Before you bring your new ball python home, you have to focus on the type of enclosure you want to set up, which can be daunting. Many experienced ball python owners choose a plastic storage tub over a glass enclosure. Tub setup tends to be easier when it comes to maintaining humidity and temperature levels for your ball python. It is affordable and due to the sides not being as transparent as glass, your pet will feel more private and secure.
Pros and Cons Of Plastic Tubs
As with any enclosure, there will be some good points and some not so good. Take a look at the pros and cons below for plastic tub setup for your ball python, helping you decide on the best enclosure type.
- Easy to clean
- Maintains temperature and humidity levels
- Not ideal for display purposes
- No space for branches to climb (Ball pythons enjoy climbing)
- Larger snakes are able to get out with ease, so you will need to ensure you have clips on the tub
There are some important factors to consider when selecting a tub for your new ball python.
What Is A Good Plastic Tub For Ball Pythons
- The tub should have clear sides, so you can see your pet.
- The lid should be flat without ridges, which will allow you to install mesh for the CHE (Ceramic Heat Emitter).
- Locking latches are essential. Ideally four latches, one on each side of the tub. The minimum is two latches one on either end.
Ball Python Tub size
Tub size should be based on the size of your ball python. Recommendations regarding tub size are as follows:
Hatchling 60g – 500g
Juvenile 500g – 1000g
Adult 1000g +
Drilling holes on the tub
Ventilation is essential in creating a comfortable and healthy habitat for your ball python. In order to drill holes in the tub for air circulation, you will need:
Measure your tub and identify the warm and cool side. The holes should be limited on the warm side and increase on the cool side to create a heat gradient. Once you have marked where you want the holes, you can start making them using your drill or soldering iron. Drilling the sides with an electric drill may be wobbly, so ensure you put tension on the sides as you drill, this reduces the risk of the tub cracking. Use the razor blade to remove any excess plastic. The lighter can be used to soften edges, making sure there are no sharp edges which can harm your pet.
Once finished, you will want to rinse the tub thoroughly, ensuring there are no plastic pieces left and all the holes are smooth, allow to dry for 24 hours. This will help remove any chemical smells. Once dry use a reptile disinfectant to clean the tub, such as the Fluker Habitat Cleaner, which comes with a brush to make cleaning even easier. Made from natural enzymes, this organic cleaner disinfects and cleans in a safe and effective way.
In order for your plastic tub setup to work as a habitat for your ball python, you are going to have to add heat. Most ball python owners choose a ceramic heat emitter (CHE), along with a lampstand. It is recommended when using a CHE that you also include a thermostat, ensuring that your temperatures remain within optimum.
Modifying the lid is relatively easy using a small soldering iron and purchasing an aluminum pizza screen or a mesh screen that will fit the lid of your tub. Aluminum is preferred as it doesn't get hot. The mesh holes should be small. Cut the hole to fit the pizza screen or to fit the mesh screen you have purchased. Remember to smooth the edges to avoid cuts. Use the small soldering iron to make holes for the zip ties to go through and hold the screen in place. Cut the ends off the zip ties to ensure it looks neat. Your CHE can now hand or stand on the mesh to provide ample heat.
Select your substrate based on ease of cleaning and humidity.
There is a wide choice of materials you can use for substrate, each with its own pros and cons, such as:
Newspaper is cheap and is available as and when you need it. It is not very absorbent, it can dye your pet and urine will leave a puddle, which means cleaning more often.
Paper towels are very popular with ball python owners because they are readily available and can be purchased at any supermarket, they are affordable and very easy to clean. Paper towel is also relatively absorbent, making daily spot cleaning quick and easy.
Many ball python owners choose Aspen pine as their substrate of choice because it’s so easy to buy and very cheap. It also makes spot cleaning easy, is relatively absorbent, and allows your ball python to dig. Aspen pine can be dusty and has a tenancy to mold very quickly.
Cypress mulch is excellent in improving humidity levels due to it holding moisture. Be careful when using this substrate as it often has splinters, which can injure your pet and it houses bugs, which can cause an infestation.
Reptibark is not recommended for ball pythons, even though it is readily available at most pet shops. Reptibark isn't very moisture absorbent, it tends to dye the scales of your pet and it has been linked to scale rot.
Eco earth looks natural, it encourages your python to dig and bury and it is excellent at holding moisture to maintain humidity levels. Once eco earth dries out, it loses its absorbency and can become dusty, which can cause respiratory problems for your pet.
Coco chips or fiber is one of the most popular substrates because it has excellent moisture retention to help with humidity and it looks impressive. Some ball python owners find they are allergic, and in some cases pets’ scales have been dyed due to the substrate.
Your ball python is cold-blooded, which means it relies on its environment to regulate its body temperature. This is why you need to provide your pet with a warm and cool side to the habitat, along with a basking area.
- Basking area – 88ºF to 92ºF
- Warm side – 80ºF to 85ºF
- Cool side – 75ºF to 82ºF
In order to accurately monitor your temperatures, you will want to purchase a digital thermometer with a remote probe. The probe is placed where you want in the tub to accurately measure temperature with a simple digital display for easy monitoring.
The Zoo Med Thermometer Humidity Gauge helps you monitor temperature levels within your ball python tub with confidence. It offers accurate temperature levels with an easy-to-read display. Choose between Celsius and Fahrenheit, comes with waterproof remote sensor probe and display unit comes with suction cups, so you can place it where you can see it with ease. The compact design ensures your digital thermometer doesn't get in the way of your viewing.
Heating setup can be frustrating in a ball python tub. The good news is that plastic is excellent at trapping heat, so you should find keeping the enclosure heated is easy with a CHE.
You need the following items:
Once your tub is prepared with a mesh screen, you are ready to start heating. Plug your CHE into the stand you have purchased and place it over the mesh area, on the warm side of the enclosure. You can use a thermostat, which will turn on and off to keep your temperature at optimum. Plug the ceramic heat emitter directly into the thermostat and turn it on. Choose your temperature minimum and maximum on the thermostat. Place your digital thermometer probe on the warm side to monitor the temperatures, ensuring they don't get too high or too low. Allow to settle for a few hours before introducing your pet.
If you find you are struggling to maintain heat during the winter months, then you may want to consider adding an under-tank heat mat in your ball python tub setup, which can help to increase air temperature. This is often suited for large tubs.
As with anything living, humidity is essential to your ball python’s overall health and wellness. Ball pythons require humidity of between 50% and 65%. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including:
Use a moist substrate, such as coco chips or husk, which are excellent at retaining moisture and helping to improve humidity levels.
Place the water bowl on the warm side of the tub. The warmer the air, the more water will evaporate to create the humidity your pet needs.
You can create a humid hide on the warm side of the enclosure by adding some Sphagnum moss to the inside of the hide. Sphagnum moss is excellent in retaining water and improving humidity levels.
You may find that the humidity levels remain at optimum without having to mist. When the humidity levels drop to 50% or below, use a spray bottle with fresh water to create a fine mist. Mist the entire enclosure inside, but do not soak it.
It is essential that you keep a close eye on the humidity levels in the tub to keep your python happy. Incorrect humidity levels can cause a host of health problems, including problems shedding, respiratory infections, and more. It is recommended to purchase two digital hygrometers with remote probes, one on the warm side and one on the cool side. The Exo Terra Digital Hygrometer is an affordable and reliable digital hygrometer that provides accurate relative air humidity in real-time. Single-button operation, with a minimum and maximum memory and a remote sensor for accuracy.
A very important decoration for your ball python enclosure is a water bowl. The water bowl should have flat sides and be relatively heavy to reduce the risk of your pet knocking it over.
Ball pythons love their privacy, it makes them feel safe. Therefore, you are going to want to offer at least two hides. The hide should have a single opening and be slightly bigger than your pet. You want the hide as close to their size as possible, so they can feel secure. A hide that is too big, will not be as comfortable. You can upgrade the size as your pet grows. A good example is the Zilla Decor Rock Lair, which offers a side entrance complete with a solid top to assist with humidity. It looks realistic, made from heavy material to reduce the risk of it moving. This lair is available in three sizes to meet the size of your ball python.
Reduce Exposed Spaces
Your ball pythong is not going to feel safe and secure if every time it moves from a hide it is out in the open, which is why you want to add some clutter to the tub setup. Remember not to include anything with hanging wires or plastic loops, which can cause your pet to injure itself.
Jungle vines are great additions to the tub, enabling you to create a 3D habitat and a place for your pet to explore. Exo Terra Jungle Vine is waterproof, bendable, and twistable to create a natural look inside the tub. Six feet in length, this vine can provide an exciting habitat for your ball python.
You can add artificial plants designed for reptile enclosures to exposed areas, helping to make your ball python feel more secure. The Exo Terra Artificial Plant looks realistic and creates a natural hiding place for your pet. This small hanging plastic plant can be attached to the side of the tub, hanging down to create a hideaway.
Adding decorations such as bark bends can create a natural place for your pet to explore while offering an additional hide and covering exposed areas. Zilla Reptile Bark Bends offer a natural wood bark appearance suitable for your ball python tub offering privacy. Made from a non-porous material, it resists bacteria growth and is quick and easy to clean.
Ball Python Tub Setup - Put it all together
Now it's time to put your tub together. Here are ten quick and easy steps to follow.
- Make holes in your tub for ventilation using your soldering iron or drill. You can add more holes if you find your humidity levels are too high.
- Rinse tub thoroughly, allow to dry, then disinfect.
- Cut lid to make space for mesh for CHE. Hold in place using zip ties.
- Add your substrate, a hide on either side, a water bowl, and decorations
- Insert your CHE into the holder and place it over the tub where the mesh will be.
- Insert into the thermostat and set minimum and maximum levels
- Add your digital thermometer and hygrometers.
- Turn everything on.
- Allow a few hours to settle, ensuring temperature and humidity levels are at optimum.
- Add your ball python and lock the lid.