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Polar Rodents - US based provider of frozen rats and mice.

Troubleshooting Guide to BALL PYTHONS

Natural History | General Information | Housing Your Snake | Care and Husbandry | Feeding Strategies
Breeding | Common Questions | Glossary | Ball Python Breeders | Classified Ads | Forum

Common Ball Python Questions

Q: How warm/what temperature should I keep my snake at?
A: I suggest heating one end of the tank to about 85-90F, and let the other side be at 75F. Provide a hide box on either end. (Housing)

Q: How much humidity does my python need?
A: It should have an area (hide box) which is around 70-80%. Don't let the cage get much below 60%. (Housing)

Q: What should I feed my snake?
A: An appropriate sized rodent. Rats are nutritionally a little better than mice, and gerbils are almost always a winner for a finicky eater. (Feeding)

Q: Why is my snake's belly getting pink?
A: It's just beginning a 7-10 day shed cycle. You will soon notice the eyes beginning to get hazy. (Husbandry)

Q: How often should it poop/defecate?
A: It depends on how much you are feeding your snake and it's metabolism. You should expect it to "go" at least every 4-6 weeks. If you are worried, a luke warm/cool bath in shallow water should help. (Husbandry)

Q: How often should it shed?
A: Young growing snakes shed about once every 4-6 weeks. Adults may only shed a few times a year. (Husbandry)

Q: How often should I feed my Ball Python?
A: For the first two-three years (18-36 inches), I would suggest an appropriate size meal every 7-10 days. My adult males eat good sized meals about every 3 weeks, adult (breeding) females every 2-3 weeks. (Feeding)

Q: What's the best substrate for my Ball Python.
A: AVOID cedar at all costs! I prefer newspaper...Aspen, Pine, Cypress, AstroTurf, and Paper towels are also pretty acceptable. (Housing)

Q: How do I get rid of mites?
A: There are a few good commercial products on the market. I have had luck using Pro-Zap. Provent-a-Mite from Pro Products is also supposed to be pretty good. The following link will take you to an informational page about The War Against Snake Mites. You will find another good article on Pythons.Net (off site)

Q: What's the best way to heat my snakes cage?
A: AVOID "hot rocks" at all costs! I use either under tank heating pads or clip lamps with aluminum reflectors to heat one end of the cage. (Housing)

Q: Is a hide box necessary?
A: Absolutely! Ball Pythons need a hide box to feel secure. A stressed snake won't eat. (Housing)

Q: How long do Ball Pythons live?
A: Depends on a lot of factors, but you can reasonably expect somewhere between 20 and 40 years. (Natural History)

Q: What does 1.2.1 mean?
A: It's simply an abbreviation for gender ratio of snakes (Male.Female.Unknown). 1.2.1 means one male and two females, and one of which the gender is in question.

Q: Why won't my snake eat?
A: Stress is typically to blame... Don't get too worried as long as your snake isn't loosing a lot of weight. A 6-8 month fasting period is not unheard of. I hear the record is something like 22 months without food!... A gerbil is typically pretty tempting to a finicky eater. (Feeding)

Q: How big will my snake get?
A: Adult Ball Pythons are usually a little over one meter long, that's 36 - 48 inches in American measurement. A really large python can get up to 60 inches. (Natural History)

Q: Are Ball Pythons good "beginner" snakes?
A: Generally yes, They are usually pretty docile, stay small, and are somewhat hardy. Though they can be a challenge at times. Other good beginner snakes are North American Kings (Florida and California) Lampropeltis getula and corn snakes Elaphe guttata ssp. (General Information)

Q: How big of a cage does my Ball Python need?
A: A ten gallon tank (20x10x12 inches) is fine for a snake smaller than 24 inches. An absolute minimum tank for an adult would be a long twenty gallon tank (30x12x12 inches), though a thirty gallon (36x12x18 inches) would be preferred. (Housing)

Q: Does my Ball Python need ultra violet light?
A: No, Ball Pythons are nocturnal× and won't significantly benefit from UV light. (Housing)

Q: Why did my snake regurgitate/throw up?
A: It could be that you are keeping it too cold, handling it too soon after a meal, or it could be an infection and/or internal parasites. If you think it's the latter, take it to a qualified reptile veterinarian. (Husbandry)

Q: Is it Ok to keep more than one snake in a cage?
A: Yes and No. I don't advise keeping different types/species and/or sizes of snakes in one cage. After a 2-3 month quarantine, two or more Ball Pythons of similar size can be house together in a big cage. If they happen to stop feeding, I would suggest separating them to individual cages, and you'll want to separate them at feeding time. (Husbandry)

Q: Why is one of my snake's eye silver?
A: It's most likely a retained eye cap from a previous bad shed, sometimes a damp cloth will help loosen and remove eye caps. Some people have had luck using a little baby oil to soften and remove eye caps. (Husbandry)

Q: Can I safely refreeze rodents?
A: Yes as long as they are not too 'gamey' or rotten. Snakes in the wild are opportunistic and will eat carrion. One of my Ball Pythons actually shows a preference for rodents that have been frozen/thawed twice. (Feeding)

Q: What's the difference between Captive Hatched [CH] and Captive Bred [CB]?
A: Captive Hatched means the eggs were taken from a wild female and incubated. Captive bred means that someone took the time to induce a male and female snake to get together, in captivity, and make eggs. CB is much more preferable. (General Information)

Q: How do I help my snake with shedding problems?
A: Typically increasing the humidity of the cage and/or hydration of the snake helps a lot. (Husbandry)

Q: How large of a meal/rodent can my snake eat?
A: I try and feed my snakes meals which are no larger than twice the diameter of the snake's head. A hatchling python can safely eat a small to average sized mouse. An adult can eat a rat which is five or six inches from nose to butt. (Feeding)

Q: How much should I pay for a Ball Python?
A: Cost depends on where you get it. I would not pay any more than $50 or $75 to buy one from a pet store. (General Information)

Q: Oops, my snake escaped! What now?
A: Search at night, look in sofa cushions, closets, and also look on/around appliances which give off heat... refrigerator, oven, water heater, VCR, TV, etc. (Husbandry)

Q: Should I be feeding live or dead rodents to my snake.
A: Dead food items are preferred since a dead rodent can't harm or scar your snake. (Feeding)

Q: I left a live mouse/rat in the cage over night and it chewed on my snake?!
A: Call it a learned lesson and don't do it again. To help the snake during the healing process you may want to increase the heat a little, and apply a topical antiseptic ointment (like neosporin). (Feeding)

Q: My snake ate the mouse backward?!
A: Don't worry, sometimes with smaller food items, snakes will eat from the tail end of the rodent.

Q: What are the signs of a respiratory infection?
A: Clear fluid coming out of the nostrils and/or mouth, wheezing or popping as it breathes, and/or open mouth breathing. Increase the heat and get it to a qualified vet as soon as you can. (Husbandry)

Q: Will my Ball Python bite?
A: Ball Python's typically don't bite, but it can happen. It doesn't hurt much. (My playful 72 lbs. boxer has accidentally hurt me a lot worse :) Snakes either bite in defense or as part of the feeding process. Assuming it's not on your face, just wash the bite and use an antiseptic ointment (like neosporin). (General Information)

Q: My snake yawned! Is it all right?
A: Yes, snakes usually yawn to re-align their jaws after a meal. Ball Pythons sometimes do it for no particular reason.

Q: Is force feeding a good idea?
A: No!...NO! It's stressful for you and the snake. There are better ways to entice a snake that doesn't want to eat. (Feeding)

Q: Should I be worried about Salmonella?
A: Well, Most eggs laying animals can/do carry salmonella. There are a few guidelines to follow that should help. 1) Keep your snake out of the kitchen and away from anything that goes into your mouth (ex. your fingers, a drinking glass, etc.). 2) Wash your hands after you've handled your snake. 3) Keep your snake away from anyone who may have a depressed immune system (babies, elderly, etc.). Steve Grenard has a good page on salmonella (off site).

Q: Can snakes swim?
A: Yes, snakes are very agile swimmers, as well as being skilled climbers. (Housing)

Q: Should I give my snake a vitamin supplements?
A: No, snakes eat whole animals that are pretty adequate as nutritional packages. You may consider supplementing a little calcium into a gravid (pregnant) female's diet, to help with egg production. (Feeding)

Q: My snake has been soaking in it's water dish for a day or two, is this normal?
A: Well it can just be that the snake wants to be there. It can also be a sign of mites. Check for small specks moving around on the snakes body and near it's eyes. (Husbandry)

Q: Why is my Ball Python hissing?
A: When some snakes feel the need to defend themselves they will puff up and expel air with force, which causes a hissing sound. This is a snake's way of warning you to leave it alone. With time, your snake will settle in and learn that you are not a threat to it.

Q: Do Snakes drink?
A: Yes, most of the water a snake needs it gets from the prey item. Though snakes will on occasion drink. If you are lucky enough to see it happen, it'll usually be right after it eats.

Q: What's that white "chalky" material?
A: Most snakes have evolved to be very efficient with body fluids. They don't urinate (or pee) like you and I, their kidneys pass 'dry' urates.

Q: Is there a certain time of the day that it's better to handle my snake?
A: Once you've had the snake for a while, it doesn't matter much. For a new snake, it's probably better to interact with it during the late evening. Ball Pythons are nocturnal and some might be a little more accepting of disturbance at night, during their normal waking hours.

Q: Help, My snakes eye has a dent in it!
A: Don't panic. This occasionally happens and can be attributed to the snake being a little dehydrated. Make sure it's got fresh water and a bowl that it can soak in. The dent should be gone with the next shed cycle.

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