Every year, ball python breeders are coming out with a new colour or pattern morph to satisfy the needs of keepers and breeders alike. During the last few years, there has been a surge in producing various color or pattern morphs, which would be the envy of the snake world. These can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. There are still plenty of normal ball pythons being bred in captivity for the pet but there’s definite change on the market.
A growing number of people today are keeping reptiles; specifically snakes in general as bits of living art. Philippe de Vosjoli has been a source of not only reptile keeping data but also a source of inspiration for many keepers today. Philippe educated us then and a natural environment is the very best way to celebrate our reptiles.
Reptile collectors today are not 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 want to display them, as they would a Picasso painting. We still see the typical buyers of reptiles within the pet industry but there’s a definite increasing percentage of those that are buying the higher end 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 last three decades, lots of individuals have learned, with much more knowledge about their preferred reptile they could make informed decisions about which product(s) will provide them not only a better environment but also a better way of reptile keeping. Nowadays more keepers are recognizing that it is not about just captive care of reptiles generally, but about the natural history of the entire genre, which is currently making a difference in how they maintain their snakes. Using the ball python for instance, many keepers thought for years that this species was just a fossorial snake. Now we know that ball pythons from some areas climb into small shrubs and spend time there off the floor. With the trend of creating a more natural environment for our snakes we are observing new behaviors; I would be ready to say, if the reptiles were bred under these conditions we would also see an increasing trend towards improved breeding success.
Product manufacturers are also more aware of the increasing trend also. They now create a better line of goods to satisfy the needs of the discerning keeper. With the manufacturers understanding just as much if not more about our reptiles, we are not looking through a bay window on a large environment but a microscope into the world which makes up the microenvironment of the reptiles we keep. With this understanding, we have the ability to provide a much better captive environment, one highlighting the snake, as opposed to simply keeping it alive.
Many parameters enter this type of environment. Previously, all we had were fish tanks with screen lids as I’d mentioned earlier. Now we have plexiglass enclosures, which are simpler to maintain. Plexiglass not only is easier to heat but in addition, it retains the humidity necessary for keeping tropical species like the ball python.
Besides the introduction of new materials such as plexiglass for the enclosure, we now have a firmer grasp on our understanding of plants, substrates, heaters, and various other pieces of equipment which are required to keep a wholesome atmosphere for our reptiles. With all this knowledge available to individuals we still see the most common mistake with the new snake keeper.
They purchase the snake and what they think are the right stuff for your environment and then put all of this to the old kind of fish tank enclosure. The significant issue with maintaining most tropical creatures in this type of enclosure is that there’s a huge quantity of air exchange when screen lids are used. If you reside in a dry area like myself this sort of enclosure will need misting numerous times a day. This is a very time consuming procedure. If you have made a higher end investment this is a crucial part of captive care to mist the snake and monitor its environment. Using the right enclosure such as the ones made by Ricky’ s Reptile Enclosures will save you from having to experience this issue.
Now you know which enclosure to buy, but the fun does not stop there. These are cheap and easy to clean; hence, they make sense for the breeder attempting to keep costs to a minimum. Breeders use either pine shavings or newspaper to keep their snakes. The showcase snake though will not be display properly on those substrates. To show off the colors and patterns of the higher end morphs or even the’ordinary’ ball python we suggest going with a planted vivarium type of setting.
The Right Plant
The planted vivarium is not as hard as it might appear, it is actually an issue of plant selection, positioning, and using the right soils. I use organic potting soil that is pearlite free and landscape the enclosure so 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 actually get a nice look to the total vivarium I put a layer of orchid bark or cypress mulch on top.
Not only do plants help produce oxygen within the enclosure, they also provide 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. But what they don’t tell you is that their recommendations are actually bushes that can become extremely large. For instance, one recommendation I saw was for Callistemon, which they had misspelled as Callistemom commonly called bottlebrush. Most sites list this as a TREE, which gets 10-12 feet in height. The other one that struck me as odd was that the recommendation of Bougainvillea, which has very sharp thorns among the limbs. Why would you advocate that to get a reptile or amphibian enclosure?
Here is a list of non-toxic plants that you can use without fear of them growing into trees or stabbing a wandering snake. Pothos Epipremnum pothos aureus, Liriope Lily turf, & Aspidistra Cast Iron plant are all plants I have used inside 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 cannot make any recommendations . Aside from the plants, add a sandblasted grapevine bit angled from one of the bottom corners of the enclosure into the opposite top corner diagonally so that the snake can decide to be either higher or lower. I have yet to find a branch be provided that was not used at some stage.
You must also offer some type of hide area inside the enclosure. Personally, I like the half logs that are sold for this purpose. Purchase one that the snake can input and when coiled their body should encounter the sides. This is a critical piece as it allows the snake to feel secure.