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Ball Python Care Guide: Diet, Enclosure, Behavior

ball python care

Ball python enthusiasts and experienced owners have numerous questions about their snakes’ origin and well-being. Most doubts are related to the pet’s traits, diet, and adequate environmental conditions, particularly tank size and inside temperature and humidity. Let’s see.

This article gives you a rundown of things you should know about your Ball python’s typical behavior, the diet it requires, and the best-fit enclosure.

Ball Python Facts

Scientific namePython regius
Common nameBall python (Royal python)
Average adult sizeFemales 4 to 6 feet (1.2 – 1.8 m)
Males 2.5 to 3.5 feet (76 cm – 1 m)
Average adult weightFemales 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 – 2.3 kg)
Males 3 to 3.5 pounds (1.4 – 1.6 kg)
Lifespan20 to 30 years
Natural habitatOpen forests and grasslands in Central and West Africa
Enclosure sizeA tank of 10 to 20 gallons (38 – 76 l) for juveniles
A tank of 40 to 120 gallons (151.5 – 454 l) for adults
Daytime  temperature78 to 92 F (25.56 – 33 C)
Night-time temperature82 to 83 F (28 – 28.5 C)
Humidity50 to 65%
DietSmall mammals, preferably rodents and birds
Experience levelBeginner

Where do Ball pythons live?

Ball pythons live in tropical Sub-Saharan Africa, from the Western coast to Central African regions. These shy terrestrial snakes prefer warm and humid habitats with enough greenery for hiding.

They commonly spend time in abandoned rodent dens that provide adequate temperature and safe shelter.

Ball python appearance, colors, and morphs

ball python colors

The Ball python is a full-bodied, medium-sized snake that comes in numerous morphs. Most are similar to the untrained eye, but you can recognize a few unique markings.

Females are more sizable than males, but both have triangular heads, pointed snouts, short tails, and narrow necks.

You can also notice so-called spurs, vestigial remnants of snakes’ rear legs. They are longer in males, entirely useless for moving, but sometimes have a purpose during breeding.

Their skin is dark brown, gray, and black with yellow and tan patterns, while their belly is beige or brownish without spots. Rare morphs are monochrome without markings.

How big do Ball pythons get?

Ball pythons are relatively small snakes that can quickly curl up into a ball in case of danger. You can expect hatchlings to be 10 to 17 inches (25.4 – 43 cm) long and weigh approximately 0.12 to 0.2 pounds (57 – 79 g).

AgeMale length and weightFemale length and weight
Hatchlings10 to 17 inches (25.4 – 43 cm)
0.12 to 0.2 pounds (57 – 79 g)
10 to 17 inches (25.4 – 43 cm)
0.12 to 0.2 pounds (57 – 79 g)
Juveniles20 to 30 inches (51 – 76 cm)
0.7 to 0.8 pounds (300 – 350 g)
25 to 35 inches (63.5 – 89 cm)
0.8 to 0.9 pounds (350 – 400 g)
One year1.5 to 2 feet (46 – 61 cm)
1.1 to 1.8 pounds (0.5 – 0.8 kg)
2 feet (61 cm)
1.4 to 1.8 pounds (0.6 – 0.8 kg)
Two years2 to 3 feet (61 cm – 0.9 m)
1.8 to 2.4 pounds (0.8 – 1 kg)
2.5 to 3.5 feet (76 cm – 1 m)
2.6 to 4 pounds (1.2 kg – 1.8 kg)
Three years2.5 to 3 feet (76 cm – 0.9 m)
2 to 2.6 pounds (0.9 – 1.2 kg)
3 to 5 feet (0.9 – 1.5 m)
2.6 to 4 pounds (1.2 kg – 1.8 kg)
Over four years2.5 to 3.5 feet (76 cm – 1 m)
3 to 3.5 pounds (1.4 – 1.6 kg)
4 to 6 feet (1.2 – 1.8 m)
4 to 6 pounds (1.8 – 2.7 kg)

Be aware of sexual dimorphism in Ball pythons and the size difference between adult females and males when buying your new pet.

Since females grow approximately 1.5 times faster than males, you can expect them to be longer and heavier.

Females typically grow 12 to 16 inches (30.50 – 40.50 cm) a year but rarely exceed a length of 5 feet (1.5 m) and a weight of 5 pounds (2 .3 kg).

On the other hand, males grow about 8 inches (20 cm) a year and reach a maximum length of 2.5 to 3.5 feet (76 cm – 1 m). Their average top weight is 3 to 3.5 pounds (1.4 – 1.6 kg).

Ball python lifespan

Most wild Ball pythons live 10 to 15 years on average. However, they can reach two to three decades in captivity with proper care. The officially documented record age for this species living in captivity is 47 years.

How to Care for Ball Python?

ball python tank setup

Ball pythons are not demanding creatures but are curious and highly active. Therefore, you should provide primary living conditions to make your pet comfortable.

Ball python tank setup

Your Ball python enjoys living in a long, wide enclosure rather than a tall one. The crucial thing is to allow your snake full stretch whenever it wants.

Ball python sizeTank dimensions (H by L by W)Tank size
10 to 35 inches
(25.4 – 89 cm)
11 by 20 by 13 inches
(28 x 50.80 x 33 cm)
10 gallons (38 l)
2 to 3.5 feet
(61 cm – 1 m)
18 by 24 by 18 inches
(45.70 x 61 x 45.70 cm)
40 gallons (151.50 l)
Over 3.5 feet (1 m)24 by 48 by 24 inches
(61 x 122 x 61 cm)
120 gallons (454 l)

Lighting and temperature

Ball pythons don’t require additional lighting, but you should use a 12-hour on/off light cycle if you have a particularly dark room.

Be aware that continuous bright lighting can be highly stressful for nocturnal snakes, like your Ball python, which are active and hunt during the night.

This species requires proper temperature, with a hotspot and cool spot on opposite sides.

It will be satisfied with a basking spot heated to 90 to 96 °F (32.2 – 35.6 °C) and a cooler part with a temperature from 78 to 80 °F (25.5 – 26.7 °C). The minimum temperature this snake type can handle is 70 to 75 °F (21 – 23.9 °C).

Tip: For more detailed information read this article: Do Snakes Need Heat Lamps?

Do Ball pythons need UVB?

Ball pythons are nocturnal snakes, so adding UVB lighting inside their tank is unnecessary. However, they need a correct photocycle with a proper alternation of daylight and darkness at night.

Never keep your snake in the dark all day since natural daylight is crucial for vitamin D3 synthesis and keeping its eyes healthy.


ball python temperature and humidity

Ball pythons feel the best when the ambient humidity level is 50 to 65% inside their enclosure. They need higher humidity of about 70 to 80% during shedding.

Any drastic change in these values can be stressful for your snake and negatively affect its shedding, lung health, and proper hydration.

Therefore, you should immediately start with misting when the hygrometer shows a humidity lower than 40% and increase ventilation when it exceeds 70%.


Ball pythons require adequate substrate (bedding) that provides the needed humidity levels, like in their natural habitats. The best options are:

  • Newspaper and recycled paper
  • Commercial paper cage liners
  • Paper towels
  • Orchid bark
  • Cypress mulch
  • Aspen shavings
  • Bioactive substrates

The substrate layer should be 2 to 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) deep and clean. Adding a layer of leaves or sphagnum moss on the top is a good idea regardless of the substrate type.

The worst substrate options for Ball pythons include:

  • Sand and gravel
  • Astroturf
  • Cedar shavings

Ball python tank decor

Your Ball python is not overly demanding, but it is always good to add some gadgets to the tank so it can have fun.

So-called enrichment includes a stimulating environment that allows your snake to live the most similar life to its natural habitat.

Since it adores climbing, you should add sturdy decorations like thick branches and provide many hides, preferably caves, at both tank ends. You can also enrich the enclosure with hollow cork logs and plants.

How to clean a Ball python tank

ball python diet

Your Ball python will be satisfied if you clean its habitat once a week. Additionally, wash accessories and dishes regularly and replace the substrate every 3 to 4 months.

Always relocate your snake when cleaning, and use a quality product to finish the job. A 3% bleach solution is an excellent option for tank disinfection.

Let it sit for about ten minutes before thoroughly rinsing the enclosure with water and drying it.

Ball python diet

Even though Ball pythons eat primarily small mammals and birds in the wild, scientists discovered that these snakes prefer different food depending on their gender.

What to feed

Ball pythons are obligate carnivores that consume exclusively whole animals and refuse replacement food.

Unlike numerous prey species at their disposal in the wild, these snakes have limited food options in captivity. Therefore, pet shops offer specific food for these exotic animals, like:

  • Frozen small mammals (shrews, baby rabbits) and rodents (mice, hamsters, rats, gerbils, young guinea pigs) you need to thaw before offering
  • African multimammate mice
  • African soft-furred rats
  • Small birds (quails, chicks) once or twice a month for diverse nutrition

Provide prey about the same circumference or slightly wider than the snake’s widest mid-body part. Never offer live prey to prevent rodents from biting and harming your pet and causing a potentially life-threatening infection.

How often do feed

It is necessary to feed hatchlings with a crawler or pinky mouse once in 5 days. Juveniles require a fuzzy rat once in 5 to 7 days, while adults weighing over 1.1 pounds (500 g) need food once in 7 to 10 days.

Finally, reduce the diet to a medium rat per 10 to 14 days once your Ball python is four years old.

Since this species is a nocturnal feeder, you should offer your snake food at night whenever possible. Regularly check the diet regimen by tracking your Ball python’s look. If not vary in weight over time, you can be sure to feed it correctly.

How long can they go without food?

Thanks to their slow metabolism, Ball pythons can survive for a few months without food. However, they can become severely ill when starving for a long.

Be prepared that adults often refuse meals during shedding and the breeding season, while some individuals naturally require a once-per-month feeding.

There is no reason to worry when your healthy snake eats at least once in four weeks without losing weight.

Do Ball pythons need water?

This species requires clean water constantly available inside the enclosure. Always pick out a bowl large enough for a snake of particular age and size and replace water at least once daily.

Vitamins and minerals

You should add some supplements to your snake’s diet to provide the vitamins and minerals unavailable in its regular captive diet.

The most convenient procedure is to dust food with a calcium powder containing vitamin D, but it is crucial not to overdo it.

Ball Python Behavior and Temperament

Ball pythons are a shy, non-venomous species that choose to hide rather than engage in conflict. They are not dangerous or aggressive but docile, curious animals that enjoy exploring.

Since this snake can recognize its owner by their heat signature and scent, you can expect your friendly snake to enjoy your company. It will be enough to be careful and gentle when handling it.

Ball pythons that want to be left alone hiss before attacking.

Tip: If you are worried to get a snake that turns out to be aggressive, or if your current snake is aggressive, read this article!

Are Ball Pythons Good Pets?

Ball pythons are docile, pleasant, and modest pets when handled correctly, making them fantastic for novices. Unfortunately, some individuals are not particularly cuddly and may avoid handling more than you would like.

These snakes require minimal attention after establishing a healthy habitat. You only need to feed your pet once in two weeks and keep its enclosure clean.

Be aware that some Ball pythons are picky eaters and exclusively eat live prey or thawed rodents. That can be pretty disgusting and a problem if you are squeamish.

Even though Ball pythons are a low threat to humans and our environment, they are forbidden in some parts of the United States.

For instance, you face severe fines or even jail if you keep this snake in your New York or San Francisco home.

Hawaii is strict about snakes, and keeping a Ball python can cost you $200,000 plus up to three years of jail time.

You should also pick out the other pet if you live in Florida, Wausau in Wisconsin, Council Bluffs in Iowa, or Minot in North Dakota. Finally, you need a special permit to have this lovely snake in Delaware.

Common Health Problems In Ball Pythons

The most common health issues your Ball python may suffer from include the following:

If you notice symptoms suggesting one of these diseases, contact an exotic animal vet immediately.

Where to Buy Ball Pythons? 

Ball pythons are available on the exotic pets market, so you can effortlessly acquire one. The best places to purchase your new snake are:

  • Reputable reptile breeders
  • Pet shops
  • Reptile expos
  • Online reptile shops

Your best option is to find a captive-born Ball python because it is the sure way to get a healthy and parasite-free snake.

Ball python breeders

ball python breeders

There are several reputable Ball python breeders in the US. You should check several options, depending on your budget and what kind of pet you want:

Ball python price

If you want an inexpensive Ball python, you can buy one at the local pet shop. That is how to get a snake without a known bloodline for only $50 to $100.

Reputable breeders are your best shot, but they can be expensive. On the other hand, they will provide you with pure-bloodline snakes, desired morphs, and plenty of necessary information.

If you choose this option, be prepared to set aside $150 to a whopping $15,000 for particularly rare morphs. The most reputable breeders’ price ranges for Ball pythons are:

  • $80 to $700 in XYZ Reptiles
  • $100 to $4,000 in BHB Reptiles
  • $125 to $2,000 in Wilbanks Captive Bred Reptiles
  • $150 to $12,000 in NERD
  • $300 to $2,500 in Royal Constrictor Designs

Ball Python Breeding

Nowadays, breeders tend to create unique captive Ball python morphs that do not exist in the wild. Experts estimate that this species comes in approximately 7,500 skin patterns, but most are cosmetic variations.

Unfortunately, some morphs carry genes responsible for severe diseases. For instance, the spider-morph gene is responsible for neurological disorders, spider wobble. Therefore, the International Herpetological Society banned these snakes’ reproduction and sale.

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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