Terrarium: Size & Lighting

Terrarium Size & Other Specs

Terrarium, Rack, or Tub?

Housing your ball python in an all-glass enclosure (aquarium) can be stressful, since ball pythons need to feel secure in their enclosure. Furthermore, aquariums are terrible at holding heat. If you must keep your ball python in an aquarium, cover 3 of the sides with black post board or insulation board to help it feel more secure and hold in heat.

Most keepers opt for terrariums, tubs, or racks. Racks conserve space and hold heat and humidity well, but they can be too small to allow the snakes adequate opportunities for exercise, and are impractical for casual keepers. Tubs hold humidity very well and allow more space for exercise, but obstruct viewing.

The best terrariums are professionally-made reptile enclosures with opaque walls and a sliding glass door in front for viewing. These hold heat and humidity well, while also helping the snake feel secure. Animal Plastics makes excellent terrariums for snakes.

Size

TERRARIUMS

Hatchlings up to 300g can be housed in a 10 gallon enclosure measuring 20″ x 11″ x 13″ or 50 x 28 x 33 cm.

Juveniles or adult males under 3 feet long can be housed in a 20 gallon enclosure measuring 30” x 13” x 13” or 76 x 33 x 33 cm. Floor space is key here because ball pythons are terrestrial snakes (however they have been occasionally observed climbing in the wild). If you choose alternative dimensions, make sure there’s about 3 sq ft (0.9 sq m) of floor area.

Subadults and most adults over 3 feet long do well in a 40 gallon breeder-sized enclosure (36” x 18” x 12” or 91 x 45 x 43 cm) or larger. If you choose alternative dimensions, make sure there’s at about 5 sq ft (1.5 sq m) of floor area.

Adults can be housed in larger enclosures, and can do very well with the extra space to move and climb around. However, larger size can make maintaining the correct temperatures and humidity more difficult.

TUBS

  • Hatchlings up to 300g can be housed in a 6qt/shoebox tub.
  • Juveniles between 300-800g can be housed in a 15qt tub.
  • Subadults and adults between 800-1800g can be housed in a 28-32qt tub.
  • Adults over 1800g should be housed in a 41qt tub.

Put a Lid on It

It’s best to choose a front-opening enclosure without a screen top, as these help maintain humidity and make accessing the snake much easier (and less startling for the snake). If for some reason you must use a glass enclosure with a screen top, cover part of the screen with plastic or aluminum foil to keep humidity in.

If you are using a top-opening enclosure, be sure to get lid locks; like many snakes, ball pythons can be expert escape artists, and it can be very difficult to find a small snake hiding in your house. DO NOT SECURE YOUR LID WITH TAPE! Many snakes have been severely injured through accidental contact with the sticky side of tape.

If you are using a tub, choose one with a latching lid  (and don’t forget to drill holes in the top/sides for ventilation and regulating humidity.

How often should I clean my ball python terrarium?

The tank should be deep-cleaned with F-10 solution, chlorhexidine, or a bleach solution once a month.

Is it okay to house two ball pythons together?

No. Snakes are solitary animals, so they don’t get lonely. In fact, they’re perfectly happy with their own room. Roommates can make them feel threatened, which can make the snake stop eating and get sick. There have even been some documented cases of ball python cannibalism.

correct ball python terrarium size and setup

Nice example of a ball python terrarium. Of course, it needs a heating element, but we’ll talk about that on the next page. Source: Northampton Reptile Centre

Lighting

Because ball pythons are crepuscular, additional light beyond what illuminates the reptile room is not considered “necessary.” However, some keepers (including myself) prefer keeping a dim light on for mimicking nature’s day/night cycle. If you choose to light the enclosure, use a low-wattage fluorescent bulb for 12 hours on, 12 hours off.

Another option is to use a low-power UVB fluorescent as your light source. It is commonly believed that nocturnal snakes do not “need” UVB, therefore it would be a waste of money to provide it. While this reasoning may seem sound, it oversimplifies the issue. UVB does more for a reptile than help them synthesize vitamin D3; did you know that ball pythons can see ultraviolet light?

Recent studies suggest that UVB can be beneficial for snakes’ long-term physical and mental health. If you would like to use a UVB as the primary source of light, use a low-intensity fluorescent tube (not coil) like the Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 T8 fluorescent mounted at least 12″ inches away from the substrate, preferably behind a mesh screen. This bulb will need to be changed every 6 months to remain effective, even if it seems to still be working.


Next → Ball Python Humidity & Heat Requirements