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Ball Python Complete Food Guide

Ball Python Complete Food Guide

What Do Ball Pythons Eat?

Ball Pythons are carnivores, which means that they need a diet of whole prey animals in order to get the complete nutrition that their bodies need. A good rule of thumb is to provide a prey item which totals around 10% of your snake’s weight, assuming that they are not obese. Each food item should be no larger than 1.5x the snake’s width at its widest point. Rats and mice are the most common feeders for Ball Pythons; however, you can offer different prey items to help your pet thrive. The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet snake is variety. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier snake! For more information on caring for Ball Pythons, check out our main care sheet here: Ball Python Care Sheet Provided By ReptiFiles.

Here are some great prey ideas for Ball Pythons:

  • Mice
  • Domestic rats
  • Quail
  • African soft-furred rats
  • Chicks
  • ReptiLinks
  • Gerbils
  • Young rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters

Some Ball Pythons are picky and may not take to a wide variety of foods. You may have to offer a novel prey item several times before your Ball Python will show interest. Do not worry if your snake decides they prefer to eat mice/rats over novel prey items. They can still live long, enriching lives even if they are not particularly fond of much variety. Ball Pythons can live a long time, and just because they will not take a novel prey item now does not mean they will never accept that prey item in their lifetime!

 Chip, the Zen Habitats ambassador ball python reptile hanging from a tree in his Zen Habitats 4x2x4 PVC Reptile Enclosure

Ball Python Feeding Chart:

  • Hatchlings (up to 5 weeks old): every 5 days
  • Juveniles <200g: every 7 days
  • Juveniles 200-300g: every 7-10 days
  • Juveniles 350-500g: every 10-14 days
  • Subadults & Adults 500-1500g: every 2-3 weeks
  • Adults >1500g: every 4-6 weeks

It’s best to offer frozen-thawed or pre-killed prey rather than live prey to your pet snake. This is safer for the snake and generally considered to be more humane as well. Use feeding tongs or forceps to reduce the risk of getting accidentally bitten when the snake strikes. If your snake is particularly enthusiastic about striking their prey, you may consider using rubber tipped tongs to avoid injury to your snake’s face and mouth.

Supplements For Ball Pythons

Snakes can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements due to having complete nutrition from their whole prey, however, using them occasionally is a good way to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Every once in a while, lightly dust the prey item with a 50/50 mix of calcium and multivitamin before offering.

What Types of Food Are Not Safe For Ball Pythons To Eat?

Ball Pythons require complete nutrition in each meal. Since they eat whole prey infrequently rather than a varied, balanced meal frequently, it is important that they receive all of their nutrition each meal. Ball Pythons should not be fed food items that are incomplete. Some examples of incomplete meals would be pieces of meat and food scraps. Ball Pythons tend to be pickier with their food and are less likely to readily consume non-whole prey meals. Even if your Ball Python is a voracious eater and would accept incomplete diets, you should stick to the numerous whole prey options to offer variety and complete nutrition. Your Ball Python’s food should be stored completely frozen and not allowed to thaw until the day of feeding. Harmful bacteria can grow on their prey if left out for extended periods of time or allowed to thaw and refreeze. This means if your Ball Python refuses a meal, you should dispose of the prey rather than refreezing it. To properly thaw prey you should allow them to sit overnight in the refrigerator and then bring them up to lukewarm temperature in warm water when it is time to feed. You can also use warm water to thaw entirely but it is important to make sure the prey is thawed all the way through before feeding.

Never microwave whole prey, it can cause the prey to explode in the microwave or cause the internal temperature of the prey to heat unevenly which can burn your snake.

How Long Can Ball Pythons Go Without Eating?

Ball Pythons are notorious for skipping meals. So, how often should you feed your Ball Python? Your snake skipping meals should not cause for concern and is completely natural. Wild Ball Pythons may eat less than a dozen times per year and will go off of feed in cooler seasons and/or around breeding season. As long as your Ball Python is not losing considerable amounts of weight (more than 10% of total body weight) or exhibiting other concerning symptoms, there is no reason to panic. Monitoring and recording your snake’s weight using a digital kitchen scale is a great practice to get into. Many times, reptiles hide illness and may not show external symptoms of illness until they have become quite severe. By having a regular schedule of weighing and recording your snake’s weight, you can pick up on potential illnesses before they show other symptoms. For young snakes, weighing weekly/bi-weekly is sufficient, for adults, weighing once a month will typically suffice. The general guide above can be used to determine roughly how often your snake should be eating. Many reptile keepers have a dedicated feeding schedule to ensure their snake is eating regularly. In the wild, a Ball Python would not have a set schedule and would eat erratically when the opportunity arises. You can replicate this in captivity by erratically feeding your snake within a few days of when they should eat, but not sticking to a strict schedule. Erratic feeding has been said to make snakes have a stronger feeding response.

Chip, the Zen Habitats ambassador ball python reptile hanging from a tree in his Zen Habitats 4x2x4 PVC Reptile Enclosure. Zen Habitats 4x2x2 Ball Python reptile enclosure

How Do I Know If My Snake Is Eating Too Much | Is My Snake Obese?

Obesity is a major issue in captive reptiles. Animals that are kept in captivity do not have to expend the energy required to hunt their food and are typically fed more often than wild counterparts. In addition to more frequent feeding and less frequent activity, our captive prey items are typically higher in fat due to their sedentary lifestyle. All of these factors can play a factor in our reptiles becoming overweight or obese in captivity. Ball Pythons are a generally thick bodied animal, which can make it more difficult to spot when an animal becomes overweight. As a general rule, Ball Pythons should be shaped like a thick triangle or a melting Hershey kiss - they should be narrower towards their spine and bulge out towards their belly. An animal with a very prominent spine ridge that appears sharp is underweight. Ball Pythons should have good muscle tone running horizontally down their bodies which is visible as they climb. Severely obese snakes will have scale separation, where the scales will pull apart to reveal skin below. At this stage, they will likely have significant rolls of fat when coiled as well. If your snake is shaped like a round tube, you cannot see muscle definition, they have significant rolls of fat, or if you notice scale separation, they are likely overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to numerous health issues and reduce the lifespan of your snake. If you believe your snake is obese, you can offer smaller, less frequent prey, and encourage your snake to move around and exercise more often.

To learn about how to offer your snake enrichment and encourage them to move around more, check out our Enrichment for Snakes article or our DIY Snake Board!

How Much Water Do Ball Pythons Need?

Ball Pythons should have a large bowl of water available at all times. A large water dish will help to keep humidity in the enclosure high and allows your snake to soak if they desire. A soaking snake can be a sign of too low humidity, poor shed, or snake mites, so ensure husbandry is up to par if you notice your snake soaking often! Water offered should be dechlorinated tap (using a dechlorinator such as ReptiSafe), filtered, spring, or reverse osmosis. Do not use distilled water as the distilling process removes all minerals from the water and can lead to osmotic imbalance in your snake as their body pulls electrolytes and minerals from their system to make up for the lack of minerals in the water. Over time, this can lead to dehydration of your animal even if they are regularly drinking.

Support for You and Your Reptile – Care Sheets for A Variety of Reptile Species

Zen Habitats provides in-depth care sheets for many different species, making it easy to understand specific care needs of your pet. Zen also offers knowledgeable customer service gurus, available 7 days a week to answer care questions, point owners in the right direction, or make helpful suggestions. Additionally, you can find many useful articles and videos on the site, covering a wide array of reptile related topics, including interviews with reptile industry professionals and expert breeders.

Check out more of Zen Habitats care sheets directly on the Zen Habitats website. Zen Habitats creates care sheets to learn more about your reptile pet

About the author: Maddie Smith Maddie has been keeping reptiles as pets for more than a decade. She has a passion for educating others about animals, and currently works with over 50 different species including reptiles, amphibians, and birds!

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