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Ball Python Tank Temperatures and Heat Tips

Updated on June 17, 2011

Providing your ball python with proper tempera­tures is essential. Ball pythons need to be kept warm, not hot, in order for them to properly digest their food. Being either too hot or too cold may be a rea­son why your ball python may fail to eat or to keep its food down. You can use many different methods to keep your python's cage warm, some more suit­able than others.

Hot rocks are not suitable sources of heat for ball pythons. They often burn snakes because they do not heat the air of the enclosure; to keep warm, the python must stay curled around the rock, and such prolonged contact will cause a burn.

Under-tank heaters (UTHs) are the preferred method for heating a single cage. These pads adhere to the bottom of the cage and use electricity to gen­erate heat. Take care to avoid the possibility of creat­ing a fire hazard in your home by reading the instructions carefully and using the heating pad accordingly. A rheostat is recommended to use in conjunction with any UTH. This device allows you to adjust the amount of heat given off by the UTH according to the temperature in your home. The bottom of the cage above the UTH should be warm, not hot, to the touch.

Ceramic heat emitters are also available for heating the cage. These are similar to light bulbs, but they generate heat without light. They are surrounded by a metal shroud or hood that usually has a clamp on it, and you may need to build a suitable structure that will support the weight of the heat emitter and its hood. Do not use ceramic heat emitters in regular light sockets; they are likely to cause a fire. Also, care must be taken when using such a heating element. It is easy to forget that it is on and emitting heat since it does not "glow" or give off light. Ready-made rack-style systems may come with or without heating devices and thermo­stats, depending on the manufacturer. Some systems use heat panels; others use heat ropes or cable. Round heat cable comes in different lengths and is relatively thin. It can be laid in loops beneath the cage floor to provide radiant heat. The amount of cable used depends upon how warm the room is: A colder room will require more heat cable underneath the cage than a warmer room.

Each cage must have a thermostat to control its heating elements. Most thermostats come with only one heat probe, but at least one com­mercially available thermostat comes with multi­ple probes. Probes are placed next to the heat source to monitor the temperature, and the ther­mostat is adjusted until the interior of the cage is the desired temperature. When dealing with a single-probe unit, the probe is generally best placed in the center of the cage. Units with multiple probes will allow for smaller heat gradients between the levels on a rack system. When using a single-probe system with a rack setup, the top units will always run a couple of degrees warmer than the bottom. Depending upon how many levels your rack has, a multi-probe system will allow you to either heat each level individually or allow for the grouping of two to three levels at a time. This will help to reduce the temperature discrepancies between the top and bottom levels of the rack. This type of temperature difference naturally occurs in most rooms, since heat rises, and it can account for the differences in temperature between the top and bot­tom of the rack.


The "hot spot" in the cage can range from 80 to 85°F (26.7 to .4°C) for hatchlings and 85 to 90°F (29.4 to 32.2°C) for sub-adult adult ball pythons. The ambient temperature does not need to be high as the temperature of the hot spot. Ambient air temperatures range from the high 70s to mid s (about 25 to 29°C). Your snake's behavior is the most important factor in determining if le temperatures are appropriate for your ball python. If your snake is always in the water dish (and it does not have mites), it may be too hot. If your snake spends all of its time on the warm side of the tank and rarely ventures over to the other side, then chances are good that the cage is too cool.

Investing in a temperature gun will aid greatly in monitoring the temperature of the hot at in the cage. Infrared temperature guns have become more readily available, and the cost nominal. It is strongly recommend that you purchase one. The temperature should be routinely checked, as electrical equipment can malfunction, and it is important to adjust the temperature of the heating devices according to how the temperature fluctuates in your home.


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