So, you’ve decided that ball pythons are for you, but you don’t know where to acquire one. Fear not, this is common among first-time snake buyers.
While the whole issue may seem simple enough in appearance, you will soon learn that buying your future reptile pet from a trustworthy source is worth all the money.
That’s exactly what we’ll discuss today. Where can you buy your ball pythons from, and does it even matter? Let’s have a look!
Can You Buy Ball Pythons at Petco?
Yes, you can. Petco is a large supply chain that specializes in everything pet-related, among other things.
Ball pythons are naturally on the menu, so let’s analyze the main factors that should influence your decision:
- Price of ball python at Petco – The pricing is the first point to consider before acquiring your snake. Generally, ball pythons fall into the $60-$100 range if you’re not pretentious about your snake’s characteristics. However, other specimens can go as high as $500 or even more, depending on the morph variation. The snake’s age, size, and color pattern also influence the pricing, sometimes drastically.
- Ball python varieties and supplies – Petco offers a variety of ball python varieties at varying prices. This includes the common ball python, which tends to be the cheapest, spider ball python, pastel ball python, albino ball python, and many others. The important thing here is that the available morphs and supplies vary depending on the location. More importantly, you can only purchase ball pythons from brick-and-stone shops, not online. Even if given the opportunity to acquire your ball python online, I say skip it. You should be able to see your python before buying it. Petco also offers a variety of ball python-related supplies like terrariums, substrates, lighting and heating systems, humidifiers, etc.
- Availability of ball pythons – You may not be able to find ball pythons in all pet stores, especially those that don’t specialize in reptile trading. So, the availability of ball pythons depends on your geographical location and the pet store itself. Fortunately, the high demand has caused ball pythons to become far more common today than they were 10 years ago. This includes the availability of rarer morphs, which have now become considerably more common and, thus, cheaper.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Ball Python from Petco
- Convenience – Petco stores are easily accessible throughout the nation. You probably live next to one or know someone who lives next to one right now. This gives you easy access to ball pythons, adequate supplies, python-related food options, and everything else in between. Ease of access is the name of the game.
- Wide selection range – Professional stores like Petco provide you with a variety of ball python morphs, usually a lot more than any professional breeder can handle. This is great for pretentious customers with specific requirements regarding the pythons’ age, size, color, pattern, etc.
- Trained staff – The staff can provide additional information regarding the care routine that pythons need, as well as other information like housing conditions, health parameters, diet, etc.
- Additional accessories – The python isn’t even the first thing you’ll want to acquire, as you have a more extensive list to go through. You must first get the enclosure and the equipment necessary to accommodate your python. Petco can also offer those and much more.
- The animal’s quality – Ball pythons are pretentious animals with regard to nutrition, housing conditions, care and maintenance, and much more. You can’t expect the Petco staff to be as caring and attentive towards the reptiles as a professional breeder would be. This puts you in the position to risk buying a sick python or one that’s been malnourished.
- Morph quality – Petco is pretty much a general pet store, not a specialized one. This means that you can find a variety of ball python morphs, but they may not be as high-quality as you’d prefer. You may need to go to a reputed ball python breeder for that.
- Overall care information – While Petco staff is reasonably knowledgeable about their products, they may not excel in some areas. You’re better off learning about ball pythons and their care requirements from more experienced professionals with a lot more saying in the matter.
I’d say that, if you can choose, you should opt for private breeders when sourcing your ball python. If not, Petco, or any other pet store near you, is fine, so long as you adjust your expectations accordingly.
Considerations when Purchasing a Ball Python from Petco
If you’ve decided to run with Petco for acquiring your fish snake, consider the following tips:
The Snake’s Age and Health
It’s very difficult to approximate a snake’s age and health status if you’re not familiar with reptiles in general and snakes in particular. I understand that you may be tempted to purchase the prettiest snake in the shop, but make that a secondary motive.
The primary one should be acquiring a healthy, fit, and young snake that won’t experience health issues shortly after bringing it home. This is even more important when acquiring an expensive specimen.
In this sense, determining the snake’s actual age is critical. You can do that by assessing several aspects, like:
- The species’ average – Ball pythons usually reach a maximum size of up to 6 feet, but the average is somewhere around 4-4.5 feet for females and 3-3.5 feet for males. These are the standard sizes for adult boa pythons, so use these values when assessing your favorite specimen’s size. Understanding the snake’s growth rate can also help you make a more informed decision. All ball pythons measure approximately 10-17 inches as hatchlings. Male pythons grow approximately 8 inches per year within their first 3 years, while females have a nearly double growth rate, at 12-16 inches per year. However, both sexes grow at an identical speed for the first 6-7 months of their lives.
- Scales – Ball pythons grow rows of scales on their mid-section as they mature. Babies and juveniles have approximately 11-13 rows, while adults can grow as many as 18-20, depending on the snake’s size. This should give you a rough estimate of the snake’s age, but you shouldn’t rely on this method alone.
- X-Ray – This may not be available to you when purchasing your python, but you may use it after the purchase. An X-ray will look into the python’s skeleton and internal organs to approximate the animal’s age.
While these are fairly accurate methods of determining your ball python’s age, you should always take them with a grain of salt. Some discrepancies may exist in a specimen’s biological and anatomical features, causing you to miss the mark completely. It’s rare, but it can happen. To prevent that, always rely on several indicators when assessing the snake’s age.
If in doubt, always ask for a professional’s opinion, either a Petco employee or anyone else you trust.
Cost Comparison to Other Vendors
While the top factors that influence the snake’s cost include the specimen’s age, morph, size, and color pattern, these are not the only ones.
Other such factors may include the species’ availability in your region and the competition in the area. If there are several ball python vendors in your town, aside from Petco, check those ones too.
If the price is a make-or-break factor, research the market thoroughly and look for the best offer you can get. Without sacrificing the snake’s quality, of course.
Quality and Selection of Supplies Available at Petco
You ideally want to purchase your python from a shop that also provides top-quality equipment and supplies for reptiles and snakes in particular.
That’s because you need quick access to high-grade equipment and materials and you can’t afford to run around the town or the internet looking for something you need urgently.
You need to have access to the right piece of equipment or the supplies necessary immediately with minimum effort. It’s a big plus if those are available at the exact place you purchase your python from. So, always research the topic a bit before acquiring your python.
The Expertise and Staff’s Availability to Answer Questions
This is an important point, yet so many people ignore it flagrantly. The staff should possess crucial knowledge about the products they’re selling, whether they’re inanimate objects or living animals.
Ask the staff for details about the snake, its diet, behavior, necessary equipment, and any other detail that might interest you. As a pro tip, make sure you already know the answers to these questions from trustworthy sources.
In this context, the goal isn’t to find the answer but to gauge the staff’s expertise on the subject. That’s because it offers you insight into the level of care and maintenance that the staff can provide the reptiles with.
If they exhibit a lack of knowledge, they’re unlikely to have taken good care of the snakes. In this case, say pass and move on to another branch.
Alternatives to Purchasing a Ball Python from Petco
If Petco isn’t your cup of tea, consider the following options:
- Online from reputed breeders – I want to stress the ‘reputed’ part here. That’s because there are many not-so-reputed breeders that you can’t fully trust without good reason to. One of those reasons is proof of good business. Check the breeder’s reviews, see how many clients it has and how many complaints. If the seller doesn’t put on good vibes, stay away.
- Reptile shows and expos – People always begin with the assumption that reptile shows and expos only sell healthy snakes with virtually no flaws. But that’s not always the case. Reptile expos are great because they provide you with firsthand access to a wide variety of snakes with different prices, characteristics, etc. But take your time before committing to one. Ask around for details on one particular snake and gauge the seller’s seriousness and expertise in regard to that snake species. You don’t want to cut any corners, not when acquiring a $1,000 python.
- Local reptile rescue groups – If all of the above have failed or are not viable options, you can always go the adoption route. Check your local reptile groups and go on for a visit to choose your pet. The adoption fee is nowhere near as high as the python’s full acquisition price. The downside is that your options are limited when adopting your pet. Most ball pythons going for adoption are sick, old, injured, or exhibit other problems that may need intensive or even palliative care. Keep that in mind.
Ball pythons are amazing pets that require personalized care to thrive. They’re not extremely pretentious but still need a natural-looking ecosystem, a varied diet, and adequate maintenance and medical assistance whenever necessary.
However, it all begins with purchasing the right snake, to begin with. There’s little you can do if your snake exhibits genetic problems that may affect its quality of life or lifespan.
No matter whether you’re getting your python from Petco, a professional breeder, or any other source, always make sure you’re buying a healthy, young, and strong snake with no visible health problems.