Ball Python: Species Profile, Care, and Breeding Guide

| Updated: May 22, 2023
Ball Python

Ball Pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes in the world, and for good reasons. They are relatively small, docile, and have a long lifespan. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about ball pythons, including their scientific name, common belief, tight ball, different morphs, leathery eggs, maximum adult length, native range, larger spurs, Sierra Leone, common name, sexual dimorphism, ball python breeding, and more. Let’s get started!

What is a Ball Python?

A ball python is a type of snake that belongs to the family Pythonidae. The scientific name of the ball python is Python regius, which means “the royal python” in Latin. This name comes from the common belief that ancient African rulers used to wear these snakes as jewelry around their necks or wrists.

Ball python is the common name for this snake, given to it because of its defensive strategy. When threatened or stressed, the ball python will curl up into a tight ball with its head tucked inside its coils. This makes it look like a round object that is hard to attack or swallow by predators. The ball python will stay in this position until it feels safe again, sometimes for many hours.

Where Do Ball Pythons Come From?

Ball pythons are native to sub-Saharan Africa, where they live in grasslands, savannas, woodlands, and agricultural areas. They prefer warm and humid habitats with plenty of hiding places and prey. They are nocturnal animals that hunt mostly rodents and birds at night.

The native range of the ball python extends from Senegal and Gambia in the west to Uganda and Sudan in the east. Some of the countries where ball pythons can be found include Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and more.

How Big Do Ball Pythons Get?

Ball pythons are one of the smallest python species in the world. The maximum adult length of a ball python is usually between 3 and 5 feet (90 and 150 cm), although some individuals can grow up to 6 feet (180 cm). The average weight of a ball python is around 3 pounds (1.4 kg), but some can weigh up to 5 pounds (2.3 kg).

Ball pythons exhibit sexual dimorphism, which means that males and females have different physical characteristics. In general, females are larger and heavier than males. Males also have larger spurs on either side of their cloaca (the opening for waste and reproduction). These spurs are used to stimulate the female during mating.

What Do Ball Pythons Look Like?

Ball pythons have cylindrical bodies with short tails and triangular heads. Their eyes are large and round with vertical pupils that help them see in the dark. Their tongue is forked and flicks in and out to smell the air.

The most distinctive feature of ball pythons is their color pattern. The natural color of a ball python is dark brown or black with light brown or gold blotches along the back and sides. These blotches are outlined by thin black lines that create a contrast with the background color.

However, due to selective breeding by humans, there are now hundreds of different morphs of ball pythons that have different colors and patterns. Some of the most popular morphs include:

  • Banana ball pythons: These have a yellow or orange base color with dark brown or black spots that look like banana peels.
  • Butter ball pythons: These have a pale yellow or cream base color with faded brown or black blotches that look like butter.
  • Albino ball pythons: These have no pigment at all and are completely white with red eyes.
  • Piebald ball pythons: These have patches of normal color mixed with patches of white that look like a pie crust.
  • Spider ball pythons: These thin black lines radiate from the spine and create a web-like pattern on the body.

These are just some examples of the many morphs that exist today. Each morph has its own unique appearance and price tag. Some morphs are very rare and expensive, while others are more common and affordable.

How Do Ball Pythons Reproduce?

Ball pythons are oviparous animals, which means that they lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. Ball python breeding usually occurs in winter when the temperatures drop and the daylight hours shorten. This triggers the male to start looking for a female to mate with.

The male will use his spurs to rub against the female’s body and tail until she accepts him. Then he will wrap his tail around hers and insert one of his hemipenes (the snake equivalent of a penis) into her cloaca. The mating can last from a few minutes to several hours.

After mating, the female will store the sperm inside her body until she is ready to ovulate. Depending on her condition and environment, this can take several weeks or months. When she ovulates, she will release one or more eggs that the sperm will fertilize.

The female will then look for a suitable place to lay her eggs. She will usually choose a dark and humid spot with enough substrate to cover her eggs. Depending on size and health, she will lay between 4 and 10 eggs per clutch.

The eggs are white and oval-shaped, with a soft shell that feels like leather. The female will coil around her eggs to protect them and keep them warm until they hatch. This can take between 55 and 80 days, depending on the temperature and humidity.

The baby ball pythons will emerge from their eggs by using an egg tooth (a small sharp projection on their snout) to cut through the shell. They will be about 10 inches (25 cm) long at birth and will shed their skin for the first time within a week.

How Do You Care for Ball Pythons?

Ball pythons make great pets for beginners because they are easy to care for once you set up their enclosure properly. Here are some basic tips on how to care for your ball python:

  • Provide a secure enclosure that is large enough for your snake to stretch out comfortably. A 20-gallon (75-liter) tank is suitable for a juvenile ball python, while an adult will need at least a 40-gallon (150-liter) tank.
  • Use a safe, absorbent substrate that is easy to clean, such as aspen shavings, coconut fiber, or newspaper.
  • Provide hiding places such as cardboard boxes, plastic tubes, or artificial plants where your snake can feel secure and rest.
  • Maintain a temperature gradient in your enclosure by using an under-tank heater on one side and leaving the other side cooler. The warm side should be between 88 and 92°F (31 and 33°C), while the cool side should be between 78 and 80°F (25 and 27°C).
  • Provide a basking spot on the warm side where your snake can get some extra heat if needed. You can use a ceramic heat emitter or an incandescent light bulb for this purpose.
  • Provide a humid hide on the cool side where your snake can go when it needs more moisture. You can use a plastic container filled with damp sphagnum moss or paper towels for this purpose.
  • Maintain an overall humidity level of around 50% in your enclosure by misting it regularly or using a humidifier.
  • Provide fresh water in a shallow dish that is large enough for your snake to soak in if it wants to.
  • Feed your snake appropriately sized rodents such as mice or rats once every week or two, depending on its age and size. You can buy frozen rodents from pet stores or online vendors and thaw them before feeding them to your snake.
  • Handle your snake gently and regularly to get it used to your presence and touch. Avoid handling it right after feeding or when it is shedding its skin.
  • Monitor your snake’s health by checking its weight, appetite, behavior, skin condition, eyesight, breathing, etc.
  • Consult a veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness or injury, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or frequent regurgitation.

What Are the Benefits of Owning a Ball Python?

Owning a ball python can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for many reasons. Some of the benefits of owning a ball python are:

  • They are low-maintenance pets that do not require much space, grooming, or attention.
  • They are quiet and odorless pets that do not make any noise or smell bad.
  • They are long-lived pets that can live up to 30 years or more in captivity with proper care.
  • They are gentle and docile pets that rarely bite or strike unless provoked or stressed.
  • They are fascinating and beautiful pets that come in a variety of colors and patterns that you can admire and show off.

What Are the Challenges of Owning a Ball Python?

Owning a ball python can also pose some challenges and difficulties that you should be aware of before getting one. Some of the challenges of owning a ball python are:

  • They are exotic pets requiring specific environmental conditions and dietary needs that you must provide and monitor.
  • Cold-blooded animals depend on external sources of heat and humidity to regulate their body temperature and hydration.
  • They are carnivorous animals that need to eat whole prey items, such as rodents, that some people may find unpleasant or unethical.
  • They are escape artists that can squeeze through small gaps and openings in their enclosure if not secured properly.
  • They are long-term commitments that you have to be prepared to care for throughout their 30+ year lifespan.


Ball pythons are amazing creatures that can make wonderful pets for anyone who is interested in snakes and willing to provide them with the proper care and respect they deserve. If you are thinking about getting a ball python, make sure you do your research and learn as much as you can about them before making a decision. Remember, a ball python is not just a pet; it is a living being that depends on you for its well-being.

More Snake Species

If you’re interested in learning about similar snakes, check out:

Or, browse our entire collection of snake articles!


How big do ball pythons get?

Ball pythons are one of the smallest python species in the world. The max adult length of a ball python is usually between 3 and 5 feet (90 and 150 cm), although some individuals can grow up to 6 feet (180 cm) or slightly over.

How long do ball pythons live?

Ball pythons are long-lived animals that can live up to 30 years or more in captivity with proper care. A few in captivity have reached closer to 50 years of age. The average lifespan of a ball python in the wild is unknown, but it is likely shorter due to predators and diseases.

How much is a ball python?

The price of a ball python depends on several factors, such as its size, age, sex, health, and morph. The natural color of a ball python is dark brown or black with light brown or gold blotches, but hundreds of different morphs have different colors and patterns. Some morphs are very rare and expensive, while others are more common and affordable. The average price of a ball python ranges from $50 to $300, but some morphs, like the Panda Pied Ball Python, can cost thousands of dollars.

Do ball pythons bite?

Ball pythons are gentle and docile animals that rarely bite or strike unless provoked or stressed. They are more likely to curl up into a tight ball with their head tucked inside their coils when threatened or scared. However, like any animal, they can bite if they feel threatened, hungry, or mistreated.

Are ball pythons venomous?

No, ball pythons are not venomous. They are constrictors, killing their prey by wrapping their coils around it and squeezing until it suffocates. They do have small but sharp teeth that can pierce the skin and cause bleeding if they bite.

Shane Elliot Author Image
Shane Elliot

Shane Elliot is a pet lover and a coral enthusiast. He has been keeping saltwater aquariums for over ten years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with other hobbyists. He writes about coral care, fish compatibility, aquarium equipment, and more. He also covers topics related to other animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. Shane works as a freelance writer and editor when his menagerie of pets allows it.

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