Topics Forums Ball Pythons Ball Python Tank Size – How to Create a Perfect Ball Python Habitat

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    Ball Python Habitats and Tank Size

    Commonly known as the ‘Royal Python’ or ‘Ball Python’, Python regius is one of the most commonly kept snakes in the U.S. and abroad. This is because ball pythons are relatively easy to raise, are adaptable to different environmental conditions, and are very docile and easy to handle. Plus, most ball pythons in the U.S. are captive-bred, which means you are not taking animals from the wild. 

    But, before you get started down the road of ball python ownership, you need to know what type of ball python habitat will be required for your ball python as it grows. This article breaks down what you will need at every stage in your snake’s life cycle, and how you can build the perfect habitat for any ball python.

    Ball Pythons in the Wild

    The best way to provide your ball python everything it needs in a habitat is to first study how and where these snakes live in the wild. Since the snakes have spent millions of years adapting to these conditions, your best bet at a health snake is to replicate these conditions.

    In the wild, ball pythons exist across a large swath of the African continent. From Sierra Leone to Uganda, these snakes have been popular for decades as pets and are part of a large animal export business in Africa. In general, the pythons prefer grassland and savannah habitats, with certain populations adapting to farmland areas where they have an ample supply of rodents to feed on. 

    The snakes are not necessarily social, but several pythons are regularly found inhabiting the same burrow. The only exception is females with eggs, who typically prefer to be alone as they brood their delicate eggs. 

    Ball pythons are mostly nocturnal. They tend to sleep through the day in their burrows and emerge at night to hunt. Like other pythons, the snakes have pits on their heads that allow them to sense infrared light given off by warm-bodied mammals.

    Before you get a ball python, you should also consider the life span of these critters. Ball pythons regularly live 20-30 years in captivity, though some have surpassed the 40-year mark! So, a ball python is no short term commitment. Though you can start with a small 10-inch snake, these creatures will grow to be nearly 6 feet long! We discuss the requirements of these different sizes below, but just know that an adult python needs a much larger area to stay comfortable and healthy. 

    What Size Tank Should You Use?

    The minimum published guidelines for a reptile cage size deals with the long side of the cage compared to the length of your snake. At a minimum, you should follow the following guideline:

    For a 3-foot snake, you need at least a 2-foot length on your cage.

    However, this is the bare minimum. Most others suggest doubling this to give you the best results. Thus, we have come up with this simple chart you can use. Simply measure your snake, then consult the chart to see how long your tank needs to be:

     

    Snake Length Longest Side of Cage
    1 foot 1’4”
    2 feet 2’8”
    3 feet 4’
    4 feet 5’4”
    5 feet 6’8”
    6 feet (most snakes won’t get bigger than this) 8’

    This chart will give you the length of the cage you need to buy. Ball pythons are ground dwellers, so vertical height is not really that important. Many breeders keep their snakes in very short habitats so they can stack many snakes together in a rack.

    However, you should also consider that your snake will be happier and healthier with as much room as you can give it. Make sure there is plenty of room for your snake to slither, climb, and turn around comfortably in any area of the habitat. Cages can be built out of glass, plexiglass, or even plastic mesh if you live in a warm and comfortable climate for your python. 

    Ball Python Furniture

    Once you have a cage that is the right size, you will need to put some furniture in the habitat to make your snake comfortable. You will need some of each of the following items:

    Water Bowl

    Pythons use their water bowl to soak it, so you need a water bowl large enough for your snake to submerge their entire body in. Snakes soak for many reasons, from shedding their skin to drinking, and some even prefer to defecate in their bowl. Keep this bowl as clean as possible, and always make sure your snake has access to fresh, clean water. You can start with a cheap, disposable container for a baby snake. The snake will quickly outgrow their first water bowl, so be ready to upgrade the water bowl as your snake ages.

    Hides

    Because ball pythons are nocturnal, most of the day they will want to be hidden under a hide. We would suggest placing at least 2 hides for every snake in a habitat. Place one near the heat source, and one as far away from the heat source as possible. This will allow your ball python to choose which hide is most comfortable at different times of the day so they can regulate their body temperature. 

    Rocks, Plants, Branches

    You can also place some “aesthetic” furniture around the habitat to make the terrarium look more appealing to visitors and add a nice touch to your home. Use rocks, branches, and even live plants to make your habitat look more appealing. You can consult your local reptile store to see if there are any non-toxic plants available that are good for reptiles. You should also consider that your snake will explore these items, and a large snake will easily crush delicate plants. So, plan accordingly.

    Substrate

    There are so many different substrate options available for ball pythons that we have covered this subject in a different article. Check out our [article on Ball Python Substrates] to discover the substrate that will work best for you!

    Temperature, Lighting, and Humidity

    Published guidelines on the correct temperature for ball pythons varies slightly based on the author, but in general, the following temperatures are what you should aim for. Ambient temperature and nighttime temperatures should be measured as far from the basking spot as possible. The basking spot should not sit directly over the burrow, and logs and other climbing furniture can be used to allow the snake to get closer to the heat lamp or heater.

    • 82-86° F – ambient temperature
    • 95° F – basking spot temperature
    • 72-79° – nighttime temperature

    Like many other reptiles, ball pythons do best when they receive a full-spectrum reptile lamp that provides UV rays. While ball pythons are not at high risk for vitamin deficiencies caused by poor lighting, most breeders and professionals agree that the snakes do better with full-spectrum lighting (offered at most pet stores). Any lamp that offers both UVA and UVB rays likely has plenty of coverage for your python, though you may need an additional heat source to provide a nice basking spot.

    In terms of humidity, ball pythons like it moderately humid. Typically, a range of 50-80% is suggested. If you live in a very humid state, you may get away with the ambient humidity in your area. People in drier states can purchase a cheap reptile-humidifier to increase the humidity in your terrarium to desirable levels, or you can simply mist the cage with a spray bottle a few times a day. If you keep the humidity in the range suggested, your python should be fine. Outside of these levels can be dangerous. Too dry and your snake will have significant problems shedding. On the other hand, too wet of an environment can lead to bacterial lung infections, which can lead to expensive vet bills and even death if not treated. 

    Conclusions

    Ball pythons are wonderful and easy pets to keep if you follow the above guidelines for their habitat. Just remember that your ball python is going to grow to a much larger size than it is now. Many novice reptile enthusiasts start with a very nice cage, which the snake will quickly outgrow.

    Our advice is to start with a cheap, easy-to-use habitat setup that will allow you to upgrade as your snake gets bigger. Alternatively, you can start with the largest cage possible and simply block off a portion of the cage until your snake gets bigger. Either way, don’t spend all your money on a cage that will be too small in a year or so.