If you own a ball python, you may be wondering if there are other foods you can offer besides rodents. Not only does this seem limited but it also makes us question whether they need a bit of variety. But what about fish – being high in protein is this another potential food source for them? I decided to research this question and topic. I’ll be sharing with you my findings here today.
So, can ball pythons eat fish? Ball pythons can eat fish, but it should not become a staple in the diet nor offered very often. While wild ball pythons who live near bodies of water may consume fish from time to time, most pythons do not. Instead they live in grasslands and have little access, need or preference for fish. They mostly live off rodents such as mice and shrew. In captivity, if you do offer fish, be sure to offer fish like guppies, platies, trout or salmon as these are safer options and less likely to cause Vitamin B1 deficiencies.
A ball python, in the wild, will consume whatever happens to cross its’ path. Its all about survival; they will eat what they need to do stay alive. The diet of a captive ball python will indeed be different from their cousins in the wild.
This snake breed is native to West Africa, and its’ diet varies depending on where it lives and what food sources are available.
Wild ball pythons eat mainly rodents, birds, small mammals, and lizards. But one kept in captivity must be fed a different diet entirely.
Let us now take a closer look at whether any type of fish is an appropriate food source along with some other dietary considerations for this species.
Do Ball Pythons Eat Fish?
Some ball pythons will eat fish if provided, and some even like it. But as mentioned previously, they should only ever eat fish very rarely and in small amounts.
While ball pythons can theoretically consume most fish, it is not considered a highly desirable food. A lot of snakes would therefore leave it altogether if it was available. Some owners report on this – regardless of how the fish is offered and prepared.
We must remember that snakes evolved in the wild; they would rarely come across bodies of water containing fish in their natural environment.
The ball python species live mainly on grasslands – eating what they find and is available in that location.
Fish are cold-blooded, and snakes, including ball pythons, prefer their food sources to be warm-blooded.
Snakes like to kill and swallow animals whole, they enjoy killing their prey, and they want their prey to be warm.
Should You Feed Your Ball Python Fish?
If you decide to feed small amounts of fish to your ball python, you must be careful of the fish you offer and be sure not to overdo it.
A very small serving, offered dead or alive, once every month is generally considered an appropriate schedule.
Never feed fish such as goldfish, rosy reds, flathead minnows, tuffies, mackerel or whitebait. Even aquatic snakes do not eat those fish.
All of these fish contain enzymes that block Thiamine (Vitamin B1) from being absorbed. Over time, thiamine deficiency can develop causing illness and nervous system disorders. This can kill your snake!
The best options of fish to feed are species which have very little or no thiaminase enzyme. Guppies, platies, trout and salmon are some to consider. Many owners often report feeding these fish to and it has been used as a way to feed fussier snakes.
However, some snakes will have no preference for fish whatsoever. This is fine and entirely normal.
Indeed, you must never force your snake to eat fish. They may even rebel against all food and choose to starve.
Be mindful of the fish you purchase and where; some pet/fish stores can even sell you the wrong fish by mistake!
If you feel that feeding fish is not in your ball python’s best interests, do not feel obliged to do so.
If you are looking to broaden your pet snake’s diet by introducing them to food other than small rodents, there is no need.
Most snakes are strict carnivores (bar a few aquatic species) and prefer to eat live prey. Offering a proper diet is essential to keep them healthy.
Many snakes suffer from malnourishment because their owners feed them inadequate foods, and most snakes would choose starvation if not presented with a suitable diet!
To own a ball python, you must acquaint yourself fully with the species and take the time to learn about their environment and diet to ensure they thrive.
What Food Can I Feed A Ball Python?
The specific food you offer your ball python should depend on their age. Younger and smaller snakes are unable to swallow or digest food that is too big.
A general rule of thumb is to offer food no larger than the head of your snake. So, baby ball pythons should only be fed small, baby mice.
Older, larger snakes can be fed a wider variety of foods, including gerbils and chicks.
Insects such as crickets, however, should never be fed. Also, the focus should be on live prey, not already dead meat like chicken.
Hatchlings should eat small thawed mice from frozen. These rodents are all your young snake needs to be healthy – variation isn’t required in their diet.
When a ball python outgrows mice, rats can become their staple food. Making the transition from mice to rats can be a struggle for adult snakes, which is why you should start feeding them rat pups or fuzzies as early as you can to make the diet change easier.
Ball pythons need to eat whole animals never gutted as this withholds snakes of crucial nutrients present in the organs.
Adult ball pythons usually eat every 10 to 14 days; the younger ones eat once every 5-6 days.
You’ll find that at times your ball python will go off their food, this is perfectly normal while shedding.
You must know how to prepare food and how to feed it to your Ball Python:
Step 1: Thaw the frozen rodent using warm water. One way to check that the rodent has thawed is to poke the belly, and if you can’t feel any hard lumps, you’ll know it has thawed. Make sure that the rat is warm to entice the snake.
Step 2: Walk over to the enclosure and make sure your snake is aware of your presence. Open the enclosure. Hold the rodent by the tail using tongs and offer it to your snake.
Step 3: Encourage your snake to eat the rodent by gently wiggling it. Your snake should strike and latch on to the rodent. When offering a fuzzy or pinky, use feeding tweezers to hold the rodent.
Step 4: When the snake has latched on to the rodent securely, lower it, and let go of it. Gently pull out of and close the door of the cage. Make sure you don’t frighten your snake as it might regurgitate the food if you do.
You may find that your snake is a little picky.
If this is the case you could try making a few changes like: offering the food at different times, warming the feeder animal, scenting the food, feeding live mice or rats, or you could try exposing the brain matter to entice the snake to eat. The brain matter has a unique smell that can elicit the feeding response.
While ball pythons can eat fish, it’s not the best food for them.
Wild ball pythons can eat a variety of food that include rats, mice, birds, and small mammals; some do eat fish if they happen to live near water.
However, captive ball pythons only need to consume rodents; they provide all of the key nutrients that these snakes require to thrive.
Captive snakes do not need, or desire variety, like us humans would so looking to offer foods to offer like fish is not actually required.
Most snakes, including ball pythons, would rather starve to death than eat the wrong food that could could issues.
Therefore, you need to be particular with the fish you source.
You’ll also want to avoid feeding certain species fish. This includes goldfish, rosy reds, flathead minnows, and tuffies; all of which contain enzymes that block thiamine absorption. This vitamin, or Vitamin B1 as it is known, is crucial to the health of a snake.
So, look for those species that lack the thiaminase enzyme. Some to note include: guppies, platies, or some specific commercially available fresh and frozen fish species like trout and salmon. Some native freshwater angling species may be suitable too.
Either way, never force your snake to eat fish as you’ll likely do more harm than good. This can easily lead to your snake becoming malnourished.
Ball pythons are strict carnivores and eat mainly rodents in captivity, so do not attempt to feed eggs, vegetables or cooked meats to your snake. You don’t need to give your snake a varied diet plan.
Unlike most animals, a varied diet plan only does more harm than good, so stick to what is safe and what they enjoy – basically the rodent!
Water-dwelling snakes are most likely to consume fish. This includes the Watersnake, Ribbon, and Garter Snake species. Their diet includes a number of aquatic species along with fish.
You can feed both alive and dead fish to a snake; so long as it is a safe fish for them to consume. Generally, alive fish are preferable and more commonly enjoyed by snakes but are more difficult to source, look after and offer. Dead fish are easier and typically cheaper to source but do not offer the advantages that live prey offers; such as fulfilling their natural preferences and tendencies.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.