Ball Python Tank: A Guide on the Perfect Ball Python Habitat

New keepers usually approach ball python enclosures with timidity and aren’t quite sure how to house their new pets.

There’s NO real difficulty in setting up python cages, and it can be lots of fun. 

Young boy watching Royal or Ball python at the reptile house terrarium  standing close to the glass
Setting up a ball python tank can provide hours of entertainment.

Join us as we take a closer look at the essential elements of python cages, and help you plan a python tank that you can be proud of.

Best Ball Python Enclosure

  • Ball Python enclosures should have adequate:
    • Size
    • Heating
    • Lighting
    • Substrate
    • Hides/Shelter
  • Unless you have a nervous adult python, you’re unlikely to give it an overly large cage.
  • Always provide a thermal gradient, monitor the temperature, and beware of too much humidity.

What Should Be in a Ball Python Cage?

A ball python terrarium isn’t complicated. These snakes have basic needs and won’t give you too much trouble. You’ll need:

  • A water dish
  • An adequate level of substrate to maintain humidity
  • A heat source to heat approximately one-third of the tank
  • Hides and decorations to make the python feel secure and allow it to explore
  • Basic lighting to mimic day/night cycles (you can light the entire room if you have more than one python house)
  • A good thermometer and hygrometer to ensure that the humid environment stays in healthy ranges and you have proper temperatures

Ball Python Enclosure Size

Ball python enclosure size is one of the most debated aspects of ball python care. Pythons are fairly adaptable, and choosing a habitat size is LESS complicated than you’d think.

Provide young and hatchling ball pythons with a home of no more than ten gallons or 20 inches long x 10 inches wide x 12 inches high.

As the snake grows, you can upscale its cage to a 20-gallon tank, or 24 inches long x 12 inches wide x 16 inches high.

Fully grown ball pythons will thrive in a 30 or 40-gallon tank. A 40-gallon tank is 48 inches long x 12 inches wide x 16 inches high.

Fire Ball Python Snake close up eye and detail scales
Despite their cute appearance, ball pythons have a mouth full of sharp teeth.

A home for a full-grown ball python doesn’t have to be only 40 gallons, as long as you provide enough hides for your pet and keep a close eye on it.

You can learn more about ball python sizes in this article here.

Can a Ball Python Enclosure Be Too Big?

There are two schools of thought about the question of ball python tank size.

One side claims that, as long as you give young snakes small tanks to help them find their way to the food, water, and other essentials, you can provide your adult ball pythons as big a tank as you like.

The other side claims that ball pythons get stressed out by large enclosures and do better in a tank that’s little more than big enough.

In truth, a ball python cage (for adults) CAN be as big as you like. You only need to provide enough hides so that your snake can feel comfortable in its home.

Hatchling pythons do better in small cages because it puts them closer to the food and amenities.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any merit in the other school of thought.

Especially nervous pythons can sometimes get anxious in large open spaces, so keep a close eye on your pet and adjust the tank size if needed.

Lighting Your Ball Python Enclosure

While many snakes require a fair bit of supplemental lighting, ball pythons are pretty easygoing.

A ball python tank DOESN’T need UVA or UVB lighting. Still, if you take proper care with providing day and night light cycles, your snake will thrive.

You can accomplish cycles by using a basic full-spectrum globe in your python cages.

If you have many python enclosures, you can also consider lighting the entire room for the day cycle and give all the snakes light at once.

Whichever route you choose, it’s easy to hook the lights up to an automatic timer, allowing you to light many snakes without any effort beyond the initial setup.

Heating Your Ball Python Enclosure

Since these snakes come from the tropical parts of Africa, temperature and humidity levels are essential elements of ball python cages.

ALL ball python enclosures should have some supplemental heating. Most hobbyists recommend using either a heating pad or heating tape.

You can apply these two heater types to the glass bottom of the tank.

This method will heat the snake’s underbelly, which imitates their natural habit of basking on rocks already heated by the sun.

Ball pythons happily moving around
Ball pythons will happily move around their habitats to find a comfortable temperature.

Heating ball python enclosures from below the glass also helps maintain humidity levels by heating the substrate and turning latent water into humidity.

The best ball python enclosure heating covers NO MORE than one-third of the glass.

A snake requires a temperature gradient so that it can go to the part of the tank that’s most comfortable.

The temperature on the warm side of the habitat should be in the 88-92°F range. The cool side should be in the 76-80°F temperature range.

The ambient temperature in the tank should be around 82°F.

Top Tip: Using a screen top on the enclosures of adult ball pythons helps when you’re struggling with high humidity.

Choosing a Substrate for Your Ball Python Enclosure

Substrates are an essential element of juvenile and adult ball python enclosures. They help maintain temperature and humidity, facilitate cleaning, and affect your pet’s hide.

Some of the best substrates for ball pythons include:

  • Aspen
  • Coconut Fiber
  • Coconut Husk
  • Cypress Mulch
  • Bio-Active Soil
  • Paper Towels, Newspaper, and Butcher Block Paper

You can read more about the benefits of the different substrate types in our guide to the best ball python substrates.

How to Set up a Baby Ball Python Enclosure

You may find many ball python enclosure ideas for your small snake, but baby reptiles rarely require many baubles.

With baby pythons, your most prominent concern should be feeding.

You’ll probably feed your python mice and rats of different sizes as it grows, with a rat pup or mouse kit being ideal for a hatchling.

Smiling boy holding a young  Royal ball python in his hands
Setting up an enclosure for a young ball python is so easy that a responsible child can manage it.

Young pythons don’t have the muscle tone they need to keep looking for their food. Set up their enclosures to help them find food items easily.

Step by step, here’s how you should set up enclosures for young python pets:

  1. Install the heat pad and light (if you’re lighting the cage itself).
  2. Add substrate to the enclosure.
  3. Install two hides and any decorations you’re using (add one hide on each side so the snake can pick according to the desired temperature).
  4. Add a water bowl.
  5. Install a thermometer and hygrometer or a two-in-one device.
  6. Monitor conditions to ensure they’re in the optimal range.
  7. Add life to the tank by putting in your new snake.

Ball Python Care: Enclosure Maintenance

One of the critical aspects of caring for your snake is keeping the enclosure clean and maintained. Here are a few things you should do every day:

  • Ensure that your snake has water.
  • Clean up any droppings that your snake left.
  • If you’re using a screen top, ensure that it’s secure.
  • Check that the light is working (if you’re using one).
  • Check the thermometer and hygrometer to ensure the humidity and heat are in range.

Ball pythons are easy to care for, and if you meet these basic needs, your pet reptiles will give you no trouble. Check out our full ball python care sheet for the whole enchilada.

Building a DIY ball python enclosure is the ultimate dream for some hobbyists and is easier than you think. If that’s your cup of tea, check out our article full of DIY plans for enclosures.

With so many ball python morphs on the market, more and more people want to get one. Fortunately, ball pythons make great pets and are easy to care for.

We hope that this article has helped you overcome any hesitation you had about setting up your new pet’s habitat. If you have any questions or thoughts, please drop a comment below.

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