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  1. #1
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    1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    I am relatively new to ball python husbandry (I've been caring for my friend's for about a year now, and finally decided to adopt my own). He is a ~400g male that just turned 1yr old and has been feeding live (currently weaned or rat pups since hatching). I've had him about a week and a half now and he hasn't been taking the f/t weaned rat that I am offering him.

    My situation is a little tricky. The only reptile store near me doesn't sell live weaned or pup rats, only frozen. After 2 attempts at feeding him, he completely ignores the frozen food and shows absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. I have tried waiting for him to come out of the hide, handling him before an attempt - to wake him up, dangling the rat in front of him, and leaving him alone with it.

    I am concerned with how long it might take him to accept a meal, and am wondering what an acceptable amount of time would be to persist trying to get him switched. I am also looking for any tips you may have for me.

  2. #2
    BPnet Senior Member Mr. Misha's Avatar
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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Hi and welcome.

    First of all, please post a photo of your enclosure and provide info regarding your setup, temps, and humidity, etc.

    If this is your 2nd week having him, there's no reason to try and feed him twice. It's stressful for a BP to change enviorments so give him time to adjust and don't handle until he's taken a few meals from you.

    In regards to feeding, don't handle him beforehand. You don't need to wake him up. That will only stress him out.

    Where was the previous owner getting the live weaned rats? Is that source accessible to you? Best advise would be to feed him what he's been eating last.

    How are defrosting and heating up the F/T prey? What I do is defrost at room temp for about 5-8 hours (im defrosting small and medium rats) in a ziplock bag. Once I'm ready to feed i get a tupperware and fill it up with hottest tap water and throw the ziploc in there for about 5 min. Then i feed right away before the rats cool down.

    Also, what time are you feeding? It's best to feed at night. I personally feed around 10pm.



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  4. #3
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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Misha View Post
    Hi and welcome.

    First of all, please post a photo of your enclosure and provide info regarding your setup, temps, and humidity, etc.

    If this is your 2nd week having him, there's no reason to try and feed him twice. It's stressful for a BP to change enviorments so give him time to adjust and don't handle until he's taken a few meals from you.

    In regards to feeding, don't handle him beforehand. You don't need to wake him up. That will only stress him out.

    Where was the previous owner getting the live weaned rats? Is that source accessible to you? Best advise would be to feed him what he's been eating last.

    How are defrosting and heating up the F/T prey? What I do is defrost at room temp for about 5-8 hours (im defrosting small and medium rats) in a ziplock bag. Once I'm ready to feed i get a tupperware and fill it up with hottest tap water and throw the ziploc in there for about 5 min. Then i feed right away before the rats cool down.

    Also, what time are you feeding? It's best to feed at night. I personally feed around 10pm.



    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
    Here is a picture of his current setup: https://imgur.com/a/cR7qzHD

    I have his thermostat set to 93 degrees F on the heat mat (source of heat as the lamp is an LED desklamp for now). I'm seeing low- to mid- 80 degrees F in his warm hide (IR Thermometer taken on top of substrate), ~75 degrees F on the cool side, ambient air temps are at 75 F, humidity averages 60%. He has natural light entering through some windows in the room.

    I believe the previous owner/hobbyist breeder either raised his own rats or got them from around where he lives (1.5+ hrs away) so it would be quite difficult to make that happen.

    I feed him after 11pm usually and I defrost by adding the frozen rat to a ziplock bag and letting it soak in warm/hot tap water for 30 mins total, refreshing the water with warm again once it cools. I then feed right after at which point the rat has cooled to be warm but not hot, though I do not have a precise temp I can provide.

    I will leave him alone to let him adjust as per your recommendation, though he's exhibiting quite normal behavior from what I can tell. How long do you think it will take for him to adjust and I should try feeding him again? How long is too long to persist before taking another approach?

  5. #4
    BPnet Senior Member Mr. Misha's Avatar
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    I'm seeing a few issues with your setup but nothing that can't be fixed:

    The issue with just having a heat mat as your only source of heat is that it doesn't do anything for ambient temperature. That means that your temp is whatever the temperature of your room. Depending where you are in the country you might not have an issue during the day, but even here in Southern California where the days are pretty warm (80-100 degrees), my office/snake room falls to 70 degrees during the Summer and much much cooler during Fall/Winter. I'd suggest providing something to provide ambient heat like a Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE), which will also need it's own thermostat. When you add the secondary heat source, your humidity will drop, but that's not as important as heat. You can always either mist the enclosure or add damp moss when you observe your BP going into shed.

    Regarding his enclosure, it's a little bare. I would add some fake plants so your BP can "hide" and block off the sides and back with some sort of dark paper or material to provide additional comfort. BPs love to feel safe. So the more clutter and security you provide, the happier your BP will be.

    I would also add some sort of thermometer in the enclosure. You can either go with the Accurite brand that's available anywhere, and there's also Vivarium Electronics if you're looking for one with a probe. Walmart link stolen from Craiga, thank you!
    https://www.reptilebasics.com/thermometers/TH-100/
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/AcuRite-0...kaAkdMEALw_wcB

    There are more expensive options like Hygroset or other brands that people use for cigar humidors that do well with high humidity and are very accurate but they're not necessary.

    Regarding defrosting, try to defrost with ambient temp for a few hours before feeding in the room where he is. Then warm up the prey in the zip lock bag with hottest tap water you can find for a few minutes and offer right away.

    After making the changes (especially the secondary heating source) I'd give it about a week before offering. I also suggest getting a scale to monitor weight, which is the most important indicator. That will tell you if your BP is losing weight rapidly or not. If he's not, then it's not too much of an issue. One of my larger girls (2k grams) goes off feed for about 4-7 months during breeding season. I monitor her weight and offer on a monthly basis.
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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Misha View Post
    I'm seeing a few issues with your setup but nothing that can't be fixed:

    The issue with just having a heat mat as your only source of heat is that it doesn't do anything for ambient temperature. That means that your temp is whatever the temperature of your room. Depending where you are in the country you might not have an issue during the day, but even here in Southern California where the days are pretty warm (80-100 degrees), my office/snake room falls to 70 degrees during the Summer and much much cooler during Fall/Winter. I'd suggest providing something to provide ambient heat like a Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE), which will also need it's own thermostat. When you add the secondary heat source, your humidity will drop, but that's not as important as heat. You can always either mist the enclosure or add damp moss when you observe your BP going into shed.

    Regarding his enclosure, it's a little bare. I would add some fake plants so your BP can "hide" and block off the sides and back with some sort of dark paper or material to provide additional comfort. BPs love to feel safe. So the more clutter and security you provide, the happier your BP will be.

    I would also add some sort of thermometer in the enclosure. You can either go with the Accurite brand that's available anywhere, and there's also Vivarium Electronics if you're looking for one with a probe. Walmart link stolen from Craiga, thank you!
    https://www.reptilebasics.com/thermometers/TH-100/
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/AcuRite-0...kaAkdMEALw_wcB

    There are more expensive options like Hygroset or other brands that people use for cigar humidors that do well with high humidity and are very accurate but they're not necessary.

    Regarding defrosting, try to defrost with ambient temp for a few hours before feeding in the room where he is. Then warm up the prey in the zip lock bag with hottest tap water you can find for a few minutes and offer right away.

    After making the changes (especially the secondary heating source) I'd give it about a week before offering. I also suggest getting a scale to monitor weight, which is the most important indicator. That will tell you if your BP is losing weight rapidly or not. If he's not, then it's not too much of an issue. One of my larger girls (2k grams) goes off feed for about 4-7 months during breeding season. I monitor her weight and offer on a monthly basis.
    Awesome! Thanks for your help. I will employ these changes as soon as I can. I have already cluttered up the enclosure and put some dark paper around the back and sides to make it feel more secure. I have a thermometer, though it is out of he shot here - I should probably lower that to a more relevant height for him. I'll scout out a secondary heat source for the ambient temps as soon as I can.

    Again, thank you for your help. I'll keep this thread updated as I go.

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    BPnet Senior Member Mr. Misha's Avatar
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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Quote Originally Posted by DJKFOUR View Post
    I'll keep this thread updated as I go.
    Definitely keep us updated on the progress.
    Last edited by Mr. Misha; 09-02-2020 at 06:35 PM.
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  10. #7
    BPnet Senior Member dakski's Avatar
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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Once the husbandry is fixed, I would make sure you are defrosting and offering F/T prey appropriately and not "cooking it" and/or letting it get cool before offering.

    See below for a list of to properly defrost F/T prey and offer.

    Make sure you offering the same size rodent or even a little smaller. So maybe a rat pup or a small weaned F/T rat to start.

    In my experience, my female BP (Shayna), who is now 1,800G+ and 8 years old does better with slightly smaller meals than larger ones. It keeps her hunting. Less of an issue with a younger BP, but they can fast if given too large a meal, especially if eating f/t. Feeding Shayna a 60-80G small rat versos a medium rat every two weeks means that in the summer she rarely misses a meal and lunges out of her hide to nail the F/T prey.

    Keep us posted. You should be able to make the switch if husbandry is correct, you feed at night, and you follow the instructions below.

    Feel free to ask for clarification or any other questions that come to mind.



    This is my step by step list on defrosting F/T rodents.

    Others may do it differently and that's fine. This how I do it and it works for me.


    STEPS FOR DEFROSTING F/T RODENTS/PREY

    1. Put prey item(s) into appropriate size plastic bag . I use Quart size ziplock bags up to a medium rat. NOTE: Bags are optional. Some people just throw the prey in the water. I like the bags, but you have to squeeze the air out of them.

    2. Fill the container/storage box 3/4 of the way with room temp to slightly warm water. If you have a temp gun (which you should, so if you don't, get one), make sure the water is not hotter than 85-90F, or there about.

    3. Put F/T prey item(s) in water. Cover (optional) and leave for an hour +/-.

    4. After an hour, rotate/flip prey. If in plastic bags, they often will stay on whatever side you put them in on. So if mouse is on left side, turn to right side, etc.

    5. Leave for another hour +/- for a TOTAL of about 2 hours (up to medium sized rat - longer if bigger prey).

    6. Check that prey is defrosted totally through. Squeeze at different sections of the preys body. Should be cool/room temp to touch, but be soft with no cold spots. If hard (except for bone), in abdomen, for example, or cold, put back in water until room temp and soft.

    7. Take prey out of the container/storage box and put aside. THEN FOLLOW STEPS 8-11 OR STEP 12

    8. Fill container with hot water from tap. If using temp gun, water temp should be 110-130F, not more.

    9. Drop prey item into water for 30 seconds +/-. If multiple prey items, do one at a time. You want each item hot when you offer.

    10. Remove (if hot water, with tongs).

    11. Dry as best as you can, and is quickly as you can, with paper towels. I dry with paper towels while I am walking from the bathroom where I defrost to the snake tanks. I kind of wrap the prey item up in them. It's ten feet, so by the time I get to the tanks, the prey is drier, but still warm.

    12. If not using hot water, use a hairdryer to heat rat so it entices snake

    13. Open tank and offer ASAP - wiggle the prey a little on the tongs but do not get in the snakes face with it, especially BP's, as they can be shy.
    Last edited by dakski; 09-02-2020 at 11:11 PM.

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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    UPDATE!

    Thank you all for your help and feedback. It has now been a week since my last attempt at feeding, so tonight I had another try.

    While he did not take the weaned rat, he did seem a little interested in it. He came up to it at times to explore instead of ignoring or hiding away, and at times got into a strike pose but didn't act further.

    I thawed in the way that I had previously (sorry to Mr. Misha, I'm not exactly comfortable leaving the dead prey item out for more than about an hour in ambient temps). dakski I just saw your response so I will try making the adjustments, namely a slower defrost instead of risking cooking it with many short bursts of hot water. I hope this is in line with Mr. Misha's idea of a slower defrost. I appreciate the exact temperatures you use, those will serve as a great guide.

    Here is what I have tried since last time:
    1) Cluttered up his enclosure as seen here: https://imgur.com/a/U98hcYf . This image also provides a reference to his size (at least his head) compared to the prey item. Black paper has been added around back and sides.
    2) Feeding technique. I tried a more appropriate mouse impersonation than I had to with the other BP that I had cared for in the past.
    3) Feeding in lower light and hidden behind the paper as he can freeze up when he sees me at times.
    4) A week with minimal handling (No more than once to weigh him a few days ago).

    I have not bought a CHE quite yet as I wanted to give some other steps a shot before rushing out to spend roughly $100 CAD (for new).

    On his first weighing (Sept 5th) he weighed 545g with my newly acquired kitchen scale, and tonight (Sept 8th) he measured 537g. To me that seems like a pretty decent (worrisome) drop. That's 8g in 3 days. Now part of this could be scale error as it was a cheap scale, but I'm not going to pass that off as an excuse.

    I am getting pretty worried about him (that's just my character), but I have just been notified of another pet/reptile store in the "area" that I had no clue about before. I'm going to look into what they have in terms of live prey to see if I can get my hands on a live pup or weaned rat to keep his weight up.

    My further questions for the community are:
    1) Is this weight drop something I should be worried about at all or is this rate normal given the circumstances?
    2) Any other suggestions for the time being? I'm going to look further into heating now that he has rejected his latest meal.
    3) Do you think that he would have settled down by this point? Is the new environment still a relevant concern? (I will continue to refrain from handling him until he eats)

    Once again, thank you all so much for your continued help and support.

  13. #9
    BPnet Senior Member dakski's Avatar
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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Quote Originally Posted by DJKFOUR View Post
    UPDATE!

    Thank you all for your help and feedback. It has now been a week since my last attempt at feeding, so tonight I had another try.

    While he did not take the weaned rat, he did seem a little interested in it. He came up to it at times to explore instead of ignoring or hiding away, and at times got into a strike pose but didn't act further.

    I thawed in the way that I had previously (sorry to Mr. Misha, I'm not exactly comfortable leaving the dead prey item out for more than about an hour in ambient temps). dakski I just saw your response so I will try making the adjustments, namely a slower defrost instead of risking cooking it with many short bursts of hot water. I hope this is in line with Mr. Misha's idea of a slower defrost. I appreciate the exact temperatures you use, those will serve as a great guide.

    Here is what I have tried since last time:
    1) Cluttered up his enclosure as seen here: https://imgur.com/a/U98hcYf . This image also provides a reference to his size (at least his head) compared to the prey item. Black paper has been added around back and sides.
    2) Feeding technique. I tried a more appropriate mouse impersonation than I had to with the other BP that I had cared for in the past.
    3) Feeding in lower light and hidden behind the paper as he can freeze up when he sees me at times.
    4) A week with minimal handling (No more than once to weigh him a few days ago).

    I have not bought a CHE quite yet as I wanted to give some other steps a shot before rushing out to spend roughly $100 CAD (for new).

    On his first weighing (Sept 5th) he weighed 545g with my newly acquired kitchen scale, and tonight (Sept 8th) he measured 537g. To me that seems like a pretty decent (worrisome) drop. That's 8g in 3 days. Now part of this could be scale error as it was a cheap scale, but I'm not going to pass that off as an excuse.

    I am getting pretty worried about him (that's just my character), but I have just been notified of another pet/reptile store in the "area" that I had no clue about before. I'm going to look into what they have in terms of live prey to see if I can get my hands on a live pup or weaned rat to keep his weight up.

    My further questions for the community are:
    1) Is this weight drop something I should be worried about at all or is this rate normal given the circumstances?

    That is a small weight loss, if at all, and is probably water weight. It's less than 1.5%, or within scale error as well.

    2) Any other suggestions for the time being? I'm going to look further into heating now that he has rejected his latest meal.

    Follow the defrosting and offering techniques I offered to a "T."

    3) Do you think that he would have settled down by this point? Is the new environment still a relevant concern? (I will continue to refrain from handling him until he eats)

    Every time you change his environment, especially when he is not eating, you start from day zero again. If he's unsettled and you move things around, he's still going to be unsettled.


    Once again, thank you all so much for your continued help and support.
    See my above responses in BLUE.

    You say you are worried, but too much worrying and not enough leaving him alone, and not following good advice, could get you in trouble.

    Best advice I can give is if you've made changes to his enclosure, and temps and humidity are dialed in (which I am unsure if they are from your post), leave him alone and offer food as discussed in a week, not sooner. At his weight, he is okay for a little bit assuming he's not incredibly thin for his body size, which he doesn't look from what I can see in the picture.

    If you want to offer live, that's your prerogative, but you will have to offer live for a while probably, if not his whole life.

    If you want him to eat F/T:

    Wait a week, offer as discussed, and let us know if he takes it. NO WEIGHING, NO HANDLING, ETC.

    I would also put cardboard or paper around his tank on at least the back and sides so he can feel more secure.

    I too tend to be meticulous with certain aspects of keeping and I got a lot of that from keeping and breeding cichlids (fish).

    However, as I mentioned earlier, too much fussing around doesn't help anyone, especially your boy. I've learned that with reptiles, once everything is dialed in from a husbandry standpoint, the less we mess with them the better until they are well established. From what I see of his size, knowing his weight, and now knowing your propensity to worry, he will probably be fine. He's not a hatchling.

    I cannot stress enough getting the husbandry correct as priority number one (88-89F hot side, 80-84F ambient/middle temps, and 78-80F cool side). If you need a CHE to get those temps, do it, as that will only help the situation. Keep in mind you might need an occasional mist and/or a bigger water bowl if you add a CHE as they can dry things out. Probably worth covering the top with tin foil either way (I assume it's screen).

    Anyway, I am not trying to give you a hard time. You seem to want what's best for your boy, but I think relaxing for a bit and letting him settle, then offering F/T prey properly, and you will have success.

    Once he eats 3 meals you can start gentle handling with him, but make sure he eats 3 meals first. You can only take him out to clean his tank and then you should put him somewhere safe while you do it and not hold him.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

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    Re: 1yr old ball python tricky transition to f/t food. Need advice/information

    Quote Originally Posted by dakski View Post
    See my above responses in BLUE.

    You say you are worried, but too much worrying and not enough leaving him alone, and not following good advice, could get you in trouble.

    Best advice I can give is if you've made changes to his enclosure, and temps and humidity are dialed in (which I am unsure if they are from your post), leave him alone and offer food as discussed in a week, not sooner. At his weight, he is okay for a little bit assuming he's not incredibly thin for his body size, which he doesn't look from what I can see in the picture.

    If you want to offer live, that's your prerogative, but you will have to offer live for a while probably, if not his whole life.

    If you want him to eat F/T:

    Wait a week, offer as discussed, and let us know if he takes it. NO WEIGHING, NO HANDLING, ETC.

    I would also put cardboard or paper around his tank on at least the back and sides so he can feel more secure.

    I too tend to be meticulous with certain aspects of keeping and I got a lot of that from keeping and breeding cichlids (fish).

    However, as I mentioned earlier, too much fussing around doesn't help anyone, especially your boy. I've learned that with reptiles, once everything is dialed in from a husbandry standpoint, the less we mess with them the better until they are well established. From what I see of his size, knowing his weight, and now knowing your propensity to worry, he will probably be fine. He's not a hatchling.

    I cannot stress enough getting the husbandry correct as priority number one (88-89F hot side, 80-84F ambient/middle temps, and 78-80F cool side). If you need a CHE to get those temps, do it, as that will only help the situation. Keep in mind you might need an occasional mist and/or a bigger water bowl if you add a CHE as they can dry things out. Probably worth covering the top with tin foil either way (I assume it's screen).

    Anyway, I am not trying to give you a hard time. You seem to want what's best for your boy, but I think relaxing for a bit and letting him settle, then offering F/T prey properly, and you will have success.

    Once he eats 3 meals you can start gentle handling with him, but make sure he eats 3 meals first. You can only take him out to clean his tank and then you should put him somewhere safe while you do it and not hold him.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

    Okay, lots of great information here! Super thankful for all of this.

    I will not handle him going forward until he eats 3 meals unless cleaning is necessary but not before a first meal? Am I reading that right? He is coming up on 3 weeks without a deep cleaning.

    I will continue to feed F/T following your thawing directions as closely as I can humanly manage. He has paper around his tank, though the tinfoil is a great idea.

    I have a couple questions about installing a CHE:

    I am thinking a 100w bulb should be enough to support a ~10 degree F difference in the 20 gallon tank he is in. Is my thinking correct? I plan on pairing that with a thermostat.

    I'm concerned with the fact that he really enjoys pressing himself up against the screen at night, potentially getting close to the CHE or the resulting hot metal screen. Is a hanging apparatus an effective-enough solution?

    Additionally, is a wide dome or a deep dome preferable for this situation? My search for answers hasn't provided much useful information. I can't find a shallow-dome reflector with a proper hook for sale, only deep.

    Finally, would the inclusion of tin foil go between the screen and the CHE or would I cut a hole for the heater?


    Once again, and I can't state this enough, I am extremely thankful for all your help. I appreciate your patience with my many many questions and newbie responses.

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