Ball Python Care Sheet – Beginner’s Guide

Ball pythons make incredible pets for both novice and experienced reptile keepers, thanks to their gentle nature, manageable size, and relatively low maintenance requirements. However, it’s important to provide proper care to ensure your scaly friend thrives and lives a healthy, happy life.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ball python care, from selecting a healthy specimen to creating a comfortable and safe environment for your new pet. We’ll delve into housing and enclosure setup, feeding, handling, and health and wellness, as well as shedding and growth.

Pros and Cons of Ball Python as Pets

As a ball python owner and enthusiast, I can confidently say that these incredible creatures make for fascinating and rewarding pets. However, like any animal, they come with their own set of pros and cons.

Pros of Ball Python as Pet

Easy to handle: Ball pythons are generally docile and easy to handle, making them ideal for beginners. They rarely display aggression, and with regular handling, they become quite comfortable around their human caretakers.

Low maintenance: Ball pythons require relatively low maintenance compared to other pets. They typically eat once a week and can be left alone for short periods without any issues. Their enclosure is also easy to clean and maintain, requiring only periodic spot cleaning and a thorough clean once a month.

Long lifespan: Ball pythons have a long lifespan, living up to 30 years or more with proper care. This can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to develop a strong bond with your pet over time.

Variety of morphs: Ball pythons come in a wide array of colors and patterns, known as morphs. This offers a unique opportunity for owners to choose a snake that truly reflects their personal preferences and interests.

Cons of Ball Python as Pet

Feeding requirements: Ball pythons are carnivorous and require a diet of frozen or live rodents. Some owners may be uncomfortable with this aspect of their care, but it’s essential to provide the appropriate nutrition for your snake’s health.

Shedding and humidity: Ball pythons shed their skin periodically, and during this time, they require increased humidity levels in their enclosure. Maintaining proper humidity can be a challenge, but it’s essential to ensure a successful and healthy shed.

Potential size: While ball pythons are considered a small to medium-sized snake, they can still grow to be 3-5 feet in length. Prospective owners should be prepared to accommodate a fully grown ball python in their home.

Commitment: As mentioned earlier, ball pythons can live for several decades. This means owning one is a long-term commitment, requiring consistent care and attention throughout their life.

Ball pythons can make amazing pets for those who are passionate about reptiles and willing to dedicate the time and effort to properly care for them.

Choosing a Healthy Ball Python


Where to Find Your Ball Python

Reputable breeders: One of the best options is to purchase your ball python from a reputable breeder who specializes in the species. They’ll have extensive knowledge about the snake’s care and genetics, ensuring you get a healthy animal.

You can find breeders online, through reptile expos, or by asking for recommendations within the reptile-keeping community.

Rescue organizations: Another excellent choice is adopting a ball python from a rescue organization. These groups take in unwanted or abandoned reptiles and find them new homes.

Adopting from a rescue is a responsible and compassionate choice, as you’re giving a snake in need a loving home.

Trusted pet stores: If you opt for a pet store, make sure it’s a well-regarded establishment with knowledgeable staff. Check online reviews and ask for recommendations from fellow reptile keepers.

Avoid wild-caught specimens: It’s essential to avoid wild-caught ball pythons, as they can carry parasites and diseases, and their removal from the wild can harm natural populations.

Signs of a Healthy Ball Python

Physical appearance: A healthy ball python should have clear, bright eyes (unless shedding), a rounded body shape, clean vent, and no visible injuries or mites.

Behavior: The snake should be alert and responsive when gently handled, without any signs of aggression or extreme fear.

When first approached, it’s normal for a ball python to be slightly defensive, but it should relax as it becomes familiar with your presence.

Activity levels: While ball pythons are generally docile and not overly active, they should show some movement and interest in their surroundings.

Questions To Ask The Breeder Or Seller

How old is the ball python? Knowing the snake’s age helps you understand its size, feeding habits, and other care requirements.

How old is the ball python? Knowing the snake’s age helps you understand its size, feeding habits, and other care requirements.

What is the snake’s feeding history? A well-established feeding routine is crucial for a healthy ball python. Ask about the type of prey (rats or mice), size, and frequency of feedings.

Has the snake been treated for parasites or illnesses? It’s important to know if the snake has had any health issues in the past and if they were properly treated.

Can you provide any information about the snake’s lineage and genetics? This is especially relevant if you’re interested in specific morphs or color patterns.

By following these guidelines and taking the time to select a healthy ball python, you’re setting yourself up for a successful and rewarding experience in reptile care.

Remember, it’s better to be patient and find the right snake than to rush into a decision and face challenges down the road.

By following these guidelines and taking the time to select a healthy ball python, you’re setting yourself up for a successful and rewarding experience in reptile care.

Remember, it’s better to be patient and find the right snake than to rush into a decision and face challenges down the road.

Housing and Enclosure Setup


Ideal enclosure size and type

Ball pythons are relatively small snakes, usually growing to be between 3 to 5 feet in length. Considering their size and habits, an 80-gallon glass terrarium with a secure, mesh-top lid is an ideal enclosure for an adult ball python.

For younger snakes, a 40-gallon tank will suffice until they grow larger. The enclosure should be well-ventilated and escape-proof, as ball pythons are quite adept at finding their way out if given the opportunity.

Temperature gradient and heating options

Ball pythons are ectothermic animals, meaning they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

Providing a temperature gradient within the enclosure is important for their health. The warm side should be between 88 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cooler side should be around 75 to 80 degrees.

To achieve this gradient, you can use under-tank heaters or heat mats on one side of the enclosure.

For additional heat, a ceramic heat emitter or a heat lamp with a red or blue bulb can be used.

Remember to always use a thermostat to regulate the heating element and prevent overheating.

Substrate recommendations

The choice of substrate for your ball python’s enclosure is essential for maintaining cleanliness and ensuring the safety and comfort of your pet.

Some popular options include aspen shavings, coconut coir, and cypress mulch.

Avoid using sand or cedar shavings, as they can cause respiratory issues and impaction if ingested.

Make sure to spot-clean the substrate regularly and replace it entirely every 4 to 6 weeks to maintain a hygienic environment.

Hiding spots and environmental enrichment

Ball pythons are shy creatures, and providing hiding spots is vital for their well-being. At least two hides should be placed within the enclosure—one on the warm side and one on the cool side. This allows your snake to thermoregulate without feeling exposed.

Hides can be store-bought or made from items such as plastic containers, flower pots, or even cardboard boxes. Here is our list of recommended hides for ball pythons.

To further enrich your ball python’s environment, consider adding some climbing branches, artificial plants, and other decorations that provide visual barriers and opportunities for exploration. This will help keep your snake stimulated and happy in its home.

Feeding Your Ball Python


Types of prey and appropriate sizes

Ball pythons primarily eat rodents, such as mice and rats, and you have the option of feeding them either frozen or live prey.

I personally recommend using frozen-thawed prey, as it’s safer and more convenient for both you and your snake.

When selecting the size of the prey, remember that it should be approximately the same width as the widest part of your snake’s body to ensure comfortable digestion.

Feeding frequency and schedule

Younger snakes, up to a year old, should be fed every 5-7 days, while adult ball pythons can be fed every 10-14 days.

Be consistent with your feeding schedule to help your snake adjust to a routine. I usually feed my ball python in the evening, as they’re more active during this time.

Tips for successful feeding

Feeding your ball python can be a rewarding experience if you follow these simple tips:

  1. Thaw frozen prey thoroughly before feeding it to your snake. You can do this by placing the frozen rodent in a sealed plastic bag and submerging it in warm water until it reaches room temperature. Never use a microwave to thaw the prey, as it can cause uneven heating and harm your snake.
  2. Use tongs or forceps to handle the prey when feeding your snake. This keeps your hands away from the snake’s mouth and reduces the risk of accidental bites.
  3. Monitor the feeding process to ensure your snake is eating properly and to be ready to intervene if necessary.

Handling potential feeding issues

Ball pythons are generally good eaters, but sometimes they may encounter feeding issues. Here are a few common problems and how to address them:

Refusal to eat

Ball pythons may occasionally refuse to eat due to stress, shedding, or illness. If your snake refuses a meal, wait a week before trying again. If the issue persists for several weeks or is accompanied by other signs of illness, consult a veterinarian.


If your ball python regurgitates its meal, it could be due to stress, improper prey size, or feeding too soon after handling. Give your snake a week to recover and ensure that the environment and prey size are appropriate before trying to feed them again.

Read More >> Ball Python Diet

Handling and Socializing Your Ball Python


After setting up the perfect habitat for your new ball python, you might be eager to start handling and socializing with your scaly friend. In this section, we’ll discuss the best practices for handling your ball python and fostering a strong bond between you and your pet.

Acclimation Period

Before you start handling your new ball python, it’s crucial to give them time to settle into their new environment. Allow them at least one week to acclimate to their new home. During this period, avoid handling your snake and keep disturbances to a minimum. This will help reduce stress and ensure a smoother transition for your new pet.

Safe Handling Techniques

When handling your ball python, always support its body with both hands, taking care not to squeeze or hold it too tightly.

Approach your snake calmly and gently, avoiding sudden movements that might startle them. Keep in mind that your snake can sense your energy, so stay relaxed and confident to help them feel more at ease.

Encouraging a Calm Temperament

To promote a calm temperament in your ball python, establish a regular handling routine. Start with short handling sessions, gradually increasing the duration over time. Aim to handle your snake at least once or twice a week, but not more than once a day.

Also, avoid handling your ball python for 48 hours after feeding to prevent regurgitation.

Identifying Signs of Stress

While ball pythons are generally docile creatures, it’s important to recognize signs of stress and give your snake a break when needed.

Indications of stress include hissing, striking, or tightly coiling their body. If your snake exhibits any of these behaviors, gently return them to their enclosure and try again another day.

The Importance of Gentle, Confident Handling

Building trust between you and your ball python is essential for a positive relationship. By handling your snake gently, confidently, and consistently, you’ll help them feel more secure and comfortable around you. Over time, this will lead to a well-socialized ball python that enjoys interaction with its owner.

Health and Wellness


Signs of Good Health and Potential Concerns

Conducting regular health checks on your ball python allows you to monitor their health and identify any potential concerns early. When examining your snake, look for the following signs of good health:

  • Clear, bright eyes
  • Smooth, well-hydrated skin
  • Steady breathing without wheezing or other unusual sounds
  • Regular feeding and shedding

During the health check, also watch for potential concerns, such as:

  • Discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Lethargy or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty shedding or retained skin
  • Swelling or injuries on their body

Common Health Issues and How to Address Them

Ball pythons can face various health issues, including:

Respiratory infections: Symptoms include wheezing, mucus discharge, and lethargy. Maintain proper humidity and temperature in the enclosure, and consult a reptile veterinarian if symptoms persist.

Shedding problems: Incomplete shedding may result from inadequate humidity. Increase the humidity in the enclosure and provide a moist hide for your snake during shedding.

Parasites: External parasites, such as mites, can cause itching and restlessness. Consult a reptile veterinarian for appropriate treatment.

When to Consult a Reptile Veterinarian

Establishing a relationship with a knowledgeable reptile veterinarian is essential for your ball python’s health. Consult a reptile veterinarian if you observe any of the following:

  • Persistent health issues despite adjusting the enclosure’s conditions
  • Significant weight loss or lack of appetite
  • Swelling, injuries, or signs of infection

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Ball Python

Keep your ball python healthy by following these best practices:

  • Maintain a clean environment by regularly removing waste, cleaning water dishes, and disinfecting the enclosure.
  • Monitor your ball python’s weight to ensure they are not underweight or overweight.
  • Observe their behavior for any changes, such as increased hiding, which could indicate stress or illness.

By following these tips and keeping a close eye on your ball python’s health, you’ll be well-equipped to care for your reptile friend and ensure their happiness and well-being.

Shedding and Growth

Shedding, also known as ecdysis, is a natural process for ball pythons to replace their old skin with new growth.

Shedding occurs periodically throughout a ball python’s life, with frequency decreasing as the snake matures.

Younger snakes may shed once a month, while adults may shed every 4-6 weeks or even less frequently.

Importance of proper humidity during shedding

Adequate humidity is crucial for successful shedding, as it helps soften the old skin and enables the snake to shed it off easily.

Tips for maintaining appropriate humidity levels:

  • Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels in the enclosure.
  • Mist the enclosure with water or use a humid hide to increase humidity during shedding.
  • Avoid letting the humidity drop too low, as this can lead to shedding issues.

Assisting with shedding issues

  1. Common shedding problems include stuck shed and retained eye caps.
  2. When to intervene: a. If a snake has not shed its skin completely after several days. b. If the snake is struggling to remove the old skin or eye caps.
  3. Guidelines for assistance: a. Gently mist the snake with water to help loosen the stuck shed. b. Use a damp cloth or soft-bristle toothbrush to gently rub the stuck shed, always moving in the direction of the scales. c. For retained eye caps, consult a reptile veterinarian or experienced keeper before attempting to remove them.

Monitoring growth and development

  1. Keep track of your ball python’s growth by measuring its length and weight periodically.
  2. Ball pythons typically reach their full size within 3-5 years, with males growing to 2-3 feet and females up to 3-5 feet.
  3. What to expect as your ball python matures: a. Slower growth rate and less frequent shedding as the snake ages. b. Possible changes in coloration and pattern as they grow.

Remember, shedding and growth are essential aspects of ball python care, and as a responsible owner, it’s important to monitor these processes closely.

How Much Do Ball Pythons Cost?

When considering bringing a ball python into your home, it’s essential to be aware of the costs involved in purchasing and caring for your new pet.

Initial Cost of Purchasing a Ball Python

The source of your ball python can significantly impact its price. Here’s a general overview of the costs based on where you get your pet:

Breeder: Buying from a reputable breeder typically ranges from $40 to $100 for common morphs, though rarer morphs can cost more. Breeders often have a wider selection and can provide valuable advice and support.

Pet Store: Prices at pet stores can be slightly higher, usually between $50 and $150. Keep in mind that pet stores may not have specialized knowledge about ball python care.

Rescue: Adoption fees from rescues vary but can be a more affordable option. Adopting from a rescue also provides a home to a snake in need.

Morphs and rarity also play a role in the initial cost:

Common morphs: These typically cost between $40 and $100. Examples include the normal/wild-type, pastel, and spider morphs.

Rarer morphs: Unusual or highly sought-after morphs can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Examples include the piebald, albino, and blue-eyed leucistic morphs.

Ongoing Expenses

Housing: Expect to spend around $100 to $300 on a suitable enclosure, depending on the size and type. You’ll also need to invest in heating and lighting equipment, which can range from $50 to $100.

Food: Feeding your ball python will involve purchasing frozen rodents, such as mice or rats. Prices vary, but you can expect to spend approximately $5 to $10 per month on food.

Healthcare: Regular checkups with a veterinarian specializing in reptiles are essential. Annual checkups can cost between $50 and $100, while additional treatments or medications can vary depending on the specific needs of your pet.

As a ball python keeper myself, I can attest to the importance of budgeting for these costs. One time, my beloved python, Slither, needed an unexpected vet visit due to a minor respiratory issue. Fortunately, I had set aside funds for emergencies, and Slither made a full recovery.

Remember, the costs outlined here are general estimates and may vary depending on your location and individual circumstances.

Owning a ball python can be a rewarding experience, but it’s crucial to be financially prepared to ensure your pet receives the best care possible.


As we wrap up our beginner’s guide to ball python care, it’s essential to remember that the key to keeping your slithery friend happy and healthy is understanding their unique needs and requirements.

From providing a suitable and secure enclosure to maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels, every detail contributes to your ball python’s well-being.

As a fellow ball python enthusiast, I can attest to the joy and satisfaction that comes from caring for these incredible creatures. My own experiences have taught me valuable lessons and deepened my passion for reptile care. I encourage you to continue learning and growing in your knowledge of ball python husbandry, as there’s always something new to discover.

Filled under: Snakes

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