I’ve been keeping ball pythons for over 20 years. Throughout that time, one of the most popular questions has related to humidity levels. What is the perfect ball python humidity? There is a lot of disagree and bad advice out there, so in this article I want to discuss what has worked well for me, as well as countless other ball python keepers.
What Humidity Should My Ball Python Cage Be?
Ball pythons are naturally found in Africa, where the climate is best-described as “arid” or “semi-arid”. Ball pythons aren’t a tropical species found in high-humidity environments. That said, ball pythons will spend much of their lives hiding in subterranean burrows where moisture levels may be slightly higher than at ground level.
Ball pythons thrive at a humidity level of 50-60%, though a little higher or lower is unlikely to cause too many issues.
This is a standard humidity level in many people’s homes. Having just taken humidity reading in my animal room as I began writing this article, I find the level sitting at a comfortable 52% here in the UK. My ball pythons seem to do perfectly fine under such conditions.
Indeed, some ball python keepers seem to get overly worried about humidity levels. They treat the suggested figures as “gospel” and spend half their lives fiddling with moisture levels in the cage. Don’t fret. So long as your ball python is moulting successfully then you should have little to worry about.
Indeed, it could be argued that an overly-damp cage is potentially of greater risk to your snake..
Dangers of Moist Conditions
Ball pythons, like many other snake species, can struggle from a range of health problems if they are consistently exposed to excessively-high moisture levels. This is especially so when ventilation is kept to a minimum, and stale air is allowed to sit in the vivarium for extended periods of time.
A few potential risks include respiratory problems, mould and scale rot.
Instead of fretting so much about trying to constantly increase the humidity level in your ball python cage, it would instead be better to focus on ensuring suitable ventilation and a substrate that remains dry and hygienic at all times.
Maintaining Proper Hydration Levels
Most ball pythons will be perfectly comfortable when kept at the ambient humidity in your home.
All the same, we need to ensure proper hydration levels for your pet snake. Fortunately this is simple enough to do with the following tips…
Add a Heavy Water Bowl
Ball pythons should have access to fresh water at all times.
They can be strong snakes, so a heavy bowl reduces the chances of the bowl getting knocked over as your snake moves around.
I suggest avoiding lightweight plastic bowls, and instead opting for a ceramic bowl as sold for rabbits, cats or dogs.
The water should be changed daily to keep it fresh, and the bowl regularly sterilized. While there are reptile-safe detergents currently on the market, I personally like to avoid chemicals in water bowls. Instead, I soak my bowls in boiling water before allowing them to dry out thoroughly.
It is wise to have a “spare” water bowl so this cleaning regime doesn’t mean that your snake is without water for a period of time.
Mop Up Any Spilled Water
Some ball pythons develop a habit of spilling their water. When adult females ovulate they sometimes wrap themselves around their waterbowl, for example. As damp substrate should be avoided, be sure to clean up any spilled water as soon as you notice it.
Remove Soiled Substrate
Whether it’s faeces, spilled water or the leftovers of a rodent, all soiled substrate should be removed on a regular basis and replaced with fresh, dry bedding.
Ensure Suitable Ventilation
Lastly, proper ventilation is essential to avoid a build-up of stale stagnant air. Any ball python containers, from plastic storage bins to wooden vivariums, should have ventilation holes or mesh to permit this exchange of air.
Should You Mist Your Ball Python Cage?
Many articles focusing on ball python humidity recommend that you mist your ball python cage.
I don’t believe this is really necessary, and indeed could lead to excessively-high moisture levels in the cage. This is especially so if you’re using a highly-absorbent bedding or substrate that may soak up the water, then slowly rot or go mouldy.
A dry substrate with a suitable water bowl and ambient humidity levels should be perfectly satisfactory while avoiding the potential health risks of a wet cage.
How Does Humidity Affect Sloughing?
Humidity levels can affect how easily some snakes moult. While most ball pythons will slough their skins perfectly at ambient humidities, there are a minority of cases where additional moisture may be advisable.
If, and only if, your ball python has struggled to moult, you may want to consider adding a “moss box” to the cage. As the name suggests, this is a supply of moist sphagnum moss, which is carefully kept separate from the rest of the cage substrate.
Some keepers will place damp moss under a suitably-sized snake hide. Others place the moss into a plastic container, carefully cutting a hole large enough for their snake to slither in and out.
The benefit of this arrangement is that your ball python can choose the area of humidity that suits them best, without affecting conditions in the main cage itself.
Once the moult is successfully completed the moss box can be removed to free up space in the cage.
How to Raise Humidity in Your Ball Python Cage
If you live in a very dry area, such as some of the southern States, then it may be necessary to gently increase the humidity within your ball python cage. Fortunately raising the humidity should be reasonably simple…
Use a Wider Water Bowl
A larger water bowl means that there is more surface area for water to evaporate from. This, in turn, can increase humidity levels within the cage.
Relocate the Water Bowl
The warmer you keep your ball python’s water bowl, the more moisture will evaporate from it. Consider where the warmest part of the cage is (such as near a basking site) and consider relocating the bowl to this area to boost humidity.
Reduce Ventilation Levels
Ventilation is important for ball pythons, so we don’t want to block up all the air holes by any means. Depending on the ball python cage you’re using, however, it may be possible to reduce (not eliminate) air exchange to retain more humid air in the vivarium.
Add a Moss Box
Damp sphagnum moss, placed under a hide or in a plastic box, can create a “pocket” of moist air into which your python can retreat.
How to Lower Humidity In Your Ball Python Cage
Ball pythons that are kept too moist are at risk of a range of health conditions. This is especially so if the substrate remains wet for any period of time. Under these circumstances you should aim to bring the humidity levels back down to “normal”. The following tips can help you do just that…
Move the Water Bowl
Move the water bowl to the coolest area of the cage in order to minimize evaporation.
The more ventilation your ball python has, the more quickly moist air can escape from the cage. Consider whether this is possible with your existing setup, or consider investing in a new cage with better air exchange.
Change the Substrate
Damp substrate can be a breeding ground for pathogens. Some substrates will also absorb any moisture, holding it in the cage, and potentially rotting in the process. Completely changing your substrate may sound like an extreme measure, but it can be an effective way to quickly reduce moisture levels in the cage.
Add a Fan to the Room
Assuming your ball python cage has decent ventilation, placing a fan in the same room as your python can help to circulate the air.
Add a Dehumidifier
As a final ditch attempt, a household dehumidifier can help to absorb and trap moisture from the air, where it can be tipped down a drain.
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