There is a huge debate on the internet over the subject of UVB for ball pythons. While some writers and breeders are of the opinion that it is completely needless, others consider it beneficial to captive ball pythons.
As a result of this controversy, many breeders see the provision of UVB for captive ball pythons as a matter of choice and not necessity. Some still don’t understand what UVB is and why reptiles need it.
Another section of breeders neglect the provision of UVB for their pet ball pythons out of ignorance. Perhaps you’re at that point in your care for your pet snake now.
Whatever geared your decision of what to provide for your pet, it should be borne out of in-depth knowledge of the subject and not ignorance.
Although ball pythons may not need UVB to survive in captivity, scientifically, UVB has been proven to enhance their immune system.
That said, this article will take you through all you need to know about providing UVB for ball pythons. Do ball pythons need UVB lighting? If yes, why? If no, why? Let’s find out together.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Gospel. Read more about our knowledge control process here.
What Is UVB And Why Do Reptiles Need It?
UVB is that spectrum of light that extends from 280 to 320 nanometers which is not visible to the human eyes. It is UVB that aids the production of vitamin D3 in the body.
Basically, reptiles need UVB to synthesize vitamin D3. Thus, the question should be, do ball pythons need vitamin D3? If they do, in what quantity?
So far, several studies have shown that the amount of UVB needed by a reptile is dependent on how much of it the animal gets in the wild. In that case, the amount needed will vary with individual animals.
In a nutshell, the more crepuscular (nocturnal) an animal is, the more transparent its skin to absorb UVB. This means that ball pythons and other reptiles that don’t get exposed to much UVB in the wild will have optimized UVB penetration even from very low UVB levels to ensure vitamin D3 production.
The bottom line here is, ball pythons don’t need too much lighting in their enclosure. The ambient room light coming from the window or elsewhere to their cage is enough for them. Anything too bright will stress them out.
Do Ball Pythons Need UVB?
UVB is not a necessity for ball pythons’ survival or well-being. But can you provide them UVB? Yes, because UVB is proven beneficial to ball pythons in other ways such as increased activity level and coloration. Ball pythons need UVB even though in a very small quantity, to synthesize (produce) vitamin D3 in the skin.
In the wild, ball pythons do have the opportunity to get some UVB when they expose their skin to daylight (note, it’s not sunlight). They don’t just stay all day in hiding as it is believed. Even in the hides, some amount of daylight still does get to them.
Any reptile in the wild that exposes any part of its body to the direct rays of sunlight or even daylight which is not directly under the sun, is exposing its skin to at least some amount of UVB.
Snakes that are active during the day will be seen openly basking in direct sunlight. Some other species prefer to bask in areas where plants have shade off some sunlight. The nocturnal species like ball pythons do come out of the hides during the day to expose their skin to daylight even if it is just for a few minutes.
Aside from getting UVB from daylight, ball pythons being vertebrate-eating snakes do get the needed amount of vitamin D3 from their diet. Their diet of eating whole rodents is rich in all the nutrients that they need.
Because of this, they get vitamin D3 in a sufficient amount from the liver of their prey. Since ball pythons need vitamin D3, whatever way you can adopt to provide that for them should be your primary concern.
If their diet is rich in all nutrients, additional UVB may not be needed. However, if you’re not sure of the quality of their feeder prey, then it’s best to provide some amount of UVB. The natural lighting in the room where their cage is located is also enough UVB source for ball pythons.
Understanding Why Ball Pythons Don’t Need UVB
To say that ball pythons do not need UVB is not wrong. This is because, in the wild, they are not exposed to the sun as much as other species of snakes. Source:
Fully understanding your ball python will help you better take care of them. As a suggestion, we would recommend you to get a good ball python book. Not to become an expert on ball python care but will help you avoid the common mistake in new pet snake owners.
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Besides, since the essence of UVB is to help produce vitamin D3 in the skin, they already get this vitamin from their food.
Do All Pet Pythons Don’t Need UVB?
About 40 snakes are classified to belong to the python genus. Almost all these snakes in the python genus are nocturnal animals. They are rarely seen exposing their skin to direct sunlight in the wild.
Thus, in captivity, they’ll not need UVB lights in their enclosure. The natural light in the room is sufficient for them to stay healthy.
However, for the occasional baskers (that is, snakes that sometimes expose their skin to daylight or bask under shaded areas), using a low-power UVB fluorescent bulb as your source of light will replicate their natural habitat.
Do Ball Pythons Need Lighting?
Yes, ball pythons need lighting. The intensity of the light is very minimal. Even without lighting, ball pythons can still survive. Ball pythons are nocturnal animals. Their enclosure is best kept dark.
Even with this, they still need to be given some amount of lighting. This lighting can come from a natural source such as keeping their enclosure near the window.
If you should consider providing your pet a UVB light bulb, it should be installed on the warm side of the enclosure to stimulate basking. In a nutshell, they don’t need lighting as much as they need heating, hides, and water.
Lighting For Your Ball Python The Correct Way
Although the provision of UVB is perceived unnecessary for ball pythons, a study by Frances M. Baines published in Zoo and Aquarium Research indicated some benefits for ball pythons.
From this study, it was found that UVB lighting has the potential to enhance the snake’s activity level and coloration. But without UVB light, they’re still very fine and healthy.
If you still consider providing them UVB perhaps to increase their activity levels or coloration, ensure that the UVB bulb is installed 10-12 inches away from the snake. Also, ensure that the UVB light bulbs emit mild UVB and not very powerful UVB emissions.
That said, the T8 (1’’ diameter) fluorescent tubes such as Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0, the Arcadia D3 6%UVB, and the Arcadia Natural Sunlight 2%UVB are sufficient UVB sources for captive ball pythons. With these lights, your ball python wouldn’t be stressed.
Ball pythons are nocturnal snakes. Hence, supplemental light beyond that which illuminates their cage is unnecessary. It is important to note that ball pythons needing UVB and UVB lighting aren’t the same.
Ball pythons like every other reptile need some amount of UVB to synthesize vitamin D3. But do they need UVB lighting? This will depend if they don’t get the required UVB or vitamin D3 from other sources.
As stated earlier, the natural lighting coming through a window to their cage is enough UVB source for ball pythons. Ball pythons don’t need both UVB and vitamin D3 in large quantities.
A small amount of Vitamin D3 is enough for their health. Aside from the natural way of producing vitamin D3 with the aid of UVB, ball pythons can get this in their diet.
However, when the quality of their diet is questionable, and a natural light isn’t getting to their enclosure; then a UVB Light May be considered a supplement. Other than this, what they get from their food is enough to keep them healthy.
Even at that, providing your pet ball python high-intensity UVB bulbs such as a powerful 300watt Osram UltraVitalux is not just unnecessary but a waste. Such lambs will be needed for full sun baskers and not nocturnal species like ball pythons.