If you are a fan of ball pythons, it is only natural to wonder if two ball pythons can live together in the same enclosure.
After all, it costs hundreds of dollars less to set up just one enclosure instead of two, and there would be half as much cleaning and cage maintenance.
Can Two Ball Pythons Live Together in the Same Enclosure?
But the reality is that it is never a good idea to keep two ball pythons in the same enclosure.
Ball pythons are intensely shy. They can be competitive. And they don’t like changes in their surroundings.
Putting two ball pythons together in the same terrarium sometimes results in fighting, and always results in stress. Giving your ball python a roommate is just not a good idea.
Why Ball Pythons Are Solitary
Ball pythons are solitary snakes because of their mating habits, their stress levels, and health and hygiene reasons.
Promiscuity is the breeding strategy of a ball python. Males mate with multiple females and females mate with multiple males.
Two eggs in the same clutch can have two different fathers.
Three eggs in the same clutch can have three different fathers.
The ball python mating strategy protects its offspring against the effects of inbreeding. It keeps dangerous mutations from being passed on to an entire clutch of baby snakes.
But it also means that sexually mature ball pythons don’t stay in the same space with mating partners very long.
One of the reasons that so many snake enthusiasts love ball pythons is that they are gentle creatures—at least to humans. Ball pythons don’t become aggressive when you handle them.
They don’t bite the hand that feeds them at feeding time. They roll into a ball when they are afraid.
The qualities that make ball pythons great pets do not make their lives easier.
Ball pythons live in a constant state of high alert when they are outside of their hiding places, or when they are with other snakes.
A stressed-out ball python may refuse to eat. It will have lower resistance to infection. If one ball python in an enclosure gets an infection, chances are that the other one will, too.
Diagnosing infections when you have two ball pythons living in the same enclosure is tricky.
It’s not hard to detect a lung infection or mouth rot in a single snake, but it is extra hard to diagnose intestinal parasites.
To diagnose intestinal parasites, the veterinarian needs to look at a stool sample. When you have two snakes in the same cage, it is hard to tell which snake left the stool the vet needs to sample.
There is also the risk of injury at feeding time.
Ball pythons have up to 120 sharp teeth. They use their teeth to hold on to the prey that they swallow whole.
Many ball pythons don’t have good aim. When they are being fed at the same time, they may strike each other instead of their prey.
Two ball pythons with one heat lamp may fight for the warmest basking spot.
They may try to push each other out of hides. And they will fight each other for food.
When two male ball pythons are placed in the same enclosure for more than a few days, each of them may try to force the other out. The result can be that both ball pythons escape.
Female ball pythons are not as aggressive as male ball pythons, but they are larger, so they will win a fight with a male.
Female ball pythons do not like to be caged with just one male mate because of a phenomenon called cryptic female choice.
Female ball pythons can store sperm from different mates in different areas.
They can then choose the sperm they want to use for their babies from all the males with which they have mated.
This is the reason male pythons mate with as many females as they can. They are more likely actually to have offspring if they mate with multiple females.
They are not happy in a cage with just one female ball python.
Does This Mean You Can Never Have Two Ball Pythons Around Each Other?
It is never a good idea to put two ball pythons in the same enclosure.
Every ball python wants a tiny area all to itself. It is possible, to bring two ball pythons together outside their cages.
It’s OK to play with both of your pythons outside their terrariums at the same time if you keep a close eye on their behavior.
Any attempt to push, shove, or (although this is rare) bite the other python means playtime has to be called off. You must return at least one ball python to its cage immediately.
Most people do not have the physical strength and agility to manage more than two ball pythons outside their cages at the same time.
There is one situation in which you should never have two ball pythons together. That is when you feed your ball pythons in an enclosure other than their regular terrarium.
Many snake owners make a habit of keeping their pets in one enclosure and feeding them in another.
This way, the snake never expects to be fed when it is in its regular home. It won’t bite at your fingers when you are putting your hand in the cage for some other reason.
The feeding enclosure is usually smaller than the snake’s main terrarium.
Putting two ball pythons in the same small enclosure, and adding food, is inviting a fight between your snakes.
Even if they are well-tempered, they may bite each other by accident.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen When You Put Two Ball Pythons Together?
Some fact sheets for ball pythons warn of cannibalism as a possible result of putting two ball pythons together in the same cage.
There are some species of snakes, like king snakes, that are aggressive about eating other snakes, even snakes that are bigger than they are.
Cannibalism in ball pythons is not unheard of, but it is very rW.are.
The real problem when you put two ball pythons together is stress.
When you put two ball pythons together, they will usually fight for dominance. This fighting doesn’t look especially harmful.
They may hiss at each other and shove each other. They may become very moody. Chances are that they won’t bite each other.
One snake, however, will become the dominant animal. In the wild, the other snake would leave, never to see the snake that beat him in the fight again.
The problem with having two ball pythons in the same enclosure is that one snake will live in constant tension about what the other snake may do next.
The loser of the fight for dominance may eventually give up on eating and starve.
Keeping two ball pythons in the same enclosure never saves money.
You don’t have to buy a second enclosure, but you can spend many times the cost of a cage on vet bills and on replacing a dead snake.
Frequently Asked Questions About Putting Two Ball Pythons in the Same Enclosure
Q. I want to breed ball pythons. Can I keep the hatchlings in the same cage?
A. It is possible to keep all of the hatchling ball pythons from a single clutch together in a single tank, but it is not a good idea.
In addition to the stress of living with a large number of other snakes, your hatchlings will be at extra risk of infectious disease.
Any condition that one of your hatchlings gets will quickly spread to others. If there is a parasitic infestation, you won’t be able to tell where it started.
Another reason to separate young ball pythons is to keep records of when they ate their first meal when they had their first shed, and what kinds of food you fed them.
Any buyer will want to know this information, and you have to keep your baby snakes separated to record it for them.
Q. How can I tell if two female ball pythons in the same cage have been fighting?
A, You probably will never see two female ball pythons fighting in their enclosure.
But one day you will notice that one of them is always in one hiding place and the other is always in the other.
(Even if you do put two ball pythons in one tank, each one must have its own hide.) If you weigh your pythons once a month, you may find one is gaining weight faster than the other.
Female pythons instinctually prepare themselves for laying eggs. They seek out perfect temperature and humidity.
They store up body fat because they won’t eat while their clutch is developing inside their bodies.
For the ball python, claiming the best hiding place and the most food is just a way of providing for its young.
The dominant snake will do everything it can to produce the healthiest baby snakes possible.
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