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How Do I Set up a Ball Python Terrarium?

By Christina Whyte
Updated May 17, 2024
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A properly set up ball python terrarium is important for the health and well being of a pet ball python. Size, temperature, humidity, and furnishings are all important considerations. Some safety considerations must also be kept in mind.

The optimal size for a ball python terrarium depends on the size of the snake, but adults may need 30 gallons (113.56 l) or more, and larger is better if the snake has enough places to hide. There are a few different options for substrate, or bedding, including newspaper, cypress mulch, and terrarium carpet. Cedar should never be used because it is toxic to snakes, and wood shavings may be inadvisable because the snake can swallow it.

Heating is an important consideration for a ball python terrarium, and the snake needs enough temperature variety to maintain its body temperature. Temperature recommendations vary somewhat, but generally the basking area of the terrarium should be around 90°F (32°C) and the rest of the tank should be in the high 70s°F or low-mid 80s°F (26°C to 29°C) during the day, and mid 70s°F (24°C) at night. There are a variety of heating solutions available to choose from, but hot rocks should not be used because they tend to have hot spots that can burn the snake.

Unlike other reptiles which require high humidity, ball pythons in the wild live in arid to moderate humidity. A ball python terrarium should be kept at around 50% humidity, which may need to be increased to 65% when the snake is shedding so that the skin sheds completely. Increasing the size of the water pool can help to increase the humidity, and misting the snake with water can help if there are shedding problems.

An acceptable ball python terrarium has at least one place to hide and one place to climb, and more should be added if the tank is large. Hide boxes should be big enough that the snake can fit completely inside, but not a great deal larger than the snake. A bowl of fresh clean water should be provided at all times, heavy enough that the snake cannot knock it over and large enough that the snake can partially soak its body in it.

It is very important that the ball python terrarium is kept secure at all times, because ball pythons are excellent at escaping. All lights need a screen so that the snake cannot touch the hot bulb and burn itself. All ball python owners, especially beginners, should not attempt to guess at the heat and humidity in the tank and should carefully monitor it using appropriate measuring devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size terrarium is best for a ball python?

For a ball python, a terrarium that is at least 30-40 gallons is recommended for adults to provide ample space for movement and enrichment. Juveniles can start in smaller enclosures, but it's essential to upgrade as they grow. According to the Herpetological Society, the enclosure should be at least as long as the snake and half as wide.

What type of substrate is suitable for a ball python terrarium?

Ball pythons thrive on substrates that retain humidity without becoming soggy. Cypress mulch, coconut fiber, and aspen shavings are popular choices. These substrates are absorbent and help maintain the necessary humidity levels, which, according to reptile experts, should be between 50-60% to prevent respiratory issues and aid in shedding.

How do I maintain the correct temperature in my ball python's terrarium?

Maintaining the correct temperature gradient is crucial for a ball python's health. Provide a basking spot of about 88-96°F and a cooler end at 78-80°F. Use under-tank heaters and basking lamps with thermostats to regulate temperatures. Reptile Magazine emphasizes the importance of thermometers at both ends of the terrarium to monitor the temperature closely.

How often should I clean my ball python's terrarium?

Spot cleaning should be done daily to remove waste and uneaten food. A more thorough cleaning, including substrate replacement and disinfecting the enclosure, should be done monthly. This routine helps prevent bacterial growth and parasites, ensuring a healthy environment for your snake, as recommended by veterinary professionals specializing in reptiles.

What kind of lighting does a ball python need?

Ball pythons do not require specialized UVB lighting, but a natural light cycle is beneficial. Use a standard fluorescent bulb to mimic daylight for 12 hours a day. This helps regulate their circadian rhythm and can contribute to overall well-being, as noted by reptile care guidelines from experienced herpetologists.

Do ball pythons need a water bowl in their terrarium?

Yes, ball pythons require a sturdy water bowl large enough for them to soak in if they choose. The water should be fresh and changed regularly to ensure hydration and assist in shedding. The bowl also aids in maintaining humidity within the terrarium, which is vital for the snake's respiratory health, as stated by reptile veterinarians.

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Discussion Comments

By Heavanet — On Apr 26, 2014

@raynbow- I would not put a ball python in a tank that is smaller than 50 gallons. These snakes get very large, and need plenty of space to move around. If the snake's environment is too small, it could affect his health or even stunt his growth.

If you are considering a ball python as a pet, first you should make sure that you understand this type of snake and the risks of owning one. Ball pythons can be dangerous, and they are certainly expensive to own. If you do decide to get one, I recommend purchasing the largest aquarium available to meet your pet's housing needs that will allow him to grow and thrive.

By Raynbow — On Apr 26, 2014

I have a pet snake that is smaller than a ball python, and I have a 50 gallon aquarium. A 30 gallon aquarium seems small for this type of large snake. Does anyone have any thoughts about the best size of aquarium for a ball python?

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