We keep our Ball Pythons in racking systems. We use 30w heat cable which is regulated by STC1000 Thermostats. All our snakes are provided with a hide box which we find helps the animals feel more secure. We use plastic hides, bowls and tubs best as they are simple to clean and cheap to replace.
As ball pythons are cold blooded, they rely on external heat that you, as the owner will provide for them. The snake itself will modulate its own heat requirements and will therefore need a healthy range of temperatures throughout the enclosure.
We keep the warm side of the enclosure between 31-34 degrees Celsius and the cool side at the current room temperature. As we are based in a warm location this probably averages between 21C and 28C.
Please note that you will need a thermostat to control the temperature of your heat source correctly. Failure to do so, will result in you burning your snake. Do not take the advice of anyone who tells you that you do not need a thermostat. You wouldn’t buy a fish tank and run that without a water heater and an air pump would you?
As we are based at the coast of KZN, the average humidity levels in our snake room are between 60% and 85%.You could go to your local pet store or gardening store and pick up a hygrometer to accurately measure the humidity in your snakes enclosure should you wish to do so. We do not , due to our local climate.
An easy way to adjust humidity levels in your enclosure is by increasing/decreasing the size of the water bowl. Conversely, you can increase/decrease the amount of ventilation the enclosure receives. Weekly misting will be hugely beneficial for a ball python. We mist our Ball pythons at least twice a week.
We use Coconut Husk as our substrate for all our semi adults and adult Ball Pythons. Our hatchlings are kept on Pine shavings (small flakes). We find both easy to spot clean and easy to replace entirely.
We provide a hide on the warm side of the tub. We use a size that will fit the animal “snug”. I would err on the side of the hide being too small instead of too large as this may make the snake feel insecure and lead to feeding issues.
As Ball Pythons are nocturnal we do not provide ours with any lighting whatsoever.
We always make sure that there is always fresh water available for our Ball Pythons. We use plastic water bowls which are easy to clean,disinfect or replace. We change the water every 3 or 4 days. Obviously, if the water gets dirty beforehand, we change it immediately.
The Shedding Process
You will be able to recognize when your snake begins to shed by three main markers. First, the stomach will begin to turn pink, then the skin of the snake will begin to get significantly duller, and finally, the eyes of the snake will become milky and appear opaque. This last stage is called “being in blue”. Eventually the eyes will clear up and within the next 48 hours you can expect your snake to shed.
Depending on the age and feeding habits of your snake, it will shed its skin every 4 – 6 weeks. Ball pythons do not typically have problems shedding as their humidity requirements are not too intensive. Should your ball python shed incompletely, soak the snake for two hours in shallow water. Afterwards, the remaining skin should come off easily.
It is always important to check the snake after it has shed to ensure that there is no skin remaining on the tip of its tail, and that the eye caps have been completely removed.
If you find that your snake is not shedding well, there are several things you can do to assist it. The humidity in the cage can be increased by simply misting the snakes enclosure daily while it is in the “blue” phase.
Feeding your snake
We feed the majority of our collection rats. Mostly our snakes are offered live rats as it would simply take too long to thaw, heat up and feed a collection of our size. We do not leave a live rodent in with our snakes for longer than 15 minutes. If the snake does not eat in this time, we remove the rodent and the snake will wait to eat until the following week.
We do offer all of our snakes that are for sale Frozen/Thawed rats as most new Ball python owners prefer this. Our snakes are all fed one appropriately sized meal per week. This means that the mouse/rat should be the same size as the largest part of the snakes body.
Ball pythons are also known to be finicky eaters (especially in the winter months) – though less so when they are younger. As long as your snake is not losing weight and remains healthy, there is nothing to worry about and they will eventually resume eating.
If you find that your baby snake is giving you problems, make sure your husbandry requirements are being met to the tee. Every-time I have had somebody request assistance in a snake that is not eating, it is due to the new owner not providing the correct husbandry for the snake (ie; no thermostat, incorrect temperature etc)
If the snake begins to lose weight, speak to your vet and seek advice from experienced keepers.
Handling your snake
We do not handle our snakes for at least 36 hours after it has eaten as this can disrupt the digestion of its food and lead to regurgitation. Aside from dealing with the awful smell and mess, it is bad for the snake and can lead to future eating problems. We also do not handle our snakes while they in the process of shedding. The main reason for this is because as their eyes turn blue, the snakes ability to see becomes greatly diminished. As one can expect, when an animal cannot see its surroundings, it will become a lot more defensive and be more likely to strike.
Some people are concerned about how often they can handle their snake. My advice would be to handle the snake as little as possible as this can occasionally cause feeding issues as the snake starts feeling insecure about feeding as it is not sure when it will next be disturbed. This is not always the case, however this is the policy we follow.
We spot clean our tubs at least twice a week and do a thorough cleaning once a month. This entails removing all of the contents of the tub and disinfecting them with an appropriate cleansing solution. We use F10 veterinary disinfectant diluted appropriately.
The above information is an exact breakdown of how we successfully keep our animals and achieve our success.
There are many different ways for you to keep your snakes, so feel free to research the many various methods and select the ones that work best for you and your animals.