Usually friendly, readily available, and easy to care for, the ball python is one of the most popular pet snakes in the world. These snakes thrive in captivity with the right care and their gentle nature makes them a great choice for a first-time snake owner. And thanks to some dedicated breeders, ball pythons can now be found in a wide variety of color and pattern morphs.
If you are considering getting a ball python, one question you might have is how long ball pythons live. You might already know that reptiles tend to live a lot longer than your average dog or cat and you want to make sure you are prepared to care for your ball python for their full lifespan. On average, ball pythons live about 20-30 years in captivity. However, the oldest known ball python lived to 48 years old at a zoo.
To help your ball python reach the maximum end of that lifespan, you will need to provide the proper care to keep your snake healthy and happy. Read on to learn more about ball pythons and how to help them live long and prosper.
Ball Pythons: The Basics
Where Are They From?
Ball pythons are native to the tropical regions of central and western Africa. In the wild, they usually only live about 10 years compared to their expected lifespan in captivity of 20-30 years.
How Long Do They Get?
Male ball pythons grow to about 2-3 feet long on average while females are usually 3-5 feet long. Female ball pythons are almost always larger than males.
What Is Their Temperament Like?
Ball pythons are shy snakes by nature. They will likely spend a lot of time hiding while in their cage. However, once they get used to their owners and their surroundings, ball pythons are one of the easiest snakes to handle. Well-adjusted ball pythons are gentle and often even seem to enjoy being held.
How Much Do They Cost?
The price of ball pythons depends on several factors including age, size, and most importantly color and pattern. A ball python of standard color and pattern usually costs about $40-$60. However, if you are interested in one of the many ball python morphs that now exist, expect to pay more. Some of the rarer morphs could cost as much as $1,000, but $100-$400 is a more common range.
Where Can You Buy One?
Ball pythons, especially standard ones, are one of the easiest pet snakes to find for sale. Pet stores, reptile shows, and private breeders are all good sources for ball pythons. It’s always best to choose a captive-bred ball python rather than a wild-caught one as they are generally healthier.
Ball Pythons: Care and Feeding
So, you’ve found your perfect ball python. Now, how do you make sure they live the expected 20-30 years? It all starts with the right care and feeding.
Cage Size and Setup
Ball pythons don’t need a very complicated cage setup. Plastic reptile cages are the easiest to use. An adult ball python, male or female, will be comfortable in a 36” x 18” x 12” cage.
Cover the bottom of the cage in shredded newspaper or paper towels. Ball pythons are shy snakes so make sure to provide them a hiding space in their cage. That and a shallow water dish are the basics of what your ball python’s cage needs.
If you want to give your ball python a more elaborate home that’s perfectly fine, but keep in mind you will need to completely disinfect everything in the cage regularly. The more fun stuff you add to the cage the more you will need to clean!
Change the snake’s water daily and clean up any urine or feces. Clean and disinfect the whole cage about every 30 days and replace the paper bedding.
Temperature and Humidity
A ball python’s cage should never drop below 75 degrees F. They will need a hotter basking spot kept at 88-96 degrees F. The cage should be set up so the snake can move from a hot spot to a cooler spot as needed. Ball pythons like the humidity level to be around 50%-60%.
Heat lamps and heating mats can be used to keep your ball python’s cage at the right temperature. Mist the cage as needed to maintain the humidity. The best way to make sure you are keeping the temperature and humidity at the right level is to put a thermometer and hygrometer in your snake’s cage.
Ball pythons should be fed thawed or pre-killed rodents once a week. These rodents should be no bigger in size than the thickest part of the ball python. You should avoid handling your snake before and for about a day after feeding.
Ball pythons are known for going on regular hunger strikes, often during the winter, and they won’t eat well during their shedding cycle. So long as they appear otherwise healthy, just continue to offer food on a regular schedule and the snake will eventually start eating again.
Ball pythons, while shy, are usually docile and easy to handle once they learn to trust their owners. Take your time with a new ball python and allow them to get to know you. Keep their cage in a quiet space away from other pets or household activity.
When handling your ball python, move slowly and always support their full body. If the snake acts defensive or looks ready to strike, avoid handling them and give them more time to relax and get used to you. Very stressed ball pythons have been known to bite out of fear.
Once your ball python learns you can be trusted, they are usually very tolerant of handling and may even learn to enjoy it!
Ball pythons are hardy snakes and usually stay pretty healthy. The best way to keep them healthy is to make sure their cage is clean, safe, and the right temperature and humidity and that you are feeding the right diet. A few common health concerns of ball pythons are:
If you are worried your ball python might have one of these health issues, consult a veterinarian experienced with reptile health care.
It’s easy to see why ball pythons are such popular pet snakes and might even be the most popular pet reptile period. As we learned, your ball python will be a part of your life for an average of at least 20-30 years. Before you get a ball python, make sure you are prepared for a long-term commitment to your new pet. Owning any pet is a big responsibility and the ball python is no exception. Your snake deserves quality care and in return, you will get to enjoy your ball python for many years!
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Featured Image Credit: beachbumxotics, Pixabay