Why Is My Ball Python Always Hungry?

It can be difficult to tell when your ball python is truly hungry; it’s not like it can just talk to you and tell you it’s ready for dinner! Paying close attention to your pet’s body language and habits can be helpful, but it still may not give you a clear answer as to whether or not you need to give your ball python an extra meal or two.

So why is my ball python always hungry? Your ball python may constantly be hungry because you’re feeding it prey that is too small, or a diet that lacks nutrients. It’s also possible that your pet associates you with food and expects to eat whenever it sees you as a result.

In this article, we’ll discuss what your ball python’s diet should look like and what size prey is appropriate for your pet. We’ll also give advice on what to do if your ball python associates you with food, and the pros and cons of having a separate feeding tank. Finally, we’ll talk about the upside and downside to using live prey. 

photo provided by AceMackin Photography

What Should My Ball Python’s Diet Look Like?

One of the reasons it may seem like your ball python is always hungry is that it’s not getting sufficient nutrients. Even if you feed your pet regularly, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re feeding it correctly!

Ball pythons have their own dietary needs that are very different from your typical pet like a cat or dog, so it’s important to gain some knowledge about what these snakes need to be fed. 

Ball pythons’ diets in captivity consist mainly of mice and rats. These snakes are naturally carnivorous, and in the wild they eat rodents and occasionally small birds. Some ball python owners hate seeing their pet eat other animals and dream of getting them to subsist on a vegetarian diet, but this simply isn’t healthy for a ball python and doesn’t provide the nutrients it needs. 

A baby ball python can eat as often as every five days, but a full-grown ball python may only need to eat every two to three weeks. As your ball python grows and develops, its meals will become larger and less frequent. 

As far as additional vitamins and supplements, you’ll want to purchase a multivitamin formulated for reptiles, as well as a powdered calcium supplement. If your ball python has access to UV light, get a calcium supplement without Vitamin D3. If you don’t have a UV light in your pet’s vivarium, purchase a supplement that includes Vitamin D3.

Dust the calcium supplement on your ball python’s prey before each meal. Your ball python only needs to have the multivitamin every third or fourth feeding. Mix it in a half and half ratio with the calcium supplement. The additional nutritional value your pet will receive from these supplements will keep it healthy and strong!

What Size Prey Should I Feed My Ball Python?

When planning mealtime for your pet, it’s not only important to get the right kind of prey, but also to get the right size prey. Mice and rats come in a huge range of sizes and weights, so it’s typically pretty easy to find the size you need for your ball python. You can also use chicks or quail chicks for a little variety.

One rule of thumb is that prey should weigh about 10 to 15% of your ball python’s weight. Another is that prey should never be larger than your ball python is wide. This ensures that your pet will be able to digest it properly without regurgitating or running into any other issues.

You can also choose the type of prey based on your ball python’s weight, following the guidelines below.

  • Less than 200 grams → Rat fuzzy or small mouse
  • 200-350 grams → Rat pup or adult mouse
  • 350-500 grams → Weaned rat or jumbo mouse
  • 500-1500 grams → Small rat or 2-3 adult mice
  • Over 1500 grams → Medium rat, 2-3 small rats, or 4-5 large rats

Does My Ball Python Associate Me With Food?

If your ball python acts like it’s ready to eat whenever you walk by its enclosure, there’s a good chance that it’s not starving to death–it just associates your presence with feeding time.

Although it can be tempting to feed your pet if it’s acting this way, the reality is that overfeeding your ball python will do it much more harm than good. Overweight ball pythons are more susceptible to many different kinds of health issues.

As long as you’re feeding your ball python on the recommended schedule and you’re certain it has a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients, it’s not necessary to add in extra feedings. Instead, it’s time for a little tough love. Over time, your pet will learn that just because you’re near its tank doesn’t mean it’s about to eat. 

Should I Have a Separate Feeding Tank for My Ball Python?

There is an ongoing discussion in the ball python community about whether or not it’s a good idea to feed your pet in a separate tank. If you want to stop your ball python from associating you with food, it may help to establish a separate feeding tank. But there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing so. 

What Are the Advantages of a Separate Feeding Tank?

  • You’re less likely to get bitten. If your ball python knows it only receives food when it’s in the feeding tank, it won’t nip at your hands when you attempt to handle it in its regular tank. 

 

  • If you house more than one ball python together, a separate feeding tank will eliminate the need for your snakes to fight over prey and attempt to show their dominance over each other.

 

  • Since a feeding tank has no substrate, you’ll avoid the chance that your ball python will ingest the substrate and develop an impaction or have other digestive problems.

 

  • With a separate feeding tank, it’s easier to clean up any mess left over from your ball python’s meal.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Separate Feeding Tank?

  • A separate feeding tank requires a lot more time and effort. You’ll need to prepare the tank, move your ball python into it, patiently wait as mealtime commences, carefully move your pet back to its regular environment, and then clean the feeding tank.

 

  • It can be very stressful for your ball python to be moved back and forth to different environments. Stress, in turn, can cause other health issues.

 

  • Feeding tanks typically don’t have the optimal temperature and humidity level for ball pythons to thrive. Although your pet will only be there for a short period of time, it will still be an adjustment compared to its regular enclosure.

 

  • There’s a much larger risk of regurgitation when you use a separate feeding tank. It’s typically advised not to handle ball pythons for several hours after they eat so that they can properly digest. When you feed your pet in a separate tank, you’ll have to handle it much sooner in order to move it back to its regular tank.

Is Live Prey More Nutritious Than Frozen Prey?

The argument between feeding ball pythons live and frozen prey is a pretty controversial one. Although live prey has more health benefits, it comes with the risk of injury to your pet.

Even the smallest mice will fight for their lives in any way that they can, which means that your ball python could get bitten or scratched. If the wound then becomes infected, there’s a chance it could be fatal.

For this reason, if you choose to feed your ball python live prey, it’s extremely important to never leave it unattended during feeding time. This way, you can do everything you can to prevent injury as your pet hunts its prey. 

Most ball python owners recommend feeding your pet frozen prey rather than live prey. You avoid the risk of injury, and frozen prey is easier to purchase, store, and prepare. Simply put tomorrow’s meal in the refrigerator the night before.

Then, about 15 minutes before feeding time, put the prey into a ziploc bag and submerge it in warm water for up to half an hour. You want to increase the prey’s body temperature to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit so that your ball python will be able to sense its body heat and pick up on its scent. 

Conclusion

If your ball python always seems to be hungry, there are a few things that could be going on. First, even if you feed your pet regularly, you may not be including the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

Another possibility is that you aren’t selecting the right size of prey for your ball python. It’s also possible that your pet simply associates you with food and will act like it’s ready to eat whenever you’re around.

It’s important to make sure that you’re feeding your ball python rodents that are about 10 to 15% of its body weight and a bit smaller than its width. Sprinkle a calcium supplement on top, and mix in a multivitamin every third or fourth feeding. 

Whether you use live or frozen prey is up to you, as is the choice between using a separate feeding tank or not. Regardless of what you choose, carefully monitor your ball python during feeding time to ensure that everything goes smoothly!

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