What’s The Proper Lighting Setup For A Ball Python?
Proper lighting is essential to any reptile habitat. Our complete ball python lighting/heating guide will help you prepare your setup for your reptile’s home. We highly recommend setting up your entire enclosure, before bringing home your new pet and adding them to their habitat. All heating elements should be allowed to warm up for several hours and measured before adding your pet to their habitat to ensure they will not reach dangerous levels. For more information on caring for Ball Pythons, check out our main care sheet here: Ball Python Care Sheet Provided By ReptiFiles.
Ball pythons are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn/dusk. Some may say that this means that ball pythons do not require additional lighting, but we would recommend offering a 12 hour on, 12 hour off light cycle to mimic the ball python’s natural environment.
Ball Pythons do not require UVB to survive, however, wild Ball Pythons would be able to choose whether to come out and bask or cryptic bask; expose a small part of their body to the sunlight in order to absorb light and benefit from the sun’s rays. Not only does UVB light aid in synthesizing vitamin D3 for reptiles, it also allows them to have a more natural environment, since reptiles can see UV rays.
To provide UVB for Ball Pythons in a 4x2x2 Zen Habitats Reptile Enclosure, use a 22″ long, low-intensity T5 HO fluorescent tube. Coil UVB bulbs are not recommended since they do not give off UVB efficiently. Arcadia and ZooMed are reliable, tried and true lighting brands that are highly recommended. Bright light with a color temperature of 6000-7000K is suggested by experts to be important to Ball Python's mental health.
The following recommendations are based on data collected by Chris Phillips using the following bulbs in a Vivarium Electronics T5 HO / Arcadia ProT5 fixture:
Lamp mounted above mesh (recommended for safety):
- Arcadia ShadeDweller Max— 8-10″ / 20-25cm
- Arcadia 6% / ZooMed Reptisun 0 T5 HO — 11-13″ / 28-33cm
- Arcadia 12% / ZooMed Reptisun 0 T5 HO — 17-19″ / 43-48cm
Without mesh obstruction:
- Arcadia ShadeDweller Max— 10-12″ / 25-31cm
- Arcadia 6% / ZooMed 0 Reptisun T5 HO — 14-16″ / 36-41cm
- Arcadia 12% / ZooMed Reptisun 10% — 20-22″ / 51-56cm
To maintain maximum effectiveness, UVB bulbs should be changed every 6-12 months. The light may not burn out entirely, but UV output will reduce overtime.
It is important to note that UVB cannot travel through glass or plastic. Ensure that your UVB light does not come with a protective plastic film over the bulb, and always make sure that the light is not sitting overtop glass or plastic, which would render the UV light rays useless.
To offer your Ball Python snake the full spectrum lighting, you can add a LED grow light such as the Arcadia Jungle Dawn. If you are housing your ball python in a bioactive terrarium, a full spectrum LED is essential to sustain plant life.
Full-spectrum lighting is not the same as reptile UVB lighting, so you will need two separate lamps.
Ball Python Lighting Schedule
Ball Pythons are a crepuscular species and are most active at dawn and dusk. It is recommended to provide a 12-hour on, 12-hour off lighting schedule to mimic their natural habitat.
Do Ball Pythons Need Light/Heat At Night?
Black/blue/red light bulbs for night viewing or supplemental heat are not needed for Ball Pythons and can actually mess with their day/night rhythm. A nightly drop in temperature is natural for Ball Pythons and is healthier than providing colored heat bulbs. If you are experiencing temperature drops below 70ºF at night, a ceramic heat emitter, deep heat projector, or radiant heat panel can be used to raise ambient temperature as they do not provide visible light spectrum that will disturb your animal’s circadian rhythm.
Are Red Lights Bad For Ball Pythons?
Contrary to popular belief, reptiles can see red lights. When a red bulb is used, it washes a red hue over everything in the enclosure making it difficult to perceive depth, this can lead to mental distress.
Check Out Our Ball Python’s Large Habitat – Using Our Zen Habitats 4’x2’x4’ Meridian PVC Enclosure
Ball Pythons have long been thought of as the “pet rock” of the reptile world due to their seemingly sedentary, laid-back behavior. However, Ball Pythons have proven to be active, curious animals when given the opportunity to exhibit climbing and burrowing behaviors. Our Animal Care Manager, Kasey set out to create a large, multi-level enclosure for our resident Ball Python, Chip, that would prove Ball Pythons can be more than just a “pet rock!” Read the full article here: Creating A Large, Enriching Ball Python Enclosure!
or watch our full YouTube video here: HUGE Snake Enclosure Upgrade For Our Ball Python!
The Lighting Setup We Used For Our Ball Python’s Enclosure:
A 36” LED full spectrum plant light to support the growth of our live plants was mounted using the inside mounting bars. A 36” 5.0 UVB bulb was also suspended from the top mounting bars, as well as a compact Reptisun underneath the lowest platform; giving Chip multiple areas he can go to receive beneficial UVB lighting. For heating, an 80w halogen bulb was placed above the upper most platform so that the slate top of the Zen Cave will absorb its heat and create a pleasant basking platform and warm hide.
What’s The Proper Temperature And Humidity Levels For A Ball Python Setup?
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Ball Pythons, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature. Ball pythons will move to warmer places in order to achieve a body temperature that is ideal for digesting their food.
- Basking surface temperature: 95-104°F (35-40°C)
- Warm hide temperature: 86-90°F (30-32°C)
- Cool hide temperature: 72-80°F (22-27°C)
- Nighttime temperature: 70-78°F (21-26°C)
It is important that the ambient air temperature does not reach over 95°F. The surface temperature can reach up to 104°F, and can be measured using an infrared thermometer/temperature gun. Ambient air temperature should be measured using digital probe thermometers, and any heat source should be hooked to a thermostat to avoid overheating and ensure the safety of your animal. There is no set wattage or strength of heating element that is one size fits all. The strength and size of your heating elements will depend on the size and type of your enclosure, distance to basking spot, and ambient room temperatures.
Ball Pythons spend most of their time in burrows in their native range and are able to escape particularly hot days by burrowing farther into the ground. It is important that we provide an adequate area to escape heat when creating an enclosure for them in captivity.
Providing accessories that hold on to heat, like the Zen Cave and Zen Corner Cave make excellent basking platforms. These products have a slate top, which absorbs overhead heating to provide an ideal basking platform for belly heat, and distributes heat from overhead into the hide below. Underbelly heat has been shown to help aid in digestion. Other options for basking include rocks, branches, ledges, hammocks, etc.
Using overhead heating, such as a halogen bulb, provides the most natural, deep penetrating infrared rays to your animal. Many keepers opt to use under tank heating such as a heat mat or heat tape which is also suitable. You can also opt to use under tank heating below a warm hide in tandem with overhead heating to provide a 24/7 warm hide for your animal. Never use a heat rock; they are unable to be properly regulated and are extremely unsafe heating elements that often lead to severe burns on reptiles!
Ball Pythons should have a humidity range of 60-80%, with a humidity spike up to 100% at night. This can be achieved in several ways, such as misting the enclosure heavily each night, using a thick layer of moisture retentive substrate and offering a humid hide box where your snake can retreat if humidity dips too low. Humidity can be monitored using a digital probe hygrometer. Humidity fluctuations outside of the recommended range are fine as long as the typical humidity in your habitat is within the suggested range.
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.