Hello! My ten month old ball python has recently gone into a feeding strike thats lasted three weeks so far. He seems interested at first but then completely sidetracks and tries to escape the enclosure. He acts almost frightened of the thawed rat. I’ve concluded his enclosure might be the problem and would love to know what I can do to improve it. The warm side ranges from 88-90F and the cool side 78-80F, his humidity stays in the low sixties and ambient temperatures stay around 75-80 depending on the time of day. He’s currently in a 32qt plastic tub with reptile bark as bedding. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!
Tub and the conditions you describe seem fine to me - you could dial the hot side down a bit if desired but if he’s been growing and eating well until recently you’re probably not doing anything specifically wrong. How many grams is he? Some possible reasons for his lack of hunger at this point could be that he’s been well fed thus far and ball pythons (male and female) are known to take a food break at around 800-1000 grams for a while. It’s also possible he has hit sexual maturity and gone on a “breeding hunger strike” as males ball pythons are notorious for this. Some males will go off food for weeks, others won’t take food again for months. There isn’t much you can do as you’ve experienced, they become so focused on finding mates that they just don’t seem to care about anything else, not even food. They behave restlessly, mindlessly trying to escape like a zombie.
I’d just make sure his tub is safe (look for any sharpish corners he may try to cram his face into), and keep track of his weight by putting him on a food scale regularly. I’d also cut down on how often you offer food to him - in my experience weekly is too frequent for males who are behaving like this and it doesn’t make them more likely to eat sooner. Bi-weekly or even once a month seems just as effective, also offering smaller prey seems more enticing to them IF they are hungry. If he isn’t hungry, all you can do is wait it out… he’ll eat again eventually, it sounds like he simply doesn’t have it on his mind right now.
can you include a front shot of the enclosure? Also how big is he? Weight wise.
your temps and humidity seem fine. From the top shot don’t really see anything significant, assuming that is a shed box in the lower right?
If the sides and back are not blacked out I might suggest some aquarium wrapper. I’m assuming the enclosure was so bright because of the camera flash.
have you temped the rat before you feed to make sure it is warm enough? is the rat dripping wet? Have you changed rat sizes or different color/pattern rat? Have you tried a a smaller or larger rat than normal. How are you presenting the rat, has that changed? What time of day are you feeding? Is there more activity in the room than normal? Is he pushing the “1,000 gram wall”? What is his overall body condition?
Back to the enclosure knowing his size would help. For example I have 2 females that were hatched within a week of each other one is pushing pushing 1000 grams and has just moved to a 32 qt tub the other is only around 650 grams and 32 is way too big for her yet.
As long as he still has good body condition I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. Take time to assess what else may have changed and some of the things I mentioned, particularly if he was a timid/cautious feeder before.
Hello! Thank you so much for the replies! He is currently only at 275 grams the last I weighed him and since I double checked, he’s actually nine months old. For his food, I do make sure the rat is around 104F before offering. I thaw it out in water so it is pretty wet when it gets to him. He stopped feeding once I tried upgrading the size of the rodent, but I am currently offering his usual size. Other than the size of his prey, nothing else has changed. When we bought him he was already pretty small but has grown since then. Currently, when he roles into a ball you can see a little bit of his spine but not very much. I will take a photo of the front of his enclosure in the morning. Again, thank you for the advice I will definitely take everything into account!
275g is a smaller than I expected, I really doubt it’s a breeding related hunger strike at that size. He’s too small to be hitting the infamous wall too so you can toss my advice out the window as I assumed he was a bigger male. Does he often roll into a ball when you interact with him? He may be feeling overexposed, stress often causes ball pythons to stop feeding. gov_balls’ comment on blacking out the top + sides can help (you can use a blanket or towel in a pinch), and if he’s in a high traffic part of your home I’d move him somewhere quieter until he’s eating regularly again. I don’t know how often he is handled but I’d stop until he is eating as well.
If you can try to snap a pic of him too that will helpful for us to see his body condition, also knowing how long he has been in your possession - is he your first and/or only ball python?
Is the lid clear? That’s the side I think will make the most difference to block out.
Body wise he doesn’t look skinny so I wouldn’t worry about him starving himself any time soon - he’s a pretty guy. Him being albino is an important distinction, in my experience they are more sensitive to light so covering up most of his enclosure should do some real good for him as will reducing handling for a while. Anytime a small ball python refuses to eat it’s usually a good idea to give them space until they are eating again. It looks like he’s got an overhead heating setup, CHE it looks like. Is there also an undertank heater such as a heat mat/tape for him or it is just a CHE? We don’t usually see them used alone with plastic tubs so I’m unsure of it’s effectiveness.
Definitely doesn’t appear to be an issue with body condition, however for his age that is REALLY small.
@terces is right albinism causes a higher light sensitivity. Enclosure wise I would move him to something around the width of his hide. If you are going to use that type of tub either way black out the side, back, and top. Several way you can do it, my preferred method would be to take some 220 grit sandpaper lightly scuff the areas you are going to cover, and tape of any areas you don’t blacked out on the exterior, grab a can of spray paint and put a couple light coats on let it dry and cure for a few days. Quicker redneck version black gorilla tape.
How often are you feeding him, and what size prey item are you giving him? How much did he weigh when you got him? Hopefully some more experienced breeders can chime in here since I have never seen even a male that small at 10 months, could just be genetics which is why I said hopefully someone else chimes.
@terces also had a point regarding how you are heating, I didn’t really address it as your temps seem fine. Either an undertaking heater if you don’t have one or my preference is flexwatt tape covered by tinfoil tape, or whatever it’s called, to protect the flexwatt. Same goes for the advice to move him to a quieter/darker location.
When we bought him he was 150 grams, and I feed him rat pups weekly. I have tried to upgrade the size a couple times but in the end he never ate them. For the enclosure, I’m not sure if I can cover the holes I drilled since those are keeping the humidity in control. I’m able to black out the sides, but I’m afraid the back and top might cause the humidity to spike up too much. Is it alright if I just keep the room he’s in dark all the time? Regarding the heating, I am using an overhead ceramic bulb and a heat mat, it’s a little hard to see in the photo but the wire is coming from the underneath the side of the tub. Thank you for the feedback!
Dark room works fine!
How long have you had him? I committed a cardinal sin of assuming when you said 10 month old that you had him for several months.
As far as prey size general rule is it should be about the same diameter as the thickest part of his body. It seems like you have a firm handle on that as well as the right temps etc.
Other than moving to a smaller container and/or a darker room I would just leave him be for a good week. Check his water every couple days spot clean quickly if need be otherwise let him get comfortable.
good luck and keep us updated.
@gov_balls They’ve had him for a couple of months or so - I made the same assumption that you did in my first post to be fair.
@good_day A rat pup is totally fine for him if that’s what he will eat - he’s clearly been growing in your care so I wouldn’t even worry about increasing rat size for another 3-4 weeks. Going by the thickest part of their body like gov_balls wrote is I think the most common method for choosing what prey size to feed, it works well. I go by weight for hatchlings as I weight mine monthly anyway, aiming for a rodent around 10% of the hatchlings weight. Everything else sounds good, I’m in agreement with giving him a darker room if that is easier for you and just letting your boy get comfortable. Best wishes and definitely let us know how he is doing later on.