Royal or Ball Python

Python regius

Royal Python Care

Royal Pythons are one of the most popular pet species in the UK, due to a combination of their lovely temperament and ease of maintenance. They are beautifully marked, and are now being bred in many different colours and patterns. Royal pythons are sometimes referred to as Ball pythons, as when they are scared they will roll into a ball with their head well protected in between their coils. They grow to around 1.2m long and are a heavily built snake, with a very gentle nature.

A wooden vivarium is best for a royal python as they are better insulated than glass or plastic tanks, so therefore easier to get the heating set up correctly. They are also designed with snakes in mind so escapees are unlikely. (Remember to shut the doors properly!) A wooden vivarium will offer more privacy as they only have a glass front.

Baby royals – as with any snake – are quite capable of being happy in an adult sized enclosure provided that they have plenty of hides. A good rule of thumb is that if the snake can travel from one side of the enclosure to the other without showing itself, you have enough hides. A minimum size of enclosure should be a 120 x 60 x 60cm long vivarium for an adult snake, but bigger is always better.

Royal pythons require an ambient temperature of 27ºC to 29°C with a hot spot of 31°C to 33°C during the day; this can be achieved by using a ceramic heater , deep heat projector or a basking light on thermostats mounted at one side of the vivarium to create a warmer side. At night the temperature should drop to around 23°C to 25°C. It is vitally important to know what the temperature is, so check regularly with an accurate digital thermometer.

Although it has always been assumed that snakes do not need UVB lighting, it is always a good idea to provide it. Low output T5 UVB tubes are now available that can mimic the levels of UVB that they would be exposed to in the wild, and we have found that when it is provided they will definitely use it.

Ambient humidity is fine at normal background levels in the UK, and is rarely a point of concern. As long as totally dry substrates are avoided, your python is likely to be quite happy as long as it has lots of places to hide. If you are concerned about humidity, a good solution is to provide a moist hide in the warm end – this prevents the entire enclosure from becoming too wet.

The snake will require plenty of hides in the vivarium so that it can feel secure. By having 2 or 3 in different areas of the vivarium the snake will be able to choose the one that is at the best temperature. Plastic plants are also good to use, as these look very attractive in the vivarium as well as offering privacy. The more decor and ‘clutter’ you can provide in your snake’s home the better – royals can be very shy snakes, and lots of cover encourages them to feel confident enough to behave normally.

Feed your snake one defrosted mouse or rat weekly for young snakes and fortnightly for adults. The mouse should be no bigger than the largest part of the snake. Rats are a better source of food than mice, hatchling snakes can be fed on rat pups and move up to medium or large rats as adults. As snakes do not use energy to warm their bodies (as mammals do), they need less energy to function. There are a few feeding techniques. The most simple is to place the defrosted food in the vivarium near the snake and leave it to feed. The other way is to offer the food on some tongs or tweezers to the snake.

Fresh water must be provided everyday in a water bowl that cannot be tipped and spilled by the snake. It’s often recommended that the bowl be large enough for the snake to soak in, but if a moist hide is provided this really isn’t necessary. Your royal python will shed its skin regularly. When it begins its shed cycle its eyes will appear to cloud over, and its colours will seem dull and dusty; within a week this should have cleared, and then the snake will shed its skin. They all have their own schedule for shedding, so be patient and your snake will shed just fine!

Animal Information

Common Names: Royal or Ball Python

Scientific Name: Python regius

Location: West and central Africa

Habitat (wild):  Grasslands and open forests.

Captive environment: Tropical vivarium

Preferred temperature range: Ambient temperature of 27 to 29°C with a hot spot of 31°C to 33°C. At night the temperature should drop to around 23°C to 25°C.

UVB Lighting: T5 5 or 7% strip light

Ferguson Zone: Zone 1

Lifespan: 20 to 30 years