Choosing Cage Furnishings and Plants for Ball Pythons
A hide box of some type is a must for a ball python. This will give the snake a place to rest and will provide it with the feeling of security that it needs to thrive. Numerous styles of hide boxes are available to choose from. A hide box can be as simple as a shoe box or as elaborate as a homemade wooden house-like structure that has been properly sealed and waterproofed. You can purchase hide boxes made specifically for snakes at many pet stores.
Always keep in mind the ease of cleaning when choosing a hide box for your snake. If you do not mind scrubbing out all the intricate designs of an ornate hide box, then by all means provide your snake with one. Make sure the hide box will be large enough to shelter the ball python, but also small enough to give the snake the sense of security it needs.
If you choose to make your own hide box or to use something out of the ordinary for a hide, make sure that the opening or openings are flexible enough to accommodate the snake, both now and in the future. Ball pythons can grow quickly, and an opening that was once large enough to easily accommodate the snake may, as it gets older, become a potential death trap. You do not want to come home and find that your snake has become stuck in an opening that is too small to accommodate the middle of its body.
Many ball pythons seem to prefer hide boxes that have an opening in the top. Top-opening hides allow the snake to come out and ambush its food, without the rodent running directly into the hide.
Ceramic flower pots can be easily converted into a suitable ball python hide box. The existing hole in the bottom of the pot may require widening to properly accommodate your ball python. Once the hole has been cut to the desired size, file or sand down any rough edges that were created when the hole was enlarged so as not to leave any potential snags that may harm the snake.
A water dish is also essential for a ball python's cage. Choose a sturdy ceramic or plastic water dish, one that cannot be easily turned over by an adventuresome and exuberant ball python.
In general, a water dish does not need to be large enough for the ball python to soak in, but it does need to be large enough to provide an adequate amount of clean water for your pet. Many keepers use plastic food containers as "liners" for their water dishes. Water dish liners are easily removed and are simple to fill with clean water. Using a liner will help keep the water dish free from heavy mineral build-up.
Healthy ball pythons rarely soak in their water dish, and if they do, it is generally a sign of a problem. If no hide box is provided in the cage, a stressed ball python may use its water dish as a hide box. If the cage is too hot, a ball python will lie in its water dish to try to cool off.
However, mites are the number-one reason why a ball python lies in its water dish. As the mites drown, they accumulate at the bottom of the water dish. Please keep this in mind if your snake begins to spend time in its water dish. If there are no noticeable dead mites floating in the water at the bottom of the dish, however, this does not mean that your snake does not have mites. Give your snake a thorough visual inspection; if no mites turn up, double-check the temperature of the cage and make sure your snake has a suitable hide box. If this doesn't solve the problem, it's possible that your snake does indeed have mites, but they have not yet grown large enough to be easily seen.
Many people want to have a "naturalistic" looking vivarium, featuring plants in their snake's enclosure. You can add plants to a ball python's cage, but they will need to be very durable. Hatchling ball pythons will not do too much damage to a plant while they are small, so you may be able to use live plants in their cage. Pothos (Scindapsus aureus) is a good choice. When choosing a live plant for your ball python's cage, read the label carefully. Avoid purchasing plants that are potentially toxic.
As your ball python becomes an adult, it can and most likely will destroy any live plant in its enclosure. For an adult ball python, consider using good, sturdy artificial plants. Many decorative and durable artificial plants are available, and many of these will also withstand the occasional cleaning that will be necessary when they become soiled.
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