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!
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!
Is the lid clear? That’s the side I think will make the most difference to block out.
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.
Hello! Unfortunately over the past couple of weeks after using everyone’s advice, he still has not eaten. We have purchased and are currently waiting for a new hygrometer and thermometer just in case our current one is not accurate. In addition, Ive done a thorough enclosure cleaning just the other day. If he still won’t eat we might try feeding live or scenting his thawed rat with gerbil substrate. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed he only hides in his humidity hide on the cool side. I’ve tried removing that hide since it has an extra layer of plastic that might be making the temperature cooler on the inside, but he started roaming the enclosure so I put it back shortly after. Is there a reason he’s only comfortable with that hide? Previously I’d catch him in almost all his hides throughout the day so this behavior topped off with his feeding strike is quite odd to me. When we offer him food he seems interested at first but then quickly side tracks and tries desperately to escape. I’m wondering if there’s anything else I can do to help him eat, or if there’s something I can fix! Any tips or criticism is greatly appreciated!
Update! We finally got him to eat live last week and I couldn’t be more thankful!! Thank you all for the advice and help throughout this process. I do regret not feeding him live earlier to prevent any unnecessary weight loss, but I’m grateful nonetheless. I’m so sorry but I have one last question and I would love your opinion on it. Should I continue feeding him live until his weight is back on track, or should I start feeding thawed again so that he doesn’t become a live feeding only kinda ball python. Thank you so much once again sorry for the disturbance!
Glad he finally ate for you!
If he were one of mine I would counsel to continue feeding live until you feel his weight is getting in the right direction. I would say 4-5 feedings at minimum and then that indicates that he’s comfortable in the environment again and on an upward enough trend that it should be safe to start trying to switch him back onto f/t.
In my personal opinion though, it’s better that the snake eats and thrives in general rather than what you’d prefer to offer, but no harm in trying! Best of luck to you!