I wanted to have something to hand out to people when they ask anything along the lines of “how do i take care of this thing?” I could write multiple pages worth of different ways of keeping but for this needs to fit on a single page to hand out, so i rescricted myself to front and back. I attempted to keep it from being overwhelming, but still give useful information. I had to delete a lot from what I originally typed up lol. Anyone wanna give their 2 cents before I print a bunch off? Even if its just grammar, I appreciate it.
New Keeper Ball Python Caresheet
This is meant to be a clearly decisive way to take care of a ball python. There are hundreds of variations and exceptions that could be discussed. However this will set up a new keeper for success without having to make any difficult decisions.
Appropriately sized plastic tub: 6qt for babies, 28 qt for sub adults, 41qt for bigger adults. 6qt latching type tubs are popular way to make sure the snake will not escape. The 28qt & 41qt latching type should not be trusted to keep the snake in, additional clips are recommended.
Heat tape: Flexwatt and THG being popular brands. Generally you are trying to cover 1/3 – 1/2 of the enclosures bottom.
Thermostat: Herpstat, Ranco, and Hydrofarm being popular brands. It keeps your heat tape at the correct temperature. Heat tape without a thermostat will most likely burn your snake.
Infared Gun: Make your life easier and get one with a distance to spot ratio of 12:1. There are hundreds of brands out there; most fall in the $20-$30 dollar range.
Hygrometer: Accurite is a popular brand. While not the most accurate, they can give you a ball park humidity, which is all you need.
Water bowl: Just anything that’s difficult to tip over. Ceramic dog/cat bowls are popular.
Substrate: Coconut Husk or Cypress are recommended to start.
Hide: Pangea and Reptile Basics being popular brands. A plastic bowl with a hole works also.
Take your tub and poke some holes in it to provide ventilation. This is normally done in the lid or the near the top of the sides. Some people drill the holes, but others have issues with cracking the tub while drilling. So they use a soldering iron heated up to melt through the tub. To start, make 10 holes, approximately 1/8 in to 1/4 in size.
Turn the tub upside down. Place the thermostat probe in the middle of where your heat tape will be. Using aluminum tape, tape down your heat tape over the probe. Flip the tub over; if the enclosure is rocking on the probe, you’ll want to prop the enclosure up. One popular method is to glue on 4 bottle caps to each corner. Now you can add the substrate, water bowl, and hide. Place the enclosure where it will be in the house. Plugin your thermostat and plug the heat tape into the thermostat. Set the temperature to 90 degrees to start.
After about an hour, check the temperature of the substrate right above the heat tape with the IR gun,it should be 85-88 degrees. If it is more, you can turn down the thermostat temperature. If it is less, you might have too much substrate and it needs to be thinned out or the thermostat will need to be turned up. Don’t increase the temperature of the thermostat past 94 degrees. Check the temperature of the opposite side of the enclosure; it should not be below 75 degrees. Once you have achieved this, it is safe to put the snake in the enclosure. Periodically check these temperatures, your house can change conditions with the weather and you may need to make slight adjustments.
Over the next couple weeks and realistically probably every season, we need to dial in the humidity. After a day, see what it is reading. Shoot for 50%-70% humidity. If it is too low, put some tape over some ventilation holes; place the tape on the outside of the enclosure, not inside. If it is reading too high, then you may need more holes. Getting a different water bowl with more or less surface area can also help you adjust the humidity. Realistically you are looking for your substrate to look moist, not wet, not dry. Make small changes and try to dial into that humidity range, you will more than likely keep having to make adjustments as weather changes and your house conditions change. Don’t panic if your humidity is out of range, just keep making small changes to strive for it.
So now you have an enclosure that is set up and you just put your new snake in, just leave the snake alone for a couple days and let them adjust to the new home. It can be tough as most of us are very excited by new animals, but it can help your success in getting them to eat. After a couple days, you can offer the snake an appropriately sized meal, feeding the same type of rodent the previous breeder did can help your success. It is not unusual for a snake to refuse to eat a couple times after being moved. Generally you will only offer the snake a meal once a week. If you are having issues getting your new snake to eat, there is a plethora of advice on the internet. I do recommend contacting the breeder first, as they have 1st hand experience with that particular snake and hopefully they can help you out.
Once you have your enclosure dialed in and you have a snake eating regularly, you don’t have much to do besides cleaning up after them and keeping fresh water in their bowl. You can enjoy interacting with them and begin to discover their unique personality traits.
While obviously not necessary, I highly encourage you to join a reptile community, such as community.morphmarket.com or ball-pythons.net. Personally I would stay away from a lot of the facebook groups. Forums are a great place to ask any questions you have and can be answered by many different people. They can be a great outlet for you to discuss all things snakes, as you will find society in general tends to not be as passionate as people in the hobby.