Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide In 2022

Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide

I’ve created this website to answer all your questions about how to best take care of your ball python a.k.a Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide.

There are a lot of care sheets out there that tell you how to take care of your ball python, but a lot of them contradict each other and some of them are quite confusing.

Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide

This page is dedicated primarily to new owners who want to do what’s best for their new ball python.

On this website, you will find detailed descriptions, photos, and video tutorials to help you do that.

About Ball Pythons

The scientific name for ball pythons is python regius, which translates to Royal Python.

The term “ball python” is a nickname, since they tend to prefer curling up into a ball when they are nervous or scared.

Ball pythons are great snakes because they stay relatively small their whole lives.

Males won’t usually grow more than 4 feet, and females usually won’t grow more than 5 feet.

They are usually docile and gentle in nature.

Here is a 2-month-old ball python, and an adult ball python:

2-month-old ball python

So you want a ball python…

Getting a ball python should not be an impulsive buy. Kept properly, ball pythons can live over 20 years! So before you buy a ball python, ask yourself the following questions:

Are you ready, financially, to invest in buying a ball python, the enclosure, hides, water dish, heat source, thermostat, and food?

The initial cost of buying all of the snake’s needs can be quite a bit to take on.

You must also have an additional amount of money set aside for vet emergencies should they arise.

Do you have a nearby veterinarian who is experienced and knowledgeable about snakes?

Are you willing to feed your ball python live or frozen/thawed rats?

Will you be able to house and take care of your ball python for the duration of its lifetime?

Do you have the space in your home for the enclosure your ball python will need as an adult?

adult ball python

Buying a Healthy Ball Python

Wherever you decide to buy a ball python (see “Where to Buy” section), you’ll want to make sure you pick out a healthy animal.

When you choose the snake you want to buy, there are several things you can see to figure out if the snake is healthy.

  • Eyes

The eyes should be smooth and clear. Here is an image of a ball python with healthy eyes:

  • Nose and Mouth

The nose and mouth of the ball python should be free of any obstructions. If you see any bubbles, puss, or abnormal coloring, the snake may be sick.

  • Skin

The skin of the ball python should feel smooth and fresh. Make sure the snake doesn’t have stuck shed on his body.

Stuck shed will be dry, clear or white, and flaky. Check the body for mites. Mites look like small little black spots on the body.

Good places to check for mites are under the head and on the belly scales (See the “Health” section).

You want to avoid bringing home a snake that is carrying mites.

  • Behavior

The ball python should be alert, and its movements should look and feel natural. Baby ball pythons can be especially shy or defensive, and this is normal.

If you gently turn the ball python upside down or on its side, it should be able to turn itself over properly without a problem.

A snake that is turning upside down or fails to correct itself may be a red flag for issues to come later.

  • Body

You should not be able to see the ribs on the ball python you are looking to buy.

A sign that a ball python might be severely underweight is if their body makes a sharp triangle shape.

Their belly should be flat, and shouldn’t curve inwards.

An underweight ball python:

underweight ball python

  • Feeding

Ask whoever you will be getting the ball python from, how/what/how often it is eating. You’ll want to know when the ball python last ate, and if it’s been eating consistently.

A ball python that is missing too many meals might be sick or too stressed out. A reputable breeder/owner will be honest about the snake’s feeding routine.

Be Picky!

You’ll want to make sure you choose a ball python that is healthy. A good breeder/owner will let you examine the entire snake before you choose to take it home with you.

Take your time when looking at the snake and before making a decision.

Choosing between all the available morphs may be quite an endeavor, but in the end, you’ll want to pick one that is physically appealing to you, and healthy in appearance and behavior.

Don’t let anyone rush you through this process.

Take your time! You will eventually find the snake that is right for you.

You are better of going slow and finding the right one, than rushing through the process and ending up with a snake that is sick or not quite the color/pattern you wanted.

Take into consideration your budget and availability.

Don’t forget that buying a ball python is a commitment of possibly over 20 years! Although very rewarding, this is a decision to be taken seriously!

Complete Ball Python Care Sheet

Where To Buy A Ball Python

Important! Before you buy a ball python, you’ll want to have the enclosure set up. This way, you’ll have everything ready for when the snake comes home.

Please see “Setting Up” for information.

There are many places you can go to find a ball python.

  • Rescue or Shelter

You can find your nearest shelter or rescue and ask if they have any ball pythons up for adoption.

Some ball pythons in shelters are snakes that were someone’s pet, but that person could no longer care for him/her.

The advantages to getting a ball python from a shelter is that he/she may already be a little older, come with an enclosure, and it’s always good to give a needy animal a home!

However, you do risk not knowing where the ball python is coming from, how it was taken care of previously, and if it has any diseases that the shelter is unaware of.

You can still find a healthy ball python at your shelter, though, you just need to know what to look out for.

You can see the section “Choosing A Healthy Ball Python” on how to select a healthy ball python from a rescue or a shelter.

  • Online

You can find many breeders online who are willing to ship to you the ball python of your choice.

One way to find out if the ball python you’re looking into is coming from a reputable breeder is to check the Board of Inquiry.

There you can search the breeder’s name, and see what people say about them who have had experiences buying from them.

You can also ask around and find out where the people you know have gotten their ball pythons from.

Buying online also means you’ll have to pay a shipping & Handling fee for the snake to be delivered.

Make sure the breeder you buy from is shipping the snake to you overnight with a live arrival guarantee!

You will have to be present the morning of the arrival to receive your new snake, check it over, and put it in its new home.

If you live in the United States, you may also find ball pythons for sale via Craigslist. However, the prices of ball pythons on Craiglist may be higher (or lower) than what’s on the market.

You might also find that people are selling ball pythons that are ill or poorly kept.

You might end up with a ball python that has issues that the previous owner didn’t want to tell you about. There are certainly some good people on Craiglist… Just make sure you go see the setup the owner had, how the snake was kept, how long the owner has had it, and what/how it’s being fed.

  • Directly From A Breeder

Visiting a breeder’s facility is not a common option, but if you happen to know a breeder near you, you might be able to schedule a visit to their facility and see the snakes they have to offer.

Buying directly from a breeder can be great if you can get to know the breeder first-hand, pick the snake you want, and take it home.

Use your gut instinct: is the place clean? Are the cages clean? Is the breeder respectful? How willing is the breeder to answer your questions?

By buying from a breeder directly, you also won’t need to pay a shipping & Handling fee.

See “Choosing a Healthy Ball Python” for tips on how to select a healthy snake.

  • From A Pet Store

Buying from a pet store can be a “hit or miss” situation. Some pet stores sell quality ball pythons from reputable breeders and will do a good job at taking care of them.

Other stores will keep their ball pythons in poor conditions.

It may be tempting to buy a ball python from a poorly-kept pet store to “save” the snake… but by buying from that pet store, you are actually creating the demand that then perpetuates the supply. Simply put, by buying that snake, you are only making a space for a new snake to be put in the same place.

Check how the snakes are being kept in one enclosure at the pet store. Ball pythons that are housed together are usually experiencing a lot of stress.

Do they have fresh water? Do they look healthy? How many are in one cage? What is the setup they have them in?

  • From A Reptile Show or Expo

Going to a reptile show/expo can be a great experience. You’ll get to meet lots of breeders and see all sorts of ball pythons! Be sure to check the reputation of the breeders that will be selling at the expo beforehand.

You’ll probably be able to find a breeder that has the type of ball python you’re looking for at an expo.

The benefits of shopping at an expo is that you’ll have a lot more selection to choose from, and the prices may be somewhat more affordable.

You’ll get to inspect the snake you want, and take it with you on the spot. The breeder/seller should be engaging, friendly, and willing to answer all your questions.

If you’re curious as to when/where your next reptile show is, see the Links page.

At expos, it is normal to see a few ball pythons together in one box. This is only temporary to conserve space at the show.

Here is what you can expect to see:

underweight ball python

Setting Up  The Enclosure

It seems like there are a lot of options when it comes to how to house your new ball python.

Regardless of which way you go, you want to find one that has a solid top and small ventilation holes.

Do not get an enclosure with a screen top or a lid with lots of holes.

For example, do NOT get something like this:

This “Faunarium” setup, although cheap and good for other snake species, is NOT good for ball pythons because it has a screen top and lots of ventilation holes that will make keeping your humidity up difficult.

Here are some options of what you should get… But keep in mind that these options vary in cost.

The one you choose will depend on how many snakes you have, how much money you want to spend, how much space you have available, and how much you want to “decorate” it.

You can go with a homemade setup, a tank, a rack, a vivarium, or a tub. Below are some options:

Here is an example of a good ball python enclosure. Note that the enclosure has two hides, aspen bedding, and a large water dish.

good ball python enclosure

Here is an enclosure suitable for a baby/juvenile ball python:
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A suitable, simple enclosure for an adult ball python:

Another option, if you want to house multiple ball pythons and don’t have the space for each to have a “fancy” enclosure, is to go with a rack:

A cheap alternative to the above is to go with a tub set up. You can usually buy these at any store that sells containers or sweater boxes. Drill ventilation holes into the sides, and set up your enclosure on the inside.

This is a perfectly good option for housing your ball python.

Where to Buy

Whichever type of enclosure you decided to go with, you can buy most of them at your local pet store, reptile expo, or online.

There are companies that specialize in making enclosures, many of which you can buy with lighting and heating already installed.

You can also check your local classifieds to see if anyone is selling a used one. If you attend a reptile expo, you’ll be able to find new and used enclosures of different sizes.

You could also check with your local reptile vet and see if they have any they are willing to sell. If you are good at basic carpentry, you might even want to opt to build your own!

There are several guides on the Internet and on the sSnakeSs forum’s enclosure section that will guide you step-by-step to make your very own custom enclosure.

What Size?

A baby ball python can comfortably live in a 10-gallon enclosure for roughly the first 6-8 months of its life, depending on how fast it is growing.

Eventually, you’ll have to move him/her into a larger enclosure. As an adult, your ball python will most likely never need an enclosure that is larger than a 40-gallon tank.

If you want to start your baby ball python off in his/her permanent adult enclosure, just make sure you cover the floor space with lots of hides and decor so he/she is not overwhelmed by all the open space.

Bedding or Substrate

The type of substrate you choose to put in your ball python’s enclosure depends mostly on how much you want to spend, and how much you care about the “look” of your enclosure.

These are good choices:
– Newspaper
– Aspen
– Paper-based bedding
– ReptiBark
– Reptile Carpet

Beware! Cedar is NOT a good option for your ball python. It has been found that cedar chips are toxic to snakes.

Hides

Your ball python will need at least two hides. They will need one on each side of their enclosure. Snakes regulate their body temperature by going from their hot side to their cool side (see section “Heat”).

You want to give them a hide on each end so that they have a safe place to retreat to when they do this. If you only give them one hide, they might choose safety over proper regulation.

Having a safe place to hide in is essential to a ball pythons feeling of safety and comfort.

There are many kinds of hides on the market. There are some fancy ones, some cheap ones, and you can even opt to make some yourself.

The “look” of the hides does not matter. You can buy hides online, at a pet store, or at a reptile expo.

What matters is that the hides be the right size for your snake, and that they have at least two.

You want the size of the hide to be large enough for your ball python to fit in there snugly and tightly. Here are what some hides look like:

ball python hides

Water

Your ball python will need access to water at all time. The water dish should be large enough for him/her to fit in completely. It should be cleaned and replenished frequently.

Ball pythons will use their water dish to drink from, but also to soak in it if they feel the need to (usually when they’re about to shed).

Keep an eye on your water dish and clean it immediately if your snake has dirtied it. You can by “fancy” natural-looking water dishes, or use a cheap dog bowl.

The “look” of your water dish is not important; its functionality is what’s most important.

Heat

Your ball python will need a heat source at all times. You can use a heat mat, flexwatt, a lamp, or a ceramic heat emitter. Do NOT use a heat rock as a heat source.

They can easily burn your snake’s body.

Snakes cannot generate their own heat, so it is important that they have a way of accessing heat in their enclosure so they can thermo-regulate their internal body temperature. Whichever method of heat you choose, you must have it connected to a thermostat.

Without a thermostat, your heat source could easily get too hot and burn your snake.

The thermostat will help regulate how hot your source gets, maintaining it at the right temperature at all times.

Buying a thermostat is essential to good husbandry and to your snake’s health. Do not overlook buying a thermostat, and don’t aim to go with a cheap thermostat that might fail.

To measure the temperatures in your enclosure, you’ll need either temperature probes or a temperature gun.

Temperature probes can be placed at each side of the enclosure, so you can read what the temperatures are at the hot and cool ends, and adjust your thermostat accordingly.

If you buy a temperature gun, you’ll have to constantly check the temperatures manually. If you buy a thermometer, you must make sure it is a digital one.

Analog temperature tools are often inaccurate and vague.

Thermostat

You can buy a thermostat at a reptile expo, online, or from a reptile-specific company. Often, new ball python owners are confused as to how to set up a thermostat.

Thermostats come in different shapes and colors, but most will have a similar setup.

The probe is what is going to sense the heat of your heat source (heat mat, bulb, etc). You’ll want to place this right by the heat source so that it gets a good reading.

The display is what will tell you the current temperature that the probe is reading, and will allow you to adjust the temperature of the heat source accordingly.

This thermostat in particular has “up” and “down” buttons that let you do exactly that.

The outlet is where you will plug in your heat source. All heat mats, lamps, etc, have a plug, and that plug should be plugged into this outlet.

The thermostat’s plug is what you’ll need to plug into the wall socket directly to power the thermostat.

Humidity

Having good humidity levels is essential to proper ball python care. The humidity in the enclosure should never drop below 50%.

Ideally, it should be between 55-60% and up to 70% when your snake is getting ready to shed. You should have a digital hygrometer to read the humidity levels in your enclosure.

An analog hygrometer will often be inaccurate and won’t give you an exact reading.

Important: You should check to make sure your hygrometer works properly and is reading your humidity levels accurately.

Here is a step-by-step guide that helps you do that: How To Make Sure Your Hygrometer Works

ONLY ONE SNAKE PER ENCLOSURE!

Ball pythons are solitary creatures and do not share territories with other ball pythons. You must only house ONE ball python PER enclosure.

Co-habitation of ball pythons can be dangerous and even fatal.

The only time 2 ball pythons should ever be in the same enclosure at the same time is if you’re attempting to breed a male and female together- which you should only do if you are experienced and both the snakes are ready and healthy to do so.

Breeding ball pythons is not for beginners.

If you house two ball pythons together, it may appear as if they are “cuddling.” To think that snakes “cuddle” is a human projection.

Two snakes seen wrapped up together are competing for the same space. Co-habitation can stress one or both of the snake out, leading them to miss meals, get sick, or become overly stressed. Eventually, one ball python may eat the other to resolve the issue.

The risk simply isn’t worthwhile.

One ball python that ate another when they were housed together:

One ball python that ate another when they were housed together

Feeding

This page will cover what, how, and how often to feed your ball python.

Mice versus Rats

An adult ball python will grow large enough that one adult mouse will not be a sufficient meal.

Keeping this in mind, you should begin your ball python feeding on rats, which grow to be much larger than mice.

This way, you won’t have to struggle with switching your ball python from eating mice onto eating rats.

Some ball pythons take a while to switch over, and some may refuse to switch over at all.

So it is recommended that you begin feeding your ball python rats from early on. If you stick to mice, you may end up feeding your adult ball python 3 or even 4 mice per feeding, whereas 1 rat could suffice.

The cost of several mice might be more than one rat, so you should keep in mind what makes the most sense financially too.

Where to Buy Rats

You can usually buy live and/or frozen rats at your local pet store, at a reptile expo/show, or online.

There are many online companies that are dedicated to shipping frozen rats overnight to your door (depending on where you live, shipping might be expensive).

Ask your friends who have snakes where they get their rats, they might be able to point you in the right direction too.

At the end of this Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide, you will have been better informed.

What size?

Ball pythons can easily eat prey that is roughly 1.5 times the size of the largest part of their bodies (their girth).

Their heads look small and it may seem like the rat you’re offering is too big- but you’d be surprised to learn how much their jaws can stretch when they’re eating!

There’s a lot of “lingo” when it comes to the prey you’ll have to feed your ball python. Vendors will refer to the size of the rat depending on their age.

Newborn rats are called “pinkies”, then “fuzzies,” “hoppers,”…and then adult sizes can be “XLarge,” “XXLarge,” you get the idea. Different companies may refer to the different stages by different names.

You can also figure out what size your ball python needs to eat is by knowing the weight of your ball python, and the weight of the rat.

Your snake can eat a rat that is 15% of its body weight.

Here is a video tutorial on how to weigh your ball python. You may use the same method for weighing the rat.

How Often?

Baby ball pythons and juveniles up until the age of about 3 years can eat every 7-10 days. Adult ball pythons (age 3 years and up) can eat every 10-14 days.

Feeding In or Out of the Enclosure

Whether you decide to feed your ball python in or out of the enclosure is up to you. There is a myth that if you feed your snake inside his/her enclosure, they will begin to associate their cage with feeding time and will be more likely to bite you.

This is not true! The same logic can be applied if you’re feeding your snake outside the enclosure: they will begin to associate being taken out of their enclosure with feeding time and will be more likely to bite you. Neither scenarios are true.

So long as your hand doesn’t smell like a rat, your ball python won’t associate your hand with food.

One reason to feed inside the enclosure is that it will reduce stress. Moving your snake out of the enclosure can be stressful and can cause your snake to refuse to eat.

One reason to feed outside the enclosure is if you’re scared of your snake ingesting large amounts of the substrate during feeding time.

However, you should only feed outside the enclosure if your ball python is willing to eat there; If your snake refuses to eat outside the enclosure, you should shift to feeding inside it.

The best way to feed your ball python, however, is to feed inside the enclosure every time.

You can offer the rat on a plate that you put inside the enclosure so that your snake won’t accidentally eat large amounts of the substrate during the feeding process.

Important: If you are feeding outside the enclosure in a separate container, you’ll want to take extra care when returning your snake to the enclosure after feeding.

They will have a full stomach and you don’t want to cause your snake to regurgitate its meal.

Moving your snake immediately after it’s eaten will also put you at risk for a bite since your snake will still be in feeding mode.

Live Versus Frozen / Thawed

Live: Some people feel that feeding their snake a live rat is a more natural way to feed their snake. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A natural feeding in the wild would require the ball python to actually hunt and find the rat, and the rat would have ample time and space to make an escape.

In feeding your ball python in your home, the rat will be placed in a small space for your ball python to easily find it, and the rat will have little to no chance of escape.

Feeding live rats to your ball python include some risk: the rat can easily scratch or bite your snake and cause serious harm to it.

Live feeding must be supervised at all times. Do NOT leave your snake alone in its enclosure/feeding container alone with the rat; Unsupervised, the rat can severely harm or even kill your ball python.

Once your snake grabs the rat and begins to coil it, I recommend holding on to the hands and feet of the rat so they don’t scratch scales off of your snake in the process.

Also keep an eye on the mouth of the rat for the same reason. Most owners feel that the risk of feeding live isn’t worthwhile.

If you’re going to feed live rats at every feeding, you’ll have to invest the time and money into finding a live rat at every feeding.

Alternatively, you could start your own rat breeding colony.

Frozen/Thawed

This is considered the safer alternative to feeding your snake. Choosing to feed frozen/thawed rats to your snake eliminates the risk of your snake being attacked by a live rat.

If you have a shy feeder, you can leave the thawed rat overnight with your snake and not fear it might get hurt. Frozen rats are usually cheaper, since you can buy them in bulk and keep them in your freezer.

You must make sure the rat is thoroughly thawed before you feed it to your ball python.

ALSO READ:Complete Corn Snake Care Sheet

Thawing a Frozen Rat

There are a few ways to thaw a frozen rat. Here is the way I do it:
1. Choose the rat you want to thaw
2. Leave it in a container to thaw… thawing time can be several hours depending on the size of the rat, so plan ahead. You might want to thaw the rat overnight in your refrigerator. Treat the rat as you would thaw a piece of frozen meat for yourself.
3. Once the rat is no longer frozen, you’ll want to heat it up above room temperature. I use hot water to do this.
4. While the rat is heating up, set up the things you need for feeding. I separate a paper towel and the feeding tongs.
Note: some ball pythons are happy to eat their prey wet, while some will only eat their prey dry. If your ball python eats dry prey, you might opt to use a hair dryer to heat and dry the rat instead of using water.
5. Check the rat. The head and the hips are the thickest areas and you’ll want those to be quite warm to the touch. If they’re not warm, you’ll want to heat up the rat more.
6. Once the rat is warm and ready, you are ready to feed your ball python!

Here is a video tutorial:

Important: Do NOT thaw or heat up your frozen rat by using boiling water or a microwave. This method will most likely cause the rat to pop or explode!

Warning: If you’re feeding your ball python a wet rat, and you’re feeding INSIDE their enclosure, you’ll want to place a dish or a plate where you’ll be feeding.

The rat’s wet fur might cause your bedding/substrate to stick to it, and your snake might accidentally eat it.

Small pieces of bedding are OK, but ingesting large pieces of the substrate can be dangerous.

Enticing Your Ball Python To Eat A Thawed Rat

Some ball pythons will eat a thawed rat if you simply place it in their enclosure. Others will need a little convincing.

For this, many owners will do what we endearingly call “the nom nom dance” or “the zombie rat dance.” To do this, you’ll want to hold the rat by the scruff of the neck, and make it “walk” or move as if it is still alive.

This will trick your ball python into believing the rat is alive and will entice it to strike, coil, and eat the rat.

Here is a video that shows you how I do “the nom nom dance” for my baby ball python, Pika:

 

Ball Python Behavior

Handling

So you just got a ball python—that’s exciting! I bet you can’t wait to start taking your new friend and handling it.

After all, you want him/her to get used to you, right? Well, you’re going to have to wait a little bit.

What’s most important is that your ball python settle in and get used to his/her new environment.

Imagine being so small and you’ve just been plopped into a new place with different sights and smells you’ve never experienced before…

It can be quite frightening at first! You’ll want to let your ball python get comfortable before you start doing handling sessions.

This means no handling for at least the first 7-10 days. After that, you’ll want to attempt feeding for the first time.

Eating is a good sign that your ball python is settling in. If he/she refuses to eat after 7-10 days, you’ll want to check that your husbandry is exactly where it should be, and then wait another 7-10 days before you attempt feeding again.

It is highly recommended that you get your ball python to eat at least two or three times in a row before you start handling sessions.

The time your ball python needs to adjust varies from snake to snake. Your ball python will not become “aggressive” or “mean” just because you haven’t handled him/her for a few weeks.

If your ball python has eaten for you a few times, then you can start taking him/her out for handling sessions.

Taking your ball python out can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll want your movements to be smooth, slow, and confident when you take your ball python out of its enclosure.

If you move too fast or if you hesitate, you might startle him/her! Here is a video I made about picking up your ball python:

When you take your ball python out, remember to support the whole body. This means you should try to always use both hands when handling your snake.

Remember, its an unnatural feeling for your ball python to be lifted into the air, so be careful and gentle when you do it.

Sit down at a table, a bed, or a sofa, and let your ball python explore you. You must supervise his/her actions at all times.

Do not let him/her out of your sight, and be wary of your ball python crawling off the edge of a surface.

Your ball python will need to get used to the idea of being handled. Start sessions off short: 5 minutes. Slowly increase the duration of the handling session over several weeks.

Do not hurry this process.

You want your ball python to associate handling as a relaxing experience.

If you jump straight into 30-minute sessions, your snake might think the handling is too stressful and won’t enjoy it as much.

So take your time, move slow, and give your snake plenty of time to get used to you.

How often to handle:

This varies by a snake. So long as your ball python continues to eat on schedule, you can handle him/her every day, except during the 48-36hrs after feeding or while your snake is preparing to shed.

Remember to go at a pace that both you and your ball python are comfortable with.

Start with short, 5-minute sessions, and slowly increase the duration over the course of several weeks.

If your snake has recently missed a meal, refrain from handling until he/she begins to eat for you regularly again. Some snakes tolerate handling while preparing to shed, while others don’t.

You’ll have to get to know your ball python and work around his/her preferences.

Found what you’re looking for in this Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide yet?

When NOT to handle:

After you ball python eats, you want to give him/her at least 48-36 hours alone to digest. During this period after feeding, it is imperative that you do not handle your snake.

Important: NEVER put your ball python around your neck. No matter how “tame” you may think your snake is, or how much you trust him/her, putting a snake around your neck can be dangerous.

Should anything startle the snake, he/she might coil back and knock you unconscious. Your snake doesn’t even need to make a full circle around your neck to do this.

It’s just not worth the risk.

  • Bites

Ball pythons are generally resistant to bite, and are usually docile and gentle by nature.

One of the reasons ball pythons make great pets is because they typically tolerate handling really well.

However, you might one day get bit. This is not something to be afraid of, though.

This is just another part of snake-keeping. Baby ball pythons might be especially defensive and have a higher tendency to bite simply because they are young and feel more vulnerable.

With careful and consistent handling, baby ball pythons typically outgrow this. An adult ball python might bite if he/she feels threatened.

The risk is higher when your snake is in shed or in feeding mode. You might also instigate a bite if you accidentally startle your snake.

For example, if you quickly and suddenly lift the hide off your snake and wake him/her up, you might cause your snake to feel the need to defend itself against the sudden intruder (you).

If you do get bit by your ball python, don’t immediately put him/her away in the enclosure.

You don’t want your ball python associate biting with getting to go back to his/her home. Remain relaxed, take deep breaths, and continue handling your snake for a few more minutes.

Then put your snake away gently.

Important: A defensive bite will be a quick bite where your snake instantly releases.

A feeding response bite will be a bite where your ball python holds on and might try to coil around the area he/she is biting.

A feeding response bite will inevitably hurt more than a defensive bite simply because it is a bite with the intent to hold on.

Do NOT yank or franticly pull your snake off; doing so may cause you to pull some teeth out. Just take some deep breaths and relax. Your ball python will eventually realize you are not food, and will let go.

A bite from a ball python is not as painful as you may expect it to be. Different people tolerate pain differently, so no one can tell you exactly what it’ll feel like.

From personal experience, I once had my 2 yr old ball python, Kaybe, bite me in feeding mode. I would consider the pain level as “annoying” more than anything else.

I sat down to my computer to distract myself and waited until he let go a few minutes later.

Shedding

Baby/young ball pythons will shed every 4-8 weeks depending on their growth. As they grow, they will shed less often.

Snakes grow their whole lives, but the rate at which they grow will decrease with time. As adults, ball pythons might only shed 2-3 times a year.

There are a few signs that might give you a hint that your ball python is getting read to shed:
– Pink/rosy belly
– Dull skin color
– Blue/grey, cloudy eyes

During this time, your ball python might be a little defensive. Snakes feel especially vulnerable when they’re getting ready to shed, so you might want to leave your ball python alone until after he/she is done shedding.

During this time, you can offer your snake food as you would normally.

Some will eat during a shed cycle, others might not. If your ball python refuses to eat during the shed cycle, that is perfectly normal.

Wait until your snake has shed, and then offer food.

Note: ball pythons that carry the albino gene and sport red eyes make it tricker to detect when they might be going into shedding.

Some albino ball pythons will simply look like they have a duller skin color, but won’t show the other signs.

Urates and Feces

How often your ball python eliminates waste can vary by age, feeding schedule, and hydration. You should be familiar with the waste your ball python releases so that you can recognize signs of illness if it looks abnormal.

As soon as you see any bodily waste in the enclosure you should remove it. Long term exposure to these can be detrimental to your snake’s health.

Liking this Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide? Find out more below

Urates: These are yellow-white, semi-hard, and are the snake equivalent of urinating. These are relatively small.
Feces: Usually dark-brown in color, and semi-hard. Ball pythons will typically defecate once every 3-4 meals. With age, your ball python might defecate less frequently. Keep an eye out for constipation (see “Health” section).
If either the urates or the feces are runny/watery, or have an abnormal coloration (green feces), you should consult your local reptile vet.

Taking Your Ball Python Outside

Taking your ball python outside is not recommended at all. There is no reason for you to take your ball python to a park or a public area.

The safest place for your ball python is inside your home at all times. Should you choose to take your ball python outside, choose a private area such as your personal backyard.

Taking photos of your ball python as it grows up and throughout its lifetime is a wonderful way to record its life.

The color of your ball python’s skin will show up best under natural sun light.

Taking outdoor photos can be really rewarding, and some ball pythons enjoy getting to spend some time outdoors.

Important: Only take your ball python outside if the temperature outside is around 78F-89F, and for short periods of time.

Be aware of the people around you wherever you take your snake. Snakes already have a bad reputation in the press, and you don’t want to add to that.

If onlookers are fearful of your snake’s presence, you can try to educate them, or take your snake elsewhere. If you want to do outdoor photo shoots, it helps if you have a friend with you to help you out.

Warning: If you have an albino snake, you’ll have to take extra care when taking him/her outside. The sun can be damaging to the skin of albino snakes, so you’ll want to avoid direct sunlight.

Choose a shady area outside instead.

You MUST check your ball python for mites and ticks when you go back indoors. Mites and ticks can attach to your ball python and imbed themselves between their scales.

You’ll want to give your ball python a really close look, and possibly even a warm bath, before you put them back in their enclosure.

Mites can spread especially fast, so if you bring mites back into your home, they might spread to all your other reptiles too.

Do not overlook this step; it is crucial to your snake’s well-being. If you do find mites, see the Health section of this website.

Ball Python Health

You should consult a vet for all of these health issues.

Important: Most common health problems can be prevented if you perfect the husbandry in your ball python’s enclosure.

Having the right set up and the right temperatures and humidity levels are essential to your ball python’s well-being. Do not overlook the importance of proper husbandry.

  • Mites

If you notice little black spots on your ball python or in the water dish, you’ll want to check your snake for mites. If you do spot mites on your snake or in the enclosure, you’ll want to treat it as soon as possible.

Treatment formites is fairlysimple, but must be done as soon as the mites are found. You’ll want to treat all
of your reptiles, even if onlyone of them appears to have the mites.

Mites spread fast and can quickly infect all of your reptiles, so it is best you treat all of them at once.

One way to treat mites is to use a product called Provent-A-Mite, or Nix. You can find it at most reputable reptile stores, at your reptile vet’s office, or online.

  • Burns

If your heat source is not regulated by a thermostat, your ball python might be at risk for getting burned. Treating a burn takes time.

You’ll want to adjust your heat source immediately.

You can use a topical antibiotic on the burns, such as Polysporin ointment or a povidone iodine ointment such as Betadine every day for 3-4 weeks.

Depending on the degree of the burn, you might want to see your nearest reptile vet. In severe cases, your reptile vet may have to inject antibiotics to help your ball python recover.

Burns heal slowly, and will improve over the course of several shed cycles.

  • Constipation

If the area near the vent (under the tail) is swollen and your snake hasn’t defecated in a long time, you might be looking at a case of constipation.

Your ball python may become constipated if he/she is overfed or under-active. Low humidity levels may worsen constipation- so make sure you check your humidity levels often.

The first thing you must do is correct the environment your ball python is living in. You may need to get a larger enclosure, regulate feedings better, adjust your heat source, or increase humidity levels.

While your ball python is constipated, you’ll want to feed smaller prey times less frequently until the problem is resolved. The next thing you’ll want to do is give your ball python a few warm water soaks.

You’ll want to place your ball python in a container with shallow water for fifteen minutes every day for 3-4 days.

Warm water soaks usually entice snakes to have a bowel movement.

  • Dysecdysis: Bad Shedding

If your humidity levels aren’t high enough, and your water dish isn’t large enough, your ball python might have a hard time shedding.

To help your ball python finish shedding the left over skin, you can put him/her in a warm, wet pillow case for 30 minutes.

You can also use a warm, wet towel, and gently let your ball python slither through your hands and through the towel to help pull the skin off.

You’ll want to make sure your ball python has shed his/her eye caps. If the eye caps have failed to come off with the rest of the shed, you can use a wet cotton-tipped applicator (like a Q-tip), and use gentle circular motions on the eyes.

You might need a friend to help you hold your snake in place (gently but firmly) so that you can work not the head.

You also want to make sure there is no residual shed on the tail, paying particular attention to the tip of the tail.

Left alone, the stuck shed on the tail can cut off blood circulation and you may end up with a dead tail.
Important: It is imperative that you fix what caused the bad shed in the first place. Most likely, you’ll have to adjust the humidity levels in your enclosure.

See the “FAQs” section for more information.

  • Scale Rot

If your ball python is being housed on bedding that is frequently kept wet to keep your humidity levels high, or if your enclosure is in unsanitary conditions, your ball python might develop scale rot.

Scale rot will make your ball python’s scales appear with red or brown spots and areas, and sometimes blisters too.

To treat scale rot you’ll have to make sure your temperature andhumidity levels are where they should be in the enclosure.

Clean the tank thoroughly, and switch to a paper towel bedding to reduce the chance of irritating the scales even more. Use a triple-antibiotic WITHOUT painkiller on the affected area.

You may opt togive your snake a bath in a betadine solution (10%). If you see signs of scale rot, you should consult your nearest reptile vet.

  • Respiratory Infection

If your ball python is breathing with its mouth open, if there are fluids coming out of its nose or mouth, and/or if you hear a wheezing sound when it breathes, you might be looking at a respiratory infection.

This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, so you should see your reptile vet as soon as possible.

You’ll want to increase the heat in your enclosure and check over your husbandry (including your humidity levels).

If you have other reptiles in the same room, you might want to move your ball python into a different room by its own.

Take your snake to a reptile vet, since a vet will be able to take cultures to figure out what kind of respiratory infection your snake is struggling with and administer any necessary treatments.

Morphs

The exciting part about choosing a ball python is that there are many colors and patterns to choose from. The color/pattern of a particular ball python is called a “morph.”

There are hundreds of ball python morphs on the market, and they all vary in price depending on availability, demand, and the genetics behind it. If you are interested in ball python genetics, please check out the “Links” section for helpful websites that explain it.

Here are a few of the many morphs you will find:

Normal

This is a “normal” morph ball python. This is what ball pythons look like in the wild! For beginners, the normal morph is a great choice because it is usually less expensive than the fancier morphs but still looks great.

  • Pastel
  • Mojave
  • Lesser
  • Cinnamon
    This is my cinnamon ball python, Kaybe
  • Albino
  • Bumblebee
  • Piebald

Frequently Asked Questions & Issues

  • Help! My ball python won’t eat!

There are many reasons why your ball python might refuse to eat a meal:

Shedding: if your ball python is going into a shed cycle, he/she might refuse to eat.

This is normal.

Just wait until after your ball python has shed to offer a meal.
Breeding season: roughly October through April is ball python breeding season. During this time, some males and females may be disinterested in feeding.

Keep offering food at your regular feeding schedule.
– Settling in: if you just recently acquired your ball python, he/she might refuse to eat because he/she is still getting used to the new environment.

Do not handle your snake during this period. Offer food every 7-10 days.
– No reason: sometimes your ball python might miss a meal for no reason obvious to us. There is no need to worry unless he/she starts to lose weight.

Ball pythons can go a long time without eating (sometimes for several months, or even a year!) and be just fine.

Keep offering food every 7-10 days, and keep handling at a minimum.

  • I can’t get my humidity levels high enough.

If your enclosure has a screen top or too many ventilation holes, you will struggle with keeping your humidity levels stable.

You’ll want to get a solid top or cover the top as much as possible. Bedding might also be contributing to your problem.

Aspen bedding, newspaper, and paper towels won’t help you keep your humidity levels constant.

You might want to consider switching over to ReptiBark or coco husk for substrate.

You may want to mist your enclosure with a spray bottle with water as needed.

  • My ball python hasn’t moved in a few days…

This is normal! Most likely, your ball python is moving around in the middle of the night while you’re asleep. Ball pythons are notoriously sedentary, secretive, lazy, nocturnal snakes.

It is OK for your ball python to choose to stay in one hide for a few days. If they refuse to go to the other side of their enclosure for several days, you’ll have to look into why that is.

Check your temperatures- maybe your heat pad is too hot or not hot enough. Does your ball python have a hide on each side of the enclosure?

You’ll want to make sure your husbandry is spot on.

  • My snake has escaped!

You’ll want to search everywhere possible. Your ball python will want to go somewhere dark and warm, so check under furniture, inside your sofa, under the refrigerator, and behind bookcases.

Do not underestimate how far your ball python will travel! Search every room in the house.

If you cannot find your snake within a few hours, you’ll want to set up a trap.

The best way to do this is to place one of their hides on a heat mat (hooked up to a thermostat) in the corner of a room.

Hopefully your ball python will be attracted to seek comfort there. Depending on when you last fed your snake, you might want to put a thawed rat in the hide to entice them to seek out the scent.

Leave the room dark and check often.

Important: You need to figure out HOW your snake got out. Is the lid properly secured tightly into place? Did you leave the enclosure open?

How did your snake get out? You’ll want to fix/resolve the problem so that it never happens again.

If you have pets, you might want to consider keeping an eye on them. Sometimes they’ll spot something moving before you do and might be able to point you to it.

Be careful that your pets don’t do any harm to your snake though! You must keep a vigilant eye on your pets while your snake is missing.

  • My ball python ate the rat backward!

So long as your ball python eats the rat and gets it down to its stomach, how it eats it isn’t important. Some ball pythons will always eat a rat head-first, some will eat rats tail-first, and some will even eat the rat from the side (folding the rat in half).

If you are feeding frozen/thawed rats, it helps if you heat up the head of the rat more than the rest of the body so that your snake will be more enticed to eat it head-first.

It may look as if your snake is struggling, but you should allow your snake to figure it out on its own.

Sometimes a ball python will begin eating a rat backwards, spit it out, and start over eating it head-first.

  • Aggressive Versus Defensive Behavior

Ball pythons are typically docile in nature, but can be defensive if the situation demands it. First you must know the difference between aggressive and defensive behavior.

An aggressive ball python will act out randomly and with no instigation or reason. A defensive ball python acts out of insecurity and as a means to protect itself.

If your ball python is hissing at you or trying to bite you, step back and examine what you might be doing to provoke it.

If you recently brought the snake home, you’ll want to give it more time to settle in. Are you intimidating your snake?

Some ball pythons might feel especially vulnerable if you approach from the top; this reminds them of being attacked by a predator and might cause the to react defensively.

Try approaching your snake from the same level as it. Check your movements. You should be moving fluidly, slowly, and confidently around your ball python.

If you move to fast or make sudden body movements, you might startle your ball python into feeling threatened. Work slowly and calmly with your snake.

With time and patience you will learn how to read its body language better and will improve your handling skills.

You’ll also want to check your husbandry and the health of the snake to make sure there are no underlying issues causing the snake to act out or feel especially vulnerable.

  • My ball python is in the water dish

There are three reasons why your ball python may choose to soak in his/her water dish.
– Shedding: sometimes ball pythons will choose to soak in water before they shed to help them with the process. This is completely normal.
– Low Humidity: if the humidity in the enclosure isn’t high enough, you might find your ball python spending lots of time in the water dish. Check your humidity levels and adjust them accordingly.
– Mites: if your ball python has mites, you might him/her soaking in the water dish to relieve themselves. You’ll find little black spots in the water dish. If this is the case, you should address the mites as soon as possible.

See the “Health” section of this website.

Have a question that isn’t covered on here?

E-mail me and let me know. I’ll be sure to add it!

This marks the end of our Complete Ball Python Care Sheet and Guide.

 

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