For those fascinated by the thought of getting a snake as a pet, the ball python or Python regius is an excellent choice! Known for their docile and endearing attributes, ball pythons are not only small in size (as compared to other pythons!) and easy to take care of, but are also non-poisonous.
These pythons get their name from their habit of curling into a ball (with the head in the center), when they're nervous or petrified. At birth, these pythons are about 14-18 inches long, but as they grow they reach up to about 3-5 feet in length. Their black, brown, and tan spots help us easily identify them in their natural habitat.
Ball Python's Natural Habitat
A native to West Africa, today these pythons are found living in two continents of the world: Africa and North America. The rise in their numbers in North America can be attributed to the large number of yearly imports. Ball pythons dwell on trees, as well as on the grounds of the savannas and grasslands of Africa. In their natural habitat, these snakes experience high levels of humidity, as well as dry and wet seasons. The acres of grasslands form perfect habitats for these reptiles. Moreover, the mice and rodents found there form lovely meals. Being nocturnal animals, ball pythons are mostly found sleeping in burrows and holes during the day.
Creating an Artificial Habitat
Mimicking the conditions of their natural habitat is essential while taking care of the python in captivity. Never bring home a ball python from the wild. Always get one that has been bred in captivity, because they are used to living in captivity, and are less prone to aggressiveness and infections. Nevertheless, taking care of this reptile calls for certain measures that need to be undertaken. Let's take a look at the different things one has to get done before getting the pet python home.
Since ball pythons grow to a size of 3-5 feet, it is advisable to get a 30-gallon long terrarium, which will provide ample floor space for the snake to move around. For adults, a 30-50 gallon tank is suitable. Always note that the size of the terrarium should be such that the snake can stretch comfortably without touching the walls. As ball pythons are really good at escaping, one needs to get a heavy duty lock door. These reptiles also need a few elevated spots to perch on in the terrarium. Place one or two hide boxes for the snake to snuggle into.
The base of the terrarium needs to be covered with a bedding or substrate. Bark mulch, pine shavings, white paper towels, recycled newspaper, etc., make suitable substrates. It's best to avoid non-disposable substrates such as carpets, etc.
An under tank heater that covers about one-third of the enclosure's base is recommended. A thermostat is required to control the heat in the enclosure. Moreover, by placing a thermometer in the terrarium, one can constantly keep a check on the temperature and maintain it at 95°F. To maintain appropriate levels of humidity, one should mist the cage a few times a week.
Young ball pythons typically feed on mice, while the adults relish on rats and gerbils. Pre-killed mice, available at pet stores can be fed to the python. However, while feeding make sure you use tongs because the scent of your hand can leave the snake confused. Ball pythons are infamous for their picky nature. They are finicky about what they eat, often causing pet owners to pull their hair out in frustration. However, one doesn't have to feed the python daily. Feeding the snake once a week is more than sufficient, as pythons can go without feeding for about 3 months. Ball pythons should not be overfed, as they can become obese and have several health problems. Water bowl should be sanitized and refilled once every week.
Once you get them home, you are responsible for their well-being. So, do not get impulsive and get one, just because you want to show off an unusual pet. Pets are great responsibilities and only if you are ready to shoulder them meticulously, should you bring one home!