I have always been interested in having a ball python for a pet. My parents HATE snakes...they actually are not a fan of pets at all! With me still living at home, I unfortunately cannot own a snake yet but I can share my knowledge about ball pythons. I will discuss the temperaments and behaviors, a recommended enclosure, and information about their feeding process. Enjoy reading!
When you are choosing a snake for a pet, you need to realize that you are making a long-term commitment because ball pythons could live up to 40-50 years. You must also be willing and comfortable to feed your snake prey animals such as rodents. Frozen pre-killed prey is the safest choice when feeding your snake. The best way to determine how large the prey should be is determined by the fattest part of the snake's abdomen. When determining if your snake is healthy, ask your store to do an health exam of your snake to ensure that there are no signs of illness (closed eyes, mouth rot, bubbles forming outside the nose, etc). Lastly, snakes are clever, sneaky guys. Make sure your enclosure is 100% escape-proof. Snakes tend to be tenacious in finding and squeezing through small gaps. You should also ask for a feeding test for your snake to ensure that it is taking food properly.
Ball pythons are the most common and recommended snake for beginner snake owners. Unlike other snakes, ball pythons are not as large and are the most friendly of the snakes to handle. They grow anywhere between 2 to 5 feet in length. Ball pythons received their name because when they are threatened they roll themselves up into a tight little ball. Their life expectancy could be anywhere between 20-30 years if they are receiving proper care. Ball pythons come in a variety of different patterns and colors (also called morphs). The options are endless!
Because ball pythons are not very energetic, a small enclosure would work for them. If your ball python is a baby, a 10-20 gallon tank would work. As it grows into an adult, it is suggested to move your ball python to a 30 gallon tank so it can still feel comfortable. Again ball pythons are sneaky guys so you want to make sure they don't find a way to escape from their enclosure. There are a variety of different things you can use as substrate such as shredded bark, newsprint, etc. Be sure to provide a dark hiding place that is large enough for your snake. Ball pythons love to feel securely enclosed. You also might want to add some sturdy branches in case your ball python wants to climb around. The enclosure should have a hot spot (basking spot) around 88-96°F and a cool spot. While heating pads can be used for most reptiles, a heat bulb will be best to create a basking spot for your snake. WARNING! The enclosure should not fall below 75°F. Try to keep the average temperature of the enclosure between 78-80°F. Also keep a dish large enough for your snake to soak in. Soaking will be necessary when your snake experiences shedding.
Ball pythons can eat exclusively mice or small to medium sized rodents, depending on the size of the ball python.
They only have to be fed once every 1 to 2 weeks.
It is highly recommended to serve your ball python pre-killed prey to avoid the risk of live rodents harming your snake.
It is prefered that you transfer your snake out of its cage to a separate enclosure when you are about to feed it.
By doing this, you are training your snake not to mistake your hand for food when you are trying to handle it and it will associate the other enclosure as its time for food.
To entice your snake to eat, simply dangle the mouse/rat in front of the snake using forceps.
If your ball python is feeling stressed, they may fast and will need to be enticed to eat.
As long as your ball python's body weight and condition is maintained, there should be no problem with its health.
When handling your snakes, be careful! Do not grab them by their tails. They will react fast and will think they are about to be attacked, resulting in possibly getting bit. With ball pythons, they don't seem to hurt; however, you'll be surprised by its pressure and the squeeze in the afflicted area. It is best to remain calm when you are bit. Most importantly, DO NOT yank your snake off!! If you do, you will make the bite much worse and you risk damaging your ball python's teeth. Overall, ball pythons are harmless and are definitely not venomous! Be sure to clean the bite with soap and water, place an anti-septic on the wound, and bandage it up.
"A lot of snake bites occur purely out of reaction. If someone picks up a rock or piece of wood a snake is laying under, the snake could strike out of defense."
- Fred Rainwater