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How Cold Can a Ball Python Survive (And Cold Shock Syndrome)

Ball pythons are amazing creatures, native to West and Central Africa, and are super sensitive to changes in temperature. It’s a wonder how they survive in the wild and not get too cold.

But did you know that there’s a specific danger that can harm them called “Cold Shock Syndrome”? So, if you have a ball python pet, it’s important to understand these fascinating creatures and how to keep them safe.

Let’s explore the world of ball pythons together and learn how to protect them from the dangers of cold exposure.

How cold of a temperature can a ball python survive?

Ball pythons are cold-blooded animals requiring warmer and cooler zones for their bodies to function. Still, if temperatures drop lower than 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C), your snake’s body will begin to shut down, and if those temperatures continue, they will not survive.

Read on as we do a deep dive on how temperature and being too cold play a significant role in the health and well-being of your pet ball python.

how cold can a ball python survive

How Cold Of A Temperature Can A Ball Python Survive?

Ball pythons are not difficult to care for and have become a popular choice for anyone who wants to become a snake owner.

While they do not require too much specialized care, the temperatures in their enclosure must be maintained so their bodies can function correctly.

If the temperature of their habitat drops below 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C), their body will begin to shut down.

This shut down will negatively affect their health and can ultimately lead to them freezing to death.

What Happens If A Ball Python Gets Too Cold?

Keeping the temperatures right in any snake enclosure is tricky.

You might have to contend with the regular temperatures inside your home and the average weather in your hometown.

There are all sorts of light bulbs, heating mats, and other items to add to the environment to create the ideal temperature.

For more details on keeping a ball python warm, check out this guide to the humidity and temperature requirements of a ball python.

But what happens if those things don’t work for some reason and the enclosure gets too cold?

As discussed above, cooler temperatures can hurt the health of your ball python, ultimately leading to death.

This is because most bodily functions of the ball python, including breathing, digesting food, expelling waste, filtering toxins, and absorbing oxygen, are dependent on the snake’s external temperatures.

You might wonder what exactly happens to their bodies when it is too cold in their environment.

A snake’s natural habitat will be warm because these creatures are cold-blooded and depend on external temperatures to regulate their body temperatures.

If it is too cold, the snake will first make every attempt to seek out a warm area of their enclosure, but if they can’t find one, you might notice them retreat to their hide to escape the cold.

You will notice this movement from cooler to warmer zones regularly when everything in the cage is running smoothly.

If they cannot find a warm spot to bask, their bodies will start to take on the ambient air temperature around them.

ball python basking

Another thing you might see if your snake is getting and staying too cold is regurgitation or vomiting of their food.

This will happen because their digestive systems are affected by temperatures, and if they can’t get warm enough to digest the food, it will rot inside of them.

In an attempt to purge themselves of the rotting and spoiled food, they will regurgitate or vomit depending on digestion level.

For this reason, the snake will not go on to try and eat anything else.

They know they cannot digest anything at these temperatures, so the appetite won’t be there.

They will only begin eating again if the temperature rises and returns to normal and optimal levels.

Otherwise, your snake will begin to lose weight and become weaker and weaker as the cold snap continues.

As the temperatures remain too cool for them, the ball pythons will become lethargic like most other snakes, meaning their movements will be slow and even nonexistent.

Without the warmer temperatures, their body cannot function, and disease and sickness will begin to set in.

If your snake has any health conditions, mainly respiratory functions, the cold will exacerbate them.

Because they aren’t eating, the snake won’t be taking in any adequate nutrition to help them fight off diseases.

Should your snake remain too cold for too long, the ball python will ultimately die of hypothermia.

The organs will shut down, including the liver and kidneys, and the lungs will stop taking in air and absorbing oxygen.

When these organs are not able to function, the snake cannot survive.

These issues should show you how important it is to maintain the proper temperature for your ball python.

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Ball Python Cold Shock Syndrome

Ball python cold shock syndrome is the behavior your snake will portray after surviving being in too low of a temperature.

For most snakes recovery is slow and intermittent and your pet may recover or die suddenly at any point.

If your ball python doesn’t die and continues to recover slowly, it may always show signs of neurological damage including uncoordinated movements, stargazing, spinning, and other atypical behavior.

Ball pythons don’t have an instinct telling them to seek shelter from the cold and when this situation happens it’s unfortunate.

How Warm Is Too Warm?

Interestingly, too warm temperatures are just as deadly for your ball python as extremely cold.

If the enclosure is too hot, reaching temperatures above the ideal 88° to 96° degrees Fahrenheit (31° – 35° C) ambient air temperatures, your snake will be at risk for burns.

Because they are cold-blooded animals, they cannot regulate the heat and will only suffer if their environment is too hot.

Heat Gradient

To keep your ball python at peak health and happiness levels, you will need to give them a proper heat gradient in their enclosure.

This allows for spots to cool down, warm themselves, and bask.

Being able to move to cooler or warmer areas as needed will help them regulate their body temperatures and aid in natural functions like digestion.

Create a habitat with a heat gradient by first having a large enough tank.

If your tank is too small, you run the risk of having a heat lamp or other heat source warm the entire space rather than just a small area.

The tank should be big enough to let the snake stretch out, but for an adult ball python, an enclosure measuring approximately 36″ inches by 18″ inches by 12″ inches will provide them with an excellent place to live.

This size will also allow you to create the gradient the snake will need.

When you have the tank size figured out, a lamp or other heat source can be installed to help create the warmer basking area of the enclosure.

Also include a hide box for your snake, as this will give them a place not only to feel safe and secure but also to cool down.

Ideal Temperatures and Heating

To ensure you are meeting the ideal temperatures, be sure to get at least one digital thermometer.

Here is the ideal ball python temperature Celsius and Fahrenheit:

  • Basking Spot: 88-92 degrees Fahrenheit (31-33 degrees Celsius)
  • Warm Hide: 86-90 degrees Fahrenheit (30-32 degrees Celsius)
  • Cool Hide: 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit (22-27 degrees Celsius)
  • Nighttime Temperature: 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit (21-26 degrees Celsius)
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  • Humidity & Timing Control
  • Alarm When Temps Reach Unsafe Levels
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What To Do If The Heat Goes Out?

Everyone has had a power outage at least some point in their lives.

It’s not always a fun experience, and if you are the owner of a ball python, the longer it’s out, the more nervous you might get.

This is also a concern if the heat source in your tank decides to cut out and you’re unable to make it to the store to replace it right away.

If the temperatures in the tank start dropping to dangerous levels, there are a few things to do to help keep your snake warm and avoid it getting too cold.

If you have a hot water source, fill some water jugs with the hot water and place them in the tank with the snake, allowing it to get close and warm up.

keeping ball python warm

Say you can’t get any hot water; another option to explore is allowing your snake to use your body heat to keep warm.

Most of your body heat is found at your core or your torso, so holding your snake close to this area of your body will help keep them warm until you get its tank back up to temperature.

Your snake will let you know if they need a break from the warmth of your body, and in the case of the water bottles, they will move away from them and back as necessary.

The snake is going to know what it needs, so definitely let it take the lead.

Other alternatives include chemical hand warmers you might find at a sporting goods store.

Because they do contain chemicals, it is best to not put these directly into the cage but instead wrap them in foil and attach them to the bottom or side of the tank to provide a safe heat source.

Conclusion

Providing the proper temperatures for your ball python is one of the most important aspects of ownership.

These cold-blooded animals require both warm and cool spots to regulate their body temperatures and perform natural functions.

If the snake gets too cold, their bodily functions will slow down, and it will take a real toll on their health.

Be sure you provide a space for your ball python in the ideal zones to give it the best chance at a healthy and happy life.

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