Ball Python Care Sheet
Common Name: Ball Python, Royal Python
Latin name: Python regius
Native to: Africa
Size: Adult ball pythons grow to three-five feet depending on sex.
Life span: Ball pythons can live 20 - 30 years in captivity.
Housing: Snakes are escape artists and when choosing an enclosure it is important that the enclosure used is made as escape-proof as possible. Generally an adult ball python should be kept is a 30-gallon sized enclosure (12 inches x 36 inches). Smaller snakes can be kept in a 10 gallon sized enclosure at the start. They should have at least one hide box but it would be best to have two with 1 located on the hot side and 1 on the cool side of the enclosure. Ball Pythons are solitary animals and should be housed by themselves.
Temperature: Daytime temperatures should be maintained at 80° - 85° F with a basking temperature of 90° - 92° F. Night time temperatures should be 75° - 80° F. Heat/Light: There's no evidence that lighting affects the keeping of ball pythons. If a light is provided it is recommended to use fluorescent bulbs in order to minimize the extra heat created by incandescent bulbs.
When providing heat NEVER use hot rocks. Hot rocks don't have thermostats and can cause burns to your snake. Red basking bulbs or ceramic heat emitters can be used for basking spots.
Under the tank heating pads can also be used to help raise the ambient temperature of the enclosure but they must be used with a thermostat. It is recommended to routinely check the temperatures of the enclosure with a thermometer. Humidity should be at 50-70%. This can easily be achieved by misting the enclosure with water using a spray bottle.
Shedding: Ball pythons typically shed every month. If the shed doesn't come off in one piece or if there are parts of the shed still stuck to the snake this is a sign off the humidity being to low. There are many ways to correct this. Use a larger water bowl, mist the enclosure more often or you can try using a substrate that retains moisture better such as coconut chips. If the shed is stuck on the snake you can soak the snake in a container filled with water that's between 75-85 degrees F.
Substrate: Newspaper and paper towels make excellent substrate even though it is not very attractive. It is easy to clean and is good to use when acclimating new ball pythons to their enclosure. Wood shavings can also be used, though cedar should NEVER be used and some pine can also cause health problems. Aspen shavings are the best choice if using wood shavings. If keeping the snake on wood shavings, care should be taken when feeding the snake to avoid shavings becoming lodged in the snake's mouth. Coconut chips are another good choice as it holds humidity very well.
Feeding: Like all snakes, ball pythons are carnivorous. Adult ball pythons should be feed an appropriate sized rat once per week. Hatchlings and juvenile animals can be fed one appropriately sized prey item per week (fuzzies for hatchlings, hoppers for slightly older animals). Ball pythons are notorious for not eating on a regular schedule. Whenever possible try to obtain captive bred snakes that have already fed to minimize problems eating. If your new ball python does not eat immediately it is important to not panic. Ball pythons have been known to go months without eating and there are records of ball pythons of not eating for almost 2 years. Often a variety of foods may need to be offered in order to get the snake to eat and often many will only eat live food. You should NEVER leave a live rodent in the enclosure unattended. The rodent might attack the ball python. If you are having difficulty getting your ball python to eat you may need to consult several more in-depth articles on the subject(a quick google search will bring up all kinds of useful information). Hatchlings can be started off feeding on pinkie or hopper mice. Juveniles and adults can gradually take larger prey of fuzzy mice, adult mice or young rats. Young snakes can be fed 1 - 2 times a week. Thawed frozen rodents are the easiest and safest way to feed snakes. They can be kept in the freezer and you don't have to worry about rodents biting your snake. Water should Always be provided in a bowl. The snake will drink from it and will soak itself before it sheds.
Maintenance: If using newspaper or paper towels then clean as needed. Wood shavings should be spot cleaned as needed. Monthly the enclosure should be disinfected. A 5% bleach-water solution makes an excellent disinfectant. Be sure to rinse the enclosure thoroughly after using the solution.