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Preparing for a Pet Royal Python

March 7th, 2010

Royal pythonProviding an appropriate terrarium for a royal python, also known as a ball python, is the first step to having a happy and healthy animal. As a mature, adult snake, a royal python will reach a length of about four feet. It is ideal to provide a terrarium that is at least four feet long, however something larger would be perfectly acceptable. The terrarium should also be fairly tall, 2-3 feet, because royal pythons enjoy climbing. Glass aquariums work for a python, but they tend to be expensive and it’s possible to make your own enclosure out of wood and plexiglass.

Using wood also provides privacy because the snake won’t be able to be seen from three sides which can reduce the overall amount of stress. If you do use a glass tank, purchase some sort of aquarium background to provide privacy. Whatever type of enclosure you use, make certain that the top is very secure; royal pythons are escape artists. The enclosure you use must have proper ventilation and air must be able to freely circulate from the cage to the rest of the room. This helps prevent the growth of some types of fungus and also makes the cage smell better.

Royal pythons need some sort of substrate, and there are a variety of options. Aspen bedding, Astroturf (designed for pets) and even shredded newspaper all work well. If using aspen bedding or newspaper, the substrate should be 2-4 inches deep. Royal pythons don’t burrow in their substrate so not much is needed. Cedar bedding cannot be used for royal pythons, or any type of snake for that matter. In addition to solid substrate, royal pythons also require water. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times in a plastic or ceramic bowl. Water dishes do not need to be very large because they do not soak in their water unless they’re stressed or have mites.

Temperature is a very important factor when keeping royal pythons, and you’ll need a thermometer. It is not okay to guess what the temperature is, you must be precise. During the day a temperature on the warm end of your enclosure should be 83-88 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they’re cold blooded, snakes like to be able to adjust their body temperature periodically so it’s also important to have a cooler end of the enclosure with a temperature of 78-83 degrees. Temperatures can be achieved with the use of a warming bulb suspended over one end of the enclosure, or with a heater placed under the substrate.

Caution needs to be exercised when using heating rocks. Royal pythons like to wrap themselves around these rocks, however they are unable to notice when they’re being burned. This doesn’t mean using heating rocks is a bad idea, but you need to make sure your heating rock doesn’t get too hot. Some heating rocks can reach temperatures of over 130 degrees, which is much too hot for a royal python. You should be able to comfortably hold the heating rock in your hands for a full minute if it’s safe for your snake. If it burns you or causes discomfort, it’s too hot for your snake which can tolerate heating rock temperatures of up to 90 degrees.

Branches are an environment enriching toy you can add for your royal python. They’ll enjoy climbing on them, and the rough texture of the branch will help aid in shedding. Rocks should also be put in your python’s enclosure, but make sure they’re secure and can’t fall and harm your snake. Damp moss (real or artificial, both work fine) can help aid in shedding and many royal pythons enjoy slithering over moss. Royal pythons are naturally very timid animals, and because of this they need places to hide. You can purchase rock caves or hollow logs from a pet store if you want, but an old shoe box with a hole cut in the side works just as well. Adding artificial plants is a nice decorative touch, however not necessary if you don’t want to.

Royal pythons originate from North Africa, so they require a fairly dry environment. Humidity should typically be kept around 40%, reaching 50% during times of shedding. This can be achieved by lightly misting your enclosure with water every three days. An overly humid enclosure can cause your snake to be sluggish and promote fungal growth.