Ball Python Care

General - Ball Pythons (Python regius) are from Western Africa, in the regions bordering the Sahara Desert. Many "wild caughts" originate in Ghana. They are usually very docile snakes, and rarely bite. Unlike other pythons they remain quite small and manageable. A 6 foot Ball Python would be a giant! They are more typically 3-5 feet in length.

Caging - A Ball Python can easily be kept in a 40 gallon breeder sized terrarium, but bigger is always better. Some people provide caging as large as 6'x 3', though that is not totally necessary. Obviously, the more snakes you have in the cage, the larger the cage needs to be. Regardless of size, your cage needs to be fitted with a very tightly closing lid or door. Ball Pythons are especially notorious for being escape artists. You should plan on getting cage clamps to hold down the lid if you are using a glass terrarium and screen lid. In addition, you will need hiding areas, climbing branches, and a water dish large enough to soak in. A good quality substrate will keep your snake happy. I have had good luck with aspen bedding. The snakes sit on top of it as opposed to burrowing in it. It is very easy to clean. Alternatives include newspaper or cypress mulch. Do not use cedar shavings for any of your animals as it is toxic.

Heating and Humidity - Ball Pythons need a hot, moderately humid cage. A basking spot of 90-100 degrees on one end of the cage should be offered, with the other end of the cage being 75-85 degrees. The humidity should be moderate, 40-60%. Many people aid the humidity by use of a humidity box. This is a plastic shoebox with damp moss or vermiculite inside. A hole is cut into it to allow the snake to go in and out as needed. Heat can be provided with a heating pad that is on 24/7 with a basking light on during the day to raise the temperature on the hot side. Alternatively one can use a Ceramic Heat Element. CHE's are great as they throw a lot of heat without the light. I use these 24/7 on my snakes and geckos. Make sure you screw them into a ceramic fixture. The plastic ones will cook in no time. If you notice that your python is not shedding all in one piece, increase the humidity either by misting more frequently or by providing that humidity box.

Feeding - Juvenile Ball Pythons will eat either fuzzy mice or small adult mice, one or two per week. As they grow, the size of the mouse can increase, too. FEED YOUR SNAKES FROZEN/THAWED RODENTS!!!! There are several reasons for this: 1) It is more humane to the prey animal 2) Mice, rabbits, gerbils, etc can KILL your snake by gnawing on it. 3) The freezing process kills many germs. At the very least please feed pre-killed. Adults will eat medium sized rats. Rats and mice are available frozen from a number of places. I generally get enough frozen mice and/or rats to last 3-4 months at various reptile shows. Put them in zip-lok freezer bags and then in to a paper bag. No one needs to know they are there. Buying them at the pet store is very expensive and then you have to worry about killing it. Frozen thawed is the way to go. Thaw them out in hot tap water. DO NOT thaw them in the microwave. You don't want to know why…

Health - Many Ball Pythons sold in pet stores are wild caught, (or farmed in Africa) and carry various internal and/or external parasites. If you purchase a wild caught or farmed Ball Python (or suspect you have), a trip to the vet is necessary, and will help your Ball Python live a longer, healthier life. This is good advice even for captive bred pythons, though the liklihood of parasites is lower. Ball Pythons can have shedding issues. If your snake sheds incompletely there is an underlying problem. This is usually due to improper cage conditions. Check your temperatures and especially humidity. Mist the snake more frequently and possibly do some soaking. If the eyecaps don't come off soak the snake in a clear r

Selection - A Ball Python that is healthy will appear active, alert, and have clear eyes. A well-rounded out body shows that your Ball Python is not dehydrated or starved. Your best bet is to have the breeder let you watch the snake eat. If it eats for him it will eat for you. If your Ball Python becomes thin, has sunken eyes, or has black spots on the head behind the eyes, TAKE HIM TO A VET that is experienced with reptiles! (See for one in your area) Extremely small red or black dots that move around on your Ball Python are mites, and may be treated at home with Provent-A-MiteTM. (See for more information. This is the only product that really seems to work the first time and appears to be perfectly safe if used according to the directions.)

Sexing - The gender of most snakes must be determined by your vet or someone experienced with probing them. External features are usually not a reliable indicator of gender. Probing Ball Pythons is dangerous in the wrong hands. Have someone experienced do this.

Other sources of information

The Ball Python Manual by Phillipe De Vosjoli, Advanced Aquarium Systems, Escondido, CA.

Melissa Kaplan's Herp-Care website has much more detailed information about reptiles, including Ball Pythons. is her site.

Another great source of information is

Supply list:
Cage with lid
Lid clamps - this is a big deal. Don't count on a stack of books or big rocks to hold that top down!!!
Under-tank heater OR
ceramic heat emitter & fixture
basking lamp
thermometer/humidity gauge
Aspen bedding or newsprint (unprinted newsprint should be available either free or very reasonable at your local newspaper
shallow water dish
climbing branches
hide box(es)
frozen rodents


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