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How to Care for Ball Pythons

Ball pythons are great companions for keepers of any skill level. They’re really easy to care for and come in a wide range of morphs. they originated in western and Central Africa and they can go out to be between 3 and 6-foot, however females are much larger in girth than males. they're great for beginner keepers but bear in mind you shouldn't buy one importantly because they can live between 20 and 40 years in captivity.

When they’re young, ball pythons are normally very shy but as they get older they become more engaging and curious with their owners. Make sure you have regular handling sessions with your ball python so they become used to human interaction.

When you’re looking for an enclosure for your ball python, the most popular option is to keep them as a baby within a 15-20 gallon terrarium. Baby snakes feel safer in a smaller enclosure, make sure you’ve got plenty of hidey holes for them to slither into and retreat. This will keep stress levels down and keep them healthy during the difficult transition from store/breeder to you. As your ball python grows, you’ll want to transfer them to a larger home. We recommend at least a 4ft x 2ft x 2ft vivarium. Traditionally it’s said that ball pythons are terrestrial, but they do actually like to climb occasionally, particularly the males. If you can get your hands on a 4ft wide as well as 4ft tall vivarium, absolutely go for it - the extra space will be utilised.

As a quick side note, don’t keep multiple ball pythons together. Just don’t. We get this as an FAQ “Can I buy two snakes and keep them together so they have a friend?”. The truth is, it's really stressful for all involved and although some keepers have managed to keep them in pairs for extended periods of time, this takes a lot of practice, expertise and training. Snakes aren’t social creatures like many other animals are. They like to be by themselves, just give them a good range of decorations and they’ll be happy. The only time two snakes should be together is if they’re breeding.

If you’re wanting to go full on with the vivarium, you can create what’s called a BioActive Vivarium, which is where you set up a natural living space that features plants and a suitable substrate, as well as living organisms that can act like a clean up crew for your snake. Our number one recommendation for these living organisms is springtails.

Spring tails are tiny hexapods averaging around 0.5 mm in length. These little guys will live in the topmost layer of your bioactive substrate and consume any waste that they come across. When they themselves have taken what they need from this food source they excrete the excess nutrients which goes back into the soil to be used by any live plants you might have in the enclosure. They are very efficient and once a colony is established should work fairly quickly to keep the cycle moving. There are foods available you can add to your substrate for the spring tails but usually they are pretty self-sufficient. By doing this you’re keeping the tank clean(ish) from snake waste, while also feeding your plants too!

Water is really important for snakes and it should be in their enclosure at all times in a water dish. Make sure you aren’t using distilled water - if you aren’t sure your tap water is safe then you can buy an additive such as Reptisafe Water Conditioner, or water conditioners for aquariums such as Seachem's Prime which will ensure the water is safe for your snake. Another option is to buy bottled spring water too. This is more viable for snakes than it is with aquariums as you obviously won’t be needing as much of it.

For a substrate you can choose something like Reptile Prime, Repti Bark or if you’re on a budget, newspaper. However we’d like to make the point that the idea behind a vivarium is to provide your snake with as close to their natural environment as you can - this will keep them comfortable in their home.

For hides, we’ve already mentioned that there should be plenty of places for your baby snake to hide, but as adults we recommend having 3 hides. Usually it’s recommended to only have two - one for the warm side of the vivarium and one for the cool, but with our snakes we keep a third in the middle that contains moss, which we spray with water every couple of days. The reason for this is that humidity helps with shedding - by providing them with a place to lay and soak up all the humidity it makes it a lot easier for them to successfully shed and minimises incomplete sheds, which can be dangerous, particularly if they suffer from retained eye caps (guide on that, here).

You should be opting for around a 60% humidity level in your vivarium, which is easier achieved with the use of live plants and like we mentioned, the moss hide. Keep in mind that glass terrariums especially with mesh tops are terrible at keeping in humidity. Opt for a wooden vivarium instead (they’re also cheaper than glass). If you do have a glass vivarium already and can’t afford to replace it, cover the mesh top around 75% of the way, and spray the substrate with water daily. You can also create a waterfall feature if you have the space.

When shedding, your python's eyes will turn a blue colour first - this means they’re getting ready to shed. During this time they may refuse food, which is normal as their efforts are focussed on getting the old skin off. Pythons will shed their skin multiple times during their life, more regularly with smaller snakes. They do this as they grow so that they have space in the new skin to grow wider and longer. As they reach full maturity, shedding will be a lot less common.

If your snake does suffer an incomplete shed, check your humidity levels and increase them if necessary with the steps we’ve provided. You can also place a damp (not dripping wet) paper towel with slightly warmer than room temperature water in a tupperware box, and see if your snake wants to soak on it for a little while. If you aren’t sure how to get the skin off yourself and your snake is struggling on their own, take them to a vet for help.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you notice that your Ball python has a rash or blisters, this could be an indicator of what’s called scale rot. Scale rot is typically due to the humidity being way too high. First, place your Ball python into a completely dry environment and we would suggest using paper towels as a substrate as you can change it frequently to keep the enclosure dry. Wait a day or two before placing a water dish back into their enclosure. Once you place a water dish back into the enclosure, if you notice that the water dish has spilled onto the paper towel make sure that you change it. Make sure to clean up immediately if your snake has urinated or defecated. Finally, visit the vet in order to start a course of antibiotics to help heal your snake.

Heating mats are the best way to heat a vivarium. Ball pythons don’t require UVB light so alls you will need is a heat mat placed under one side of the vivarium, set to between 85 degrees F and 90 degrees F. By placing the heat mat on one side you create an internal heat spectrum within the vivarium, meaning you get a hot side and a cool side. This allows your snake to heat up or cool down, depending on their needs. Place a hide on each side so that they still have that sense of security.

In terms of feeding, opt for mice. You can feed live or frozen/thawed mice to your snake but be aware that if you’re feeding them live mice you will need to supervise the meal to ensure they are safe from the mouse’s attacks. Mice sizes range and you should be feeding your snake a mouse that’s the same width as the middle of your snakes midsection. For young snakes, they should be fed between every 4 to 6 days. As they age you can reduce this to once a week up to once every 10 days. If you’re using frozen mice, defrost them overnight and place them in warm water for a few minutes before feeding them. Don’t microwave your dead mice. Nobody wants that in their house, least of all your snake. Once your ball python has eaten, leave them alone for 48 hours to digest their food. If you handle them too quickly afterwards, they can regurgitate their meal which is bad news for your snake, and pretty horrific for you.

Ball pythons are extremely sensitive to regurgitation. If for whatever reason your Ball python regurgitates, make sure to wait about a 1.5 weeks before feeding again and give smaller meals for about a month before offering a regular meal. If your Ball python regurgitates a second time, please visit a vet.

Ball pythons are (we think) really cute, and are really easy to care for! We hope that we’ve answered some of your questions, but if you have any more, please feel free to ask them in the comments section and we’ll get back to you! Thanks for reading our Ball Python Care Guide!

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