Living in northern climates can be tough on a reptile enthusiast who must maintain proper humidity levels for their animals. Generally, reptiles will seek different humidity levels at any point of their cycle. Increased humidity is always ideal near shedding time and during egg-laying times. Ball pythons normally will do well at around 50 – 60% humidity and should increase slightly during sheds. But as hobbyists, maintaining steady humidity is challenging. Living in Toronto, our summers can be quite humid, and snakes can slough their skin with minimal help. During winter, the air is dry because we heat our homes with furnaces and baseboard heaters. If we add a humidifier in the room during winter, our collection always needs assistance in the shedding process. Incomplete sheds are not the end of the world, but when a collection grows, we try and keep them to a minimum. Who wants to bathe a snake for hours and peel bits of skin off all day, right?
Maintaining proper humidity levels for our ball pythons depends on what type of enclosure you keep. Two of the most popular are aquariums and plastic tub rack systems. Keepers who house ball pythons in aquariums must seal the top at least by 90% with plastic to help trap humid air to help during sheds. Providing a humid hide is ideal in this scenario. Most ball python collectors will house their animals in a plastic tub, rack system. These systems are ideal in maintaining good humidity levels with proper ventilation. Improper ventilation can trap too much humidity and increase the risk of mold build-up. You can tweak each tub with a soldering iron and melt holes in the tubs for airflow.
We have tried everything in the past during snake sheds like daily misting, wetting the substrate, wet paper towels, moist rags, humidifiers. As our collection grew, we got sick of all this maintenance and sought a K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Smart-guy) solution.
At www.BallPythonAddiction.com we now use high Grade “A” Sphagnum Moss in our tubs during shedding. We use South American sphagnum as it is better than Canadian sphagnum. It absorbs moisture better, is of higher quality, and is gamma-ray sterilized. If we notice a snake is going in shed, we simply drop a small clump of moist, but not completely saturated sphagnum moss in the tub. This has made our husbandry chore easier and our snakes shed completely in one piece. If you place it near the heat source, it will humidify the air quicker. You can add or take away pieces of moss if you need to increase or decrease humidity too. When tub cleaning times, comes around, the sphagnum is organic and goes right into the composter.
Sphagnum moss is a great tool in other facets of herpetoculture. We use it as a sole medium in our egg laying boxes for our gravid female pythons also. The females make a nest and the eggs stay moist until we remove them. Sphagnum also makes a great bedding in humid hides for keepers who maintain their ball python in an aquarium or other display cage.
Remember, all this talk about increased humidity is all talk unless you positively know the humidity reading. You can find humidity reading devices at your local pet or hardware store. It is another asset for your ball python tool chest.