Ground and burrows
Burmese Pythons originate from Southeast Asia, including Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, southern China, and Indonesia. They are very popular pet snakes, but are perhaps one of the worst beginner snakes available. This species grows to an average length of 12-15 feet, with females being the larger of the two sexes. The longest specimen on record in captivity was 27 feet in length. This is extremely rare, but something to think about before considering this species. It is very difficult to house a snake that is over 12 feet, and one this size often requires its own room-sized enclosure. Burmese pythons are mainly a terrestrial species, living mainly on the ground and in burrows in the wild. Although, occasionally some will use arboreal space if it is provided.
Since this species gets very large, a glass fish tank can only be used when the snake is still small. Neonate and juvenile burmese pythons (16-72”) can be kept in a 10 gallon tank as a neonate with no problems. Once your snake attains a length of 24”, it should be moved into a larger tank about 30 gallons in size. This size tank should suffice until the snake is about 48”. Once your python exceeds the 48” mark, a tank between 60 and 75 gallons will be large enough until the snake exceeds 96” in length. Once this length is attained, more permanent housing will be needed.
The best bedding for this species is cypress mulch. This bedding has many advantages such as:
- humidity very well
- Allows the snake to bury itself
- Looks natural and attractive
This bedding will often contain/harbor bugs called wood lice. These are very small and many people confuse these with mites. These bugs are 1mm long and have a silver-grey color to them. Mites on the other hand, which are very harmful, are the same size but are a jet black color and more rounded in shape. The wood lice are harmless to the snake, and should only be a cause for concern if they begin to overrun the tank.
Heat & Lighting
Ball pythons require a daytime temperature of 84-92 degrees, and a nighttime temperature of 78-84 degrees. These temperatures can be achieved through the use of either a heat lamp/incandescent light bulb or an Under Tank Heater. The UTH should cover about half of the bottom of the tank. This will allow for a temperature gradient in the tank. The only downside to UTH’s is that they do not put out any light for the tank. Heat lamps fitted with an incandescent bulb are usually the best way to go because this setup allows for a more natural heat source (like the sun) and it lights up the tank for viewing purposes. You can even use different colored bulbs to simulate a day and night photoperiod. There are black or purple bulbs for night time heat, and white or blue bulbs for daytime heat. The exact wattage needed will need to be determined by the owner, because everyone has different temp preferences for their homes.
Ball pythons do not require a fluorescent light bulb in order to live and thrive, but this type of light will help the owner to view the tank and the snake’s color will often be enhanced under this light. If a UTH is being used, no photoperiod will be provided for the snake. This can be achieved through the use of a fluorescent bulb.
Hiding Areas & Decorations
Hiding areas are perhaps one of the most essential parts of a ball python cage. These should be tight fitting so the snake will feel secure. Two hiding areas should be provided, one on the warm side of the tank and another on the cooler side. This allows the snake to thermoregulate, while still having the ability to feel secure and hidden.
Water should be provided in two ways, a water dish and daily misting. The water dish should be large enough that the snake could fit its entire body inside it. Daily misting sessions should be provided in order to increase humidity levels and to allow the snake to drink. This is most often the only way the snake will drink. Many will not use a water dish to drink, only to soak in.
This is the favorite part of snake husbandry for most people. Ball pythons feed solely on rodents, specifically mice and rats. As a general rule of thumb, the snake should be fed a rodent only as big as the thickest part of its body. If the rodent being offered is too big, the snake will often regurgitate the meal after 2-3 days. This is extremely stressful and draining on the snake, so it should be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, a prey item that is too small will result in the snake not receiving enough food and malnutrition. As neonates and juvenile snakes, ball pythons can be fed every 7 days. As they move up to medium to large sized rats, the duration between feedings should be extended to every 2 weeks. As ball pythons grow and age, it can become increasingly difficult to switch them over from mice to rats. So, one should try to switch their snake over to rats as soon as possible. This will make feeding the snake as an adult much simpler and less time consuming. An adult ball python stuck on mice will eat about 8-10, as opposed to 1 large rat. It should be noted that ball pythons are known to be extremely finicky eaters. It can almost be guaranteed that every ball python will go off feed at some time or another eventually. This will usually happen to males, and occasionally females, every year as fall approaches. The duration of this fasting period will usually last between 2 and 6 months. This usually isn’t a cause for alarm, but if the snake begins to lose a significant amount of weight, a vet check-up may be in order.
Ball pythons require a period of high humidity once the shedding cycle begins. This allows the snake to slough off its skin in one piece rather than many, many pieces. A good, solid shed is much healthier for the snake. Often, if humidity levels are not raised when the opaque cycle begins, the snake will have a bad shed, which results in dried patches of skin left on the snake and, on occasion, eye caps. In order to sufficiently increase humidity levels, the tank should be misted twice a day for the duration of the shed cycle. If the snake still has problems shedding, a short soaking in luke-warm water will usually help to loosen the remaining skin.