A ball python is a popular choice for pet snake, particularly for beginning snake owners. Ball pythons are a hardy breed that is gentle and easy to care for when compared to other more temperamental and high-maintenance snake breeds. Housing needs are fairly basic and simple, although they will need to be altered to accommodate the snake’s growth over time.
Ball pythons do best in a glass aquarium-style tank with a locking screen lid. A young python under a year of age will do well in a 10- to-20-gallon aquarium. When the length of the ball exceeds the longest diameter of the tank, it's time to move up to the next largest aquarium size, with full-grown adults needing a tank in the 40-gallon range. Ball pythons are frequently in a “balled” or tightly coiled position, and contrary to popular belief, are more comfortable in small and confined spaces than they are in a wide-open tank with lots of extra room. Resist the urge to go to big too soon with your tank size to accommodate your ball python’s preferences.
A ball python does well with a bedding of coconut bark or cypress, artificial turf or even newspaper. A ball python does not urinate, but rather, combines its solid and liquid extraction into single oblong pellets within a few days of ingesting a rodent meal. You can keep the habitat clean by removing the pellets as soon as they appear and changing disposable bedding every two weeks or washing artificial turf on the same basis.
Ball pythons need places to hide in their tank, and do best when they have a “cool high” and a “hot hide.” Use an under-tank heater on one side of your tank and leave the other side cool. Ball pythons do best with a hot hide temperature of 70 to 80 degrees. This allows your snake to regulate its body temperature as needed. A commercial structure such as a hollowed half log or a faux stone cave structure will work for both your cool and hot hides. A texturized hide with rough or uneven surface serves a practical, dual purpose of giving your ball python something to rub against during its shed. If your ball has trouble completing shedding, place damp moss inside a hide.
Select a shallow, wide dish or commercial snake bowl and fill it with one or two inches of water. While ball pythons get the majority of their necessary fluids from the rodents they eat, the water serves as a place for hydrating prior to a shed, and it also helps the snake maintain a comfortable body temperature. Replace bedding around the water area if it gets damp to prevent mildew.
If you want to make your ball python habitat more visually appealing, you can add silk greenery similar to the type of plants used in aquariums. This gives the python someplace to hide and also makes the tank look more attractive. You can also add decorative driftwood, which also serves as a good surface for helping with the shedding process.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.