There are several important factors to consider when choosing your following pet python. How much space do you have in your home? How long are you willing to care for it? How much can you spend on your pet, not just initially, but also for its annual care?
Burmese and ball pythons are popular pets with different answers to all these questions.
The most significant difference between Burmese and ball pythons is their size. Burmese pythons can grow up to 16 feet long, weighing 200 lbs, while ball pythons are typically only 6 feet long and about 7 lbs. Ball pythons are also much cheaper to purchase and provide for but live twice as long as Burmese pythons in captivity, on average.
Read to learn more about these two snakes and decide which one will emerge as your chosen next pet!
Burmese Python VS. Ball Python Quick Comparison
|Burmese Python||Ball Python|
|Full-grown size||10-16 feet long, 200 lbs.||Grasslands, swamps, caves, woodlands, mangrove forests, rainforests, river valleys, and jungles. It must be near the water.|
|Appearance||Light base color with dark, angular splotches.||Dark base color with light-colored, round splotches.|
|Available Morphs||Only about two dozen||At least 7,500|
|Lifespan in Captivity||15-20 years||30-40 years|
|Diet||Mice or rats when younger, but bigger animals like rabbits, chickens, minks, etc., when older.||Mice or rats|
|Enclosure Requirements||Roughly 5 ft x 5 ft x 10 ft||40- to 60-gallon tank|
|Natural Habitat||Docile. They prefer to run and hide but are willing to fight if provoked.||Grasslands and open forests|
|Humidity and Temperature||60 to 70% humidity, temperature range of 80 to 90 °F.||60 to 70% humidity, temperature range of 80 to 90 °F.|
|Distribution||Southern and Southeast Asia, and has become invasive to Florida, USA||Africa|
|Initial Price and Availability||$50 – $5,000||$200 – $12,000|
|Temperament||Docile but can become aggressive when irritated or smells food.||Docile. They would prefer to run and hide but are willing to fight if provoked.|
Crucial Differences Between Burmese and Ball Pythons
The easiest way to distinguish a Burmese python from a ball python is by noting the snake’s size: a Burmese python is twice as long and nearly thirty times heavier than a ball python!
This difference in size affects many things, such as their dietary and enclosure requirements.
Another easy distinction between the two is their appearance. Burmese pythons have light bodies with dark angular splotches, while ball pythons have dark bodies with light, round splotches.
Other differences between the two species that are less obvious include their continent of origin, price range, and available morphs.
A Closer Look At Burmese Python and Ball Python Differences and Similarities
Burmese and ball pythons come from the same python family but are very different species. How are they different, but how are they also similar? Let us look at twelve distinct points of comparison.
Burmese pythons are much bigger and heavier than ball pythons!
Average Burmese pythons are 10-16 feet long and weigh 200 pounds. Meanwhile, average ball pythons are about 6 feet long and weigh between 3-7 pounds, where as the average corn snakes are only about 3-5 feet long.
In other words, ball pythons are more portable pets you can carry around to show your friends, but fully-grown Burmese pythons aren’t going anywhere–you need to take your friends to them!
Did you know? The enormous Burmese python ever captured in Florida was a mindblowing 215 lbs and 18 feet long!
Burmese and ball pythons are often confused with each other because of their similar colors. However, a trained eye will know that their colors are opposites.
Burmese pythons have a light, tan base color with dark blotchy patterns, while ball pythons typically have a dark base color such as gray, brown, or black with light, tan patterns!
Aside from color differences, their markings come in different shapes and patterns.
Burmese pythons have angular splotches that look like they would fit together like puzzle pieces. They also have a dark V-shape on their head with a distinct tan line running through them.
Ball pythons, meanwhile, have rounder-looking splotches. They also have light-colored lines that cross over neatly through both their eyes. Ball pythons also have what appears to be a V-shape on their heads but lack the tan line running through them that Burmese pythons usually have.
It’s common practice for breeders to manipulate their snakes’ patterns to increase their value.
Since ball pythons are more popular pets, there are reportedly 7,500 morphs available. Some breeders create outrageous designs on their ball pythons, such as a breeder from Georgia who created a python with smiley face emojis!
On the other hand, fewer Burmese python morphs are available on the market, only about two dozen.
Here are 25 examples of cool ball python morphs:
Assuming they do not get sick or get into an accident, your pet ball python can accompany you for a very long time: in captivity, this snake has an average lifespan of 30-40 years!
They have relatively easy-to-meet needs and are deficient in maintenance, making them a great option as long-term pets.
Burmese pythons live only half as long in captivity, usually 15-20 years. Aside from the maintenance difficulties brought about by their large size, they are also fussier than ball pythons and will be more affected by improper care.
Burmese pythons in captivity tend to die sooner due to lack of exercise. Understandably, their owners struggle to provide enough space for them to roam freely!
Since Burmese pythons are much giant, it’s understandable that their required prey is much larger, too!
Juvenile Burmese pythons will be happy with mice or rats, but adult Burmese pythons require one to two medium-sized animals a month. These can be rabbits, minks, small pigs, chickens, quails, some fish species, and other animals about the same size.
As can be imagined, keeping up with a Burmese python’s dietary requirements can get expensive and tricky over time.
On the other hand, ball pythons will happily survive on mice or rats throughout their lives. Pet owners report spending only $100-$150 yearly to feed their ball pythons.
Watch a Burmese python eating a large rat:
Generally, a snake’s enclosure should be large enough to stretch out fully. If your snake feels cramped, it can experience a stunt in its growth and become irritable and aggressive.
Because of their considerable size, fully-grown Burmese pythons also have relatively large enclosure requirements–just about the size of an entire room!
Additionally, since they are strong, muscular snakes, their enclosure must be made of sturdy wood and plexiglass to reinforce the regular glass. These enclosures typically need to be custom ordered and built.
Being much smaller, ball pythons can usually fit into standard 40-to-60-gallon tanks.
As always, it’s best if your pet’s enclosure closely resembles its natural habitat.
The two snake species have similar natural habitats, except Burmese pythons can be found more widely.
While ball pythons are mainly found in grasslands and open forests, Burmese pythons can also be found in a wider variety of habitats aside from these, including swamps, caves, woodlands, mangrove forests, rainforests, river valleys, and jungles.
Burmese pythons are also particular about being near a permanent source of water. This preference has made them excellent swimmers.
Humidity and Temperature Levels
Since Burmese and ball pythons come from similar habitats, they have similar humidity and temperature requirements.
Generally, they prefer a higher humidity level, ranging from 60 to 70%. They also both like a temperature range of 80 to 90 °F.
Despite having similar habitats, the two snakes don’t come from the same place.
Ball pythons hail from Africa, while Burmese pythons, as their name suggests, come from Southern and Southeast Asia. However, Burmese pythons have become an invasive species in the state of Florida in the US.
Initial Price and Availability
Ball pythons are easily found in pet stores and average around $50. If you are looking for rarer morphs, the price can go up to $5,000.
Burmese pythons are significantly more expensive, with hatchlings usually available for $200 to $300. Again, the price of rarer variations can go extremely high, sometimes up to $12,000 or more.
Burmese and ball pythons are non-venomous, so you’ll never need to worry about getting poisoned if you get bitten.
However, since Burmese pythons are so giant, their bites can cause serious injury.
Also, as a general rule, you should always disinfect and treat wild animal bites properly to avoid getting infections.
Burmese and ball pythons are relatively docile snakes, making them good pets.
However, Burmese pythons react very strongly when they smell their prey. Be careful when entering their enclosure during feeding time while holding its food or even just smelling like its food. In their excitement, they might attack you!
Be wary also of approaching an irritated or startled Burmese python. They may lash out at you as a signal to stay away.
Otherwise, Burmese pythons are relatively harmless, even in the wild. For example, despite their prevalence in Florida, there have been zero reported human deaths caused by wild Burmese pythons.
Meanwhile, it is very rare for a ball python to attack its owner since they are more likely to retreat and hide than fight. Still, if provoked strongly enough, they will not be afraid to show their fangs.
Remember that each snake has its quirks and personality. You can end up with a highly mild Burmese python or a very aggressive ball python!
Want to know more about the differences between Burmese and ball pythons? Here’s a quick 8-minute video:
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need A License To Own A Pet Snake In The US?
Most pet snakes are perfectly legal to own and do not require you to get a license because they are non-venomous and, therefore, safe to own. This rule applies to both Burmese pythons and ball pythons.
If you ever decide to catch or own a venomous snake, you must apply for the appropriate permits and licenses.
Can I Feed My Pet Snake Vegetables?
No. Almost all snakes are carnivores or insectivores. Their bodies are not equipped to digest fruits and vegetables.
You should also avoid feeding your pet snake any processed food since these can make your snake sick.
So, should you purchase a Burmese or ball python as your next pet? Ultimately, it boils down to how much space you have to spare and share and how much you are willing to spend regularly on its food.
Whichever snake you pick, both are excellent pet options. They have long lifespans, are beautiful to look at, are relatively docile and low maintenance, and are great to show off to friends.