Banana ball pythons are one of the more popular ball python morphs. It’s not hard to see why.
In contrast to the wild-type look, banana ball pythons are very pale in color.
The standard black background appears more of a pink or purple, while the typical brown markings are a beautiful yellow. This creates a stunning appearance when combined.
With this color combination it’s also little surprise that these gorgeous snakes are often simply known as “banana snakes” in the hobby.
Once upon a time the only ball pythons available were the traditional wild form. While I still believe they’re stunning snakes, over the years more and more “morphs” have arisen. A morph is essentially a different colour form – same animal, different appearance.
In this case the banana snake gets it coloration from a specific gene which can be passed onto their young.
It also means that the care of banana balls is essentially the same as for other ball python morphs. To date, there have been no genetic abnormalities linked with the banana gene, and it is often crossed with other morphs to create an even greater range of color combinations.
How to Care for Banana Snakes
If you’ve got your heart set on a banana ball python morph then it’s crucial that you fully understand how to properly care for your snake.
Banana ball pythons are capable of living for 30 years or even more. As a result, you’ll not only need the right information, but also the commitment to care for your pet for such a long period of time.
In this article we’ll discuss just that.
I’ll talk about my own experiences keeping and rearing ball pythons, and show you what I’ve found to work best for my collection…
Banana Ball Python Enclosures
The proper care of any reptile starts with a suitable cage.
This should be the right size – allowing your snake room to move around but without feeling anxious – and should provide optimal environmental conditions such as warmth and humidity.
Get your banana snake cage set-up right and you’ll already be 90% of the way to a happy, healthy, long-lived snake.
Ball pythons have been kept as pets for decades now, and in that time hobbyists have tested out all sorts of housing options. Let’s look at some of the more popular options…
Wooden vivariums are one of my personal favorite types of housing for any ball python.
They look great, the sliding doors make routine tank maintenance easy and they do a good job of retaining heat in colder weather.
That said, they tend to be more commonly encountered in Europe; US readers may find tracking down a wooden vivarium rather more difficult.
Worst case scenario you may opt to build your own, which is a reasonably simple project.
Exo Terra glass terrariums are one of the best-looking options of all. If you want your banana snake to be a real focal point for your room then these can be ideal.
They offer closable gaps to fit electricals, a grill lid to allow for air movement and the front-opening doors are ideal for maintenance.
Glass Fish Tanks
Glass fish tanks are probably the easiest form of banana snake housing to source.
They’re normally pretty cheap, though they’re both heavy and fragile.
There are a few major downsides to using a fish tank, of which the most obvious is how you’ll prevent your snake from escaping.
Remember that banana ball pythons are surprisingly acrobatic, and may climb out of a tank without a proper lid.
I recommend you make or buy a suitably-sized cage topper to prevent this.
Plastic Storage Boxes
Plastic tubs are one of the least attractive options of all in my mind. They are, however, very cheap to buy and can make maintaining your banana snake very simple indeed.
Almost any plastic container of an appropriate size can be used. Many are sold for household storage and can be easily modified to create a banana snake cage.
When selecting one, be sure to offer enough ventilation, while ensuring the lid cannot be pushed off by your snake. Those with “locks” on either end to keep the lid on can be particularly suitable.
While they’re not my favorite option from a visual perspective, I do use some of these in my collection thanks to the many practicalities, particularly for smaller snakes.
We discussed wooden vivariums earlier on in this guide, but there are also a limited number of plastic vivariums on the market.
Vision Products is probably one of the best-known manufacturers in the US, though they can be difficult to source in other countries.
In many ways plastic cages are a great solution, and do away with many of the impracticalities found with wooden cages. If you can find them, then this is certainly an option I would strongly recommend.
Snake racks are used most commonly by professional breeders and serious hobbyists with lots and lots of snakes.
Think of them as a whole host of plastic containers that fit into a shelving unit.
Each tub slides out for feeding and cleaning, and when pushed back in the snake is prevented from escaping.
Realistically you’re unlikely to use a snake rack for your banana snake unless you already have a sizeable collection. In these cases, a snake rack can work well.
How to Choose the Best Banana Snake Vivarium
By now you’ve probably got some ideas as to which type of cage is most appealing to you. However it’s important to also consider some other elements before making your final decision…
What Size Cage Do I Need?
It’s one thing knowing the type of cage you want to buy, but you also need to make sure you can source the right size.
Ball python keepers and breeders all have their own opinions on the “right” size of cage, so be aware that advice on social media and discussion forums can vary wildly.
A good rule of thumb is that the length of your vivarium added to the width should be at least as long as your snake. So, for example, a cage 120cm long (4 feet) and 45cm deep (1.5 feet) would easily accommodate an adult snake of around 150-165cm long. Height is much less of a concern.
While breeders use smaller cages, my personal preference is a vivarium of around 120cm for a single adult ball python.
Of course, the same formula can be used when choosing cages for smaller specimens.
I’ve kept youngsters in 9 liter plastic tubs, which are cheap and practical. As my ball pythons grew they were moved up into intermediate cages, before finally ending up in their “adult” vivariums.
It should be noted that ball pythons don’t seem to appreciate overly large quarters, and may go off their food if they feel insecure. This means that it isn’t really practical to place a hatchling banana ball python into an adult-sized vivarium from the outset. Instead you’ll probably have to move through 2 or 3 smaller cages before they reach adulthood.
Will My Collection Grow?
We reptile keepers often develop an unfortunate addiction. One reptile turns into two, and so on.
If you’re not careful you’ll end up like me with an entire room of my house dedicated to exotics. If you think this could be you then planning in advance can make your life easier.
Cages that are easily stackable, for example, can allow you to expand your collection quite easily. You may even want to purchase additional cages at the time so they all “match” and you get a discount by bulk-buying.
What is My Budget?
Some banana snake cages are far, far more expensive than others. Fortunately, there’s an option for almost any budget.
Consider not only what you’re willing to spend now, but also the future cages you may need to buy as your snake grows.
This is why my personal preference is for cheaper cages initially, building up to a beautiful final vivarium that shows my snake off a treat while permitting plenty of natural behavior.
Practicality Vs Appearance
Some cages are far more practical than others. For example, I love cages that open at the front. In less than an hour I can whizz around my collection feeding and watering everyone.
If I had to constantly lift cages off each other so I could get in from the top this would be far less practical for me.
What Do I Use?
Over the years I’ve used just about every type of ball python housing going. I’ve found that they all have their pros and cons.
At present my preference is starting off hatchlings in plastic storage boxes. They don’t get overwhelmed with too much space and they’re easy to keep an eye on. They just look a bit bad.
From there specimens move into either larger storage boxes or glass tanks (either Exo Terras or more often fish tanks). Lastly, my adults move up into 120cm long wooden vivariums.
Fitting Out Your Banana Snake Vivarium
Once you’ve chosen a suitable cage the next step is setting it up to provide everything that your snake requires.
You’ll want to line with floor of the cage with a decent depth of substrate. There are a number of things to consider when choosing a suitable substrate…
- Absorbency – Does the substrate absorb any feces or spilled water? Does it rapidly turn mouldy under such conditions?
- Practicality – How quick and easy is it to work with?
- Risk of Impaction – Reptile keepers are divided on whether swallowing particulate substrate can result in health problems. Known as “gut impaction” there are those who claim that bits of substrate can cause fatalities if ingested.
- Behavior – Does it encourage natural behavior? For example, some ball pythons rub themselves against their substrate when sloughing their skin.
- Appearance – Of less importance, but if you’re creating a visually attractive cage then the substrate is an important part of the recipe.
- Price – How much does it cost to purchase the substrate and change it as necessary?
Here are some of the most popular substrate options among banana snake owners…
Aspen Shavings – Lightweight, attractive and absorbent they also have a pleasant gentle scent. This is my standard go-to these days.
Beech Chippings – Very similar in appearance to aspen shavings but they’re typically heavier in weight and, in my experience at least, more likely to go mouldy if they get damp.
Orchid Bark – The dark background can be a good way to help your banana snake stand out in a display tank. Bark chippings tend to do well in ball python cages and very rarely go mouldy.
Newspaper – Popular in pet stores and with some breeders. It is of course free, and is easily changed, but I do worry about the lack of absorbency and how it doesn’t encourage natural behavior.
Kitchen Towel – More absorbent and rather better looking than newspaper.
A ball python that has nowhere to hide away from view can get stressed. This can lead to issues such as your snake becoming aggressive or defensive when you go near it, or alternatively it may start refusing food.
The best option is to ensure your banana snake has at least one hide available at all times. A suitable hide is big enough for your snake to entirely conceal themselves within.
Some of the more popular options are…
Cork Bark Tubes – Cork bark has a great “rustic” look and it’s rough surface can also be useful when your snake moults.
Resin Hides – These are available from specialist reptile stores. They often look like tree roots or caves.
Cardboard Boxes – A cardboard box with a hole cut in the side so your snake can crawl inside it just as suitable. Just be sure to change the box regularly when it gets soiled.
Plastic Snake Hides – I have increasingly started using plastic snake hides as they’re cheap, practical and can be easily washed and cleaned.
Your banana ball python should have access to fresh water at all times. While ball pythons are still reasonably small snakes (when compared with some other pythons) they are surprisingly strong.
I therefore favor a heavier bowl that will be harder to tip over. Ceramic bowls designed for cats or dogs tend to work well.
Be aware that your banana snake may try to bathe in their bowl, which can result in water being spilled. Either provide a small bowl to prevent this, or only part-fill a larger bowl to minimize spillage.
The water should be changed daily and the bowl thoroughly sterilized at least once a week. I do this by pouring boiling water over it after a thorough clean. Don’t use any chemicals – just water and hard work.
While it’s not strictly necessary, some keepers opt to include all sorts of other tank decor. This can not only make your ball python cage more visually appealing, but it may also encourage more natural behavior from your snake.
Examples of decor you may want to consider could include:
Rocks – Rocks must be chosen carefully so they don’t shatter in the warmth of a snake tank. Also, be aware that your banana snake may try to burrow underneath any tank decor. To avoid the risk of danger it is wise to use aquarium sealant to “glue” rocks into place.
Wood – From vine roots to climbing branches a range of different types of wood can be placed within your vivarium. Be sure the wood has been sterilized before use. Personally I only use wood bought from reptile stores, and I once again treat it with boiling water or my baking in the oven before adding to the cage.
Plants – Live plants are unlikely to survive in your ball python cage. Ball pythons are just too active and too big, and the plants will likely get crushed very quickly. If you do want to include plants, therefore, I recommend using fake ones. The latest silk plants can look surprisingly realistic, and also give your snake somewhere else where they may choose to hide.
Heaters & Temperature
Banana ball pythons come from West African countries like Mali and Nigeria so they have evolved to appreciate warmth. This will generally need to be provided artificially in captivity.
Your banana snake should have a basking spot at one end of their cage. This should be maintained between 90 – 95F (32 – 35C). The other end of the cage should be cooler – with a temperature of 70 – 80F (21 – 26C) being ideal.
In tanks where heat is easily retained (wooden vivariums, for example) or where plastic may melt, a heat mat can create the necessary heat. In cages with better ventilation you may need to rely on a more powerful heater such as a ceramic bulb.
Either way, no reptile heater should be used without a suitable thermostat. Read more about how to select a thermostat in my buyer’s guide.
Personally I also recommend buying and installing a thermometer in your snake cage so that you can confirm that your heater is working efficiently at all times.
Banana snakes tend to spend the daylight hours hidden away from view, fast asleep.
It’s in the early morning, in the evening and through the night when your snake is likely to be most active. As a result, no artificial lighting is required for ball pythons.
All the same, some keepers opt to add lighting, if only to get a better view of their snake when they do finally make an appearance. Be mindful that lighting can heat up the cage, so bulbs that produce very little heat (such as LEDs) can be a good idea.
Feeding Your Banana Snake
Feeding is naturally very important and you need to ensure that you feed your snake the right amount otherwise they could become ill. In the wild, banana ball pythons will eat mainly rodents.
You can buy frozen mice or rats which have been killed already and then frozen. They come in bulk bags so you will have plenty to keep your snake going.
Naturally they need to be defrosted before feeding. To do this leave the rodent at room temperature for a few hours or put it in a bowl of warm water in a bag.
Snakes less than a year old need to be fed every 5 – 7 days as they are growing. At a year old, reduce this to every 7 – 10 days, increasing the size of prey from a mouse to a rat. When your snake is grown, it can be fed every 2 weeks.
There may come a time when your banana ball python doesn’t want to eat so you’ll know that there is something wrong. It could be that they are about to shed which does put them off food so that is nothing to worry about.
Another reason is that the cage might not be warm enough so check the temperature and adjust accordingly.
On the other hand your snake could just be sick or stressed for some reason.
Handling Banana Ball Pythons
You’ve got your banana ball python and you do want to hold it, not just look at it. They are not aggressive and rarely bite, but curl up into a ball if they feel threatened. That’s not the best time to pick it up as it will stress your snake.
It’s a good idea not to handle your snake when it’s hungry as it might give you a nip. Nor should you handle them while they are digesting as they may regurgitate. Also, leave your snake to shed in peace.
The one thing to remember is that a snake won’t bond with you like a cat or dog so don’t expect cuddles.
They just tolerate you and if you accept this you will have the best relationship you can have with a reptile.
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