Enrichment versus minimalist

I am not getting into a debate here, but there are numerous scientific papers that discount the outdated mythology you are repeating. :woman_shrugging:t2: You have Google, look stuff up. Recent stuff.

I have 5 snakes, they all use all their space. They all love to climb up a branch and hang out. I feed a varied diet (mice, rats, quail & chicken,) and don’t have a picky eater in the bunch, even the one that a breeder slipped up saying he was a “picky mouser.” They all eat f/t, I converted the ones that came home eating live.

I will say, most issues can be fixed with a proper enclosure. An animal kept in a minimalist environment is more likely to be neurotic and dysfunctional. I did notice, the snakes I received very young (a month old,) are the most curious and engaged. The snakes that spent some time in a rack are more fearful and slower to learn and adapt. I did slowly upgrade a former rack snake slowly on size, because he’s nervous and a little overwhelmed, but even he adapted and now spends time rearranging the enclosure and gets agitated if you move anything. Lol. :woman_shrugging:t2:

You can speculate and judge, but I’m only speaking honestly from my own experience. I love my snakes and love watching them act out their natural behaviors. I love watching them curious, engaged and learning. I’m interested in things like reptile enrichment and training. :woman_shrugging:t2:

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Saying that your snakes “like” this and “like” that, talking about “training” your snakes. You are anthropomorphizing your animals and it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of them as animals. I’m not weighing in on the cage size debate in general, but you are projecting all kinds of emotions onto these animals, emotions that don’t belong there. Your opinions are based on your interpretation of your snakes’ behavior. Please, google up a scientific paper that deals with learning in snakes. Actual science, not what you suppose based on your biased observations of 3-10 captive raised individuals. When your snake does something like, say, move around in it’s big, enriched enclosure, you are assuming you know what that means, as opposed to accepting that there are multiple possible interpretations, which you are probably not qualified to judge. You choose the meaning that supports your predetermined outcome. Snake moving around = loves big enclosure. Snake climbs on rock = snake needs rock to be “happy.” Do you see where I’m going with this?


Totally agree with West but if @honeybee can produce any of the research she’s mentioned I’d be willing to take a look.

Agreed, always willing to look at sound scientific data.

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But same, though :woman_shrugging:

But same, though?

But same, though.

But same, though. What does that have to do with ball pythons, though? Is there a scientific study that I can find on Google about teaching them to drive tiny cars to chase down the trained rats?

We have to be specific here to make sure a post in ball pythons isn’t going to leap wildly into behaviors of rubber boas or something else wildly unrelated.

I’m proud that you’re not having problems feeding your ball pythons! There are people who haven’t had that problem for decades. :wink:

There wasn’t anything here persuading anyone to keep an animal in a large or small enclosure. :thinking: It’s all some clumsily shoehorned false dichotomy: you can, in fact, love snakes and still use tubs. Not only that, but, believe it or not… you can own tubs and terrariums You really can use two methods that have been proven successful and leverage the strengths of both.


I love my snakes and they are in tubs. In fact they are incredibly curious and not like all the YouTube videos said they would be. I agree both methods work; that being said (correct me if I’m wrong please) don’t ball pythons spend most of their lives underground in rodent holes and termite mounds in the wild?

The issue I have seen over the last 20+ years is that people often let their emotions take control and they are no longer able to be unbiased when it comes to keeping reptiles.

The truth is there are more than one way to do things and rather than bashing one way or another people should do what works for them and their animals granted it does work (troubleshooting an animal with issue is different story)

Over the years I have kept various species in various type of setup, I have always experimented because it has allowed me to witness and understand specific species behavior based on how they were specific kept and allowed me to grow as a keeper as well, ultimately over the last 14 years I have chose to keep some species in minimalist environment and while this has been in no way a scientific experiment I can report that out of hundreds of animals from hatchlings to adults non has never been neurotic and/or dysfunctional.

Conclusion do what works for you once you have the knowledgeable and ability to recognise what works and what does not, but don’t be so quick to judge or bash because ultimately we all have the best interest of our animals at heart and want to see them thrive in captivity (which will never be remotely similar to the wild)


Mostly. They live in high drainage (mostly dry) plains and grasslands moving from burrow to burrow and the occasional termite mound in Western Africa. It’s important to note that African plains and grasslands are not the green fields of plains and grasslands near most keepers. The trees are nothing like an elm or pine near most keepers. The soil is mostly a loam (mostly sand that doesn’t “hold” water). They aren’t known to roam for miles like other animals and mostly stick to the same area venturing off for food and mates.

There is a paper out there that people like OP like to reference that says researchers noted they found many ball pythons in trees. It notes they were mostly males and assumes they were up there to hunt birds. Some people try to make the conclusion that this means they’re somehow arboreal or “like” climbing but that’s not a great conclusion. They are heavy bodied pythons that spend most of their time as ambush predators hunting down rodents and the occasional bird. They are not exactly graceful climbers and are just as likely to end up as a meal for predators in the trees.

They are a staple for corn farms with farmers often selling the young but keeping the adults to help with pest control. On the downside, thanks to climate change, it may soon not even be possible to farm corn in Africa.

In the past they were heavily imported into the pet trade with wild caught snakes being challenging to keep. Today it is extraordinarily unlikely anyone is buying wild ball pythons without knowing they are imports and pets are generally morphs that obviously come from breeders.

Most of their distribution is areas that are as low as 20% humidity. Most areas get well over 90F.

A few things should stand out:
We don’t (literally cannot) successfully keep them at 20% humidity or at a consistent 95F.
Trying to keep one on loam in an aquarium will probably never reach 60% humidity. Nearly no one even tries this.
Ball pythons are pretty notorious for imprinting on specific prey items. Once they’re “on rats” it can be difficult to get them to eat even mice much less alternate between rats, mice, quail, chicks, etc.
People have 30+ year old ball pythons.

TL;DR whatever we are doing in captivity for decades works just fine for ball pythons and they are certainly a popular and easy to keep captive. Trying to make naive assumptions about their lives in the wild would probably lead you to try to keep one at 20% humidity in sand feeding it farmed chickens while it is on a tree - which we know will likely be a bad day.

We, just like with any captive animal even other humans, make compromises for ourselves but also the general comfort of the captives.


If they want to stay alive I believe so yes.


Hitchens’s Razor - What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

While a lot turns on anecdotal evidence in the hobby, it is at least backed by repeated independent successes over many years, it also does not suffer from pointless anthropomorphism.

You got two things right, you are not going to get much of a debate, and shy of neglect or abuse you are free to choose how you care for your snakes.

Chalk it up to being a salty old vet but, without a single verifiable fact being stated, and a diaper full of verbal diarrhea spouted, with, what can only be the intent to start some sort of flame war, I’ll simply refer back to Hitchens’s Razor and leave it at that.
I’m all out of troll biscuits.

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I’m assuming you meant “does suffer.” Lol

Actually the study you are referring to was centered around ball python’ s diet in the wild, which was found to be at least 50% avian, and no, not ground dwelling avian, but tree dwelling, especially in males.

Another study looked at the parasitic loads they carried, which reflected what prey items they ingested. Another reason scientists figured out the males ate more avian prey than females. Because different prey carries different parasites. Pretty cool if you ask me? :woman_shrugging:t2:

Again, these are easily googled scientific studies, if you actually care or want to know, but it’s obviously always easier to misquote part of a study and run with it to justify what you emotionally want to be true. :woman_shrugging:t2:

And if people want to bring up anthropomorphizing to dismiss empathy. Anthropomorphizing is like saying my snake wants to be pretty or popular or has an emotional response to something we humans think brings joy. Snakes are intelligent and curious and ARE CAPABLE of enjoying things. Saying a snake seems to enjoy climbing and exploring is not anthropomorphizing. Showing empathy and attempting to provide an enriching environment, and acknowledging the animal benefits from enrichment should not he discouraged, so just stop pissing all over it with pretend logic. Empathy should be encouraged in people that keep animals and science based knowledge should be emphasized.
After all, what’s with all the lip service in the community about education and teaching people how wonderful snakes are (how they are beneficial, shouldn’t be killed, etc) if you don’t give a damn about actual scientific research?

These are easily Googled. That was the point.

I said they were there to hunt birds. Especially males. You said they were there to hunt birds. Especially males. There’s only a conflict if you shoehorn the emotions you accuse others of into the conversation. :laughing: :laughing: Ever the contrarian but too lazy to aspire to their own expectations.

What is with the lipservice you’re giving? Corn farmers in Africa now maintain healthy populations and export far fewer than historical numbers show. Google it. Or were you confusing bullsnakes in America with ball pythons? That’s a different topic.

I’m going to need you to dial back hysterical emotions from 11 to about a 3. I really need you at a 3.

While I think this topic is just a little heated, haha, I would like to present a scientific article I read recently on the topic if that’s fine?
(Topic is about all snakes, not just ball pythons.)

I am personally in the more “enrichment” side of things, though I try not to judge others for the way they do things. In my personal opinion, I think all snakes benefit from being offered ample living space and items to explore.

As for tubs vs racks vs tanks vs pvc etc., I think all are fine. I actually like racks and tanks more than tubs. Tubs, depending on how you lock them, can be hard to access easily. Tanks and racks are very easy to open and thus, allow for quick checking and care of the animals.

I have used a tub setup and tank setup and I found that when moved to the tub after being in the tank, my snakes appetite lessened and he stayed in his hide far more frequently. When in the tank, he moved around most nights but from what I could tell, not in any sort of stressed out way. His appetite was also much larger, to the point where he would feeding strike with no food around. He never missed a meal in the years since I had gotten him as a month old hatchling. I always said he was a crazy good eater. Switched him to a minimalist tub setup and after a month he stopped eating completely for the first time in his life.

As for “minimalist” setups, I’m not against them. But I should clarify what I consider minimalist. I think a single hide, a water bowl, and maybe a single rock/vine/twig is a minimalist setup. Anything less than that, I would not personally do. As for racks, I think many of the rack tub sizes commonly used are too small for the snakes housed inside. I would use bigger than usual tubs for adult ball pythons in a rack, personally.

Anyways, that’s just my opinion. There are some things I personally don’t really support and will not do. But I will be respectful towards others and not bash anyone’s opinions on a forum such as this, and I recognize that others may have experience and know things that I don’t.


This is the kind of thing I like to hear about in the conversation. :+1:

Little anecdotal stories in keeping snakes are often more valuable than a blind rage over one method or another. It’s interesting on an individual aspect, too, as I don’t really believe all ball pythons are the same. Similarly, no two dogs and no two humans are identical.

I’ve had snakes of various species refuse food in a terrarium and others refuse food in a rack. It’s difficult to prescribe that every male ball python should be placed in a tree and fed chicks since you’ll get males that won’t go in a tree and won’t take chicks… even though this has been observed in the wild.

Did they lose their instincts? I doubt it. It’s one more vector to study in ball python behavior. Could we make a hypothesis that maybe they no longer take to the trees when food is plentiful on the ground? Is there another explanation we can learn from?

That involves some experimentation on the keeping side. The problem you’ll see in this thread and many others is a forced dichotomy (us vs them) as someone attempts to browbeat others while slinging accusations. There isn’t any reason for this as we can all get together and share what has (and hasn’t) been effective.

Putting male ball pythons on a PVC branch and feeding them chicks has not worked out for me. :stuck_out_tongue:

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@honeybee @lightningbug
A question for those more championing the enrichment side of things. Could you describe characteristics (size, tub type etc) of a rack size you think WOULD be sufficient for adult BPs and give enough room to provide more enrichment type of a setup?

I am not in that camp just yet but I am always running scenarios on paper to make sure I keep in mind future infrastructure needs. And one nice thing about being where I’m at I’m not locked into one type of enclosure yet still only having just 5 juvenile/almost sub adult females.


Well, I see lots of breeders use 32qts for adults, which I consider a bit too small. (In my opinion.)

I personally like the size of the Vision v70 tubs, which are 34"x17.5"x5.3", which equals out to about 55 qts or 14 gallons. TGR has some great racks as well and their adult rack looks to be about this size (rack FB80 Gen3).

I think for someone who has a larger collection and needs a real “rack” system for many snakes and breeding, this would be the minimum I myself would use and recommend. Compared to 32qts or smaller, they look a better size, the snake can stretch out a little more, and they’re big enough to provide one hide, water bowl, and maybe some sort of enrichment piece.

If someone has a smaller collection, I recommend giving the snakes even more space if possible and desired. They will be living in it for their entire lives, and for all we know, they could benefit from the space. I think it’s at the very least in everyone’s best interest to try a larger setup at least once, to get a firsthand experience on it and form their own firmer opinions.

For a bigger size, I also like Vision’s boa racks and tubs. The tubs are much bigger and pricier, at 40"x30"x9.5" which comes out to 180qts-200qts or about 45g-50g. 45-50 gallons is the size tank that many recommend for adult female ball pythons. It’s plenty of space for two hides, a water dish, and multiple pieces of enrichment like vines, logs, and other such things. I’ve even seen people go bioactive in tubs this size with ball pythons, and with a nice rack you could have 10 or more in one system.

If that’s too big a happy medium of 20g-40g (80qt-160qt) in between would be nice instead. TGR’s adult larger species rack (FB90 Gen3) is 26.5"x33.5"x7" which is about 27 gallons or 108 qts. This is what I think I want to use when I get my rack! Really, anything 55qt or bigger is fine for a rack system in my opinion.

Anyway, that’s what I personally consider good rack sizes. I think the bigger the better in most cases, except for snakes with neurological issues or anything else that would make it harder for them to use a large space. 75g is what I would max out any enclosure (tank or otherwise) as for a ball python. Not that I think bigger is neccisarily bad, it depends on the snake, I just wouldn’t go any bigger than that personally.

(Sorry for the long response!)


@lightningbug I appreciate the detail. I am very wordy I have no problem reading others contributions as long as it’s helpful info not just putting someone else down.

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I’ve always been told with any snake no matter how active or inactive they are is that any tub or tank should allow the snake to stretch out completely at minimum two sides of the enclosure. One long side and one short. Height, for me, depends on how active the snake is. My ball is in a huge tall tank and I see her exploring often (and in 2 years has only refused food once). My colubrids are a mixed bag. Got a kingsnake in a short but tall tank. Many of my corns are in long short tubs. But regardless of size and tub or tank everyone has tons of cover, different sized hides, water bowls to soak, and different textured surfaces.



There are a literal ton of storage box options out there. Check these out: https://www.containerstore.com/s/iris-44-gal.-storage-tote-with-wheels/d?productId=11005991&q=christmas%20tree%20box

That ~176qts with 14" of vertical space. For ~$50USD that’s “cheap” enough for anyone to experiment with if they did want to attempt a “tree-in-a-tub” configuration. Grabbing garden fencing, pvc/thick cardboard tubes, or even those bendy vines for a more naturalistic look would be possible and easy to attach to a large tub like the one above. The financial commitment to the experiment is nearly nothing and, worst case scenario, you have a reasonably simple enclosure that’s absolutely simple to clean/disinfect/reconfigure for more experiments (or even completely disposable). That really can’t be said for large glass terrariums.

Reach Out Reptiles put out a challenge via YouTube to Freedom Breeder for exactly this - taller tubs. It would be nice to see builders/manufacturers possibly incorporate some sort of vertical extension. On some of the steel racks it seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult to add a vertical extension to accommodate for larger tubs.

Keeping in mind individuals and individual needs, a hide is generally unused in a rack. From experience most ball pythons will just not use it and it takes up valuable horizontal space even with taller tubs. However there are some individuals that do, certainly species that will, and certain rack configurations with open sides might lend itself to needing hides.

This type of conversation, experimentation, experience, and passion is infinitely more valuable than “you must have a 75ga aquarium or you are abusive because I googled Africa one time and I love snakes – fight me” types of discussions.