Species group: Boas, Anacondas and Pythons
Other common names: Royal Python; Imperial Ball Python
Scientific name: Python regius
The exceedingly popular Ball Python is a great choice for those who want a “big snake in a medium package”. Although this stoutly-built and powerful constrictor displays all of its larger relatives’ behaviors, at an average length of 3-4 feet is much easier to accommodate. Generally calm and easy to handle, Ball Pythons breed readily, and wild caught individuals are no longer a major factor in the US pet trade.
The Ball Python inhabits much of Sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal east through Mali to Sudan and southeast to the Gulf of Guinea and the Central African Republic; there are possible records from Zaire and Uganda.
Ball Pythons are found in open, often arid habitats such as savannahs, woodlands, overgrown fields, farm borders and village outskirts. They typically shelter in mammal burrows, termite mounds or hollow logs, but will also climb and occupy tree hollows if available.
Appearance / health:
Although small by python standards, this species is stoutly-built. Most average 3-5 feet in length, with rare specimens reaching 6 to nearly 7 feet. Ball pythons are dark brown to nearly black in color and marked with numerous blotches of tan, reddish-brown or yellow-orange. The color of wild specimens varies tremendously among different populations, with the savannahs of Ghana are known for their predominance of beautiful yellow-orange individuals. A mind-boggling array of color morphs have been produced by breeders.
The Ball Python is, when given proper care, a very hardy snake. Pets aged 20-30 are common, and one individual at the Philadelphia Zoo has the distinction of being the longest-lived of any captive snake. Acquired at an undetermined age, it lived in the collection for 48 years! New owners are often dismayed by the Ball Python’s habit of fasting for long periods of time, but this seems related to circadian rhythms (an “internal clock” of sorts), and is rarely a serious concern.
Behavior / temperament:
Ball Pythons are often calm in disposition, and usually tolerate gentle handling. They should not be induced to tuck the head within body coils, as this defensive posture indicates a high degree of stress. Like all snakes, they can and will bite, and must be handled with care.
Hatchlings may be housed in 10 gallon aquariums, while adults (depending upon their size) do well in 20-55 gallon tanks or custom built enclosures. The screen top should be secured with clips or locks as this species is amazingly strong, even by snake standards.
Stout, well-anchored branches work well as basking sites, and a hide box should always be available. Newspapers, terrarium liners, or aspen bedding may be used as substrates. Ambient temperature: 80-85 F, with a reduction 77-80 F at night if possible. Basking site: 92 F.
The natural diet is comprised mainly of grassland rodents such as cane and Nile rats, gerbils, jerboas, and zebra mice. Shrews, ground-nesting birds, and lizards are also taken on occasion.
Ball Pythons can be picky feeders at times, but most accept mice or rats. Particularly stubborn individuals may be tempted by gerbils or rat pups.
A wide array of conditions is used to induce breeding, and in some cases Ball Pythons will reproduce without any temperature manipulations at all. Many breeders reduce the ambient temperature to 78 F and the basking temperature to 82 F as autumn arrives. Day length need not be reduced. Males are introduced to females’ enclosures at this time. Temperatures are returned to normal in the spring, although in many cases a much shorter cool period will also be effective. When incubated at 86-90 F, the eggs hatch in 50-60 days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
beautiful morphs, amazing temperaments, friendly snakes, new snake owners, beginner herp owner
feeding difficulties, wild caught imports, finicky eaters, ticks, usual hunger strike
reasonable handling sessions, African SoftFurred rat, handleable length, hidey holes, scented mouse
The Snake Princess
Of all the reptiles I worked with while I was the secretary of a "Creature Club" which dispelled misinformation about our cold-blooded friends, ball pythons were my favorite. In particular, Calypso, the pastel ball python, was my most adored reptilian friend. Calypso was very young when we first got her, and was donated to our club by a rescue organization. While in her cage, she would often lurk underneath her log or hide between her makeshift foliage and the water bowl. She was very shy when it came to strangers, and initially I was frightened to touch her. I had never actually held a snake prior to Calypso, and though I loved reptiles, it was quite an awe-inspiring experience for me when I finally felt her tough body wind around my hand. Once Calypso grew to trust me, she was very friendly and active. She would slide up the side of the cage whenever I came to let her out, and seemed to enjoy wrapping herself around my neck like a piece of jewelry. She was very calm and well-behaved during our presentations to kindergarteners regarding the celebration, rather than demonization, of snakes, and allowed all of the small children to (with one finger, and following the direction of her scales) pet her. Calypso has never expressed aggression towards me or any member of our staff, and has always eaten her food with vigor and enthusiasm. Like any snake, Calypso needed certain requirements in order to thrive in her pseudo-environment. She was housed in a terrerium with many spaces to hide herself; the cold half of the terrarium was kept between 77-80 degrees fahrenheit, and the warm half between 87-90. Unfortunately, ball pythons are escape artists, and Calypso was no exception. In order to keep her from escaping the enclosure, it was imperative to make sure that the lid was closed each time after handling her and that all gaps were sealed. To our dismay, an irresponsible club member in charge of Calypso over the summer forgot to take such precautions, thus causing one of our most beautiful and inquisitive snakes to be lost. It was truly a shame, but a testament to how important secure enclosures and careful owners are when keeping ball pythons. .
From joyb98 Oct 22 2016 6:26AM
Ball Pythons are excellent starter reptiles.
These snakes are good for beginners to reptiles, but it should be remembered that keeping a reptile is NOT like keeping a mammal. It has more in common with fish-keeping than with keeping mammals or birds. WITH a proper setup that includes a reliable thermostat, heat source, thermometers, secure cage, and attention to cleanliness, these animals are extremely easy to keep. Without those things, they will most likely not thrive, and may die. While extremely docile as a species, there are individuals in every species that may exhibit atypical personalities or behavior. It IS possible to wind up with a defensive ball python that is prone to bite--just much less likely than with many other species. As with any snake--if you aren't willing to be bitten, don't get the animal, because it will probably happen sooner or later, and it will probably be your fault when it does.
Ball pythons are relatively sedentary animals, and spend most of their time curled up happily in a hide box. They are nocturnal, so if you want to see your python move about, use a red or blue bulb to observe it at night, or just take it out for reasonable handling sessions (1/2 hour or so each day--remember that the room temperature must be suitable for the animal, and never handle a ball python that isn't eating regularly).
Ball pythons are hardy, but are prone to respiratory infections and mouth rot when stressed. Care should be taken to respect that snakes and other reptiles do not LIKE to be handled or bothered, and that these things are stressful for them, so should not be done to excess.
They eat only once a week when young, and once every 2 weeks as adults. Mature males may stop eating for many months over the winter, and sometimes females will as well. Stressed ball pythons are prone to stop eating. This is of concern in hatchlings, which can quickly lose weight and die, so new keepers may be advised to acquire a python that is a year or more old, at least, so that husbandry problems and feeding issues can be worked out. Adult ball pythons can go months without eating and suffer no ill effects, but outside of the breeding season, this is always a sign that something is wrong. First, check husbandry--proper lighting, proper heat, fresh water, a hide box, and lack of stress are important. If any are lacking, provide them, and see if the snake starts eating. If that doesn't work, then seek veterinary attention. Often internal parasites are the cause for 'anorexia' in a ball python that seems otherwise healthy. If that isn't it, try switching between mice and rats. Some ball pythons prefer one rodent type over another. Some will readily eat frozen/thawed, and others will stubbornly accept only live no matter how long you try to convert them, and how many tricks you try. This makes them a bit more challenging than corn snakes for beginning keepers.
Ball pythons are by far the best 'ambassador' snakes, however. Tolerant, slow-moving, and of manageable size, they are responsible for curing MANY snake phobias.
Out of 36 ball pythons in my collection, only one is unpredictable and cannot be readily handled. 3 others can be defensive in certain moods, but the rest are docile and can be handled readily. Young hatchlings are another story--they can be quite actively defensive, and strike readily. Individual personalities vary! Most bitey hatchlings grow out of such behavior within 4 to 6 months.
From WingedWolfPsion May 3 2009 12:14AM
Getting over fears? Sort of!
First, let's all keep in mind that I don't like snakes. I don't like them, I don't like them, I don't like them. When I worked at a local animal sanctuary, I found myself bitten by an ill garter snake and nearly un-handed by an iguana. Reptiles, simply put, just aren't my cup of tea. So having Momma in the house? She's not really the most welcome of guests. My sister (a disabled adult that lives with me) is another story. The slick, scaled, and slimy has always fascinated and, a few years ago, she showed up at my house with Momma, a tank, and a bag of frozen mice. I was not pleased. I'm a softie, and Momma currently lives in the sitting room. Now, don't get me wrong. Momma is not a bad animal. She even tolerates my shaky hands trying to touch her on the tail - the only place I'm willing to put my fingers - and the plethora of cats that enjoy watching her through the walls of her tank. She eats frozen pinkie mice which get kept in the freezer, right next to the baggies of cranberries and the loaf of pumpkin bread I baked last fall and never ate. Her tank gets cleaned twice a week, she likes to curl up in bowls of water, and the shedding, while terrifying to look at, has never caused any issues. Would I own another snake again? No. I really, really wouldn't. But, of all the reptiles I've dealt with, Momma's probably been the most level headed. She's - dare I say it? She's almost sweet. I would call her a beginner reptile, mild tempered, and decent enough to have in the house. And not a garter snake, so that's a plus..
From princesspennywhistle Sep 6 2016 7:17PM