How Often Should I Clean My Ball Python’s Tank?

Cleaning is a necessary but often-dreaded part of pet care. Whether it’s scooping your dog’s poop, changing out your cat’s litter, or cleaning your ball python’s tank, the process certainly isn’t the most pleasant. But that doesn’t make it any less important to your pet’s health and overall well being!

So how often should I clean my ball python’s tank? You’ll want to do a thorough cleaning at least once a month, and spot clean a couple of times each week. It’s also important to wash your ball python’s water bowl on a daily basis, especially if it spends time soaking.

Below, you’ll find detailed guides that explain how to spot clean and deep clean your ball python’s tank. You’ll also learn some general tips and tricks that will make cleaning a breeze! Don’t forget to take a look at our list of health ailments that can be caused by a dirty tank.

How to Spot Clean Your Ball Python’s Tank

You’ll want to go through and spot clean almost daily, but it’s essential to do it every time your ball python urinates or defecates. You’ll want to replace any soiled substrate and remove any urates or feces in the cage. Leaving waste in the tank can lead to bacterial growth, which you definitely want to avoid. 

photo provided by AceMackin Photography

A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Ball Python’s Tank

Once a month, take the time to completely clean out your ball python’s tank and all of its accessories. Follow this guide to keep your snake’s tank squeaky clean!

Gather Your Supplies

Typically, you’ll need disinfectant, paper towels, a spray bottle filled with water, and a garbage bag. You may also need a scraping tool and shop vac to remove stubborn substrate. It’s a good idea to always have extras on-hand, and don’t forget your hand sanitizer!

Relocate Your Ball Python

Your pet will need a safe place to stay while you’re cleaning its tank. One good solution is a large plastic storage tub with air holes and a lockable lid. Some ball python owners just let their snakes hang out wrapped around their neck during the cleaning process.

If you do this, just be aware of any chemicals and disinfectants you’re using to clean your ball python’s tank–you don’t want them to come into direct contact with your snake.

Remove Accessories and Unplug Devices

The water bowl, hides, climbs, and all other accessories should be taken out of the tank and placed in a bathtub or utility sink to be cleaned later on. Also make sure to unplug any electronic devices such as lighting and heat sources. 

Clean Out the Substrate

If you use newspaper for substrate, this is a pretty easy task. Other types of bedding may call for a shop vac or other tools for complete removal. 

Thoroughly Scrub the Empty Tank

It’s easiest to start with your spray bottle of water and paper towels, and scrub until all visible matter like feces and dust is gone. Remember not to use cold water on warm glass, or it could crack!

Next, you’ll want to follow up by scrubbing everything with disinfectant. You may want to do this a second time, especially if you’ve waited a little bit too long in between tank cleanings. Then leave the tank open so that it can completely dry out while you clean the hides and other accessories. 

Clean the Tank Accessories

If you keep up with cleaning your pet’s tank on a regular basis, you’ll be just fine using antibacterial soap and warm water to clean the tank accessories. If any of them are especially grimy, they may need to sit overnight in a bleach and water solution. You can make this by mixing 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. After cleaning each item, make sure to fully dry it off.

Wash the Water Bowl

When you’re cleaning the tank accessories, give the water bowl some extra attention. It’s best to scrub it with a soft sponge (not an abrasive scouring pad), hot water, and antibacterial soap. Keeping the water bowl clean is important to your ball python’s health–if bacteria or mold begin to build up, your pet could get sick.

Reassemble Your Ball Python’s Environment

Once both the accessories and tank are completely clean and dry, it’s time to put everything back together. Add new substrate, and put hides, climbs, and the water bowl back into place. Plug in your heat source and light, double-check latches and locks, and make sure temperatures and humidity are in the proper range. Now your ball python is ready to return to its home!

Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Here is a brief collection of helpful suggestions that can make tank cleaning an easier and speedier process!

  • Complex naturalistic tanks will always take longer to clean than simpler setups. When you’re designing your ball python’s home, keep in mind that you’ll need to find a balance between the tank’s visual aesthetic and the ease of cleaning it.

 

  • Have a good supply of hand sanitizer readily available, and keep some near your snake’s tank. This way you can use it before and after handling, and several times throughout the cleaning process. It’s a great way to eliminate any chance of spreading bacteria. 

 

  • Thick blue paper towels (often referred to as “shop towels”) are very helpful when it comes to tank cleaning. They’re much more heavy-duty than your typical kitchen paper towels, and you can find them at any hardware store.

 

  • Tanks with rounded edges are much easier to clean than tanks with sharp corners and crevices, so keep this in mind when selecting a tank for your ball python!

What If I Don’t Keep up With Tank Cleanings?

In the wild, ball pythons can rely on nature to clean itself with rainfall and air circulation. But in captivity, they rely on you as their owner to keep their environment from getting dirty. Some consequences of neglecting to clean your ball python’s tank include:

  • A bad smell coming from the tank
  • Cloudy tank walls that lead to less visibility
  • The spread of bacteria that can be harmful to both your pet and yourself
  • More lethargy or aggression in your ball python’s behavior
  • Stress, illness, and possibly even death of your snake

Overall, keeping your ball python’s environment clean will not only prevent health issues, but it will ensure that your snake lives comfortably and happily!

What Health Issues Can Develop as a Result of an Unsanitary Tank?

Unfortunately, leaving your ball python’s tank dirty can really take a toll on its health. Stress from a dirty tank is bad enough, but when bacteria grows, illness can develop. Watch out for these common ball python ailments.

  • Stomatitis/mouth rot. This occurs when bacteria gets into an open wound and becomes infected. You might notice swelling and discoloration around the mouth area as well as a lack of appetite.

 

  • Mites. If you let your snake explore outdoors, it might bring mites back with it–and they reproduce extremely quickly, especially in a dirty tank! Mites are the size of poppy seeds and usually appear as black or red dots on your ball python or in its substrate.

 

  • Skin conditions. These can occur if your snake suffers an injury that then develops an infection due to bacteria in its tank.

 

  • Respiratory infection. Although common, respiratory infections are very serious and require professional treatment! You may notice difficulty breathing and mucus coming from the nostrils or mouth.

Conclusion

Cleaning your ball python’s tank regularly is a huge part of making sure it’s happy and healthy in its habitat! Generally, you’ll need to spot clean anytime there’s waste in the tank. Wash your ball python’s water bowl daily with soap before replacing the water. And of course, you’ll need to thoroughly scrub out your snake’s tank and all accessories once a month.

Remember that while complex designs are visually appealing, they’re also more difficult to clean. A simple setup provides for quick and easy cleanup. Don’t forget to have extra substrate and cleaning supplies ready to go at all times–they’ll definitely come in handy! Always keep hand sanitizer around to prevent the spread of bacteria.

It’s definitely not worth it to put off cleaning your snake’s tank! You could end up having to deal with a nasty stench from the dirty tank, or in the worst-case scenario, your ball python could start to feel stressed or sick. Mouth rot, mites, skin conditions, and respiratory infections can all spread as a result of a dirty cage. Keep up with your cleaning routine, and your ball python is sure to thank you!

Sources:

https://www.joshsfrogs.com/catalog/blog/2013/01/1253/#:~:text=Change%20the%20water%20once%20a%20day.&text=Ball%20Python%20enclosures%20should%20be,or%20more%20often%20if%20needed.

https://www.quora.com/How-often-should-I-clean-my-ball-pythons-tank

https://animalcityinc.com/blog/44713/how-often-should-i-clean-my-reptiles-habitat

https://petlifetoday.com/take-care-of-a-ball-python/

http://www.reptileknowledge.com/news/how-to-clean-a-snake-cage-quickly-and-easily/

https://www.myfamilyvets.co.uk/snake-health-problems