I have been keeping ball pythons for a long time and hope to share what I've learned about this wonderful species with others.
About Ball Pythons
Ball pythons (Python regius) are great snakes for a beginner snake owner. They grow to an average size of 3-5 feet, which makes them ideal for handling. They are also beautiful, shy, calm, and docile.
In the U.S., they are called ball pythons because they roll into a ball and tuck their heads in the center when frightened. Over in Europe and many other countries, they are known as royals because Egyptian royalty used to keep ball pythons as pets and often wore them wrapped around their wrists.
A pet ball python is a joy to own and flourishes when given proper care. They usually live between 20–30 years, although some have been known to live even longer. They grow about a foot a year for 3 years, then their growth slows down significantly. They are nocturnal, which means they hunt rodents at night, although ball pythons in captivity will easily learn to eat during the day.
Why Buy From a Breeder?
Ball pythons have a reputation for refusing food, but that’s much more common in wild caught specimens. In addition, wild-caught snakes tend to be very stressed from capture and transport, often harboring a large parasite load such as worms, mites, and ticks. Captive-bred snakes tend to be slightly more expensive, but they are well worth the extra cost. They will tame down and adjust quicker to their new home, and will already be eating regularly.
Breeders will also will also offer ball pythons in all different types of exciting colors & patterns, which are called morphs. Most ball pythons sold at large chain pet stores are imported from Africa. You can find healthy, local, quality captive bred snakes at a reptile expo or an exotic animal store. If you are already experienced with other types of snakes, you may even want to consider choosing to adopt a ball python from an animal rescue.
What to Look For When Choosing a Snake
Choose a snake that has a well-rounded, muscular body, clear clean eyes and vent, and one that shows no signs of respiratory problems (e.g. wheezing, bubbles around nostrils). Look for one that is alert, curious, and gently grips your hand/arms when handled. They may be skittish and timid at first, but should calm after handling for a bit. It is not a bad idea to ask for a feeding demonstration to be sure the snake readily takes a meal. The skin should be somewhat shiny, rubbery feeling, and shed free.
Bringing Your New Pet Home
If you already have another reptile at home, the new snake needs to be quarantined due to the risk of parasites and disease. Three to six months quarantine in a separate room with separate equipment from the other pet is ideal. In addition, an initial checkup with a vet is in order, especially for internal (take a recent stool sample with you in a bag) and external parasites. Contracting Salmonella bacteria is an extremely low risk as long as good hygiene is practiced.
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on May 29, 2015:
"lisa pedraza" Sorry, but I believe NYC bans the private ownership of pythons. I know, it sucks. As for how I first got started, I had a pet beta fish when I first started living on my own. I liked him, but I wanted a pet that was more interactive and at the time I couldn't have a dog. So I ran across this exotic pet store where I fell in love with a female baby albino Burmese python. (Not a beginner snake.) The owner directed me to a corn snake. She was pink and tiny and adorable! I named her Baby. I also wanted to get a bigger snake but felt like I was not quite ready for a Burmese python so I got an albino ball python and named her Butterscotch. She was so sweet and pretty, and I wanted to breed her! Then I went nuts for ball pythons. They are like the puppy dogs of the snake world. I've been actively keeping, breeding, selling, wrestling and performing educational shows with snakes and other reptiles for over ten years now, with many types of species, including huge, rare, and venomous animals. Ball pythons, corn snakes, and Burmese pythons are still my top favorite three species for keeping as my personal pets.
Melissa from South Carolina, USA on May 26, 2015:
I was looking for a turtle for my son when, by impulse, a ball python intrigued me. I bought her by impulse (Bad I know!). I am an animal lover and have had many different type of animals, all whom which lasted their whole life with me, and the ball python is by far my favorite. You shared some useful info there!
lisa pedraza on April 05, 2015:
Im so glad i found ur page. Its well written n I learned a lot thru ur articles. Ive never been so pumped to becomin a ball python owner. I been researchin for few mos. now. My bf wasn't too into the idea but this article was one of the things that helped me out. He was able to see that a girl can own and breed them n that they DO make good pets. Caveman, I kno, lol. But it was assuring to us both that an actual breeder was the voice behind all the info. I would like to kno how u got started wit ur 1st set up n stuff? About how much will it cost? Do u kno any breeders in Nyc area ud recommend?
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on March 29, 2014:
Bensen32, thank you. I checked out your profile and I noticed you mentioned you had a son. Does he enjoy the ball pythons as well? I love bringing my snakes to educational shows. A lot of times, holding one of my snakes is the first time a little kid has ever held one. I love teaching them that snakes are great and not something to be terrified of.
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on March 29, 2014:
Nufoundglory, no problem. Thanks for saying my article was well written. Have you gotten a ball python as a pet? If not, you totally should. ;)
Thomas Bensen from Wisconsin on October 19, 2013:
I have two that they make great pets, thanks for sharing this good info.
nufoundglory from Asia on March 06, 2013:
That's the problem, I was talking about their behavior IN THE WILD. Not as a pet. As a pet, they're just some spoiled animals where they obviously get to "choose" what to eat and what not to eat. Read my last sentence on my original comment above. I talked about pythons in the wild that can't afford to choose what they eat.
Anyway, to be fair, it's actually not about the article you wrote particularly. I was just venting after hopping from articles to articles online and noticed most if not all these articles say pythons eat rodents. As if they these pythons particularly choose to eat rodents in the wild. I apologize if my comment came across a bit bold, I meant no harm. Good hub nevertheless. ;)
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on March 02, 2013:
These snakes hunt rodents. That is their main diet in the wild. Yes, ball pythons will eat chicks, gerbils, other small animals, they are perfectly happy to ingest rodents. I've owned, raised, and bred these snakes for over 7 years now. I know from experience they do "choose" to eat and "choose" to not eat. I have a male now who has gone on a fast for 5 months. Wild ball pythons may be a bit more opportunistic than captive snakes but it is still common for these snakes to ignore food in front of their face for various reasons, such as the winter season, stress, or incubation of eggs. Ball pythons also have preferences in what kind of food they eat, and it even varies among individual snakes. Anyway, I'm not sure what you find wrong with this article? I also was generally speaking about ball pythons as pets, not their behavior in the wild. Also, where do you live? Ghana? Togo? Has you observed this particular species' behavior in the wild or owned any yourself?
nufoundglory from Asia on February 27, 2013:
Why is it that every article I read about python says these snakes eat RODENTS? It's as if these snakes "particularly" choose rodents to eat, as if rodents are available "all the time" in the wild and they get to "choose" their foods. Funny. The REAL truth is, they eat whatever's available to them at the time of hunting. Yes, I said "hunting", because that's what they do around here where I live, they can't afford to "wait and ambush" when foods are little and competitions are many.
Conclusion - Is It the Right Pet for You?
This is not a comprehensive guide to ball python care. You can find that over here. My goal with this article is to help you understand the basic care requirements of these snakes, so you can decide if it's the kind of pet you'd like to keep. So let's summarize what we've talked about so far.
You might spend anywhere from 1 - 3 hours per week on snake maintenance. You will have to provide rodents for your pet ball python. In most cases, these snakes can be conditioned to eat frozen / thawed rodents, which is certainly the most convenient option for you. But some ball pythons will turn their noses up at thawed prey, preferring live or freshly killed prey instead. It that something you can handle? These snakes have been known to fast during the winter months.
In closing, let me touch on the benefits of keeping ball pythons as pets. With regular (weekly) handling, these snakes can become very docile and easygoing. They're a bit head-shy. But as long as you keep your hands away from their heads, ball pythons are easy to handle. They are reluctant to bite, for the most part. You can go on vacation without hiring a pet sitter, as long as the snake has water and warmth.
Is a ball python the right pet for you? That's a question you'll have to answer for yourself. Hopefully, this article will help you make an informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Getting a Pet Ball Python
If you’re wondering whether or not a ball python is the right pet for you, you’ll likely find it much easier to decide after taking a look at a pros and cons list. Since it might be hard to predict what the pros and cons to owning a ball python are if you’ve never owned one before, I’ve taken the time to write up a list for you. Be careful to check the cons carefully for any factors that might be deal breakers.
And to all the other ball python owners, if you can think of any other pros or cons, let me know in the comments.
1. Ball pythons are extremely easy to take care of, and are incredibly low maintenance.
2. Paying for food and upkeep for a pet python is very cheap, making them highly affordable pets.
3. Unlike many common pets, ball pythons don’t need very much attention from their owners. So if you’re busy and don’t have the time to walk your pet, no worries here.
4. Ball pythons live for a very long time in comparison to most pets so you don’t have to worry about them passing away as often as dogs, and you definitely don’t need to replace them as often as you’d need to replace a hamster.
5. Also unlike hamsters and other rodents, ball pythons do not smell.
6. Ball pythons, being exotic pets, are more rarely owned than cats, dogs, and rodents. This may make them more appealing than having a more common pet having a pet snake is cool.
7. Ball pythons, being reptiles, don’t get attached to their owners like other pets might, so rehousing a snake is much easier than rehousing a cat or dog: the snake won’t care as long as their environment is maintained properly. If in the future you for some reason have no choice and cannot keep your pet, therefore, it’s much better to have a ball python than to have a dog.
8. Unlike some other snakes, ball pythons only grow to be between 3-5 feet long. This is about half the size of full grown boa constrictors, which regularly grow to be around 9-10 feet long.
9. As an added perk of ball pythons being so low-maintenance and cheap to keep, ball pythons are also easy to keep in large numbers. It may be physically and financially exhausting to have a house full of cats, but having 10-15 ball pythons at a time is easily possible, and is regularly practiced by many ball python lovers. After adopting and falling in love with their first, many ball python owners go on to collect a variety of different morph types.
1. Probably the worst dilemma you’ll have to overcome, if it’s a problem to you at all, is what you’ll have to feed your snake. Unlike other reptiles, snakes do not eat insects, worms, or baby food: they eat rats (and sometimes mice, though rats are much more healthy for them). That being said, although it’s true that defrosting a rat to feed it to your pet will likely be quite uncomfortable at first, after some time, you will get more used to it. It will gradually become much easier to do, though I wouldn’t say handling a rat ever becomes pleasant.
2. Again, ball pythons are not the most affectionate creatures, so if you actually are looking for something to cuddle, and want your pet to be excited to see you when you come home from work, you really shouldn’t be getting a ball python.
3. You can’t train a ball python. They don’t do tricks, and some of the most exciting things they do are eating, drinking, and yawning (though to be fair, watching them eat a huge rat is pretty awesome). As such, you may not find them to be as entertaining or fun to play with as other animals may be. If you need high levels of excitement in your life and think you might get bored of them, ball pythons are probably not a good choice for you.
4. Depending on what your friends and relatives are like, it might be hard to find someone who will feed your snake for you while you’re gone or on vacation. They’re snakes after all, and unlike pouring some dog food into a bowl, there may not be many people who would be comfortable feeding a rat to your snake.
5. Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a vet who can take care of your ball python if it falls ill. Before you buy your pet, you should definitely look around and find out where the closest ball python vet is located. It’s very uncommon for ball pythons to need to see a vet, but you need to be willing to make the trip and cover the costs if they do get sick, so keep this in mind.
About Elise Xavier
Love reptiles, especially ball pythons - I think they're some of the coolest & most stunning pets around!
Started My Pet Python way back when I first adopted Havana, an adult female and my first real pet. I wanted a place to share all the tips & advice I dug up while I was researching pet care, hoping the research I did could help others along the way.
I also have a cat blog, as well as blogs on a slew of other topics. If you're interested, you can check out my other blogs here.
Do Ball Pythons Make Good Pets?
In captivity, ball pythons can live up to thirty years with the proper care and husbandry. That is far longer than any mammal species kept as pets. The world record for oldest Ball Python is forty-three years, set by a snake living at the Philadelphia Zoo.
As long as you know that the ball python is a long-term commitment, it is a great breed for a beginner to learn all about keeping snakes. It can serve as a stepping stone to a snake that is more difficult to care for. They are a little heartier than most other breeds and do not decline in health as quickly with bad husbandry.
Before you purchase any snake, you should learn everything you can about the snake you’re going to get. That ensures you know what to expect and you know what your snake will need to feel comfortable.
As with any other exotic animal: the younger you start handling them the more social they will become. It is best to purchase a ball python hatched in captivity, versus one caught in the wild. Captive-born ball pythons are easier to tame and to train to accept human handling.
What Does A Ball Python Look Like?
The ball python gets its name from a distinctive behavior when it gets scared. When frightened, it will roll into a ball with its head tucked in the middle.
There are an extensive variety of color, patterns, and markings. These variations are called morphs. The most common morphs of Ball Pythons include Albino, Hypomelanistic, Axanthic, Piebald, Banana and Clown.
There are many other morphs. Albino Ball Pythons lack color pigmentation which causes the snake to be yellow with red eyes. Hypomelanistic Ball Pythons, also called Ghost, are very light in one particular shade of color. Axanthic Ball Pythons are usually white, grey and black and lack the yellow pigment.
Piebald Ball Pythons have patches of white and black. Clown Ball Pythons have a very distinct golden, yellow appearance. They have a dark marking on their head and a stripe down the entire length of the snake.
What Type Of House Does My Ball Python Need?
The right environment and temperature are key to keeping a healthy ball python. When you first bring your ball python home, do not handle it for about a week to allow it to adjust to its new surroundings. Ball pythons need an enclosure that provides adequate room to grow.
It should have a sturdy lid with a latch that can be locked shut. This species, in particular, are very curious animals and often escape from their enclosure and become lost in your house. There are all kinds of stories about pythons getting stuck behind walls, in furniture, and even in the plumbing of an apartment building.
As adults they grow to be three to four feet long, so they will need an appropriately sized enclosure. A favorite structure among snake enthusiast for housing ball pythons is in a terrarium. This article helps you set one up.
Large glass terrariums come in a multitude of sizes and are typically sold locally. That said, you can get some great ones on Amazon too. This article reviews the best ball python terrariums.
Some prefer to build their own enclosure out of wood. This can work, but wood does present some problems. It is harder to clean and can become moldy, given the high humidity your snake needs.
Ball pythons require a warm environment. Terrariums are easy to outfit with all the necessary lighting, heat sources and humidifier that a python may need.
What Type Of Bedding Does My Ball Python Need?
It is best to cover the bottom of the enclosure with a substrate that is specialized for reptiles such as cypress mulch, orchid bark, or coconut husk. Avoid pine shavings, sand or paper. Learn about the best snake bedding for ball pythons.
When snakes eat, they can accidentally ingest some of their substrate, so it is important to choose something that won’t cause an impaction.
Avoid cedar shaving or any strong-smelling substrate as these can cause upper respiratory problems. A good rule to have is to smell the bedding and see if you would want that smell an inch from your nose at all times.
What Kind Of Lighting For My Ball Python?
The main thing you need is a good heat bulb. Ideally, it should hang over the cage, outside of the lid, so your snake can’t burn itself.
So people prefer heat rocks, but they can cause bad burns to the snake, so we do not recommended using those. Snakes tend to lay on top of them for too long, resulting in serious, and sometimes life-threatening, burns.
The temperature inside the cage should stay between 80 and 85° Fahrenheit. Heat lamps can either be a white light bulb with a thick filament that emits heat directly to a specific area or an an infrared bulb that emits heat more gradually outward.
Ceramic bulbs are another way to heat a bigger area, and they work well at night because they do not emit any light. Most cages have a variety of different bulbs in order to keep the cage at its ideal temperature all day.
The ball python does not require UVB light, but it increases your snake’s activity level and helps brighten its color. UVB is light in the invisible part of the color spectrum. The sun emits UVB (it’s what gives us a tan), but you can also get bulbs that emit it.
This particular spectrum of light fades after about 6 months. It is advised to change your UVB bulbs every 6 months, whether the light has gone out or not. The bulb will still glow, but it will no longer emit any UVB wavelengths.
Again, pythons do not need UVB, but if you are going to use it, be aware how long it will last and when it needs to be changed. The label should tell you. Most manufacturers will have some sort of graph showing the light spectrum of the bulb and how long it lasts until the different wavelengths fade.
What To Feed My Ball Python?
Young ball pythons should eat baby mice and rats (pinkies, fuzzies or hoppers). Feed younger snakes every week and adult snakes every other week.
As your ball python grows, so should the size of the mouse or rat. It is recommended that the size of the mouse equal the circumference of the snake at its largest point.
Most snakes, if started off young, will eat pre-killed or frozen mice. Thaw the mouse at room temperature before feeding. Do not use a microwave to thaw out frozen mice.
If your snake will not eat pre-killed or frozen animals, you can feed it live mice. Live mice simulate their natural environment and allow them to “hunt” their prey.
Never leave a live mouse or rat in the cage unattended with your snake, because the mouse or rat could injure it. Most ball pythons like to eat at night. They use the heat pit located on their upper jaw to find and attack their prey.
After feeding your ball python, it is important not to handle it for a few hours, because this may cause it to regurgitate its food.
Ball pythons also need a supply of fresh water daily. Make sure that their water bowl is heavy, so that your python cannot flip it over. It also needs to be deep enough for your snake to curl up in, but not deep enough that it could drown. Most snakes will soak more around shedding time to help the scales shed properly.
During the winter, ball pythons may hibernate and not eat as regularly. Continue offering them food every ten to fourteen days until they return to their normal eating schedule. They will also not eat during a shed.
Do Ball Pythons Need Veterinary Care?
Ball pythons do need regular checkups by an exotic veterinarian. When you first get your snake get it an initial checkup as soon as possible. Not all breeders practice good husbandry, so you should make sure you are not bringing any diseases into the enclosure.
Before purchasing your python locate a veterinarian near you who can treat and examine your snake. Most snakes will have some problem or illness over the course of their lifetime and will need veterinary care.
Common health problems seen with snakes are upper respiratory infections, burns or cuts on the skin, abscesses in their mouth or problems with shedding.
If you notice any of these problems, take your snake to your veterinarian right away. Most exotic species do not show that they are sick until it may already be too late to correct the problem, so you should learn to recognize the signs that your snake is sick.
Ball pythons can get parasites from the mice and rats that they eat. Most veterinarians recommend routine fecal examinations to help keep your pet free of parasites.
Are Ball Pythons Friendly?
Ball pythons are very friendly and enjoy people handling them for a few minutes every day. They won’t ever recognize you and react to you the same way a dog might, but they will come to know who you are.
You should handle your ball python daily so that your snake is used to being touched. This also allows you to examine your snake for any scratches, bruises or other health related problems.
Keep in mind that ball pythons tend to be very head-shy, meaning they do not like to have their head touched. Continuing to do so might elicit an aggressive response. It doesn’t mean they are aggressive. It simply means they do not like being touched there, so it is best to just avoid the area altogether.
Do Male Or Female Ball Pythons Make Better Pets?
Both male and female ball pythons make great pets. Some people prefer the males as they are a little smaller than the females. As far as temperament goes there really is no difference between the two.
Females usually cost more since they are able to reproduce. Snake breeders like to have more females than males because a single male can breed several females in a short period of time.
Do Ball Pythons Constrict?
Ball pythons are a type of constrictor snake. This means that they wrap their body around their prey and squeeze it until it suffocates.
Most python owners notice that their snake will wrap itself around their arm. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are trying to suffocate or kill you.
Ball pythons are jungle snakes and are very comfortable in the treetops. They may just view your arm as a branch from which to hang. It is usually quite easy to remove them if you start to feel uncomfortable.
If a python doesn’t easily let go, don’t panic. A bit of cool water will loosen them up.
Just a little though. Too much can drop the snake’s body temperature too quickly and have adverse effects. Remember, snakes regulate their body temperature with heat and light, so they react quickly to external temperature changes.
Why Ball Pythons Make Great Pets
Who’s a good boy? It’s your ball python! Seriously, ball pythons are among the most popular reptiles for sale. With so much to love, there’s no reason not to experience one for yourself. If you’re thinking you don’t want to die at the wrath of a snake, no worries. A ball python is docile, slow, and definitely too small to harm any human adult. They can be a little mischievous and escape the enclosure but that can be bypassed with an enclosure made just for ball pythons. If being docile and harmless aren’t enough to make the case for these fascinating snakes, let’s look at some more reasons why ball pythons make great pets.
Low maintenance. As you’ll find, once you purchase a ball python for sale and get it settled in it’s new home, there isn’t going to be a lot of upkeep. Of course, you want to make sure that the temperature and humidity stays regulated but as far as feeding and handling, they don’t need much. Since they only need one weekly feeding, you can set timers for the heating and lighting, and confidently go on trips without having to worry about making sure it’s fed or looked after.
More calm. Snakes are known to be unpredictable, able to strike at any moment. With ball pythons, however, you won’t have to worry about this. They’re extremely slow and tend to be calm by default. Even as you handle them, they’ll slither across your neck and arms at their own pace. They’re extremely laid-back and usually up for a handling.
Easy to handle . Since they’re calm by nature, you may have assumed that they’re also great to handle. At first, it’s best to let the ball python get comfortable with you. You may notice in the beginning that it might take a while for it to come out of it’s figurative shell, but once it does, it’ll have no problem moving around you.
Quick, easy clean up. With once-weekly feedings, you can imagine that cleaning up after a ball python is relatively easy. As long as you maintain the enclosure keeping it clean, there won’t be any noticeable smell coming from it.