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What Factors Affect Ball Python Size?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

The main factors that can affect ball python size include the snake's food consumptions and its habitat size. Snakes that are not able to stretch out in their tanks may be smaller in size than those with more room. Females tend to be slightly larger than males, but this is not always the case.

Ball pythons are relatively small compared to other constrictor snakes, as they only grow to be three to four feet (0.91 to 1.21 m) long in most cases. Female snakes are on average about half a foot to a foot (0.15 to 0.30 m) longer than males, but the difference in length does vary from snake to snake. Females that are ready to ovulate after fertilization also become rounder in shape, much like during pregnancy for humans.

Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.
Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.

Food intake is also a primary factor in ball python size. Ball pythons can be finicky eaters, and once they are used to consuming a particular type of food, owners may find it difficult to get them to eat anything else. It is often recommended that owners or breeders begin by feeding baby snakes frozen rather than live food. This gets them more accustomed to doing so and prevents them from becoming too finicky as adults.

Pythons are not venomous, generally large, and can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia.
Pythons are not venomous, generally large, and can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia.

The amount of food given may also affect ball python size. Pythons can easily become overweight if they are fed more than needed on a regular basis. Snakes can often go weeks at a time without a meal, although this is not ideal. New ball python owners should speak with their breeders for information on proper ball python dietary requirements. To ensure healthy ball python size and growth, young snakes should be fed once every week or two, while adults may only eat once per month.

Cage size can also sometimes affect ball python size. This is for two main reasons. First, if a snake is growing in an extremely cramped environment, he or she will have a hard time shedding his or her skin, which can lead to stunted growth. Snakes are also much less likely to eat well in a cramped environment, thus compounding the problem.

Even with proper care, ball pythons do not become very large when compared to some other pythons. Size is also partially determined by genetics. If a large snake mates with another large snake, the offspring have a better chance of being large. The same principle is also true for smaller snakes. If size is an important factor when picking out a python, owners should request to see the parents of any snake they are considering.

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Discussion Comments


The sad truth is most people are going to get something like a ball python from a pet store, not a reputable breeder. So you don't really know what the snake has been fed, and how it has been cared for, meaning there's not a really good way to know how big it will get, or whether it will have problems with picky eating and so forth.

Unless you can get them from a breeder, I don't think people should keep snakes, anyway. They're not really pet animals. I have heard lizards are a little more responsive, but I've never seen a friendly snake. I've seen docile snakes, and non-aggressive snakes, but none I'd really term friendly. I don't think they really have that capacity. Not maligning them -- it's just not part of their makeup.

I don't care for snakes and wouldn't ever have one, but neither do I think they should be raised en masse and then poorly cared for. Snake mills are just as inhumane as puppy mills.


My neighbor's son had a ball python. They had a roomy enclosure, and the snake was healthy, as far as I know. My neighbor said she really didn't want a snake in the house, but as long as it was fairly small, she could deal with it. She said a ball python was the only one that stayed small enough and could be possibly considered a pet.

She did say the snake was a very picky eater and sometimes, they had difficulty getting it to eat properly. They took it to the vet, and she gave them some pointers on how to deal with the issue. We have an exotics vet in the area, and that's something to remember if you keep a snake: an exotics vet is the best choice for getting care for your animal.

I think they had the snake for about 10 years, which she said was a typical lifespan.

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    • Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.
      By: mikemoore88
      Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.
    • Pythons are not venomous, generally large, and can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia.
      Pythons are not venomous, generally large, and can be found in Africa, Asia and Australia.