Most pet snakes require very similar setups for their captive care. This similarity allows you to basically have the same equipment for any of the commonly kept pet snakes. The only variation in the typical pet snake enclosure is the size and range of temperatures.
With the right equipment, temperatures can easily be varied to suit several different snake species.
The major costs associated with a pet snake typically come when you have to purchase all of your snake care equipment for the first time.
These costs typically range from $100 to $200 for each snake depending on what type of enclosure and equipment you purchase. Here is a ball python checklist or a basic setup.
1. Enclosure with a Secure Cover
The very first thing you will need when you bring your new best friend home is a nice ball python enclosure. Most snakes can start off in a 10-gallon aquarium or similar sized enclosure; however, the enclosure will need to be upgraded as they grow.
For adult ball pythons, you should have at least a 40-gallon tank. We recommend Zen Habitat Ball Python Enclosure and Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium.
We recommend getting a larger enclosure from the start instead of buying them progressively as your pet grows. This way you will save a lot of money. If you start with a smaller cage, you will have to upgrade to a bigger cage in a matter of a few months because pythons grow very quickly.
2. Heat Mat
As mentioned above, most snakes do not need heat lamps or other heating elements. A simple reptile heating mat or under-tank heater is all that is needed to give your coldblooded pet the range of temperatures it needs to survive.
Some new studies show that ball pythons can benefit from having a low-wattage UVA/UVB bulb on for 12 hours a day to make it look like it’s daytime. At night, switch to a ceramic heat emitter or another heating element that doesn’t emit any light. This will keep your Ball Python warm without disturbing the sleep cycle.
- Ideal heat source for desert and tropical reptiles
- Carbon fiber radiates uniform heating without hot spots
- Easy to use
3. Basking Heat Source
Again, a lot of differences in opinions on basking heat sources in the BP community. But we think getting a basking bulb for your ball python is actually a good idea. However, you can ignore it if you don’t want it for any reason.
Even if the ambient temperature is correct your ball python will need a hot spot to bask. A 100 watts bulb from Exoterra works really well. What I like about this bulb is it makes a perfect hot spot while keeping the rest of the enclosure at a gradient level. This allows your BP to move between warm and cold sides whenever they like.
- Powerful source of infrared heat emissions
- Increases overall air temperature of terrarium
- Ideal for nocturnal viewing
- Easy to use
4. Temperature Controller
Without a thermostat or other temperature controller, the heating mat will not be controlled and you risk ‘cooking’ your pet snake. When purchasing a temperature controller, some will have knob adjustments and some may have digital readouts. Spending a little extra money on a temperature controller can ease some worry about caring for your pet snake.
The Zoo Med ReptiTemp Digital Reptile Terrarium Thermostat is working great for us.
- Temperature control range: 50F to 122F
- Remote Temperature Sensor with 6 foot cable
- Controls up to 600 watts of heating devices
- Controls up to 150 watts of cooling devices.
Even with a thermostat, it is great to be able to measure temperatures in your snake’s enclosure. Do not waste money on dial gauges or color strip thermometers. An infrared thermometer is generally inexpensive and you can measure the temperature anywhere with it. You recommend using something like Zoo Med Repti Temp Digital Infrared Thermometer.
- Great for Monitoring Basking Areas, Thermal Gradients
- Temperature measurement Range -28° to 230°F (-33° to 110°C)
- Min/Max Function
- Centigrade/Farenheit switch
Newspaper is a great free substrate to use for snakes. If you are looking for something else, use coconut husks or an aspen bedding material typically found in pet stores. Stay away from dusty or chemically rich wood mulches like pine and cedar. We recommend using Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding.
- Preferred snake bedding by professional herpetoculturists
- Provides a safe, naturalistic substrate that allows snakes to burrow and nest as they would in the wild.
- It has a 191% absorbency rating
- No toxic and odorless
In the wild, ball pythons spend most of their time under the ground in burrows. Pet snakes can be seclusive. Be sure to provide hides so that your snake can retreat. One hide on the warm side and one on the cold side of the enclosure is preferred.
You can purchase half log type hides or make your own out of old butter tubs and other containers. Habba Hut Hideaway is a great hide box available for a ball python.
- Real wood
- All natural den
- Proper shelters reduce stress
- Natural alternative to plastic or resin hiding area
8. Water Bowl
One very important thing to consider about a water bowl is its weight. Snakes are strong and tend to tip over lightweight water bowls. You can use bowls specifically made for reptiles or shop around for heavier dog water bowls. Exo Terra Water Dish works fine for ball pythons.
- Easy to clean
- Non-porous and smooth surface
- Made from food-grade resin
- Very stable, not easily tipped over by larger reptiles
9. UVA/UVB Source
There is a lot of controversy about using UVA/UVB bulbs for ball pythons. We don’t recommend using any with your ball python. Because, we’ve been keeping ball pythons in captivity for many years now, and the lack of UVB has never been a problem to our knowledge.
Just imagine, how much sunlight does a ball python snake that spends its days in termite mounds actually gets filtering through the branches of trees and whatnot.
Do we think UVB exposure will hurt your ball python? We have no proof or data that it will, but on the other side, we have no data that says it will be of any benefit either.