Most breeders recommend using small 10-gallon enclosures to help hatchlings feel more secure. But, it is actually a myth that small enclosures help Ball Pythons feel safe.
So, how do you decide on the best tank size for a Ball Python?
Over the last 11 years of keeping Ball Pythons, I have tried multiple different tank sizes and shapes.
Whilst most keepers choose a tank based solely on the size of their snake, my experience has taught me that it is also important to consider your snake’s activity level and behavior.
- For juveniles 2 feet long or less, a 20-gallon long tank is perfect.
- For subadults to average adults (2-4 ft in length), 40-gallon breeder or long tanks are best.
- For large adults above 4 ft, I like to use 55-75-gallon tanks.
- You should aim to provide 10 gallons of tank per 1 ft of snake. The length of a ball python tank should be the same as the length of the snake.
- Most keepers graduate their tank to match their snake’s growth rate; this is known as upsizing.
What Size Tank Does A Ball Python Need?
As a general rule, you should aim to have a minimum of 10 gallons of space for every foot of snake. This ensures your Ball Python will always have enough space to stretch out, and that you are appropriately upsizing with their age.
For most adult Ball Pythons that measure between 2-4ft in length 40-gallon long tanks are best.
Depending on whether the individual explores more on the ground, or up in the branch decor, I will use a 40 gallon long or a 40 gallon breeder for adults.
Some Ball pythons prefer to stretch out and explore at ground level, so finding a tank with more square footage on the floor is best. My Ball Python likes to push around her decor and rearrange it regularly, so I keep her in a 48”x24”x13” enclosure.
For larger snakes like mine, you can use something closer to the 55-65 gallon range to provide more space for exploration.
Smaller setups decrease your snake’s ability to properly exercise. They also fail to provide enrichment opportunities, creating a negative or boring habitat for the snake.
Larger and taller setups provide more space for branches, thick vines, or shelving that your Ball Python may use to climb.
Ball Python Tank Sizes
Most keepers choose a tank based on the size of their ball python. Personally, I like to upsize tanks as they grow because it gives me the opportunity to find the right size for my Ball Python’s activity preferences.
As a starting point, to find the right tank size for a Ball Python, you can use the table below.
Bolded are my favorites!
|Tank Size (Gallons)||Dimensions (L”xW”xH”)||Best Suited To|
|40 Breeder||36”x18”x16”||Subadult/Small Adult|
I prefer to start off with a 20 gallon long tank for hatchlings. A tank this size will last until they are roughly 24 inches long, around 18 months of age. I like to pick a long tank as it provides enough height for them to explore the upper regions of the enclosure if desired.
Once your Ball Python is breaking the 2ft barrier, it is time to upgrade.
For subadults between 2-3.5ft long, a 40 gallon breeder is ideal. Depending on whether your Ball Python explores more on the ground, or up in the branch decor, you can use a long or breeder tank.
Once your Ball Python has grown larger than 3.5ft, consider a 55 gallon long setup.
Author Tip: For larger Ball Pythons like mine, I built a 60 gallon enclosure to provide more space for exploration.
For my Ball Python, even though she’s a bit longer than 4ft, I keep her in a 48” long 60 gallon tank. This is because I offer her regular opportunities to explore areas outside the enclosure. If you have a larger Ball Python and spend more time away, consider 75 gallons to provide more space for movement and enrichment.
Remember, 10 gallons of space per foot of snake is the ideal minimum tank size for ball pythons. Ideally, one side of the enclosure should be just as long as your snake so that they are able to fully stretch out in a straight line as desired.
By using a setup as long as your snake, you will ensure that they have proper floor space to move around.
Picking The Right Terrarium
Picking the perfect terrarium for your Ball Python is a careful balance between age, activity level, and lifestyle. It doesn’t just depend on tank size.
There are three main types of enclosures I’ve come across in reptile keeping:
- Fully-Enclosed Front Door
Each tank has its own pros and cons, so it is important to consider handling, heating, decor, and maintenance preferences.
The perfect setup also makes installing heat and lighting simple and safe for your snake. It is important to choose a tank that supports the heating element you prefer to use, whether it be a heat bulb fixture, heat tape or pad, or radiating heat panel.
Screen-top tanks are usually cheaper, easier to dump out substrate and allow for 360° viewing through the glass. These enclosures are also great for unmounted heat bulbs and light fixtures to sit on the screen.
On the negative side, I have experienced difficulty maintaining humidity, as well as snake escapes due to bending clips. With a temperamental snake, you may also experience aggression when reaching in from above. These problems can be managed, but I prefer to use a different tank entirely.
Fully-Enclosed Front Door
My favorite tank style is a fully enclosed front-opening tank.
Rather than using an open screen top, these tanks feature ventilation slats or holes, reducing humidity loss and helping to maintain a warmer, more gradual temperature gradient. It also greatly reduces the chance for escape due to the door locking mechanism.
It is better to use heat mats, tape, or radiating heat panels in these enclosures, because your snake will be able to physically touch any bulbs mounted in the interior, increasing risk of injury.
Author Tip: I also use enclosed touch-safe UVB light fixtures mounted inside the enclosure to provide a day/night cycle.
Front-opening setups also make it easier to approach your snake from the side to reduce handling anxiety. My Ball Python’s enclosure is built this way, with sliding glass doors and a fully enclosed body.
A combination tank has both a screen-top and front opening doors.
This type of setup does require more hands-on care for humidity and temperature regulation, but allows for heat bulb fixtures to be placed on top of the screen, while making handling less stressful for your Ball Python.
Additionally, the tops of these enclosures typically lock in, making it more escape-proof than traditional screened tanks. This is a great compromise for keepers that want to save money on heating, and still have easy access to the interior.
Tanks To Avoid
While there are many great Ball Python tanks, there are some red flags to avoid when choosing one.
First, I’d like to end the myth that Ball Pythons prefer small enclosures to feel secure. This was believed for a long time because Ball Pythons tend to stay hidden and, when put into large, under-decorated enclosures, will experience anxiety-related hunger strikes.
The truth is, these snakes are nocturnal and just tend to be resting during the hours that people typically are trying to observe them. They are also accustomed to areas with foliage, grasses, and leaflitter in the wild, so more clutter in the enclosure is the best way to provide security, not having a small cage.
Second, though I think uniquely shaped setups can be done well, it can be difficult to find the right one for Ball Pythons.
I tried to use a 18”x18”x36” hexagonal enclosure when my Ball Python was around 3ft long. While she did climb often, it was extremely hard to manage the temperature gradient, humidity level, or even find space to offer a second hide due to the lack of floor space. It was also nearly impossible to find any decor that fit and was usable.
Rectangular tanks are by far the best for Ball Pythons when it comes to creating a proper temperature gradient.
Remember to never let a fancy shape, material, or old myths prevent you from providing a proper environment for your snake! As long as you take into consideration their age, size, and activity, you will have no problem picking out the perfect cage for them.