Ball pythons are some of the most exotic, and beautiful creatures on the planet. Native to west and central Africa, these creatures love to make their home in the grasslands and forests of the region. They are called ‘ball’ pythons due to the tight ball that they like to curl themselves up in. If you are interested in what it’s like to own and care for a ball python, here is everything you need to know.
Ball Python Lifespan
Ball pythons are a commitment to be sure. If you are interested in caring for one, be sure that you know that a ball python can live up to 30 years when cared for properly. This means that, for most, they will have their little friend for the majority of their lives.
Ball pythons can come in a wide range of colors and appearance ‘morphs’ that give them their own unique characteristics. Here is what you can expect from the various appearances of ball pythons.
The average size of an adult ball python is between 4-5ft long (1-1.5 meters). Ball pythons have been reported to grow up to 6ft (1.8 meters), however this is considered rare.
Ball Python Morphs
A ‘morph’ is a term that refers to the general appearance of a snake. These variances in colors and appearance are genetic, and can make a ball python look wildly different from morph to morph. Much like different breeds of dog, ball pythons come in as many as 2,000-3,000 different morphs. This is generally associated with different breeders cross breeding various morphs to create unique patterns and colorations. However, some of the most popular morphs are:
- Albino = yellow and white scales.
- Axanthic = black, white, silver/gray scales.
- Blue Eyed Leucistic = solid white coloration with striking blue eyes.
- Bumblebee = black and yellow scales.
- Chocolate = rich browns and chocolate toned scales.
- Ghost = hazy coloration of the scales, akin to a shedding python.
- Mojave = striking yellow patterns with a white underbelly.
These are just a small handful of the various morphs that breeders will look to create when breeding their ball pythons. Each one is beautiful and unique in its own way.
Ball Python Enclosure
You must have the right size of enclosure to ensure that your snake is growing properly. Glass aquarium tanks are generally considered the best for housing a ball python when not handling them.
Being from central-west Africa, ball pythons need warm climate temperatures to feel comfortable. Radiant heat is considered the best for them, and should be stabilized consistently to keep the python healthy.
There needs to be a bit of humidity to ensure your ball python is happy. 40-60% humidity is considered ideal, with a slight increase during shedding.
You should provide a hiding area for your snake that is just large enough for them to fit inside, as they like to ‘burrow’. In addition, always have a branch or ‘climbing’ area for the snake to relax in up high above the substrate as well.
Ball pythons are from naturally dry areas, and as such do not need much water. However, they do need clean fresh water to keep them hydrated when they start to run dry. Always provide them clean and cool fresh water daily.
Ball Python Shedding
Ball pythons shed their skin once every 4-6 weeks. You will notice that their scales look opaque, and they will begin to shed it off. Provide extra moisture for them to help this process along, through water or increased humidity.
Ball pythons are rather docile by nature, and thus can be handled often. Owners should handle them frequently to keep them used to the process, and they should be held with support at 1/3rd and 2/3rd of the body respectively to provide balance and stability.
Ball pythons will regularly clean themselves. Cleaning the tank should be done often, however. Spot cleaning daily is necessary, as well as cleaning their water dish. A full tank disinfection and cleaning should be done once a month at least.
Facts about Ball Pythons
Watch this fun facts video by chewy!
Ball Python Housing
The proper housing is essential to keeping your ball python in good spirits, and to ensure they live a long and happy life. The best way to do this is to try and recreate their natural habitat as closely as possible.
A baby ball python needs a 20L tank at a minimum, with an adult ball python needing a 40B tank when fully grown.
The substrate should be one that can maintain moisture, and will not dry out the scales of the ball python. Coconut husk, cypress mulch, or orchid bark are all great choices.
Ball Python Habitat
The habitat should be as close to what they would find in wildlife as possible. There should be ample room for climbing, as well as burrowing. In addition, they should have enough moisture to keep them comfortable, but not so much that they soak. Heat is also crucial.
The temperatures need to be gradient to simulate night and day cycles. 95°F for the high end, and 78°F for the low end.
At least 8, but no more than 12 hours of lighting a day are required. Use white lighting for day cycles, and infrared lighting for night cycles.
Ball Python Health
Being as how ball pythons cannot tell us directly if they are happy and healthy, we have to get used to looking at the tell tale signs and behaviors.
Signs of Good Health.
- Being active and consistently alert of surroundings.
- Clear eyes.
- Eating regularly.
- Healthy looking skin.
- Regularly shedding in complete pieces.
Common Signs of Bad Health
- Shedding too often, or not often enough.
- Spots or bumps appearing on the skin.
- Slow movement, and reluctance to eat.
- Obvious signs of difficulty breathing.
- White, thick substance forming at the mouth.
Ball Python Behavior and Temperament
Ball pythons are considered easy to handle for owners due to their relatively easy going and relaxed nature. They very seldom become aggressive, and usually respond well to handling as long as they feel safe with the process. If a ball python feels stressed or uncomfortable, they will quickly ball themselves up into a tight bundle to protect themselves. Very rarely do they bite, however they are not venomous.
Ball Python FAQ
- Are Ball Pythons Good Pets?
Ball pythons are generally docile, and respond well to human interaction. However, they are relatively high maintenance at times, which should be considered prior to purchasing one.
- Can You Be Killed By A Ball Python?
Ball pythons are very unlikely to ever pose a threat to humans. They are non-venomous, and kill their prey by constriction. Humans are generally too large for ball pythons to constrict to death.
- Are Ball Pythons Dangerous?
All wild animals are dangerous to a certain extent. However, ball pythons pose little to no danger to humans so long as they are handled with care and treated with respect.
- How Much Do Ball Pythons Cost?
Depending on the morph, a ball python can range from $50 – $4,000 for more exotic breeds.
- Do Ball Python Bites Hurt?
Ball pythons rarely bite, but when they do it can be slightly painful. However, they are non-venomous and a bite is not deadly.
- Are Ball Pythons Cuddly?
Ball pythons that are handled regularly, and have developed a good comfort level with their handler can be very cuddly indeed!
- Do Ball Pythons Bond With Their Owners?
Snakes, in general, are purely instinct driven creatures. Ball pythons do not bond with their owners in the way that dogs or cats do. However, they can become familiar and even fond of their owners.
- What Happens If A Ball Python Bites You?
Ball python bites are not a big deal, truth be told. They are non-venomous, and their teeth are not very large. The best thing to do is be calm, and let them release themselves. The pain is bearable, and you can treat it with some soap, water, and a band-aid.
- Can Ball Pythons Hurt A Baby?
It is never a good idea to leave a baby alone with a ball python. Babies are small enough to get seriously injured if the python begins to constrict.
- Why Did My Ball Python Hiss At Me?
Snakes expel air rapidly when they feel threatened, this sounds like a hiss. If your ball python hisses at you, it’s best to leave them alone for a while.
- Can I Handle My Ball Python Everyday?
YES! In fact, you should. Frequent handling will make your ball python more open and welcome to being held by others, and will help them to be more docile in general.
- How Do I Know If My Ball Python Is Happy?
If your ball python is happy, they will remain active and alert throughout the day. In addition, they will respond well to handling and human interaction.
- Should I get A Ball Python?
If you have the passion, drive, and commitment to taking on the responsibility, then sure! Just remember ball pythons are a long term investment, and are not to be purchased lightly.
- Are Female Or Male Ball Pythons More Aggressive?
As far as temperament is concerned, they are relatively the same. However, females can become aggressive when protecting their eggs.
- Do Pet Snakes Need Attention?
Snakes, to be honest, could be happy their whole lives not ever being touched. They are not emotionally driven creatures. However, if you want your ball python to be docile and react well to human touch, then they should be given lots of attention often.
- What Is The Smallest Ball Python?
Males are generally smaller than females, with an average length of around 3ft (0.9 meters), when fully grown. However, ball pythons in general are considered the smallest of the python species.
- How Long Can A Ball Python Go Without Eating?
Ball pythons do not need to eat very often. As babies, they should eat about 10-15% of their body weight every week or so. As adults, they can go as long as 7 months without eating a thing. However, try to feed them a decent sized meal once every 1-2 weeks.
Ball pythons are amazingly unique, striking, and fun creatures to interact with and behold. If cared for properly, they can live with you side by side for decades to come. However, you should always remember that a ball python is an exotic animal and should be treated with care and respect at all times. Make sure that you are fully committed to the journey before diving in. although, once you do, you may never want to go back to a life without a ball python! They truly are some of the most interesting, and fun pets a person can ever own.