Ball Python (Python regius)
Skill Level: Intermediate
Ball pythons (also known as royal pythons) are a terrestrial species of constricting snake native to regions of eastern, central, and western Africa. In the wild, they are most often found in semi-arid grasslands, sparse woodlands, fields, and near agricultural areas, sheltering in burrows, termite mounds, and hollow logs.
These snakes are cathemeral, which means that although they have been observed as most active at night, they are irregularly active during both night and day, depending on environmental factors. As ambush hunters, they wait for prey such as rodents, birds, and lizards to scurry past their dens before striking, using powerful constricting muscles to squeeze prey until it passes out (which is humane and occurs within seconds, according to this study published by National Geographic).
Ball pythons are sexually dimorphic, which means there is a notable difference in size between males and females. They start as tiny, 10” (25.4 cm) hatchlings, but males typically grow 2’-3’ (0.6-0.9 m) long, while females grow to be 3’-5’ (0.9-1.5 m) long. Larger individuals have been recorded.
Ball pythons reach sexual maturity in 3-5 years and have a 15-30 year lifespan in captivity.
They are known for their incredible genetic diversity; part of their current popularity is due to a fad for producing “morphs”: variations in color and pattern. Many experienced hobbyists take on ball python breeding as a study in snake genetics. Because of this trend, the market is currently saturated with snakes who didn’t make the cut for the next generation, and so breeding should be attempted with extreme caution.
They are very popular in the pet trade and are often sold as beginner pets due to their docile temperaments and manageable size. However, due to very specific husbandry requirements and a tendency toward picky eating habits, it can be argued that they are actually best for an Intermediate-level keeper with prior snake experience.
Note: If you’re looking for a pet that you can watch and frequently interact with, a ball python probably isn’t for you. This is another reason why I personally believe ball pythons are best suited for Intermediate keepers.
Ball Python Care Guide – Table of Contents:
- Supplies You Will Need
- Terrarium Size & Lighting Guidelines
- Temperatures & Humidity
- Substrate Options
- How to Decorate the Terrarium
- Feeding Your Ball Python
- Handling Tips
- Health & Diseases
- Additional Resources
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