A Guide to Owning a Ball Python

Ball pythons are considered one of the better snakes to own as a pet because of their manageable size and their affordability. Considered shy, ball pythons get their name from their tendency to curl into a ball when threatened or under stress. Overall, they are a calm and manageable breed.

Origins and Natural Habitat

Ball pythons are native to Western and West-Central Africa. Typically, if a ball python is purchased from a pet store, it probably came from Togo, Benin or Ghana. In their natural habitat, ball pythons prefer grasslands or savannahs, where trees are typically sparse or are at least small in size so as not to provide full coverage.

Appearance and Characteristics

Size: The average size of an adult female ball python is between 3 and 5 feet, while the average male is a bit smaller at 2 to 3 feet. Their size is often considered an ideal size for a pet snake.

Markings: Pastel ball pythons tend to have their colors fade out as they get older and are therefore paler than other types of ball pythons, and it's no surprise that albino ball pythons are white under their colored markings. But really, there are so many variations in the breed that distinctive markings are difficult to nail down.

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Ball pythons are nocturnal and in their natural habitat would spend their nights hunting and then retire underground by day. They're a shy breed, too, so you may not see a lot of action from them.

Health and Care

Feeding: Ball pythons eat mice and rats and only need to be fed once every week or two. Pre-killed prey is recommended, as a live mouse or rat could hurt the snake.

Housing: Full-grown ball pythons are typically housed in 30-gallon tanks or terrariums. Because they are nocturnal, no lighting is required, but they will need a water pool to soak in and branches for cover. The ideal temperature for the tank is between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Health Concerns: Captive ball pythons may suffer from a condition called retained eye shed, in which they don't shed the skin over their eyes. If this happens, bathe the snake in warm water for 10 minutes, then place a drop of mineral oil on the afflicted eye and wait for the skin to shed.

Life Expectancy: With proper ball python care and housing, you can expect your pet to live between 20 and 30 years.

Finding Ball Pythons for Sale

Ball pythons typically cost between $60 and $300, depending on age and type. Whether you're looking for adult or baby ball pythons for sale, you'll want to check the snake over before you buy. Mites are common in the breed, so look for loose scales as a sign of infestation. Often, your best bet is to buy from ball python breeders, since they are more likely to offer a clean bill of health. They can also help ensure you have all the information you need on caring for your new pet.