Ball pythons are among the most popular reptiles in the world, and with good reason.
ball pythons are coming6500 different varieties.
There are pastel ball pythons, albino ball pythons, purple pythons, black pythons, red, yellow, and striped ball pythons, clown, bumblebee, and spider designs to name a few.
Even in the wild, some ball pythons were so beautifully colored that African kings wore them as ornaments, prompting 19th-century zoologist Shaw to give them their scientific name:King of Pythonor "royal python".
How big can ball pythons get?
Ball pythons can be very sociable. No snake is clingy, but ball pythons are naturally easy to train and obedient.
And ball pythons are very easy to manage.
They are the smallest of all African pythons.
Adult males can be up to 79 cm long. Females grow to about 102 cm.
Some well-fed ball pythons kept as pets reach 6 feet (183 cm) in length.
You don't have to worry about your python getting too big to handle it.
But ball pythons are notoriously picky eaters. The challenge in keeping a ball python healthy isn't keeping it from overgrowing, it's making sure it grows big enough.
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to help your ball python grow and maintain a normal weight, and what you can do if your ball python is anorexic.
Ball pythons are born eating
Ball pythons usually get their first meal two weeks after birth, right after their first moult. But ball pythons are born with food. Where do you get your first meal from?
About 24 to 36 hours before the egg python hatches, it breaks through cracks in the eggshell with its egg tooth.
The unborn snake absorbs nutrients from the egg yolk through the blood vessels in its "navel", the navel.
When the baby ball python ingests the yolk, the umbilical veins fall off and the python breaks out of its shell.
In the wild, baby pythons face extreme danger from predators, sometimes including another hungry adult python!
However, ball pythons kept as pets are separated, housed in separate rooms, and given their first meal.
Your ball python's first meal imprints its idea of food on your pet
Most ball pythons in the wild do not survive long after hatching.
They are attacked and eaten by birds, wild dogs and hyenas, large frogs, large insects, and large spiders.
The female lays 3 to 16 eggs and only 1 or 2 chicks survive the first year.
We don't really know if some wild baby pythons are starving because they're picky eaters.
But we do know that captive ball pythons can decide that the first prey they're ever given becomes "food."
It's important to be able to feed your ball python regularly as a first step.
If your ball python gets a rat or a mouse as its first meal, it knows rodents are food. For example, if he gets an exotic tree frog, he will indefinitely expect a tree frog for his second, third, and future meals.
Never feed a ball python live rodents. Live rodents can fight! They can also bite you if you put them in a cage where your ball python can feed.
Only feed your ball to previously killed rodents. They are available frozen from pet stores. You slowly thaw them to room temperature and then feed them to your ball python using metal tongs. You use tongs because your fingers are edible too!
Don't microwave rodents for your python. Defrosting in the microwave may make part of the rodent too hot to eat.
Microwaves can destroy the enzymes and vitamins the ball python needs to stay healthy. And if possible, feed python rats instead of mice.
Also read:Why isn't my ball python eating?
Baby ball pythons gain weight faster when fed rats rather than mice
Rats provide ball pythons with more nutrients than mice. Frozen rats and frozen mice have about the same mineral and vitamin content, but mice have more fat and rats have more protein.
Feeding python rats instead of mice will make them bigger and stronger, but not so big that they're difficult to handle.
Ball pythons typically weigh 70 to 72 grams when they hatch.
If a ball python feeds a small mouse as its first meal, it will weigh between 76 and 78 grams at one month of age. If fed to an immature rat, it will weigh between 98 and 100 grams at one month of age.
If you continue to feed baby ball python mice once a week, they will weigh 115 to 120 grams by two months of age. If you continue to feed your young ball python rats once a week, they will weigh 125 to 130 grams by two months.
At three months of age, mouse-fed pythons weigh 150 to 165 grams. Ball python-fed rats weigh between 180 and 200 grams.
Mouse-fed ball pythons are catching up, weighing between 180 and 200 grams by four months of age. But at this point, rat-fed ball pythons weigh between 270 and 280 grams.
Mouse-fed ball pythons still weigh 60 to 80 grams less than rat-fed ball pythons.At 12 months of age, mouse-fed pythons weigh 480 to 500 grams, while rat-fed pythons weigh 540 to 550 grams.
Both ball pythons still only weigh about a pound. But a rat-fed ball python is bigger and stronger, and if it's a female, it'll reach egg-laying age earlier.
|The age of ball python||Weight after feeding young rats (grams)||Weight after feeding mice ((grams)|
Whether you're feeding python rats or mice, you need to properly size snake prey.
Ball pythons can relax (not really unnerve) their jaws to swallow a nice specimen up to 1.25 times the width of their mouth.
Preventing and treating obesity in your ball python
Obesity is a worryingly common problem in all python species, including ball pythons. Obesity is caused by a combination of different factors.
Ball pythons generally don't get much exercise, especially if they aren't tame enough to be taken out of the enclosure.
Most ball python owners feed their snakes pre-frozen and thawed mice, which have a higher fat content than rats and reptiles.
If you feed a ball python mouse that gains weight at the same rate as when you feed it to rats (see the section above), it probably isn't growing fast. I guess it's obesity.
Signs of obesity are wrinkled scales. Sometimes obesity causes the scales to wrinkle. The visible space between the scales is created by excess subcutaneous fat.
The skin of an obese python is very soft to the touch. Its body will be round and not flattened at the top or bottom.
If your ball python is less than a year old, weigh it once a month to make sure it is growing normally. If his weight is higher than expected, check for signs of obesity.
Male ball pythons should stop gaining weight by the age of 16 to 18 months.
Females stop gaining weight by the age of 27 to 31 months, except when laying a clutch.
Mature males and females who are not laying eggs should not gain weight at monthly weighing.
If they are gaining weight as described above and are showing signs of obesity, they should be fed less.
How much you should feed your ball python depends on its age:
- Ball python chicks need food every 5 to 7 days.
- After a year, ball pythons need food every 7 to 14 days to be fully grown. They rarely need more food.
- Adult ball pythons only need feeding every 14 to 42 days, but may require multiple rodents to feed.
Overweight ball pythons need to be fed rats instead of mice. Most ball pythons will have no problem with the switch. However, anorexic ball pythons present a different challenge.
What to do if your ball python is anorexic
Weighing your snake is the best way to ensure it is eating enough.
If an immature ball python isn't gaining weight or an adult ball python is losing weight, anorexia can be a problem.
Getting a python to eat requires different strategies at different stages of its life.
Young ball pythons less than a year old may be reluctant to slap, wrap and swallow food.
Placing a small live rodent in a ball python enclosure will encourage it to defend itself by attacking.
Then he realizes that the rodent you put in the box is food. It is always better to feed your ball python previously killed, previously frozen food, but sometimes live food is necessary to elicit an appropriate response.
In their natural habit, ball pythons stop feeding when night-time temperatures in the tropics are relatively low, as low as 21 °C (70 °F).
An increase in the temperature in the hose housing by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius stimulates the snake's appetite.
Days and nights always last about 12 hours in the tropics. Giving your ball python 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness can also stimulate their appetite.
The next thing to try when a ball python isn't eating is to diversify its diet.
Give him a newly weaned gerbil, a thawed adult gerbil that has been previously killed and frozen, or another rodent.
Offer him a mouse if you fed him rats, or a rat if you fed him mice.
The Brown Bag Method
If these steps don't get your snake to eat, try the brown bag method. Increase the temperature in the ball python housing to 85°F to 90°F (29.4°C to 32.2°C).
Punch a few holes in a brown paper bag. Place your python in a pouch with a live, almost weaned rat. Since the rat is alive, it triggers a shock reaction. Since he has just been weaned, he cannot physically harm your snake.
Fold the top of the bag with the snake and rat inside. Then close with staples. Leave the ball python and rat bag in the snake terrarium overnight.
If your snake eats a rat, the problem is solved. If not, try again a week later with another pet. Repeat this until your snake decides to eat.
rodent hole method
Cut a hole in the side of the plastic bucket large enough for the hose to fit through.
Then place the newly weaned rodent, part of its bedding and some feces or urine in a bucket and cover with a lid.
Lower the bucket into the snake hutch and leave it overnight.
This method encourages shy snakes to overpower and eat weak animals.
If your snake doesn't eat when you first put a rodent in the hole, put another rodent in the same bucket once a week until it decides it's time to eat.
Grass and Leaf Method
Replace the substrate on the underside of the ball python's enclosure with dry hay grass to simulate your snake's natural environment.
Drop the young, newly weaned rodent onto the dry grass and close the snake cage lid. If your snake doesn't eat the rodent, take it out and try another rodent next week.
Feeding live ball python prey is not ideal. Your goal should be to get the snake to eat a previously killed victim if possible.
Adult rats and gerbils have been known to severely injure and even kill ball pythons.
It is also inhumane to leave a living victim waiting in the enclosure for more than 30 minutes to be eaten. You must always supervise your snake when feeding it live prey.
As a last resort, your vet may force-feed the snake.
If you are not trained in this procedure, you should leave it to your veterinarian. Anything that makes your snake vomit negates the benefits of force-feeding.
Frequently asked questions about how big ball pythons can get
Q. Which is bigger, a male ball python or a female ball python?
A. In ball pythons, females are larger than males. The largest female ball pythons can be up to 183 cm long, while the largest male ball pythons are only 4 feet (128 cm) long.
Q. How fast can ball pythons grow?
A. Male ball pythons can grow 21 to 31 cm (8 to 12 in) per year, but females can grow 31 to 39 cm (12 to 16 in) per year.
Q. How much do adult ball pythons weigh?
A. An adult male ball python typically weighs about 2.2 pounds, or about a kilogram. Females can weigh up to 6.4 pounds, or nearly 3 kilograms.
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Maximum adult length of this species is 182 cm (6.0 ft). Females tend to be slightly bigger than males, maturing around 122–137 cm (4.0–4.5 ft). Males typically grow to around 90–107 cm (3.0–3.5 ft).How big do ball pythons get in captivity? ›
An exceptionally large ball python might reach six feet in length. Most captive-bred ball pythons average from three to five feet. Since 1978, about four million ball pythons have been exported from Africa. They grow fastest during their first year of life but never stop growing.What age are ball pythons full grown? ›
Around 3 years of age your ball python will reach their full length.How big of an animal can a ball python eat? ›
Larger ball pythons typically eat larger mice or rats. Selecting prey for a ball python. As a general rule, you should select a rodent that is 1 to 1.25 times the size of the midsection of your snake. Smaller prey is fine, but avoid getting food that's too large.Do ball python bites hurt? ›
Does a ball python bite hurt? You will probably feel the effects of a python bite because it can cause scratches, puncture wounds, bruising, and even possibly deeper internal damage. These bites may be painful during the bite and as your injuries heal.Can you hold a ball python too much? ›
Too much handling can stress your snake and affect its behavior, which is Ball Python's greatest vulnerability. If handled too often: Even docile ball pythons may become overwhelmed and bite you. It can also cause a ball python to become defensive and unwilling to interact with humans.Is a 40 gallon tank good for a ball python? ›
Adult Ball Pythons will need at least a 40 gallon terrarium. Hatchling Ball Pythons can be housed together, however juveniles and adults should be housed separately.What does a full grown ball python look like? ›
The ball python is black, or albino and dark brown with light brown blotches on the back and sides. Its white or cream belly is scattered with black markings. It is a stocky snake with a relatively small head and smooth scales. It reaches a maximum adult length of 182 cm (6 ft 0 in).Can a ball python live in a tall tank? ›
While Ball Pythons can reach a length of 54", they are mainly terrestrial and don't need a tall tank. Provide Ball Pythons with substrates that enable burrowing such as Zilla Lizard Litter or Zilla Bark Blend. Do not use pine or cedar shavings as these substrates are toxic to snakes.Do ball pythons need misting? ›
Ball pythons require localized areas of high humidity within their cages. Once or twice daily misting of the entire enclosure with room temperature water in a hand spray bottle should be adequate in most situations.
In general, you should never let your ball python's vivarium exceed 70% humidity. Anything over this relative humidity can result in respiratory infections. In addition, when humidity is too high, the substrate does not dry out properly, which increases the risk of scale rot.How long can ball pythons go without eating? ›
Smaller snakes tend to feed more often than larger ones, but species like the ball python can go for as long as two years without needing a meal. Without an internal metabolism to manage, the energy cost of doing nothing is a lot lower than it would be for an equivalent mammal.Will ball pythons eat fish? ›
While these snakes can and do consume birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles from time to time in the wild, for the most part, the majority of their prey items come from the rodent family.Are ball pythons friendly? ›
Experienced snake owners agree, ball pythons are one of the most beginner-friendly snakes one can own due to their friendly and docile nature.Can ball pythons eat mice? ›
Ball pythons in the wild eat a wide variety of rodents aside from mice, and they also eat small birds. In captivity, you can try to feed them any appropriately sized, commercially bred rodent. This includes domestic mice or rats, multimammate mice, gerbils, and hamsters.Do ball pythons recognize their owners? ›
Snakes are able to recognise and distinguish between humans and may recognise the scent of their owner as familiar or positive with time. However, snakes are unable to view humans as companions so cannot form a bond with their owner like other pets can.Why is my ball python hissing? ›
Ball pythons may hiss to define their territory. If they feel that someone or something is encroaching on their space, they may hiss in an attempt to ward them off. Hissing is their way of saying “this is my space, stay away!” This is especially common between two ball pythons that are kept in the same enclosure.Do ball pythons get scared? ›
Typically, ball pythons will communicate discomfort or fear long before they resort to biting. They'll often do this by tensing their muscles, becoming more rigid, hissing or acting “jumpy.” If you note these signs, return your pet to his enclosure and leave him alone.Do ball pythons get jealous? ›
Snakes and other reptiles are not social animals. They do not form communities, have friends, or even nurture their own young. Unlike mammals that can demonstrate complete emotions like love, joy, or even jealousy, snakes do not demonstrate deep feelings like these.What not to do with a ball python? ›
NEVER pick up a snake by its tail — this can cause severe damage to their spine. During handling, continue to support the snake's body and use a loose grip to enable it to move freely. If the snake is moving in a direction you don't want it to go, use your free hand to gently guide its head away.
How often to feed a ball python. You don't need to feed a ball python every day. Generally, smaller or younger ball pythons need to eatevery five days, while larger ones usually eat once every week or two. As they get older you feed them more at one time so they don't need as many feedings.What is the best stuff for a ball python tank? ›
As a rule of thumb, ball pythons need at least 2 hides: one on the cool end of the enclosure, and the other on the warm end. But it's better to offer as many as you can possibly cram into the enclosure. For best results, fill one or two of the hides with moist sphagnum moss to facilitate shedding.What do ball pythons like in their tank? ›
Housing for your Ball Python should:
be a relatively large enclosure. maintain ambient daytime temperatures of 80-85°F (27-29°C). provide for a basking area of 90-92°F (32-33.3°C ). provide hide boxes. ● have access to fresh water in a bowl that is large enough for the snake to soak.
Young snakes do best in smaller enclosures – a 10 gallon tank or equivalent-sized reptile enclosure is perfect. As your snake grows, upgrade to a 20 gallon long tank or equivalent. Larger adults should be housed in 40-60 gallon tanks.What is the biggest ball python ever recorded? ›
Key Points. The largest python ever was around 26.25 feet long (8 meters) and weighed roughly 550lbs (250kg).What does a unhealthy ball python look like? ›
Ball pythons who are sick or dying will often stretch out their body for a prolonged period of time, hold their head in elevated positions, or unusually coil their body. This stargazing behavior is often a sign that the snake is having respiratory problems.Why do ball pythons ball up? ›
The Ball Python gets its name from the fact that when it is threatened or feels in danger, it will coil into a ball and stick its head tightly into the middle for protection!How big is the biggest ball python in the world? ›
Key Points. The largest python ever was around 26.25 feet long (8 meters) and weighed roughly 550lbs (250kg).What's the biggest ball python? ›
Males are between 2.5 to 3.5 feet long by the time they reach three years old. One study on wild male species found the largest individual was 4.5 feet long, but this is unusual. The smallest measured adult male was only two feet long. Female Ball Pythons are much larger due to their genetically faster growth rate.Are all ball pythons aggressive? ›
Ball pythons aren't aggressive, so as snakes go, they make good pets. Keep in mind that ball pythons love to coil up into a ball. They should never be forced out of their coil, or they may act out aggressively.
Burmese pythons are larger than ball pythons. An average Burmese python will weigh up to 200 pounds and measure 16 feet long, but the ball python grows to about 6 feet long at most and weighs about 7 pounds. The largest Burmese python was even larger, measuring 18 feet and weighing over 200 pounds.Is there a snake bigger than a python? ›
Green anacondas are the heaviest snakes in the world. The heaviest anaconda ever recorded was 227 kilograms. This massive snake was 8.43 metres long, with a girth of 1.11 metres. While the reticulated python is longer, it's also slender.What's the biggest snake ever recorded? ›
The Titanoboa—the largest known snake to ever exist—was as long as a school bus, growing to an estimated 50 feet long and 3 feet wide. The species was discovered in 2009 by a multi-organizational team of scientists at the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia.