosure completely set up a week in advance of getting your Ball Python. That way you have ample time to establish and maintain proper temps and humidity before welcoming your new Ball Python to its new home. He/She will thank you for it. Also I would like to say that if this is your first snake you should really look into getting a captive bred Ball Python from a reliable breeder and not a pet shop. A reliable breeder is going to offer you a snake that is already well established eating and has been given the proper care and personal attention it deserves.
 

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