Before choosing a ball python as a pet, there are some important things to take into consideration. Ball pythons average 4-5 ft (1.2-1.6m) long and may weigh as much as or slightly more than 7-8 lbs (3000-3600g). Ball pythons can also live as long as 40 years, so this is a long term commitment. They make excellent pets, but please be sure you are able to commit to caring for the snake for its entire life.
A general rule is that the enclosure should be no shorter than 2/3rds the length of your snake at its longest point. If an aquarium is used, be sure that it has a latching lid. Your ball python will find a way out if it exists. It is also important to offer your snake a hide so it feels secure. There should be two identical hides. One on the warm side, one on the cool side. This allows your snake to feel secure while also allowing for it to regulate its body temperature. Using identical hides means your snake won't have to choose between its favorite hide and thermoregulating.
A variety of bedding can be used in the enclosure. Newspaper or paper towels make for easy cleanup, but isn't very attractive. Shredded aspen or cypress can also be used for a more natural look. Avoid using pine or cedar, as those woods have toxins that can cause death or illness in your snake.
Unless you are breeding them, you should house your ball pythons in separate enclosures. When you first get your snake, you should allow it time to acclimate to its new enclosure. Leave it alone for at least a week, only disturbing it to clean or replace water. Once it acclimates and eats successfully, you can begin light handling which shouldn't cause stress.
Ball pythons, like other reptiles, are cold blooded animals. That means that they do not generate their own body heat. Therefore, they depend on their environment to allow them regulate their body temperature. It is important that you offer warm and cool spots in the enclosure for your snake.
The warm side of the tank should offer a belly temperature of 90-92°f and the cool side should offer a belly temperature of 80°f. Heat tape or an Under Tank Heater (UTH) should be used. This is a flat heat source that you attach to the bottom of the outside of the enclosure (do not place it in the enclosure with the snake). A thermostat should be used to regulate the temperature. You never want to leave a heat source unregulated. That can result in the enclosure getting too hot and causing injury to your snake. Avoid heat rocks, as they can lead to severe burns. We recommend purchasing a temp gun that will allow you to get accurate readings of various points in the enclosure.
Ball pythons prefer a humidity level in the 50-60% range. Using a large water bowl in the enclosure will help keep the humidity high. You may also need to mist the enclosure on occasion to keep the humidity where it needs to be. If your snake has trouble shedding in one piece, you will need to find a way to increase humidity. Misting your snake while it is in shed may help.
Ball pythons do well feeding on rats. While many will take frozen/thawed meals, some are picky and will only eat live rodents. Some ball pythons will be so picky as to only eat mice, or even ASF (African Soft Fur) rats or gerbils. It's best to feed your snake rats if they will eat them. Rats are easily found and come in sizes for even large ball pythons.
You want to feed your snake once a week to once every two weeks (more often for young snakes) and offer it a rat that is as thick or slightly thicker than the thickest part of its body. Live rats should not be left alone in the enclosure with your snake. A scared, stressed or hungry rat can injure or kill your snake if it's not in the mood to eat, so close supervision is recommended.
Ball pythons are notorious for being picky eaters, often going weeks or even months without feeding. Unless the snake looks unhealthy, this is nothing to worry about. Keep offering food once a week, perhaps changing up which food item is offered, until it eats. Give your snake 24 hours after eating before handling to prevent regurgitation.
This is not an exhaustive care sheet, but it should be enough to get you started. We highly recommend doing more research on your own. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to help.