Ball Pythons are a non-venomous snake. They are the smallest of the African pythons. They are also known as Royal Pythons. They grow to an average of 4 feet, to a maximum of 6 feet. They are super docile (calm) and easy to handle. Typical lifespan is 30 years.
They got their name because they roll themselves into a tight ball and tuck their head inside their coils to protect themselves when frightened. Ball Pythons make a great snake for a beginning snake owner, for a child, or busy working adult, since they require little care and minimal attention, just when you can give it.
~ The setup of the snakes enclosure is the most important step in their care.
~ Ball pythons are not very active snakes, so a smaller enclosure is fine (10-30 gallon tank for the small to adult snake) with a securely fitted top and clips to keep them locked in.
~ Bedding ~ Plain newspaper, paper towels, reptile carpet, pine or aspen bedding (never cedar), or shredded bark (but this will likely leave a stain on the snake if not rinsed before using), some have used clean mulched bark as well. We prefer newspaper or paper towels, as it is easy to obtain and we give them new papers about once a week, keeping their cage clean and easily maintained.
~ Water ~ Fresh water should be available, refreshing atleast once a week. Provide a water dish large enough for the snake to soak in if it wishes. Soaking and moisture are extremely important during shed cycles.
~ Humidity ~ The humidity in the enclosure should stay around 60% typically and 75% when shedding is taking place. Good humidity level helps with shedding and eating habits. Placement of the water bowl will regulate the amount of humidity. Closer to the heat source, will emit more moisture. An enclosure with minimal openings is best, so the humidity isn't lost through the openings.
NOTE: As most places will recommend aquariums for your snake, they are not the best setup to reflect their natural environment needs. Aquariums are great room additons, but costly and difficult to clean or place somewhere. Sterilite or Rubbermaid tubs are perfect enclosures since the air holes can be placed in them and keep good humidity levels, plus the transparent tubs allows you to see your snake as well, and these are easily wiped clean. You can use 58qt tubs giving you room to add a branch or climb poles, rock/bark to rub on and a good sized water crock/bowl. Hide boxes aren't necessary with these tubs, since they feel secure where it gives off a cozy enclosure to lay in.
~ Temperature ~ Ball pythons are more of a nocturnal animal. They need to have a heat source in order to digest meals, stay healthy, and happy. You can buy "heat pads" that you place under the tank. Making sure they don't get too hot, the heat pad needs to cover only about 1/3 of the snakes enclosure, giving it room to move away from the heat. The warm side of the enclosure should be around 85 degrees. Place the water bowl about mid way, closer to the cooler side. At night the temps can drops slightly. Placing a thermometer on each side of the aquarium to monitor temperatures is a good way to keep track, or testing the temperature with a portable temp guage often will work as well.
~ Lighting ~ Ball pythons DO NOT need any special lighting. They don't require sunlight UV rays, so if lighting is preffered, a regular light bulb will work. Turning the light off at night is best to allow your snake to get adequate night time. The lighting that comes through the house during the day is sufficient for them. Do not place any light inside the enclosure, as they will climb onto it and burn themselves.
Hygiene is good for your snake and you
~ Enclosure ~ Keeping the ball python's enclosure clean is good for your snake and for you to enjoy!
Anyone that touches the ball python or it's enclosure should wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap or use germ-x. Before and after touching your ball python is a good measure to follow for their safety and our own.
~ How Often Fed ~ A baby ball python will eat once a week till it gets larger, then going to once every other week, to two weeks in between. We keep a calendar that has the day of the week marked to feed, and just check it if they got fed and ate well. Very simple, but very important to keep on track of when you fed them. A hungry snake can strike/bite the owner looking for food.
~ What to feed ~ Ball Pythons can be fed mice or young/medium sized rats. The size of the rodent should be NO larger then the largest circumference of your snakes midsection. We prefer to feed mice to our snakes, as they are less inquisitive to the snake, aren't as likely to cause injury or scare the snake from eating. On an occasion, we can feed 2 mice, one at a time or one each day for two days, for a full weeks feeding. We feed live healthy mice or fresh pre killed mice to our snakes. Some people feed frozen thawed out mice, but we have snakes that prefer to hunt and they don't eat the freshly thawed out rodent, therefore wasting it if they refuse to eat it. We either offer out of our own mice, or if we have none available, we keep an aquarium for healthy purchased feeder rodents. We buy a few at a time to have on hand, making our trips just once a week or less to get some.
~ When to feed ~ Evening is the preffered time for most snakes to feed, since they hunt at night. We have fed mid morning as well. Depends on the snake.
~ Important ~ After feeding your snake, don't handle him/her for atleast a day to give time to digest their food. So if you plan to take them somewhere, feed them a day early, so they are happy and full to go and will have time for their food to settle.
~ How to feed ~ We have taken our snakes to a different tub for feeding. This does work very well! Especially if started when they are young and they get associated that they are taken to the food, rather then the food being given in their typical enclosure.
NOTE: Another reason to feed live mice, you can drop the mouse quickly into the tub, so your snake does not associate you with holding it's food above it. If you should choose to feed frozed/thawed or freshly killed, I recommend a tong long enough you can dangle the rodent close to the enclosure floor, to imitate the rodent being on the ground, not dangling in the air.
~ Chances of getting bit ~ Ball Pythons won't bite without a good reason. Typically it would be due to a misplaced strike at their food, so we don't allow them to see us as their food, at any time. If they are not fed accordingly and they are hungry, or if they are mistreated a lot. Always good to open and close the top of their enclosure whenever you get the chance, this will get them accustomed to thinking, not everytime it opens they get fed.
We have well mannered snakes and we credit that due to them being used to a routine. Makes them very good for our kids to be involved in their care at all times. Children should always be supervised when handling or helping with any snake.
~ Some Ball pythons are picky eaters, this can depend on how they were fed before you got them. All the more reason to buy from a breeder who can share this information with you.
~ It is advisable to weigh your ball python atleast once a month. Ball Pythons are weighed in grams. We use a pound scale and then type that weight into Google and ask for grams, it converts it for you. Very simple. After weighing, just notate on the calendar day what the weight was and who (if you have more then one).
~ If your snake refuses to eat ~ Sometimes your snake may refuse to eat, sometimes months at a time. This lack of eating or the opposite binge eating could be due to many things, such as: preparing for breeding season (which is in the winter months), changes in their enclosure: low humidity, low temps, room activity sometimes can affect this. But generally if they are healthy they will eat when they are hungry. Snakes can go 2-4 months without eating, so monitoring their weight is the best guide to keeping them healthy in their time of fasting.
~ First thing to do ~ If your ball python stops eating... examine the enclosure: cleanliness, atleast 60% humidity, fresh water, warmth is available and adequate temperature.
~ Try these tricks ~ Change the color of rodent offered. Feed the snake in an enclosure that is dark and has the rodent waiting in it (the activity can sometimes get them going). IF your snake is cold and uncomfortable in it's enclosure, it is unlikely to eat till it has a comfortable environment. You can give your snake a luke warm mineral oil bath. Helps if shedding is not successful, plus gives them fresh start to an environment they weren't happy in.
* When to consult a reptile vet or experienced ball python keeper for help: If the snake hasn't eaten for more than 6 months or there is a weight loss of 10-20%.
*** Still adding new information. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! ***