Having a python as a pet can be strange and quite daunting. Regrettably, snakes are not the most common household pets.
Their reputation has made common knowledge about them, their care, maturation age, and size alien to most beginner pet owners. In this post, we are going to be covering one of the most pressing questions pet owners have about their ball python.
So, how long does it take for your python to grow? Ball pythons reach maturity after four to five years in the wild, depending on the sex the weight can differ significantly. Males typically reach about 5 feet upon maturation and weight somewhere between 800-1000 grams. Females, however, grow slightly larger and can reach up to 6 feet and weigh 1200 grams.
Obviously, the ideal habitat has to be provided, and your snake has to be properly cared for, but, with everything perfect, your ball pythons should reach adulthood after three full years.
Afterward, though, the animal still has a lot of growing to do. While it’s technically an adult because of its overall size, it’s still yet to fully grow. It could take several years for ball pythons to grow fully.
What Your Ball Python’s Growth Chart Should Look Like
If you are feeding and grooming your snake right, this is the kind of growth you should expect.
But, before you look at this table, you should know that the data used in this table was pulled from the average growth chart of hundreds of ball pythons. It’s okay if your snake falls slightly under or above these numbers.
|Months||Weight in gram|
|1month – 5 months||82-350|
|5months – 10 months||350-506|
|10months- 15 months||506-714|
|15months- 20 months||714-783|
|20months – 25 months||783- 800|
|25months – 30months||800-1150|
Using Sexuality As A Metric For Growth and Maturity
If you consider using sexual maturity as a metric for growth and development, it will interest you to know that ball pythons sexually mature in less than two years.
According to Wikipedia, the male Ball python will become sexually active somewhere between 11-18 months, while female ball pythons will become sexually active and will begin to lay eggs after 20-36 months. Of course, these numbers are sometimes affected by the overall quality of care given.
What Can Be Described As The Ideal Condition For Growth For Your Ball Python?
Ball pythons mature faster when they are fed consistently and are placed in the ideal habitat. As a pet owner, it is your duty to create these conditions. The ideal habitat is a clean, humid, temperate enclosure and a balanced diet of chicks and rodents.
Feeding, The First Requirement For Speedy Growth
Feeding your pythons consistent, safe, and nutritious meals are the biggest determiner of your python’s speed of growth.
Their appetite grows as they mature, and they are typically don’t eat enough in the wild.
Their growth speed is completely different when they are properly cared for. Infections, parasites, and other risks associated with eating parasite-ridden wild animals are eliminated with proper care.
Baby and adult pythons mostly eat adult mice, gerbil, chicks, and rats. In the first few weeks of life, Baby Pythons prefer to live small adult mice.
In infancy, they are very sensitive about their choice of meals, and starting them out with live mice once a week will build a healthy eating habit, which can be slightly altered in time.
Once your pet has developed a taste for live rats and is consistently eating, you can change it up a bit, by feeding them thawed out rats, chicks, gerbils instead of living mice.
If you plan to consistently feed your snake live mice, then you should always supervise their meals. Live mice can get particularly violent once they sense danger, and will lash out in defense. It’s up to you to protect your animal if it needs it.
A general rule of thumb when picking the perfect size of live mice for your pet is to choose a mouse the approximate size of your snake’s largest section.
As your python grows and its appetite increase, you can swap the mice for a large rat, thawed, or live. On average, you want your snake to be able to handle large adult mice with no help before you switch over to rats.
Getting Live Mice or Frozen Rats and Mice
The easiest way to track down live mice, rats, gerbils, and chicks is to visit a pet store or contact a local mice breeder. Frozen mice and rats are more accessible, as you can order them online or pick them up at any local pet store.
Frozen Rats or Thawed Rats
Ball pythons are very sensory animals. They rely on the scent of their prey to guide their feeding habits. Frozen mice, gerbils, or chicks won’t smell as inviting if they are not properly thawed.
Ball pythons, like most reptiles, are cold-blooded and rely on external heat. They will struggle to digest frozen mice if they manage to eat it in the first place.
What The Ideal Ball Python Eating Schedule Looks like
There are some basic rules that typically dictate the size, frequency, and quality of meals you should feed your ball python.
- Feed them animals that are equal to the size of the largest section of their bodies.
- Avoid feeding them live rodents that are violent.
- Wash your hands after handling food, or they will bite you.
- Don’t feed them frozen animals without thawing them out first.
The ideal ball python feeding schedule contains great food alternatives, options, and size recommendations that should suit your pet through the various stages of their development.
|Ball python size||Recommended meals options|
|Baby ball pythons||Pinkies (one-day-old mice), fuzzies (one-week-old mice), and crickets|
|Juvenile ball pythons||Weanlings (three-week-old mice), Hoppers(two to three-week-old mice), adult mice, rat pups,|
|Adult ball pythons||Adult rats|
A Ball python’s growth and dietary needs are a bit more complicated than the table make it appear, but not in the ways you think.
Your python will not maintain a uniform size in each stage of development. With every substantial change in size, you should go through the table and pick animals whose size tally with your snake’s widest section.
Ball Python Eating Chart
In the early stages of your python’s life (hatchling), it will need nourishment frequently and will need to be fed once every 5 days. When it’s a little older and has become a yearling, you should feed it once every seven days.
When it’s nearing adulthood (and it is classified as a juvenile), you should feed it even less. Only offer it a meal once every 10-14 days. And finally, once it’s an adult, you should feed it once every 21 days.
Your Ball Python Won’t Eat or Is Not Eating Enough
According to Stephanie from BHBReptiles, If your snake if it’s not eating enough, it could because of any of these reasons.
1. They are not used to their new home yet and don’t feel comfortable eating there just yet. Adjusting the humidity and temperature of their terrarium can help them acclimate faster. You could also feed them the same type of rodent or animal they were usually fed before you bought them.
2. They have been adequately fed prior to your purchase.
3. They don’t like the type of meal you are feeding them with. Although it’s incredibly rare, there are some pythons that prefer thawed rats or mice or live prey. The size of the animal could also be another reason they are not eating. If you feed them rodents that are too large, they will become docile, and in some cases, they will even regurgitate.
4. They are about to shed. During the shedding season, pythons tend to eat less.
Ball Pythons rarely regurgitate. But when they do, you should pick the next meals you offer them carefully. Try switching to something they enjoyed in the past. You should wait a minimum of about 1.5 weeks before you try feeding again.
You should also reduce the size of their meals for the next two or three feeding cycles before introducing their formal diet. If they regurgitate more than once, you should visit the vet.
Your Ball Python Is Not Growing or Is Getting Skinny
There are two reasons why your pet is not growing as fast as you want it to. The first reason is underfeeding. We refer back to the size rule we recommended earlier on in this post. If the prey you are feeding your snake is too small, it will not grow as fast as you want it to.
If you are not underfeeding your pet, then it is probably infected with parasites. It could be infected with ectoparasites like mites, or intestinal parasites like strongylids, or Ascaridae.
When you notice that your python has stopped growing and is even slowly getting thinner, you should send a fecal sample to an exotic vet and book an appointment as soon as you can. Parasites might not pose any immediate threat, but given enough time, they will kill your pet.
How To Make Your Ball Python Grow Faster
There are no secret tips, tricks, or meals that will spark a late growth spurt in your ball python. The only guaranteed way to maximize the growth of your animal and ensure they reach their full growth potential in the shortest time possible is through proper husbandry and a great diet.
If you clean their terrariums frequently, ensure the humidity is right, and make sure the temperature is perfect, your python will thrive.
Feeding your snake the right size of rodent is a step in the right direction, but to really maximize growth, you need focus on the quality of the rodents you feed them too.
Always spend the extra 50 cents or a dollar and make sure you get the healthiest rodents money can buy. Only with a proper diet and great care will you get the results you are looking for.
What Kind Of Water Should You Give Your Ball Python?
There should always be a medium-sized water bowl in your snake tub or enclosure at all times. You should not feed your snake distilled water or untreated tap water.
Distilled water contains none of the chemicals usually found in non-distilled water. According to Amy from Moon Valley Reptiles, dechlorinated tap water is fine for most reptiles.
You can also feed your snake sparkling water or spring water. To remove chlorine or other potentially dangerous chemicals from your water, you should buy a water conditioner and treat your water before feeding it to your animal.
Creating The Perfect Environment For Growth
Most pet reptiles need some form of temperature controlled terrarium to adequately survive and subsequently thrive: ball pythons are no different. They hail from central and western Africa, so they are used to a certain temperature.
According to Reptiles Magazine’s Kevin Mccurle, Ball pythons thrive in an ambient of around 78 to 80 degrees. They are also so naturally curious and are used to more humid, a more engaging habitat.
There are different types of enclosures for ball pythons. They come in different materials, and each material has its strengths and weaknesses.
The popular materials for python enclosures are made of glass, plastic, wood, and PVC. Snake can be housed in terrariums, vivariums, and even modified aquariums.
Glass enclosures allow you to closely monitor your python at the cost of stressing them out. PVC enclosures are less invasive, but it’s also light.
This means your python can pry the lid if they really try. You can also learn to make an extra sturdy vivarium or enclosure with some power tools and instructional video, and eliminate the limitation of both popular types of enclosures.
The average python enclosure has a capacity of 15 gallons to 25 gallons.
In infancy, smaller enclosure sizes are recommended, and as the animal grows, pet owners should swap out their smaller enclosures for more spacious ones.
Each tank should at least be wider than the full length of the snake at any point in time. Giving them enough room to explore will reduce the probability of your snake breaking out their cage.
Should You Make Your Snake’s Tank Bioactive?
Ball pythons thrive and more active when they are surrounded by rich shrubbery and plant life.
Ball Pythons, before domestication, were active predators in the rainforest of Africa. Surrounding them with plants, rocks, trees, introduces them to a toned-down replica of their natural habitat.
This typically sparks long-term growth in appetite, activity, and improves their sex drive, which translates to faster overall maturation.
Ball pythons, by nature, are shy and sensitive. Providing a little bit of cover in the form of lush leaves, rich substrates, and trunks, will give them a sense of privacy, and encourage them to explore.
It also provides ample opportunity for exercise, and it provides a better opportunity for temperature stabilization. Bioactive tanks also clean themselves. The fecal matter to manure, and with the right substrate, no odor will be retained.
Which Type Of Substrate Should You Use?
If you plan to have a bioactive enclosure, then you should try to get substrates that support plant life and are recommended for reptiles, snakes to be specific. Most popular substrates should do just fine. The only substrates you need to avoid are sand and cedar substrates.
The Heating System and Lighting
If you plan to create a more naturalistic environment for your snake, then you should understand that the heat and light requirement for both plant and snake differs immensely.
For your plants, an LED should do just fine. Your snake, on the other hand, needs precise temperature control, or they will die.
Heating mats, basking lights, or ceramic heat emitters are the most cost-effective and accurate heating systems you can add to your enclosure. Heating mats are attached to the base of the enclosure, and basking lights are attached to the top of the enclosure.
Hot and Cold Hide Spots
Cold and hot spots are terms used to designate hot and cool parts of the snake’s habitat. Achieving uniform heat across the entire tank is impossible, and there’re some days when the tank will be a bit hotter or colder than they like.
Hot and cold spots allow your snakes to regulate their body temperature by choosing which side they need. There are a lot of ways to achieve this. The most popular one is installing some type of shade.
This will block direct sunlight and reduce the overall temperature in the tank. The hot spot or basking spot should be somewhere around 88-96 degrees and should set up in winter months. You can use a heat lamp to create a hot spot.
Should Ball Pythons Cohabitate?
One of the more sensitive aspects of caring for your python is understanding their cohabitation behaviors. Ball Pythons are territorial by nature and will often fight over food, territory, and, in some rare cases, even swallow other ball pythons that are smaller than themselves.
The only way ball pythons will safely cohabitate for a short period of time is for mating reasons. And even then, it’s a rather delicate process that new owners should not attempt.
Get A Hygrometer and Keep An Eye On The Humidity
Humidity affects ball pythons in numerous ways. The most popular and disconcerting is it slows down shedding.
When the humidity isn’t high enough, your pythons could end up with a stuck shed. When it is too low, they end up with scale rot, which appears in the form of rashes or blisters.
A Hygrometer is an inexpensive machine that accurately monitors the humidity of your snake’s tank. The ideal humidity for a snake is about 60%; younger balls prefer something a bit higher.
If you struggle with raising the humidity of your ball’s tank, there are a lot of simple and interesting ways to increase the humidity in the tank.
You can increase the humidity by dampening the bedding of your snake, increase the quantity of water in the water bowl. You could also install a humidifier, add plants, or install a waterfall feature in the tank.
Will All These Help Recreate The Perfect Conditions For Growth?
Possibly. A Ball Python’s overall size is also determined by internal factors like genetics, sex, stress, etc. Male Ball pythons tend to end up being considerably smaller than their female counterpart.
Females reach up to 49 inches snout to tail. They typically weigh about 3.60lb, and their male counterparts are significantly lighter.
They weigh about 3.4 pounds once they are fully grown. They are about 47 inches long snout to tail and mature around the same pace as their female counterpart.
Ball pythons literally ball up when they feel stressed, threatened, or scared. Most of the time, it’s easy to help your animal feel less stressed, but in some rare cases, it’s difficult to determine what is the real cause of their anxiety.
Their growth can also be stunted by fluctuating appetites and parasitic infections (mites), but sometimes it all boils down to genetics.
Some snakes just grow faster, longer, and get sexually active quicker than others. The majority of your snake’s growth will happen in the first three years of its life; it will slowly reach its maximum length and size in the following years.