Did you get a new ball python and you want to know how old it is?
Telling a ball python age is a useful skill for those getting more grown adult pythons.
It’ll give you a better handle for how long they have to live, how much you need to feed them, and what illnesses to watch for.
Guessing a ball python’s age isn’t too difficult, especially when you combine several methods to confirm the age range.
Without this knowledge, it’s hard to tell their age. This is why we created this guide on how to tell how old a ball python is.
To tell how old a ball python is, it requires the use of several methods at the same time. You need to look at the length, weight, color and patterns, and relative head size. This will give you a good idea of how old the python is.
Look ahead for more details on each of these methods.
Table of Contents
How To Tell How Old A Ball Python Is
This section goes over the four main ways to tell the age of ball pythons.
These will work on them to give you a general idea of how old they are, but we recommend combining them for the best picture.
Each of these methods does depend on the gender of your ball python.
If you don’t already know your snake’s gender we have a post teaching you how to sex a ball python to help you.
Telling Age By Length
Length is a key indicator of age for most reptiles, including the ball python.
With ball pythons, weight is equally important and even more important regarding sexual maturity.
Length differs by age for males and females, with females getting longer faster than male ball pythons.
This chart demonstrates general length by age.
Remember, these are general guidelines to follow, not exact measurements guaranteed.
|Age||Male Ball Python Length||Female Ball Python Length|
|Birth||10″ – 16″ inches (40.64 cm)||10″ – 16″ inches (40.64 cm)|
|1 Year Old||2′ feet (0.61 meters)||2′ feet (0.61 meters)|
|2 Years Old||2.5′ – 3.5′ feet (1.07 meters)||2.5′ – 4′ feet (1.22 meters)|
|3 Years Old (adulthood)||3.5′ – 4.2′ feet (1.28 meters)||4.2′ – 6′ feet (1.83 meters)|
|Beyond||Small gains over the years||Small gains over the years|
Telling Age By Weight
Weight is an important factor for age.
Males and females reach sexual maturity based on weight, not age.
This is especially true for females who won’t get pregnant until they reach a certain weight.
Ball pythons are usually weighed in grams.
|Age||Male Ball Python Weight||Female Ball Python Weight|
|1 Year Old||400-600g||400-600g|
|2 Years Old||500-800g||500-1,000g|
|3 Years Old (adulthood)||1,300-1,700g||1,400-1,900g|
|Beyond||Small gains over the years||Small gains over the years|
The weight of your ball python is also an indicator of health and helps you know if your snake is growing at a normal rate.
Pattern And Color
The above information is great for telling the age of growing ball pythons, but there’s a problem once they get past four years old.
It’s more difficult and nearly impossible to tell how old they are within the year when they reach the ends of their lives, which could be up to 30 years.
But if you’d like to know more about their growth timeframe we have a dedicated post on how long it takes for ball pythons to grow.
There are ways to tell what stage they are in adulthood.
One of the best ways is by looking at their patterns and color.
As snakes age, two things happen to their colors and patterns:
- The brightness of the colors fade.
- The symmetry of the patterns becomes less aligned.
Young adults, ages 3-10, will be symmetrical and bright in their patterns and colors.
For those ball pythons aged 10-20, their colors begin to fade and don’t line up quite like they used to.
In the older stages of life, the 20-30+ year olds have faded their colors and patterns.
While you won’t be able to tell the exact age, you get a general feel for their stage in life.
Head Size Relative To Body
The other way to tell age past adulthood is concerning their head size relative to the rest of their body.
Much like humans’ noses and ears continue growing slightly throughout our lives, a ball python’s head will continue to grow as well.
Relative to younger adults, you’ll notice the head is larger than the others.
This is difficult to see unless you have a lot of experience with ball pythons and have younger snakes to compare with.
This method only works with wild ball pythons.
Wild pythons have run-ins with predators and the environment in general.
Over time, they gain scratches and scars, which indicate how old they are.
Ball pythons with many of these are quite old, while those without are young adults.
Again, the method isn’t foolproof or hyper-specific, but with wild ball pythons, breeders and experts are usually able to guess accurately how old the python is.
Bonus: Just Take It To A Breeder Or Vet
Breeders and vets will be able to get you a closer guess as to exactly how old the ball python is.
These people have a lot of experience with what the different ages look like in terms of length, weight, color, and head size.
Breeders may be even better than vets in this case.
Chances are, a breeder will have seen a lot of ball pythons at a lot of different ages and may even have them there.
It’s not unheard for a breeder to directly compare with the different ages they own to give a specific age.
This won’t help you at home, but if you’re dying to get a better clue as to how old your pet is, a breeder is the way to go.
How Old Can A Ball Python Breed?
As we touched on before, it’s not a matter of “how old” but “how much does the python weigh?”
Males can breed at a younger and smaller weight than females who need to grow the eggs inside her.
Males will generally reach their sexual maturity at one and a half years of age.
This is when they reach the needed weight.
Females take between 2-3 years to reach the needed weight and sometimes even up to 4 years.
Once females are mature, this still doesn’t mean they’ll get pregnant either.
Female ball pythons can store a male’s sperm after mating for a few months (even years in some cases) until they build up their body weight to the point where she can safely lay eggs.
For the upper end of the spectrum, ball pythons never have to stop breeding.
Some breed until their 30th (or more) year.
Towards the end, they may not seem interested and may have an increased risk of death or lying issues for females, but it’s doable even at an old age.
Females are the ones who end up refusing to breed earlier than males do.
It’s important to note illness and stress may result in a refusal to breed at any age.
If you’re interested in breeding we have a post on how to incubate ball python eggs to get you going.
How Old Is A 3′ foot Ball Python?
It’s common for owners to adopt their ball pythons when they’re 3′ feet (0.91 m) long.
This is when many pet stores tend to sell them.
Let’s address this question directly then.
A 3′ foot ball python is around 1.5 – 2 years old.
This is old enough almost to be considered an adult with some growing left to do.
As far as diet goes, this when the snake settles into its adult eating habit.
For many ball python owners, don’t forget they go by weight as much as length.
Reference the tables above for an accurate view of age as they grow.
How Long Can Ball Pythons Live?
Ball pythons are one of the longer-lived snakes.
Given a healthy diet and freedom from injury or illness, the average ball python pet lives up to 30 years.
It’s not uncommon for them to live even longer.
Getting one of these pets is a long-term commitment, but they’re fortunately quite easy to care for.
Once their habitat is set up, all you need to do is keep their tank clean and give them a healthy diet.
This diet is the most costly part of caring for them, but it’s still, on average, less than a dog or cat.
We dig into the number in our article on how much it costs to feed a ball python.
We hope this guide for how to tell how old a ball python is helps you with your pet.
It’s easiest to tell how old they are until they’re fully grown by length and weight.
After adulthood, you need to look for the fading in color and increased head size to tell how old they are as adults.
Still, the best method is to check with a breeder as they have more experience than anyone else in discerning ball python age.