Care Sheet for Ball Pythons
Ball Pythons are like many species of pythons in that they are shy and gentle snakes. They are attractive snakes and if cared for properly have very long lives – more than 30 years in captivity. Ball Pythons originate from the forests of central and western Africa. They generally reach adult size of 4 to 5 feet in approximately 36 months. Captive Bred Ball Pythons - as opposed to wild caught - have superb temperaments. At Big Apple Pet Supply, we carry only Captive Bred Ball Pythons to maintain strict quality control. We caution against buying wild caught Ball Pythons as more than 60,000 Ball Pythons are imported into the U.S. every year and have put major strains on the native populations. In addition, most imported snakes tend to have health issues like parasites, etc. We'll be happy to set you up with the correct cage, heating, lighting and accessories for your new pet.
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Baby and juvenile Ball Pythons can be set up in an enclosure as small as a 20 gallon (30" x 12" x 12"H) but adults should be housed in a larger enclosure of 30 to 70 gallons (36" x 18" x 25"H) depending on your design needs. There is no such thing as a cage too big for a Ball Python! Larger is always better especially if you provide some climbing room since Ball Pythons typically love to climb. Since like most snakes, Ball Pythons are escape artists, a secure screen top is absolutely critical to keep your snake from escaping the enclosure.
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Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding is generally the best substrate for Ball Pythons. Reptile keepers also use Zoo Med Repti Bark, Zoo Med Forest Floor Cypress Bedding or Zoo Med Eco Earth. Baby Ball Pythons can also be kept on paper towels or similar product until they become juveniles. Whichever you decide to use, stick to well-known products designed for use with reptiles and be careful of some commercial aspen brands as they may contain high amounts of dust or other contaminants that that can be harmful to your pet.
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As with all reptiles, Ball Pythons need a thermal gradient consisting of a warm side (86° F) and a cool side (78° F). The best way to heat your Ball Python's enclosure is with a combination of heat mat and ceramic heat emitter. We recommend the Intellitemp Heat Mat and Big Apple Black Heat Infrared Ceramic Heat Emitter. The heat mat and ceramic heat emitter should be on one side while the other side should not have any heat source. We recommend controlling the ceramic emitter with a thermostat, such as the BAH-500 or BAH-1000DC, and monitoring the temperatures with a thermometer.
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Ball Pythons, like all snakes do not require a light or UV bulb. If you choose to add a basking bulb to add more light to your cage make sure that you maintain proper heat levels. Do not allow the temperature to go above 88° F as this could be detrimental to your snake's health.
It is essential to the well-being of your Ball Pythons to have hiding places in their enclosure. The shelter can be anything from a Big Apple Basic Reptile Hide Box to a decorative reptile shelter, hiding hut or cave. It is always a good idea to have one shelter on the warm side and one on the cool side. If you choose to make a hiding place yourself, please make sure it is sturdy enough that there is no potential for collapsing and crushing your snake.
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Like all reptiles and amphibians, Ball Pythons shed their entire skin all at once. Babies shed more often than adults because as babies they outgrow their skin faster. You'll note shedding time when your snake's eyes turn a shade of blue and become cloudy.
Snakes normally shed their skin easily but sometimes they have issues if they do not have the proper humidity while shedding. For this reason, it is important to maintain a decent amount of humidity in the cage by misting a couple times a day. This is especially true around shedding time. Providing a moist shelter is another way to ensure necessary humidity during shedding. Use moistened Big Apple Imported Premium Grade Sphagnum Moss or Zoo Med Forest Floor Cypress inside your snake’s hide.
You need to check your snake after it has shed to make sure it was able to peel all the skin off, especially around the eyes. If unshed skin is not removed promptly serious health issues can form. If your Ball Python has retained skin after shedding you can place the snake in a plastic container lined with warm, wet paper towels with the container lid on or soak the snake in warm water. Let the snake stay in the container or warm water for approximately 30 minutes. The high humidity in the container or using the soaking method should loosen the skin enough to allow you to remove it easily with a pair of tweezers. If the skin has not loosened enough, reheat the paper towels with warm water and provide another 30 minute session. NEVER use hot water as this can burn your Ball Python.
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It is essential that you provide your Ball Python with a large water bowl. The bowl should be large enough that the Ball Python can soak its entire body in but not so big that it might have a difficult time getting in or out of the bowl. Place the water dish on the cool side of the cage so that it does not evaporate quickly.
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Ball Pythons eat mice and rats. The size of the prey is dependent upon the girth of the snake. You should not feed your Ball Python anything bigger than the thickest part of its body. The prey item should leave a readily noticeable lump in the snake. This is fairly standard for all species of snakes. Hatchling snakes are typically fed every 5 days while adults are typically fed every 10 days. However, it should be noted that some hobbyists feed adult snakes once a week.
Feeding live or pre-killed is a question we are often asked. Opinions vary on this subject but we are emphatic that thawed frozen rodents are a much better option. First, feeding thawed rodents is easier and second it's substantially less expensive because you can purchase rats or mice in bulk and then store them in the freezer. More importantly, it is significantly safer for the snake. The bottom line is a thawed prey mouse or rat will never bite or chew on your snake in defense. We have seen nasty rodent bites inflicted on snakes when fed live rodents. We suggest you play it smart and go with feeding thawed prey items. At Big Apple Pet Supply, we carry a huge selection of frozen feeders that we deliver right to your door.
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It is important to feed high quality rodents to your snake and it is always a good idea to coat the rodent with a bit of vitamin and calcium powders before feeding them. We carry a full line of quality reptile vitamins and calcium.
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Ball Pythons require minimal maintenance as they usually excrete small amounts of semi-solid fluid. Aspen and similar substrates allow for quick cleaning of feces and using one of our scoopers you can perform this task when defecation occurs. The bedding should be completely thrown out and the entire cage (including all accessories) should be washed at least once every four to five months with Quat TB Pet Area Cleaner, Deodorizer & Stain Remover or a mild detergent. If using paper towels for bedding, change all paper towels at least once a week.
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Hibernation is not natural for Ball Pythons so make sure you heat your Ball Pythons throughout the winter so that they continue to eat, drink and be active. A general reduction in feeding behavior is normal during winter months due to temperature fluctuations in your house. As long as they keep fairly consistent weight it is generally not an issue and normal feeding typically resume in the spring.