Ball Pythons Care
Enclosure. If you are just maintaining one or two animals, your most economical option will be a traditional enclosure like an aquarium. Aquariums were all that was available for years, but now there are specially designed reptile cages that are more ideal. Some of the best are made byVision and Animal Plastics. If you choose an aquarium with a screen top, I recommend covering all but about 1/3 of the top with foil tape to help maintain a higher humidity. The enclosure should be of adequate size to comfortably house the snake as it grows.
Heat/Humidity. I recommend using an under tank heater that covers about 1/3 of the bottom of the enclosure. You will probably need some sort of thermostat or rheostat to control the heat. Avoid hot rocks as these can inflict sever burns and are not good for snakes. Get a thermometer and lay it in the cage above the heater, adjust the thermostat so that it maintains 95F right on the heater in the cage. It is not critical to measure the cage humidity. Misting the cage a couple of times per week is usually adequate. As with many aspects of good husbandry, watch your animal, if he is having dry sheds, mist more often and try to raise the humidity. If he is shedding cleanly, your humidity is probably good.
Substrate. There are several good choices for substrates that will work well. I like Aspen bedding, but newspaper or cypress mulch will work well also. Avoid carpet or other non-disposable substrates. It is best to get substrate that can be changed out and the entire cage sanitized. When you add the substrate, it should stay around 88-94F on the substrate above the heater. This will allow the animal to thermo-regulate (choose its own temperature).
Water. Fresh, clean water is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy ball python. Clean water should always be provided. The water should be changed and the water bowl sanitized at least once per week. Clean water can make a big difference in the health of your animal. We have found that the heavy, ceramic crock water dishes available at many pet stores are the best. They are almost impossible to spill which can be a real problem with some snakes.
Furnishing. Ball Pythons are terrestrial animals and although they will climb some, branches are not a requirement. Any branches or plastic plants should be arranged in such a way that they are easy to remove for cleaning. A hide box should also be provided. This hiding place will give your snake a place to go to feel secure and reduce the stress of captivity.
Feeding. Ball Pythons will feed readily on rats and mice. There are periods of time during the year when fasting is common. Sometimes the fast can last several months and seems to be part of the normal life cycle of a Ball Python. It is possible to feed Ball Pythons thawed prey items. This will make feeding very convenient because you can keep food items in the freezer at all times. If you choose to feed live prey, the live prey should not be left in the enclosure for more than an hour and never left over night. Rats and mice will chew on snakes and can kill them if left overnight.
Problem Feeding. When you first receive your Ball Python, introduce it into the enclosure and allow it a couple of days to settle in before attempting any feeding. If you find after waiting a couple of days, that your snake still does not want to feed for you, follow these instructions.
1. Get a LIVE small mouse or rat fuzzy.
2. At night, not just dark, but at NIGHT, open the enclosure and place the prey item in the cage. Secure the lid.
3. Turn the lights off in the room and LEAVE. Do not sit and stare through the glass even in the dark, just leave.
4. After an hour, sneak into the room, make sure the snake is not in the process of eating before you turn on the lights. If the prey item is still uneaten, remove it and do not attempt any feeding for at least 5 days.
5. Repeat these steps every 5 days for 3 attempts. Do not try to feed every day. This can stress the already stressed animal. It also lessens the scent and heat stimuli of the food. Just trust me and don't try to feed every day, wait.
If you purchased your snake from me, please contact me after the first time this does not work. It is nothing to be alarmed about, but I want to be involved in getting things on the right track. Sometimes shipping can stress an animal and make it go off feed for a few weeks. Please call me and keep me informed of any problems.
Racks. When maintaining hundreds or even thousands of Ball Pythons, commercial rack systems are the best and most efficient method. There are several brands of commercially available rack systems. At Constrictors Unlimited, we use and recommend Habitat Systems racks. They are made of an almost indestructible pvc material. Most of our adult ball pythons are maintained in a Habitat Systems rack that uses the Iris Cb-70 plastic box. We punch holes in the boxes to create a little more airflow without sacrificing the humidity like the open air systems do. Another benefit of closed top racks is that there is seldom a need for hide boxes. In the back of the drawer is stays very dark just like a hole in Africa.
Heat. The heat is provided with 3" flexwatt heat tape that is actually inside the shelf all the way at the back. Because the box is so long, there is a really nice temperature gradient. We regulate the heat with Helix DBS-1000 thermostats. I have tried many thermostats and I think these are the best currently on the market. Many of the snakes we work with cost thousands of dollars and it doesn't make sense to save a couple of bucks on a cheap thermostat only to have it fail and wipe out several of your prized animals. We take the temperature probe and place it through a hole drilled in the side of the rack. The probe rests right on the heat tape and the thermostat is set to 96F. The probe is secured in place with foil tape that is available at any hardware store in the heat/air section.
Substrate. There are many good choices for substrate. Newspaper and cypress mulch are good choices. We use Aspen bedding. Aspen has a clean appearance, pleasant odor and it is easy to see the part of the cage that needs to be cleaned. We put about 2-3" of aspen in the bottom of the drawer. The aspen is spot cleaned weekly and completely changed monthly.
Water. We us a disposable water bowl system that employs 4" s&d pvc couplers and disposable 16oz water bowls . The couplers are available at any home center in the plumbing section. The disposable water bowls are available at Superior Enterprise. Just call and ask for the same 160z water bowls that Constrictors Unlimited uses, they will know what you are talking about. This place has many other great supplies at good prices. Fresh, clean water is very important. We change the water at least weekly, and the bowl monthly. This system saves a great deal of time washing water bowls while not sacrificing good husbandry. If you decide to use ceramic water bowls instead of the disposable system, here is a link for the kind of ceramic bowl we use for our retics and boas MyPetOutlet.