Change in behavior

Sick or Picky?
I have a one year, six month old ball python (boy named Shoelace) who has lately been acting strangely the last couple weeks. I keep a journal of activities such as pee/poop/shed/substrate change etc. Three days after I installed a double bulb CHE and got the warm side to 85F he refused his first meal, he was interested but didn’t strike. The next day he moved to the cooler side of his tank (75F) and has become inactive at night. He used to dance across his tank but now he might climb his branch and then go back to his hide on the cooler side. He has two hides, one on the cool side, the other, warm.
The refusal to eat isn’t too surprising, it is winter season and I have heard of them going off feed, but he ate all though last winter which is why this refusal was so surprising. I have been keeping the humidity at least 66% with his warm hide at 83-85F, basking platform 90-91F and the cooler side at 75-72F. The refusal to feed and the moving to cooler side doesn’t concern me too much, as they can go off feed in the winter and he has hit the year old mark, I turned up the heat to the temp that his tank has a basking spot of 90F, so that can explain why he moved to the cooler side, might be too warm for him personally…
But I can’t explain the lethargy, which is most concerning.
I’m asking if anyone has had this happen to their ball python before, just random lethargy?
I’m going to try something and turn down the heat and see if he starts moving again. I’m also going to feed him soon to see if the blood from the last rat was just off putting.

Shoelace's tank

Not sure where to start.
Balls don’t need a basking spot. If you where to have one I would not make it any higher then 87.
If the surface is at the temp you said, then keep in mind that everything above is hotter.

Not sure why you needed to add another heat source or waht the temps where before. If everything was good, I would not have changed it.
If you have an under the tank heat, I would remove the new one and only use it.

Balls don’t need extra light, so using one is over kill.

Depending on age, time of year, could be the factor for not eating. As they get older, the tend to cut back on food and mostly want to eat every other week. Some even longer. This could happen between feeding, without any notice.

What heat source did you have before and what was the surface temp?
How often do you feed? And what size compared to the snake?
The temps you posted, was that the surface temps?


I have turned down the heat so the warm side is at 80-82F and that seemed to help. I had to get to bed cause work in the morning but my partner said he was out lastnight for a couple hours, not dancing but out exploring his tank slowly, so that is an improvement!
I feed every 2 or 3 weeks and hes currently on medium FT (on the smaller side) but I think I’ll switch him to small just cause it’s easier on the body. I weighed him last month on the 23rd and he was 86g. I’m using CHE blubs in a double bulb dome. Before he had a single CHE bulb, the warm side would cap out at 73F, I stuggled to get it to 80F and he would be chilly on the warm side of his tank in the mornings so I installed the double CHE and bumped up the heat so the warm surface temp was 85F. Apparently he did not like that!
The temps I posted were surface temps inside his hides EXCEPT the basking spot which is the top surface of the platform. The CHE’s don’t emit any light, they are just for warmth. He has a UVB strip light that cycles between day and night and that hasnt bothered him before and I’ve had it on his tank from the beginning, so I’m ruling that out.
Guess he doesn’t like it too hot… Which I just find odd because I have a 4yo girl bp who loves it around 85F on the warm side, 75F on the cool side and 90F top of basking platform, but hey… every snake is different. :upside_down_face:
He does enjoy the basking spot at night as I see him laying on it for a bit before exploring more, he sleeps all day so he doesn’t use it in the daylight hours. Thank you for your response, Hope this new information helps.


Hello @timid and welcome to the community! It sounds like Shoelace is doing better at the lowered temps but just wanted to add that if the lethargy continues or gets worse you may want to take him to a reptile vet. It’s nice to have you here, and we have a lot of knowledgeable members here to help! Please keep us updated on any changes, and we definitely love to see photos of your little guy if you ever want to post any!

Good luck with Mr. Shoelace!


Thank you! I will definitely keep posting updates on Shoelace’s progress or decline. Here’s some before and after pictures of Shoelace. The first is the first day I got him, the second is one year later!


Wow, he’s certainly had a glow up thanks to you! Poor guy, his first pic is so sad to see, but he looks great now!! Way to go!


This is a little late but welcome to the forum Timid! Shoelace is a great looking BP! I’m sure he will be fine with the heat adjustment!

As @d_y_python Duane said above, Ball Pythons do not need lighting of any kind. And imho, under tank heaters are the best type of heat source to use. Overhead heating can decrease the humidity which should be around 50% except when the snake is in shed, in which case it can be increased to 60 to 70%z

Also, a small rat fed every 2 to 3 weeks is sufficient for a snake that size and age. Others may disagree but mine bps are thriving on that feeding schedule.

Best of luck to you and keep us updated on Mr. Shoelace! :pray:


Update on Shoelace. I have sucessfully fed him a frozen thawed weened rat on the 12th, still waiting on a poo to see if its regular or not. He has been thermal regulating more since the feed, he is currently in his warmside hide at the moment. I have noticed that he hasent shed since September and this concerns me as well as him still being inactive at night…
When he poo’s, I’ll save it for the vet visit.


Thank you so much for the update on sweet Shoelace! It’s great news to hear that he has eaten for you! Since you have been doing some husbandry changes his shedding schedule may be a little off but I’m sure you have nothing to worry about! Just give him a little more time.

It’s so kind of you to give Shoelace such a loving attentive home! Would that all pet animals be so lucky! :pray::heart:

Merry Christmas! :pray:


Don’t worry about shede. This is never a scheduled event. As @caron stated, do to the changes you made it can throw things off for a while.


I have always provided UVB and overhead lamp for my BP because they will actually bask in the wild and they need a day and night cycle, especially with UVB helping their health in so many ways. There is a lot of people saying they don’t climb or bask but that’s simply not true because while some might not, giving them the choice and offering that is still a good idea. I do see your point with the humidity but that would just mean it will take more work to keep the humidity up, I’m able to keep it at the 50-60% range and up to 70% during shedding just fine with his overhead lamp. They are in trees plenty in the wild and they also are found basking for a few hours a day, Reptiles and Research has better and more in depth videos explaining why they should be able to bask and climb and how to make sure that your setup is brain healthy for them to help ensure thriving and health. I know it’s controversial to some people and something that there is a lot of bickering about it (and I am in no way trying to bicker) but it’s worth looking into. My apologies if I misunderstood what you said about the lighting/basking, I just recommend keeping that basking spot and I figured I would explain why.

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Good news everyone. On the 24th, after a short 15 min bath he got some rather large uriates out and proceeded to dance about his tank. Constapation may very well be the culprit. I am giving him a 15 min bath for 7 days to help pass whatever maybe left in there.
Since the passing of those uriates Shoelace is doing much better, he has been more active at night but still sleeps on the cooler side of his tank. The cool side is now at 74F, warm side 80F and basking 86F.
I understand that a basking area is not necessary, as these animals are nocturnal and coming out during the day is for dire situations, burrow flooding and such. I kept the basking platform because they seem to enjoy it, they both lay on it at least twice a night.
However I don’t understand why they don’t need lighting, seeing as these animals are nocturnal they rely on the sun going down to trigger their active time. By NO means am I fully educated in this matter and I wanna know… Why ball pythons don’t require lighting?


They do require lighting, people used to say they didn’t because “it scares them” or “they’re nocturnal” but that’s like keeping someone in daytime constantly because you think they’re scared of the dark and they are active in the daytime, it would mess with their brain and sleep schedule and health overall. Ball pythons need day and night cycles and they also need UVB to keep their brains and bodies healthy. Check out some videos from reptiles and research on youtube if you want more details on that. :grin:
He has lots of videos on the truth when it comes to ball pythons in the wild and captivity and how to properly care for them physically and mentally.

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Well I am not going to get into a battle over lightning. I would like to say that thousands of breeders and keepers that have been doing so for many many years and have been through many different setups, can’t be wrong about lighting is not needed. I will take this info (as I am one of them) over one YouTuber that has videos on his thoughts. No professional rack system or chraper racks has lighting, this is not by mistake, it is because snakes tend to thrive in them as lighting is not needed. Just like we get some vitamin D through foods, so do snakes. Snakes eat the whole animal and takes longer to process it then we do. This allows them to get more out of them then we get from our food.
Lights do not hurt and can be used, but they also do not help. As hundreds of thousands of snakes out there being raised without light can’t all be suffering or ill. As most of them live a very long health life. All of mine started acting, behaving, and eating better once I switched over to racks (without lights). Much better then when I had tanks with lights, many years ago.

Thanks for letting me share my information on this, and I will move on to other posts.


His videos are backed up by people who study animal behavior, the guy himself has a Bachelor’s degree in applied animal sciences (formally animal management) and hosts veterinarians and even others. He also get’s his information through studies that have been done on the snakes so none of it is his own thoughts. It has more to do with the effects on the brain it has and the damage it does to their brains, something that is hard to notice through their behavior and physical health and he has videos explaining what no lights do. I know racks are a controversial subject and if you are going to continue using them as well as others I have no way to stop you and don’t intend to. I just don’t agree with racks very much, but to an extent.

edit: I don’t doubt that the bps can acclimate to having no light and being in a rack and therefore survive and be used to it, its just that they miss out on the benefits and it does effect the brain in some ways.


I 100% agree with @d_y_python Duane on the lighting subject. I have 12 ball pythons from babies to juveniles to adults. ALL of them are in tubs, ALL of them eat consistently, ALL of them shed, pee and poop properly. ALL of them are calm, curious and handleable, and NONE of them go off feed in the winter.

ALL of them are in sterilite tubs with under tank heating that stays on 24/7. They have natural light in the day time. I have tried the tank and artificial lighting method in the past for my bps but they would invariably go off feed in the winter months. So now I keep them in tubs with natural daylight and they are ALL thriving.

So I can speak from experience. Yes there are people here who have elaborate setups with artificial lighting/UVB etc and they swear by it and that’s wonderful and I would NEVER begrudge anyone who has the space for these setups! :+1:

However ALL of my ball pythons are thriving as well and growing like weeds which means they are healthy which means their brains must be healthy which means that the natural light they get during the day must be beneficial and sufficient. The brain is the control center of the body so if the brain is not at its best then the the body suffers and doesn’t function properly. It’s the same with animals. I would have 12 sick snakes.

Now that being said I would like to respectfully point out that so far you have experience with only one ball python in only one type of setup, which I am sure is very nice and I think that’s wonderful! :+1: But don’t knock the tubs/natural light until you have tried it. I would bet that even though all my 12 guys have natural light only, they are every bit as brain healthy and thriving as your 1 ball python.

There is a vast amount of reputable breeders on this forum with an untold amount of experience knowledge and expertise and it would be safe to say they all use rack systems. As a matter of fact your Beans more than likely was produced and raised in a rack system before you got him, which is where his brain and his body developed got a healthy start. And now he is in a veritable palace I am sure which is a good thing. :clap: But don’t knock the natural light way until you have tried it. Only then can you speak from your Own experience and not the Opinion of someone else, I don’t care who or what he is.

So I do wish you the very best for Beans :grinning:but I am done with this discussion as well! :wave: :snake:


Undertank heating is great in some situations, but most of the time it is the worst option. BPs are one species that can have perfect conditions with a mat, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option. The best is halogen, then DHP, then CHE and RHP, then heat mats and cable. If you already have a CHE setup, switching to a mat is only a downgrade. To avoid using two CHEs it’s best to either upgrade to a higher powered CHE, or a DHP (if you aren’t already using one you will need a dimming thermostat for a DHP).

Providing uvb lighting isn’t necessary, and many do well without it, but it is ideal, as just about every actual study has said. They absolutely do benefit from natural lighting and a day/night cycle, even if they do alright without it. Same with climbing enrichment, and large water bowls, and other things to explore. Yes, they manage okay without light and enrichment, just like how a chicken that’s locked in a crate 24/7 will still lay eggs and look relatively healthy, but that isn’t optimal conditions. I know it’s controversial and this will upset some people, but the science is clear.

On the topic of basking spots, it’s better to provide a warm hide directly under the heater that gets to ideal basking temps inside. Most BPs don’t like being too exposed, at least not while digesting, so an exposed basking spot isn’t great. I see you have something like that set up, and with the temperature drop it seems to be set up well. I’m not sure if I was misinterpreting, but do you turn your heat off at night? BPs are fine with a drop of a few degrees, and some say that’s best for them, but they do need heat 24/7.

@timid your setup is great. You may need to play around with the temperatures a bit to find his preferred temps, but it looks like he’s already doing well


I did not mean to disrespect your opinions at all, and I did actually have my python in a tub for the first few years of owning him and he wouldn’t eat and was stressed, didn’t eat for 4+ months once. So while you have your experiences and I respect that, I also have my own experiences. It does depend on the animal, some do well in some places and some don’t so if that’s your snakes then okay! Just I wouldn’t assume I haven’t had experience with both types of setups, you do have the upper hand with having more ball pythons but it doesn’t change my opinion and preference that some are overall healthier in a decorated and enrichment filled terrarium.
Bless your snakes and you for being happy with your setups and I’m glad they are doing well and I mean that genuinely not passive-aggressively.
Racks versus terrariums is something where I am still figuring out which truly is better because I’ve heard, experienced and seen the good and bad of racks and good and bad of terrariums.
I guess overall I should just stay neutral to avoid criticism like this? I’m sure my word choice wasn’t very helpful in the other messages, I apologize for that because I’m not best with words, I really meant no disrespect and was speaking on what I know/have learned. I am open to learning and appreciate you both sharing your experiences, and I only replied to explain myself and apologize for any disrespect I have portrayed. Next time I will try and remember to point out both sides of it. :heartpulse:


Sounds good and we will just agree to disagree! It’s all good! No worries! :sunglasses:


I do not turn off my heat at night but it drops 2 maybe 3 degrees in the winter, which is usual.