To better understand your new pet Ball Python and provide it with the optimal living conditions it is good to know a few things about what type of snake it is and where it comes from. Ball Pythons are found in the wild in the West African countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin. They come from an area that is the edge of forests meeting savannah lands so there are trees dotting the open fields as well as plenty of rodents and birds. When a tree dies in this area it is taken over by a termite colony and as the termites turn the tree into a tall mound of droppings and dirt other animals, mainly rodents, will burrow into the base of these columns. When a ball python wanders into these rodent burrows it will take up residence after eating the inhabitants. Basically they will spend most of their time in the wild in a dirt hole in the ground so as long as you maintain the proper temperature and humidity the rest of the setup will be determined by your needs and available space.
The basic setup
The most basic Ball Python setup that still meets all the animal’s needs is a glass terrarium with a screen locking lid. This setup can be as basic as a ten gallon fish tank or as elaborate as a six by two custom made terrarium. The important parts of this setup are the heating elements which can be either under tank heating pads or overhead radiant panels. Light domes can be used but are less effective and more costly and will not provide night time heating in colder climates. The next most important part is the water bowl, which needs to be large enough for the snake to fully submerge in, the hiding spot, which should be located near the heat pad for optimal temps, and the bedding, which can be almost any material as long as it’s absorbent and easy to clean or replace. A thermometer or an infrared temp gun will enable you to keep an eye on the temperature in the snake’s environment in order to keep the perfect balance for proper shedding and feeding. We recommend an ambient temperature of 82-84 degrees and a heated area of 89-91 degrees. Night time drops of 74-76 are tolerated and recommended for breeding and natural diurnal cycles.
The advanced terrarium setup
If you have the space, the money and the desire to create a natural looking environment for your snake, here are some tips to help you get started. Large terrariums can be made from glass, PVC sheet plastic or wood. Glass terrariums are the most common and can be purchased from a number of different companies. They are the most common type of setup due to their availability and cost range. Wooden enclosures are normally built by the owner and are the most cost effective but not the most visually impressive. The PVC sheet plastic cages can be bought or built and are long lasting and stackable for multiple level snake rooms. Your terrarium needs to have all the basic needs met but it can also have natural substrates like mulch, dirt or clay. It can also have live or plastic plants as well as a premade background or plastic vines to create depth and contrast. Ball Pythons do not eat plants so there is no need to worry about the types used.
Snake racks and advanced caging systems
For keepers or breeders of large collections of snakes it is increasingly important to house the animals in a clean, safe and cost effective e environment. There are a few choices available when it comes to snake racks and the most common and least expensive is a homemade wooden snake rack. There are templates available to follow to build your own but remember that wood is hard to clean and almost impossible to keep long term as it can expand or warp in high humidity situations. This leads most keepers to buying PVC sheet plastic racks and with their ease of cleaning and long lasting nature it is not hard to see why most of the rack companies make this type of enclosure. The last option is a steel rack on wheels that can be used in housing large numbers of pythons. These racks are almost indestructible and other than their expensive pricing have almost no other drawbacks. It is also good to consider buying used racks from a keeper that is downsizing or leaving the hobby in order to save