When it comes to pet snakes, ball pythons are one of the most popular, if not the most. But a common confusion among beginners is whether or not ball pythons need UVB in captivity. They are nocturnal creatures and don’t get much UVB in the wild. So, is there any need to provide UV light?
In short, ball pythons do not need UVB. However, many owners claim that they’ve noticed UVB improving their immune system and improving their health. But there is no concrete research on the benefits of providing UV rays to ball pythons.
But there isn’t really much harm to providing UV lights as well. So, if you are concerned about the growth and health of your ball python then you can install some UV lights inside your ball python tank setup.
Do Ball Pythons Need UVB?
Ball pythons are nocturnal creatures. That means most of their activity is during night time. In the wild though, ball pythons do have access to UVB from the sun.
A simple rule of thumb to follow for keeping your ball pythons healthy is knowing its natural habitat. As I have already mentioned that ball pythons are nocturnal creatures, it is ok to not provide UVB lighting.
So, in that sense, it is not necessary to have UVB lighting for your ball python. There is a caveat though. Many pet owners have seen positive changes in their snakes when there is a source of UVB lighting in the enclosure.
UVB lights help some reptiles with physiological functions. For example, UVB lights help with Vitamin D3 production which will help your snake to absorb calcium. This can be beneficial in every sense. UV light has shown to show psychological benefits as well.
Though theoretically these benefits are possible, there is no evidence that UVB helps snakes like ball pythons in any particular way.
What About Albino Ball Pythons?
Ball pythons come in various morphs. Albino is one of the most unique ones. Albino ball pythons are a bit different when it comes to handling UV rays. Albinism is known to cause the skin and eyes to be easily irritated. That is why I would not recommend any UVB or UVA light for albino ball pythons. They are better left off as is.
What you do need though is to give them a proper day and night cycle. Many people wonder if ball pythons need a day/night cycle. Since they are nocturnal a proper day and night cycle will be beneficial for them. Providing them with a day and night cycle keeps them from getting stressed.
Lights at night are not required and best avoided altogether. Many first-time snake owners would buy ‘red lights for lighting the enclosure during the night. These lights are often advertised as ‘nighttime lights and many people think snakes can’t see them. In reality, these lights are actually visible to snakes and ball pythons. As a result, they are not able to sleep properly.
A general rule of thumb, if you are providing your python with UVB/UVA lights, it is important to also give them somewhere to hide. You can use foliage in your terrarium as cover for your snakes. The snakes can then choose the amount of exposure it wants.
How to Safely Provide UVB Light for Ball Pythons?
Alright, so you have decided you will place a UVB light in your snake’s enclosure. Simply putting a light on top of the enclosure is not enough. There are certain things you need to take care of.
Here are the things you need to follow when providing a UVB light source for your ball python:
The distance of the light from the snake should always be around 12 inches away. This is to make sure it does not get too hot from the bulb. Thus, 12 inches is a good measure for safe lighting. You can also keep a 10-inch distance between the snake and the light at max. It should not be any closer than that.
- Light Maintenance
Light maintenance is another major point you need to take care of. UVB bulbs do not really last all that long. They might seem like they are working just fine, but UV is an invisible light to us. Your bulb may stop producing UV light while the other lights are still being produced. So, to you the bulb may seem the same as usual. This makes it difficult to judge just by visual cues alone.
To tackle this issue, I always tell snake owners to replace their UVB lights every six months or so. That is a general guideline. If the bulb you buy specifies that the UVB spectrum will last longer than six months, then you can replace it later on.
There are tests you can do to ensure your lights are properly emitting UVB. I will touch on that a bit later on in the article.
- Fluorescent vs Incandescent
Try to get your hands-on Fluorescent light bulbs. Incandescent mostly generate heat and are not that great of a UV light source. I like to keep my heat source and UV source separate for better control over each. And I’d recommend you do the same.
A shell of plastic, glass or Plexi-glass will filter out UV. So, it is better to buy a light keeping this in mind. I would recommend you go for the 5.0 T5 HO Reptisun. It’s a less intense type of UVB and should be enough for ball pythons.
- Place It Over the Basking Spot
If you are really looking to get UVB then make sure you attach them right above the basking spot on the ball python enclosure for the best results. This is a great way to mimic how they’d get heat and UVB in nature.
Follow these guidelines and keep the light at a safe distance from your snake and it should be all good. Also, as I mentioned before, it is not the best of ideas to keep the light on at night.
Testing UVB Lights
If you need to test any UVB light you have on hand, there is actually a pretty easy way to do it.
Make sure to turn off all the lights. This includes all heating light and full-spectrum lights. If the light surrounding the enclosure, or your room is bright, it is best to turn that off too. Only keep the UVB light on. If the UVB light you are testing is inside the enclosure, you do not need to take the light out of the enclosure.
Grab a piece of complete white paper. Office paper will work great in this case. Place it under the light.
Make sure to place it at a distance of 12 inches or 15 inches at max. Shine the light on the white paper. You need to make sure you see a purple or blue light reflecting from the paper.
If you see this, that means the UVB light is still working. If you just see white beams then that would indicate that the bulb is defective or has expired. You can then replace the light bulb or tube with a new one.
So, do ball pythons need UVB? UVB light is not a necessity. But there are some reports that the light helps the snake with physiological and psychological functions.
Many time new pet owners beat themselves up about this. They want to give their snakes the best care possible. If that is you, I hope now you know what to do regarding UV lights for your pet ball python.