Caring for your Ball Python
Common name: African Royal Python AKA Ball Python
Scientific name: Python Regiu
Home land: Africa
Size: 5 feet tops, usually not more then 4. Big enough to impress anyone and small enough to care for easily. Growth is not to fast.
Lifespan: I have heard up to 30 years and read reports of some getting as old as 50.
CageI believe in more room than most. None of my baby's complain so I expect you to supply the same. Long enough to lie straight in and at least half his length deep. An easy to remove water bowl for cleaning that is big enough for your little guy to soak in comfortably. I use inexpensive but strong Rubbermaid bins. I can hose them out, scrub with a disinfecting detergent approved for animals and rinse. Make double sure caging is escape proof. If your little Houdini gets out and dies its your fault. See my general care pageon water bowls for more info. A hide house is strongly suggested. It gives these nocturnal snakes darkness during the day and security. I believe all reptile cages should have one. They need a place they can retreat to and feel safe. A cave like spot, not too big, where snakes can feel the walls while they sleep. Being able to touch all sides give them a feeling that nothing can sneak up on them while they rest. This helps keep them calm especially for snakes during the time they are digesting. For small snakes there are small logs split in half available. A heat source is very important. Do not use regular light bulbs. Do not use porcelain heat lamps in their cage if they can come in contact with it. Do not use hot rocks. This may sound like I am just trying to sell infrared heaters but I am not. Please read on. The only heat source I recommend for heating any reptile is Infrared heat panels. They warm the cage with ambient heat and if you touch them you will not burn! Reptiles will burn the flesh off their little bodies if you don't prevent this. I have taken in so many Iguanas and Snakes with burn patches on their bodies so if I can prevent one burn, I'll be happy. Hot rocks that are not on rheostats (heat controls) are too hot for smaller reptiles and are responsible for so many iguana deaths I scream at the pet shops when I see them. Porcelain heat lamps even as low as 50 watts can fry your skin like on a frying pan.The heat panels are warm to the touch. Even if you do not get mine search the web and get similar heaters from another source but get them! Measure the temperature by placing at least two thermometers on opposite sides of the cage a few inches off the ground level for your snake and top and bottom for climbing animals. Click here to learn more about these heat panels.
SubstrateI have found that Dri-deck (the rubber mats used behind most Bars and in kitchens at restaurants or in shower stalls) work great. They are raised off the ground so the pee runs underneath and your pet is not always walking or slithering through it, although this is not an excuse to not clean the mat, always clean after any snake defecates or urinates, but they do hose off easily. Wood chips can hold mites. Bark also. Newspaper leaves ink especially visible on my beautiful albinos. The rubber mats have lasted me over 10 years now. You can get similar mats fairly inexpensive at Wal-mart or Costco but they tend to be a rubber material without the bateria fighting material found in Dri-deck. (I talk more about it on my general care page.) You can also order them from me but I will charge you twice as much due to the weight in shipping. Order from www.dri-dek.com
Behavior:One of the best in the snake world. The reason he is called him a Ball python is because many times when scared instead of biting he rolls up in a cute little ball covering up his tiny little head. How adorable. But that would mean he is scared and we do not want to frighten our new baby so with regular handling and lots of love and patience he should lose that behavior and not care if he is handled.
TemperaturesSince my cages are big enough as yours WILL be, keep one side at 80 degrees and have it increase up to 90 on the opposite side. Use two thermometers on each end of your cage to check and double-check this. You don't want to cook or freeze the little guy.
HumidityThey do need humidity but it can be tough to clean. It makes a great place for mold and bacteria to grow. Daily cleaning is a must. If you do not like that idea don't get the pet. Another way not so troublesome but better than nothing is to get a plastic shoe or sweater box at K-mart or such and fill the bottom with clean organic pesticide free dirt. (Find it in the gardening section.) Add enough water so that when you squeeze a handful it clumps up and breaks apart if you poke it with one finger. You don't want mud, just damp dirt. You'll get the idea when you try it. Then cut a hole in the lid big enough for your snake to climb through and he will hopefully go in there for his humidity. Not to good for big snakes but sufficient for the little guys like ball pythons and especially rainbow boas. It also acts as a great shelter for the smaller snakes too. One last thing here, pick up a hygrometer to keep track of the humidity. I have the digital thermometer/hygrometer combos but you can pick up inexpensive ones at Walmart or Radio Shack.
SheddingMy guys shed approximately every 5 -6 weeks. Make sure there is water to help in this. Eye caps not coming off could be a problem. This is scary because if you don't know what your doing you could blind the baby in helping him so I won't even recommend how to help except go to a vet and let them do it. I know vets are costly but if you can't afford it don't get the pet.
FeedingSee "Alive or Dead" on general care page. Feed rodents or rats of appropriate size. Look at the roundest part of the snakes body and give them food that will fit in there without a lump. It's better for their digestion to feed two smaller food items over a 4-day period than one large meal. Do not handle after they eat for at least 4 days. 7 is better. Never feed live food. Many of my kids have got to the point where I just leave a food item on the floor of the feeding box and they casually move up to it and start to eat. No attempt to strangle at all. But wait! This is a new term, a feed box? Yes, I said feed box. I never feed the snakes in their own cage. I do not want them to get the idea that when I go near the cage its feeding time, so to lower the chance of getting bit (notice I said lower, not guarantee) I feed in a large cardboard box. This also allows for a clean feeding area if they squeeze any stuff out of their food you just throw the box away and get another. Keep a feeding chart. This will be helpful to your Veterinarian if problems arise. This is difficult with a large snake so I use an aluminum water trough. As soon as they're in it they go nuts looking for food. One of the very few signs of any intelligence I get from them.
Their eating habits can be unusual and they can go off feeding for a couple months at a time and if you don't know what you're looking for it could be due to illness and not just a normal fast. Always consult a vet (not a pet shop) if you are not sure.