If you want an interesting, low-maintenance pet to keep, ball pythons are among the best beginner-friendly pet snakes. They require little attention and maintenance, they are easy-going, and easy to feed and care for. For ball pythons, you must keep the humidity level between 50% and 60% RH.
Humidity and temperature are both essential factors in keeping your pet ball python’s enclosure. These pet ball pythons thrive in warm and moist habitats and they require a temperature gradient that allows them to regulate their own body temperature. To do this, you need a good thermometer and hygrometer to monitor the conditions. The cold side must be kept at least 75°F to 80°F while the hot side must be between 88°F and 92°F or no higher than 95°F.
Different animals may require different environmental conditions at certain times. Usually, it’s best to maintain a relative humidity of around 55% to 60% throughout the enclosure space, but there may be situations that call for a higher relative humidity, up to 80%, but never below 45%. Either low humidity or too much humidity can have negative effects on your ball python.
Ball Python Humidity
Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor present in the air. The relative humidity measure, on the other hand, is relative to the air temperature and the maximum amount of water vapor it could hold. The higher the relative humidity level, the more water in the air. This is very important for the health of your ball python. When the humidity level is too low, it can cause a stuck shed or another sickness.
Ball pythons are native to tropical regions and are used to heat and high humidity. They thrive in humidity levels between 55% to 70%, to over 80% at certain times. For your pet ball python, you can keep the humidity level around 55% to 60%. This humidity level allows them to keep its skin moist enough for proper shedding but not too high that it will be constantly wet.
If the humidity level in your ball python’s terrarium is consistently too high or too low, it can negatively impact your pet’s health. Lack of humidity in can lead to respiratory issues for your ball python. Meanwhile, too much humidity may cause respiratory infections and other breathing issues as well. Unbalanced humidity levels can also make your ball python become more susceptible to other diseases and parasites.
What Happens When Humidity is Too Low?
Humidity levels inside your ball python’s enclosure must be maintained within the ideal range. While humidity can change at different times of the day, it should never dip below 45%, even when the temperature drops significantly at night. Prolonged exposure to humidity levels below 45% humidity can cause problems with shedding. If your ball python cannot shed its skin properly, this can lead to health issues such as skin infections.
Improper shedding of skin can result in patches of stuck shed. This can be particularly harmful to the eyes, causing vision problems, and even blindness over time.
Lack of moisture during shedding can also damage the new scales. They can be torn and exposed to dirt and bacteria, thus causing infections.
Relative humidity below 40% for long periods can be extremely harmful, especially during shedding. You may notice the side effects above within a few weeks or so, depending on how low the humidity level is, and the current health of your pet snake.
Some ball pythons may be less susceptible to significant changes in the environment. However, younger snakes are likely more prone to the dangers of low humidity exposure as they shed more frequently before reaching adulthood.
How to Increase Humidity in Ball Python Tank
Controlling the humidity levels inside your pet ball python’s tank is essential in maintaining its health, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. Firstly, you can change the tank setup by reducing ventilation and adding a water bowl inside. You may also need to change the substrate and start regularly misting the enclosure.
Reduce the ventilation.
If you live in an area with low humidity and have a lot of ventilation in your ball python’s tank, it may be difficult to keep the humidity level inside high enough for your pet’s requirements. Ventilation introduces less humid air into the enclosure. Any effort to increase humidity may go to waste if the moist air ends up rising up and out of the tank anyway. To solve this, you may cover some ventilation to help keep the humidity levels higher inside.
You may cover about half of the vents, as long as the tank has at least six of them. You can do this by placing a cloth over the lid on top. Ideally, you may use aluminum foil which is more effective in trapping moisture.
Furthermore, if the enclosure is placed under an air vent, close to a window, or anywhere that gets direct sunlight and dry air, it can cause the humidity inside to drop. Place the enclosure in a corner far from a window or air vents.
Add a large water dish.
To easily add moisture inside the enclosure, replace your small dish bowl with a bigger bowl that’s shallow and fill it with water to help increase humidity faster. Regularly filling up the bowl will help maintain humidity. Use a heating pad or other heat sources to heat the water, causing it to turn into vapor and raise the RH in the tank.
Change the substrate.
The substrate serves as the flooring for your pet snake inside its enclosure. Some of the easiest and cheapest substrates to use are newspaper and paper towels. They are also easy to clean and can be purchased anywhere. However, while they can absorb moisture, they do not impact the humidity levels inside the enclosure. In particular, with a heating pad underneath it, paper easily dries out.
The best solution is to use an absorbent material like coconut husk or fiber (from ground coconut shells) or cypress mulch. These options provide much better control over humidity levels. They are moist straight out of the bag and easily retain water, helping maintain higher humidity for a longer time.
Add a humidity hide
Adding a humidity hide or humidity box inside the tank also helps maintain proper humidity. It gives your pet a humid place to go if it needs so. Sometimes, it may inside for days to get the higher humidity it needs when shedding. A humidity hide needs to be enclosed and placed on the cooler side of the tank.
Mist the enclosure.
Lastly, to increase the humidity inside the ball python enclosure, you can simply add moisture to the air. Along with the steps above, regular misting helps maintain the required humidity levels.
There are mist bottles made especially for this. Spray the substrate at least once a day or whenever needed.
How to Maintain Humidity in Ball Python Tank
After reaching the appropriate humidity, it’s going to be easier to maintain it. You only need to follow these small maintenance steps.
Firstly, keep misting the enclosure and fill the bowl with water regularly. You should also check the absorbent material everyday to see if it still holds moisture and mist it as needed. If you have any heating device for the enclosure, ensure that it is in proper working condition.
Finally, you can add a humidifier or fogger to the tank setup. If you live in a particularly dry area, a reptile fogger can be a beneficial investment. If you do decide to have one in your ball python enclosure, always make sure the fogger tank has water.
What If the Humidity is Too High?
On the downside, excess humidity can also cause health disorders including respiratory infections. It’s best to have a hygrometer to monitor the exact relative humidity levels in the tank. If the reading is often above 70% even at night, then you might have a problem with high humidity. This can be just as harmful as the lack of humidity.
To reduce humidity, the first thing you can do is to improve the ventilation. If the tank lacks airflow, the stagnant air is trapped inside and it creates a highly humid environment. Adequate ventilation reduces moisture in the air. You can add an air screen on top of the tank with small openings or mesh wire to let cooler air into the enclosure. Make sure that there is also adequate airflow in the room outside the tank. Open a window if the outdoor air is less humid.
It’s essential to monitor both the relative humidity and temperature in the room. When the air temperature decreases, particularly at night, the relative humidity likely also drops. Meanwhile, if direct sunlight hits the tank, this can increase the temperature and humidity inside.
To prevent further increasing the humidity levels, remove sources of moisture from the tank. If you have a large water bowl inside, replace it with a smaller bowl and place it on the cooler side to avoid adding to the humidity.
If you have too much humidity, you might need to change your substrate to a drier material. In alternative, you can simply reduce the depth of the substrate or let he moisture dry out for a bit before adding or mixing in new substrate into the tank.
Lastly, a constant heat source can help remove the excess moisture. With that said, it’s also important to know the ideal temperatures for your ball python’s enclosure and how you can maintain it throughout the day.
Ball Python Temperature
As mentioned, there should be a temperature gradient inside the enclosure. With this, there are four different temperatures you must take note of. These are the temperatures on the cool spot, the hot spot, the ambient temperature between the two, and the temperature at night.
There is an ideal range for all of these temperatures. The hot spot is also often called the basking spot as this is the side where the snake basks in the heat. This spot should be kept within 88°F to 92°F but not above 95°F so it’s only warm enough without the risks of burns or overheat. There are many ways to heat this part of the enclosure, which we’ll get into below.
The cool side should be about 76°F to 80°F. This is where you must place the humidity hide if you have one. Make sure it’s enclosed and properly hidden as ball pythons like it. The area between the hot and cold sides must have a temperature of around 81°F to 84°F. At nighttime, the temperature should be no higher than 75°F.
To help you maintain the temperature in the enclosure, the hot side or basking spot needs a heat source such as a heating mat or heat tape.
This is a good option to help increase the temperature and humidity levels in the tank. It is usually made of a durable plastic film and takes only a few minutes to heat up. However, it may be harder to set up. One thing to note is you must never use heat rocks as a heat source in your ball python’s enclosure as they can cause burns and dehydration.
Heat pads or mats are probably the best heat sources for a reptile enclosure. They provide constant heat and are easier to control with a thermostat. Note that you must keep the mat not inside the enclosure but under the tank itself. The bottom of the tank and the substrate inside act as a barrier to avoid direct exposure to the heat pad that can cause burns. When using a heating mat for the first time, check the snake’s belly for any signs of burns or overheat.
Heating cables are also another option that is easy to control with a thermostat, but heating pads are generally safer to use and easier to set up. Whatever heat source you use, you have to connect it to a thermostat to regulate the temperature so you can shut off the heat source when needed.
Ball pythons, much like your furry pets, require proper care and attention to be healthy and comfortable in their homes. Some important factors that largely affect their health and comfort are the humidity levels and temperatures inside their enclosures. It is essential to maintain humidity levels between 50% and 60% RH in most cases. Otherwise, low humidity can cause respiratory diseases and shedding problems. Some easy regular maintenance you can do is to mist the tank and fill the water bowl inside.
Having a good setup for your ball python’s enclosure can add up to 10 years to your pet’s lifespan. Higher humidity levels are best when your ball python is shedding, sometimes even around 70% to 80%. Older snakes may have some troubles in shedding and the added moisture in the tank can help it shed properly. However, a different set of problems may arise if you increase humidity in the whole enclosure. In this case, the best solution is to add a humidity box for your pet to hide in and get the humidity it needs.