Royal Python Care Sheet

A royal python, or Ball python as our US cousins tend to call them, is a medium sized species of snake that originally evolved in the climates of sub-Saharan Africa. A small snake by python standards, the Royal python is non-venomous and is often called the Ball Python due to it’s tendency to wrap itself up into a coil like shape, especially when picked up.

Royal pythons smart off small like all snakes, but rarely exceed 200cm in length, with the females tending to squeeze in those extra few inches to become the bigger of the two. This generally non-threatening size and usually calm temperament means that handled properly from hatchlings, they rarely lash out, making them easy and docile pets for captivity in the UK.

Like almost all snakes, royal’s will shed their skin periodically, and some may need a little more help than others. Increasing the humidity a little or providing a slightly more abrasive or moist substrate in their hide might help. Handling should be done often in small doses to ensure a docile nature into adulthood.

Royal Python Habitats

Royal pythons when reaching adulthood preffer long terrestrial vivariums such as a VivExotic Viva+ Terrestrial Vivarium Large Oak. Not generally big on climbing, royals tend to prefer underground burrows, often dug by mammals in the wild. In your vivarium, which we recommend to be as large as possible for grown adults, you can simply use a large reptile hide such as Exo Terra caves, allowing you easy access to them should they be trying to hide from you.

Wooden vivariums are considered superior over glass or plastics for royals, due to the isolative properties of the wood, keeping things warm to sub-Saharan temperatures.

Common royal python substrates used in captivity are bark hide, beech chips and soft aspen, all non-reactive with your pythons underbelly and keeping things more or less arid to avoid scale rot.

Royal Python Heating and Lighting

Royal pythons are known to enjoy basking in the sun from time to time. Being cold blooded as all snaked are, they rely on heat from their environment to raise their body temperature to thermo regulate. Without this heat from the environment, they cannot circulate blood properly, or digest their food, often causing food regurgitation, weight loss and health problems.

We recommend using a basking heat lamp, creating a hot spot at one end of the vivarium to achieve a temperature of around 33 degrees centigrade, leaving your cooler end of the vivarium at around a pleasant 24 degrees centigrade, allowing your snake the option to move between the hot and cold areas at will depending on their core body temperature.

Some keepers use a heat mat too, however to provide a little extra warmth. Just ensure that your snake does not come into direct contact with the mat, and due to your Royal’s habit or burrowing into substrate, we recommend the use of a matt stat, and the placement of the mat on the side or below the vivarium itself, on a heat-proof surface to reduce the risk of burning.

Ceramic heaters are also of great use to your Royal, helping to provide night time heat when your light emitting bulbs are off, or just to raise the general ambient air temperature during the day in the spots not under your basking lamp.

It’s always best to monitor your royal python habitat using two thermometers, one at the cooler side, and one under your basking spot, both positioned at the height your snake will be living at to ensure the right temperatures. We also recommend a reliable thermostat system if your budget will stretch to it.

Royal Python humidity

For Royals, this is an easy one. Generally, most homes will have around a 50 to 60% humidity range already, perfect for your python. Just install an analogue hygrometer into your vivarium to make sure it doesn’t exceed parameters (risking scale rot and breathing problems) or too low (risking a bad shed due to a lack of moisture).

Royal Python Scenery

These snakes aren’t too fond of deserts, but enjoy relatively arid scrubland or warm forests, and therefore you should try to emulate this in your vivarium. Some fallen tree branches (either natural or artificial), African plants (none poisonous) and a rock or wood based hide to retreat to or bask on will have your snake feeling at home.

Intelligent animals, try to shake up your decor during cleaning time, making them feel they have something a little different to explore.

Royal python diets

Providing you are ok with frozen live food hanging around in your freezer, royal diets are pretty easy to cater for. Being completely carnivorous from hatching, young royals enjoy small “fuzzies” mice every 5 or 6 days, slowly progressing to larger mice and eventually weaner rats. Learning to judge what they can accept is a talent you will soon learn, but generally speaking if they can fit their jaws around it, they will keep it down.

As with all snakes, we recommend feeding them outside of their vivarium to dissociate handling time with feeding time. Feeding them inside the vivarium may cause them to become confused, striking at your hand as they believe they are being fed which is not so much of a problem when they are hatchlings, but a fully grown snake might do some damage.

Royals are notorious for not taking food, and usually this is down to husbandry if your snake is not eating, ensure their temperature and habitat is within parameters. Sometimes, cutting at the mouse’s head to expose their brain triggers their hunting instincts too, if you can handle a little mess.

The Last Word

Each year we get thousands of calls at Swell Reptiles about Royal Pythons, and we are happy to take every single one. They’re a big favourite of ours, with many of our staff members having fond memories of their first Royal, and we’re left with no doubts that given the right care a research, you’ll be able to use this blog to start some memories of your own.


  • Avatar Mark Jones Posted 20/04/2016 at 10:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My Royal has never not eaten until the last two feeds she is also taken to trying to get into the tiny gap between the two panes of glass. She does this with some force. I am worried that she will injure her nose, what can I do?

    • Georgina Rayner Georgina Rayner Posted 21/04/2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Mark,

      Royals can be particularly hard to get feeding, especially if they stop eating for a while.

      The most important thing is to check your temperatures though, ideally with a precise digital thermometer, so you can be sure that they are in the right environment.

      Try to ensure that the enclosure isn’t too open, as large spaces can make it worse for them. Filling the space with decoration can help. Try to leave her for a week or so, and then offer again. Don’t offer her more than once a week, as this can stress them further.

      The restlessness could be from an upcoming shed, so ensure there is a good humidity box to help which may settle her.

      The main thing to remember is they can go for prolonger periods without eating – depending on their age and size, sometimes months of not eating will cause no damage. Just make sure she isn’t stressed from temperatures, too much space, or too dry in shed, and shes naturally settle and feeding should come after that. If you reach a couple of months and she still doesn’t feed – off to the vets!

  • Avatar Katie Lovegrove Posted 03/01/2018 at 9:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi. We recently purchased a royal and have a vivexotic vivarium. I was told at the reptile shop that a heat mat would be fine and the humidity at room temp would be OK. I have read since that a heat mat is not good for royals and I have no humidity control. She stopped feeding for weeks so I took her back to the reptile store and they have got her feeding.I now wonder if she didn’t eat due to her living conditions? I’m somewhat confused. Could you please advise? Want to do best by my royal.thanks

  • Avatar Katrina Posted 14/12/2018 at 10:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I bought a cinnamon ball and we didn’t know he had a RI until we had him for a couple of days but we were already attached to him o return him to the pet store. I took him to the vet and he has been on ATB but has not eaten for 3 weeks. when we were finally allowed to feed him he got it but spit it out along with a mouth full of mucus. I am worried because he is only 4 months old and by what I have looked up online is getting skinny. His temps and humidity have been where he vet wants it so I was wondering if there were any ideas o try to get him to feed? I tried after his daily soak (RI treatment) because he has less mucus then and I tried at night since he’s nocturnal. I really want him to get better and I know he won’t if he’s not getting nourishment along with his other treatments. He has been on meds for 2 1/2 weeks.

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