Ball Pythons

Basic Setup

  • Enclosure

If you are just maintaining one or two animals, your most economical option will be a traditional enclosure like an aquarium. Aquariums were all that was available for years, but now there are specially designed reptile cages that are more ideal. Some of these are made by Reptiles Basics and Vision. If you choose an aquarium with a screen top, I recommend covering all but about 1/3 of the top with foil tape or plastic to help maintain a higher humidity.

  • Heat/Humidity

I recommend using an under tank heater that covers about 1/3 of the bottom of the enclosure. You will probably need some kind of thermostat or rheostat to control the heat. Avoid hot rocks as these can inflict sever burns and are not good for snakes. Get a thermometer and lay it in the cage above the heater, adjust the thermostat so that it maintains 89-94F hot spot above the heater in the cage. It is not critical to measure the cage humidity but does help animal during shed to increase the humidity. Misting the cage a couple times a week is usually adequate. As with many aspects of good husbandry, watch your animal(s), if they are having dry sheds, mist more often and try to raise the humidity. If they are shedding cleanly, your humidity is probably good.

  • Substrate

There are several good choices for substrates that will work well. I like paper towels for my animals but aspen bedding, newspaper or cypress mulch will work well also. I would avoid carpet or other non-disposable substrates. It is best to get substrate that can be changed out and the entire cage sanitized. When you add the substrate, it should stay around 88-94f on the substrate above the heater. This will allow the animal to thermo-regulate(choose its own temperature).

  • Water

Clean water should always be provided. The water should be changed and the water bowl sanitized at least once per week. Clean water can make a big difference in the health of your animal. I have found that the heavy, ceramic crock water dishes available at many pet stores are the best. They are almost impossible to spill which can be a real problem with some snakes.

  • Furnishing

Ball Pythons are terrestrial animals and although they will climb sometimes, branches are not a requirement. Any branches or plastic plants should be arranged in a such a way that they are easy to remove for cleaning. A hide box should also be provided, depending on size of enclosure 2 hides are preferable. One on the hot side and one on the cool side. The hiding place will give your snake a place to feel secure and reduce the stress of captivity.

  • Feeding

Ball Pythons will feed readily on rats and mice. There are periods of time during the year when fasting is common. Sometimes the fast can last several months and seems to be part of the normal life cycle of a Ball Python. It is possible and recommended to feed Ball Pythons frozen thawed prey items. This is a a safer prey item due to the fact that a live rat can cause serious injury or death to your python if left unattended. Live prey should not be left in enclosure for more than 30 minutes and should be watched when ever possible.

Advanced Setup

  • Racks

When maintaining a larger collection of Ball Pythons, a commercial rack systems are the best and most efficient method. There are several brands of commercially available rack systems out on the market today. At Action Reptiles, I use and recommend Reptile Basics racks. All of our adult ball pythons are kept in CB-70 racks with Iris tubs. All that is needed is to drill a few holes in the tubs to create a little more air flow without sacrificing the humidity like in an open air systems do. Another benefit of closed top racks is that there is seldom a need for hide boxes. In the back of the drawer it stays very dark just like a burrow in Africa. I do have some that do use hide boxes as it helps them feel more secure and feed more regularly.

  • Heat

The heat for rack systems is provided by either flex watt or heat cable towards the back of the rack. This still allows for a nice temperature gradient for the animal. The heat is regulated by a thermostat(we use herp stats by Spyder Robotics) which helps prevent the heat source from getting to hot an injuring the animal. The probe for the thermostat is placed right on top of the heating element and secured in place using foil tape, which can be found at your local hardware store.

  • Substrate

There are many good choices for substrates such as newspaper, aspen, and cypress mulch. I use paper towels as substrate for all my ball pythons as it has a clean appearance, no odor and is easy to see when it needs to be cleaned. This also allows me to monitor the health of the animal and to prevent the animal from ingesting any substrate while eating. I do use aspen for gravid ball pythons as it allows then to make a nest and it holds humidity well. The aspen is spot cleaned weekly and completely changed monthly up to the laying of eggs.

  • Water

I have also been using disposable water bowl system that employs 4″ s&d pvc couplers and 16oz disposable water bowls for adults and 3” couplers with 2 oz portion cups for babies. The couplers are available at any hardware store in the plumbing section and the disposable water bowls can be ordered online from a couple different reptile supply stores. The water is changed weekly and bowls sanitized monthly. This system saves a great deal of time washing water bowls while not sacrificing good husbandry.

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