I’ve come to learn that snakes tend to live quite a few years, but exactly how long does a Ball Python live to be? No pet owner wants to lose their pet after having them for just a few years. I’ve done some research and, accidents or illness aside, Ball Pythons live a long time for a pet.
So, how long do Ball Pythons live? In captivity, Ball Pythons live to be around 20 to 30 years old. Unlike wild Ball Pythons, captive Ball Pythons aren’t threatened by predators and can receive treatment for illnesses or diseases they might contract. This greatly increases a Ball Python’s longevity.
After spending time, energy, and money on your beautiful pet, you want it to stick around for a long time. Attachments form quickly between an owner and their pet, so we want to keep our pets around for as long as we can! Keep reading to find out more about how your Ball Python can live a longer, better life!
The Best Ways to Ensure Your Ball Python Lives a Long Life
There are many different factors and circumstances that can ensure your pet Ball Python lives a long life. I will only cover the most important topics of Ball Python care:
- Creating the proper habitat
- Controlling temperature and humidity
- Feeding your Ball Python
These may seem like basic elements of care, but honestly, doing these things right the first time will protect your Ball Python from getting unnecessary and preventable illnesses.
Creating the Proper Habitat
Creating the proper habitat is the first thing you should do before you get your Ball Python. If you have already purchased your Ball Python, use this section as a guide to make sure you aren’t missing a crucial piece of the habitat.
The first thing you will want to have is a terrarium of some kind. A terrarium is typically a large glass container (kinda like a fish tank) where your snake can live (and you can see them). Since Ball Pythons typically grow to be around 3 to 5 feet long, you will need at least a 30-40 gallon tank to comfortably house your Ball Python.
If you want a guide for terrariums, here you find a great article that we recently wrote all about how to buy the right terrarium for your snake. If you want more specific information on terrariums for ball pythons, click here to find an article we wrote about how to find the right size of aquarium for your ball python.
The next item you will want to purchase is substrate (basically a bedding that you will use to cover the bottom of the tank. For Ball Pythons, you can continue to use newspaper or paper towels. These are typically easier to clean and cheap to purchase.
However, if you want something more aesthetically pleasing Cyprus mulch is a more attractive option. Cyprus mulch also helps control humidity. The one downfall to using this type of material to line your Ball Pythons cage is that it can cause the cage to have too much humidity.
Too much humidity can be dangerous for your Ball Python, but we will get into that in the next section.
A hide box big enough for your Ball Python to retreat to is another must on your habitat list. Your Ball Python will appreciate having a place to retreat to when it is frightened or just wants to hide for a bit.
You should anticipate buying two hide boxes. This will allow you to place one on each end of the tank so that your Ball Python can choose whether to hide in a cooler or warmer spot.
This brings me to the next item: a heat lamp. This is a must since snakes are cold-blooded. Your Ball Python will appreciate the warmth, and being able to control the temperature is a must.
You should keep the temperature between 88 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit in the spot your Ball Python will bask in. Overall, the temperature of the habitat should not drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
These are the major items you need to be aware of, but other items you should include in the tank are as follows:
- A water dish
- Climbing furniture
- A light timer that runs on a 12-hour cycle
- A temperature gauge of your choosing
Now that you’ve made sure your fully prepared to house a Ball Python, let’s move on to the next item.
Controlling Temperature and Humidity
I mentioned this in the previous section, but I wanted to go into a little more detail about this one since improper temperatures and humidity levels can cause your Ball Python to become ill. You want to ensure your snake lives a long and happy life right? This information will really help with that.
Like I said above, you will want a heat lamp and possibly some kind of heating pad to ensure your snake stays warm enough. However, there should be some temperature difference between one side of the cage and the other.
Ball Pythons need the temperature difference because a snake in the wild will experience a shift in temperature difference as the day turns into night, and you will want to do that too.
You should keep the temperature between 88 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit in the spot your Ball Python will bask in. Overall, the temperature of the habitat should not drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to have a way to gauge the temperature of the habitat to make sure it doesn’t drop below 75.
Along with temperature, humidity levels are also important to Ball Python longevity. Humidity levels should stay between 50 to 60%. You will want to monitor this carefully since items like heat lamps can dry out your habitat.
On the other hand, if your substrate is wet, this can cause the habitat to become too moist. Moisture can lead to scale rot and other negative illnesses and diseases in Ball Pythons. For more information about how to have the right humidity to help your ball python be healthy, read our article found here.
Feeding Your Ball Python
A Ball Python’s diet is another important factor in its longevity. In captivity, Ball Pythons will typically eat one frozen or thawed rodent, such as a rat, a week.
Occasionally, your Ball Python will only eat again once two weeks have passed. It is okay to feed your Ball Python a live mouse or rat, but if you do this, you also put your snake at risk of getting injured by the rodent while it is trying to feed.
The food you feed your snake should only be slightly larger than the width of your snake’s body. Don’t go bigger than this, or you could cause serious problems for your Ball Python.
It is not uncommon for your Ball Python to refuse food, especially during the winter months and before it sheds, but you should keep on eye on its weight to make sure that it is not experiencing significant weight loss. This could be a sign that something is wrong with your Ball Python.
Your Ball Python may want to be fed twice a week when it is going through a growth spurt. If you’re worried about how to feed your ball python correctly, don’t fret! We recently wrote and article all about how to feed your ball python, where we discuss the schedule you should follow, how much it will cost, and other tips! Find the article here.
In the headings below, I will show you a few tips I learned on how to help your pet live longer and enjoy its time with you and you with it.
How to Help your Snake Live Longer From the Beginning
You may or may not be raising a Ball Python as a hatchling, but just in case, I’ve included some information to guide you in raising a hatchling Ball Python, and who knows, maybe you will want to breed your Ball Python and raise your own little hatchlings some day.
If you are raising a baby Ball Python from an egg, you will need to know a few basic things upon hatching time.
First, when your baby snakes begin to break free of their shells using their egg tooth, don’t try to help them!
Often, interfering with the hatching process can damage the baby snake. You might potentially drown your baby snake by moving its shell; pulling them out of the shell after they’ve broken through could also be dangerous since you might sever the umbilical chord and injure your baby snake.
Once your snake has broken through its shell and you are sure that they are free of their former egg home, take the baby snake and gently rise it off. Then, place it in a box lined with a moist paper towel. Moistening your paper towel lining will ensure that there is good humidity for your new Ball Pythons.
Depending on how many hatchlings you are working with, this can be a long process that will require a lot of patience. Don’t expect any help from the babies’ mom either. Ball Pythons typically abandon their young once they have hatched.
You may now have a ton of little hatchlings on your hands, or you may have gone to your local pet store or breeder and found a little hatchling to raise.
Either way, you should start off by letting your little hatchling(s) adjust to their new habitat. It is recommended that you give your new snake at least one to three days to adjust. Don’t worry, most baby snakes don’t need to eat during this time.
New hatchlings typically don’t need to eat until after their first shed. This first shed can take place anywhere between 5 to 14 days after birth. However, if it has been more than 14 days, there may be something wrong with the baby snake.
You should keep a close eye on this. If you get your Ball Python from a breeder, typically you will not have to deal with the first shed because the breeder will have already ensured the baby snakes are healthy.
Once they have shed, your baby Ball Pythons will be ready to eat. For their first meal, you will want to feel your baby Ball Pythons rat pups or pinkie mice. These are small meals that will be easier for your snake to digest.
If your snake refuses to feed for more than 3 days, you may need to force feed them. Leave your snake alone with its meal too so that it will feel comfortable enough to eat.
As your Ball Python grows, it may eat more or less depending on the time of its life. In the next section, I will give you some tips that will help you create a great environment for your adult snake.
Now that you understand the basic elements of Ball Python care, let’s talk about signs that something is wrong with your Ball Python. Noticing these signs early can help you prevent serious illness or disease in your snake.
Illnesses and Diseases a Ball Python Can Get and How to Help
I won’t list out every disease and illness your Ball Python could get because that would take way too much time, and I would not be able to do it justice. Instead, I’ll point out common signs of illness and talk about a few common ones that Ball Pythons are subject to.
The easiest way to tell that your snake is sick is to observe its behavior and eating habits.
Like I said above, there are times when your snake may not want to eat (before shedding and during the winter season), but if your snake is not eating and is losing weight at an alarming pace, there is something wrong with it.
You can also tell a Ball Python is sick when it becomes lethargic or buries itself.
Incomplete shedding, sunken eyes, mucus bubbles coming out of the nose, and breathing through its mouth are all common signs of illness as well. If you notice any of these signs, make sure the humidity and temperature levels are appropriate for the Ball Python’s habitat and then take your snake to see a veterinarian.
Shedding problems can also cause your Ball Python to become more aggressive, so be careful when feeding or handling your snake during this time.
The aggression usually stems from the eye cap of the snake not shedding. Since its vision is impaired, it might lash out, thinking there is danger nearby.
Your snake should shed the eye cap during the next shedding as long as temperature and humidity levels have been corrected, but if it doesn’t, you should seek veterinary help.
Mouth rot and scale rot are two other common illnesses your snake might be affected by. Mouth rot, also known as infections stomatitis, is characterized by bright red spots on the snake’s gums or a thick yellowish substance in your snake’s mouth.
Mouth rot occurs when your snake’s mouth has been injured or a piece of food gets stuck in its mouth. You should always seek veterinary care when dealing with mouth rot and other snake illnesses.
Parasites and mites are something else you should keep an eye out for. These usually occur when a cage is left dirty for a long period of time. Mites usually will stay around your Ball Python’s eyes and wedge themselves between your snake’s scales. Seek veterinary care and be sure to keep the cage clean in the future.
Respiratory problems are another common illness in Ball Pythons, but these can be prevented as long as you make sure your snake has enough clean water and is not stressed. A stressed snake is more likely to get a respiratory infection. Handling your Ball Python too much can also lead to a weakened immune system and respiratory infection.
These are just a few of the common illnesses that your Ball Python might get, but if you maintain proper living conditions, you drastically decrease the likelihood of your snake getting sick. This means that your Ball Python will likely live to a nice old age.
The Oldest Ball Python Around
Though there aren’t many records on household captive Ball Pythons, zoos do keep good records of their captive animals and their life spans. Now, I bet you are wondering exactly how old the oldest Ball Python lived to be.
I did a little digging to confirm this, and the oldest Ball Python on record was a female Ball Python living at the Philadelphia Zoo. The Ball Python was added to the zoo’s list of animals in March of 1945 and lived all the way till October of 1992. That’s about 47 years!
It’s a pretty impressive record, and no captive snake on record has beat that female snake in the Philadelphia Zoo yet. Also, a number of other zoos have reported that they had snakes that lived well into their 20s and 30s.
Naturally, a zoo is probably the best place for a captive Ball Python to live since they are provided with appropriate food and large tanks, in most cases. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a great quality life for your Ball Python and help them live a long and happy life.
How long can a Ball Python go without eating? In the wild, it is typical for a Ball Python to survive without food for up to six months, but in captivity, your snake might not be used to this type of survival diet. Your snake will need food at least once a week but can go up to two weeks without food.
Can a Ball Python hurt you? Ball Pythons tend to be docile and don’t often bite their owners, but if it does, it can leave a painful wound. Often though, these are not life-threatening wounds. Be aware of your Ball Python’s nature because some snakes can be more aggressive than others.
How long do Ball Pythons get? A Ball Python can grow to be anywhere from 3-5 feet long once they reach maturity. Female Ball Pythons tend to be larger than their male counterparts.