Pied Ball Pythons are selectively-bred ball pythons with patterns similar to piebald horses, hence the name.
Ball Pythons are one of the most popular snakes in captivity, and for good reasons – reptile hobbyists have had decades to study their behavior and husbandry requirements, they don’t require highly specialized diets or enclosures, and they rarely bite.
If this well-studied species with a notoriously calm demeanor has piqued your interest, keep reading to find out if Pied Ball Pythons might be the right pet for you.
Table of Contents
Pied Ball Python Species Summary
Ball Pythons (Python regius), also known as royal pythons, are medium-sized pythons native to sub-Saharan Africa.
In the wild, they frequent termite mounds and mammal-made burrows, where they sit and wait for prey to come to them.
Once they’ve eaten and digested a meal, they move on to the next suitable den.
Pied, or Piebald, is simply a morph or genetic mutation found in ball pythons. As striking and beautiful as it is, you might be surprised that this morph was one of the first mutations discovered and selectively bred for in ball pythons.
Appearance & Colors
The Pied morph affects the pattern of a ball python, but NOT the color.
Pied Ball Pythons have a mostly paper-white body with randomly placed splotches of patterning and coloration.
If the animal carries no other morphs or mutations, those splotches will be light brown with a black pattern, and they’re usually roughly outlined in black.
The fantastic thing about the Pied morph is that it can be paired with other color mutations! Examples include:
- Mandarin Pied
- Pastel Pied
- Scaleless Pied
- Orange Dream Pied
- Albino Pied
- Axanthic Pied
- Panda Pied
While all of these Pied combination morphs will still have a mostly white body, their splotches of pattern and color will change depending on the additional genes that are present.
Pied Ball Pythons can have splotches of black, yellow, orange, and more!
Pied Ball Python Size
Like many other snake species, Pied Ball Pythons exhibit sexual dimorphism, with females being heavier and longer than males.
However, the difference is only a subtle couple of inches and tenths of a pound.
|Pied Ball Python Growth Chart|
|Adult (male)||3 – 4 feet||600 – 1,500 grams|
|Adult (female)||4 – 5 feet||1,200 – 3,000 grams|
|Hatchling||10 – 16 inches||30 – 70 grams|
Different individual snakes have different growth rates, but Pied Ball Pythons generally reach their adult size by 3 to 5 years of age.
After this, they will continue to grow for the remainder of their lives, but at a much slower rate.
Pied Ball Pythons typically live for 20 to 30 years, but there are reports of some normal ball pythons living over 30 years!
Pied Ball Pythons can probably live over 30 years, too, but there hasn’t been time to find out!
This beautiful morph was first discovered around 30 years ago.
Pied Ball Python Care
Enclosure Size & Dimensions
Minimum Adult Enclosure Size: 48″ x 12″ x 24″ or 55-gallon Aquarium
When housing most snakes of any age, the rule of thumb is that your snake should be able to fully stretch out its body without having to bend or coil.
With this principle in mind, young hatchlings may be housed in something as small as a 10-gallon aquarium.
Just be sure to increase the size of the habitat as your snake grows, accordingly.
A common misconception in the reptile-keeping community is that you must house young, small snakes in small enclosures to avoid stressing them out.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as an enclosure that is too small. Instead, spacious enclosures may cause stress if they’re poorly decorated.
Pied Ball Pythons will utilize all of the space you can offer them, but empty, open spaces stress them, so you’ll need to fill their habitat with clutter.
What is “clutter” in terms of snakes, you might be wondering?
Clutter can be any snake-safe objects or materials that you wish to fill the habitat with.
The following are just some ideas out of hundreds of options:
- Cardboard boxes
- Paper tubes
- Bird toys
- Shredded paper
- Artificial or real plants
When focusing on the basics and the bare minimum habitat requirements, you’ll need at least two hides: one on the warm side of the enclosure and one on the cool side of the enclosure.
A third hide can be filled with dampened sphagnum moss, which your Pied Ball Python will especially appreciate when it’s getting ready to shed.
Contrary to popular belief, Pied Ball Pythons are semi-arboreal.
If you give them climbing options like PVC pipes, branches, or ledges… They will use and enjoy them!
You’ll also need to decide on a substrate.
Some popular and ideal substrate options include:
- A naturalistic mixture of organic topsoil, washed play sand, and other snake-safe organic materials.
- Coconut husk
- Coconut husk
- Coconut fiber
- Cypress mulch
- Paper towels, butcher block paper, or corrugated sheets
It’s best to AVOID these types of substrates:
- Calcium sand
- Aspen shavings
- Paper bedding
- Anything made with pine or cedar
- Reptile carpet
Temperature & Lighting
Pied Ball Pythons, like all snakes, are reptiles.
Reptiles are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, meaning that they regulate their body temperature by exchanging heat with their environment.
Wild ball pythons travel to different microhabitats depending on their current biological needs.
- When shedding, they need moisture and cool temperatures, so they might move into a burrow.
- When digesting, they need heat, so they might lightly conceal themselves in a brush pile that’s being heated by the sun.
In captivity, we need to recreate these opportunities to ensure our snakes’ health and wellbeing.
The easiest way to do this is by providing something known as a temperature gradient.
The easiest way to achieve this is by heating one side of the enclosure and allowing the temperature to gradually fall to the other side of the enclosure – the “cool side.”
Cool Side Ambient Temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
Warm Side Ambient Temperature: 84-89 degrees Fahrenheit
Basking Spot Temperature: 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit
Nighttime Temperature: 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit
There are many suitable options for heating your Pied Ball Python’s enclosure.
You should always run any heating elements on a thermostat to avoid overheating your pet or starting a fire.
Heat tape, heat mats, heating pads, and heating cables provide primarily belly heat, which is fine for ground-dwelling snakes, but they do a poor job of increasing the ambient temperature.
Still, most captive ball pythons live healthy lives and produce offspring with nothing but belly heat.
Overhead heating elements like ceramic heat emitters, radiant heat panels, and carbon-filament heat projectors do a MUCH better job of increasing the ambient temperature. They emit no light, so they’re perfect for nighttime or round-the-clock heating.
Incandescent heat bulbs, like halogen light bulbs, produce visible light and infra-red heat that closely matches natural heat from the sun.
The visible light is great for encouraging your Pied Ball Python’s natural day-night cycle and observing your pet during the day.
Neither visible lighting nor UVB lighting is required for this crepuscular, burrow-dwelling species, but they likely provide health and enrichment benefits.
Be sure to use a low-output UVB bulb, and leave lights on for no more than 12 hours per 24 hour period.
Ideal Humidity: 45-75%
The best way to maintain ideal humidity levels is to use a moisture-friendly substrate, like coconut husk, coconut fiber, cypress mulch, or a topsoil mixture.
Paper towels are cheap, easy to clean, and especially useful for quarantine or treatment enclosure setups, but they will drastically reduce the habitat’s humidity.
The top layer of substrate should stay dry or be allowed to dry out every few days.
If it’s not drying out, you need to increase the ventilation of your snake’s enclosure. The wet substrate can cause bacterial and fungal infections.
The deeper the substrate, the more moisture it can hold and release into the air while still remaining dry in the top layer.
Keeping the substrate loosened also helps drastically.
Some keepers choose to mist their enclosure. This provides a temporary boost to the enclosure’s humidity level, but it will need to be done frequently.
Pied Ball Pythons need a large, heavy water dish filled with fresh water.
They’re notorious for tipping and spilling lightweight plastic bowls, so it’s wise to invest in a ceramic or glass container with a wide base.
Snakes prefer fresh water. It’s ideal to change the water daily, but be sure to change it at least 2 to 3 times per week.
Wash the water bowl with hot soap and water weekly.
Always wash the water bowl and provide fresh water immediately if you notice that your snake has defecated or urinated in the water, which many snakes have a habit of doing.
Food & Diet
Pied Ball Pythons are rodent eaters that can live healthy on a diet of rats in captivity.
All in all, they don’t eat huge prey items. This is one of the reasons why they make such great pets.
Prey size varies based on the snake’s age and size, with the biggest adult females requiring medium rats.
Even hatchling snakes can be started on a diet of pinkie rats. Since ball pythons are notoriously picky eaters, and this is the best technique for teaching them to associate the scent of rats with meals.
Feeding frequency also depends on the snake’s age because young, growing snakes have higher caloric needs.
Young snakes under a year old can be fed every week, while adult animals that aren’t breeding only need to eat every month or every other month.
Potential Health Issues
Pied Ball Pythons are generally healthy and hardy animals.
For the most part, they’re affected by ailments that are common in any species of snake, including:
- Scale rot
- Mouth rot
- Stuck sheds
- Respiratory infections
- Reptile mites
One disease that has had a drastic impact on the captive ball python population, and captive pythons in general, is Inclusion Body Disease, or IBD.
This devastating disease is carried by boa constrictors and is always fatal. Symptoms are mainly neurological, including stargazing, corkscrewing, and erratic movements.
Nidovirus is another ailment taking the ball python community by storm, although this virus was discovered relatively recently.
Symptoms resemble a long-term or seasonal respiratory infection that the snake never recovers from. The infected animal will need to be quarantined for the rest of its life.
Ball pythons are also notoriously fussy eaters, but this is usually no cause for concern.
This species has evolved to survive for prolonged periods without food.
Some owners report their snakes having gone as many as 12 months without eating and without losing any weight.
Behavior & Temperament
Pied Ball Pythons are crepuscular ambush predators. In captivity, these traits result in a relatively inactive snake, especially during the day.
They’re also quite shy and prone to becoming overstressed from frequent handling.
A fearful ball python is still reluctant to bite.
Instead, they will engage in their namesake behavior of coiling into a tight ball, with their head and neck protected in the middle of the formation.
Do not handle your Pied Ball Python for the first week after bringing it home or for the first 48 hours after it eats a meal.
Always wash your hands before handling your Pied Ball Python or any animal. This reduces or eliminates the risk of spreading viruses, parasites, as well as minimizing the risk of feeding-response bites.
If you have other pets, the last thing you want is for your snake to mistake your hand for a fuzzy, tasty mammal!
When handling your ball python, be sure not to restrain it or squeeze it.
You should allow it to move freely between your fingers and hands, supporting its body as it moves. Your goal is to be a tree!
Do Pied Ball Pythons Make Good Pets? A Summary.
Pied Ball Pythons make great pets thanks to their manageable size, docile temperament, and gorgeous pattern and colors.
While they’re suitable for dedicated beginners, they do require specialized care, like most reptiles.
However, getting dialed into their picky eating habits and patterns can be a somewhat stressful process for the uninitiated, and they require specific temperatures and humidity levels to stay healthy.
Still, Pied Ball Pythons make an attractive choice for anyone interested in getting their first snake, and that has the desire and commitment to learning about proper husbandry.