There are many resources online that cover how to care for your ball python and many of them are very good. This care sheet covers what has worked best for us in our collection and discusses a number of other options that can also work.
What type of enclosure should you keep your snake in?
What's the optimal environment for your snake to thrive?
What options are there when it comes to bedding?
What prey is best and how do you go about getting your snake to feed regularly?
What should you be doing when your snake goes through its regular shed cycle?
How should you best handle your animals to avoid stressing them out?
Ball pythons can be housed in many different types of enclosures and do not require any special lighting. Here we have listed the pros and cons of each and our recommendations:
These are standard storage bins that you can find at many local retailers such as Walmart, Solutions, and Canadian Tire. They may look basic and are very inexpensive, but they are fantastic options for keeping ball pythons.
These are the quintessential terrariums sold at pet stores and aquariums. They are easy to find and look good as display cases. These are good choices for starting out but we would recommend moving away from these in time to the other options on this list as it is easier to maintain.
A good balance between tubs and glass terrariums. These are specially made for reptiles and the PVC used in the construction of these cages makes them hold humidity better than the glass terrariums as well. This is a good option if you are keeping only one snake.
Ball pythons originate from Africa and as such, in the wild will live in a much warmer climate. In captivity, you will need to provide a heat source for your ball python so that their tank has a hot side and a cool side.
Hot side temperatures: 87-91 degrees Fahrenheit
Cool side temperatures: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
Ball pythons are fairly easy to maintain humidity-wise. You should have a water bowl in the snake’s enclosure that is an appropriate size (for hatchlings, small ramekins will work and as the snake gets older, you can switch to a larger dog bowl as an example). Once a week, give the snake’s enclosure a gentle misting with a spray bottle or simply dump out the water in the bowl directly on the snake’s substrate. Replace the water in the bowl every 4-7 days or as needed.
If you notice a lot of condensation building up in the enclosure, you may need to decrease the amount of humidity by spraying less frequently or not putting as much water in the bowl. You may also consider purchasing a hygrometer and putting it in the enclosure to measure humidity (it should be kept around 50%)
There are lots of options when it comes to substrate for your ball python’s enclosure. We will recommend just one option which we (and many other breeders) feel is the best choice on the market right now.
When you first get your pet snake, do not immediately try to feed it. The snake will be stressed out by the move and its new environment so give it a bit of time to settle in and get comfortable. It is best to wait a week before trying to feed it its first me.
Ball pythons (like many snakes) do not need to be fed very often. Young snakes can be fed once every 5-7 days and adults can be fed every 1-3 weeks.
Many new owners get worried when their snake turns down a meal. This is perfectly normal and happens frequently with ball pythons especially when they get around 700-1000 grams in size. Monitor the snake’s weight and as long as there is no drastic weight loss (more than 100 grams in a couple of months), continue to offer food and eventually it will go back to eating. There have been cases where ball pythons have gone 12 months or more without eating a meal and have had resumed feeding with no issues afterwards!
African Soft Fur Rats
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The debate between feeding live or frozen/thawed is hotly discussed. We personally see benefits to both and it really is more of a preference as long as the keeper is responsible.
If choosing to feed live, make sure you do not leave a rodent in the snake’s tank unattended for long periods of time. We recommend you check every 15-20 minutes and leave it in no longer than an hour. If the snake does not eat it within that time, remove the rat and try again next week. Rats can and will injure a snake and ball pythons are very docile animals by nature so they will not kill the rodent if they are not hungry.
If feeding frozen, thaw the animal thoroughly (either by leaving it out to thaw normally or by submerging it in warm water) and offer it to the snake using a pair of feeding tongs. It is not recommended to feed by hand as some snakes have a strong feeding response and may mistake your hand as part of the rat. Warming the feeder up using a hairdryer for a minute or two after it is thawed can help entice the snake into eating as well.
It is generally not difficult to switch a rat from live to frozen/thawed. Some animals may take a couple of weeks, but most will take a frozen/thawed feeder from day one.
Some sources recommend feeding your snake outside of its enclosure in a separate feeding bin. The rationale being that snakes may associate anything coming into its enclosure as food and will therefore have a chance of mistakenly striking your hand when you go to handle it.
We have not seen any evidence for this and recommend feeding your snake in its enclosure for two reasons:
Having problems with a tricky feeder? Check out our Feeding Tips Guide!
Ball pythons will typically shed every 1-2 months (more frequently when they are younger and less frequently as they get to adulthood). You will notice your snake turning a lighter and duller colour and eventually its eyes will turn milky blue. Increase the humidity in the snake’s enclosure by spraying it more frequently (once a day will be sufficient) and a few days later, the snake should shed.
Healthy sheds do not always have to be in one piece but if you notice your snake has not shed completely, do a quick check to make sure there are no large pieces stuck on, especially around the eyes.
If you do happen to have a badly shed snake, put him/her in a small container and soak him/her in a little bit of water for an hour or more while attended. After the soak, much of the stuck skin will be easy to remove so you can take a small towel and very gently rub it off. DO NOT pull on the shed as that can injure your snake. If the skin is not coming off easily, return the snake to the tub for a longer soak.
If the snake has retained skin on the eyes (called eye-caps), it is advised to take the snake to a vet to have them removed as it is very delicate and you can easily injure a snake if you are not experienced.
Ball pythons tolerate handling extremely well. On rare occasions, some hatchlings can be a bit defensive, but will often become more docile with age and regular handling. You can handle your snake as often as you like, but we recommend doing so no more than once or twice a week as some animals become stressed from frequent handling and may refuse more meals.
When to NOT Handle: