Join Date: Aug-2002
Ball Python FAQ Sheet: Check here first!
Ball Python (Python regius) FAQ
What temperature should my Ball Python be kept at?
A temperature gradient of 78/82 - 90/95 works well for most Ball Pythons.
How should I measure the temperature?
Stick on thermometers do not work well and they only measure the ambient (air)
temperature around it. To measure the temps in your cage, you will need something that
measures the surface temepratures in the cage, such as a temp gun or digital thermometer
with a remote probe that can be placed in various areas around the cage.
What is the best way to heat my snake?
I prefer to use a bottom heat method, such as undertank heaters or heat tape. These are
the most efficient method as they cost less, last longer, are very low wattage, and since
heat rises, it makes more sense to heat from the bottom than the top. You can also use heat
panels, incandescent bulbs, or ceramic heat emitters.
What wattage bulb should I use?
Nobody can tell you, as it will be different with each home and enlcosure. You will need to
experiment to see which fits your situation best.
What kind of enclosure should I have?
Babies can be housed in rubbermaids with holes drilled for ventilation, and older snakes can
be housed in custom enclosures or larger sized rubbermaids. Tanks can also be used for
smaller snakes, however they aren't the best choice IMHO as they do not offer any security,
control over humdity, or insulation for maintenance of temperature, in addition to which
they are quite cumbersome and inefficient space-wise. Whatever type of enclosure you
decide on, be sure to have ATLEAST two hides (one on the cool side and one on the warm side).
What is the best substrate?
You should avoid any softwoods, such as pine, fir, and especially cedar! These contain
phenols which can be harmful to your snake, some can even be potentially fatal! Some safe
substrates include, but are not limited to, newspaper, papertowel, flannel sheets, Carefresh,
and cypress mulch. Susbtrates that should be avoided include, but are not limited to, astro-
turf, gravel, soil, softwood mulch/chips, and sand. Note that most loose substrates come
with inherant risk of ingestion, which can pose problems such as impaction. I prefer to
house all my smaller snakes on Carefresh or papertowels, and my larger snakes on
newspaper or towels/sheets.
How big will my Ball Python get?
On average, Ball Pythons will attain an average size of 3-5 feet in length. There are reports
of animals in the 6 foot range that have been collected in the wild.
How much should I feed my Ball Python?
Your snake will tell you when it is in need of a meal and what kind of meals it prefers, until
you learn to read your snakes behaviours you can use the general guideline of feeding
babies every 5-7 days and sub-adult and adult snakes every 7-10 days. Ball Pythons can
typically take very large meals, if you choose to feed your snake larger meals and he has no
problems with them, make sure you do not feed as often. Safe meal sizes are those that are
roughly equal to the same size as the snake's girth. These are digested quicker and can be
fed more often than large meals.
Should I feed my Ball Python rats or mice?
Baby Ball Pythons can be started on either hopper or adult mice and baby rats. Your Ball
Python will grow quickly, so it is best to start them on rats or switch them over as soon as
you can, to avoid the snake developing any preferences. Adult Ball Pythons can be fed large
rats or adequately sized rabbits.
Why won't my Ball Python eat?
Some Ball Pythons may need a week or so to settle in before they feel comfortable feeding,
so it is a good idea to leave them alone in the beginning. If your Ball Python still won't eat
you need to assess the situation carefully. Is your snake sick? If so, a trip to the vet may be
in order. If not, are you feeding your Ball Python what it was feeding on before? If so, are
your temperatures ok within the cage? Is it possible your snake may be feeling "exposed"?
Some snakes prefer to have several hides placed in their cages. This is especially noted in
open enclosures such as glass terrariums. Is it possible that your snake is being stressed
out? Are you handling it a lot or is it in a busy area of the home, or perhaps a family pet is
hanging around a lot? Snakes shouldn't be handled until they are feeding reliably.
Is my Ball Python sick?
The most common ailments in captive snakes are parasitic, bacterial and respiratory
infections. If your snake is having runny defecations, not eating well, lethargic, underweight
(losing weight or having trouble gaining), sitting with it's head facing the sky ("stargazing"),
and gaping it's mouth, your snake may be suffering from a parasitic or bacterial infection. A
fecal flotation and smear as well as a tracheal wash/culture should be done to determine the
exact culprit, and appropriate medicinal treatment should be followed. If your snake is
making gurgling sounds from the throat, popping or other obvious breathing sounds,
blowing bubbles from the mouth, gaping his/her mouth, "stargazing", and congested with
mucus, it likely has a respiratory infection. A culture should be taken to determine the type
of antibiotic treatment that would best cure it. During treatment periods, it may be helpful
to slightly increase the overall temperatures in the cage (from the above mentioned
temperatures) to help "burn" out the sickness, much like a simulated fever.
Why is my Ball Python soaking?
If your snake is soaking in his dish a lot, there may be a few reasons. Mites are a common
reason a snake may soak. Do you see little black specks in his/her water or crawling on your
snake? Your snake may also soak if the humidity is too low in the tank and/or he is going in
to a shed. Your snake may also be soaking if the temperatures in the cage are too hot.
How do I get rid of mites?
There are several ways to get rid of mites, each with their own pros and cons. Some of the
most popular treatments include Nix lice shampoo (available in your local pharmacy), Black
Knight roach killer, Provent-a-Mite (same ingredient as Nix), and Reptile Relief. Regardless
of the treatment, the snake should be soaked in water for a little while to rid it of any mites
before putting it back in the enclosure (I prefer to add a few drops of Ivory dishsoap to the
water - make sure if you add soap, it is very gentle, not antibacterial), and the enclosure
should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using your choice of cleaning agent and hot
water. Mites can get in to, and lay eggs in the tiniest of crevices. If you have any wood, it
should be thrown out or baked/boiled to kill any mites/eggs. If you are using decorative
setups, it is best to switch to functional setups with only the necessary items and
newspaper/paper towel as substrate. Nix should be diluted one bottle to one gallon of water
and sprayed over entire enclosure (excluding water bowl). Allow to dry and place the snake
(rinsed in clean water if it was soaked in soap) back in the enclosure. Some people
recommend keeping a bowl or water in, but during the treatment I feel it is best to leave it
out so the snake cannot drag any Nix in to it and drink it. Make sure you offer your snake
water once a day if you do this.
With BK it should be sprayed lightly inside enclosure and closed for a bit to allow the
aerosols to get in to any crevices. I prefer put substrate over top, but it can also be sprayed
over substrate as well. Allow to air out thoroughly before placing snake inside. Again, water
bowl should only be placed in after it has thoroughly aired out.
What are some tricks to getting my Ball Python to eat?
Brown Bag Method: Using a brown paper bag with perforations (small holes), typically
used for children’s lunches at school, place your snake with a weaned rat (dead, live if it is a lot younger then weaned) inside the bag.
Fold over the top of the bag and staple it shut. Place the bag into an enclosure with an
ambient temp of 85-90 degrees and leave it over night.
Rodent-Hole Method: Be sure to use a Large Viviarium. At night, place a small plastic bucket, with a hole halfway
up the side into the cage. The hole should be large enough for your Ball Python to fit
through. Inside the bucket, place some shavings and a weaned rat. Put a lid on the bucket
and leave it over night, if this fails, repeat once a weak for a couple weeks. If this still fails,
try again with a pre-killed rodent.
(If anyone has anything that they would like to see added or anything they would like to see corrected on this sheet, by all means, send me a PM and will get on it right away.. Some more Tips for problem feeders would be greatly appreciated!)