Guide: Ball Python Lighting Needs and Requirements

There are some things your snake doesn’t really need, but you still want to provide.
Take, for example, lighting systems. Most snakes will thrive without them, but you may want to include them anyway to help show off your snake. We’ll explain how to do so below.

Ball python under natural light

A significant part of the appeal of ball pythons is the incredible colors and patterns some individuals exhibit. You may have to spend a pretty penny for some of the most mind-blowing animals, but even those with modest budgets can obtain a very attractive member of the species.

And if you are going to go to the trouble of buying a beautiful-looking ball python, you certainly want to show him off as best you can. To do that, you’ll need a high-quality lighting system.

Do Ball Pythons Need Light?

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever performed experiments to determine if ball pythons can remain healthy in a pitch-black environment. Honestly, there’s no need to. While ball pythons may be physically capable of surviving without any light at all, this wouldn’t allow you to enjoy them. It may also reduce their quality of life.

The real question is do ball pythons need any type of special lighting? And the answer to that question is unequivocally “no.”

Your ball python does not require anything other than ambient room light to survive. Whether you keep your pet in an aquarium or a small plastic storage box, the light penetrating the enclosure walls will be more than enough for him to see and move around the habitat. After all, snakes rely primarily on their sense of smell, and ball pythons are largely nocturnal.

Do Ball Pythons Need UV Light?

Many popular lizard pets – especially heliothermic (sun-loving) species, such as bearded dragons and iguanas – require light that includes rays in the UVB portion of the spectrum to remain healthy. But the vast majority of snake species are thought to be capable of thriving without these high-frequency rays – and this includes ball pythons.

In fact, exposure to UVB light may cause health problems in some cases. Research has demonstrated that some lizards who require UVB light will move away from these lights or seek shelter from time to time.

Ultimately, it is not necessary to provide UVB light to ball pythons, and if you choose to do so for some reason, you should certainly be sure that your snake has shaded areas in the habitat into which he can retreat.

Ball Python in habitat

Do Ball Pythons Need a Heat Lamp?

Heat lamps are different from other types of enclosure lights. Heat lamps rely on incandescent bulbs, which produce a great deal of heat, but fairly low-quality light. By contrast, lights that are installed for aesthetic purposes are generally of the fluorescent or LED variety.

You don’t have to use heat lamps to provide warmth for your pet; you could use heat pads, heat tape or radiant heat panels instead. That said, heat lamps or “clamp lamps” are often the simplest way to heat a ball python enclosure, and they are likely the best option for beginning snake-keepers to use.

Fluker’s Repta-Clamp Lamp is one of the best options available, as it features a ceramic base and is rated for bulbs up to 150 Watts, yet it’s still quite affordable. It even has a built-in dimmer switch, which gives you some ability to adjust the habitat temperatures.

Zilla’s Premium Reflector Domes are a reasonable alternative, but they don’t come with the built-in dimmer switch that the Fluker model does.

You’ll also need a good incandescent bulb to use in these fixtures. In the old days, we’d just use a regular household lightbulb of the appropriate wattage. But as incandescent bulbs were largely phased out of the consumer market, this isn’t as easy to do. Instead, modern keepers should pick something like Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp is perfect.

Best Lamp & Lighting Setup

Even though ball pythons do not require special lighting, many keepers like to provide enclosure lighting to make the habitat and animal look their best. The easiest way to do so is by buying one or more of the fixtures discussed earlier, but instead of using a heat lamp bulb, use compact fluorescent bulbs instead.

Just remember that you want a light that produces a nice, balanced spectrum, but you don’t want a light that produces UVB in most cases. A good option is the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 2.0.

Ball Python under lamp

Do Ball Pythons Need a Day-Night Cycle?

No matter what type of lighting system you use for your ball python, it is important to provide your pet with a consistent day-night cycle. Failure to do so may lead to stress and it may even reduce your snake’s willingness to feed.

If you’re not intending to breed your ball python, a simple 12-hour cycle works perfectly. This would mean turning your snake’s lights on every morning at, say, 7:00 and then turning them off at 7:00 in the evening.

As you can imagine, it is often difficult to adhere to this kind of strict schedule over the long-term. Accordingly, many keepers opt to use a lamp timer to automate their snake’s day-night cycle. A simple timer – like this GE model – will certainly work, but a bit more money, you can pick up one with a ton of built-in features.

The Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting Power Center is a great example, as it not only allows you to automate four devices simultaneously, it comes with a digital interface.

It’s your turn!

Your ball python may not need special lighting to remain healthy, but you’ll undoubtedly enjoy viewing him (and his enclosure) more if you implement a high-quality lighting system.

We appreciate you reading this article and hope you’ve found it helpful. Don’t forget to share it with your snake-keeping friends and share your comments and questions with us in the comments below.

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Ben Team

Ben Team

Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.

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Ben Team
Ben Team
Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.