Wester & Central Africa & Asia
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. The choice to purchase a ball python should be carefully thought out and best left to an experienced keeper.
A ball pythons diet consists of mice ranging from pinkie mice as hatchlings to full mice and small rats. Some individuals will take gerbils more readily. Food should be offered once a week or about every 5 days for baby snakes and young snakes and every other week for adult snakes. Some pythons will take frozen food that has been thoroughly thawed out. Their food should occasionally be dusted with reptile vitamins in order to promote the best of health.
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 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 snakes cage.
CAUTION: Always stun live food and remove any uneaten food. A snake that is not hungry may become afraid of the live prey and may lose any aggressive action. If the live prey bites the snake, the wound could become infected and the snake may refuse food for a time.
Fresh water should always be available. If room permits, you may provide a water bowl large enough for your python to soak. Place a young snake inside the water dish once a day until you see it go to the dish to drink on its own. This ensures that it does not quickly dehydrate while it is learning how to find water.
A standard aquarium is a good starter enclosure but eventually these snakes may require something larger and more elaborate. A secure lid is a must to keep your pet safe from other animals in the house and to keep your snake in the cage.
Bedding can range from Lizard Litter, rabbit pellets (alfalfa), or bark substrates like Repti-Bark. The cage can be decorated with pieces of wood, plants, rocks or tree stumps to provide a more natural habitat. Make sure anything used in the cage is insect-free and secure so it does not fall on your snake. A shelter in the cage will make your snake feel more secure. Your snake is more likely to eat when it is comfortable in its environment.
Pythons usually benefit from a small patch of moss kept damp - this adds humidity and is beneficial during shedding. Always provide a hiding area and objects for your snake to rub against when shedding.
Clean the enclosure weekly to remove any waste material. The entire cage should be disinfected with a dilute bleach solution at least once a month. If any bedding gets wet remove it promptly or a fungus may develop.
Heating & Lighting Requirements
Reptiles need heat in order to digest their food and maintain their immune system. Each species has its own requirements for temperature and if these are not met the animal may suffer. One side of the enclosure should be warmer than the other so the python is able to choose its correct temperature. Air temperature should be maintained between 80 to 85 degrees with a hot basking area reaching a temperature of 90 degrees. It is critical to know what the temperature is inside the enclosure before putting the snake inside. We recommend purchasing two thermometers so the temperature can be monitored at each end of the enclosure. We recommend the use of an under-the-tank heater to maintain air temperature and a full spectrum reptile heat light for the basking area. At night, the light should be turned off to allow the temperature to cool down to around 80 degrees. If you find that the temperature at night is below 75 degrees, you may need to purchase a reptile night light which gives off heat but not light that can be seen by the animal.
The ball pythons name is derived from the fact that this snake prefers to roll up into a ball when it becomes frightened. They lose this tendency as they tame and become accustomed to people. Do not attempt to handle your ball python until it establishes a normal eating pattern. Handling causes stress which is likely to add to the time it takes for your snake to feel comfortable in its new home. Once your snake eats at least twice for you, you can begin short handling sessions remembering never to over-stimulate the snake. Over-handling can be stressful to your python, especially since you will be removing it from its heated area. Always lightly touch the snake first before picking it up as the snake may be sleeping. Keep the snake away from your face and neck area. Always wash your hands before and after handling the snake. We have a special reptile handling hand cleaner.
If you notice any signs of illness in your snake such as refusing to eat, no tongue flickering, little movement between different temperature zones, or lack of muscle tone, it is critical to get treatment right away. Most animals are good at hiding an illness until it reaches an advanced stage.
If you notice any small parasites crawling on your snake they may be mites and need to be treated promptly. Mites dehydrate the reptile and can carry diseases just as fleas and ticks do in mammals. We have several products which can be safely used to remove mites.
Keeping a ball python in a small enclosure will not keep the animal smaller but, it will cause stress and be just as uncomfortable as you living in your closet! Provide your pet with the largest enclosure as possible while maintaining a safe and secure environment.
If you have a snake that is not eating, please call us, do not wait. Snakes can become weak very quickly. To encourage a young snake to eat you can try placing it in a paper bag with its food item, usually a pinkie. The bag helps the snake feel more secure and less anxious about being watched while it eats.
A baby snake will shed its skin often, sometimes once a month. It is very important that all of the shed skin is removed from the snake. If the shed skin looks dry and tight and is coming off in pieces the snake may be in trouble from lack of humidity in the air. You will need to soak the snake in warm water with one of the shedding aids we have available.
If you have a snake that refuses food when you sprinkle the vitamins over it, you can try this method: Mix the vitamins with corn syrup to make a paste. Rub this paste on the prey item--usually a mouse. The mouse will then lick the paste and ingest the vitamins. Now offer the mouse to the snake. If you use thawed prey, try offering the snake the food without vitamins and next time put the vitamins on the food.
Ball pythons range in size from 3 to 5 feet, making it a smaller member of the python family. This reason alone seems to attract people to the snake. Their average lifespan is twenty plus years.
We strive to help our customers keep their animals healthy and we do recommend regular veterinary check-ups. We also recommend purchasing a book about your new pet.