Many ball python owners enjoy their reptile hobby so much they also have a collection of lizards such as leopard geckos.
Ball pythons and leopard geckos have easy care requirements, making them excellent pets for beginner reptile keepers.
But if you keep them together, will your ball python eat their leopard gecko?
A ball python will not typically eat a leopard gecko, but it is not entirely out of the question. If a ball python gets hungry enough, it will see a leopard gecko as a potential food item. Ball pythons are predators, and leopard geckos are prey animals, so mixing the two species is not a good idea.
Because of this predator/prey relationship, leaving your ball python alone with your leopard gecko is not recommended.
A hungry snake will not know your beloved pet leopard gecko is not its next meal, even though they typically do not dine on other cold-blooded animals.
Read on to learn whether or not it is safe to house a ball python with a leopard gecko and what a typical ball python diet consists of.
Is It Safe to House a Ball Python With a Leopard Gecko?
Aside from a leopard gecko being seen as a possible food item for a ball python, there are several reasons to never house these two reptiles in the same enclosure.
Different Enclosure Requirements
Ball pythons and leopard geckos require very different temperature and humidity requirements for their enclosures.
Ball pythons prefer an ambient temperature range between 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) and a warm basking area with temperatures between 88-96° degrees Fahrenheit (36° C).
A ball python enclosure also needs humidity levels between 50% and 60% for proper shedding.
Leopard gecko habitats need a temperature gradient ranging from 75 to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
Cooler nighttime temperatures may cause the leopard gecko to go into brumation, so it is best to keep the temperatures in the enclosure consistent unless you are breeding the animal.
Further reading: Do leopard geckos brumate?
A ball python tank is too warm for a leopard gecko, as they should not be exposed to temperatures higher than 96° degrees Fahrenheit (36° C) for prolonged periods.
Leopard geckos also need humidity levels between 30% and 40%, which is much too low for a ball python.
The enclosure size also differs between ball pythons and leopard geckos.
An adult leopard gecko will do well in a 20-gallon tank or 3’-foot enclosure, but an adult ball python needs at least a 40-gallon tank to stretch out and be comfortable.
Glass or plastic enclosures are suitable for both reptiles, but a glass tank is easier to clean and heat.
If you are using a plastic enclosure, you must be careful because some heating methods may cause it to warp or melt.
Another reason it is not recommended to keep a ball python and leopard gecko together is the difference in their diet.
Ball pythons eat rodents like mice or small rats, while a leopard gecko’s diet consists of insects like roaches and crickets.
There tends to be some controversy among breeders about whether or not to feed crickets to a ball python.
While some owners claim crickets give their snake more energy, a diet of crickets is not enough to satisfy a ball python, and they will likely refuse to eat them.
Leopard geckos in captivity also require a weekly dose of reptile calcium to stay healthy, but ball pythons generally get all of their nutritional requirements from food alone.
Stress to the Reptiles
Housing a ball python and a leopard gecko together may also cause a lot of stress for both of the reptiles.
A ball python may not appreciate the smaller leopard gecko’s quicker movements, especially at night when both reptiles are more active.
Rapid movements from the leopard gecko may cause the ball python to become stressed or mistake the smaller reptile for prey.
Likewise, since leopard geckos are prey animals, they would usually avoid a ball python in the wild and may become fearful of the much larger predator animal.
Prolonged stress for any reptile causes its immune system to become compromised and makes it more susceptible to illness and disease.
The Risk of Illness and Parasites
There is also a higher risk of contracting diseases and parasites if a ball python and leopard gecko are kept in the same enclosure.
Adenoviruses cause serious illness in reptiles, and they are also highly contagious.
While different strains of adenoviruses are specific to certain species, there are a few varieties that can infect more than one type of reptile.
If the ball python or leopard gecko becomes infected with one of these adenoviruses, it might be deadly for both animals.
Parasites are also an issue when housing two reptiles together, and the smaller leopard gecko will be more affected than a ball python.
It is very easy for a parasite infestation to quickly spread between a ball python and a leopard gecko.
What Do Ball Pythons Typically Eat?
Wild ball pythons have a wider variety of prey, including birds, rats, mice, and occasionally lizards if nothing else is available.
Captive ball pythons are typically fed a diet of mice and small rats.
Frozen rodents, thawed before feeding time, are preferred among reptile owners because live mice and rats will bite and may cause serious injury to a snake.
If your ball python does not seem interested in eating dead prey, use tongs during feeding to create movement, or place the rodent in a plastic bag and put it in warm water to heat it.
Even though they will eat other kinds of food, the diet of pet ball pythons is usually limited due to health concerns.
A rodent-eating snake will get all its essential nutrients from mice and rats and will not need additional supplements.
Feeding a ball python cold-blooded prey items exposes them to contaminating diseases and causes digestive issues.
Crickets do not have any nutritional value for ball pythons, and they may cause injury to the snake if any are accidentally left in the enclosure.
The rapid movement of crickets may also be a source of stress for a ball python.
A ball python is also not an egg-eating snake because it cannot digest them properly.
Never feed your ball python any rodents caught in the wild, as they may carry a variety of parasites and other diseases.
It is also recommended to feed your ball python appropriately-sized rodents no larger than the snake’s body circumference to avoid a choking hazard and digestive problems.
Do Ball Pythons Eat Anything Besides Rodents?
If you want to give your ball python a wider variety of food sources, chicks, hamsters, gerbils, young rabbits, and young guinea pigs are a few safe options.
It is common to have a fish-eating garter snake because it lives primarily in water, but this is not ideal for a land-dwelling ball python.
Occasionally, a wild ball python living near water may dine on small fish, but not all types of fish are safe for them to eat.
Mackerel, goldfish, and minnows have natural enzymes which block a ball python’s ability to absorb vitamin B1.
Fish may also contain heavy metals such as lead and mercury, so it is best to avoid feeding them to your ball python.