Spider ball pythons are like their predecessor, the traditional ball python, in many ways. They handle well, eat frequently, and have simple care requirements.
They even look similar to the regular ball python, though there are slight variations to the patterning. Otherwise, they grow to the same length and live just as long.
But the spider morph has one glaring distinction: a health condition called wobble, which can cause coordination issues that affect movement, eating, and striking.
|Common Name:||Spider Ball Python|
|Scientific Name:||Python regius|
|Natural Habitat:||Central & Western Africa|
|Adult Size:||3 – 6 Feet|
|Enclosure Size:||At Least 30 Gallons|
Spider ball pythons are docile snakes with wonderful temperaments and beautiful patterns. Their care requirements are fairly straightforward, but a health condition called wobble can complicate their care.
Interested owners should be aware that they’ll have to be more careful when feeding and handling spider morphs because of wobble.
They should also be prepared for a shortened lifespan (potentially far earlier than a healthy spider morph’s average 30 years) and health issues that could lead to euthanasia.
But for those willing to take a chance on this breed, spider ball pythons are rewarding reptiles that are otherwise no different than traditional ball pythons.
They aren’t picky eaters, grow to an easily-managed 3 – 6 feet, and take well to handling.
Spider ball pythons are a variation of the normal ball python.
These pythons have large brown and gold spots separated by thin black markings, which create a vague shape of a spider’s web. This is where the spider ball python gets its name from.
However, spider ball pythons have exhibited an increasing range of patterns and markings as they become more commonly bred and commercially available.
Crosses between traditional spider ball pythons (also known as lesser spider ball pythons) and other morphs have further widened the variety of morphs and color/ pattern variations. For example, two popular morphs are the albino spider ball python and banana spider ball python.
Like the original ball python, spiders have a long, broad body and narrow head.
They tend to grow between 3 – 6 feet long, although males rarely grow over 4 feet and females in captivity don’t often surpass 5 feet.
Price & Availability
Spider ball pythons are still commonly available and easy to find, either through a local store or online breeder.
However, their availability has decreased in recent years due to the controversy surrounding spider morphs and wobble.
Some breeders don’t believe it’s ethical to breed a snake that’s guaranteed to have health issues, while others maintain that spider morphs can still have a high quality of life despite wobble.
Spider ball pythons typically cost at least $200. Age, gender, and color patterns can affect this price and either drive it higher or lower.
For example, a hatchling spider morph will cost less than an adult, but a spider with particularly prominent markings will cost more.
Behavior & Temperament
Like most ball pythons, spider morphs are fairly docile and have a peaceful temperament. When socialized correctly, they take well to handling and will become less timid with age.
Spider ball pythons are most active during dawn, dusk, and night. But even then, they are not overly lively snakes.
They are not prone to defensive or aggressive behaviors unless provoked.
You’ll know your python is stressed when they curl up into a tight ball with their head tucked. This is a sure sign of distress.
If this happens, avoid handling them. Try to identify and remove the source of stress.
Keep your environment in mind when deciding where to place your python’s enclosure and where you handle them.
Spider ball pythons don’t like loud, hectic environments. This can easily stress them out, as could the presence of other animals (such as an excitable dog).
You should also be careful when handling your python because of wobble, which all spider morphs are affected by.
Wobble is a central nervous system disorder that causes corkscrewing (head twisting) and intermittent head swaying. Snakes with wobble may have difficulty tracking prey, striking correctly, and constricting.
Many different python morphs are affected by the wobble, but the spider ball python is particularly hard hit: all spider ball pythons have wobble, though the severity varies.
Wobble can cause spiders to move erratically or unpredictably. While this shouldn’t dissuade you from handling your python, you should make sure to exercise care.
Whereas you should maintain a looser grip on regular ball pythons and allow them to move freely, you may need to more firmly hold spider morphs.
Another precaution you can take is to only hold them when near furniture, such as when you’re sitting on a couch or standing over a table. This way, even if you accidentally drop them, they’re more protected and less likely to be hurt.
On average, spider ball pythons live up to 30 years. Providing your python with the proper enclosure, care, and diet directly contributes to their health and lifespan.
But wobble will also affect your snake’s lifespan and is unfortunately unpredictable. Snakes that show mild symptoms may develop more serious side effects later on in life.
Wobble can hamper your snake’s ability to eat and move. Depending on how severe their condition is, it may affect their quality of life so severely that euthanasia is the most humane option.
Besides potentially leading to an increase in symptom severity, age has no bearing on wobble. All spider morphs are affected by this condition, whether they’re hatchlings, juveniles, adults, or seniors.
Typically, the only spider morphs that make it to adulthood or senior age are those that have mild wobble symptoms their entire life.
Spider ball pythons can be kept in rack systems, terrariums, or tanks. If you’re using one of the two latter options, you’ll need an enclosure that’s at least 30 gallons.
The enclosure should have at least three inches of a non-abrasive substrate, such as cypress mulch. Sand isn’t recommended because of the risk of impaction but could be used if you create a separate feeding area with a different substrate.
Your python will also need at least three hides: two on the “hot” side and one on the “cool” side.
One of the two hides on the “hot” side should be a humidity hide, which helps with sheds. To create a humidity hide, make sure the hide is enclosed and filled with an absorbent material like sphagnum moss or washcloths.
Enrichment items are also appreciated, such as sandblasted driftwood for climbing or leaf litter.
Lastly, you’ll need a water dish or water feature. Your snake will use this water for drinking and soaking, so the dish or feature should be wide enough for your python to curl up in.
Some owners prefer waterfalls, since moving water is more tempting to ball pythons than stagnant water.
No matter which you use, make sure to refresh water daily and clean the bowl or feature weekly.
Likewise, you should spot clean the enclosure daily and do a deep clean at least once per month.
Temperature & Lighting
Whether you’re using a rack system or other type of enclosure, you’ll need to establish a heat gradient so that your python can regular their temperature.
The “hot” side of the tank should be around 82 degrees Fahrenheit, while the “cool” side should be around 78 degrees. If you add a basking spot, which is highly recommended, it should be around 88 – 92 degrees.
Heating bulbs, heat tape, and undertank (UT) heaters can help create this gradient.
Your python will benefit from an established circadian rhythm. This means that you should try to recreate a regular day-night cycle.
Daylight heating bulbs can maintain the temperature gradient while also providing light.
If you’re worried the basking spot isn’t warm enough, you can add a specific basking bulb to your regular daylight bulbs.
At night, you can turn off these bulbs and instead switch to ceramic heat emitters. These don’t put off any light but maintain the temperature gradient, efficiently mimicking the spider ball python’s natural habitat.
Tools like automatic light timers, like Zilla Digital Timer and digital thermostats can help regulate your snake’s enclosure and create a more stable environment.
Light timers maintain the circadian rhythm, while digital thermostats turn heating elements on and off as needed to maintain the temperature gradient.
Another crucial element of your python’s enclosure will be the humidity levels. Spider ball pythons need a humidity range of 40 – 60%.
Your home’s natural humidity levels will provide a baseline that you can build off. Your water bowl or feature will also provide a reliable source of humidity.
However, you may need to take additional steps to maintain the proper humidity levels. If this is the case, you can regularly spray the enclosure or install a misting system.
There are also automatic timers available that you can attach to your misting system.
If you add a misting system, try to isolate it to the “hot” side of the tank.
Damp conditions and cooler temperatures can lead to respiratory infections. Because of this, anything having to do with water (the water dish, humidity hide, misting system, etc.) should be kept close to heat sources.
The recommended diet for spider ball pythons is rodents, such as mice and rats.
Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed every 7 days (once per week), while adults can be fed every 7 – 10 days or every other week.
Both live and frozen (pre-killed) options are available. Though frozen food can be less appetizing for picky eaters, it’s safer for your snake since the prey can’t fight back or transmit diseases.
Since spider ball pythons are affected by wobble, it’s even more important for owners to exclusively feed them pre-killed and thawed prey.
This helps prevent eating-related issues caused by wobble, ensures the prey can’t hurt your snake and also is more humane for the prey.
Like most pythons, spider ball pythons are non-venomous constrictors. So they’re more likely to strike at and then curl around their prey, rather than outright biting it.
Even so, it’s important for you to use a feeding tool— never feed your python with bare hands.
Taking the proper safety precautions prevents unnecessary accidental injuries and future associations of your bare hands with food. Such associations can become problematic and potentially dangerous later on, such as during handling sessions.
Handling can also be stressful for your snake after feeding, so avoid holding them until at least 12 hours has passed.
Potential Health Issues
There are several health issues that all ball python owners should be aware of.
- Mites or Fleas
- Respiratory Infections
- Mouth Rot
- Shedding Problems
But spider ball python wobble is the most serious health hazard by far.
There is no cure for wobble. Owners can only take steps to mitigate the symptoms.
Depending on how severe the condition becomes, your python may eventually have to be humanely euthanized.
Because of this, there is currently a divide in the reptile community about the ethics of breeding spider ball pythons.
The International Herpetological Society takes the stance that it’s inhumane, and as such has banned spider morphs from its expos.
This debate is exacerbated by the fact that wobble can become lethal when spider morphs are bred with other specific morphs.
For example, offspring from sable and spider morphs have hatching difficulties and severe wobble, while breeding champagne and spider morphs is lethal and offspring cannot survive long after birth.
To produce more spider ball python morphs, either the male and female in the breeding pair will need to have a dominant mutated gene.
Ball pythons only need one copy of the mutant gene to become spider morphs, so you can breed a regular ball python and a spider ball python.
However, this doesn’t guarantee that all of the hatchlings in a clutch will be spider morphs. It only means that some of the hatchlings will be spider morphs.
Besides not being able to predict the number of spider morphs in a clutch, it’s also hard to produce specific morph appearances.
Spider morphs may look similar to regular ball pythons despite having the mutant gene, may display the traditional markings of a spider morph, or may show a nontraditional pattern.
In addition to not being able to predict the number of morphs or the appearance, breeders also can’t predict how severe the spider wobble will be.
Even in the same clutch, some hatchlings may have severe symptoms while their siblings have a more mild form of wobble.
Spider ball pythons are a complex breed— not because of their care requirements, but rather courtesy of their breeding.
These morphs are docile, handle well, and aren’t prone to aggressive behavior. Their easy eating habits and simple care requirements make them ideal for both beginners and seasoned keepers alike.
But their genetic health conditions can complicate care, which not all beginners may be ready for. And because of the unpredictability of the spider gene and the symptoms from wobble, owners take a risk when they buy or adopt this python morph.
All in all, the spider ball python is a wonderful snake that can bring a lifetime of joy. However, owners should be aware beforehand of the potential risks.