Ball Pythons

Ball pythons (python regius) are a relatively small, thick-bodied species of python featuring a slender neck

 and well differentiated head. Common “wild-type” ball pythons are highly variable in color and pattern, but

 all feature some version of tan markings on a chocolate or black background, edged with varying degrees 

of white, with white bellies that may or may not contain some dark speckling pattern. Thanks to the efforts

 of breeders and enthusiasts, however, ball pythons are becoming increasingly available in a wide range of 

brilliant colors and patterns called “morphs.”

Ball pythons are found in the wild in central and west Africa and typically make their homes in abandoned

 rodent burrows or termite mounds. Their common name “ball” comes from their tendency to curl up into a

 ball and hide their head within their coils when threatened. This un-aggressive defense mechanism,

 combined with their manageable size and ready availability make them extremely popular in the pet 


Our specialties

Information and Care


All advice given in this care sheet comes from 20+ years of keeping, breeding and altogether working with

 these animals. It is especially important to practice proper husbandry in order to ensure the health and 

wellbeing of the animal. All advice given is solely that of HSR. 

While we recommend the following advice, we also understand that there are different ways to successfully

 raise these animals. This care sheet is simply based off the successful practices that we ourselves have 

used over the years.


 The most popular and convenient methods of housing ball pythons include plastic tubs or 

professionally built enclosures. Although most pet stores will push fish tanks for your new pet, 

we would suggest avoiding fish tanks altogether. They do not hold heat and humidity very well 

without some sort of modification, the clear sides all around may make a shy ball python feel 

exposed/insecure and more escapes happen in fish tanks than any other type of housing. We

 also recommend staying away from heat bulbs. There are better heat sources on the market 

these days that will not suck all the humidity out of the air, break into dangerous pieces or 

burn/injure your animal.

The following are necessities to aid in the proper care of a ball python:

 • proper ventilation • thermal gradient • proper humidity levels 

 • sufficient space without being too large • security to prevent escape


For juvenile BPs up to 2’ in length, a floor space of 24’X24” is adequate. For adults, an enclosure 

36” L x 24” D x 12” H will provide them with enough room for the entirety of their lives. 48” L x 24”

 D x 12” H is also a good size and comes in handy for the occasional BP that likes to push the 

larger limits. This will typically be your females. When it comes to a proper enclosure size always 

remember, bigger is NOT better when it comes to BP’s.


Ball pythons are typically shy and reclusive nocturnal

 animals and appreciate a good dark place to curl up 

and feel safe. It is best to provide two adequate hides 

in your BPs enclosure. One on the warm end and one 

on the cooler end so that it does not have to make a 

choice between regulating its body temperature and

 feeling secure (to their own detriment these snakes will 

sacrifice warmth in favor of a hide).

Types of enclosures


 Use of plastic storage tubs (usually by Sterilite or Rubbermaid) has become an increasingly popular option over the years which is cost effective and very functional. Their lighter weight makes cleaning quite easy, and multiple tubs can be stacked in rack systems to hold multiple animals in a relatively small space. Holes for ventilation can be made in the plastic using an inexpensive soldering iron and can be placed strategically to allow vertical air movement and cross-ventilation. The downside is that these plastics lack the true transparency available in glass front enclosures and this can be an aesthetic downside for some.

Professional/ Custom

Professional level snake enclosures can be purchased through our web site, Facebook business page or Instagram and come fully assembled. Many of these can be ordered with custom features such as Radiant Heat Panels (RHP’s) heat tape (for racks), ventilation and lighting options as well as featuring great visibility and a furniture quality look/style. Custom built enclosures are excellent for the animals’ heat and humidity requirements and take much less effort in maintaining said requirements.


Materials to Avoid

Under no circumstances should you keep these animals on pine or cedar. Pine, cedar and other phenol-containing woods have toxins which can cause significant health problems in a variety of herps and other animals and should not be used. Sand, gravel, and crushed walnut are also extremely poor choices for ball pythons. Your choice on substrate should be something readily available and one which lends itself to easy spot cleaning and other cage maintenance chores. You should check your enclosure daily for odors or more visible signs or waste and remove them, replacing the substrate when necessary.

Cypress Mulch

IMPORTANT: Remove large, jagged pieces

Cypress mulch is an inexpensive substrate that is highly popular in the reptile world. It can be found at many local nurseries. It helps to maintain heat and humidity levels much better than anything on the market and will always be our top recommendation due to little effort being required to maintain those levels. Just be sure your choice of Cypress mulch is not blended with any of the dangerous wood types listed above. Cypress mulch may or may not need to be pre-treated for wood mites before use. While wood mites are harmless and can not harm your animal, they can be a nuisance.


Premium Coconut Substrate

Another good choice for maintaining heat and humidity levels. Some effort required to maintain levels.

Paper Towels

Old school, yet reliable

Paper towels use as a substrate has been a practice in use for decades. Simple and effective but not aesthetically pleasing. Also requires more work to maintain heat and humidity levels.


Harder to maintain

Carpet can be a petri dish for bacteria and while eating, teeth may get snagged on it. For these reasons we do not recommend it.


Wood shavings

Aspen is very dry and dusty and has been known to cause breathing issues. It requires a lot of work to maintain heat and humidity levels when using aspen. In our professional opinion, this substrate is much better suited for use with mammals.

Environment and habitat

HEat SOurces

Maintaining proper temperatures is essential to keeping your ball python healthy – failure to do so can lead to a host of issues from poor feeding to potentially lethal respiratory infections. For this reason, you want to make sure you can measure the temperatures accurately. The sticker-type thermometers used in aquariums, and the little dials usually found in pet stores are routinely inaccurate and do little more than measure the temps of the glass to which they adhere to. It is best to invest in a digital thermometer. These can be found at stores like Walmart or Home Depot and can also be found online for less than $10 - $15. You should NEVER use a heat rock or heat tape with your ball python or put any sort of heat source inside the enclosure with your ball python that it can come into contact with! These snakes are not overly sensitive to dangerous heat levels and can easily burn and injure themselves. Our #1 recommendation for a reliable heat source is RHP’s (Radiant Heat Panels). These can be purchased online and typically come with a lifetime warranty. Hands down, the best heat source on the market today. Ball pythons may also do well when heated from below (UTH = under tank heat). This can be achieved with heat mats made specifically for this purpose and found in most pet stores. (For decades, the information circulating was that belly heat is a must. This is NOT true. Belly heat is NOT a requirement for your animal to live a long, happy, healthy life!) Also available through online retailers is a product called THG Heat Tape, which is a thin sheet of heating elements that come in a wide variety of customizable sizes. These are recommended for rack systems and tub keeping ONLY! Do not use heat tape inside of an enclosure. When using any sort of UTH, make sure there is some clearance beneath the enclosure to allow air circulation to prevent a build-up of excess heat. Also, no UTH, or other heat source, should ever be used without some sort of control on the amount of heat it puts out. A reliable thermostat (Vivarium Electronics, Herpstat or Helix) are the best options. Human heating pads should not be used.


Ambient temps: 75-80F - the latter being the better target 


Below 75  can be unhealthy for your animal!  

Night drops in temps are not necessary!

The sticker-type thermometers used in aquariums, and the little dials usually found in pet stores are routinely inaccurate and do little more than measure the temps of the glass to which they adhere to.

 It is best to invest in a digital thermometer. These can be found at stores like Walmart or Home Depot and can also be found online for less than $10 - $15. 


Neither UV lighting nor supplemental lighting is required for ball pythons. They do well with ambient room light, so long as the light is not constant, and some sort of day/night schedule is provided. LED lighting works well here. 4-6 hours per day is sufficient. Excessive lighting can induce high stress levels in these nocturnal creatures.



 60%-70% during a shed cycle

Providing the proper humidity required for your Ball python is important in maintaining good health and non-problematic sheds. 

Both excessive and inadequate humidity levels can lead to illness in the form of respiratory infections and a very damp environment easily lends itself to the growth of mold and fungus which can contribute bacterial or fungal infections, scale or belly rot. 

As with measuring temperature, gauging the humidity with a hygrometer is quite important. Again, a digital solution is far superior to an analog one. Methods to raise humidity in the enclosure include but are certainly not limited to misting, placing the water bowl directly above the heat source on the warm end, or using a humidifier. 

Do NOT sacrifice ventilation or otherwise contribute to stagnant air conditions! You can also add a humid hide, giving your python a humidity-rich spot, it can hang out in whenever it wants.


Your ball python should always have a readily available supply of fresh water. When possible use a relatively weighted or even tapered bowl or dish to prevent it from being overturned. 

Ball pythons are not often known for soaking in their water sources, so an oversized container is not necessary unless needed as a means for maintaining adequate humidity. Often snakes who do enter their water supplies for the occasional soak will also defecate in it. 

Be prepared to clean and replace as needed. It is recommended the water be replaced (not just “topped off”) and the dish cleaned while doing so every few days at a minimum. 

Bottled water or special additives are not necessary.


Given good husbandry practices and properly maintained humidity your BP should have no problems shedding successfully. Many folks believe “one- piece-sheds” to be a hallmark of good husbandry, but this is sometimes heavily dependent on how the snake sheds and what items within the enclosure can be used to rub against as well. So long as the snake sheds completely without retained patches, eye-caps or partial/incomplete sheds requiring special attention or intervention, you are doing fine. 

Signs of an imminent shed include a pink or reddish belly, eyes that turn a milky blue-white, and fading colors. These signs clear up a few days before the actual shed. The animal may not accept food during this time. When signs of shedding appear, it is a good idea to pay special attention to your humidity levels. Bumping them to 60%-70% to ensure there is enough moisture present to assist in the process. Soaking prior to a shed is not necessary and can make the shed go poorly. However, if a shed has already gone bad, soaking can be extremely helpful in removing the retained skin.


Ball pythons are primarily rodent eaters. In captivity, the most common diet is either domestic mice or rats. Other rodents may be offered, but bear in mind that ball pythons tend to “imprint” on a favorite prey item and may refuse anything else, so it’s best to figure out not only what your snake will eat, but what is most readily available and convenient for the keeper to obtain. 


What size and how often to feed is always up for debate. Many keepers hold to the standard of feeding a rodent that is as big around at its widest point (the hips) as the snake is at its widest girth. With ball pythons, though, the best way to have a consistent eater is to feed smaller-than- typical prey sizes. A fully mature ball python can thrive on nothing more than a small rat (~50-60g) offered weekly. How often to feed really depends on what size prey is being offered. If one chooses to offer the smaller size, a feeding schedule of every seven days works well. Slightly larger prey items can be fed every ten days. Excessively large prey items will cause the ball python to refuse food on its own for an extended and unpredictable length of time. 


Ball pythons seem to do well on a regular feeding schedule. Feeding every seven days on the same day of the week is a good way for the keeper to track the feeding schedule as well as being a routine the snake can become accustomed to. However, there is no one right way to go about it. In the reptile world, there will always be an ongoing debate about whether it is best to feed live or pre-killed prey. We will leave that up to each keeper to decide for themselves. 


A keeper may choose to kill the rodent first before offering it to their snake. This obviously prevents the risk of having your snake bitten by a live rodent. It is the keeper’s responsibility to use a humane (as quick and painless as possible) method of death. Also, ensure that the rodent is truly dead and not just stunned. A stunned rodent that “wakes up” can be dangerous.


Never leave a live rodent unattended in your snake’s enclosure. Ever. And do not leave it in for longer than 20 minutes or so. If the snake does not eat it within that time, remove it and wait until the next scheduled feeding day before attempting to feed again. It will NOT hurt your snake to miss a meal. Live rodents can cause excessive damage to your ball python and can even kill it. 

Frozen/thawed (f/t)

There are many sources for rodents already killed and frozen. Commercial pet stores often carry them, as well as online vendors that can ship them out in bulk as needed. Local herp shows are another good source. Many snakes will readily accept prey that has been properly thawed and warmed. Rodents can be thawed overnight in the ‘fridge and then warmed with either hot water or a blow dryer on feeding day. They can also be thawed in hot water (while zipped into a plastic bag). Be sure to never use boiling water or a microwave for thawing rodents, as you do not ever want to cook any part. Feel the belly and up under the ribs of the rodent to make sure it is warm all the way through.

WHy won't my snake eat?

In almost all cases, a ball python refuses to eat due to husbandry issues. Especially a young one. If your snake misses more than 2-3 meals (as mentioned earlier, sometimes they will not want to eat while in shed) please check the following possible causes:

Lack of Security

No hides or hides that are too large or exposed (i.e.: half logs). They prefer dark, tight hides they barely fit into. Also, if the enclosure is too large, or too open (glass) or in a high traffic area with a lot of loud noise or movement. Another snake in the same enclosure can also cause serious security issues. It is ALWAYS best to not cohabitate.

Over Handling

Frequent intrusions into the enclosure, changes to the enclosure, and/or long frequent handling sessions can cause a shy snake to feel vulnerable and refuse to eat.

Improper Temperatures

Temps that are too high or too low, or temps that fluctuate too much. Make sure you have an accurate and consistent read on your temps.

Improper Lighting

Constant bright lights shining directly into the enclosure, or 24-hour lighting can cause stress. Make sure there is some sort of day/night cycle.

Offering new prey

Changing prey species (i.e.: mice to rats) or methods (i.e.: live to f/t) can cause refusal. Such changes can be made but may require patience and persistence. Its best to choose a lane and stick to it to prevent refusal of food.

Improper offering of prey

Offering prey too frequently can do more harm than good. If a snake refuses, do not attempt to feed again for a week. Also, changing environments by moving to a feeding- box or removing hides and “furniture” can cause refusal in these shy snakes. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO MOVE THE ANIMAL OUT OF ITS ENCLOSURE FOR FEEDING! This is the most common bit of FALSE information given to the general public. Moving the animal out of its enclosure to feed causes more damage than good. AVOID this practice.

Prey is too large

Too large an item may intimidate a snake and cause refusal, or even a regurgitation if it is eaten. Also, if a ball python has eaten large meals in the past, it can cause a sudden an indefinite period of fasting.


An external parasite common to snakes that must be treated and eradicated. A product called Provent-a-Mite (P.A.M.) is the safest and most effective method.


Sexually mature ball pythons may fast for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months during their mating season (typically anywhere from late fall to early spring) especially if a sexually mature snake of the opposite sex is in proximity.


If all other possible reasons are eliminated, a vet check may be in order to look for internal parasites, as well as possible infections to the skin, scales, mouth or respiratory system.

Fortunately, ball pythons are extremely hardy snakes that can go for months (if necessary) of fasting without suffering any ill effects. This gives a responsible keeper plenty of time to figure out why the snake refuses to eat and get them on a regular, consistent feeding regimen. If this occurs, it is especially important to pay attention to the animals’ weight. A dramatic decrease in weight is a sign of something wrong. Enjoy your new pet and remember to practice proper husbandry 😊

Enjoy your new pet and remember to practice proper husbandry 😊