Pet Care Guides Reptile

Ball Python



Average Size:

3-5 ft.


20+ years

Intro to Ball Pythons

Having a Ball Python as a pet can be a very rewarding experience! Before purchasing, do plenty of research to understand their behaviors, proper handling, and care requirements. Help them live a long and healthy life in your care.

The Ball Python, Python regius, makes an ideal pet for those who want a “big snake in a medium package”. It is a stoutly built and powerful constrictor, but at an average length of 3-5 feet is much easier to accommodate than larger relatives. Ball pythons have long been the subject of selective breeding by hobbyists and are available in an amazing array of colors and unique patterns.

Ball Pythons are native to Sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to western Sudan and south to the Central African Republic. In the wild, they favor open, arid habitats such as grasslands, overgrown fields, and the borders of agricultural areas. Ball Pythons are largely terrestrial and shelter in mammal burrows and termite mounds but will use tree hollows and other arboreal sites if they are available. Nile rats, gerbils, ground birds and other grassland animals are their primary prey.


Generally calm and easy to handle, the safety issues involved in keeping giant constrictors are not a factor with Ball Pythons, yet they display all the behaviors exhibited by their larger relatives. The common name is derived from its habit of coiling into a tight ball, with the head hidden within the center, when threatened. Once so situated, it is difficult to uncoil the snake (note: any snake may bite when disturbed).


It is recommended to keep Ball Pythons as solitary pets in their own habitat. That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any reptile will get along with any other reptile, even if they are purchased from the same cage or habitat.


Ball pythons should be provided with as much space as possible. while maintaining a safe and secure environment. Large enclosures are necessary to establish a thermal gradient. Snakes will move from warmer to cooler areas as needed to regulate their body temperature. This behavior, called thermoregulation, is important to their health and is usually not possible in small tanks.

We recommend
• 20 gallon Long 30”x12” – juvenile to 6 months old
• 40 gallon Breeder 36”x18” – 6 months to 12-18 months old
• 75 gallon 48’x18”– 2 years and older

Hatchlings may start off in a 20-gallon long style tank. Larger specimens do best in a 40–75-gallon tank. Air circulation is important for all reptiles, so your terrarium should be equipped with a screen top. The screen top should be secured with clips or locks as ball pythons are amazingly strong, even by snake standards.

Keeping a ball python in a small enclosure will not keep the animal smaller but, it will cause the python to be stressed and uncomfortable.

Habitat Furnishings:

• Two hides (1 for cool side, 1 for hot side)
• Ceramic food dish
• Water dish
• Substrate
• Decor

Always provide at least two hides for shelter. Being forced to remain in the open is stressful. A hide will make your snake feel more secure and more likely to eat when it is comfortable. Hides are also required for proper thermoregulation.

The cage can be decorated with artificial pieces of wood, plants, rocks or tree stumps to provide a more natural habitat. Stout, well-anchored branches can be added as basking sites. Make sure anything used in the cage is insect-free and secure, so it does not fall on your snake. Decor also provides an object to rub against when your snake is shedding.

Several different types of substrates, eco-earth, keepers choice tropical mix, cypress mulch, and/or reptisoil may be used as long as they are soil-based and can hold humidity. Remove substrate entirely once every 3 months, clean the habitat itself with pet disinfectant, & provide fresh new bedding.

TFP-TPP PRO TIP:Wood chips can lodge in the mouth and cause wounds during feeding; watch your snake carefully or feed it in a bare-bottomed enclosure to prevent this.

Light, Heat and Humidity

Light: Ball pythons benefit from a small amount of UVB. A UV index (UVI) of 2-3 UVI is recommended. For example, this can be provided by a T-5 2.5% UVB bulb at a 10-15” distance between the bulb and basking site. Be sure to provide hides of other forms of shade so that the snake can self-regulate as necessary.

Heat: Reptiles need the proper amount of heat to digest their food & maintain their immune system. Each species has its own temperature requirements that must be met by providing the appropriate amount of heat with some combination of heat bulbs, ceramic emitters & heat mats. Reptiles cannot maintain their body temperature by producing metabolic heat. They rely on external conditions (i.e., heat bulb) to regulate the temperature of their bodies. Consequently, a thermal gradient must be established in your ball python’s habitat. That means you must provide a basking area (90°F) & a cooling area (80-85°F).

Required Temperatures for your Ball Python:
• Basking area temperature 90°F
• Cooling area temperature 80°-85°F
• Nighttime Temperature minimum: 75°F

To provide the recommended basking temperature, we recommend the use of a heat spotlight & an under-the-tank heater plugged into a thermostat. At night, turn off the spotlight to allow the air temperature to cool down to around 80°F. If the temperature at night goes below 75°F, you may need a ceramic heat emitter or reptile night light, which gives off heat but not visible light. It will also enable you to view your pet’s nocturnal activities. Use two separate thermometers to monitor the temperature in the basking area & the cooling area.

Watching your reptile’s behavior & movement can indicate whether your temperatures are correct. For example, if your reptile always stays on the heated side means it’s never hot enough. Always staying on the cool side means the heated side is too hot.

Humidity Humidity should be moderate, (40-60%) & the substrate should be kept dry. Use a hygrometer to monitor your tank’s humidity. Pythons usually benefit from a small patch of moss kept damp, this adds humidity and is beneficial during shedding.


Ball pythons are known to be finicky eaters and because they are a very shy and secretive snake, they often have difficulty acclimating to a new environment. Most Ball Pythons accept live mice and small rats and/or frozen-thawed mice and rats. Their food should occasionally be dusted with reptile vitamins in order to promote the best of health. Hatchlings should be fed once weekly. Adults typically require a a meal approximately every 10-14 days.

More commonly than other snakes, Ball Pythons sometimes become “fixated” on one type of prey and then refuse all others. Particularly stubborn animals may sometimes be tempted by switching food animal species.

When you feed your snake, it is important to keep the size of the food item small rather than too large. A large food item can cause difficulty in swallowing and some snakes will regurgitate after eating a large food item due to difficulty in swallowing/digesting. If you feed frozen food, be certain the food is completely thawed before offering it to your cold-blooded snake. Swallowing even a partially frozen food item can cause your snake to go into shock and die from the extreme temperature change. We recommend thawing at least 30 minutes in warm water before introducing the rodent to the snake’s cage. NEVER MICROWAVE to thaw.

TFP-TPP PRO TIP: In the wild, Ball Pythons do not feed during the breeding season or when temperatures are unfavorable. They are well adapted to long fasts, and frequently go off-feed in captivity.

Water for drinking and soaking must always be available. Bowls should be filled to a point where they will not overflow when the snake curls up within, as damp conditions will lead to health problems.

Daily Care and Maintenance

Ball Pythons require attention & care every day.
You will need to:
• Provide fresh spring water.
• Spot clean, remove waste & uneaten food.
• Complete health checks.
• Complete heating checks


Observe your snake each morning. As pythons remain largely immobile, health problems can be difficult to identify. Observation can mean simply looking at them closely while they are in their habitat. Continual handling is not required as that can cause undue stress.

You will learn to recognize slight differences in snake postures. A limp or “un-muscled” appearance is typical of snakes that are not well. Other signs of illness include refusing to eat, no tongue flickering, little movement between different temperature zones. Also, check their underside for reddened scales. Lastly, check for small parasites, mites, crawling anywhere on your snake’s body and head. Mites dehydrate the reptile and can carry diseases just as fleas and ticks do in mammals. It is critical to provide treatment right away for any illness. Most animals are good at hiding an illness until it reaches an advanced stage.

If your snake is soaking in its water dish it could indicate:
• Temperature is too hot
• Humidity is too low
• Your snake has mites

Your Health & Sanitation Considerations

Your snake’s head should always be kept away from one’s face during handling, as even long-term pets may react to smells or vibrations that people cannot sense. Bite wounds can be severe and may be inflicted without warning by normally docile reptiles or animals.

Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile & amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before & after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide “Cleaning & Disinfecting Recommendations” for additional instructions.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about your new family member. We recommend scheduling a check up with an exotics veterinarian soon after you bring your new pet home. It is helpful to keep a medical record about your pet should an emergency ever occur.

Pet care is always evolving & changing. Please continue to research and monitor your pet’s behavior to assure they are thriving.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our reptile department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1240 or