Ball python care sheet

Quick facts:

  • Size – females can grow 3 to 5 feet while males grow 2 to 3.
  • Lifespan – with good care, your python can live for 30 to 40+ years.
  • Personality – considered the “Labradors of the snake world.” They rarely strike. Very docile tendencies. When they feel threatened, they will curl into a tight ball and only come out when they feel safe again.
  • Cage size – a 20 gallon long aquarium will suffice for smaller snakes but larger ones will really need a 40 gallon breeder at a minimum.

As with all snakes, a diet of mice or rats is acceptable. Rats provide more nutrition for ball pythons and are the better alternative but mice will suffice. You should choose a mouse that is at least as big or one and a half times the thickest part of your snake. Frozen/thawed mice or rats are the better option because these rodents have been pre-killed and do not pose a danger to your snake. Their frozen state kills off unwanted bacteria, also. Frozen/thawed rodents are readily purchased at almost any petstore or can be ordered (in bulk) from online shops like RodentPro, PerfectPrey, or LayneLabs.

Do NOT try to thaw out your mouse or rat in the microwave! Place the rodent in a baggie and let it thaw slowly in a bowl of hot water. Or, better yet, do what I do and set the rat or mouse in the refrigerator the night before. This will ensure that it is properly thawed. You can then place it in some warm water to get the body temp up and make it more “lifelike” for your ball python. Cold food is NOT good for snakes. Make sure that it is warm!

*Note: Not all ball pythons will accept frozen/thawed. They can be picky eaters.

Ball pythons, like all snakes, need a temperature gradient to help them regulate their own body temperatures. They are cold blooded, so they need an external heat source. I find that under tank heaters are terrific and easy to use. Heating lamps can work well but there needs an object below the lamp to help absorb the heat (like a rock or a piece of tile). Ball pythons absorb heat through their bellies. You’ll find them basking on rocks in the wild to soak up the heat from below rather than waiting for the sun to warm them.

Do NOT use heating rocks! These are wicked products and can result in severe burns to the snake. A mild malfunction in the devices can burn the skin right off of your snake. I would show you pictures but they’re very hard to look at.

To get your tank set up properly, you’ll want to maintain a “cool” end temperature of about 75° to 80°. You should not let the tank drop below that 75°. On the other side of the tank, you’ll want to place your heating device and maintain a temp of approximately 90°. You can allow a small decrease in temp during the night, but the day needs to maintain this gradient constantly. To monitor these temps, please make it easy on yourself and purchase a temp gun. They sell little thermometers at pets stores but those can be horribly inaccurate. The temp gun is much more reliable and easier to use. Just shine the light at whatever space your snake can rest on and, if it checks out, call it a day.

In addition to the temperature, you’ll want to maintain a humidity of about 60%-70%. In some areas, you may not need to worry about this (some places in the south are more humid than others). But for those who need to take this into consideration, misting the cage can help you raise the humidity. Placing the water bowl over the heating pad or under the heating lamp can help. Even draping moist towels over the top of the cage can provide a little extra moisture. If all else fails, get yourself a tupperware container and cut a hole into it big enough for your snake to access. Fill it with damp sphagnum moss and let your snake regulate his own humidity. You’ll need to make sure you moisten the moss daily, however.