The diminutive spotted python can make a great pet.
By Petra Spiess
Photo by Bill Love
When most people hear the word “python” they visualize a huge cylindrical length of muscle, like the Burmese python. But pythons comprise many species. Most, it’s true, are huge, although the category also includes smaller snakes such as the ball python.
One of the smallest of the group, the spotted python (Antaresia maculosa
), is easy and mellow compared with most of its brethren. It makes a great captive for herp keepers at any level of experience.
Spotted pythons come from Australia and are found in northwestern areas close to the coast. This hardy species lives in a variety of habitats within its range. The genus Antaresia comprises four species, and all look quite similar. The most common species in the herp trade are the spotted python and the children’s python (Antaresia childreni).
Spotted pythons, the largest of their genus, are really smaller snakes, measuring 3 feet to 5 feet. Sexing can be difficult, so probing is the most reliable way.
Spotted Python Kit
20-gallon aquarium or enclosure of similar size
Aspen or other bedding
Heavy-bottomed water dish
Reptile heat pad
Two hiding spots of similar size, large enough to hold snake when coiled
Python care book
Some people call these snakes “cute.” They give the impression of a mini-snake because of their small size and short heads capped with large eyes. The top color of this species is beige-yellow with dark brown to black spots. The scales have a beautiful iridescence in the right light. Some keepers say that spotted and children’s pythons can be a bit nippy. Generally speaking, they are calm snakes that tolerate handling well.
Hatchling and juvenile spotteds will do well in an enclosure the size of a 10-gallon tank. They also can be kept in a shoe box-size container in a rack system. Adults require a little more room, with a cage about the size of a 20-gallon aquarium or a sweater box-size container in a rack system.
Spotteds thrive in both naturally landscaped vivariums and plainly decorated enclosures as long as they have the correct thermal gradient, hiding spots and clean water. Many substrates suit this species, including aspen bedding, reptile carpet, wood-pulp fiber bedding and paper towels. The snakes, because of their size, are great for naturalistic enclosures simulating a somewhat dry, temperate ecosystem.
Keepers can watch for shedding problems, which signal too little humidity in the enclosure. If this happens, keepers can help their pets shed by lightly misting the cages for several days until the skins come off. They also can provide shed boxes for their pets. A shed box is a plastic container with an access hole cut in one side and filled with moist paper towels or moss. Snakes can choose to sit in higher humidity environments without keepers raising the overall ambient humidity in the cages.
Heating and Lighting
These snakes need a thermal gradient that ranges from 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit on the hot area and 75 to 80 degrees F on the cool end. Nighttime temperatures can drop into the low 70s without concern. Spotteds can use a variety of heaters, but heating pads are among the best. The snakes remain hidden most of the time. Keepers can provide hiding spots on both the warm and cool ends of the cage so the snakes can choose the temperature without being exposed. Keepers can use a thermometer to make sure the hot area is the correct temperature. Failure to do this is one the most common husbandry mistakes.
Spotteds, like most snakes, don’t require full-spectrum lighting, but including some will enhance the appearance of the enclosure and may promote more natural behavior.
Spotteds are generally enthusiastic feeders; baby snakes start on pinkie mice and work their way up through the sizes as they mature. Adult snakes will consume adult mice. Once-a-week feedings are recommended for baby, juvenile and adult spotted pythons. Once mice get past the hopper stage, keepers should feed pre-killed rodents to their pets off tongs. Frozen mice that have been humanly euthanized are a good option. Retailers can suggest clean, heavy-bottomed water dishes.
Spotted pythons make ideal captives because of their docile nature and their size, so housing them is easy. Retailers looking to add something other than corn snakes to their beginner herp offerings may want to consider them. <HOME>
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