Introduction

All to often when people hear the word "Python" they immediately think "Giant Killer Snake", but not all pythons grow to be giant. Of the three most commonly known species of pythons, the reticulated python (Python reticulatus) is the largest reaching twenty-five plus feet. Burmese pythons (Python molurus molurus) are a bit smaller than the reticulated reaching twenty-plus feet. Unlike their relatives, the Ball python (Python regius) only grows from three to six feet long; however, they seldom reach six feet in captivity. Most are easily tamed and reluctant to bite. A small cat could deliver a much more serious bite than adult ball python.

We don't claim to be experts on Ball pythons, but we have been successful raising our six. If any of the following content helps you in caring for your own snake, please leave us a note.

Ball pythons are becoming more and more popular in the pet trade. Many are imported every year; however, captive-bred snakes are becoming increasingly more popular. Even though the petstore keeper might tell you that ball pythons are easy to care for, they can be quite a handful. If you have never owned a reptile, I would suggest a boa or cornsnake to gain experience before purchasing one. If you still have your heart set on a ball python, it would be to your advantage to learn everything you can about them before bringing one home. Learning their habits will also help when deciding on a snake to purchase. It is also a good idea to have your reptile enclosure set up and ready for your new pet before bringing them home from the petstore.



Choosing a python

When you enter the petstore to make your purchase, take notice of the cages. Generally, clean cages house healthy animals. Look at the cages closely. They should be dry and free of fecal matter (snake poop). Note: don't be fooled. If the tank is super clean with no signs of feces: ask to see the snake eat before you purchase it. In the wild, ball pythons go off feed when food is scarce. They also may not eat mice if the snake is wild caught. Ball pythons may quit eating for any number of reasons. If there is any question ask to see it eat. If the cage is clean, take a close look at the snake for visible signs of disease or parasites. The snake's mouth should be clean with a pinkish tint and no signs of mucus. Avoid snakes that have sores in their mouth. After checking the mouth, slide your fingers along the spine to check for any lumps or bumps. Look very closely at its body for any ticks or mites. Ticks can look like a scale when they're small. If you see one, there are probably more. Check closely. Mites can be even harder to see. Mites will gather around the eyes and mouth, or that may just be the easiest place to see them. They look like tiny bugs or little specks moving around on the snake. A snake with mites should be treated before the infestation worsens. Check the anal scale to be sure it lies flat against the body and there are no visible signs of crusty matter or smears of diarrhea. Finally, choose a snake that is not so shy it stays coiled up in a defensive "ball" posture the whole time you are holding it. And you don't want to start off with a snake that aggressively and repeatedly strikes at you whenever you get near its cage. I believe captive born hatchlings make the best pets.

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Housing

When deciding on a home for your snake keep in mind that ball pythons are ground snakes;however, they are comfortable in trees. You don't need a six-foot tall enclosure for them to climb around in. In fact, I think the only reason our snakes' climb anything is to try push at the top of their tank to escape. The tank should have a large enough surface area for the snake to stretch out. Reptile tanks are offered in a variety of shapes and sizes at most pet stores. Aquariums work well for housing reptiles. Many can also be set up to be quite attractive with a little imagination. A low top fifty-five gallon tank will house a ball python comfortably. Be sure you have a suitable lock for any cages in which you will be keeping reptiles. Besides being dangerous for your pet to be loose unsupervised, if your reptile gets outdoors, people with little or no knowledge of the animal may start rumors of disappearing cats, dogs, or even children. Escaped reptiles cause tougher laws when city officials believe rumors spread by ignorant people. Remember be responsible. Once you have chosen an enclosure, you will need to choose a substrate that fits your pets and your liking. There are many substrates to choose from and pricing will vary. We have found artificial turf works very well. It is easy to clean and very inexpensive if purchased in a building supply store, such as Home Depot or Menards. Other substrates may include alfalfa pellets, wood chips, (I would not recommend cedar as it can be poisonous to your pet if swallowed), and newspaper. Newspaper works well for sick animals because it is replaceable if it becomes wet or soiled. Once you have chosen your substrate, you can begin decorating your pet's new home. Pythons, like many reptiles need a hiding place. Without a hiding place, your snake may become stressed, or even go off feed. A hiding place for your pet may be purchased or homemade. Pet stores sell a wide range of hiding places for reptiles, including corkbark, which is attractive as well as being a good hiding spot. You may also use hollowed out logs, upside down clay pots with holes for your snake to enter and exit. Or you could even use a small cardboard box. We prefer corkbark or hollowed logs for our animals. They are easy to clean and make the enclosure more appealing to the animals and are attractive to visitors. Your pet will also require a water dish for drinking and soaking. It should be large enough for your snake to fit in it completely. Ball pythons are from hot, dry Savannah regions in Africa, so they need to be kept pretty warm in captivity. You should keep the enclosures air temperature from eighty to eighty-five degrees during the day. Heat lights positioned on a screen top, heat tape, and undertank heaters are all good ways to heat the enclosure. It's important to have a warmer spot for your snake to bask also. The temperature in your ball python's tank can be allowed to drop down to between seventy-five and eighty degrees at night, as long as they have a place to warm up. We provide ours with a reptile undertank heater on one side. These are sold in most pet stores in different sizes, depending on what size enclosure you have for your snake. These can be kept on at night also, so that your snake has a place to warm up during the cooler temperatures. Ball pythons are nocturnal; that is, they are active at night. Their enclosure can be kept lighted during the day with regular incandescent lights or an aquarium light. If you want to be able to see them better at night when they are out and moving around, you can use reptile night-lights, which are sold in most pet stores.

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Feeding

If you have a ball python that is feeding regularly, consider your self blessed. They feed primarily on rodents. Sub-adults will usually consume between one and three mice per week. And an adult will consume two to four large mice or one to two small to medium rats per week. Ball pythons will eat what is familiar as food to them. In the wild, they eat rats, jerboas, gerbils and other small rodents. It may take some time to get you pet to eat mice. At feeding time, we have found it beneficial to remove the snake from its enclosure. By removing the snake from its enclosure every-time you feed, the snake becomes accustom to being handled. Also you'll be less likely to be mistaken as prey when you're reaching into your pets enclosure. Never throw live prey into your pet's enclosure. It is best to encourage your pet to eat pre-killed mice or rats to prevent any accidental injuries to your pet. It is recommended you use tongs to shake the pre-killed rodent over you python. I don't do this personally. I just hold the prey by the tail within reach of the snake. This way you are more likely to be bitten, but it saves on the cost of an expensive pair of surgical tongs. And I don't believe that other people who say you should use the tongs even use them themselves. Once you introduce the prey, the snake will strike and coil around it. This is a best case scenario. Ball pythons can be finicky feeders to say the least. They can go for long periods of time without eating. I think we have one that is anorexic. We took in one adult wild caught female "Pandora" two years ago and she never has eaten by herself. We don't like to let the snakes go for more than nine months without feeding. Sometimes force feeding becomes necessary. It also may stimulate the snake into eating on its own. If you must force-feed your pet, I would suggest you ask someone who has done it before to show you how it is done. It is stressful for the snake. And if it is your first time force-feeding, it can be stressful for you too. Find out more about Information in the Magazines below, or from one of our affiliates.

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Reptiles Magazine

Magazine Description Reptiles magazine is devoted to the successful care and keeping of reptiles and amphibians. Herpetological experts provide readers with the latest information about species, breeding, health, diet, and conservation through informative features, columns, and beautiful color photography.

 

Ball Python Manual

Book Description: The ball python is one of the most beautiful, friendly and widely sold snakes in the pet trade. Learn the most accurate and up-to date information on the husbandry and propagation of this misunderstood species, including tips on how to overcome problems related to feeding. You'll find variation, acclimation, housing, handling, diseases, disorders, treatments and much more in detail.

Ball Pythons By John Coburn

Book Description: an excellent source of information for anyone thinking of buying a ball python.This book has great pictures that will fasinate you and it tells everything you need too know about the ball python. Read this book, study it and learn! Covers all the facts of owning a ball python. Great pictures!

 

 

Reptile Keepers Guide to Ball Pythons

Book Description: This large nonvenomous snake is native to equatorial western Africa. Like all tropical reptiles in captivity, it requires special care and housing--facts that are detailed in this guide. Books in the Reptile Keeper's Guide series present basic information on reptiles and amphibians, and clear instructions on their care. Each book includes general information on the subject animal's natural history, distribution in the wild, life expectancy, and physical characteristics.

Pythons (Complete Owners Manual)

Book Description:There are approximately two dozen different varieties of this large, nonpoisonous constrictor snake, and the most important collectors' breeds are shown and described here. Information for owners includes instructions on safe handling, maintaining a healthful environment, feeding, protection against parasites, and general health care. Full-color photos. Line drawings.

 

Whats wrong with my snake?

Book Description:A user friendly home medical reference. This invaluable guide identifies and explains existing and potential problems. Find out how location of a cage can affect your snake's appetite, or how a snake can become "mouse shy". Learn how to identify and correct problems associated with maladaptation, burns, constipation, dehydration, skin lesions, diarrhea, improper shedding, lack of appetite, feeding frequency, overheating, parasites, mouth rot, reproductive failure, rodent injuries, respiratory problems, vomiting, weight loss, seizures, tremmors, incoordination and just about anything else that may be commonly found with the captive care of snakes. 150 pp.

The Reproductive Husbandry of Pythons and Boas

Book Description: This book is a must for breeding. 265 pages with full color photos of different species and data for breeding each different type. This is the book you want if you are thinking of breeding pythons or boas. Sections include General husbandry, reproductive husbandry, disorders of reproduction and pregnancy, egg husbandry, husbandry of neonate boids and genetics of boid reproduction. It also has a full section of reproductive data for pythons, and reproductive data for boas.

 

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