The main factors that can affect ball python size include the snake's food consumptions and its habitat size. Snakes that are not able to stretch out in their tanks may be smaller in size than those with more room. Females tend to be slightly larger than males, but this is not always the case.
Ball pythons are relatively small compared to other constrictor snakes, as they only grow to be three to four feet (0.91 to 1.21 m) long in most cases. Female snakes are on average about half a foot to a foot (0.15 to 0.30 m) longer than males, but the difference in length does vary from snake to snake. Females that are ready to ovulate after fertilization also become rounder in shape, much like during pregnancy for humans.
Food intake is also a primary factor in ball python size. Ball pythons can be finicky eaters, and once they are used to consuming a particular type of food, owners may find it difficult to get them to eat anything else. It is often recommended that owners or breeders begin by feeding baby snakes frozen rather than live food. This gets them more accustomed to doing so and prevents them from becoming too finicky as adults.
The amount of food given may also affect ball python size. Pythons can easily become overweight if they are fed more than needed on a regular basis. Snakes can often go weeks at a time without a meal, although this is not ideal. New ball python owners should speak with their breeders for information on proper ball python dietary requirements. To ensure healthy ball python size and growth, young snakes should be fed once every week or two, while adults may only eat once per month.
Cage size can also sometimes affect ball python size. This is for two main reasons. First, if a snake is growing in an extremely cramped environment, he or she will have a hard time shedding his or her skin, which can lead to stunted growth. Snakes are also much less likely to eat well in a cramped environment, thus compounding the problem.
Even with proper care, ball pythons do not become very large when compared to some other pythons. Size is also partially determined by genetics. If a large snake mates with another large snake, the offspring have a better chance of being large. The same principle is also true for smaller snakes. If size is an important factor when picking out a python, owners should request to see the parents of any snake they are considering.