Ball Python Care Sheet

Standard common name: Ball Python or Royal Python

Scientific name: Python Regius

Size

Ball pythons are heavy-bodied snakes with relatively slender necks. Their heads are distinctly wider than their necks. Adults average about 70 – 120 cm in total length. Females are larger than males. Hatchlings average 22 – 28 cm in total length. The accepted record length for the species is 195 cm.

Distribution

This species occurs in sub-Saharan west and central Africa. Ball pythons can be found from Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia on the west coast, east to south-western Sudan and north-western Uganda in the centre of the African continent. Tens of thousands of ball pythons are annually importer into the US which mostly originates from Togo, Benin and Ghana.

Enclosure

Select an enclosure especially designed for housing snakes, such as the glass tanks with the combination fixed screen/hinged glass top. All snakes are escape artists – ball pythons are especially powerful and cunning when it comes to breaking out. The recommended sizes of the snake are:

Hatchling Young Adult Adult
approx. 40 x 24 cm approx. 60 x 40 cm approx. 90 x 60 cm

Substrate

Use paper towels at first. These are easily and quickly removed and replaced when soiled. Newspaper is always a goods substrate to use. It is easy to attain and clean. Pine and aspen shavings should not be used as they can become lodged in the mouth while eating, causing respiratory and other problems. The utilitarian approach is to use inexpensive Astroturf. Extra pieces can be kept in reserve and used when the soiled piece is removed for cleaning and drying (soak in water to which you have added two tablespoons of household bleach, then rinse thoroughly and dry completely before reuse). Remember: the easier to clean, the faster you’ll do you!

Hide box

A half-log is available at pet stores. An empty cardboard box or upside-down opaque plastic container, both with an access doorway cut into one end, can also be used. The plastic is easily cleaned when necessary while the box can be tossed out when soiled and replaced with a new one. The box or log must be big enough for the snake to hide its entire body inside. You will need to eventually replace it as your snake grows. Ball pythons prefer dark places for sleeping and, as they are nocturnal, they like the dark place during our daylight hours. They also like to sleep in something that is close around them, so do not buy or make too big of a cave for its size.

Temperature

Proper temperature range is essential to keeping your snake healthy. The ambient air temperature throughout the enclosure must be maintained at 27 – 29°C during the say, with a basking area kept at 32.5° C. At night, the ambient air temperature on the coolest side may be allowed to drop down no lower than 23 – 24 °C only if a basking area of at least 27°C remains available. Special reptile heating pads that are manufactured to maintain a temperature about 20 degrees higher than the air temperature may be used inside the enclosure. To not use a hot rock as snakes are prone to burning themselves. Don’t try to guess the temperature – you will either end up with a snake that will be too cold to eat and digest food or one ill or dead from overheating. Make sure the animal has enough room so it can decide if it wants to be in the cooler or warmer part of the enclosure. The heating pad should never take up more than a third of the enclosure.

Lighting

No special lighting is needed. Ball pythons are nocturnal snakes, spending their days in the wild securely hidden away from possible predators. Make sure the snake cannot get into direct contact with the light bulbs as ball pythons are very prone to getting seriously burned. Do NOT leave the enclosure in direct sunlight.

Humidity

All ball pythons need an area within its dry enclosure to which to retreat to when it requires higher humidity. One way to accomplish this is to provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to soak in when it wants to. In general ball pythons require the humidity to be between 60 and 70 %. DO NOT put them next to a heater or open windows – it will dry out the air and could result in the snake getting ill or die.

Water

Provide a bowl of fresh water at all times. Your snake will both drink and soak, and may defecate, in it. Check it daily and change if soiled. Soaking is especially good just before a shed. When their eyes clear from their milky opaque or “blue” state, soak the snake in a tub of luke-warm water for ten minutes or so, then lightly dry it off, and return it immediately to its tank. It should shed cleanly within 24 hours.

Feeding

Ball pythons eat mice all their life. One appropriately sized mouse per week is an adequate feeding schedule. Older and larger snakes may eat two or three mice, or one small to medium rat a week. Hatchlings seem to prefer live small mice (just weaned, 4-6 weeks old) for their first meals. Use the girth of the snake as an indication of the size of the food item to use. As a good rule of thumb, rather feed to small than too large. Adult ball pythons may not eat during the winter months. This is normal. Typically they will start feeding in late winter or early spring. It is recommended to refer to the feeding records provided with the snake and continue with the schedule and type of food until the snake has settled in.

Handling your new snake

After giving your ball python a couple of days to settle in, begin picking it up and handling it gently. It may move away from you, and may threaten you by lashing its’ tail and hissing. Don’t be put off – it is usually just a bluff, and snakes, like most reptiles, are good at bluffing! Be gentle but persistent. Daily contact with each other will begin to establish a level of trust and confidence between you and your snake. Some snakes are a bit sensitive about being handled soon after they have eaten. If you feed your snake out of its enclosure, go ahead and replace it back into it’s enclosure after it has finished eating. Then leave it for a couple of days. As the snake gets more comfortable wit


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