12 Things Every Beginner Ball Python Owner Needs To Know

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The ball python is the most common pet python. Mainly because they make great companions for snake owners of any skill level. They can be quite shy, are not too big, are friendly, and caring for them is pretty straightforward. 

As exciting and simple as these snakes can be, they have specific requirements you must meet to make sure they are happy and healthy in their new home.

Temperature, substrate, and lifestyle are vital aspects to get right to ensure your new ball python can thrive.

Let’s get into the details and instructions you need to follow to create a positive environment for your python. In doing so, you will have peace of mind with the assurance that you are giving them exactly what they need.

Do Ball Pythons Need Sunlight

Do Ball Pythons Need Sunlight

Ball pythons are burrow-dwelling and nocturnal reptiles, so they do not need sunlight the same way diurnal species do (a corn snake is an example of a diurnal species).

The natural light that comes through the glass of the terrarium is enough. You really do not need to worry about setting up a strict lighting cycle for your python.

The only additional lighting you would need is a light that allows you to see your ball python in its enclosure.  

If you decide to use supplemental lighting for your ball python, make sure it is on a 12/12 schedule. Meaning 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

Snakes exposed to continuous, bright overhead lighting can become very stressed — especially if they are nocturnal like the ball python.

Do Ball Pythons Need UVB

Do Ball Pythons Need UVB

Ball pythons do not actually need UVB light to survive and thrive. The natural light coming through from outside their tanks is more than enough to sustain them. 

However, that being said, UVA/UVB light has proven to significantly improve the immune system, overall health, and wellness of all reptiles. It definitely would not negatively affect your ball python if you decided to add a UVB light to their enclosure. 

If you choose to include a UVB light, make sure to place it on the “hot side” of the tank. This light emits heat, so keeping it on the same side as other heat sources will help keep the terrarium’s thermal gradient in check. 

Do Ball Pythons Need A Heat Lamp

Do Ball Pythons Need A Heat Lamp

A heat lamp is vital to have for your ball python to ensure proper vivarium temperatures.

Providing a proper thermal gradient is extremely important for your ball python’s well-being. A thermal gradient means a range in temperatures within the enclosure.

Your ball python needs a hot side, a cooler side, and an average ambient temperature to keep them happy and healthy.

The tank’s hot or basking side should be between 29-34°C (85-93°F). And the terrarium’s ambient and cool side should be around 24-27°C (75-80°F).

Keeping a close eye on the exact temperatures in your ball python’s tank is crucial. Do not guess.

Getting a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe is a great way to monitor the terrarium temperature. Just stick the thermometer in the cage on the cool end and the probe on the hot end to cover all bases.

(For more precise information, check out our full care guide about ball pythons.)

Do Ball Pythons Need Heat At Night

Do Ball Pythons Need Heat At Night

Ball pythons still need heat at night. An ambient temperature of about 27°C (80°F) is acceptable. It is always essential to keep a proper thermal gradient throughout the enclosure, even during the night. 

A drop of about 10% is totally ok, as this simulates a natural, lower nighttime temperature. However, you will still want to make sure that the ambient temperature does not fall below 24°C (75°F).

You can have a separate heating light specific for nighttime. There are red night heating bulbs that still provide the necessary heat to your ball python without the brightness that comes with your regular daytime heat lamp.

Having the two different heat lights helps simulate the day/night cycle, which is extremely important for nocturnal snakes such as the ball python

Do Ball Pythons Need Belly Heat

Do Ball Pythons Need Belly Heat

Yes, ball pythons do need belly heat. Unlike most other reptiles that enjoy basking in the sun, ball pythons usually hide under branches and rocks in the dark with their bodies on the warm ground. 

If your ball python is healthy, it will hide for most of the day, rendering basking lights mostly useless. 

Under-cage heating pads and tapes such as the Zilla heat pad or ceramic heat emitters (Flukers) are viable options, but they should always be regulated with a thermostat.

Do not use heat rocks for your ball python. They cannot be easily monitored and can end up burning your snake. 

Do Ball Pythons Need Humidity

Do Ball Pythons Need Humidity

Yes, ball pythons need a specific humidity level to be maintained in their encolsure. 

The humidity level should be between 50 and 60%; however, it can go up to 70% for babies as they need a higher percentage due to shedding more often. Maintaining this range of humidity at all times plays a vital role in helping your python shed properly. 

It might prove to be very difficult to keep the humidity levels where they need to be, especially during the cold/winter season. Here are some tips that may help you increase the humidity level in your ball python’s tank:

  • Dampen bedding with a spray bottle.
  • Larger water dish.
  • Cover 75% of the screen top with a towel.
  • Place a humidifier in the same room.
  • Place a waterfall feature in the enclosure.
  • Add live plants.

These tips can help you keep the tank’s humidity as close to 60% as possible. Another essential tool you should purchase is a hygrometer.

A hygrometer allows you to easily measure the moisture in your ball python’s enclosure. It is not a very expensive piece of equipment, and it will give you peace of mind knowing you are monitoring your python’s environment accurately. 

You must closely monitor the humidity level when using heat lamps, under-tank heaters, and a screen top as these can dry up the air quite quickly. 

Do Ball Pythons Need To Soak

Do Ball Pythons Need To Soak

Ball pythons do not need to soak. There is no benefit whether they soak or not, so there is no need to consider this when choosing a water dish. 

That being said, there are a few reasons why your ball python is soaking, some of which indicate that something might be wrong. Once these are ruled out, you can safely assume that your ball python just enjoys the occasional dip. 

The first reason your ball python might be soaking is that the temperatures in the enclosure are too high, and they have nowhere to cool off. This is why it is imperative to keep a close eye on the tank’s temperature and thermal gradient.

The second reason could be that the terrarium is a little too big for your ball python, and there are not good hiding spots. It is recommended to have a 40-50 gallons tank and make sure they have many places to burrow away when they need. 

The last reason could be due to the fact that your ball python has mites. Mites should be the last thing you check after you confirmed the temperatures and size/hiding spots are ok. If they do have mites, getting rid of them should solve the problem.

If not any of these, it is possible that your ball python just enjoys getting in the water occasionally, which is fine.

Do Ball Pythons Need To Go To The Vet

Do Ball Pythons Need To Go To The Vet

Yes. Like all pets, ball pythons need to have annual vet visits. Interestingly enough, ball pythons will hide all signs of illness, which is all the more reason to bring them in for regular check-ups. 

Weighing your ball python every month can help detect any possible signs of sickness. To weigh them, place them in a plastic container and simply put them on a kitchen gram scale or baby scale.

Checking their weight at the same time of day each month will yield more accurate results

These are a few more things to keep an eye out for that may indicate something is wrong with your ball python:

  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Decrease in droppings.
  • Trouble shedding.
  • Acting more lethargic.
  • Weight drops by 10% or more.

If you notice any of these changes, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately. 

Do Ball Pythons Need To Be Misted

Generally speaking, a ball python does not need to be misted if the humidity is kept within the 60 to 70% range. 

However, if you struggle to keep the moisture level up to where it needs to be, occasional misting might be a good idea. Refer to the list above for more tips on how to increase the humidity level in your ball python’s terrarium.

Before opting to mist your python, try the other alternatives listed above first, as your python might not enjoy having water sprayed directly on them. 

Do Ball Pythons Need A Basking Light

Contrary to popular belief, ball pythons do not necessarily need a basking light. A day and night heat light along with an under-tank heater can suffice.

Since they are nocturnal, they tend to spend most of the day hiding, getting their warmth from the ground instead of direct sun exposure

As long as the proper thermal gradient is maintained, and they have a heat mat, a basking light is not needed and can sometimes even cause the tank to become too warm.

Do Ball Pythons Need Exercise

Ball pythons do not need exercise. As previously mentioned, they mostly spend their time burrowing away in warmth. Snake muscles do not atrophy, so exercise isn’t crucial for their well-being. 

Do Ball Pythons Need Attention

Unlike many common pets, ball pythons need very minimal attention from their owners. They are easy to take care of, affordable, and are low maintenance once their tank is set up correctly. 

As a rule of thumb, ball pythons generally do not like to be handled. They are considered docile and friendly but can sometimes be irritable and not tolerate any sort of touch. 

Conclusion

Ball pythons make excellent, low maintenance pets for reptile owners of all skill levels. Once their new home is set up, monitoring humidity, temperature and feeding them are the only tasks you need to remember. 

Once you have the thermal gradient under control and the proper moisture level, you are well on your way to having a happy and healthy ball python. 

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