Ball Python (python regius) Care Sheet
Ball pythons are one of the most popular snakes kept in captivity worldwide. Keeping them can be very rewarding and on the whole, is not too difficult.
It is critically important to have your enclosure complete and ready for your ball python before bringing it home. This way, you snake can acclimate itself to its new environment as seamlessly as possible without jeopardizing its health.
There are two ways to house your snake. The first, and most popular way is in a terrarium. The second method (used more commonly by breeders) is in a rack system.The size of your enclosure should not exceed one and half times the length of your snake and should not be less than two thirds the length of your snake. In a terrarium, I prefer to go a little larger so that the enclosure is not too cluttered. There are many who believe that there is no maximum size to the enclosure – provided the snake has plenty of hides and ample foliage.Ball pythons are known to be shy animals and (like other snakes) will seek comfort in a small and dark space.
As ball pythons are cold blooded, they rely on external heat that you as the owner will provide for them. The snake itself will modulate its own heat requirements and will therefore need a healthy range of temperatures throughout the enclosure.The warm side of the enclosure should be between 87 – 90 F and the cool side should be 77 – 80 F. As a beginner, and one that has not kept ball pythons successfully before, it is important to have two thermometers affixed to each end of the cage so you can see the exact temperatures at all times.If your enclosure is too small, creating a proper heat gradient will not be possible.
Ball pythons to do not need very special humidity requirements. The average humidity levels in your own home will be between 35% and 45%. A ball pythons humidity should not drop below 50% but 55% – 60% is ideal. As a beginner, go to your local pet store or gardening store and pick up a hygrometer to accurately measure the humidity in your snakes enclosure.
Ball pythons are clean animals and choosing a substrate is not difficult. Almost any type of substrate you find in the pet shop will work just fine. The more porous the substrate (like mulch) the more it will retain moisture and bolster the humidity. The most popular bedding is probably aspen shavings. Aspen is easy to spot clean and easy to replace entirely. Remember that cedar is not a suitable bedding as it is toxic to all snakes.
Like most snakes, ball pythons seek dark and secure places to spend most of their time and providing the right amount of hides is critical to the snakes sense of security. If the snake does not feel secure, it will stress and give you feeding problems. Provide a hide on both the warm side and the cool side of the enclosure. If your enclosure is quite large, then providing more hides will be necessary. Some people also like to provide a damp hide – a place the snake can go when it needs more humidity. I personally have never provided a damp hide for ball pythons.
Ball pythons do not need special lighting requirements and will do just fine with the natural photo cycle of your home.
Make sure there is always fresh water in the cage of your ball python. Some people change the water once a week. I prefer to change the water every 3 or 4 days. Obviously, if the water gets dirty beforehand, change it immediately.
You will be able to recognize when your snake begins to shed by three main markers. First, the stomach will begin to turn pink, then the skin of the snake will begin to get significantly duller, and finally, the eyes of the snake will become milky and appear opaque. This last stage is called “being in blue”. Eventually the eyes will clear up and within the next 36 hours you can expect your snake to shed.
Ball pythons can feed on mice their entire lives but nutritionally speaking, it is better to convert them over to rats as soon as possible. They should be fed on a weekly basis and require 1 appropriately sized meal per week. This means that the mouse/rat should be the same size as the largest part of the snakes body.