Firststrike Ball Python Basic Care Sheet Housing:
The most popular housings for ball pythons are glass tanks or PVC Enclosures. When choosing the enclosure make sure it has, adequate ventilation, proper humidity levels, proper heating, enough space, and security to prevent escape. For adult ball pythons 20gal tank is bare minimum but you can always go bigger. For a juvenile ball python, a 15 to 20 gal will give them enough space to move around.
Substrate: Use something that is readily available to you. Newspaper/newsprint Paper towel Reptile Carpet DO NOT USE PINE OR CEDAR. These contain harmful toxins that can harm or even kill your snake.
Habitat: In your snake’s environment you need a hide placed over the heat pad on one side of the tank and a water bowl large enough for the snake to bath if it wants. The temperature should be 30C on the heat side and no lower then 22C on the cooler side. Always place the heat pad under the tank with adequate substrate between it and your snake’s body. A basking light is not needed. It will take all the moisture out of the air causing humidity issues and if your snake is able to touch the light it can cause burns. For a night and day effect set a lamp or overhead light with a timer. The humidity in the enclosure should be set at 50 to 60 percent on regular days and 70 to 80 percent when the snake is in shed. Methods to increase the humidity in the enclosure are, place water bowl over heat source, misting, using a humidifier, place a towel over 80% the lid, to keep humidity in or place a small amount of water into the bottom of the tank, (be careful not to saturate the substrate.) Your snake should have readily available fresh water. Topping off the water bowl isn’t adequate; the water should be changed, and the bowl cleaned every 3 to 5 days as a minimum.
Feeding: Ball python are rodent eaters. The most readily available food source is either mice or rats. In the wild their main source of food is ASF’s, African soft furry rats and Gerbils. The preferred means of food are frozen thawed; this way there is no harm/threat to your snake. If you feed live there is a chance that your snake could get bite and severely injured. Feeding size for your snake should be about the size of the largest part of the snake body, or three times the size of its head. Ball pythons should be feed every 7 to 10 days to maintain a healthy body weight. Female ball pythons reach maturity at 3 years of age and a body weight of 1500 grams. Male ball pythons can reach maturity at 1 year and a body weight of 600 grams. Make sure you are feeding your snake the proper size meal every 7 to 10 days to achieve proper health and weight. Try not to switch your ball python off their regular food. In some cases, you might try to give your snake a gerbil, but by feeding this to your snake instead of his usually mouse, he may now only prefer the gerbils, and this could cause some difficulty in getting them to eat their regular mouse. Always feed them what is readily available to you, mice and/or rats. As a good practice, feed your snake frozen thawed. It is safer for your snake. To heat a frozen rodent place in hot water, and to heat from thawed state place in warm water, until the internal temperature reaches body heat. Be careful not to cook the rodent and make sure it is fully thawed. Your snake can’t digest frozen or cooked food. If your snake doesn’t eat you can refreeze the rodent up to 2 times if need be. *It is not necessary to switch your snake to a feeding tank. By switching tanks, you are disturbing and scaring the snake, this may cause them to not eat. By leaving them in their habitat they feel more at home and will most likely not refuse a meal, unless they are under certain circumstances (see why my snake won’t eat). If you decide to use other substrate instead of the recommended ones, be aware if your snake can ingest it well eating their food. We recommend newspaper, since if they ingest it by accident it won’t cause them any harm. If you use aspen chips or coconut husk and they ingest this, it can cause scratching and harm internally.
1. Over all new environment. Change in substrate, humidity, temperature, lighting. Anything new can stress out a snake. Try to keep things the same. For example, if the breeder had the snake on newspaper or paper towel keep with that substrate until the snake is comfortable and eating on a regular basis. Check temperatures, hot side should be a round 30 degrees Celsius and cold side no lower then 20-22 degrees Celsius.
2. Size of the new enclosure. If he was in a smaller enclosure and you have switched to a larger one it maybe to big for him/her at this time. Try switching to a smaller enclosure to make them feel more secure. Getting a small tub with secure lid to start off might be best. Remember to put holes in the side of the container so there is enough air flow.
3. Always try to feed at night, after sunset as ball pythons are nocturnal. Usually around or after 7:30pm is good time.
4. Ball Pythons have heat pits along the front of their jaw, so the rodent must be hot enough for them to see, but not over cooked. Do not boil or microwave a rodent to thaw them out. Our favorite method is a three-tub system. Hot tap water in two of the three tubs, Rodent in the third tub with paper towel. Now layer them, hot water, rodent, hot water, so that the rodent is in the middle. By doing this it insures even heat and the rodent doesn’t get wet.
5. Use tongs and hold the rodent by its hips so it looks more alive. Wiggle it just in front of ball python.
6. Handling to soon after getting your new ball python home. Let them settle in. Give them at least a week of no interaction, no handling. Only the minor things, like changing the water. Once your ball python has had their first meal in their new home you know they are comfortable and happy. You can then begin to handle them.
7. Check to see if the ball python is in shed. Some will not eat during this time so leave them be until after their shed cycle. Try again once this time is completed.
8. Do not remove the ball python from his environment. It is a myth that by leaving them in their home will make them more aggressive towards you. They do not view us as food. If you use your hands to feed, they might mistake you for the rodent, so use tongs to feed. This way they never associate you with food. By moving a hungry snake from his/her enclosure to feed you are more likely to get bit and now you must take a snake with a full belly and move them back.
9. Season changes can also affect the feeding response of ball pythons, some will fast for months at a time during winter. Keep a scale on hand to monitor their weight during fasting. Even if your ball python fasts for 3 months, keep in mind this can be normal and eventually he/she will eat again. If you are concerned a vet trip never hurt anyone. Try to find a herp vet that has experience with reptiles.
10. Size of the prey can affect the feeding of ball pythons, to large or to small. Gage the size of prey to the snake’s body. Best method is 1.5 times the largest part of their body. One appropriately sized prey is better then multiple smaller prey.
11. As a very, very last resort offer live prey. Do not ever leave live prey alone with your snake. A rodent can do a lot of damage in very little time. We do not recommend feeding live.
Shedding: This may also be a reason why your snake won’t accept their meal. If their eyes are cloudy and belly is pink, then they are going into shed. They do this as they grow. A younger snake will shed more often then an older one. Ball pythons should shed in one piece. If your snake is having troubles shedding it is due to the humidity of the enclosure. Soaking prior to shed isn’t necessary. If the shed is coming off in pieces, then soaking the snake will help to get the shed off. Another way is to place the snake inside a wet pillowcase (100%cotton only) and place them somewhere dark and warm for about 20 minutes, check to see if the shed has come off. Always make sure the eye caps have come off. This can cause problems if not taken care of right away. With corn snakes and snakes with thin tiny tails, insure the shed has come completely off the end or your snake could lose the tip of its tail.
FOR CORN SNAKES: You can follow pretty much everything in this care sheet for corns as well. When it comes to feeding corns, they go more on sense of smell then heat, so you can heat a mouse and leave in tank, they will find and eat it. The mouse can be cool to the touch as long as it is thawed through, and they will still eat it. There is no need to dangle a mouse in front of them unless you wish to.
If you have any other questions, please call or email.
We are always here to help.
We take pride in the health and care of our snakes.
*Ask about our very strict 3 month health guarantee. All guidelines must be followed, and care-sheet otherwise warranty is void.*
Written By: Brandy Johnstone Edmonton, AB