In order for your Ball Python to thrive and stay healthy, its important to set up their housing in such a way that won’t cause them stress or risks to their health. Once you get your tank or tub set up properly, the rest is easy and the Ball Python will be a happy camper.
Its not recommended to put more than one Ball Python into an enclosure. They do not do well when housed together. In the wild they are solitary creatures, only seeking each other out to mate and then they go their separate ways.
Lets go over the tank/aquarium set up. This is the most popular set up for new snake owners and those who prefer to have a visually appealing enclosure (to the human eye).
GLASS TANK/AQUARIUM SET UP WITH SCREEN TOP
The ideal size tank will heavily depend on the age and size of the snake. For juveniles, go no bigger than 10 gallons. For adults a 20 gallon tank will be the perfect size, even for full grown adults. Anything bigger than a 20 gallon can cause the Ball Python to feel insecure, resulting in stress which can negatively effect their eating habits and overall heath. A bigger tank is harder to keep temperature and humidity properly acclimated, and you will need more plants and hides to ensure the snake feels safe and secure. It can be done with a tank larger than a 20 gallon, but its not recommended.
Unlike other snakes, Ball Pythons do NOT need to stretch out in their enclosures. They are more of a “stationary” snake, meaning they are perfectly content to snuggle up inside their hides all day, and most of the night. Its just what they do! They are actually known as the “pet rock” of snakes. When owning any animal try to keep in mind that doing whats best for the animal is whats best for the animal! If you’re looking for a more active snake, a Ball Python might not be a good choice for you.
TEMPERATURE & HUMIDITY:
The ideal temperatures will be as follows:
Ambient: 84 to 86 degrees
Warm Side of the tank: 88 to 90 degrees (no higher)
Cool Side of the tank: 78 to 82 degrees (no cooler)
The Ambient Temperature is the temperature throughout the entire tank, or the majority of the tank.
The Warm Side and Cool Side will allow the snake to regulate its body temperature.
Humidity needs to be at a constant 50% to 60%.
To achieve the perfect temperature and humidity in your tank you will need the following items:
– Ceramic Heat Emitter Bulb (CHE) 100 to 150 watts
– Heat Lamp Dome
– Dimmer (also called a Rheostat) This will be used with the CHE
– Under Tank Heater (UTH) Choose a size that is less than half the size of the tank’s bottom to create a hot spot on ONE side of the tank.
– Thermostat – to be used with the UTH
– Infrared Temperature Gun
– Two Digital Temperature & Humidity Gauges
– Acrylic (available at hardware stores) or Aluminum Tape to cover the screen top (Get the thick Aluminum tape, from a hardware store).
– Water Bowl (Dog bowls from the Dollar Store work great!)
– Substrate appropriate for Ball Pythons: Reptichip (Coconut Husk), Forrest Floor (Cypress Mulch), or Aspen
– Two Hides
– Lots of Fake Plants and Vines (Fake Plants at Dollar Stores are perfect!)
– Black Foam Board This will be used to cover the back and sides of the tank. (Available at Dollar Stores!)
These items can be purchased online at Amazon and reptilebasics.com, found at Petco and PetSmart, and other reptile specialty stores like LLL Reptile.
Now lets put this all together.
OUTSIDE OF TANK
1. Cut the black foam board to size so that the entire back and both sides are covered. You can even do the lower half of the front if you wish. The more privacy the BP has the better. This will help the snake feel safe and secure (they don’t like being out in the open or feeling exposed) as well as add a little more insulation to help keep those temperatures up. If you’re not a fan of the solid black foam board you can go with a nature scape printed sheet (used on fishtanks backgrounds). Some owners even like to use fake rock walls inside their tanks. Whatever you use, the goal is to provide privacy for the snake, and covering three sides is recommended.
2. Using the Aluminum tape (or the acrylic sheet) cover the majority of the top of the screen, leaving an open space for the CHE to rest without coming into contact with anything other than the wire screen itself. I also like to leave a space for air flow. The CHE needs to be in the MIDDLE of the tank. The tape needs to go on the outside of the top, not the inside. If for some reason some of that tape comes loose you don’t want it sticking to your snake.
Note: The cool thing about the acrylic is, once cut to size and the opening for the CHE is made, you can move them to adjust for humidity if needed. To do this the sheet needs to be cut in half right down the middle. Here’s an example of what I mean:
When adding new substrate the humidity levels will be higher since the fresh substrate has more moisture. Once that substrate starts to dry out a bit, the humidity in the tank will drop. To keep the tank at the correct humidity with new substrate I will adjust the acrylic tops to allow for more air circulation inside the tank. Once that substrate starts to dry out a little and the humidity drops a bit I can close up those acrylic sheets to trap that humidity in. The amount of humidity inside your tank greatly depends on the type of substrate used. We will talk more about that a little later in this post.
3. Now grab the thermostat and the Under Tank Heater (UTH). On the bottom of the tank, either the left or right side (your choice) place the thermostat against the glass so that when you stick the UTH on it will read from the center of the UTH. Press it all together so it holds well. The thermostat will need to be set to 90 degrees. Without using a thermostat you risk burning your snake. Trust me, it happens. Without using a thermostat these heaters can reach upwards of 150 degrees! That can burn or even kill your snake. Not worth it! Get that thermostat. So once its placed correctly, the thermostat will be on the outside bottom of your tank in between the glass and the UTH.
Mine has been reused a few times so the sticky stuff is wearing off a bit. Not pretty but it works!
I used small pieces of the Aluminum Tape to secure the cords. Do not let any aluminum tape touch the actual sensor/probe as this can interfere with correct readings and temps.
Note: Make sure that your tank has those little rubber feet on each corner. If not, you can pick some up at almost any hardware store. This is to prevent the bottom of the tank from pinching the cords of the UTH and the thermostat. Pinched cords can result in inaccurate readings and even cause them to completely malfunction or break.
INSIDE OF TANK
1. Place your tank where its going to be kept. Make sure its not right in front of a window or door that allows direct sunlight to touch your tank. Not only do BP’s not like or even need sunlight (they are nocturnal), but it will mess with your tank’s temperatures. A tank sitting directly in the sun on a summer day can become too hot. Its also kind to place it somewhere where there isn’t a ton of traffic and noise. BP’s love a quiet, calm and dark setting. Keeping your snake safe from predation (indoor cats and dogs for example) is so very important. Using a solid sturdy piece of furniture or a stand that won’t tip over is best. Also make sure that the lid locks into place so that it cant be easily opened. Pins or locks are also recommended for added security.
2. Fill the tank with about 2 or 3 inches of substrate. Lets talk about substrate a bit.
Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the best substrate for your tank. If you find that your tank is constantly on the lower side, using a substrate known to hold more moisture will help. This would be Cypress Mulch (Forest Floor) or Coconut Husk (Reptichip). To lower or maintain the level of humidity, Aspen can be used.
3. Grab your hides and place one directly over the Under Tank Heater. Place the other one on the opposite side of the tank. You’ve just provided a hot spot and a cool spot for your snake. Place the water bowl in the middle of the tank (right under where the Ceramic Heat Emitter bulb will go) and nestle it into the substrate so that its nice and snug. Fill with purified water.
4. Now place your fake plants and vines throughout the floor of the tank. The more the better. Ball Pythons love clutter so go crazy and fill up that tank! Make sure that any vines you place within the tank don’t have any closed loops. Basically, anything that the snake can put its snoot or head through is something it might get stuck in. So if any plants or vines have closed loops please cut them open and remove any sharp edges.
If it looks too cluttered, its perfect for a Ball Python 🙂
5. Place one Acurite gauge at the bottom left corner (front corner facing out so you can see it and read the numbers without needing to take the top off) and the other at the bottom right corner. This will give you a cool side reading and a warm side reading.
6. Now plug everything in. You will plug your CHE bulb into your Dimmer/Rheostat, then plug that Dimmer into the wall outlet. You NEED that dimmer because those CHE bulbs can get too hot. The dimmer will help you control the ambient temperature. VERY important!
Next you will plug your UTH into your Thermostat, then plug that Thermostat into the wall outlet. Set it to 90 degrees.
Now….time to wait. Watch your temperature and humidity levels. Use the Temp gun to check that the temps under the CHE bulb don’t go above 90. The temp gun works best if you measure from about 1 foot away, but always check the manual for proper directions. If the area directly under the CHE is above 90 degrees, adjust the dimmer switch to lower the power a bit. Wait about 30 minutes and then check again. Keep making micro adjustments until you can achieve the ideal temps and humidity levels. Once those levels are consistent, you can add your Ball Python.
Keep in mind that you will always be checking in on the levels of humidity and the temperature. If the temperature of the room the tank is in changes, you will need to check up on your tank and make adjustments as needed.
Once in the newly set up tank, let him/her settle for 7 days before trying to handle or feed. Moving to a new tank, or bringing home a new snake is somewhat stressful for the snake. Always allow at least a week of “alone time” for your snake before any activity . Handing or feeding too soon can cause even more stress.
What you DON’T need for a Ball Python:
LIGHTS – You will NOT need to purchase lights of any sort. Not UVB bulbs or Red Heat Lamps. Ball Pythons do not need sunshine or a Day/Night Cycle. In the wild, Ball Pythons are found hiding in termite mounds and other burrows waiting for prey to creep by. They prefer to be in tight, dark spaces. They are nocturnal. Lights can actually cause health issues with your Ball Python. Unfortunately most sales reps at pet stores will tell you that these lights are needed, but DON’T BUY ONE. Ball pythons don’t do well in enclosures with lights. NO LIGHTS!
CLIMBING DECOR – You will NOT need to buy any sort of climbing branches or logs. Ball Pythons can climb, but that doesn’t mean they should. They aren’t very agile when it comes to climbing, which can lead to them falling and injuring themselves. You also don’t want your snake to come into close, constant contact with that hot CHE bulb at the top of your tank. So don’t bother with that type of decor, its not needed nor is it recommend for Ball Pythons.
MISTING – Please do NOT mist their tank. Misting is a very quick way to raise the humidity, but doing so will raise the humidity TOO fast, which will lead to Respiratory Infections and issues within the tank, like bacteria growth, mold or mildew. Your tank needs to be humid but not wet. Misting is an INCORRECT way to keep humidity at the right levels. NEVER MIST A BALL PYTHON’S ENCLOSURE.
Sometimes, even though you’ve set up the tank correctly you may experience issues with your snake. For some of the most common issues please check out the other posts on the blog.
SHEDDING ISSUES WITH YOUR BALL PYTHON and how to fix them…coming soon