FAQ & Info
Frequently Asked Questions
For people starting out there are many questions that need to be answered. I have started this page to help guide you in the right direction. Now keep in mind that many questions could have several correct answers. The answers to these questions is how I do things here in my facility. You may find that your way or another way could work best for you. I recommend that you do as much homework as possible to help keep you going on the right path. This page will be a work in progress. We welcome your input to help this information be the most productive for all that read.
How many different morphs are their?
Here is a list of many, but I'm sure not all. These are the basic morphs used to create the higher end or super forms of each gene.
How big does a ball python get?
Average ball pythons get 4 to 5 feet in length. Their growth rate will be controlled by the amount of food and number of times fed.
Is my snake a boy or girl?
There are two ways of telling the sex of a snake. First you can probe the snake to determine the depth of the vents located at the tail of the snake or you can “pop” the snake by exposing the sex organs or lack of. Both techniques should only be done by someone with experience.
What should my ball python eat?
Rats are the best source of food. They will grow to the appropriate size for a ball python to grow healthy. Mice and African Soft Furred are also used to feed ball pythons but may need several to make a complete meal. The ideal food source should be the same size as the thickest part of the snakes body. Don’t worry, the head and jaws will stretch.
How often should I feed my ball python?
One meal every 7 days would keep steady growth. You may choose to feed sooner or longer than 7 based on your needs or breeding goals.
Why does my ball python not want to eat?
This is a common problem with ball pythons. The answer may not be simple as there are several reasons. Here are a few issues that may cause lack of eating. The temps are to low or to high, snake enclosure is to big, no hides, breeding season, wrong food source, wrong color of food (unproven fact), medical issues, food to big/small, may prefer live or dead, or maybe the snake is just not hungry. A change of scenery is always nice. Go for a car drive or feed in another room. Don’t worry, it will eat when its ready to.
What is assist or force feeding?
First I will explain what the difference is, then explain when you should attempt. The “Assist Feed” is when you place the head of a small rat or small mouse in the mouth of the snake. After pushing the head all the way in, you then close the mouth of the snake and place it back in the home. The snake may then wrap the meal and start the swallowing process. Of course snakes will also spit it out. A “Force Feed” is when you place the small rat or mouse in the mouth of the snake. Then using a pair of rubber coated tongs, push the rat down the throat of the snake several inches behind the head. Place the snake back in the home and with luck the snake will push the meal down to the tummy. Of course I have seen snakes throw it back up all the way from the belly. Now......When to use these techniques. These are last resort only! This will cause lots of stress to the snake. This stress may cause the snake to never eat again or bring on illness from the process. These techniques are used when a new hatchling has not eaten for a month, or an older snake has not eaten in many months and shows signs of ridge back or under weight. You may need the assistance of a second person when dealing with large snakes. Remember that you could do more harm than good. Be patient.
What kind of house should my ball python have?
Lets start with the material. You can use a reptile enclosure, aquarium, rack system, or homemade. Smooth surfaces are best as your snake will probe, crawl, and explore every inch. Rough surfaces can cause abrasions.
Next will be size. Your home should be about 3 to 4 times the size of the snake. They like feeling of being inclosed in tight spaces. A home that is to big may overwhelm them causing them not to eat. Start with a simple home as you will be upgrading a few times. Once full grown you may invest in a nice show piece for your reptile. Along with water dishes and climbing logs, don’t forget a nice hide for you snake.
What type of bedding is best?
We use aspen bedding here at Family Reptiles. It has the best odor absorbing quality and easy to spot clean when dirty. Other breeders will use paper as a bedding. DO NOT USE cedar as it can be poison to your ball python. With a little research, you will find many different types of bedding material with a wide range of price.
How big should my water bowl be?
The ideal set up would have a bowl big enough for the snake to soak its entire body in. Be sure to change the water once or twice a week, or as needed. We use regular filtered water, but any house tap water will be fine. Remember, in the wild they drink from mud puddles, so clean drinking water will keep them very healthy. Hint: Keep the water dish only filled half way. When its time to soak, the bowl may over flow and cause wet bedding.
How warm should my ball python be?
Every ball python enclosure should have a cool spot and a warm spot. The cool spot can be anywhere from 78 to 84 degrees. The warm spot should be in the area of 89 degrees. The perfect home will have multiple hides and spaces to go in both the warm and cool spots. This will give your snake many options.
Can I use a heating pad or heat rock?
If you plan to have a heat pad or heat rock, be sure to use a thermostat so that you can control the amount of heat. Most heating products will put off to much heat and can cause burns to the belly of the ball python. Remember, 89 degrees should be the warmest spot in the enclosure. A heat temp gun is great to get the exact temp of the area. Thermometers only read the air temp, not the floor temp that the snake will be laying on.
How Big does my ball pythons need to be before they can breed?
Size is the main factor we go by, but of course sexual maturity must also be reached. Mother nature has the final say on that. I like to see my boys over 600 grams in hopes of them breeding the entire season. Many boys can breed at smaller sizes but can only breed so long before having to stop from the weight loss becoming unhealthy. The girls should be over 1500 grams to have a decent size clutch. Of course the bigger the better. Some girls have bred at lower weights but usually results in lower egg counts.
When is a good time to start breeding?
At Family Reptiles, we wait until a long cold front comes through the area during the end of October or first of November. Temps are lowered to 80 degrees at night and 85 degrees during the day. We continue to offer food and start rotating the males with the females at this time. Some breeders will lower temps for a short time down to the lower to mid 70’s. This is acceptable but don’t offer food if your temps are low as the snakes need the heat to digest the meals. Low temps with full bellies could cause respiratory issues. Temps will raise back up to 89 degrees around December. The males will continue to rotate through the winter and stop around spring time. If the male becomes thin during breeding, we may pull him out early.
How do I incubate the eggs?
There are many incubators on the market that will hatch your eggs. These will vary in size depending on how many clutches your planning on having. The basics of egg incubation is to maintain 89 degrees and 100% Humidity. For people on a budget, its very easy to build your own incubator from an old fridge or cooler. Many large breeders such as ourselves have built an entire room to be used for egg incubation. Do your research and you will find the best options that fit your breeding needs.
Do I have mites?
If your in reptiles long enough you will get mites. For ball pythons, you may notice them soaking often. If you remove them from the water bowl and notice what looks like “poppy seeds” in the bottom, you have mites. Mites feed off the blood of the ball pythons and can travel up to 12 feet per day. If one of your snakes has them, then most likely they all do. There are several brands of mite spay on the market. Be sure to follow the instructions closely as you will be using a mild poison to kill the mites. No fear, your snake will be just fine.
What if my ball python has a bite or cut?
Use a simple antibiotic cream twice a day until the wound heals. The scar should disappear after several sheds. The snake should also be kept on newspaper to avoid infection from the bedding. Be sure the home stays dry.
How do I know if my ball python is suffering from respiratory issues?
The easy way to tell is if the sides of your enclosure are covered with slime or mucus from the ball python. The snake will be suffering from a runny nose and as it moves around, the sides get marked with this mucus. Taking your ball python to a reptile vet would be the best option, but you can also try raising the heat on the snakes enclosure using an overhead lamp. Leaving the snake around 92 degree for a long period of time has shown positive effects for drying out the snake and getting back to healthy conditions.
What if I need to put my snake down?
This can be heartbreaking for people that are attached to snakes like we are. There may come a time that one of your reptiles becomes too sick or old to care for itself anymore. Other circumstances we find is people will bring us snakes that were injured by other pets such as dogs or cats. These injuries may result in broken bones and severe lacerations that lead to massive infections. The best thing is to keep the snake from suffering further. We recommend taking to a vet and having the reptile put down. Another option: Since they are cold blooded animals, placing the snake in the freezer is the most humane way to put the snake down. The freezer causes the snake to fall asleep in a coma then the snake passes on while sleeping. This causes no pain to the snake.
(Please contact me with questions you would like to see)
Ball Python Care Sheet
Most Ball Pythons fall under different types of genetics. This is a must to learn and understand what will come out when you breed your ball pythons.
This is the end form or the last step of a morph. A Dominant gene has no “Super” that can be made by breeding it back to the same morph. For example, if you breed a Spider to a Spider, you only make Spiders. There is no Super Spider and that makes Spider a Dominant gene. Examples of Dominant genes are: Spider, Pinstripe, Blue and Black Eye Lucy and Ivory to name a few.
This is where a morph can breed with the same morph type and produce a “Super” of itself. For example, if you breed a Pastel to a Pastel, Then you would make a Super Pastel. Examples of Co-Dominant genes are: Pastel, Cinnamon, Lesser, Mojave, and Yellow Belly to name a few.
Now this is where things can become tricky when understanding the outcome of breeding two snakes together. In simple terms, you need both mom and dad to carry the same recessive trait to produce that visual morph. This differs from co-Dominant and Dominant where you only need one parent to pass the gene into the babies.
If you have done any looking around on the internet classifieds of ball pythons, you have come across people selling hets. Het simply means that the snake carries the gene, but is hidden and looks just like a normal. Now you also may have seen different percents listed with the Het such as 50%, 66%, or 100%. I will cover later on how we get these percents, but each percent is your odds of carrying the gene. It should be clear that 100% is what you prefer when buying a het snake. The lower percents are sometimes confused by thinking that’s how much of the gene they carry. That is not the case. Each snake either carries the entire gene, or no gene at all. This percent is the odds of the snake having the gene. Still confused? Don’t worry, we will talk more on this soon.
New types of ball pythons are still being discovered. This makes this industry exciting because anyone new to ball pythons could produce a snake that the world has never seen. The more you research, go to trade shows, and talk with fellow breeders, you will learn that not all snakes have a proven track history when breeding. For the beginners, start simple and stick with the common genes. As your collection grows, so will your desire to branch out and have fun with uncommon projects.
Now it’s time to understand what your chances are when you put two different, or two of the same snakes together. Now back in 6th grade, I was passing notes, sleeping, or asking the teacher, “When will we ever use this garbage?” What I missed in class was the lesson on genetics and the “Punnett Square”. For all those who were not paying attention in class, it’s time to get a refresher course.
Breeding Co-Dominant and/or Dominant Genes
The Punnett Square will give you the odds and possible outcome of babies. Remember, just cause the Punnett Square says one thing, Mother Nature has the ultimate control. Unlike other reptiles, we cannot control sex, color, or morph by changing incubation temperatures or conditions of the eggs. Let’s get started with a simple breeding. For our first example, let’s say you breed your Spider male to a normal female. It will not matter which parent carries the gene, it will still work the same.
At the top of the square, we will place the genes of the father. For our example we stated he was a Spider. To complete the square we will need to list every gene that can be produced by the Spider and that also includes normal.
To the left, we will place the genes that make up a normal and that is only a normal. Now we fill in each side and top into the square. You can now see that you have a 50% chance of getting Spiders and 50% chance of getting normals if you breed them together. When working with Dom and Co-Dom snakes, the same outcome will happen if you breed Pastel, Spider, Pinstripe, etc.
Now lets say your breeding a Pastel to a Spider because you want a Bumble Bee. Using the same square, lets see the odds of what we will make.
We have placed the Spider on top and the Pastel on the side. Remember....you must place every gene that makes up the morph. The normal gene is present in both of these morphs. That includes all Co-Dom and Dom ball pythons as well. This rule does not apply when we get into recessive. From the outcome of the square, you have a 25% chance of getting each a Normal, Pastel, Spider, and Bumble Bee.
For my last example we are going to use a double morph male Bumble Bee and breed it to a female Bumble Bee. For single morphs we could you the 4 square box. As we increase the morphs, we must increase the square. Lets start by placing all the genes that are made up of a Bumble Bee. Because this example is using two Bumble Bees, each of them will be across the top and side.
Part of learning is knowing what the outcome of each morph would be. This may look confusing at first glance, but the more you learn your genetics, the easier it will be to create your own square using your own ball pythons. Now let’s see what the odds of producing each snake from the example:
1/16 Chance of making a Normal
1/16 Super Pastel
6/16 Bumble Bee
3/16 Killer Bee (Super Pastel Spider)
As you can see, you still have a slight chance of producing a normal. When first learning, start small and practice making different squares with different snakes. The more practice.....the better you become.
Breeding Recessive Genes
Before getting to this, make sure you have a complete understanding of what we just covered. This next part can and will be a lot more confusing to the person learning genetics.
To make this simple, each parent must carry the gene either Het or Visual to reproduce a visual baby. Unlike Co-Dom or Dom genes where only one parent is needed to pass the gene to the offspring. Listed below is the outcome of breeding recessive snakes. For the example, we are going to use a pied breeding.
Pied to Pied = All Visual Pieds
Pied to Het Pied = 1 in 2 - Visual Pieds
1 in 2 - 100% Het Pieds
Pied to Normal = All 100% Het Pieds
Het Pied to Het Pied = 1 in 4 - Visual Pieds
1 in 4 - Normal
2 in 4 - 100% Het Pieds
Because we are unable to tell which 2 of the 3 are Het Pied, all the babies are considered to be 66% chance of being Het Pied. This is where the 66% comes from.
Het Pied to Normal = 2 in 4 - 100% Het Pied
2 in 4 - Normal
Because we are unable to tell which half of the babies are Het Pied, all the babies are considered to be 50% chance of being Het Pied. This is where the 50% comes from.
As you can see from the above breeding, anytime you breed a visual recessive, all the normal looking babies will be 100% Het for the gene. Of course you can mix your recessive with Co-Dom and Dom genes and get Hets that you would breed back to the Visual to produce the double morph.
I hope this has helped get you started on understanding the genetics of snake breeding. Keep practicing and learning as that will be the key to making great snakes. You may contact me anytime if you have further questions or would like help in understanding your next breeding project.