Disclaimer: This article has been reviewed for accuracy by a qualified veterinarian. It should not be considered a complete care guide, nor is it intended to replace veterinary advice tailored to your specific pet. Snake owners are urged to consult with their veterinarian about their pet’s health and care.
The ball python or Python regius is one of the most popular pet snakes that is easy to handle with a docile, chill attitude that makes them perfect for older kids interested in reptiles. They’re typically, brown-and-black colored but with a wide color palette, although some variations may have yellow coloring. Most folks know them by their habit of curling up into a ball when threatened. When they’re feeling more relaxed or sunning themselves, fully grown ball pythons can stretch out to 5, even 6, feet.
But how long do they live in captivity? What about in the wild? If you’ve ever wondered which setting your snake would live longer, you’re on the right page. Usually, most pythons reach a minimum of 25 years reaching up to 30 years. Let’s get into the specifics down below, as well as some other relevant information that will help your ball python live a longer, healthier life.
Ball Python Average Lifespan
These sinuous brown and black serpents live to be 20 to 30 years old in most cases, with the oldest ball pythons living to 40 and even 60 on occasion 1. Most pythons reach a minimum of 25 years in a safe, clean habitat with proper care.
How Long Do Ball Pythons Live in the Wild?
It’s difficult to tell for sure and the numbers vary by a lot, but broadly speaking, ball pythons only live to about 10 years old in the wild. They’re native to sparse forests, grasslands, and savannas across large swathes of West and Central Africa, where a lot of other predators live. Razor-sharp eagle talons, headstrong boars, proud lions, clever monkeys, and other animals pose an existential threat to the average wild ball python, dramatically lowering their wild lifespan. Even babies aren’t safe from these threats, as their small size and lack of mobility make them easy targets.
How to Care for Your Ball Python for a Long Lifespan
Ball pythons don’t live very long in the wild, but in captivity, we can give them the ideal conditions they need to reach a much longer lifespan. Your python’s diet is one crucial factor, but so are their environment, cleaning, and healthcare. Let’s explore how you can optimize every area of your snake’s life to give them the best possible chance at a long life.
Feeding & Diet
Ball pythons generally eat young, frozen mice, and how often they eat corresponds to their age. Young snakes eat every week, while older and larger ones only eat once every two weeks. For some more specific feeding tips, check our feeding tips.
A 15- to 20-gallon enclosure should be enough space for a young, small ball python, but you should upgrade to larger habitats once they grow. They do best with a 40- to 60-gallon tank when adults. The bottom of the tank should be lined with a suitable substrate such as newspaper, paper towel, or reptile carpet. Using sand or gravel as substrate can lead to constipation if ingested by your snake. Pine and cedar shavings contain oils that are harmful to your ball python.
You want to establish a comfortable temperature gradient across the tank, with one end hovering at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the warmer, “sunnier” side at about 90 degrees. A large, flat rock on the warm side is a good idea to promote temperature regulation. Although ball pythons are nocturnal, 8-12 hours of UVB light per day may have benefits such as boosting the immune system.
Your snake should have free access to a wide water dish, where they can freely soak to cool down their bodies. Water is even more essential when your snake is molting because their bodies will dehydrate very easily, so keep the dish topped up with enough clean water to soak in. Large hollows, caves, or natural scenery complete the scene by giving your snake places to rest; provide one hide at the warm end of the enclosure and other at the cool end, which will provide an extra cool spot in the enclosure if needed.
You’ll need a second smaller enclosure to house your snake while you clean their main habitat once per week. You can use a reptile-safe disinfectant or soap and water. Remove all organic waste, branches, caves, and other objects, then thoroughly scrub the habitat and dishes with your cleaning agent and a clean cloth or sponge. This is best done with a hose or in a shower since you’ll need to rinse with fresh water until the smell of disinfectant completely fades. Let the enclosure air dry with a fan or in a room with good circulation before putting your snake back in it.
Like all snakes, ball pythons will hide any obvious signs of illness and make things that much harder for you as their caretaker. This makes taking your snake to an experienced vet for a new patient exam imperative. They’ll be able to screen your snake’s feces for signs of illness like parasites or bacterial infection, as well as advise you on how to approach specific ailments.
Afterward, a yearly wellness exam should suffice to weed out common illnesses. For example, respiratory illnesses are sadly common in ball pythons, as well as mouth rot and skin problems. Most of the time, these issues arise from suboptimal husbandry, and your vet can help advise you on how to prevent that in the future during your visit.
At home weigh your python regularly and contact your veterinarian if they lose more than 10% of their body weight or there is a gradual decline in weight. If there is a reduction in appetite, lethargy, reduced droppings, trouble shedding skin, or any other signs that are concerning to you seek veterinary attention.
The Life Stages of a Ball Python
Ball pythons don’t have a particularly complicated life, and we can break down their lifecycle into three stages. As your snake grows, their appetite will ebb as their size grows until they reach maturity. Let’s break down the ball python’s life from egg to adult right below for your quick reference.
As pythons, ball pythons are some of the longest-lived snakes in the world. In captivity, they typically live 20 to 30 years, but some live 40 or more years! The best way to help your snake reach their maximum lifespan is to give them impeccable care and monitoring at home, while making yearly appointments for wellness checks.
Featured Image Credit: TKBackyard, Shuttertstock