by Ricky from Ricky’s Reptile Enclosures
There are few pets on the market today that elicit the same response as snakes. Just mention the word snake around the dinner table and at least one person will cringe! Over many years of TV shows and stories being passed down about snakes being notorious killers of man, it is hard to convince everyone that some snakes are actually more docile then the common hamster. The stigma surrounding snakes has become less daunting over the past 20 years, with the Ball Python becoming one of the most common pets owned throughout North America. When Ball Pythons were originally introduced to the public as pets they cost several thousand dollars, but today with breeders on the corner of every street the price of the common Ball Python has dropped to only around fifty dollars. With millions of Ball Pythons changing hands every year there has become a growing need for information. The internet has provided an avenue for sharing information with consumers, regardless of the information provided.
Ball Python care sheets and videos can be found in many languages and on many sites throughout the web, allowing consumers the chance to get to know Ball Pythons before they actually go to the store or breeder to purchase their new pet. However, with the ease of duplicating information, the Ball Python has been fighting a loosing battle for nearly 20 years. The care sheets found on most sites and the information given to many consumers by pet store clerks is not correct, resulting in cold, dry and unhealthy Ball Pythons by the millions. Let’s discuss three of the major issues today that need to be corrected. All three issues related to the keeping of Ball Pythons are connected intimately to one another.
Keeping a Ball Python in a fishtank is the most common error suggested. This error is multiplied by retailers and manufacturers who care more about making money than the well being of the exotic Ball Python. Although fishtanks are readily available at almost any pet store across the world, they are not the correct enclosure for a Ball Python. Keeping this exotic snake requires more then space – it requires very specific heat and humidity requirements that are nearly impossible to obtain with a fishtank. It is imperative to the health and well being of Ball Pythons that they be housed in Ball Python Enclosures that have been specifically designed for Ball Pythons.
Ball Pythons were plucked from their homes in Northern Africa many years ago and have been breed in captivity ever since. Although these captive bread snakes have never felt the warm earth of ‘home’, they still require the same climate. Warmth is the second greatest mistake in Ball Python care. Along with the fishtank, most consumers will find that heat lamps are highly recommended by stores and care sheets. These popular reptile heat sources are terrific for providing both heat and light for many types of reptiles ranging from lizards to various species of snakes. Although they are the most popular source of heat, these lamps and domes create the wrong environment for a Ball Python. Ball Pythons do not naturally bask on logs or rocks like many other snakes, when heating their bodies. Ball Pythons do require heat, since they are cold blooded animals, but they require a different type of heat. Ball Pythons require an under tank heater (UTH). A UTH is available in the form of a tape, pad or cable and is very easy to install under the enclosure. Any UTH should be regulated using a thermostat to make sure it doesn’t exceed the recommended temperature and burn your Ball Python. In order for your Ball Python to behave in a stress free and natural way it must hide under branches or logs for the better part of the day, only coming out during the night. While hiding, the Ball Python requires heat on its belly, which mimics the warm African earth. Although the heat on the floor of the enclosure is critical, it is also very important that the inside of the enclosure remain warm. If you were convinced either online or in a store to keep your Ball Python in a fishtank, you are likely doing one of two things. The first is that you are using a heat lamp, providing a wonderfully warm ambient temperature in the enclosure, leaving your Ball Python cold inside its hiding place forcing it to come out during the day when it should be hiding in order to get warm. The other possibility is that you have used the correct under tank heater, so your snake is comfortably warm during the day but cannot come out of the cave at night because the ambient air temperature is much too cold. The inherent issue with fishtanks is that the top of a fishtank is wide open allowing the warm air to escape into the room, leaving your Ball Python cold and stressed out about how to remain warm. Ball Pythons require temperatures in excess of ninety degrees Fahrenheit in order to digest food properly, among many other daily bodily functions. Keeping your Ball Python in a Ball Python enclosure will allow the air within the enclosure to remain warm, so your snake can behave appropriately without the need to worry about where and how it is going to heat up.
Finally, if you have ever walked through a hot jungle you would immediately notice that the air is humid and thick. Ball Pythons who live in fishtanks will be dry, and this is very unhealthy for a tropical snake such as a Ball Python. The air within the enclosure must be warm, but also it must be humid. In fact, the regular daily relative humidity within a Ball Python enclosure must not be lower than 50%. Ball Pythons require moisture just as much as heat and can fall very ill if the air is too dry.
The most common problem with Ball Python owners is skin stuck on the bodies and eyes of their Ball Pythons after a shed cycle. There is much debate on how to remove the skin that is stuck on a Ball Python after a poor shed. The solution lies not in the answer, but in the question. Why is the skin stuck on your Ball Python? 99% of the time the answer to this question is low humidity. Maintaining humidity between 50%-70% within a fishtank would require the addition of moisture several times a day, seven days a week. Since spraying down the substrate in the enclosure so many times a day is impractical, most owners allow their Ball Pythons to suffer in a dry and unforgiving environment. Moving a Ball Python from a dry fishtank to a Ball Python enclosure will be the greatest day for your Ball Python. We urge owners to think of the move as a lifetime investment for your snake’s health. Obtaining humidity at 50% within a Ball Python enclosure is as easy as spraying down the enclosure once every few days, less than 20% of the work required to maintain the same humidity as you would in a fishtank. You wouldn’t keep your reptile in a birdcage, so why would you keep it in a fishtank? ™
Ball Pythons are shy, docile and loving creatures. With so many Ball Pythons in North America it has become the responsibility of owners to make sure that these silent creatures get the care they deserve. Although snakes are not able to tell you that they are suffering, they do suffer in huge numbers do to improper care. Ball Pythons are easy to maintain and care for, as long as you remember the three cardinal rules, use the correct enclosure, heat source and maintain the proper humidity. Once you have created the correct environment for your snake it will shed its skin, eat its food and behave in a much more natural way. In fact, a less stressed out Ball Python will also become a much more docile and friendly snake. So please, ignore the incorrect information you find on the web, and make sure to be the voice for your snake. Ask the right questions, and search for the correct answers.
Ricky has been a pet owner all his life, with a special interest in Ball Pythons over the past 11 years. He has been working as a designer and engineer of casegoods for the past 7 years and started Ricky’s Reptile Enclosures this past year. Ricky’s first priority is to educate the public about the correct care for Ball Pythons and to help the millions of Ball Pythons who suffer daily throughout the world. Ricky’s Reptile Enclosures provides a stylish and functional option for Ball Python owners. The enclosures have been designed to look great and also function properly. Ricky takes care of two cats and five Ball Pythons. He was born in South Africa but has lived in Canada for the past twenty years. Find more information at www.rickysreptileenclosures.com