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How to set up a ball python terrarium

Ball pythons are among the most kept reptiles on the planet, and it’s for good reason. They are both very easy to take care of and easy to get. But, before you buy one, you must first get your ball python terrarium setup.

Ball python terrarium setups don’t require much of anything fancy, but there are some essentials that they must have. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to properly set up a ball python terrarium, and all the details that go along with it.

Ball python terrarium setup

Ball python terrarium setups can range anywhere from very basic, all the way up to jungle-like replicas. Depending on your budget, you can go just about as minimal or elaborate as you’d like, given the minimum requirements for proper ball python care are met. 

With that said, there are essentially 2 different enclosures to consider: terrarium or rack. 

Typically speaking, a simple glass tank is most common, as they’re more available and far more affordable. As a juvenile, your ball python needs to feel secure, and a 20-gallon tank should do just fine, providing it has lots of places to hide. When it gets bigger, something like a 40-gallon tank will suit them, again with the aid of lots of places to hide.

A rack system is typically for housing multiple ball pythons in one area. They have plastic bins that pull out like a filing cabinet and are usually much easier to clean. These bins range in size, and you can pick the correct size according to the weight of the snake.

Even though these two cage styles are pretty drastically different, the care required remains the same.


Ball python care requires a lot of humidity. Typically speaking, a ball python’s humidity levels should be between 55-60%. The average home has about 30-40% humidity, so a good substrate can aid in raising the humidity to the correct levels.

Opting for a substrate that holds moisture well will definitely help your cause. Something like cypress mulch works perfectly for all ball pythons, regardless of size. 

Some ball python keepers choose to humidify the room the snakes are kept in instead of each individual bin/cage. We’ll go a little more into detail on that in a moment, but for now, let’s talk about alternative substrates in this case.

If you’re able to maintain a constant level of humidity that is ideal for your snake, then your ball python terrarium setup just got a little easier. In some cases, ball python keepers use a simple paper towel for the substrate. It’s both easier to clean, and cheaper. Just make sure that it has no added chemicals or scents.

A big downside to using something like paper towels over mulch or something similar is that your ball python will not receive any enrichment from digging. If you have plenty of hides in the enclosure, this typically isn’t a big deal for the snake, but it does provide that extra layer of brain stimulation for a ball python terrarium setup.

Lighting and heat

Contrary to many chain pet shops’ beliefs, lighting is not important for ball pythons. In fact, they’re not very big fans of Contrary to many chain pet shops’ beliefs, lighting is not important for ball pythons. In fact, they’re not very big fans of it. This shocks a lot of people that are new to the reptile world. After all, if you look at how to set up a bearded dragon terrarium, let’s say, it revolves around a lighting setup.

What is important is heat. But, it’s not as simple as throwing a heat source and the tank and calling it good. Like almost all reptiles, you need to have a hot and cool side. The cool side should be the area where the water bowl is kept, and both sides should have hiding spots.

There are a variety of ways to get heat into the snake’s cage. Most commonly, people use under-tank heaters or heating mats for their ball python terrarium setups.

You can also use something called a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) to provide heat from above. It is a bulb, but it provides heat without producing any light. Most often, both of these sources are not needed at the same time. As long as you can keep the hot side around 89 degrees Fahrenheit (31.7 C), and the cool side around 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 – 26.7 C), your snake will be happy.

Terrarium decorations

As long as there are places to hide, a heat source, and a water bowl, they are not picky. Decor such as fake plants, rocks, and driftwood are all very common and affordable options.

There are a few things to keep in mind, however, when searching for that perfect decoration for a ball python terrarium setup. First, ball pythons do not need to climb. Although they will if needed, they are ground dwellers 99.9% of the time. Climbing up to a high branch for a thick-bodied snake such as a ball python can result in a nasty fall and an injury.

Secondly, contrary to popular belief, snakes in general are very delicate. They have scales to protect them, sure, but pointed and sharp edges can puncture and injure them severely. It’s best to avoid any decorations that are sharp to the touch.

Can I house multiple ball pythons together?

If you’ve visited a pet shop recently, you’ve probably noticed that they often house more than 1 ball python in the same terrarium setup. While they seem happy and content, it poses a massive risk to the safety and well-being of each snake in that terrarium.

In short, it is highly recommended to house ball pythons alone. In the wild, outside of breeding season, they are solitary animals. They do not need the companionship of another snake at any time.

Sometimes you will hear of someone that has kept ball pythons together in the same terrarium setup for years, and nothing bad has happened. All it takes is 1 mishap to lose a snake to an injury, or being eaten by the other snake(s) completely.

All-in-all, the risk of housing multiple ball pythons together is not worth it. It is highly likely that you will lose your pet.


Ball pythons are incredibly rewarding snakes to keep for anyone, regardless of their level of experience. 

Ball python terrarium setups are not complicated, but the right elements should be purchased and set up before the purchase of your new snake. Once everything is in place and working properly, then you can safely introduce the ball python.

It’s also important to note that once the ball python is introduced, they should be left alone to acclimate for several days before handling. Some experts suggest at least a week of quarantine in their new ball python terrarium setup before moving them.

At the end of the day, ball pythons are popular for a reason. They come in a variety of colors, patterns, and morphs, and can be quite entertaining and interesting to own.

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