How To Care For A Ball Python

Are you overwhelmed trying to learn how to best care for your ball python?

Are you thinking about making a ball python your new pet, but aren’t sure what caring for one entails?

Ball pythons are a very popular choice when it comes to owning a snake, and part of the reason for their popularity is because caring for them is relatively easy.

Provide them with the proper food, environment, handling, and vet care when needed, and you will have your pet ball python for a long time.

These docile creatures are a great beginner snake option for pet lovers of any age.

This article will break down what you need to know to give your ball python the best care.

Keep reading for tips and tricks meant to help you provide a ball python a great quality of life.

how to care for a ball python

Ball Pythons: An Overview

Ball pythons are very calm pets, making them a popular choice for first-time snake owners.

These snakes are shy creatures who coil into a ball around their head when scared.

When properly cared for and well-fed, these animals can get as old as 20 or 30 years old or even older.

The oldest known captive ball python on record was well into its 40’s when it died.

They are a native of Africa, with a natural habitat of the savannah, grasslands, and sparsely wooded areas.

While they spend most of their days in burrows in the ground, they are known to do some climbing.

Another reason these snakes are so popular is their size.

These snakes are on the smaller side, with males only growing to the size of 2′ to 3′ feet and females measuring 3′ to 5′ feet once they reach maturity.

Understanding a little about the ball python as an owner is a great start to giving these animals the proper care they need to not only survive in captivity but to thrive.

Feeding Your Ball Python

Feeding your ball python properly is arguably the most important component of caring for the animal.

Providing proper nutrition is so important to keeping your pet healthy, and it directly affects how quickly and large your ball python will grow.

Ball pythons are carnivores, whether they are in the wild or captivity, and they both have virtually the same diet.

It is never a good idea to feed your ball python insects or vegetables, as they will get the vitamins and nutrients they need to survive by eating meat.

When you are wondering what to feed your ball snake, consider the following choices:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Gerbils
  • Chicks

You will be able to find these animals live or frozen at a pet store, or raise and house them in your own home.

Becoming your own feeder farm will allow you to have a constant supply of food on hand, but it is also more work and takes up space.

Never feed your ball python any animal you happen to catch or come across from the wild.

The animals in the wild could have parasites or diseases your snake could be infected with as they digest the meal.

If you choose to purchase frozen feeders from the store, be sure they are fully thawed before you feed them to your snake.

Never try to cook the food you feed the snakes.

You will also need to pay strict attention to the size of the feeder you are giving to the ball python.

If the mouse or rat is too large, the snake could choke or have difficulties digesting.

As a rule of thumb, feed your ball python prey the size of, or slightly larger than the widest part of the snake’s body.

When the ball python is young, they should be fed baby rats or mice, often referred to as pinkies, fuzzies, or hoppers.

Once they reach adulthood, the snakes are fed adult rodents.

Live prey should not be fed to your snake, as they will bite, claw, and scratch to fight for their lives.

These injuries can become infected and cause bigger problems for your snake.

When your ball python is young, they will need to eat one or two times a week, but older ball pythons do better eating only once per week.

Freshwater should be given to the ball python each day in a clean bowl.

What Does A Ball Python Enclosure Look Like?

While a ball python doesn’t need an overly fancy or large space to live and live well, they do need some space to move, climb, and hide.

As an adult, a ball python will do well in a tank measuring around 36″ inches by 18″ inches by 12″ inches, but when your snake is younger, a smaller tank will be a better fit to reduce stress.

Choose from a variety of materials for the tank, but most will either be glass or PVC/plastic material.

Glass aquariums are more expensive and will be heavier, but are great for creating a temperature gradient because they dissipate heat.

PVC or plastic is the most popular choice for ball python owners, and they offer a lighter weight, easy to clean, durable alternative to glass.

Adding a lid to the enclosure is not just a good idea; it is a must.

These animals are very sneaky and will make a break for it if they have the chance.

Make sure the lid is secure and, if possible, add a lock or clasp to help keep the lid secure.

In the tank, you will also absolutely need to include a hide box to give your snake somewhere to retreat when they need to.

Two hide boxes will be ideal in the enclosure, with one in the warm end of the cage and another in the cool end.

Place rocks or sterilized wood into the enclosure to give the snake some stimulation and something to rub against when they are shedding.

The substrate is also important to include in the enclosure, and you have a few options to choose from.

There are many products on the market, ranging from mulches to natural substrates with topsoil and coconut husks.

As a very inexpensive option, simply use paper towels or newspapers, but the downside is these won’t hold humidity in very well.

Some substrates will be easier to clean, and others can cause dangers if ingested by the animal.

It is best to do some research and trial and error to find the best, most effective substrate for you and your snake.

Temperature, Heating, Humidity, And Lighting In The Enclosure

The tank will need to accommodate these cold-blooded animals by having a warm side and a cooler side.

This will allow the snake to regulate their body temperature, as cold-blooded animals rely on the environment to help with their metabolism.

The basking area of the enclosure should be in 95° to 105° degrees Fahrenheit (35° – 40° C) range, and the ambient temperature needs to fall within a range of 82° and 86° degrees Fahrenheit (28° – 30° C).

At night the temperatures should drop to 72° to 78° degreesFahrenheit (22° – 25° C).

To maintain warmer temperatures, you have a few options, including a heat lamp, heating mats, or heating tape.

Heating mats and heating tape are probably the most common choices, but some argue they are more unnatural since they don’t warm the air.

A heat lamp in some ways is more like the sun, acting as a kind of natural heat source, warming the air.

We recommend against using heat rocks as they are dangerous and burn your snake’s body.

The same can happen with heating pads, but without a thermostat, they can cause harm to your snake.

They are a fire risk, especially when you consider the added substrate you might use to cover up the heating pad.

Ball pythons are crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most active at twilight.

Because of this, they don’t require more lighting than what is lighting up the room, but it is best to mimic a natural day and night cycle with lighting.

Light the enclosure with a low wattage fluorescent bulb or a low power UVB fluorescent light source.

Humidity is also crucial for your ball python.

This is because they need a certain level of humidity to help them shed their skin and also to promote proper respiratory health.

Try to keep humidity levels between 55% and 65% by adding a large water bowl and having the right substrate.

If it gets too dry in the enclosure, consider wetting down the substrate in the tank.

Cleaning My Ball Python Enclosure

It is important to clean and disinfect your ball python’s home regularly.

This will help you keep the animal healthy.

The substrate should be spot cleaned, and feces removed as necessary.

Full removal and replacement of the substrate will need to happen frequently due to the nature of snake urine and feces, but at a minimum, if there are no major bodily functions, you will need to replace the substrate at least every month.

Once a month, you will need to deep clean the tank and everything in it.

Get fancy with their enclosure, but just remember, every item you add to the enclosure will require regular cleaning.

Handling A Ball Python

Snakes, like many reptiles, are not going to want to cuddle or even be held all of the time, but proper handling will help your snake stay tame.

As a bonus, handling your snake is a great way to give it a little exercise.

When you first bring your snake home as a hatchling, give it one or two weeks to get acclimated before attempting to handle it.

These young ball pythons will be a little defensive at first, mostly because they are not used to being handled.

Give it time and have patience, because eventually, they will see you as a friend rather than a pet.

As they get older, regular handling can be done at least once or twice a week, but no more than once per day.

Also, do not attempt to handle the animal for about 24 to 28 hours after it has eaten.

Proper Vet Care And Recognizing Health Problems

When you are the owner of any reptile, it is important to find a veterinarian who specializes in these animals.

Having a vet who knows and regularly works with snakes and other reptiles will be an asset and helps ensure your ball snake will stay healthy for years to come.

Many local and small-town veterinarians will not have a lot of experience with reptiles, with their practice focusing more on cats and dogs.

When to know if your snake will need to see a vet is just as important as finding a good veterinarian.

Odd behavior is a sign you should consult your veterinarian.

If you notice your ball python is refusing to eat, does not produce stool, or has diarrhea, you should consult your veterinarian.

A poor shed and signs of injuries or trauma are other reasons you should contact your vet.

Also, check for lethargy, discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth, and unexplained defensive behavior.

These are all signs you will need to get your snake checked out.

Ball pythons are also susceptible to mites and parasites, so an annual fecal exam is a smart idea.

Be aware of health problems your snake might be experiencing, and when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to contact the vet if you are concerned.


Whether you are a longtime snake owner or just getting started, a ball python is an excellent choice.

These creatures are easy to care for and very docile, making it understandable why they are the most popular species of snake kept as pets.

This information on proper care and treatment of a ball python will help you keep your pet thriving for years to come.

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