A Beginners Guide to Ball Python Care

The Beloved Ball Python

The Ball Python is one of the most common snakes on the market kept as pets. Not only do they make good pets, but morph breeds fetch a fair price out in the snake trade. Therefore, if you’re looking to start caring for a ball python, you’ll leave here today with absolutely everything you need to know.

While ball pythons may hail from Africa, which sounds intimidating, that doesn’t mean that taking care of them is all that difficult. You’re going to be ecstatic when you find out how truly low maintenance these snakes really are.

Now, there is just so much to touch on when it comes to ball pythons, and we want to make sure that you don’t miss anything. So to make things a little bit easier for you, the reader, we’ll be breaking this article down into quick and easy to read sections for you. This way you can remain focused throughout, and refer back to anything you may have missed along the way.

Everything You Need to Know About Ball Pythons

We won’t be leaving anything out, and if you’re already familiar with certain areas, feel free to move freely throughout the article. Today, we’ll be going over:

  • What exactly a ball python snake is
  • How to take care of a ball python
  • How much to feed a ball python
  • The atmosphere in which you should keep your ball python
  • How to breed ball pythons
  • How the morph variations work
  • You’ll find a brief recap at the end

When it comes to finding the right ball python for you, it can be quite time consuming, so let’s jump right in to avoid wasting any time today.

Are you ready? We hope so.

7 pet snakes that stay small
The ever popular ball python.

What exactly is a ball python?

The ball python is actually one of the most common reptile pets on the market. If you’ve ever been to your local pet store, chances are you can find them for a relatively cheap price, and you may have seen them. If you already know what a ball python is, that’s awesome, but for those of you that don’t know you’ll want to remain focused during this section. Trust me, this is all relevant information when it comes to ball python care.

So where do they come from… initially?

If you’re curious about the story behind the ball python, look no further. The ball python comes from Africa and is imported to most other locations across the globe. Therefore, due to being an African native, these snakes love warmer temperatures and less humid climates.

The typical regions that are the most densely populated by ball pythons are as follows:

Handling a young ball python
Handling a young ball python.

Hopefully, by now, you’ve noticed that all of these African nations have one thing in common. The thing they have in common is being Sub-Saharan. Knowing this, before caring for your own ball python, is important because it tells us a whole lot about the habitat that they prefer.

What does a ball python look like, and how large do they grow?

The ball python is actually relatively small in comparison to most others. This is one of the key reasons that people prefer to keep these snakes as pets. Their small size makes them quite easy to care for and even makes it easy to manage their diet. With a ball python, you don’t need to worry about them being all that aggressive with you. Nobody likes being bit by a snake right?

Here are some of the average size s for both male and female ball pythons:

  • Females range from about 4 to 5 feet
  • Males tend to range from about 3 to 4 feet

The next thing you’ll probably want to know is what these snakes look like, right? Well, the answer actually varies quite a bit depending on the snake. A morph species, which we’ll be touching more on later, can have hundreds of different colors and patterns. While the morph breed will look much more color fluid than the traditional breed, that doesn’t mean that the traditional breed doesn’t deserve any love.

The traditional breed tends to have color schemes closer to black and brown, and on their bellies, the color usually resembles a cream type color that’s solid. The patterns may vary, but most ball python breeds have small heads and small scales as well.

What is their behavior like?

For any snake that you’ll be keeping in captivity, you’ll definitely want to be aware of their behavioral patterns. Obviously, you don’t want to get hurt, but you’ll be very happy to hear that these snakes are relatively docile snakes in captivity. So while they may bite or lunge at you while they’re getting to know you, this will change with time.

You’ll also know when the ball python feels it’s in danger because it will curl up into a small ball. This is the ball python’s primary defense mechanism, and when you care for one, you’ll want to make sure it always feels as comfortable as possible. So if you see it curled up, you’ll want to give it some space.

How long do they live?

The last thing you need to know before we get into the actual caregiving a portion of this article is how long these snakes live. Unlike a cat or dog, having a reptile as a pet is a pretty big commitment. While they might be relatively easy to manage, that doesn’t mean that they perish quickly. If you’ll be taking good care of a ball python, you can expect them to live well into their 30’s.

Wanna hear a fun fact? The oldest living ball python lived well over 60. So when you care for a ball python, you need to make sure that you’ll be able to care for it for many years as opposed to just a few. These pets tend to stay with you for life.

The ball python is one of the most popular snake pets, and this is due to their appearance, behavior, and size. They’re relatively peaceful, easy to manage, and will be your companion for years to come. They’re also a great snake to start with if you’re a beginner.

What do I need in order to take care of a ball python?

Now that you know the basics, and quite a bit about the ball python, we can really start to touch upon how to care for one. Also, be sure not to worry, because this section is entirely beginner-friendly as well. So let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need to take care of one of these snakes.

You’ll need a fairly large cage

The first thing that you’re going to need is a home for your ball python. We’re more than sure you don’t want this little guy slithering around your home because chances are they won’t get along with some of your other pets (if you have any). The cage does not need to be too complicated, but you might want to go with a glass tank. This will mitigate the snake’s risk of escaping and will allow you to monitor its health at all times.

When it comes to size, you really can’t go wrong with a 40 gallon tank. This will provide an adult ball python with plenty of living space. The size is important, because you want to make sure your ball python has plenty of room to exercise. Nobody wants a fat snake right? This will also give your snake plenty of room to shed as well, and you’ll know when a ball python is about to shed due to the glassy appearance of their eyes.

Make sure you choose the right bedding

Once you have your ball python’s home picked out, you’ll need to start making sure that you provide it with an ample habitat. This begins with the bedding, and you’ll soon discover that these are pretty basic snakes to take care of. You don’t need to go too crazy, but you actually have plenty of options.

Here are some of the best options for ball python bedding:

Coconut nuggets bedding
Coconut nuggets bedding
  • Sphagnum moss (dampened is going to be the best option)
  • Shavings from Aspen substrate
  • You can also go with bark for reptiles or even a coconut mulch bedding

Please visit our recommended products page for substrate, heating elements and much more!

You’ll want to make sure that you clean out your ball python’s habitat at least once a week. This will keep the risk for disease to a minimum. Now, while you can use bleach to clean the surrounding areas of the tank, you’ll want to make sure that you use water and soap to clear the bleach out.

What else does a ball python habitat need?

Now that you have the basics down, you’ll want to start setting up your snake’s home. This requires some creativity because your options are really limitless. There are at least two essentials that you need, though, and they’re not that difficult to obtain.

The first thing you need is a branch or bark for your ball python to climb around on. Snakes love trees, and the ball python is no exception. This will allow your ball python to receive plenty of exercise and can help keep your snake healthy. The second thing you’ll need, which is also easy to construct, is a hiding place for your ball python. This doesn’t need to be too crazy, it just needs to be large enough for your snake to curl up in. This is also a great way to provide your ball python with plenty of room to shed as well.

Now, as you may already know about snakes, you don’t need to feed them every day. This gives you a little more flexibility in the food department, but this is definitely not true in the water department. Therefore, you’ll always want to make sure that your ball python has a clean source of water at all times. Trust me on this one, you might not always see it, but a ball python loves its water bowl.

You don’t need to go too crazy with this, or run out and get a special bowl or anything, you just need to make sure they have a decent-sized water dish that’s always filled up with an ample amount of water. This will keep your ball python happy, and that’s definitely what you want right?

When it comes to the cage, and habitat of your ball python, it’s actually not as complicated as you may think. Just make sure your snake has plenty of room, plenty of water, and something to climb on. This will keep your ball python happy for the extent of its lifespan. Pretty simple right?

You’ll need to keep water handy

Now, as you may already know about snakes, you don’t need to feed them every day. This gives you a little more flexibility in the food department, but this is definitely not true in the water department. Therefore, you’ll always want to make sure that your ball python has a clean source of water at all times. Trust me on this one, you might not always see it, but a ball python loves its water bowl.

Snake water bowl
A heavier water bowl is more sturdy and there's less chance of the snake tipping it over.

You don’t need to go too crazy with this, or run out and get a special bowl or anything, you just need to make sure they have a decent-sized water dish that’s always filled up with an ample amount of water. This will keep your ball python happy, and that’s definitely what you want right?

When it comes to the cage, and habitat of your ball python, it’s actually not as complicated as you may think. Just make sure your snake has plenty of room, plenty of water, and something to climb on. This will keep your ball python happy for the extent of its lifespan. Pretty simple right?

What about heat and humidity levels?

The ball python is a cold-blooded species, which means that it heats up its blood with natural or artificial light. In captivity, this is obviously going to be artificial, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. Luckily, this section will contain everything you need to know about the optimal heat and humidity levels for your ball python.

What equipment do I need?

Before we get into the levels you’ll need to maintain, you’re going to need to get familiar with the equipment that you need. Luckily, this is actually pretty simple once you understand their purpose. First, you’ll need lamps to maintain the heat of your ball python’s habitat. For this, you can use standard heat lamps that you can definitely find at your local pet store.

The next thing you’ll need is infrared lamps. Now, this is not required, but for the best care, you’ll definitely want to at least consider acquiring these lamps. This will help keep your ball python’s habitat warm throughout the night, and will not interrupt your ball python’s circadian rhythm (night and day body clock). This is due to the fact that ball pythons are nocturnal snakes, and keeping artificial light on all night can throw them off quite a bit.

How hot should the tank be?

Now that you know about what you’ll need, we can delve into the proper level of heat. The heat level is actually pretty similar across the board for all snakes, which means that you’ll want to maintain a habitat of at most 95 degrees Fahrenheit for your ball python. Being of Sub-Saharan descent, trust me, these snakes love the heat. You don’t always need to keep the habitat this warm, but it should never dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

What humidity levels should I go with?

The last thing you’ll need to keep an eye on is the level of humidity you keep in your tank. Just like heat, ball python’s love a consistent level of moisture. The good news is that the humidity level is nothing crazy because the average you need to keep for a ball python is about 50%. Now, this can vary, but 50% is definitely a safe number for your ball python humidity wise but up it to 60 to 70% when they’re in shed.

The ball python is one of the easiest snakes to take care of because the levels are pretty easy to maintain. While these levels are averages, when your ball python goes into the shedding state, you’ll want to pump those numbers up a little bit.

What is their diet like?

Feeding a snake is definitely not like feeding a dog. There is no twice a day meal plan for a ball python because their bodies aren’t designed to eat that way. This means that you’ll want to feed your ball python about once every 10 to 15 days. This obviously depends on the size of the previous meal, but as an adult, a mouse will last your ball python at least a week.

The issue with this is that it leads to neglect in owners because it can be hard to remember when the last time you fed your ball python was. So we have a little pro-tip for you, which is to keep your snake on a food schedule. You can use your phone, a calendar, or anything else that helps you keep track, but doing it this way will make sure that you never forget to feed your little friend.

What does a ball python feast on?

The ball python is a carnivorous species, so you definitely don’t want to be feeding it plants or vegetation. They typically prefer small mammals as they grow older, and we have a couple of the most common mammals they eat for you down below.

The common things that a ball python will enjoy are:

How to raise your own snake food
Feeder mice

Now, it’s not exactly easy to feed your snake a live bird or chick every week, so you might want to keep your ball python on a mouse-based diet. They’re pretty inexpensive to obtain, and your local pet store will definitely have plenty of them for you to purchase when the time comes.

Another common question a lot of people ask is whether or not you should feed your ball python a live meal. This is entirely up to you, because dead or alive, your snake will eat its meal. Here are some good rules of thumb to follow:

  • If you’re going the dead route, you’ll want to keep the food source frozen.
  • Don’t use a microwave to speed up the defrosting process
  • If you’re going to feed your ball python live rodents, monitor the situation because rodents can do damage to your snake

What about when they’re young?

If you’re getting your hands on a juvenile ball python, you’ll want to make sure the rodents are smaller, but you’ll also want to increase the frequency in which you feed them. Just like a growing boy, a juvenile snake is a growing snake. Therefore, when they’re young, the best practice is to feed your ball python at least once per week.

Where should I feed them?

The final thing you need to know, about feeding your ball python, is where exactly you should be feeding them. While it might seem simple to just drop a mouse in their habitat, this is actually not always a good idea. Snakes are often smarter than we give them credit for, and if you feed them this way, they could associate their habitat with a hunting ground. That doesn’t sound good for your hand right?

So when it comes time to feed your ball python, it’s often a good idea to do it in a separate location. You don’t need to go crazy with the cage or location, but this will help condition your ball python to keep its mouth away from your hand.

Still, this technique isn’t foolproof and a snake’s habits and actions are best determined on a case by case basis. This is because different snakes, even of the same species, might have completely different personalities.

When it comes to feeding your ball python, the process is not too difficult once you get used to it. It might not be as easy as feeding a different pet at first, but in the long run, you really won’t find an easier pet to feed.

What does breeding look like in ball pythons?

Whether you want to breed these snakes on your own, or you’re just curious about what the breeding process entails, this section is for you. This is where we’ll be showing you everything you need to know about ball python breeding.

Do I need special equipment?

The idea of breeding, for some reason, seems to be one that poses a lot of questions. The good news, about breeding, is that it’s actually a really easy process. Obviously, you’ll need at least a male and a female, but that’s really all the extra equipment you need if you count the extra snake.

When is the breeding season?

Another question a lot of people ask is about the season in which a ball python will begin to breed or lay their eggs. With ball pythons, there is no definitive answer to this question. This is due to the fact that ball pythons tend to lay eggs all year round. This means that you’re not bound to traditional seasonal breeding schedules, but instead you have a bit of freedom.

Now, while ball pythons may lay eggs all year round, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an optimal time. The optimal time for a ball python to lay eggs tends to be in the early spring months. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to start pairing up a male and female in the early winter months for the best results. You should also be aware of the fact that you should wait at least 2 or 3 years before you attempt to breed a female ball python. This will allow your ball python to reach the optimal breeding weight class.

What does this process look like?

The process may seem strange to us because it’s definitely not how we breed, but there is a very easy way to tell that your pair is breeding. You’ll need to check for something called locking, which is when both snakes will wrap around each other. So if it looks like your snakes are just having a cuddle, they’re probably doing a whole lot more than cuddling.

Once the pair unlocks, you can safely assume that they have mated. If you have multiple females and one male, you’ll want to give your male ball python some time to rest before attempting to pair him with another female. This is not necessarily a rule, but it will help increase the frequency in which they mate. Plus, it can also help to feed the male right after the lock period has ended.

Always keep in mind that you should never keep snakes of different species in the same habitat. This is especially true when it comes to breeding because it can lead to death or injury in your ball python.

So what are morphs?

Now that you know all about the traditional ball python, it’s important to touch on the ball python morph. We’ll keep this section relatively simple, this way you’re not drilled with science, but leave here with an in-depth understanding of what a ball python morph breed is. You ready?

What does morph mean?

The term morph is actually another way of saying mutation. So when you hear that word, people are actually referring to a mutated snake. Luckily, in the snake world, we’re not talking about deformities or anything, but instead colors. Therefore, when it comes to morph-breeds, it really has to do with the visual appearance of the snake.

What are some common morph breed examples?

Now that you’re aware of the fact that morph breed just means a different colored breed, we can start to take a look at some of the popular ball python morph breeds that exist.

Some of these morph breeds are as follows:

Ball python photos kindly supplied by mary_python and the Holy Balls. Mary is an aspiring breeder from Texas. Be sure to follow her Instagram page!

So when it comes to ball python morph breeds, all we’re really looking at is color variation between different breeds.

Are morph breeds more lucrative?

Not only are ball python morphs more visually appealing, but they also tend to be higher in value within the snake trade. While you might find a traditional ball python priced between $20 and $40, a morph breed could cost you well over $100, and even into the $1,000 range. Therefore, the market for breeding ball python morph snakes is definitely going to be quite a bit more lucrative.

Is morph care the same across the board?

Now that we’ve thrown morph breeds into the mix, you’re probably wondering if the care is the same. New color new care routine right? Luckily, if that’s what you’re primary concern is, you’ll be ecstatic to hear that the care is basically the same. This is due to the fact that most morph breeds are only different when it comes to color, so the rest of the snake is essentially the same.

Is breeding different?

The breeding process is going to be the same, but there are some different variables you need to consider. Now you’ll want to bear with us for a second because it’s time to throw some science your way. So make sure you put your thinking cap on.

Morph breeds either have dominant or recessive traits. All this means, to put it simply, is that some breeds are easier to make than others. For example, a dominant trait will be passed on regardless of whether or not the mate carries the same gene. The opposite is true for recessive genes because both ball pythons will need to carry the morph trait. So before you jump right into the breeding, make sure you determine whether or not the morph trait is dominant or recessive.

If a morph trait is dominant

If a morph trait is dominant, you’ll have a much easier time breeding the morph breed. This is due to the fact that the morph breed can be paired with traditional breeds as well. If a morph trait is recessive, this is going to be a much more difficult process. You’ll need to make sure that both snakes you breed carry the morph trait, or the offspring will not be the same breed as the morph parent.

There is a whole lot more that goes into this, but for the purpose of understanding morph breeds, this is really all you need to know. Plus, once you know this, it’s pretty easy to immerse yourself even further into the snake trade lingo. You should also keep in mind that while color morphs are the most popular morph breeds, they’re not the only kind. Some crazy ball pythons exist out there, and some even have multiple heads.

While morph breeds may look more visually appealing, they will also fetch a much higher price if you’ll be breeding them. Just make sure you understand the trait aspect of breeding morphs, or you’ll end up scratching your head when the offspring doesn’t quite resemble the parent.

Conclusion

Now, we know we’ve thrown a whole lot of information your way, but that’s a good thing. The ball python is a versatile snake, and there are so many different options out there on the market. Even if you want to start breeding these snakes, you’ll definitely have no issue in doing so.

The ball python is the most popular snake in the snake trade for a reason. Their small size and wide range of morph breeds makes them a very popular pet option. Plus, if you take care of your ball python, it can be a pet that lasts you decades.

Due to there being so much condensed content in this article, you should always feel comfortable coming back to use this article as a guide. If you find yourself lost in any of the sections we presented, always feel free to read back through them to better retain some of the information.

Now that you know the facts, and everything about the ball python, are you ready for one?

A Beginners Guide to Ball Python Care

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