This Page is Dedicated to Providing an Assortment of Information Regarding Husbandry Techniques for Ball Pythons
General Care for Ball Pythons in Captivity
Ball Pythons are relatively low maintenance, and caring for them properly in a captive care is very easy once a few simple husbandry guidelines have been met. In comparison to the more traditional pets, they don't need to be taken on daily walks, nor do they require a litter box that needs to be scooped regularly.
Ball pythons may be easy to maintain in comparison to other common household pets, but they do require some general upkeep. This includes feeding prey items on a week to bye weekly basis, providing fresh water and also performing some occasional cage cleaning. Spot cleaning from time to time can be a useful technique for keeping up the appearance of your ball python's enclosure. We recommend an entire cage cleaning with full disinfectant every few months. Diluted dish soap can be a powerful ally when performing a full cage cleaning. Dish soap is also snake friendly and may be used on the snake itself if used properly in a diluted solution. For example; a dab of dish soap about the size of a nickel for every 16-20 ounces of water. We like to use a more diluted solution when applying it to the animals and a less diluted solution when cleaning cages. In either circumstance, make sure to rinse thoroughly with water to ensure that no soap residue was left behind.
Owning a ball python as a pet can be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience as long as one's pet keeping expectations are held to accurate standards. In the most basic sense, we tend to look at a domesticated ball python as something that will be aesthetically pleasing. A ball python can be a great pet for simplistic or advanced cage building and furnishings. There are a wide variety of decorative accessories available for purchase online or at your local pet store that can be used to renovate your snake's enclosure.
Ball pythons are considered top competitors among python species when if comes to carefree human interaction. Ball pythons are relatively docile and make for excellent pets when occasional to moderate handling is desired. We find that the ball python is best categorized to be in the beginner to very early advanced stages of exotic pet keeping.The few common husbandry mishaps that we have come across have mostly been due shedding issues, burns and simple housing flaws. With the information and guidelines provided, hopefully we can help others from making the simple mistakes. Novice and Experienced keepers alike, we've all had to go through the same learning curves at one time or another. Compared to the "good old days," there is a plethora of information available through the internet and experienced keepers. When in doubt seek advice to avoid the headaches.
When the bare essentials are provided, we find that ball pythons tend to thrive in even the most simplistic of setups. We will go over what it takes to create a fairly generic setup that includes all the basic equipment. The rest is up to you. Creating more elaborate setups can be visually appealing while also providing an optimal environment for your ball python. That being said, there have been a lot of circumstances we have encountered where ball pythons have been put at a high risk of health issues due to inadequate husbandry and caging techniques. A proper setup for a ball python should at the very least include the following:
1. A secure enclosure - Keep in mind that snakes in general are exceptional escape artists. A glass tank with sliding or locking screen lids are an inexpensive yet very effective way to house a ball python. Make sure that the screen is free of any holes or breaks especially along the sides. Other acceptable housing options include vision cages, custom caging and a variety of plastic tubs and enclosures.
2. Water bowl - Ceramic, glass, metal, or plastic water bowls work great. Keep in mind that a water bowl that is heavy and stable can be most beneficial for preventing spills. Ball pythons like to explore, especially at night. If a lightweight water source is provided, it's likely the bowl will be tipped over quite frequently.
3. Hide - Snakes in general are fairly seclusive animals so this ones important. Not providing a reliable hide for your ball python can lead to excessive stress on the animal and the development of more problems. There are a wide variety of hides that can be used to give a ball python added security within its enclosure. If a large enclosure is used, it may not be a bad idea to provide multiple hides. Providing multiple hides is also a great way to allow your ball python to have optimal hiding spots with the options to seek desired temperatures. For example, one hide on the cooler side of the enclosure and one on the warmer side of the enclosure.
4. Heat source - A heat lamp and/or heat pad. Black or Red heat bulbs not exceeding 150 watts are commonly the most recommended heat source from your typical pet store. If a heat bulb is used in a more arid region, we recommend finding ways to increase humidity levels for your ball python. Stuck shed is common problem often encountered with captive ball pythons in drier climates. It's best to avoid this problem if possible. Covering half of the screen lid with tape, plastic and/or Reynolds Wrap and spraying the enclosure daily can be a useful technique for boosting humidity levels. An occasional spraying of the enclosure will save you the hassle of soaking and picking dry skin off your ball python when those stuck shed layers start to build up. When we encounter a ball python with a piece of stuck shed, we like to soak them as soon as possible. It's probably safe to assume that the excess stuck skin gives them an uncomfortable feeling similar to an itch that can't be itched.
5. Thermostat or Rheostat - We can't stress enough how important it is to hook up a reliable temperature controlling device to your heat source. Always stay away from heat rocks as they are notorious for malfunctioning behavior resulting in burns. Heat pads have also been know to malfunction causing burns when not connected to temperature controlling device. Not only is this a huge fire risk to your home, but it can also do inflict serious injuries to your snake. Do not overlook a reliable temperature control device.
6. Proper humidity levels - This is an often over looked but very important element to keep an eye on within a ball python's enclosure. A hydrometer and an inexpensive spray bottle can be a helpful tools when attempting to raise humidity levels within your ball python's enclosure. Adequate humidity levels for a ball python's enclosure should reside right in the 50 - 60% range.
Size & Selecting a New Snake
The ball python species is a relatively manageable python species in comparison to many other python species. We can expect healthy ball python hatchlings to be in the 60-100 grams size range or right at about 8-12 inches long. There are exceptions to this rule due to egg size and multiple snakes per egg, but a healthy body weight is priority number one. Even smaller hatchlings should have a strong stocky build to them. A slender weak body structure may indicate a feeding problem. A healthy baby ball python should readily take food with no issues, this is their time to grow.
The adult size of ball pythons can vary depending on the sex and locality. Some blood lines are notorious for breeding earlier than others and at smaller sizes, while others will tend to grow at alarming rates, even typically topping out at a larger than average size. Generally, we can expect full grown males to reach a 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 foot long slender build while an adult female will typically be in the 4 1/2 to 6 foot range and have more of a stocky build. There are exceptions to this standard, as it's not uncommon on occasion to find females that have surpassed the 6 foot bench mark. Locality and breeding opportunities seem to play a large role in the end result of top growth marks for both males and females.
When selecting a new ball python, it is very important to examine it for for good body weight and strength. Look for any other possible visual or underlying issues. Wheezing, drooling or any excess of sticky saliva in the mouth is a dead give away that the snake has a respiratory infection. This is the equivalent of a common cold for humans. While treated fairly easily if attended to properly, respiratory infections can easily and very quickly lead to far more serious and potentially contagious underlying issues. Contagious viruses are any reptile keepers worst nightmare. Stay away from respiratory infections at all costs when acquiring a new snake.
Ball pythons by nature in captivity can be finicky eaters, especially so for imported specimens. This reason alone is why we believe that ball pythons earn their early advanced keeper status. When everything is going well, ball pythons can be a breeze to care for, yet can also be a nightmare when a few things go wrong. Imports, including hatchings have a reputation for not readily taking feed in captive care. For beginners, it's highly recommended that a captive bred specimen is selected. Typically a few generations away from a wild caught import will yield the most successful results. This is where we also like to stress that buying from a breeder or obtaining the origin of bloodlines can be crucial. Always seek veterinary or breeder assistance if a ball python is not feeding and losing weight at an alarming rate. There are several techniques that can be used to get a ball python back on feed, one of which is called "assist feeding."
Ball pythons do have incredibly slow metabolisms and can go extraordinarily long time periods without food if need be. That being said, there are certain times throughout the year that ball pythons will feed reliably and even aggressively. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions tab for more information regarding feeding suggestions and general feeding tips.
-The following is also available in Frequently Asked Questions under "Why will my ball python not eat?"
Ball Pythons can be know as finicky eater from time to time. This means that they won't always readily take prey items. There are Three common circumstances which may result in a ball python refusing food.
The first and most common occurrence that can affect owners of newly acquired ball pythons is when their ball python refuses its first few meal attempts. Ball pythons are commonly put through a good amount of stress and commotion during the earliest stages of their life and the setup in their first enclosure. Sometimes it is best to let them properly settle into their new home before offering them food. We usually recommend a time frame between 1-3 weeks unless instructed otherwise. We know it can be difficult after just acquiring a new pet, but this time frame should include an optimal enclosure with plenty of hiding spaces and minimal handling. Ball Pythons may not have emotions similar to cats or dogs, but you will be able to tell when they become more comfortable with you.
The second circumstance is the most natural of the three. During breeding season, breeder males often times go off feed when in heavy breeding cycles. Females that have been successfully bred will also go off feed when they become gravid, or egg bound. Nothing to worry about but be ready for eggs!
The last occurrence is the most un-natural process which can cause headaches in ball python keepers and breeders alike. Ball pythons have a tendency to go without food for several months all the way up to and sometimes even exceeding a full year without touching a single prey item. Some of the longest ones we have seen go without feed have been nearly 14 months, but the cycle typically lasts closer to 4-6 months on average.This happens quite frequently in sub adult to adult sized ball pythons. We can speculate that there are a few logical reasons why they may go off feed for such a prolonged time period. Ball pythons have a remarkably slow metabolism so over feeding or "power feeding" could very well be one reason that sparks prolonged non feeding periods. Another we have experienced quite frequently is when females around the 800-1200 gram range decide to shut off right before breeding season. Our best guess is that these females need time more time to reach sexual maturity and these girls prolong weight gain to avoid obsessive breeding from males that are ready to breed. If experiencing a prolonged period of missed meals and an excess loss in body weight, seek Veterinary assistance as soon as possible.