Is Red Light Bad For Ball Pythons?

ball python under a red light

When you are first getting the hang of a pet snake, it can be overwhelming.  What size tank should they have, how much food should I give them, and which lights do they need?  Lights can be incredibly confusing because they’re not something you need to consider for the average house pet, like a cat or dog.

There are so many different lights available for snakes, it can be hard to choose the right ones for your ball python.  You are probably wondering if they even need all of those lights and colors. And, what about those red lights?

Is red light bad for ball pythons?

Red light itself is not a bad thing for ball pythons. Red light will not damage or weaken their eyesight.  However, if you leave a red light on all day and night, you might disrupt your snake’s circadian rhythm.  The best practice is to put your red light on a timer.  

To understand more about your ball python and red light, we’ll dive into a couple of topics next including natural history and husbandry!

Can Ball Pythons See Red Light?

Snakes have surprisingly good vision!

As a child, I was raised to believe that snakes only saw in thermal or heat vision and located their prey that way.  While snakes do use body heat to “see prey” they also have good normal vision!

Dr. Frances Baines wrote for Reptile Magazine and was quoted saying that “many reptiles have extremely good color vision.”  She mentions that while humans only have three retinal cones to process light and color, snakes have a fourth!

The agreement seems to be that ball pythons can indeed see red light, or they can at least differentiate between objects when a red light is on.  But, ball pythons are a little different from your average reptile because they are nocturnal.  This trait affects almost every part of a ball python’s life in the wild or in captivity.

When Would Ball Pythons Sleep In The Wild?

As I just mentioned above, ball pythons are nocturnal!

Animals that are nocturnal are less active during the day and more active at night.  These animals usually have special adaptations that make life in darkness easier for them.  Ball Pythons, for example, have special heat-sensing pits on their faces that make hunting at night easier.

If you can’t imagine your ball pythons being active at night, here is a video that might interest you!

You can see this man’s ball python is very active at night!

This nocturnal trait is so important to think about with your pet snake because it will affect your snake’s behavior.

You snake probably prefers to eat in the evening when they would normally be hunting.  They might be less active and relaxed during the day, but more open to exploring and even handling at night.

It’s important to think about maintaining your snake’s circadian rhythm.  Because you are creating their entire habit, you are also responsible for the lighting in it.  Finding a lighting situation that mimics your snake’s natural habitat is the best option.

So, what about red light bulbs?  Where do those come in to play?

Are Red Light Bulbs Bad For Reptiles?

There is no evidence that red light is harmful to snakes’ eyes.  The red light you use in a terrarium is not going to be a laser, or anything super strong.

But, just because it doesn’t hurt them doesn’t necessarily mean it should be in their enclosure.

Using a red light bulb for a day light in your snake’s enclosure may cause them to see everything in a red wash.  This could give them difficulties seeing when you pull them out of their terrarium.  And while ball pythons are notoriously handleable snakes, if they can’t see well in normal light after living the red light, they could become agitated and confused.

Snakes and especially nocturnal ball pythons should never have lights on 24/7.  Having a light on at night can disrupt and change their normal patterns.  Because ball pythons are active at night, they may find red light at night confusing and not be as active as they should.

How Can You Use A Red Light In A Ball Python Enclosure?

So, is there any good way to use a red light in a ball python enclosure?

If you already have a red light, you can use it for ambient lighting during the day for your ball python!  The important part of this equation is that you MUST turn the light off at night.  The easiest way to make sure that lights go on and off at the right time for reptiles is by putting the lights on a timer.  You can pick one for cheap on Amazon or any pet supply store and it’s worth every penny.

What Does A Good Enclosure Set Up look Like For a Ball Python?

Ball Pythons are terrestrial, nocturnal snakes that are native to West and Central Africa.

Even though you might see these snakes depicted as treeclimbers, they mostly spend their days and night slithering through grasslands and hiding beneath rocks.  An ideal ball python terrarrium should be set up horizontally, to give your snak optimal space for movement.

A ball python enclosure should always include a hidey hole, some nice substrate, and a water dish.  While your ball python might get enough hydration from their food, it’s never a bad idea to provide a water dish.  You never know, you might find your pet snake taking a nice soak in their dish one day!

Your ball python’s tank should remain between 75F and 85F temperature and between 55% and 65% humidity.

Ball Pythons don’t necessarily need a UVB light to thrive in captivity.  This is because these nocturnal snakes would not normally be getting much sunlight in the wild!   This being said, you should still provide them with some sort of light source throughout the day, whether this is a normal light bulb, red light bulb, UVA/UVB bulb, or even sunlight!  You can use a heat lamp or a heating pad to keep your snake’s enclosure warm, day and night, just make sure that these heating devices are always placed outside of the enclosure!

Final Thoughts

Ball Pythons might be one of the easiest snake species to care for!  They have good temperaments and simple husbandry requirements.  Providing your ball python with a red light during the day won’t hurt them, but there are probably better options out there!

o matter which light you choose for your ball python, the most important thing is that you make sure to turn it off at night, so your nocturnal pet can enjoy the evening!