Do Ball Pythons like tubs?

One of the most common questions I get asked is: Do Ball Pythons like tubs? Personally, I prefer tubs to other types of enclosure for a few reasons. In this post we’re going to discuss my experience with them and look at some simple Ball Python tub setups.

Ball Pythons do like tubs – they thrive in them, in fact. Temperature and humidity are easily regulated, and these enclosures come in at a much cheaper price than others. To make full use of them, we must avoid anthropomorphising our pets and simply look at what is best for their needs.

You can keep reading for a full breakdown of this topic, but first check out the video below. I’ll tell you about my experience with tubs. I’ll also tell what their main pros and cons are:

The anthropomorphism trap

Anthropomorphism is basically giving human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects. With reptiles, this often comes down to believing they have feelings, or that they love us or aspects of their enclosure in a human way.

It’s normal to anthropomorphise your pets. You care about them, even if with some animals it can be hard to tell how much they love you back.

The truth is reptiles like Ball Pythons do have feelings – but those feelings are less complex than ours. For example, there is little debate that they can feel fear, anxiety, hunger, pain, and the urge to breed.  

Generally speaking, these feelings are related to their physical environment or their life cycle. They like to be at the correct temperature and humidity and have a hiding place that protects them from attack.

From my years of experience with them, I would say that nothing could make a Ball Python more content than feeling safe. They love certainty, and a sturdy hiding place. As small ambush predators this makes a lot of sense. Having a hiding place where they can comfortably spend hours or days is a huge advantage.

What they really, really, don’t care about is how much money you spend on their enclosure, what colour it is, or even how natural it looks. 

Reptiles are logical, rather than emotional. They look for living spaces that work for them, and nothing more – it’s about survival not aesthetics. Therefore, anthropomorphism is a hindrance, rather than a help when it comes to caring for reptiles.

Bobby the Ball Python

How does this relate to tubs?

At this point I obviously must come clean and say that I am sometimes guilty of anthropomorphising my pets. My snakes have names like Spirit, Prince and Jerry. I like to imagine they even like me a little bit.

Where I draw the line however is on their husbandry. You must never let anthropomorphism affect how you care for your animals.

Anthropomorphising these snakes by thinking they will enjoy big, expensive, and pretty enclosures really misses the point. Tubs fulfil their needs best, and optimum husbandry is what they really enjoy.

Sadly, I wasn’t always this pragmatic. Back in the early 00s’ I used glass tanks exclusively before realising they let heat and humidity dissipate faster you can say “I just wasted $200 on this glass tank”.

And this is the whole point: Tubs are extremely good at maintaining the correct temperature and humidity. if you’ve read much of this care sheet, you’ll know how monumentally important these two factors are. By doing this, tubs provide that certainty that Ball Pythons adore.

So why don’t you see more pro-tub articles? Well, you need to be aware that tubs are cheap, and much of the information available online is aimed at selling you products. If someone is really trying to promote certain enclosures, for example, it’s probably because they want to sell them.

Are racks good for Ball Pythons?

A Ball Python hatchling rack.
This is a hatchling rack using 3litre (3 quart) plastic tubs. The babies quickly grow out of these, but they feel safe and warm enough to start eating consistently before they do.

Another question I often get asked is: Are racks good for Ball Pythons? Well, as I’ve explained, I’m a long-term tub keeper. Racks are essentially one or more rows of tubs in a piece of furniture. They can be made in several ways and house tubs of various sizes.

Here in the UK, many keepers use homemade racks like the one in the photo because they’re cheaper and easy to make.

Personally, I avoided using racks for a long time, because they tend to have smaller, darker tubs in them than the ones that I use. Wouldn’t the snakes miss looking out into the rest of the room? Again, I was anthropomorphising them.

A while back, however, I changed my mind and decided to do an experiment. Just to clarify, this wasn’t an experiment I did for fun – I was pushed into it by two very picky female Ball Pythons.

The first female was a large Pastel Butter that only ate roughly once a month, and never quite reached the kind of weight you’d expect. While other females her size were sitting at 2700-2800grams, she was always at 2100-2200grams.

The second was a Bongo Pastel that ate well for a few months after I got her, then went on an eight-month hunger strike.  When she started feeding again it was sporadic, and she couldn’t get past the 1100gram mark.

I gave in and bought a rack… what a result!

I tried various sizes of tub for both females, and eventually even a highly decorated wooden vivarium for the Butter Pastel. She fed less than ever in this setup, no matter how elaborate I made it. I also tried various levels of light and different hiding options.

This went on for over a year. After all, I had to get it right – it’s my duty as their keeper. And, from years of experience, I can tell when a Ball Python isn’t happy. I just hadn’t dealt with a pair of snakes that were quite this picky before!

Eventually, I decided to buy a PVC rack housing 5 V70 tubs. These tubs are 5 and 3/8 inches tall, by 34 inches long and 17.3 inches wide (84x44x13,5cm).

What a result! Both females fed a day after being put in the rack. By next week, their appetite was off the scale! To this day I have zero feeding problems with these two snakes.

Do I like how the rack looks? Not really if I’m honest. What I do like though is healthy, happy snakes. And with Ball Pythons the golden rule is: If they’re eating well, they’re happy!

Ball Python tub setup and sizes

One of the most useful aspects of tubs is the range of sizes they can be found in. Storage tubs are found in a huge range of sizes and colours and can be very easy to find for sale. Just check out Sterilite, for example.

Another important plus with tubs is their versatility. You can easily make holes for added ventilation or use a glue gun to attach plants and decorations. In fact, you can make a tub setup as elaborate as you like, all the while spending much less than you would on a vivarium or PVC enclosure.

Let’s look at an example of how to make your own…

Do Ball Pythons like tubs?
This is a simple tub setup I made, which is great for an adult Ball Python. What you can’t see is that a heat pad is underneath, connected to a pulse proportional thermostat. Before using it, I also added a humidity gauge, and attached a digital thermometer probe under the warm hide.

Do Ball Pythons like tubs? Conclusion

From over 20 years of experience keeping Ball Pythons, I can tell you that tubs – including those in racks – are great for them. They’re cheap, versatile, and hold both heat and humidity better than most other types of enclosure.

Overall, this makes for an enclosure which is easier to maintain and optimise for your pet. Let’s face it, it’s easier to upgrade an enclosure in line with your pet’s growth when it only costs $20 for a new one, rather than $200 or more.

On their part, Ball Pythons obviously don’t care about how much we do or don’t spend on them. All they care about is how safe they feel and whether their heat and humidity are correct.

FAQ relating to Ball Python tubs:

Is a tub or tank better for snakes?

A tub is usually better for shy nocturnal species, that also require moderate-to-high humidity. A tank, on the other hand, is usually better for more active species that require low humidity. Overall, no one type of enclosure is best for all snakes. You need to carefully research the species you wish to keep and then choose which setup is most suitable.

What is the best tub for a ball python?

The best tub for a ball python is any tub of any brand that fits the following three requirements: 1. has no sharp or pointy bits on the inside of the lid that could hurt your snake. 2. Has a securely fitting lid, that can’t be pushed up by your snake. 3. Is large enough. Hatchlings can start out in 1 or 2 quart tub (1-2l), but quickly need a 9.5 quart tub (9l). Eventually, adults will need a 35-68 quart tub (33-64l).

What do ball pythons like in their enclosures?

Ball Pythons like hiding places in their enclosures. They need to feel that they can always get to safety, and this means you should provide two hiding places in the setup. Young Ball Pythons also like to climb, so will enjoy low branches and obstacles like fake plants to crawl over.

Also on this topic:

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