Description: Ball Pythons (sometimes called Royal Pythons) a stout-bodied snakes belonging to the family Pythonidae. Females are typically larger than males, and are capable of reaching a maximum length of 6 feet. On average, however, females tend to be between 4 and 4.5 feet while males average between 3 and 3.5 feet. Wild type Ball Pythons are colored dark brown with lighter brown irregularly shaped spots which act as camouflage on the forest floors they call home. They have been kept in captivity for a long time, however, and many other colors and patterns now exist in the hobby. Ball Pythons get their name from the fact that they often coil tightly around themselves, forming a ball-like shape, as a defensive behavior. They will often do this when picked up, but if held gently in a relatively calm and quiet place they will typically uncoil after a minute or so and begin to explore.
Native Range: Ball Pythons inhabit grasslands, savannah and thinly wooded areas of western, central Africa. They are, however, quite adaptable which is one of the reasons that they are considered relatively easy to care for.
Lifespan: Ball Pythons can live as long as 40 years in captivity, indeed some specimens have even longer recorded lifespans. For this reason, prospective owners should consider carefully before purchasing one of these animals, for it may very well be with them for life!
Diet: In captivity Ball Pythons will take rats readily, although some are picky eaters. A general rule-of-thumb is that a snake can eat a rat that is approximately 1.5x the length of their head. Should your Ball Python refuse rats you might try African Soft-furred Rats, which are a more natural prey item for them. They have also been observed eating small birds, so chicks may be offered to a snake of appropriate size.
Housing: While Ball Pythons are not terribly active, preferring to sit and wait in a comfortable hiding spot for prey to wander by, I recommend a relatively large enclosure so that you can establish a proper heat gradient and afford them with multiple hiding areas to choose from. In addition, providing them with a little more space will enable you to furnish the enclosure with a water bowl large enough for them to soak their whole bodies in, which is important for shedding, as well as things for them to climb over and explore. For this reason I recommend an enclosure that measures 36″ L x 18″ W x 16″ H (otherwise known as a “40 gallon breeder tank” in the hobby) at a minimum. You will also want to provide them with a substrate that will hold a bit of humidity. Even though they are not from especially wet areas of Africa, it’s important to allow them to choose from areas with different moisture levels as this will also help them shed their skin, as well as prevent them from dehydrating. Sandy substrates should be avoided, as they will irritate a Ball Python’s skin.
I do not recommend keeping multiple Ball Pythons together, as this typically results in problems at feeding time. With a large enough setup (at least 2x the minimum recommended size for 1 adult), and multiple basking/hiding areas however, it can be accomplished. If you choose to house multiple snakes together, you will probably want to feed your snake(s) outside of their enclosure in a feeding tub to avoid competition.
Temperature and Lighting: Ball Pythons do not require UV, and as such they need only be afforded with a light that will provide them with a basking spot that reaches 95 degrees F (35 degrees C) and establishes a heat gradient that is 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) at the cool side of their enclosure.
Additional Notes: Ball Pythons are considered one of the best “beginner” snakes in the hobby due to their docile temperament, and adaptability. It is important to note, however, that this does not mean that owning one should be taken lightly. Only adopt a Ball Python if you are committed to accommodating their specialized needs, and are conscious of the fact that they can live for a very long time. If you keep both these things in mind then Ball Pythons make excellent pets.
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