Each year, ball python breeders are coming out with a new colour or pattern morph to fulfill the desires of keepers and breeders alike. Over the last few years, there has been a surge in producing various pattern or color morphs, which would be the envy of the snake world. These can cost upwards of thousands of dollars. There are still lots of normal ball pythons being bred in captivity for the pet but there is definite change in the market.
This change has happened before and is seeing a resurgence today. A growing number of people today are keeping reptiles; specifically snakes in general as bits of living art. In the late eighties, there was a guy who changed the thinking of reptile keepers everywhere with a book called The Art of Snake Keeping. Philippe de Vosjoli has been a source of not only reptile keeping information but also a source of inspiration for many keepers today. Philippe reminded us then and a natural environment is the best way to celebrate our reptiles.
Reptile collectors today aren’t satisfied purchasing a snake, placing it into a fish tank with a screen lid, and a heater. They see their reptiles as an investment and wish to display themas they want a Picasso painting. We still see the usual buyers of reptiles within the pet industry but there’s a definite growing percentage of individuals who are buying the higher wind or more costly morphs so as to create their own artistic statement in there home or office.
Solving the mystery
Keepers are way more knowledgeable today as we all are about the care specifics of reptiles. Over the past three decades, many individuals have learned, with more knowledge about their chosen reptile they can make informed decisions about which product(s) will provide them not only a better environment but also a better means of reptile keeping. Today more keepers are recognizing it is not about just captive care of reptiles in general, but about the natural history of the entire genre, which is currently making a difference in how they keep their snakes. Using the ball python for instance, many keepers thought for years that this species was only a fossorial snake. Now we know that ball pythons from some regions climb into small shrubs and spend time there off the floor. With the tendency of creating a more natural environment for our snakes we’re observing new behaviors; I would be ready to say, if the reptiles were bred under those conditions we would also observe an increasing tendency towards improved breeding success.
Product manufacturers are also more aware of this increasing trend as well. They now produce a better line of goods to fulfill the requirements of the discerning keeper. With the producers understanding just as much if not more about our reptiles, we’re not looking through a bay window onto a large environment but a microscope to the world that makes up the microenvironment of the reptiles we maintain. With this knowledge, we have the ability to provide a far better captive environment, one highlighting the snake, rather than just keeping it alive.
Many parameters go into this sort of environment. Previously, all we had were fish tanks with screen lids as I’d mentioned earlier. Today we have plexiglass enclosures, which are simpler to maintain. Plexiglass not only is easier to heat but it also retains the humidity necessary for maintaining tropical species such as the ball python.
Besides the advent of new materials like plexiglass for the enclosure, we now have a firmer grasp on our knowledge of plants, substrates, heaters, and various other pieces of equipment which need to maintain a wholesome environment for our reptiles. Manufacturers taking advantage of this, are now producing some incredible products that make snake ownership possible for almost anyone who has an interest. With all this knowledge available to individuals we still observe the most frequent mistake with the new snake keeper.
They purchase the snake and what they think are the right stuff for the environment and then place all of this into the old type of fish tank enclosure. The major issue with keeping most tropical animals in this sort of enclosure is that there’s a huge quantity of air exchange when display lids are used. If you live in a dry area such as myself this type of enclosure will require misting numerous times a day. This is a very time consuming process. In case you’ve made a greater end investment this is a crucial part of captive care to mist the snake and monitor its surroundings. Using the right enclosure such as those produced by Ricky’ s Reptile Enclosures will save you from having to go through this matter.
Now you know which enclosure to purchase, but the fun doesn’t stop there. These are inexpensive and easy to clean; therefore, they make sense for the breeder attempting to keep costs to a minimum. Breeders use either pine shavings or paper to keep their snakes. The showcase snake though won’t be display properly on those substrates. To show off the colors and patterns of the higher end morphs or even the’normal’ ball python we suggest going with a planted vivarium type of setting.
The Right Plant
The planted vivarium isn’t as hard as it may seem, it is actually an issue of plant selection, placement, and the use of the perfect soils. I use organic potting soil that is pearlite free and landscape the enclosure so that the back of the enclosure is a little graded or sloped towards the front. The organic potting soil is fine on its own but to really get a nice look to the whole vivarium I put a layer of orchid bark or cypress mulch on top.
Not only do plants help create oxygen inside the enclosure, but they also offer a degree of humidity as does the soil/mulch mixture. Delicate ferns and other such plants won’t stand up to a drifting P. regius.
We must also be careful of any plants which may be toxic to a reptile. And of course the fact that many of the plant recommendations you see online sound great. However, what they do not tell you is that their recommendations are actually bushes that can get extremely large. As an example, one recommendation I saw was for Callistemon, which they had misspelled as Callistemom commonly known as bottlebrush. Most websites list this as a TREE, which gets 10-12 feet in height. Why would you advocate that to get a reptile or amphibian enclosure?
Here’s a list of non-toxic plants which you can use without fear of them growing into trees or stabbing a drifting snake. Pothos Epipremnum pothos aureus, Liriope Lily turf, & Aspidistra Cast Iron plant are plants that I have used within the vivarium itself and have not had any issue. Some mosses may be applied as ground cover too but I have never used them before so I am unable to make any recommendations . Aside from the plants, add a sandblasted grapevine bit angled from among the bottom corners of the enclosure to the opposite top corner diagonally so the snake can decide to be either lower or higher. I have yet to see a branch be provided that was not used at some point.
You must also offer some kind of hide area within the enclosure. Personally, I like the half logs which are sold for this purpose. Buy one which the snake can input and when coiled their body needs to encounter the sides. This is a vital piece as it enables the snake to feel protected.