The ball python, also referred to as the royal python, is perhaps one of the most popular reptiles kept as pets. It is a species originally native to western and central Africa. It does not obtain the great size that some pythons obtain, making it much more manageable. It is often considered a great beginner snake, for those who may not be entirely familiar with reptile care. They are also a very “forgiving” reptile that may survive from mistakes made by the keeper, when other animals may not. Another factor that makes them a great choice for beginners (and even a joy for the experienced keeper) is there wonderful disposition, which is normally very placid and tolerant of human contact.
Your ball python will live to be 20-30 years of age on average. Exceptional cases have been recorded to live over 45 years of age with proper care. This makes the ball python one of the longest-lived snakes in the world. The ball python can grow to be from 3 to 6 feet in length. The females grow to be larger than males. A healthy ball python has good weight in comparison to its overall length. The rate, at which your snake grows, will depend entirely upon how often it is fed, and the appetite of the snake. The enclosure should be set up before receiving your python. The largest enclosure that you can afford is recommended for any animal, however, adult ball pythons can be kept in 30 gallon size enclosure without stress related problems if properly set up. If larger enclosures are used, keeping it “cluttered” with nooks, crannies, and places to hide will keep you python from feeling too vulnerable. There should be a substrate (floor covering) lining the bottom of the enclosure. Newspaper can be used as a substrate for ball pythons, and allows cheap replacement and easy clean up of messes. There are a number of more natural looking substrates that are acceptable for ball pythons as well. With any type of substrate, care should be taken when feeding to insure that the substrate material is not ingested with the food item. This is to prevent your ball python from getting a blockage in its digestive tract. If you are concerned that your snake may have a blockage, consult with a herpofauna veterinarian. Aspen shavings, cypress mulch, or Repti-bark is an excellent choice to add a natural look to your ball python’s habitat. Care should be used to insure that certain pine and cedar products are not used as they may be toxic to your python. The enclosure should be made escape proof if at all possible, as ball pythons are experts at escaping there cage. One excellent alternative is the Reptarium habitat by Apogee. Instead of a glass or plastic construction, they are constructed from a very durable nylon mesh, which provides maximum air circulation to your ball python, which helps to control odors. It also allows a more personal interaction with your python, which aids in it becoming accustomed to you. Substrate should be cleaned immediately, if significant soiling is visible. Every month, the enclosure should be cleaned and disinfected. Make sure to wash the enclosure thoroughly after disinfecting, to prevent any chemicals from harming your ball python. In addition to substrate, to better promote the health of your ball python, one must also provide a water dish (if space allows one large enough for the python to bath and submerge in), a climbing/basking branch, and a hide. The hide helps to allow your ball python to feel more secure in its enclosure, very similarly to a child’s security blanket. The water in the enclosure should be provided daily. And any soiled or possibly stale water should be changed out immediately. The branch can help you in the next important part of the enclosure, which is the temperature gradient. Daytime ambient temperatures should be around 80-85 degrees. 60 % humidity is optimal. A basking area should be provided with a temperature of 90-95 degrees. Nighttime temperatures may be allowed to drop to 75 degrees. Undertank heaters can be used in conjunction with lamps to provide the proper ambient temperature. If space allows providing a temperature gradient in the enclosure is best. For example a cool side of the cage at 75 degrees and a basking area temperature of 95 degrees. This allows your ball python to self regulate its body temperature to assure better health and acclimation. Your ball python may require some time to properly acclimate to the point where it is ready to eat. Ball Pythons are famous for not following a routine eating schedule. One of the most common mistakes that owners make with their ball python is to try and force-feed them because they are not eating. Provided that you’re animal is not loosing any significant body mass Python is an excellent choice for an easy to care for, and rewarding companion. The key to keeping any reptile successfully is properly researching and continual education. There are a numbers of books available, as well as website which can teach you more than you could ever need to know about keeping your Ball Python. When all else fails, never be afraid to ask, that is what we are here for.