To house a python safely and correctly you must first think about the size that your python will grow to. The enclosure should also be easily cleaned and well ventilated. It should be secure and inescapable. The furnishings you include depends on the type of python you purchase. Having a “hide” (e.g. box, cave, log) is an absolute must and maybe some climbing branches to provide height options. Fresh water must always be provided for drinking and bathing.
Heat is necessary for reptile metabolism and digestion of food. It must be provided by you and maintained within the desirable temperature range for your species. It is best for the health and comfort of your snake that the heat is focused to one area, thereby providing a cooler area to escape to should the animal wish to.
Animals that are kept indoors need lighting to replicate daylight. Globes can be purchased that have a full spectrum and differing levels of UVB light emissions which is necessary for the animal to process calcium to be used in their body. The length of time the enclosure is lit should replicate the daylight length of any given season.
Snakes eat whole animals and the size of their meal can astound! Frozen “feeder” animals are ideal food sources and can be obtained from specialist suppliers. They are very efficient animals and will only require feeding once a week in the warmer months and potentially not at all during the cooler, hibernation months.
Hygiene is very important in keeping your python and any other animals in your household happy and healthy. Be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect your enclosure and furnishings regularly (4-6 weeks), change any soiled substrate whenever it is needed, wash your hands before and after handling and clean any implements (hook, feeding tools) between use.
Snakes can suffer from a few diseases, most of which can be avoided through correct care techniques. If the temperature range is maintained, the light levels and lengths are appropriate, the correct hygiene procedures followed and feeder animals are clean then you should have a healthy, happy, long-lived pet. If you do notice any problems or strange changes in behaviour be sure to contact your vet.
Housing – Stimsons, Spotted & Childrens Python
The size of your enclosure will depend largely on the size your reptile will grow to be. The terrarium should be big enough that the python can stretch out to its full length unimpeded but not so big that your python will get “lost” in all the space. You will also need to have enough space for a fresh water dish that is big enough for your python to fully immerse itself in without flooding and for a “hide” that will snugly fit their whole body without being too cramped.
For ground dwelling species it is more important to have a lot of ground space rather than height to the enclosure. However they do enjoy climbing a short way off the ground so branches or platforms ought to be provided to allow them to climb and find different levels of heat and light throughout their home. The type of substrate is a personal choice. Some options include aquarium gravel, peat moss, sterile dry leaf litter, sterile desert sand, bark and straw that have been sterilised for a more natural look or pet litter, newspaper or sanitised “fake grass” felt if looks aren’t as important. Ground coverings should be cleaned and changed when necessary or monthly to prevent odours and health problems.
Glass tanks are inappropriate houses for pythons and snakes as they tend to overheat. The front wall is the ideal glassed area to allow for unobtrusive observation. An escape proof hinged door on the top or the side or front sliding glass doors allow for easy access to the animal and the enclosure for feeding, cleaning and handling. The walls should be ventilated and easy to clean. Most species of python require dryer conditions so humidity should be kept as low as possible.
Heating – Stimsons, Spotted & Childrens Python
No more than a third of your enclosure should be directly heated at any one time. Focusing the heat to a single area creates a temperature gradient and allows your python to find its most comfortable temperature within your enclosure. The ideal temperature range is between 28 and 32°C and should be kept at these temperatures in order to keep your python happy and healthy.
Heating can come from overhead from a basking heat globe, from on top of the substrate from a basking rock or from underneath the substrate from a heat mat or coiled heat cord. Any heating device should be controlled by a thermostat, a device which turns your heating device on and off in order to maintain your desired temperature. It is also a good idea to have a thermometer in your enclosure to double check that everything is working as it should.
Lighting – Stimsons, Spotted & Childrens Python
All reptiles require broad spectrum light with levels of UVB light in order to stay healthy. However, it is less important for snake s as they obtain usable calcium from the food they eat. A globe that has the appropriate levels of UVB light emissions (e.g. species that live in open areas require higher levels of UVB than rainforest species) can be placed either in the enclosure or above a mesh covered opening. UV light cannot go through glass. If the species is nocturnal it will still require UV so a blue or red globe with UV emissions would be best.
The length of time the light is shining should closely resemble the length of natural daylight in the current season. “Day” and “night” periods can be gradually swapped for people who are more active at night and vice versa.
Feeding – Stimsons, Spotted & Childrens Python
Snakes eat whole animals such as rodents and birds. It is advised that specially bred, raised and frozen “feeder animals” should be used rather than any other source as the freezing process eliminates internal and external parasites...and the fact that they are frozen means there will be no nibbling on your snake should they not get eaten right away! Feeding should be done with the use of feeding tongs, forceps or similar to prevent over-eager mouths from biting onto your hand by accident. The size of the meal should be in proportion to the size of your python, a hungry python will try to swallow almost anything offered so it is important that it is not too big to digest properly and quickly but not so small that the animal remains hungry and more prone to strike. Snakes are very efficient and can go for extended periods of time without a meal. During the warmer months of the year you should feed once a week and during the cooler months every 2 or 3 weeks or not at all if you are allowing hibernation to occur. If your python does not seem interested in the food you offer, you may leave it overnight making sure it is not touching any loose substrate. If it still is not taken, dispose of it and leave feeding until the next feeding day.
Hygiene – Stimsons, Spotted & Childrens Python
Following the correct hygiene procedures are crucial to keeping a healthy python. Make sure your hands are sterilised before handling, between different animals and after you finish handling. This helps to stop the spread of any diseases. All feeding implements and handling hooks should be cleaned between uses as should any temporary housing used for feeding, soaking or cleaning. It is a good idea to temporarily house your python in a bin/box/enclosure that is sterile and inescapable whilst cleaning to minimise stress to your animal. Cleaning and sterilising the enclosure and all furnishing and dishes with a separate sponge/cloth for each enclosure or paper towel that is disposed of between enclosures further ensures that there is no spread of germs. Remove any soiled substrate whenever necessary and completely change it with every major clean.
Diseases/Ailments – Stimsons, Spotted & Childrens Python
Disease can occur and spread through inappropriate hygiene practices, not enough or too much heat, lack of the correct light and inappropriate food sources. Examples of python ailments are external parasites (mites), internal parasites (worms, protozoans, viruses), stress, blisters and other skin problems and respiratory problems. Parasites can be caused by poor hygiene and/or inappropriate substrate (e.g. litter collected from garden) and can be prevented by following correct hygiene practices. Contaminated food can also transfer internal parasites but can be avoided by feeding frozen animals that have been defrosted and warmed. Signs of a mite infestation are continual rubbing, twitching and soaking by your animal. Treatment is the use of an insecticidal spray for enclosure and animal and cleaning of enclosure and substrate.
Stress can be caused by overheating, improper or over handling and restraint, overcrowding or incompatible snakes. It can be characterised by striking or rubbing against walls/glass, continual fighting or by being overly shy due to a lack of refuge. Blisters and skin problems can be caused by prolonged exposure to damp and/or rotting substrate and can be easily avoided by including only dry and clean substrate.
Respiratory problems are the most serious problems faced by all reptiles and can be caused by extended periods of low temperatures and can be characterised by wheezing breaths and in extreme cases, frothing from the nostrils. Immediate medical advice should be sought and keep any affected animals warm and relaxed until symptoms cease.
As with caring for any animal, a potential owner should do some research on the specific needs of their desired pet. Books, articles, websites and chat archives are available.