The ball python (Python regius) comes in a great number of morphs. Some of these cause the snake to have smaller scales or even be missing over part or all of the body.
This care sheet will go over the special care these snakes can require. While they are not quite as sensitive as the scaleless bearded dragons, they still have some concerns.
- About the Scaleless Morph
- Scaleless Python Regius Health Concerns and Special Care
- Common Issues
About the Scaleless Morph
Scaleless ball pythons are as the name describes. You can find morphs with microscales, ones missing the scales only on the top of the head, and ones that are missing all scales.
We will be going over the results of the co-dominant gene known as scaleless head. With one copy, a snake will only be missing scales on the head. If the snake has two copies, it will be missing all of its scales.
Scaleless Python Regius Health Concerns and Special Care
The long-term health of the fully scaleless ball pythons is up for debate. Snakes that are only missing the scales on the top of the head seem to live very normal lives.
You just need to give extra attention to problems like nose rubbing since they don’t have the scales to protect their skin. If the snake rubs against a sharp part of the enclosure, it could be cut.
Scaleless head snakes still typically retain important structures like most of their facial scales, the scales that cover the eyeball, and their ventral scales that allow them to move and climb.
This is not always the case in scaleless snakes. Fully scaleless ball pythons can be missing their ventral scales. This means they may have trouble moving and climbing.
Besides ball python morphs, the other common species that have known scaleless animals are corn snakes and Texas rat snakes.
These snakes retain their belly scales so they can live to adulthood in the wild.
Fully scaleless ball pythons will have trouble moving and they also lack the scales that protect them from injury and UV damage.
Scales in reptiles help protect the snake from the sun and from abrasions. It also guards them against bites from their prey.
Completely scaleless ball pythons will need special consideration when it comes to prey, housing, and substrate. They must be fed only prey that can not hurt them.
This means either frozen-thawed, pre-killed, or multiple smaller prey items. You will also need to check your enclosure, decorations, and substrate thoroughly to keep the snake from being injured.
Reptichip is one of the best substrates for ball pythons, but it can injure scaleless snakes since it is a bit abrasive.
You need something softer like aspen or paper towels for these snakes. Decorations need to be soft or checked for hard edges that can cut your snake.
You will need to watch these snakes closely for scratches, abrasions, and more.
Completely scaleless pythons can be prone to infections from open wounds. It may be a good idea to clean more frequently to try to help prevent infections. If your scaleless ball python has a cut and it crawls through its feces, it could get an infection.
They also have trouble shedding. Most breeders note that they frequently have sheds that get stuck about a third of the way down the body.
This is the case even if you keep the humidity at the right level. The issue seems to be that without the scales, the skin rolls up and gets stuck since it can’t expand any further.
You will need to help the snake finish shedding by carefully cutting through the rigid rolled area of the skin and helping the rest of the skin off.
Some breeders also recommend rubbing creams on the snake to help keep its skin moisturized. You will need to find one that is safe for reptiles.
Some lines seem to lack the labial pits. While the snakes do still seem to be able to sense heat, there is a concern that animals without the pits may have some trouble getting an accurate sense.
Ball pythons use their labial pits and their ability to sense heat to combine with information from their vision. This helps them determine where their prey is.
This may make some snakes pickier feeders, but it is still hard to say given how few of these snakes are in existence at the time of writing.
Ball pythons are notoriously picky eaters so it can be hard to tell what is related to being scaleless and what is just a normal level of pickiness.
There is a real concern over whether this morph is cruel to the snake. Since they may have trouble getting around or sensing things like a normal ball python, you should seriously consider the welfare of the snake.
This morph was only discovered recently, so the first snakes have just reached adulthood. It is hard to say what their long-term health is like and if it affects the lifespan of the animal.
At the time of writing, scaleless ball pythons are not common on the market. Ball pythons that are fully scaleless will go for over $2000 in the pet trade.
Snakes that have extra genes like pied or are older will go for much more. A pied completely scaleless animal will be around $10000.
This morph is currently out of the price range of most hobbyists and pet owners. This may change as more snakes are bred.
If two scaleless head snakes are bred, they have a 25% chance of producing a super or fully scaleless snake.
Fully scaleless snakes will produce only scaleless head snakes. This makes them more valuable ball python morphs to breeders, so they are not cheap. Over time, this price will likely drop as more snakes are born.
Most of the housing will stay the same for a scaleless snake as a normal ball python enclosure setup. They may have trouble climbing, but you should still offer the opportunity.
You will also need to keep in mind that the snake will be more sensitive. Any decorations should be mostly smooth.
You should feel for any sharp edges and sand them down. If it can scratch you, it will scratch your snake.
You will need to offer plenty of space for exercise, a secure lock, and plenty of room for heating. Keep ventilation in mind as well.
Enclosure for Baby and Juvenile Scaleless Ball Pythons
Baby scaleless ball pythons need space for hides, lots of ventilation, and secure locks. Since ball pythons hatch at a length of about 12 inches, you need an enclosure that is longer than this so it can last for a long time.
Exo Terra Short Terrarium (28x18x12)
- Front access will stress your juvenile snake a lot less than enclosures opening from the top
- Completely escape-proof
- Well designed ventilation
- Convenient inlets for heating cables, without any visible wires.
This is a great option that should last until your snake is ready for an adult enclosure.
It offers depth for substrate, space for under-tank heating, and it has secure locks to make sure your snake cannot sneak out.
Enclosure Setup for an Adult Scaleless Ball Python
An adult ball python will be between 4 and 6 feet long. You need a minimum of 48 inches in length and 18 inches in width or your snake may feel cramped.
You need space for two hides minimum, a big water dish, and decorations for enrichment like branches and greenery.
It also needs to be secure since ball pythons are strong enough to break out if they can find a weak point.
Repti Zoo 36x18x18″ Glass Terrarium
- Front doors can open separately, easy to feed your pet and prevent escape
- Window ventilation on left and right, on top and right have closable inlets for wires and tubing
- Easy to install & knock down for transportation
This is a good minimum tank. If your snake is longer, don’t be afraid to get a longer enclosure. If you notice your snake loves to climb, try to aim for a taller enclosure.
With scaleless ball pythons, you need a very soft substrate to protect their sensitive skin.
Aspen can work, but it is prone to molding in higher humidity. Reptisoil or similar reptile-safe soft substrates could help. If you can, try to feel any potential substrate before you buy.
ZooMed Aspen Snake Bedding
- Easy to clean with a scooper and replace
- No dust to cause respiratory problems
- Snakes enjoy burrowing in it
- Ecological product
If it feels even a bit rough, it could harm your snake. Paper towels work well, but they do not allow normal burrowing behavior. Use them if your snake won’t tolerate other substrates, but keep an eye out for anything safe. Never use cedar or pine since both are toxic to reptiles.
Scaleless ball pythons can be a bit more sensitive to temperature than ball pythons with scales. You will want a temperature of around 88 degrees on the hot side and no less than 76 degrees on the cool side.
Since these snakes are so sensitive, watch your snake and see where it spends its time. If it is always on the hot side, raise the temperature. If it is hiding in the cool, it is too hot. A heat mat plugged into a thermostat is the best way to offer heat to these snakes.
Tikaton Reptile Heat Pad
- Only uses 8 Watts of electricity to operate
- Power adjustable so you can use it in 10 up to 50 gallons enclosure.
- Zero risk of burning your snake
You can use a ceramic heat lamp if you are having trouble keeping the enclosure warm enough, but it can cause issues with humidity.
Make sure any heating units and hot glass is kept well away from your snake. Scaleless ball pythons are more prone to burns. If you use under-tank heating, be sure to put a barrier between your snake and the bottom of the enclosure.
Zoo Med Reptitemp Thermostat
- Built in memory stores settings in case of power failure.
- Temperature control range: 50F to 122F
- Very reliable & easy to setup
You must make sure the snake cannot get under this or it could be burned. Snakes seek out warmth and may not notice they are burning until the snake is already injured.
Ball pythons do not really need special lighting. If you want to light the enclosure, look for something that does not add heat to the enclosure and keep it on a timer so your snake can enjoy some darkness at night. Be extra careful with scaleless animals since they can have some issues with sensitivity to light just like albino animals.
Ball pythons need shelter to feel secure. You will need to provide two hides that are just large enough for your snake to curl up in.
Since scaleless animals are prone to cuts, you need to stick with something smooth and possibly sand down rough edges yourself.
Zoo Med Reptile Shelter 3 in 1 Cave, Medium
- Easy to open and clean
- Keeps humidity well for shedding
This is a good option for snakes, but check carefully or your snake may be injured.
All snakes need a big bowl of water for drinking, soaking, and helping maintain humidity levels. Scaleless ball pythons need even more options to soak to help keep their skin moisturized.
Look for a large bowl that will hold the whole snake. It should also be easy to clean and sanitize.
Repti Zoo Medium Water Dish
- Made of resin: looks good and doesn’t easily tip over
- Matches well most terrarium decors
This is a good option for a young snake. An adult will need something deeper that you fill halfway.
Ball pythons need 55-70% humidity levels to stay healthy. Scaleless snakes seem to be prone to shedding problems and dehydration, so keep that on the higher side if you can.
Terrarium Sphagnum Moss
- Long-Lasting: Long-Fiber and Leafy Green Sphagnum Moss
- High Absorbency: Controls Tropical & Wetland Humidity
- Sustainable: Ecologically Regulated Harvests
Damp sphagnum moss in a hide on the warm side can give your snake a good way to keep hydrated. Keep an eye on humidity with a hygrometer and mist the enclosure to help keep levels up about once a day.
Keeping a hygienic enclosure is essential for scaleless ball pythons. Since they are more prone to injury, they are also more likely to end up with infections.
Daily cleaning is simple, just change out the water and check for feces and urates.
Remove any soiled substrate and replace it. If you use paper towels, they will need to be replaced entirely.
You should be washing the water bol with hot, soapy water at least once a week. If your snake defecates in the water, be sure to sanitize the bowl.
You need to completely sanitize the enclosure at least once a month. Doing so more often may be a good idea with scaleless snakes.
The first step is to unplug any heating and lighting and removing the snake. Place it in a separate tub or temporary enclosure. Make sure this has ventilation and locks securely so you don’t need to worry about an escapee while you clean.
Remove all the decorations and set them aside to sanitize. Then dispose of the old substrate. Scrub the enclosure down and be sure to use a reptile-safe sanitizer.
Remember to never spray a cold liquid on hot glass or your enclosure may shatter. Dry this off and leave the doors open while you clean the decorations.
Be sure to sanitize everything thoroughly and replace whatever cannot be sanitized. Be sure to get the water dish as well.
Once everything is clean, layer in new substrate, replace the decorations, turn on the heating, and add fresh water to the dish. Then you can return your snake and lock up.
Ball pythons are obligate carnivores. In the wild, they mainly prey on rodents and the occasional bird. In captivity, these snakes feed on rodents.
Type and Size of Prey
Many ball pythons will be fed rats pretty much from hatching. Some may prefer mice, but you will want to switch over early so you are not having to offer 4-5 mice in one feeding.
Scaleless ball pythons need to be fed rats that are absolutely no bigger than the widest part of their bodies. These snakes seem to have less stretchy skin, so stick with prey on the smaller side. About 10% of your snake’s weight is typically great for these snakes.
Frozen vs Live
Since scaleless ball pythons lack scales, feeding live should be the absolute last resort. They have no protection against rodent teeth and they can be badly injured or killed by a live rat or mouse.
Adult rats are infamous for seriously injuring and killing ball pythons that were not supervised closely during a feeding.
You should do everything in your power to get a scaleless ball python on frozen-thawed rats as early as you can. If at all possible, buy from a breeder that only feeds their babies frozen rats.
This will make your life easier and keep your delicate pet safe. If your snake is stubborn about frozen rats, getting pre-killed rats is a good idea. You can learn from a vet how to humanely euthanize a rat. This is done via cervical dislocation or using a proper gas euthanizing chamber.
Micedirect Frozen Mice
- Direct from the producer
- Packed in dry ice, delivered by FedEx
- These feeder Mice for snakes are put to sleep with Co2 so they never suffer
Frozen rats can be bought online or from pet stores and reptile expos. If your snake is too stubborn for frozen, you will need to check your local area for feeder rats in the appropriate size.
Generally speaking, scaleless ball pythons are fed on the same schedule as a normal ball python. Babies should eat once a week, juveniles over one year will eat about every 10 days, and adults will be every 2-3 weeks.
This depends on your snake however. Since they eat smaller prey, you may want to feed a bit more often.
Use a digital scale that weighs in grams to weigh your snake weekly, ideally a few days before you intend to feed them. Any kitchen scale with the ability to zero out the weight of a bowl or container will work well for your snake.
Keep an eye that it is growing steadily and is at a proper body condition. Adjust your schedule if you notice your snake is underweight or getting fat.
Shedding is the process where your snake will shed old or damaged skin so it can grow. This happens about every 3 months for normal adult ball pythons, but most scaleless snakes shed more frequently compared to other ball python morphs.
This is partly because they are injured so often that they need to shed their skin. You will see your snake’s eyes get cloudy and its color will dull.
When you see this, you need to cease handling your snake or trying to feed it. It will be like this for a few days until the old skin separates.
Then the snake will start rubbing to loosen the skin on its head. It will eventually get it off and start to crawl out of its old skin.
Once this happens, you need to watch to make sure your snake can get out of its skin. Many scaleless snakes will have the old skin roll up and become too tight for it to crawl out of. If this happens, you will need to very carefully cut the band of old skin or tear it with your hands.
Then you can help the snake get the rest of the skin off. Feel the snake’s new skin as you try to gently remove the old skin. If the new skin doesn’t feel sticky, you can take off the old skin without a problem.
If it does, do not force it since this can injure your snake. If the skin is sticking or trying to come off in pieces, you can put your snake in a tub filled with warm, wet paper towels until the skin loosens. Stuck shed can injure your snake, so always watch it.
Hibernation or brumation is not something a ball python goes through. Breeders will cool snakes to increase clutch size and create the perfect ball python breeding environment, but you should not do this unless you intend to breed your snake.
Scaleless ball pythons are just as docile as normal ball pythons. They rarely bite, preferring to ball up or flee if they are frightened. Be very gentle with your scaleless ball python since they can be fragile.
Handle no more than twice a week and limit session length until you know how your snake reacts. Never pick up a snake that is sleeping. W
atch for the snake to flick its tongue or move before you try to touch it. Gently touch your snake with a paper towel tube to let it know it is handling time.
Then, carefully approach your snake from the side and lift it from the middle of the body. Support your snake while you handle it and be careful not to scratch it.
Make sure you are not wearing any jewelry and your clothes don’t have any sharp bits that could hurt your snake if it crawls over it. Always keep handling sessions short and positive until your snake learns that you are safe. Since scaleless snakes can get cold more easily, do not keep them out of their enclosure for too long.
My Snake Will Not Eat
Ball pythons go on feeding strikes regularly. Females are infamous for going on strikes as juveniles. Do not be concerned unless you see signs of illness or your snake is dropping weight.
They could be picky because the last prey was the wrong color, smaller species, they are in shed, or they are just not hungry.
Regurgitation is a very dangerous thing for your snake. The stress can kill a fragile animal. Never handle a snake after a meal. If your snake regurgitated, leave it alone for 2 weeks before offering another meal. If it happens twice in a row, head to the vet.
Scaleless ball pythons are prone to dehydration, skin issues, and injuries. Look for changes in your snake’s color, any abrasions or cuts, and keep an eye on its breathing.
They are prone to mouth rot and respiratory infections. Your snake may wheeze, have excess mucus, pus, blood, or be breathing through its mouth. All of this requires an immediate trip to the vet. Any changes in behavior should also be investigated.
We hope this helps you learn how to keep these delicate animals successfully. These popular snakes need more care than a standard ball python.
If you have never had a ball python, it is not recommended to get a scaleless ball python. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
If you have an adult scaleless ball python, please leave your experience with your animal below.