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Snake enclosures: What works


A coiled ball python.

It was three in the morning, and we had a plane to catch. We rushed around the house, checking our “kids”; the cats had food, the dog was taken out, our bearded dragon was fed and his cage was clean. The mouse was running in his wheel and our ball python, Zoe, was... Missing!

We forgot to zip her enclosure shut, and sometime during the night, she had slipped out and gone into hiding. Luckily, she had done this before, so we knew where she would be. The closet. After a frantic forty-five minutes of searching, we found her coiled up in a box on the top shelf. Finally we were able to put everything back and barely made our plane on time.

Ball pythons are relatively easy pets to care for, but there are special considerations for this type of reptile. Though they start small, they will grow to be as big as four or five feet in length. They need a secure cage, as they are very strong and can push the lid off a typical reptile enclosure, even if it is held in place by a brick or other type of weight. 

Personally, we use a mesh enclosure that secures by zipper. It has a bedding of wood chips, branches, a cloth hide, and basking lights. We keep a medium sized bowl of water in the bottom for shedding, a rock and log to rub against, and she gets plenty of sun in our southwestern facing room. She is able to bask in the heat lamp at temperatures around ninety degrees, and the room is a balmy 85 during the day. At night, a drop of ten degrees is perfectly acceptable.

When considering a new enclosure for your snake, keep the following in mind: Minimum requirements are that the tank is at least three times the length of your python when coiled up, two times the width of the same, and at least three times its height. These are minimum requirements, however, and we encourage a larger enclosure with more accoutrements. A forty gallon tank will suit most ball pythons.

As always, maintaining the health of any type of pet can be a new experience, as we learned the other morning trying to catch our vacation flight! Diligence, discipline, and consistency are the key to successful pet ownership.