Ball Python (Python regius)
The ball python is quite clearly the most popular pet snake in the world. Generally, a bit shy, they make for ideal Pets because they are of small size, are usually friendly, are easy to care for and come in many various colors/patterns known as Morphs. Native to central and western Africa these snakes thrive in warm, tropical areas. Ball pythons are an excellent pet for the first-timers and experts alike. Each year, breeders create the incredible, innovative, never-before-seen pattern and color varieties that continually generate new fans of the ball python.
Ball pythons are quite easy to acquire. Available at most pet stores, reptile shows and online. The best choice is captive born snakes. Because they are free from parasites and most likely to be healthy.
Hatchlings are approximately 10 inches in length. Adult females average 4 to 5 feet long, and adult males average 3 to 4 feet in size. Ball pythons are a species in which mature females are typically larger than the males. A 5-foot python is possible, lengths of 6 feet or more are rare.
With proper care, ball pythons can live for more than 20 years. The record is more than 40 years.
Cages can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you can afford. Different pens work well for ball pythons, melamine racks and any of the commercially available, plastic-type reptile cages. Glass aquariums and terrariums are suitable for ball pythons.
Juveniles do well in small cages that make them feel secure. A baby snake in a large cage can become stressed. Adults do not require extensive or elaborate enclosures either. A 36x18x12-inch enclosure will comfortably house an adult ball python.
Spot-clean your ball python's enclosure as necessary. Remove all waste daily and do a complete cleaning every 30 days by removing all bedding and cage accessories and thoroughly disinfecting with a reptile cage cleaner. Rinse the cage well with water, and allow it to dry completely before replacing.
The one cage accessory required for a happy ball python is a right-sized hide. Ball pythons are secretive and appreciate hide spots. Provide at each end of your python's enclosure so that it doesn't have to choose between temperature and security. Be sure that the hides are large enough to fit you growing snake.
Lighting and Temperature
Cages must allow for a proper temperature range that your snake can utilize, with a hotspot on one end of the cage and a cool spot on the other, to allow your snake move between and regulate its body temperature. Provide it with a basking spot of 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and an ambient temperature of 70 to 80 degrees. The ambient temperature should not be below 70 degrees. It's crucial to know the temperature in your snake's cage. Don't guess! The best way to monitor temperatures is to use a digital thermometer with a probe or an inferred thermometer.
There are many ways to go about heating a ball python cage. Under-cage heating pads and tapes, ceramic heat emitters, and basking bulbs. When using ceramic heat emitters and basking bulbs, it is essential to keep an eye on the humidity within the cage, especially if using a screen top, as they will dry the air quickly, and can increase to shedding issues. Use thermostats, rheostats or timers to control the heat source. Do not use heat rocks with snakes as they can cause severe burns. When using heat pads without a thermostat be sure to use a cage carpet to prevent injuries.
Lighting is not necessary, but if used should run 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Continuous bright light is stressful to snakes, especially a nocturnal species such as the ball python, Snakes do not have eyelids. Ball pythons prefer humidity levels of 50-60 percent. Proper humidity levels will allow your snake to shed easily.
Cypress mulch and orchid bark are excellent substrates for controlling humidity, but remember that too much moisture can be as detrimental (if not more) as too little. Aspen is an excellent choice but can sometimes drop the humidity level. Avoid cedar, sand, pine shaving. Never use cedar bedding, as it contains oils that can be harmful!
Feed your ball python an appropriately sized meal weekly. "Appropriately sized" means food items that are no bigger in circumference than the snake at its broadest part. Ball pythons eat fuzzie mice at first and move up in size as they grow. Try to not handle your ball python for at least a day after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation. You can feed frozen/thawed if you wish, but live is preferred. Never leave a live rodent unattended with your snake, as they can injure the snake. Always feed in a separate feeding container outside of the cage, this prevents the snake from accidentally eating any bedding and prevents accidental bites from the snake confusing your hand for a mouse.
Ball pythons are known to not eat at certain times throughout the year, particularly in the winter months. Be prepared for the possibility and try not to worry, keep an observant eye on the snake's overall condition and body weight. Typically nothing to worry about with established pythons, although it can be frustrating for the owner. Offer your snake food every 10 to 14 days until it is interested in eating again, as the snake will eventually resume feeding frequently.
Adults can be fed every 1 to 2 weeks, and younger ball pythons should be feed weekly as they need the food to help grow. Do not be alarmed if a ball python goes off feeding during the colder, times of the year, as this is common. Also, snakes do not tend to eat while they are in the shed cycle, but some will surprise you.
Always have clean water available for your snake. Check the water daily. The size of the water dish should be large enough for the ball python to crawl in to and soak, ball pythons seem to enjoy a nice bath from time to time. Ensure that the water dish is not too deep for juvenile animals. Snakes of many species will poop in their water dish occasionally, be prepared to clean and disinfect the water dish. The water dish should always be cleaned and disinfected weekly. Having a spare water bowl can be handy so that while one is in use, the other can be washed. If your ball python starts spending a lot of time soaking it may be an indicator you snake has mites, give him a proper inspection all over to make sure he's not infested and seeking relief. Mite spray is here.
Handling and Temperament
Ball pythons are shy and will spend most of the time hiding. Your python may initially see you as a threat, and it must learn you're not going to hurt it. In time you will establish trust between you and your snake.
Avoid fast movements and support your ball python’s body. Once your ball python realizes that you will not harm them, they enjoy being handled. Some may try to hide when being held and occasionally there are ones that may even bite due to fear, but it is uncommon. These ones may require a bit more time to settle in and get to know you. A ball python’s bite is not bad and much more preferable than a bee sting for example. If a snake looks stressed, it is best not to handle it. Relax when holding your animal and give the animal a chance to relax also, avoid constant moving between hands and never reach toward there face, approach from behind.
Avoid handling if you plan to feed some snakes may not eat for several hours or longer after being held, so. After a snake has eaten, its a good idea to limit the amount of handling because it may be uncomfortable for the animal. Avoid putting your snake’s cage in a high traffic area, excessive movement, noise, and other pets should be avoided.