ROYAL (BALL) PYTHON
Common Name:Ball Python or Royal Python
Latin name: Python regius
Native to: Central and Western Africa
Size: Adult ball pythons average in size from three to five feet
Life span: Ball pythons are one of the longest-lived snakes. It is not unusual for these pythons to live 20 - 30 years in captivity. One specimen lived for 47 years at the Philadelphia Zoo.
General appearance: Ball pythons are named for their defense behavior of rolling into a tight ball with their head in the middle. Like all other pythons, ball pythons have spurs at their vents. There are many different color morphs and patterns available today in captive bred specimens. The "standard" ball python has large chocolate brown markings with lighter medium-brown spots interspersed between the darker spots. The belly is generally off-white or a pale gray.
Enclosure: Remember that all snakes are escape artists and when designing an enclosure it is of the utmost importance that whatever enclosure is used is made as escape-proof as possible. Generally an adult ball python should be kept is a 30-gallon sized enclosure (12 inches x 36 inches).
Temperature: Daytime temperatures should be maintained at 80° - 85° F with a basking temperature of 90° - 95° F. Nighttime temperatures should be 75° - 80° F.
Heat/Light: There has been no evidence to suggest that photoperiods affect the keeping of ball pythons. If a regular photoperiod is provided it is recommended to use fluorescent bulbs in order to minimize the extra heat generated by incandescent bulbs.
Substrate: Newspaper and newsprint make excellent substrate even though it is not very attractive. It is easy to clean and is excellent to use when acclimating new ball pythons to their enclosure. Wood shavings can also be used, though cedar should never be used and some pine can also cause health problems as well. Aspen shavings are usually an excellent choice if using wood shavings. If keeping the snake on wood shavings, care should be taken when feeding the snake to avoid shavings becoming lodged in the snake's mouth.
Environment: Like all snakes, ball pythons are strictly carnivorous. Adult ball pythons can be fed two to three adult mice per week. Hatchlings and juvenile animals can be fed one appropriately sized prey item per week (i.e fuzzies for hatchlings, hoppers for slightly older animals).
Diet: Hatchlings can be started off feeding on pinkie mice. Juveniles and adults can gradually take larger prey of fuzzy mice, adult mice or young rats. Young snakes can be fed 1 - 2 times a week. Thawed frozen rodents are the easiest and safest way to feed snakes. A supply can be kept in your freezer and there are no problems from live mice biting your snake. Water should be provided in a bowl. The snake will drink from it and may soak itself before it sheds.
Maintenance: Fresh water should be offered daily. If using newsprint then clean as needed. Wood shavings should be spot cleaned as needed. Periodically, the enclosure should be disinfected. A 5% bleach solution makes an excellent disinfectant. Be sure to rinse the enclosure thoroughly after disinfecting. As always, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your ball python or any cage accessories.