Because of their timid and relaxed nature, Ball Pythons are definitely among the best starter pet snakes out there. In fact, everybody who is enthousiastic about snakes loves these extremely strong and fascinating, but also gentle animals. But nevertheless, Ball Pythons are exotic pets and need to be respected as such. All pet snakes require an appropriate environment similar to their natural habitat to ensure that they live happily.
In this article I want to address what type or size of enclosures ball pythons require and should be housed in. There are many options out there and one will certainly also be right for you. It is another chapter on how to take care of ball pythons. The cage or terrarium you chose is very important and there are many options out there, so let’s find the best one for you.
Should I house my ball python in a natural or sterile environment?
Snakes are generally not very picky when it comes to what their cage looks like. As long as it will have food, water and live in a secure environment without too many stress factors, your snake will be happy. However, I believe as responsible pet owner, we should offer out pet snake an environment as close to a natural experience as possible. So, while you snake certainly wouldn’t mind being housed on kitchen paper, I still believe you should offer it a diverse environment to make sure it thrives. It can also look very attractive and add a great touch to us as keepers (image below).
Of course, if you are a breeder or do not have the resources to keep your snakes in a natural exhibit, it is just fine to keep your cage simple. For quarantine purposes, it is best to have a setup that is as simple as possible.
What type of cage should I choose?
In terms of material, the best choice is an isolating and long-lasting synthetic material. However, such tanks are often hard to find or overly expensive. All materials have advantages or disadvantages. Another great option is a glass terrarium, since it look really nice and not very hard to get or expensive. The downside is that it is not very isolating and it may be hard to create a warm enough environment inside. The third great option would be wood. Most wood is a great isolation and usually also very cheap. Just make sure that it is impregnated with a non – toxic substance. The only downside is, that it is not a very long – lasting option in most cases since it is vulnerable to high humidity and head.
Make sure that your cage has good enough airflow and holes to avoid bad air, but not enough to dry out or cool down the environment inside.
If you have the skill set, a self made cage is always the best and nicest option since you can control every aspect of it and can design it fitting to your circumstances.
How large should my ball python cage be?
This largely depends on the laws that are active in your area. Check if there are any requirements that must be fulfilled for pet snakes or similar pets. If not, I suggest you chose a tank that is roughly 1.25 * 0.75 * 0.5 times the length of your animal (length * width * height). This means that if your animal is 1m in length, your tank should measure at least 1.25m * 0.75m * 0.5m. This should be fine for no more than 2 individuals living inside (Add 0.5m * 0.25m * 0.25m for every additional individual). These dimensions will make it possible for your animal to investigate its surroundings during dawn and nighttime, when it is most active. To avoid buying multiple cages, buy a cage that will last until the animal is fully grown, so calculate with and average length on 120cm for ball pythons. This will save you a lot of money.
What does my snake NEED?
Snakes have very simplistic desires. They want to eat, sleep, reproduce and be left alone – that’s what you hear from most people. However, I believe that these animals are much more intelligent than they are given credit for. But since this is only about what they need, here it is. You should AT LEAST have some kind of moist resting or hiding box for your animal. I recommend filling your hiding box partly with sphagnum moss. This moss can be renewed every couple of day to ensure your python has a moist resting place during the day. (Click HERE to get more info on Humidity Control for Ball pythons). You also definitely need a bowl of water that is large enough for your python to submerge in, should it feel the need.
Please still remember that your pet python is an animal, a living being. You should offer it some space to explore and be curious at least once in a while and make sure that you provide it with a nice and natural habitat. The above-mentioned requirements are simplistic and to not provide a natural experience.
What should I add into my cage to create a natural setup?
As mentioned above, I believe that you should offer your pet snake an environment that provides an experience close to nature. In terms of cage setup, this means that you should add some branches, leaves or even some moss-covered stones. In a large enough cage, this will give you the opportunity to creatively set up our snakes’ home. Avoid buying branches at pet stores, since they are often overly expensive and full of pesticides. Instead, collect branches and stones or leaves directly from a nearby forest, wash them off under warm water and place them inside your cage. If you like working with plants, feel free to plant some nice flowers or farns inside you enclosure. They will look gorgeous and add some natural humidity. If you don’t, just use plastic plants of flower to decorate your setup. Although your snake doesn’t care, it will look much more attractive to you.
Don’t worry too much about some small insects or worm getting inside your terrarium from outside. In almost all cases and if you don’t live in central Africa, these creatures will not be able to do any damage to your snake whatsoever since they are from different ecosystems. I generally suggest not keeping you snake too sterile, since they would lose all their immune system sensitivity and get infected much quicker.
What substrate should I use?
If your animal is in a quarantine state or you if keep many snakes in your collection and need to clean efficiently, it is easy to keep them on normal kitchen paper. However, I suggest offering your animal a natural environment, which includes some natural substrate. In my opinion, the best choice is a mix of Cyprus and chipped wood or wood shavings. This will provide a comfortable bedding for your pet snake, while adding a bit of natural humidity to your cage. Cyprus can be sprayed with water every couple of days and acts as a wonderful humidity storage. However, please check where your Cyprus wood is from since many companies take part in massive rain forest devastation to get to this type of wood.
Avoid keeping your snake purely on sand since it could clot its mouth or nasal regions. You should add at least 5 – 10 cm of bedding in your cage to store humidity and provide a comfortable housing for your pet.
In conclusion, the best type of habitat for your pet snake is the one designed by yourself in a natural and attractive way that offers your animal some space to be curious and enjoy nature. These animals will investigate and often explore if given the space; I personally have a python that is highly active every night and looking to explore his surroundings, even outside his cage, for which I gladly offer him the opportunity. A natural setup is not just beneficial for the health of your python, but also much more attractive to you as a keeper.
If you do not yet have a cage or enclosure for your ball pythons, you should definetely go check out the great sortiment in the Amazon Reptile housing section They have a large variety of cages and tanks ready at all time for you to order.
If you are interested in my sources, click HERE!
If you are interested in more information on ball pythons, make sure you check out my other articles or get some literature on the topic. Check out the awesome book by Stefan Broghammer on ball pythons, one of the best books for beginner and advanced keepers. (just click on the image or here; amazon.com, amazon.de)