ball python care in winter
September 17, 2009 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Ball-Python-Care-Filter: How do we best care for our ball python during the cold cold winter?

We just got him in May and we absolutely love him. We have been lucky because he eats really well, and is great with the kids.

However, I live in the midwest and when winter comes it will be cold. Our house will regularly get down to 58 degrees at night and rise to no more than 67-68 during the day.

He lives in a 20 gallon-long tank. We have an under-tank sticky heating pad on one side of the tank, and that has been his only source of heat during the summer. So, I know that I will have to get a heat lamp for the winter.

My questions are these:

1 - Do I leave the heat lamp on 24 hours a day? Or can he handle a cold night as long as he warms up during the day?

2 - Should we change his feeding schedule during the winter (right now he eats a mouse every week, exactly. He doesn't mess around either! He grabs that thing within seconds of it being in the tank with him).

3 - Anything else I should know?

Thanks a lot.
posted by crapples to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
Congratulations on your ball python! They are great little guys. I've had several. It's going to be really tough keeping the humidity up where it needs to be for him in a glass tank in winter, so you may want to look into alternate housing. A heat lamp in winter on a tank will make keeping humidity high enough nearly impossible. As far as his eating schedule, keep it up as long as he's happy with it. He'll let you know if he's not hungry due to brumation.

Take a look at the excellent care sheet from (Disclosure: I used to be affiliated with the site, years ago, but have no idea who's even running it anymore.) The forums there are going to give you much, much better quality care information and recommendations than here, as there are a lot of keepers with many years experience, including some breeders (or used to be, anyway).
posted by notashroom at 7:02 AM on September 17, 2009

What substrate do you have? The chunks of jungle bark, plus moist sphagnum moss in a couple of hides, keep my tank's humidity up pretty well, even with a heat lamp (or two in winter.) I do mist it regularly and I do have the lid closed off except where the lamps are. (My lid is pegboard - for some air circulation - with screened 'portholes' where I put the lamps.)

If you have a substrate thicker than repti-carpet or newspaper, the undertank heater won't keep him warm. I live in Massachusetts and I keep two 60w heat lamps on for my BP's cage 24-7, starting pretty soon now. I'd keep offering him food as long as he's interested in taking it. He'll tell you when he's not, and you'll be out one mouse. My girl signals she's hungry when I can see her lurking with her nose sticking out of her hide, waiting for something to wander (or get dangled - I don't feed live) by.

Enjoy your guy!
posted by Lou Stuells at 8:04 AM on September 17, 2009

Lou has a good point about the sphagnum moss in hides helping retain humidity, and there are spagnum moss baskets intended for hanging plants that make excellent hides or hide-liners as well (for under $5) and are also good for helping start a shed.

Also, if you don't have one, there are great little indoor/outdoor digital thermometers with humidity readings as well that can be bought in many stores (WalMart, Target, Lowe's, etc.) for under $20 and can give you much better information about temps and humidity (including inside his hides) than you can get if you're relying on the thermometers and monitors sold in pet supply areas (such as those awful stick-on ones).
posted by notashroom at 9:02 AM on September 17, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks! Currently I use newspaper just because it's easy to clean. So, maybe if I change the substrate, mist regularly, and partially close off the lid I'll be able to keep the humidity up. Also, I'll definitely pick up a digital thermometer with humidity reading.

Thanks - That website is excellent too. I want to treat him right and keep him happy. I have read that they can be sort of sensitive, so I don't want to blow it. So far, he has been easy and we want to keep it that way.
posted by crapples at 9:37 AM on September 17, 2009

Also, look into a Rheostat (at the least) or preferably a Thermostat for the under tank heater. They can get dangerously warm.

My setup for my snakes also includes a piece of lexan/acrylic cut to fit the top of the enclosure, with a hole cut out for the IR heat bulb fixture to sit in. I have no trouble keeping 40%-70% with daily misting and no humid hide here in Winnipeg.

Seconding the temp/humidity monitor. Don't guess!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:58 AM on September 17, 2009

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