There are so many morphs of the ever-popular pet ball python, and one of those most popular morphs is the “pastel” ball python. I was curious why this one is so popular and everything that makes it a great pet, and I’d like to share my findings with you.
What do you need to know about the pastel morph of the ball python species? Pastel ball pythons are cost-friendly, kid-friendly, a wonderful size, and have a great temperament for a pet snake. They have a lovely pattern and attractive snakeskin colors. Pastel ball pythons are great for beginner snake owners.
If you’re curious why these snakes make such great pets, feel free to read on and become one with the pastel ball python enthusiasts worldwide.
The Basics: Pastel Ball Pythons
Pastel ball pythons are a morph of a regular ball python, which just means that they are a ball python with different colors and patterns. Morphs are types of snakes that have been bred in captivity specifically for their new and exciting colors and patterns.
You won’t find any morphs in the wild unless one unfortunate zoo had a massive security breach, at which point the last thing you’re going to have to worry about is how many morphs are in the wild.
Regular ball pythons usually have a ground color of black or dark grey or brown, with yellow, light brown, or gold splotches sprinkled across their entire body. Their dorsal scales are white or creme colored. Pastel ball pythons are really just a lighter, more pastel version of a regular ball python.
Ball pythons are native to Africa, Asia, and Australia (they seem to be particular to continents beginning with the letter A), meaning they are classified as “Old World Snakes.” I guess the Colombian Exchange kind of skipped over them because they never made it naturally to the Western Hemisphere.
Now, there is a pretty big market for snake exports, and with a license, many breeders send regular shipments of ball pythons to North America where the snakes are then distributed to pet stores, and then on to family homes. You can often get snakes from snake traders who travel for this purpose.
Be wary, though, because some snake species are not permitted as snake pets in the U.S. For example, Burmese pythons are officially labeled an invasive species and mainly live and reproduce in Florida in the wild, due to some getting out supposedly on accident.
Ball pythons can live in the wild for up to around 15 years old, but in captivity, they have been known to get as old as 30 years. The oldest living captive ball python ever recorded was 48 years old when he finally died.
The largest a ball python will ever get is around six feet long, and females are usually a little bigger than the males. That sort of thing tends to happen among most snake species because the females need to make more room for things like laying eggs and giving live birth.
The largest a ball python will ever get is around six feet long, and females are usually a little bigger than the males.
More commonly, ball pythons grow up to be around two or five feet, and babies hatch at around a foot long. Their bodies are stocky and their triangular shaped heads are small. They have smooth scales and inward facing sharp teeth, used for latching on to prey.
Like all nonvenomous snakes, their pupils are round and they have teeth, not fangs (fangs are only classified as such because they have long grooves that hold venom in them). Coloring and pattern will vary depending on the specific breed’s environment, helping them blend in better.
In addition to being Old World snakes, ball pythons can also be found under the entry “primitive species.” Unlike every other snake, which have evolved to only need one lung, pythons still have two lungs.
Pythons also have the remains of a pelvis and two hind limbs, known as vestigial organs. A vestigial organ is an organ you don’t actually need, but had a use in the evolutionary past, like the appendix, wisdom teeth, or your funny bone.
Okay, you got me, your funny bone isn’t actually an organ, but you can’t deny it’s still very much pointless and crazy annoying. Basically, these snakes are considered primitive for their strange organs and their origin.
Ball pythons like wet, humid, and hot climates. Think rain forests, swamps, and grassland. They have adapted to live in human-made habitats like abandoned farms and other urban debris.
They like to hide in rocky outcroppings, under logs, and abandoned mammal burrows. Pythons are fantastic swimming and climbers. They also love to burrow and if you have a pet one, you’ll want to look at getting a lot of loose substrates for them to slither under and around and get all cozy.
The Ball Python’s Behavior
Ball pythons are nocturnal, which explains all the hiding they do in dark, dank places. Because of all the time they spend in the dark, their eyes are extremely sensitive to UV light. This does not mean, however, that they have good eyesight. It’s actually pretty poor.
Pythons (such as the ball python) and pit vipers have heat-sensing pits along their jaws. These pits contain extremely thin membranes that can detect slight changes in temperature. They do this by absorbing the radiation found in infrared light waves.
Waves will travel through the air, and when they meet a solid object like a rock or a mouse, they move around the object. This creates a sort of image in the negative space left by the waves.
Ball pythons can track their prey through the dark by following the changes in temperature that occur when the mouse moves from location to location.
Ball pythons have an odd way of moving. Most snakes wiggle from side to side as they move forward, kind of like an army crawl without any limbs. Ball pythons use something called “rectilinear progression” motion. They stiffen their ribs, then lift sections of their belly and push themselves forward.
Ball pythons use something called “rectilinear progression” motion.
Kind of like an inchworm. Kind of. Actually, just ignore the inchworm analogy. It’s much more like when you pull a towel towards yourself bit by bit using one finger after another, and it bunches up.
But if the inchworm analogy thing made sense to you, then go for that one.
Ball pythons got their name from the way that they ball up when they are frightened. They don’t run away like garter snakes, nor do they freeze like copperhead snakes, nor do they strike like cobras. They just ball up and hiss, trying to look bigger and sound more threatening. It works.
Because ball pythons are nonvenomous, they don’t bite often at all. In fact, they are widely known as the least likely snakes to bite you. If they do strike, they often strike first with a closed mouth.
If you keep on annoying them (or maybe if they are particularly hungry and mistake you for the typical thawed pre-killed mouse they are accustomed to eating) they then may bite using their tiny little angled-in teeth.
Ball pythons are extremely mild and docile. You can, and should, handle them almost every day, minus feeding days. After feedings, give your ball python a couple of days to digest and become comfortable again. They tend to be skittish if you try to handle them right after they ate a large meal.
Even if your ball pythons is a little temperamental at first, they tame really easily. They are curious and will like to move around with you hold them, so just handle them hand over hand, avoiding their head.
If they wrap themselves around you, just unwind them starting at their tail, as that is weaker than their head. It’s not dangerous if they wrap themselves around you, because they’re too small to do any real harm, but that behavior just shouldn’t really be encouraged.
They tend to tighten their grip around your arm and it may seem like they are “hugging” you, but actually, this usually signals that they are uncomfortable or they don’t feel secure. If this happens, you should probably set your snake down and give it some space.
Diet: The Ball Python’s Food
Like most snakes, ball pythons eat mostly rodents. They are big enough snakes that they can handle small rats, but the most common thing to feed them in captivity is mice.
Feed them one pre-killed, thawed mouse every week. Live prey can injure your snakes, so it is safer to give them one that is already dead.
You can buy pre-killed mice in bulk and then freeze them, thawing them out one by one when feeding time comes.
Ball pythons in the wild also eat lizards and small birds. Really big pythons, like the rock python, will eat mammals as big as monkeys, pigs, and antelope.
One python was even reportedly found with an entire leopard in their stomach. Pastel pythons, however, are pretty small and just eat small rodents, birds, and lizards.
Ball pythons are ambush predators, meaning they lie in wait for prey to just walk by, then they strike. Their success basically lies in how good the spot was that they chose to wait in.
They set up camp in the undergrowth, near the base of trees or around known rodents trails. Often they choose to hang out near the dens of rodents or small mammals.
This is a strong incentive for you not to go bushwacking because you might run into a ball python who’s just chilling and waiting for a snake to stroll by. You are quite obviously not a snack, and they will not appreciate being disturbed in their quest for food. In my experience, I’ve found it best to avoid hangry snakes.
Once they find food, ball pythons latch onto their prey with their teeth, throw their coils around them, and begin constricting them. Ball pythons fall into the category of snakes labeled as constrictors.
This just means that they squeeze their prey to kill it. This does not mean that they break all the bones in their prey’s body, nor does it mean that they suffocate their prey.
When constrictors constrict their prey, they just cut off all the blood supply to essential organs. The rodent actually dies from what is called ischemia. This just means that tissue and organs don’t receive the needed oxygen and die. If enough tissue or important tissue, like the brain or heart, are oxygen deprived for long enough, then they shut down, which leads to the entire body shutting down.
In small animals, like mice, this happens within seconds. Sounds a lot less vicious now, right? I guess something is still dying, but it can’t all be butterflies and rainbows in the real world. The circle of life has to keep going, and ball pythons need to eat, too.
Breeding Ball Pythons
Ball pythons lay eggs, which makes them unique from boas, which are the next largest family of constricting snakes.
Males and females reach sexual maturity at around two years old, and mating season is in the late spring to early summer. Males will mate with as many females as possible, but females will only lay one clutch of eggs per mating season.
Female ball pythons will lay her eggs in a nest of vegetation or in an old burrow. She coils herself around her eggs and keeps them warm during the gestation period, which lasts around 60 days.
She will not eat the whole time she is wrapped around her precious eggs, and will only leave if she needs to bask in the sun. If her eggs get too cold, she will contract her muscles to generate movement to generate heat.
Basically, she sort of snake-style-shivers to keep her eggs warm. Even though ball pythons seem pretty maternal for snakes, once her eggs hatch, moms just leave and the little baby snakes are all on their own.
Don’t worry about the little guys, though. Ball pythons are fully formed from the time they hatch and can fend for themselves pretty well, especially after they’ve eaten their first meal. This usually consists of a tiny pinky mouse.
If you’re looking at getting a baby ball python, feed them small meals for the first few weeks. The mice they eat should not be much thicker than the thickest part of the snake’s body. That helps them digest quicker and is a healthy portion for these little ball hatchlings.
Housing a Pastel Ball Python
Because ball pythons are medium-sized snakes, they can adequately be kept in a 36 inch by 18-inch by 12-inch enclosure. This is roughly 30 gallons. Aim for a plastic type reptile terrarium.
Glass terrariums with screen roofs make it difficult to maintain the proper humidity. Make sure the enclosure is secure. All snakes are suspiciously good at escaping and ball pythons are no amateurs when it comes to this escape artist trait. They’ll squeeze through any crack or cranny.
Ball pythons like to burrow, so provide a lot of loose particle substrate to line the bottom of the cage. Cypress mulch and orchid bark work wonderfully well, but the cheapest and easiest option is just using plain old newspaper.
It’s simple to change out and cheap to get. Just make sure to avoid any treated, oily wood. Also stay away from sand, shavings, or peat. These can get ingested, and frankly, they’re just a lot messier.
In addition to having a substrate that they can burrow in, ball pythons like to have multiple hide boxes that they can hide in. These can be commercial hide boxes, or can just be random hiding-home-looking things, such as ceramic flower pots or cardboard boxes.
The hide boxes should be big enough for your snake to curl up in, but not much bigger. They need to be able to feel cozy and secure. Have one hide box on the warmer side of the enclosure and one on the cooler side.
Snakes cannot regulate their own body temperature, so they do that externally by moving between hot and cool places. Have a basking place that is between 88 and 96 degrees and a cooler spot between 78 to 80 degrees.
Never let the ambient temperature dip below 75 degrees. You can get basking bulbs or heating pads or tape. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer and a probe. Also be particularly sure to pay attention to the humidity levels in these enclosures. Snakes need humidity.
There are no additional lighting requirements for ball pythons. However, continuous artificial light stresses them out, especially because they are a nocturnal species.
Keep them in a room with plenty of natural lighting, but not directly by the window (we don’t want the sunlight to mess with your carefully cultivated enclosure temperature). If they have plenty of natural lighting, they will stay on a natural sleeping, eating, and shedding pattern.
Because ball pythons live in humid places, they like their cage to be a little more humid than your house is. Your house has an average humidity level of around 40%, but ball pythons like it at around 50% to 60%.
Your house has an average humidity level of around 40%, but ball pythons like it at around 50% to 60%.
A large dish of water solves this problem, as long as you don’t have a screen top to your cage. The water bowl should be big enough that your snake can soak its entire body in, and not slosh water over the sides.
Always make sure the water is fresh and clean. If you need the enclosure to be more humid, provide a bigger dish, and if you need it to be less humid, provide a smaller dish.
Keep your cage as clean as possible. Spot clean every day, clearing up feces and other debris. Every month, do a deep clean, where you remove everything and clean it, letting it dry completely before replacing it.
Completely replace the substrate every week (this is easy if you’re using newspaper; I told you it would pay off).
Feed your ball python about once every week. It is helpful to move your snake to a different box when feeding it, as they begin to only associate feeding with that specific place.
This reduces the risk of getting bitten, as well as the risk of them accidentally ingesting any substrate. Never hand-feed them, or they might start to associate your hand with food, and could try and take a bite out of you.
Also, make sure to completely thaw out the mice you are feeding your ball pythons, as they will often reject still-cold mice. Don’t feed your snake live mice unless you’re okay with the risk of some fighting between prey and predator (and potential harm to your snake), as well as an increase in aggressive behavior from your pet.
Ball pythons occasionally put themselves through fasts. They will just randomly refuse food, sometimes for up to a month. This is normal, so if your snake is not eating, don’t panic.
Continue to offer food once a week, and (eventually) your snake will start eating again. If this continues for longer than a month, or your snake starts showing some ribs, take them to a vet.
Getting Bitten by a Ball Python
Most people go their whole lives without being bitten by a snake, and many snake owners as well. Ball pythons, in particular, don’t bite very often. You have to work hard to get a ball pythons to bite you, and I would have to advise you with all common sense not to do that.
The bite of a ball pythons hurts about as much as a kitten scratch. They bite with about a dozen small teeth and will let go right after.
Don’t jerk away. Their teeth are curved inward, so if you jerk away, you’re just going to rip your skin. Stay calm and replace your snake if you are holding it.
You’re going to have to wash the bit area for a bit longer than it takes you to sing the happy birthday song. I know all the little signs in public bathrooms tell you that all the bacteria are killed by the time you finish the song, but I think snake bites warrant an exception.
Wash with soap and water for a long time. Put a band-aid on it and monitor it. Nothing should happen, but you want to monitor it in case you end up having an allergic reaction, or your snake happened to be a carrier for diseases like snake mites or Salmonella.
Your bite should heal in a matter of days, and really, nothing horrible should happen. Just chalk it up to experience, and keep handling your snake as usual.
Try to think about how you might have annoyed your snake and try not to do that ever again. Your snake can’t verbally tell you what the matter was, so it will rely on you to pay attention to its needs based on how often it basks or how often it stays on the cool side of the tank, or how often it seems uncomfortable or hungry.
Just pay attention to your ball python pet, and all should be well.
Buying a Pastel Ball Python
Often, the best route to go when buying a snake is to go through a trusted breeder, and this is true with pastel ball pythons, as well. Despite pet stores’ best intentions, they often sell unhealthy or unhappy snakes.
Trusted breeders can provide you with a pedigree and a guarantee of a pest-free, healthy snake. Breeders are also always working on new morphs with more stunning colors and patterns, although if you want to get a beautifully-colored pastel ball python for its classic look and easy temperament, I fully support that.
Otherwise, you can buy snakes from pet stores, reptile shows, or online stores. You can also adopt a snake, which will take a snake from a home that can’t provide for it.
Pastel ball pythons are anywhere from $12 to $60. That may seem a little expensive, but $60 is actually pretty cheap for a snake. There are more exotic, bigger, or more popular snakes that go for upwards of $100.
That, coupled with the low maintenance of snakes, makes ball pythons one of the cheapest pets on the market, and pastel ball pythons are a beautiful and fairly low-maintenance morph of this amazing reptile.
Are ball pythons good pets? Ball pythons are the most popular snake breed to own as pets. They are docile, easy to handle, and cheap to feed. They are the least likely snake to bite.
Are ball pythons dangerous? There has never been an incident of a ball python severely injuring a human, let along killing them. They rarely bite. Their bites can sometimes carry diseases, but the diseases are easily treated.
Do ball pythons need heat at night? Ball pythons need to have a warmer temperature and a colder temperature in order to regulate their internal temperature. Their enclosures should have this difference in temperature at all times. If you are using a heating lamp, you can buy one with a night setting, which just means that it will be dimmer at night time.