Once you understand the basic requirements, banana ball python care is easy for beginners. Ball pythons are placid, non-venomous snakes. You need to know how to set up your snake’s tank and what to feed your pet. Knowledge of handling and how to deal with health problems is also vital.
Banana ball pythons need an enclosure that’s the length of their body. It needs a hot side (90-95°F) and a cool side (70-80°F), and humidity of 50-60%. Aspen bedding allows them to burrow, and maintains humidity. Banana ball pythons eat rodents: mice for juveniles and rats for adults.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about banana ball python pet care. You’ll also find lots of interesting facts and information.
What is a Banana Ball Python?
Bananas are a ball python morph. A ‘morph’ is a snake species that has an unusual coloration or pattern. This means that a banana snake is biologically the same as a normal specimen. The difference is in the color.
Regular ball pythons are black or dark brown, with light brown or gold sides. The belly is white or cream. But the banana is a light orange-yellow color with a purple coloration.
Each kind of banana ball python has different eyes. Most have dark, ruby-red eyes that catch the light. Super bananas have even redder eye color.
As the snake grows older, it develops black spots. These black spots sit along with the purple pattern. They’re small and look almost like ticks. The combination of its color with the little black spots is how it gets its name.
Where Do Ball Pythons Come From?
Ball pythons come from Africa. They live just north of the equator. Their range extends from Senegal in the west to Uganda and South Sudan in the east. They don’t live in the rainforest, but near it, in places that are warm and humid.
The original banana ball python, which was called a coral glow, was imported directly from Africa. It was found in the wild and advertised as a brand new morph.
It was imported and bred in 2002 by New England Reptile Distributors (NERD). This company was the first to breed many morphs, and are still creating new morphs today.
‘Coral Glow’ ball pythons are the same as bananas. The term ‘banana’ refers to snakes of a particular bloodline that was imported later on.
How Much Do They Cost?
When a snake is first imported and bred, a morph will cost upwards of five figures. But as more snakes are bred and sold, the price starts to go down.
Once secondary breeders get their hands on them, the market for them gets bigger, and the price goes down further. Eventually, the market becomes ‘saturated,’ meaning that almost everybody that wants one has one.
The same applies to banana ball pythons. Today, you can buy one for between $200 and $300. That’s a mid-range price for a ball python morph.
Bananas with several interesting genes are more expensive. A scaleless banana ball python might cost $1500, and a banana super chocolate could fetch $600. But the average price for a banana ball python is $250.
Banana Ball Python Morphs
Like almost all morphs, banana ball pythons can be crossed with others. You can breed a banana ball python with pastels, enchis and more to create pattern and color variations. Examples include:
- Super banana ball python. Any ‘super’ morph is one where the morph is bred to itself. They don’t look much different from regular bananas.
- Banana pinstripe ball python. The pinstripe gene makes the pattern thinner. These snakes’ purple pattern is reduced, and their orange enhanced.
- Banana clown ball python. The banana clown has less definition between its purple pattern and orange color.
- Scaleless banana ball python. These snakes are the same color and pattern as regular bananas, with no scales.
- Banana pied ball python. Pied ball pythons are mostly white with small patches of regular color/pattern. Banana pied ball pythons are therefore white, orange and purple.
- Banana yellow belly ball python. The banana yellow belly has pretty bright colors. It looks almost the same as a regular banana.
- Banana lemon blast ball python. Banana lemon blasts bring out both banana colors, purple and orange. The pattern is changed so that the orange runs along the back.
- Banana enchi ball python. Banana enchis have a clean pattern. They’re the same color as regular bananas, perhaps a little brighter.
- Banana pastel ball python. Mixing banana and pastel produces a more flat-colored snake, with a less purple coloration.
Are Banana Ball Pythons a Good Beginner Snake?
If you’re looking for a first pet snake, banana ball pythons are perfect. They aren’t aggressive, they aren’t dangerous, and they’re easy to care for.
Are They Venomous?
Banana ball pythons aren’t venomous. They’re a constrictor snake. Rather than use venom to kill their prey, they squeeze it to death. All ball python morphs are the same.
Venomous snakes have physiological features that constrictors lack. Venomous snakes often have long fangs, or at least two front teeth that are noticeably longer. These fangs are hollow so that venom can shoot through them.
Constrictors don’t have hollow fangs. Instead, they have a series of small, short teeth almost like a shark does. These teeth are sharp, and they still bite their prey. However, once they bite it, they then keep hold and squeeze it rather than envenomate it.
Constrictors also lack a venom gland. Venomous snakes have two glands at the rear of their head. These are small reservoirs of venom that they can use when they need it.
What this means is that ball pythons biologically can’t produce or use venom. Moreover, there are no morphs of ball pythons that can.
Do They Bite?
Despite not having long fangs, banana ball pythons can still bite. Their bite isn’t dangerous, and you feel it, but it doesn’t hurt much. More than anything, their bite is swift and startling.
The bigger the snake, the more painful the bite. Larger snakes have larger fangs and more powerful jaws. However, their bite won’t hurt much more than a cat bite. These bigger bites will cause small spots of blood to form.
As for the wound itself, it can become infected if you don’t treat it appropriately. A snake’s mouth is full of bacteria. You should wash it before applying antiseptic. If the wound is bleeding, apply a bandage or Band-Aid too.
Are They Dangerous?
Ball pythons are anything but dangerous. They do coil around their prey to squeeze it to death. But there are several reasons why banana ball pythons are practically harmless:
- Their size. Ball pythons only grow a few feet long, and are much shorter than boas. They aren’t big and strong enough to overpower you.
- Their temperament. When threatened, ball pythons don’t attack. They prefer to either get away from the danger, or curl up in a ball.
- They don’t see you as food. Pythons only aggressively coil around things they think is food. They don’t see you as food because you’re too big.
As you handle them, they may coil around your fingers. However, this isn’t dangerous. They may be trying to sit comfortably, for example. If they are aggressive, their coils won’t be strong enough to hurt you. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to tame an aggressive ball python.
How Big do Banana Ball Pythons Get?
Banana ball pythons grow to the same size as regular ball pythons. So, what weight and length can you expect of them? And what about when they’re young, versus when they’re adults?
Baby ball pythons (hatchlings) are usually between 12 and 15 inches long. This is long for a hatchling snake. But ball python adults are short compared to many other pet snake species.
Full-grown males will only reach two or three feet in length. Females are longer, and reach between three and five feet. They attain this size around the time they get to three years old.
This makes them an excellent choice for a beginner. It’s fun to watch them grow quickly, especially in their first year. But they never get too big to handle.
Hatchling ball pythons weigh between 65 and 100g. Just like they do in length, they shoot up in weight over their first year. They reach around 700g.
By the time they grow to a full adult, a male will weigh between 1300 and 1700g. A female will weigh between 1400 and 1900g.
If your snake weighs more or less than these averages, that may be a sign of poor health. Or, it could be genetics. You can tell the difference easily by looking at the shape of your snake’s cross-section.
- A healthy snake’s cross-section looks like an archway. Rounded on the top, and flat on the bottom where their belly touches the ground.
- An underweight snake’s cross-section looks like a triangle. They have a ridge running along their back (their spine). Their sides are caved inwards, and you see their ribs.
- An overweight snake’s cross-section looks like a circle. Their top is rounded, but their bottom is rounded too. Their sides may even bulge out.
If you’re still unsure, take your snake to a reptile vet. They will be able to tell you definitively whether your snake is the correct weight.
Banana ball pythons have the same lifespan as regular ball pythons. Some morphs don’t, because the morph causes poor health. Spider ball pythons are an example. However, the health issues that affect these snakes don’t affect bananas.
A wild banana ball python would live around ten years. In captivity, though, they can live much longer. If you care for them, they will live for between 20 and 30 years. They will reach this age if:
- You feed them the correct amount
- You keep them in pleasant conditions that suit their needs (e.g., temperature, humidity)
- You promptly help them with any health issues they experience, e.g., mites
So, while banana ball pythons do make excellent beginner pets, this provides food for thought. Will you be able to care for your pet for thirty years, or maybe even a little longer? Not everyone can.
Banana Ball Python Care Guide
This central section is about how to care for your ball python. Each section relates to their enclosure. The size and type of enclosure you pick is important, as are the substrate and temperature.
Another of the sections also covers how to handle a banana ball python. If you follow every bit of the guidance below, your snake will live a long and healthy life.
Enclosure Type and Sizing Requirements
Enclosure size is critical, not just for ball pythons, but for any snake. If their enclosure is too small, they’ll be bored and cramped. If their enclosure is too large, they’ll feel exposed and afraid.
Your snake should be able to extend at least to 2/3 of their full length. If their enclosure is smaller, it will be difficult for them. They won’t be able to move around, and will get bored easily. They may also develop health conditions as they can’t move much.
However, if their enclosure is too big, they will feel threatened. In nature, they seek out small spaces to hide in. You’ll need at least two enclosures. One will be for when the snake is still a hatchling, and the other is for when they grow up.
Their first enclosure should be:
- Plastic (as you won’t need it for long).
- Sealable. It should have a lid that can lock in place.
You can easily find one that fits these specifications, and is 15 inches long. You can replace the enclosure each time they grow too big for it. Once they reach adulthood, you have more choices.
You could consider different materials, e.g. glass, wood, and plastic. Plastic traps heat best, but glass and wood do look better. An enclosure that’s at least two feet long will be suitable for most adult ball pythons.
But that’s not all you have to think about. The enclosure also needs two hides. It should also have some cover and some enrichment. A log for them to sit on and climb over stops the snake from being too bored. Plant cover, real or fake, makes them feel more secure.
Temperature and Humidity
Banana ball pythons require the same temperature and humidity as regular ball pythons. Between 50% and 60% is perfect. Their requirements are based on their natural habitat. Ball pythons come from a hot and humid part of the world.
There are a number of ways to achieve this level of humidity. They include:
- Leaving a small water bowl in one corner of the enclosure.
- Misting the enclosure occasionally with water. Alternatively, buying an automatic mister.
- Keeping the cage enclosed, so that moisture can’t escape.
- Using a substrate that holds more moisture than others.
A bowl would be a good choice, because it also allows the snake to drink and bathe. This will keep them healthy and allow them to soak up moisture before shedding. To monitor the humidity, use a hygrometer. This measures the amount of humidity in the air.
Keeping their enclosure warm requires similar equipment. A ball python needs a warm basking spot of between 90 and 95 degrees. To achieve that temperature, use either a heat mat, heat tape or a heat bulb. Set the temperature with a thermostat.
The other end of the enclosure should be cooler at between 70 and 80 degrees. Provide two hides, one at each end of the enclosure. This allows your snake to regulate its own temperature effectively.
Bedding and Substrate
Ball pythons are best suited to aspen shavings, to a depth of one inch. Again, a banana ball python’s substrate should replicate their natural environment. This applies to every ball python morph. Their substrate needs to be as follows:
- Allows the snake to hide in a burrow
- Avoids holding onto humidity and dampness
- Easy to clean and deal with
Ball pythons like to hide in burrows so this rules out carpet, newspaper or paper towels. And while sand might be natural, it can get between their scales and cause issues. It’s also difficult to clean.
Aspen shavings, on the other hand, are made from tree bark. It looks almost like hamster hay. It holds its shape if the snake burrows into it, meaning they can make a den. It’s also cheap and available widely.
Besides that, it’s easy to spot clean. Spot cleaning is where you check every day to see if there’s any mess, and clean it up. If your banana ball python goes to the toilet, you can clean out only the substrate that’s messy. This prevents bacterial infections. Change the substrate monthly.
Banana Ball Python Shedding
All snakes have to shed. It’s a natural process where the snake gets rid of their old skin. They have to do so because snake skin doesn’t stretch. So, as the snake grows, they need to form new skin. This skin forms underneath their old one.
The first sign that your snake needs to shed is that their colors become dull. You may also notice that their eyes turn a milky blue color. This is known as the ‘blue phase’, and occurs a week before the full shed.
If you care for them properly, you won’t have to help your snake shed. They do so on their own. Once their new skin is ready, they will create a hole in their old skin, normally on their nose. They will become more active to create this hole.
Then, they will start rubbing their nose against their enclosure. This makes the hole bigger. If they’re healthy, then their skin will come off in one large shed. If they’re unhealthy, it will come off in patches.
If that happens, it’s a sign that they need more water in their environment. Take the following steps:
- Measure the humidity level in their enclosure. It’s most likely too low.
- Provide them with a water bowl. Snakes will bathe before shedding through instinct if their skin is too dry.
- Spray your snake directly with water the same temperature as their enclosure.
If these methods fail, bathe your banana ball python manually in a small dish for 15 minutes. When they’re done, take them out and hold them in a soft towel. Allow them to wriggle around. This should loosen their skin.
Banana Ball Python Handling
Ball pythons, banana ball pythons included, are the most easy-going captive snake species. They rarely bite. Instead, they rely on their defense mechanism. They curl up into a ball.
The snake tries to protect itself rather than attack. This instinctive reaction is better than non-threatening. Their temperament makes them an excellent choice for a beginner snake.
Their temperament means that they rarely get cage aggressive. This means that they’re a great snake to handle. Ball pythons can be handled once or twice a week at most. If you want to handle them, follow this procedure.
- Never handle when they’re hungry, when they’re digesting, or when they’re shedding.
- Don’t pick your snake up out of their cage, to begin with. Use a snake hook to pick them out. Snakes feel cornered when you pick them up from their cage.
- Start by getting your snake used to you. Put your hand close to them so that they can get used to your smell.
- If your snake isn’t defensive, start handling them. Don’t grip them firmly, or too loosely. Be confident.
- Ball pythons aren’t a tree snake, so they aren’t very good at gripping your hand. Give them support under their body when you hold them.
- Allow the snake to slither around where it wants. If they move around a lot, pass them through your hands like a rope.
Be confident when you handle your pet. If you’re nervous and begin to shake, or grip them too hard, this will make them nervous too.
Remember, though, that your snake won’t want to spend time with you like other pets. They don’t bond with you, and they don’t enjoy being handled. At best, they tolerate it while they’re exploring.
If they start wrapping around you when you handle them, don’t worry. Take their tail and unwind them. They aren’t strong enough to stop you.
Banana Ball Python Feeding
It’s vital that you get feeding right. If you don’t, your snake could become sick from eating too much or too little. But with some snakes eating rodents, others eating fish, and others snacking on all sorts of things, what should you feed a banana ball python?
What Do They Eat?
In the wild, ball pythons mainly prey on rodents. Their meals consist of:
- African soft-furred rats
- Gambian pouched rats
- Shaggy rats
- Striped grass mice
These are African species which are common where they live. However, there’s no need to feed them these specific species. You can feed a ball python on regular mice and rats from a pet store.
The kind of rodent that you feed a banana ball python depends on the snake’s size. When the snake is young and small, it should eat pinkies or fuzzies. As it grows older, you can feed it adult mice, and eventually rats.
You don’t need to feed them live prey. If anything, it’s safer than you feed them pre-killed prey. You can either kill the prey yourself, or—what most people do—buy frozen mice in bulk bags.
Juveniles feed more frequently than adults, because they grow up fast. Snakes younger than a year old should be fed once every 5 to 7 days. Their meal should leave a small lump in their middle.
At one to two years, reduce feeding to once every 7 to 10 days. Again, feed enough to leave a lump. A baby should eat one or two pinkies or fuzzies. A year-old ball python can eat a medium-sized rat.
Once your ball python is grown up, feed them a larger rodent still. You can reduce feeding frequency to every two weeks. Check to see if they get hungry (increased activity), overweight or underweight. Adjust their diet accordingly.
How to Feed a Ball Python
Take the prey item and defrost it. Allow it to reach room temperature before offering it to your snake. When you do, feed your snake using tongs. This is important for two reasons:
- When holding small prey, this gives the snake the opportunity to bite you accidentally.
- If your fingers smell like prey, your snake will associate you with food. This will make them aggressive when you handle them.
Hold the prey near them. They should ‘smell’ it by flicking their tongue towards it. This is a basic snake behavior. They will then strike at the prey and curl their body around it, as if killing it. Allow them to do so and move the tongs away.
If they don’t strike straight away, don’t worry. Allow them a minute, and try to get their attention. Their tongue may be flicking but they aren’t striking. This is usually a sign that the prey doesn’t meet their standards.
That’s because snakes only catch live prey in the wild. It is a learning curve for a snake to start eating dead prey. This is common for juvenile snakes. Once they feed for the first time, they realize that what you’re offering is food.
Why Won’t My Ball Python Eat?
If they still show no interest—no tongue flicking—then they likely aren’t hungry yet. Try feeding them again the next day. If they still don’t feed, the reason might be:
- Your snake is in the blue phase, e. just about to shed.
- Your snake is eating less as the temperature is cool. This could be because of the season, or because their cage is too cold.
- Your snake is sick. Most conditions, from mites to respiratory infections, cause decreased appetite.
- Your snake is stressed. Stress suppresses appetite. Causes of stress in banana ball pythons include excessive handling, a large enclosure, or living with other snakes.
Start by accounting for these issues. If your snake still won’t eat, then you may have to try force-feeding them. Forcing a ball python to eat is possible, albeit stressful.
Prepare the prey item as you usually would, i.e. by warming it to room temperature. Hold it in front of your snake using tongs. Give them a chance to strike without forcing them to. If they still don’t strike, nudge the snake in the side of the mouth.
This will irritate them a little and encourage them to strike. Do so repeatedly, and it becomes likely that they’ll strike, even if just out of anger. The point is that once they strike, their natural feeding reflex kicks in.
Alternatively, consider braining the pinkie. This is where you expose some of the prey’s brain tissue, with a pick or a knife. When the snake smells it they will feel like feeding.
Ball Python Health Issues
There are several health issues that a ball python may experience. Most are due to poor care. Below is a list of the most common, what each condition is like, and how to fix it.
- Shedding issues. The skin comes off in small patches, instead of all at once. Fix by increasing humidity or bathing.
- Mites. The snake is plagued by small mites and/or ticks. Fix by stopping contact with other snakes and using a mite spray.
- Respiratory infection. Your snake is wheezing and gasping for air, and their nose is running. They have a cold. Fix by correcting temperature and humidity, and visit a vet.
- Anorexia. Your snake is refusing food and becoming thin. Fix by force-feeding. If this doesn’t work, visit a vet.
- Inclusion body disease. IBD is an incurable viral infection that affects boas and pythons. It causes poor balance, anorexia and more.
- Scale rot. This is where the scales on your snake’s belly rot away, leaving ulcers. Fix by changing their substrate more often. Visit a vet for antibiotics to prevent sepsis.
- Mouth rot. The same as scale rot, but in the mouth. Replace the bedding and sanitize the cage.
- Vomiting/regurgitation. Regurgitation is where the food is whole. This occurs when the snake is disturbed soon after eating. Vomiting is where partially or fully digested food is brought up. Feed again after regurgitation, visit a vet after vomiting.
Most of these issues can be corrected merely by keeping your pet in the right conditions. Follow the guidelines for feeding, temperature, humidity and substrate and these conditions are unlikely.
Are All Banana Ball Pythons Male?
The banana/coral glow gene is sex-related. If you look at the snake’s genetic material, you would see that the genes that make the morph are on the sex chromosomes. Sex chromosomes are genes that determine whether a snake will be male or female.
This has interesting implications. It means that passing down the gene is only possible in one sex. That’s why breeding males are often referred to as ‘male makers.’ It’s because the only banana ball python offspring they create is male.
Snake owners used to think that pythons’ sex chromosomes worked differently to ours. But ‘male makers’ proved otherwise. The only way that the existence of male makers makes sense is if pythons have XY chromosomes.
To be clear, male makers can still have offspring of both sexes. But if any of their offspring is female, then it will be a normal morph, not a banana.
Are There Females?
That doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as a female banana ball python. Male maker banana ball pythons can still produce some female bananas. However, only about 10% of their female offspring will display the gene.
The interesting thing is that these females will then be able to produce 50/50 male and female bananas. The males from this clutch will be ‘female makers.’ They’re the same as male makers in reverse.
It’s difficult to understand at first. However, if you plan on breeding them, you have to learn all about their genetics. For more information, see our post about breeding banana ball pythons.
Aside from that, there’s not much left to learn for a beginner. The most important thing by far is to spend time handling and observing your snake. Regular observation and handling will detect health issues, and help you learn more about them.