Your ball python can live for a very long time so it's best to provide your new reptilian pet with an optimal environment that it can thrive in. Ball pythons can live for more than 20-30 years and the oldest recorded ball python lived to be 48 years of age in captivity at the Philadelphia Zoo. This blog will show you what you’ll need in place to create an optimal environment for your pet ball python so that it too will live for many long and happy years. You can find these items for purchase at http://www.RCReptiles.com/ballpythonsupplies.
Things You’ll Need
An ideal cage size for your hatchling ball python is a 20 or 30-gallon long tank. Ball pythons require floor space so a 20 or 30-gallon tall tank isn’t necessary. You can use a 20 or 30-gallon tall tank if you can’t find a long tank but one thing to remember is that the taller the tank, the harder you’ll have to work to increase the overall humidity in the tank. If you notice that your ball python starts to have incomplete or dry sheds, you can help increase humidity in tall tanks by covering ¾’s of the tank with plastic. This will help hold in humidity so it will have less of an area to escape from.
Typical rectangular fish tank
Ball pythons are notorious escape artists so you’ll need a screen top to prevent your ball python from escaping. The top must be a screen top in order for proper airflow to occur, otherwise your ball python would suffocate in a matter of days. Screen tops are made for different fish tank sizes so make sure you get a screen top that fits the tank you’re considering.
Screen tank top
You’ll never appreciate how clever ball pythons really are with regards to being able to escape unless you’ve had it happen to you. I get countless emails from people who “lost” their ball python due to it figuring out how to escape from its tank. Most of these people used a top but didn’t secure the top down correctly. I’ve even heard of a person who placed a newspaper on the top of the screen to secure it. He realized that this was a bad idea when he went to check in on his ball python only to discover that it decided to “take a vacation” without telling him. I hope you never have to experience trying to find a ball python that has escaped. It’s truly one of the worst things that can happen to you and to your pet ball python so to avoid this dilemma, secure the screen top correctly.
Tank security clips were designed with the intent of keeping your ball python in the tank while keeping unwanted “visitors” out (cats, dogs, children, etc). They simply fasten to each end of the tank making it virtually impossible for your ball python to escape and are a must have.
Tank security clips
Now that you have your tank and security clips in place, you need to create the optimal living environment for your pet ball python. Substrate is used on the floor of the tank and has several purposes. One of the purposes of substrate is to help hold in humidity but it also has the added advantage of giving your ball python a natural terrain to crawl over. You can use newspaper, artificial turf and other odd substrates but it’s advisable to use Cypress mulch if you can find it or one of the bark based substrates offered at most retail stores. Cypress mulch and bark based substrates have good water retention properties so it helps with humidity whereas newspaper and artificial turf do not.
We’re making progress now. We have our tank, screen tank top, screen security clamps and substrate in place for our ball python. What else are we missing? We’re missing a water bowl in addition to a few other necessary things. Ball pythons require fresh drinking water at all times so you need a water bowl for their tank. You want to make sure you that purchase a water bowl that has sides that are straight down from the top to the bottom. Try to avoid water bowls that are curved towards the base because ball pythons will easily rest against the lip of the bowl and its weight will tilt the bowl spilling its contents everywhere. Heavy bowls are good because they’ll also try to crawl under them and will occasionally flip the water dish over if it’s too light. Filling the water bowl near the top will make it harder to flip over due to the weight of the water.
Ball pythons like security so it’s necessary to give them a place of refuge where they can go to feel safe. A hide-box is a must have piece of furniture for you ball python because it will spend a good bit of time in there. They often sleep in their hide-boxes as well. Ball pythons that don’t have a hide-box can become very stressed, which can cause it to stop feeding, become unhealthy and ultimately die. It’s extremely important to include a hide-box in the tank for your ball python.
Ball pythons are cold-blooded creatures so they lack the ability to create heat the way we do. They need a heat source to absorb heat from and they need this source to help with digesting food in their stomach. There are two forms of providing heat for your ball python, heat from above and heat from below. I recommend using a UTH (under tank heater) to create a “hot spot” for your ball python to go to when it needs to warm up. Ball pythons thermoregulate their body temperatures by basking on a heat source to warm up and moving to a cooler location when it needs to cool down. The other way to heat the tank is by using an overhead heating mechanism (light, ceramic heat emitter, etc.). I feel UTH to be the best way to provide ample heat for ball pythons.
UTH (under tank heater)
UTH’s can get very hot and easily exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some cases so it’s important to be able to control how much heat it emits. The proper way to regulate the heat output from a UTH is by the use of a thermostat or rheostat. They simply give you a way to specify how hot the cage or hot-spot needs to be for the ball python and they regulate this by turning off the electricity to the UTH when it gets too hot and turning it back on when it gets too cold. They are often accurate +/- a degree for the most part. I recall hearing of a story of a person who thought he’d save some money by not buying a thermostat/rheostat. Well, the temperatures from the UTH reached the upper 100-degree range and his substrate actually caught on fire. I’m pretty sure he owns a thermostat/rheostat now. Oh, and by the way, an optimal hot spot for your ball python is 90 Fahrenheit.
Thermostat or Rheostat
Last but not least, we’ll need to know what the temperatures and humidity is in the cage. Simply installing a temperature/humidity gauge to the inside of the cage can do this. Try to place it an inch or two above the substrate so you’ll get an accurate read of what the temperature is near your ball python. It doesn’t make much sense to place it at the very top of the tank.
If you’ve made it this far (which you should have), you now have an optimal environment for your pet ball python that he or she will thrive in. Post any questions or comments in the ball python forum regarding this blog.
May you have many long and happy years with your pet ball python and it will most certainly love you for taking time to make sure it has a home that it will be happy in. :)
With respect to your ball python escaping, check the forums as there are many threads that address this very subject. Your ball python will not eat your dog, don't worry about that.
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