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What Are the Pros and Cons of Choosing a Female Ball Python?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

The pros and cons of choosing a female ball python rather than a male normally center on size, habitat requirements, and the possibility of breeding. Females are normally larger and may also have more pronounced and defined patterns. This can make them more immediately attractive, but it also usually requires a bit of added work, too. In general, females require larger habitats with more places to hide and seclude themselves; they also typically eat more. Depending on the snake and how it was brought up, it may require live prey, which can be a concern for keepers. People who are interested in breeding the pythons often choose females because of their ability to lay eggs. Fertile females will usually produce between three and 11 eggs each breeding cycle, and there can be two or three of these cycles each year. Perhaps because of this, though, the females are often credited with being more aggressive than the males. Both are widely considered docile, but, particularly once eggs have been laid, the females do tend to be more sensitive and more likely to bite or lash out. Making the best choice usually requires a balancing of several factors, plus a bit of research on the species as a whole.

Understanding the Snake Generally

Female ball pythons may get aggressive after laying eggs.
Female ball pythons may get aggressive after laying eggs.

The ball python is a breed of snake recognized for its striking coloring and patterns. It is native to many parts of central Africa, but is a common pet around the world thanks to its generally small size — at least when compared to other snakes of similar coloring and origin — and non-venomous, non-aggressive nature. Ball pythons usually grow to be between four and six feet (1.22 to 1.83 meters) in length. It’s often the case that the female will be slightly longer and wider than the male at maturity, but neither is considered a very large snake.

Pythons may eat mice.
Pythons may eat mice.

When threatened, these snakes typically roll into a ball or coil their bodies to protect themselves, and this is where they get their name. In most cases, they only attack if the aggressor provokes them consistently. The female ball python is not usually more or less aggressive than a male would be, unless she is protecting her eggs. Overall, agressiveness usually varies from snake to snake rather than being determined by gender.

Coloring and Size Considerations

All pythons are generally easy to maintain and are not venomous.
All pythons are generally easy to maintain and are not venomous.

Many snake owners view the bolder, more striking patterns of the female as one of the biggest pros. Like most domestic snakes, ball pythons are usually kept to bring their owners pleasure. While the personality of the snake is often the most important part of a good snake-owner bond, this can be difficult if not impossible to discern at purchase. When given a choice, buyers often choose the female for aesthetic reasons.

This is not to say that the males are dull; their patterning is usually about the same, but tends to be less pronounced and isn’t always as vibrant. Males also tend to be smaller. This can be either a pro or a con depending on the circumstance. In general these snakes are already on the smaller end of the spectrum of African breeds sold domestically; sometimes people want them because they are more compact, in which case a male may be best. Someone wanting to showcase a larger, more powerful-looking snake may be better served with a female.

Required Habitat

With size comes habitat considerations. Ball pythons, whether male or female, tend to be very private creatures that need a lot of “alone time” in hiding. Experts usually recommend providing a tank or terrarium for the snakes to live in, and females commonly need a bit more space than males. Particularly if owners are hoping for eggs, tunnels and burrows are really important, and most of the time owners will need multiple options to make sure the snake stays comfortable and doesn’t get stressed.


The female snake’s aggressiveness is usually a con, but in most cases this temperament hits its peak during breeding. Females tend to be very protective of their nests and eggs, and are usually more sensitive to handling and touching when eggs are on the way, too. Owners who are able to anticipate this often find that it’s very workable.

Importance of Source

Most of the more generalized pros and cons relate to the ball python generally, irrespective of gender. They tend to be finicky eaters, particularly when captured from the wild, and they typically require live prey rather than pre-frozen or killed food. Some owners try to get around this by purchasing a baby python bred in captivity and starting it on pre-frozen mice right away to ensure it will eat them.

Snakes captured from the wild may also be subject to more health concerns, particularly where parasites and stress are concerned. In general, snakes of any variety should only be purchased from reputable breeders who have a track record for healthy animals and humane breeding practices.

How Big Do Female Ball Pythons Get?

When new pythons emerge from their eggs, they measure roughly 10 inches long. They won't remain tiny for long. Females grow anywhere from 12 to 16 inches per year after birth until they are fully grown. It takes approximately three years for a snake to reach its full size. The average full-grown adult will be relatively lightweight, weighing 3 to 5 pounds. The length of a typical female will range from 3 to 5 feet. While the average size is a few feet, they can grow much larger. The longest python on record reached a whopping 25 feet in length.

How Long Do Female Ball Pythons Live?

In the wild, the lifespan of these cold-blooded creatures varies. Many do not make it out of infancy when they are small and vulnerable to predators. Those who live into adulthood may reach 10 to 15 years of age.

In captivity, where nothing hunts them, pythons can live a much longer life. Adults typically reach 20 to 30 years of age or older in captivity. Some people have reported pet pythons living for more than 50 years. The age of the animal will depend on its diet and atmosphere. The size of the tank plays a role in their lifespan. If snakes do not have adequate space to move around, they will become stressed, interfering with their quality of life. An adolescent requires a 10- to 20-gallon tank, but an adult will need at least a 40-gallon tank to remain comfortable.

Can Two Ball Pythons Live Together?

Keeping more than one ball python in the same tank is never advisable. These types of snakes are solitary creatures. Two living together often results in fighting, stress and disease. Illness and fighting are not the only problems pairs may face. Many people have reported pythons resorting to cannibalism in these situations. One snake attempting to eat the other could result in the death of both.

Are Female Ball Pythons Bigger Than Males?

While a female can reach 5 feet, males usually top out at 3 feet long, with the average length between 2 and 3 feet. Males will grow about 8 inches per year until they reach adulthood. Female snakes are bigger than their male counterparts due to egg production.

Do Ball Pythons Lay Eggs?

Some snakes, like boa constrictors, give birth to live young. However, ball pythons lay eggs. Depending on the breed, a female could lay between 20 and 100 eggs in a single clutch. Snakes will lay the eggs in a shallow piece of earth and cover them with dirt or leaves. The female will wrap herself around the pile of eggs to incubate them. Moms exude a lot of energy to keep the eggs warm, and it is tough on their bodies. Because of this, they only reproduce every two to three years. The mother will stay with the eggs until they hatch but not stick around to raise the babies.

Do Ball Pythons Have Predators?

Though people fear snakes, they are prey in the wild. These animals originally hail from western and central Africa, where large predators consider them a tasty snack. Hatchlings are at particular risk due to their small size. Many carnivores eat young serpents, including birds, amphibians, wild dogs and spiders. Adults are vulnerable to leopards, lions and large birds.

What Do Ball Pythons Eat?

The diet of a ball python varies in the wild and captivity. In their natural habitat, these reptiles hunt small game. Small rodents, frogs and birds are popular menu items in the wild. Pet snakes usually enjoy a diet of frozen or live rodents found at pet supply stores.

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Discussion Comments


I worked with a guy who was a big fan of snakes. He had several snakes and some of them he left to roam about freely throughout his house. I'm not exactly sure the types of snakes he had, but they were bigger than the average snake you see outside in nature where I live.

Whenever I would go over there to his house, he would make a point of handling the snakes and showing me how docile they were. I'm not afraid of snakes, but I don't want them in my house regardless of how tame they may be. I believe snakes are meant to wild and outside taking care of themselves.

Anyway, because the snakes were out of the cages, the guy didn't know that one of his female snakes had laid eggs under his sink, and when he went to pull her out and show someone how tame she was he got a big surprise. She was protecting the eggs and she really did a number on the guy's hand and arms before he got the message. After that he made a "snakes for sale" sign and got rid of all of them.


@Laotionne - Snakes are like most creatures in that they are naturally interested in survival of their kind, so this means they will do what they have to do to protect their offspring for as long as they see themselves as protectors. However, you are right in that snake mothers in general don't stick around for the long haul. Once the eggs hatch, I think the little ones are pretty much on their own.

I have no idea how female ball python adults rate as parents in the snake kingdom as a whole.


That's an interesting point the article makes about female ball pythons being more aggressive when they have laid eggs. I always heard that snakes were not particularly maternal; that is, they didn't show much interest in their young once the eggs were outside of the mother's body.

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    • Female ball pythons may get aggressive after laying eggs.
      By: mikemoore88
      Female ball pythons may get aggressive after laying eggs.
    • Pythons may eat mice.
      By: Anatolii
      Pythons may eat mice.
    • All pythons are generally easy to maintain and are not venomous.
      All pythons are generally easy to maintain and are not venomous.