Ball Python Care – Top 10 Questions and Answers
Every week, I receive dozens of questions about snake care through the Reptile Knowledge website. Many of these people ask the same questions. So I thought it would be helpful to compile some of these frequently asked questions into a series of articles and then post them on the internet. This is the first article in that series and it is about ball pythons.
After examining hundreds of emails dating back to 2007, I identified these top ten questions about ball python care:
1. What do they eat?
These snakes come from various East African countries, where they feed on a wide variety of rodents: mice, shrews, soft-coated rats, etc. In captivity, ball pythons will do well on a diet of mice and rats. I recommend offering frozen / thawed prey, because live rodents can be dangerous. A live rat, for example, can injure or kill a snake that is not interested in eating.
2. How often should I feed him?
You can feed babies every 5 to 7 days and adults every 7 to 15 days. This will also depend on the size of the meal. It is best to offer a rodent for food, the rodent being slightly wider than the widest part of the snake.
3. How big do they get?
This is one of the main reasons ball pythons are so popular as pets – they don’t grow very large. These snakes are short and thick-bodied. They rarely grow more than five feet long.
4. How much do they cost?
If you buy a “normal” ball python (which is the kind that occurs in nature), you can expect to pay between $ 50 and $ 90 for it. If you buy an albino specimen, you will probably pay a few hundred dollars. Some of the rarer forms can cost thousands of dollars, but only breeders pay this kind of money. Generally speaking, females cost more than males due to their reproductive capacity.
5. Are they dangerous?
No, unless you are a rodent. Ball pythons are not poisonous. And although they are constrictors, they are not large enough to constrict a human (not even a baby). They are relatively easy to carry, compared to other species of snakes. This is another reason why they are so popular as pets. They can bite their owners in certain situations, such as when the owner’s hand is mistaken for food, but these bites are not serious.
6. How long do they live?
Long time! Keep this in mind if you are considering getting a ball python. They can easily live more than 20 years in captivity, and some will even pass the 40-year mark.
7. What size cage do I need?
You can have a baby or young in a 20-gallon terrarium or a two-foot-long plastic cage. Adult snakes should be given more room to move. For adults, I recommend a 50-gallon glass cage or the equivalent plastic model (three to four feet long is ideal).
8. What temperatures should I aim for?
You want to achieve a thermal gradient in the cage so that one side is warmer than the other. This allows the snake to thermoregulate, moving at different temperatures as needed. I recommend 80 – 82 degrees (Fahrenheit) on the cooler side and 92 – 96 degrees on the warmer side. You can achieve this by using a heat lamp or heating pad under the tank.
9. How much maintenance is required?
You should do a full cage cleaning about once a month. This shouldn’t take more than an hour. Once you get it right, you can clean the cage in half an hour or less. You should also clean the water bowls once a week, or immediately if the snake defecates on them. Aside from feeding and checking time, that’s it.
10. Where can I get more information?
You can find a lot of information online, but you should always consider the source. There is no editorial review process on the internet, so anyone can post anything regardless of accuracy. I’ve seen some terribly inaccurate care sheets online, but I’ve seen some really good ones too. You may also want to check out my e-book on this topic (see below).
* Copyright 2009, Brandon Cornett. You can republish this article on your website as long as you keep the quotes hyperlinks below.