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Are Ball Pythons Nocturnal? [Can They See In The Dark?]

Some of the most common questions about Ball Pythons are based on their sleeping behaviors and patterns. You may be wondering about their sleep/wake cycles and if/when they go to sleep. Having an interest in this topic myself, I decided to conduct some research. Here is what I have been able to find.

So, are Ball Pythons nocturnal? Ball Pythons are nocturnal. They possess an infrared heat-sensing vision that helps them navigate and hunt during the night. Despite being nocturnal, they sleep much of the day to preserve energy, rest, and digest. The average Ball Python will sleep for up to 22-23 hours, split into phases or periods.

Ball Pythons have evolved in exciting ways to support their activity during the night. 

If you are wondering why they are nocturnal, there are specific reasons for it!

Let us now explore the topic further to better understand this snake’s behaviors and what you can expect as an owner.

Are Ball Pythons Active At Night?

Ball Pythons will spend more time during the night being active than they would do during the day.

The amount of activity and movement will largely depend on the specific snake, but following sunset, a snake is most likely to show signs of life.

Some Ball Python Owners report that their snake is very active during the night, moving to entire new positions and locations within their enclosure or roaming around entirely. 

Others report that their snake barely moves at all – perhaps moving their head from time to time.

But why would a snake behave in this way in the first place?

From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes complete sense. It is all to do with obtaining food and catching prey.

During the night and in periods of darkness is when other animals are sleeping and are most vulnerable.

This is an opportune moment for a python to attack. The chances of a successful hunt are considerably higher.

Ball Pythons have small spurs (near their tails), which they use to help slither along the ground. 

They are small and barely observable, but they do help them to move.

With all this being said, Ball Pythons are big sleepers (as you will soon discover in the following section).

How Do Ball Pythons ‘See’ During The Night?

Ball Pythons have adapted several abilities to help them see during the night.

They possess several heat receptors called ‘Pit Organs,’ which are used to navigate the landscape during periods of darkness. 

These receptors can identify infrared radiation that is emitted from potential predators and prey.

Pit Organs look like a row of holes positioned across the top of their faces/mouths. 

They are used to sense and feel the heat that a warm mammal emits. 

This is because there is a network of nerves connected to a membrane and air chambers which all work together to detect temperature changes in the environment and present heat as an outline/image.

The pit organ works via two chambers; one detects the snake’s temperature, whereas the other is seeing the environment around and any living creatures within the vicinity.

The Ball Python can then ‘see’ clearly the size and the density of the heat from the mammal approaching. 

They can quickly analyze the level of threat. It helps them to make calculated decisions when hunting for prey.

This unique sensing ability can work for up to 3 meters, giving them insights well before a predator/prey comes near.

While the snake’s eyes sense light, it is the heat receptors primarily used to find food and stay safe. 

So it is through the detection of heat that a snake will use and trust for its movement.

As such, there is even the possibility to train Ball Pythons through infrared, guiding this snake’s movements and behaviors if and when required. 

For example, if any wild population was growing too large or threatening a posing risk to a local community, they could be directed away using this ‘technology.’

Do Ball Pythons Sleep?

Knowing that Ball pythons are nocturnal and most active during the night leads to the question as to whether these snakes sleep at all. 

The answer is; they do and quite a bit!

Due to their naturally large size and the amount of food that they need to digest at any one time, Ball Pythons like and need to sleep and rest a lot. 

They do so for extended periods – often in darker places. They like to coil up, and this is a way they feel most naturally comfortable.

The average Ball Python will sleep from anywhere between 20-23 hours per day! 

This sounds a lot, but it is entirely normal for them to do so.

During certain events, like the shedding of skin, you can expect your Ball Python to sleep for weeks on end.

So while they are nocturnal, this is a reptile that needs a lot of sleep to thrive.

That being said, a Ball Python will not sleep completely during that 20-23 hours; they will do so in phases.

You can expect your Ball Python to routinely and regularly wake, moving around during this time.

Of course, different Ball Pythons will have their own unique behaviors, traits, and personalities. 

Some will sleep more than others, and some may appear to be more docile.

There are also factors to consider, like their age, recent feeding, size, and how the enclosure is set up. Illness and age will also play a role in how much they sleep and move.

If you have or are looking to get one as a pet and wonder what to expect, only time will honestly tell.

In Summary

Ball Pythons are nocturnal, regardless of whether they are wild or domesticated as a pet.

While they will be most active during the night, not all Ball Pythons will move in abundance. 

It comes down to a lot of different factors, and each snake is different.

Beyond this, Ball Pythons are big sleepers, and over a 24-hour time-frame, they will sleep for as much as 95% of it!

They have specific body parts known as ‘pit organs’ that they use to help them navigate the landscape and understand what they are dealing with during this time.

If you are looking to keep one of these snake species as a pet, it is crucial that you take their needs, natural tendencies, and traits into account.

Related Questions

Can Snakes See Using Their Eyes?

Snakes can see through their eyes and do use them to do so. However, their eyesight is considered inferior, so they have evolved other traits and tendencies, like put organs, to help them understand their environment.

Can Ball Pythons See During Shedding?

Vision is significantly reduced and severely impacted during phases of shedding. During this time, skin covers their eyes and acts as a film, preventing normal vision.