Ball pythons are naturally solitary animals that live alone most of their lives in the wild. All of their living habits and behaviors don’t involve another ball python besides when they are breeding.
Cohabitation is the state of living together whether it’s with the same species or a different one. It’s possible to cohabitate multiple ball pythons in specific situations, but ball python owners frown upon this action.
Ball pythons social habits in the wild
Ball pythons have the reputation of being solitary animals. We have come to this conclusion because they thrive that way in captivity.
In the wild, however, ball pythons are rarely stay in burrows together. Although this behavior could just be a sign of dominance or breeding, it proves that ball pythons aren’t entirely solitary.
One observer from a ball python care forum stated that a family kept ball pythons in a vivarium room with an open tank.
The ball pythons often chose to go to the tank to sleep even with multiple other resources in the vivarium.
From this, we can see that ball pythons don’t always have to be kept alone, but housing them together poses many risks.
When is it safe to cohabitate?
Ball pythons are naturally solitary in the wild, but there are certain situations when two ball pythons can be housed together.
These situations are very specific and should only be done with discretion because it is still a less safe option than housing ball pythons in their own individual enclosure.
Breeding ball pythons requires a male and female to be together(for obvious reasons), but even breeders know that keeping them together for long periods of time causes them stress.
One male and one female ball python can be housed together to breed as long as they are sexually mature and you separate them after a short period of time.
A female ball python is mature enough to breed when they are two years old(27-30 months) or 1200 grams. Males are mature enough to breed a little over a year old(16-18 months) or 700 grams.
At those ages and/or weights, 1 male and 1 female can be housed together for no longer than 2 days.
Ball pythons only need a few hours to copulate. They lock tails as the male’s hemipenes(sex organs) enter the female’s cloaca.
As long as their tails are locked you should leave the two ball pythons alone. Once you see them lock, separate them into their own housing as soon as they unlock.
According to animal welfare specialists, ball pythons can be housed together in a space larger than 24 square feet.
This type of enclosure should have multiple basking spots, hiding spots, climbing spaces, and a large water source to keep the ball pythons as stress-free as possible.
Even with this large setup, housing ball pythons together can cause issues such as stress or even cannibalism. These issues make it highly recommended to house them separately.
The idea of having a large enclosure is to allow the animals to live separately and only interact willingly for short periods of time to the extent that they “socialize.”
Ball pythons hatched in captivity are kept together in clutches usually in a container that helps hold humidity and warmth for the eggs.
The ball pythons that hatch don’t always hatch at the exact same time so they are usually together in this container until they’ve all come out of their respective eggs.
From my experience breeding ball pythons, hatchlings are best kept together until they have their first shed.
The close proximity of these ball pythons to each other in their first few weeks of life establishes confidence in them to venture out alone and get their first meal after that initial shed.
The confidence provides a better feeding response for these first-time eaters.
Dangers of housing ball pythons together
Although there are a few situations when it’s ok to house 2 ball pythons together there are plenty more reasons why they shouldn’t.
Housing female ball pythons together or male ball pythons to the point where they are forced to interact is dangerous for the animals.
Fighting for dominance
Housing male ball pythons together risks them fighting over dominance. This could be dominance over a female or space.
Ball pythons don’t fight to the death unless it’s from exhaustion. They will fight by pushing each other, usually at the neck, to see which one will prevail over the other.
Ball pythons aren’t known to eat other snakes especially their own species.
They will, however, come to this if hunger overpowers that instinct.
Cannibalism is very rare with ball pythons since they hardly interact with each other in the wild. However, housing ball pythons together, especially for long periods of time, forces them to interact so that chance increases immensely.
Ball pythons don’t have complex emotions like loneliness or love. Instead, their emotions fall on the spectrum of content and stress.
Ball pythons that are forced to interact with other ball pythons whether it’s males with males, females with females or both will get stressed.
Look for these signs that your ball python is stressed:
- behavior changes
- and appetite changes
For this reason, it’s best to avoid forcing any interaction between ball pythons and house them separately.
Housing ball pythons together won’t only cause harm including stress, cannibalism, and fighting. It can cause unwanted breeding.
Determining a ball pythons sex requires internal observations meaning you can’t tell their sex by their external features.
Housing multiple ball pythons without checking their sex can lead to unwanted breeding. Unless you are an experienced breeder, the chances of survival for those eggs from the mother’s incubation alone are very low.
Even if the eggs survive their 50-60 day incubation period, there are lots of resources needed to care for hatchling ball pythons.
Higher risk of spreading disease
Keeping ball pythons separate lets you control diseases much easier. With ball pythons housed separately, you are able to isolate any issues that those ball pythons may have.
Ball pythons that are housed together have a risk of spreading diseases to each other and it’s more difficult to tell where or how that disease started.
Can ball pythons live with other reptiles?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any other reptiles that ball pythons can live with symbiotically without causing the stresses and dangers mentioned in this article.
What snakes can live together?
There aren’t many snakes that can live together in one enclosure, but one species that has shown social behaviors that won’t cause harm is garter snakes.
Some colubrid species such as corn snakes can safely be housed together in small groups as long as the space is large enough.
How many can you keep together?
You can keep 1 male and 1 female ball python in an enclosure together for breeding purposes only. Other than that it is highly advised not to house any more than 1 ball python together in the same enclosure.
Housing ball pythons together is possible, but that doesn’t mean they should be.
Housing ball pythons together poses a lot more risks than keeping them in their own enclosure.
The only time it is reasonable to have more than 1 ball python in an enclosure at any time is when they are breeding or if they hatched in the same container.
Even though we’ve observed ball pythons being social, we still frown upon forcing ball pythons to interact.
Some risks of cohabitation include stress, cannibalism, and spreading diseases. It’s best practice to keep them separated to avoid any of these issues.