Ball Python Starter Buying Guide
Prepared by ReptiFiles
Everything you need for a basic ball python habitat! Our Starter Guides are focused on the baseline necessities to care for your pet, making them more affordable and ideal for first-time keepers. We also offer a Deluxe Guide if you want to go the extra mile. Be sure to check out our Ball Python Care Guide for more information on how to set up your enclosure and keep your snake happy and healthy!
A ball python enclosure should be large enough to allow for a proper thermoregulatory gradient and follow the “snake formula”
Enclosure Width ≥ adult snake length
Enclosure Length ≥ ½ adult snake length
Enclosure Height ≥ ½ adult snake length
We recommend a starter minimum 4’x2’x2’ PVC enclosure.
Ball pythons are healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a loose soil substrate, at least 2-4” deep. Although ball pythons don’t naturally burrow, a deeper substrate is better for maintaining humidity. We recommend at least 60 quarts of Josh's Frogs Coco Select, a blend of coco husk, peat moss, and bark.
Heat & Lighting
A ball python enclosure should have an overhead heat source, an appropriate UVB lamp, and tools to monitor and control these elements.
You'll need a cluster of at least 2 heat bulbs to create an appropriate basking area. 75 watt halogen flood bulbs are an ideal source of IR-A and IR-B radiation needed for healthy thermoregulation, best paired with a reflective dome fixture to project the heat evenly and naturally.
A linear T5 HO forest UVB bulb is perfect for ball pythons housed in 4’x2’x2’ setups. It should be paired with a reflective fixture and span about half the length of the enclosure. The lamp can be placed directly on top of the screen or installed inside the enclosure. Be sure to check our basking distance chart to determine the height of your primary basking area, where the UVI should be at its strongest.
Monitoring & Regulation
- 2 Gauges: Place each thermometer/hygrometer on opposite sides of the enclosure to monitor the necessary warm-to-cool temperature gradient.
- Outlet timer: All reptiles should have a healthy circadian schedule: heat and UVB turned on during the day, then everything turned off at night to allow for total darkness and a natural temperature drop (~12hrs/day). This can be best achieved using a simple outlet timer.
- Rheostat: A manual plug-in dimmer for your heat lamp allows you to make small adjustments to find the “sweet spot” on your python's basking area, reduces risk of overheating, and prolongs bulb life. (To automatically maintain your temps, you can plug your heat lamp into a dimming thermostat)
Decor & Enrichment
Ball pythons require a variety of specific decor items that are vital for security, health, and enrichment.
Ball pythons need at least 2 hides: one on the warm side (under the basking bulbs) and one on the cool side. Place moistened sphagnum moss inside the cool hide to facilitate shedding. This is just the starter minimum, it's always better to offer as many hiding spots as possible to help your snake feel secure!
Cork, Branches, & Logs
Ball pythons are semi-arboreal, so climbing opportunities are crucial for good exercise and mental stimulation. We recommend starting off with at least 1 large sturdy branch for your python to climb and 2 large cork flats to provide more hiding security and sensory enrichment.
Artificial plants add more shade for UV and heat regulation, coverage for security, and they enhance the appearance of a naturalistic habitat. We recommend at least 3 plants for your enclosure.
Tools & Feeding
A complete ball python setup also requires:
- Large, heavy bowl for fresh drinking water and soaking
- 12+ inch long, durable feeding tongs
- Large pump mister for substrate and humidity
- Calcium and vitamin supplement with low D3 content
Ball Python Setup Examples
4'x2'x2' - Contributed by Mariah Healey