It seems like there are a lot of options when it comes to how to house your new ball python. Regardless of which way you go, you want to find one that has a solid top, and small ventilation holes. Do not get an enclosure with a screen top or a lid with lots of holes.
The one you choose will depend on how many snakes you have, how much money you want to spend, how much space you have available, and how much you want to “decorate” it. You can go with a homemade set up, a tank, a rack, a vivarium, or a tub.
Where to Buy
Whichever type of enclosure you decided to go with, you can buy most of them at your local pet store, reptile expo, or online. There are companies that specialize in making enclosures, many of which you can buy with lighting and heating already installed. You can also check your local classifieds to see if anyone is selling a used one. If you attend a reptile expo, you’ll be able to find new and used enclosures of different sizes. You could also check with your local reptile vet and see if they have any they are willing to sell. If you are good at basic carpentry, you might even want to opt to build your own!
Your ball python will need at least two hides. They will need one on each side of their enclosure. Snakes regulate their body temperature by going from their hot side to their cool side (see section “Heat”). You want to give them a hide on each end so that they have a safe place to retreat to when they do this. If you only give them one hide, they might choose safety over proper regulation. Having a safe place to hide in is essential to a ball pythons feeling of safety and comfort.
There are many kinds of hides on the market. There are some fancy ones, some cheap ones, and you can even opt to make some yourself. The “look” of the hides does not matter. You can buy hides online, at a pet store, or at a reptile expo. What matters is that the hides be the right size for your snake, and that they have at least two. You want the size of the hide to be large enough for your ball python to fit in there snugly and tightly.
Your ball python will need access to water at all time. The water dish should be large enough for him/her to fit in completely. It should be cleaned and replenished frequently. Ball pythons will use their water dish to drink from, but also to soak in it if they feel the need to (usually when they’re about to shed). Keep an eye on your water dish and clean it immediately if your snake has dirtied it. You can by “fancy” natural-looking water dishes, or use a cheap dog bowl. The “look” of your water dish is not important; its functionality is what’s most important.
Your ball python will need a heat source at all times. You can use a heat mat, flexwatt, a lamp, or a ceramic heat emitter. Do NOT use a heat rock as a heat source. They can easily burn your snake’s body. Snakes cannot generate their own heat, so it is important that they have a way of accessing heat in their enclosure so they can thermo-regulate their internal body temperature. Whichever method of heat you choose, you must have it connected to a thermostat. Without a thermostat, your heat source could easily get too hot and burn your snake. The thermostat will help regulate how hot your source gets, maintaining it at the right temperature at all times. Buying a thermostat is essential to good husbandry and to your snake’s health. Do not overlook buying a thermostat, and don’t aim to go with a cheap thermostat that might fail.
The enclosure must have a heat gradient. One side of the enclosure (the one with the heat source) will be considered the hot side, and the other side will be considered the cool side. The hot side should be set to be 87-90F, and the cool side should be 77-80F.
To measure the temperatures in your enclosure, you’ll need either temperature probes or a temperature gun. Temperature probes can be placed at each side of the enclosure, so you can read what the temperatures are at the hot and cool ends, and adjust your thermostat accordingly. If you buy a temperature gun, you’ll have to constantly check the temperatures manually. If you buy a thermometer, you must make sure it is a digital one. Analog temperature tools are often inaccurate and vague.
You can buy a thermostat at a reptile expo, online, or from a reptile-specific company. Often, new ball python owners are confused as to how to set up a thermostat. Here is a quick tutorial. Thermostats come in different shapes and colors, but most will have a similar set up.
The probe is what is going to sense the heat of your heat source (heat mat, bulb, etc). You’ll want to place this right by the heat source so that it gets a good reading.
The display is what will tell you the current temperature that the probe is reading, and will allow you to adjust the temperature of the heat source accordingly. This thermostat in particular has “up” and “down” buttons that let you do exactly that.
The outlet is where you will plug in your heat source. All heat mats, lamps, etc, have a plug, and that plug should be plugged into this outlet.
The thermostat’s plug is what you’ll need to plug into the wall socket directly to power the thermostat.
Having good humidity levels is essential to proper ball python care. The humidity in the enclosure should never drop below 50%. Ideally, it should be between 55-60%, and up to 70% when your snake is getting ready to shed. You should have a digital hygrometer to read the humidity levels in your enclosure. An analog hygrometer will often be inaccurate and won’t give you an exact reading.
Important: You should check to make sure your hygrometer works properly and is reading your humidity levels accurately.
ONLY ONE SNAKE PER ENCLOSURE!
Ball pythons are solitary creatures and do not share territories with other ball pythons. You must only house ONE ball python PER enclosure. Co-habitation of ball pythons can be dangerous and even fatal. The only time 2 ball pythons should ever be in the same enclosure at the same time is if you’re attempting to breed a male and female together- which you should only do if you are experienced and both the snakes are ready and healthy to do so. Breeding ball pythons is not for beginners.
If you house two ball pythons together, it may appear as if they are “cuddling.” To think that snakes “cuddle” is a human projection. Two snakes seen wrapped up together are competing for the same space. Co-habitation can stress one or both of the snake out, leading them to miss meals, get sick, or become overly stressed. Eventually, one ball python may eat the other to resolve the issue. The risk simply isn’t worthwhile.
Unable to get humidity levels high enough?
If your enclosure has a screen top or too many ventilation holes, you will struggle with keeping your humidity levels stable. You’ll want to get a solid top or cover the top as much as possible. Bedding might also be contributing to your problem. Aspen bedding, newspaper, and paper towels won’t help you keep your humidity levels constant. You might want to consider switching over to ReptiBark or coco husk for substrate. You may want to mist your enclosure with a spray bottle with water as needed.
My ball python hasn’t moved in a few days…
This is normal! Most likely, your ball python is moving around in the middle of the night while you’re asleep. Ball pythons are notoriously sedentary, secretive, lazy, nocturnal snakes. It is OK for your ball python to choose to stay in one hide for a few days. If they refuse to go to the other side of their enclosure for several days, you’ll have to look into why that is. Check your temperatures- maybe your heat pad is too hot or not hot enough. Does your ball python have a hide on each side of the enclosure? You’ll want to make sure your husbandry is spot on.
My snake has escaped!
You’ll want to search everywhere possible. Your ball python will want to go somewhere dark and warm, so check under furniture, inside your sofa, under the refrigerator, and behind bookcases. Do not underestimate how far your ball python will travel! Search every room in the house. If you cannot find your snake within a few hours, you’ll want to set up a trap. The best way to do this is to place one of their hides on a heat mat (hooked up to a thermostat) in the corner of a room. Hopefully your ball python will be attracted to seek comfort there. Depending on when you last fed your snake, you might want to put a thawed rat in the hide to entice them to seek out the scent. Leave the room dark and check often.
Important: You need to figure out HOW your snake got out. Is the lid properly secured tightly into place? Did you leave the enclosure open? How did your snake get out? You’ll want to fix/resolve the problem so that it never happens again.
If you have pets, you might want to consider keeping an eye on them. Sometimes they’ll spot something moving before you do and might be able to point you to it. Be careful that your pets don’t do any harm to your snake though! You must keep a vigilant eye on your pets while your snake is missing.
My ball python is in the water dish
There are three reasons why your ball python may choose to soak in his/her water dish:
- Shedding: sometimes ball pythons will choose to soak in water before they shed to help them with the process. This is completely normal.
- Low Humidity: if the humidity in the enclosure isn’t high enough, you might find your ball python spending lots of time in the water dish. Check your humidity levels and adjust them accordingly.
- Mites: if your ball python has mites, you might him/her soaking in the water dish to relieve themselves. You’ll find little black spots in the water dish. If this is the case, you should address the mites as soon as possible.