Childrens Python Care

Antaresia childreni



Childrens Python

Childrens python by entheos

Childrens pythons, (Antaresia childreni) are a charming little python species from Australia. These small pythons make fantastic first reptiles due to their nature and small size.  They have a beautiful Childrens pattern which gradually fades with age; this gives rise to their other frequently used common name: the faded python. Childrens pythons are quite longed lived snakes with individuals regularly living for 20-30years. Aquiring a childrens python is no short term commitment .

Childrens pythons are amongst the smallest pythons in the world, with them generally reaching a size of approximately 3ft, however 2.5ft is more common. They are reasonably easy to keep and due to their docility make great little pets. I know I mention this in a lot of my care sheets, but childrens pythons really are a favourite of mine...

Their common name childrens python actually has nothing to do with children; they are in fact named after John George Children who was the curator of the Zoological collection at the British museum during the 19th century.  Childrens pythons are very adaptable and as such are found in a wide range of habitats in the wild, interestingly this adaptability is one of the reasons they make fantastic pets (they can be quite forgiving of mistakes). In the wild childrens pythons eat a variety of lizards, frogs and on occasion rodents. In captivity however a captive bred snake can be started on pinkie mice and then continue to eat rodents throughout its life.

Childrens python housing

Despite their small size, I would not keep an adult childrens python in anything less than 30x15x15in (Length x Width x Height). Housing options are fairly diverse, you can keep them in simple DIY storage boxes as many breeders do, you can use converted glass aquariums of a personal favourite of mine: wooden vivariums. I personally prefer wooden vivariums because not only do they look much nicer (if you choose the right colour to match your room it makes a nice furniture addition) they also carry a large advantage to the wellbeing of your childrens python. Snakes are generally shy and childrens pythons are no different, having a wooden enclosure where only one side is made of glass (ie the front) means the snake has a “boxed in” feel which makes it feel secure.

When housing youngsters obviously you cannot stick them in a huge enclosure straight away, you should start with smaller enclosures and work your way up to something larger as the snake grows. I usually use small storage boxes approximately 15x12in (Length x Width) to house my juveniles.

In terms of decor for your childrens python, you should provide a minimum of two hides, one in the warm end and one in the cool end of the vivarium (see the heating section for more information on this). In addition to this a water bowl is essential  as they love to drink and take the occasional dip.

Substrate is always a slightly tricky debate in the reptile world. I always recommend using paper towelling for hatchlings and juveniles because there is no risk of impaction and it allows you to really carefully monitor your snakes feeding and pooping habits. Older individuals can be kept on a substrate such as aspen shavings although care must be taken when feeding due to risk of ingesting substrate. The best way around this is to feed your snake in a separate enclosure; I like to take my snakes out and place them in an empty plastic storage container and feed them in there.  No risk of impaction and it is very easy to clean up any mess in a clean plastic container.

Regarding other decor, this is when you let your imagination run away with you. Childrens pythons are opportunistic climbers so if you provide sturdy branches they will use them to climb and explore. Do take care however and ensure that any decor in the vivarium is well secured to ensure that it cannot fall under the weight of your snake potentially harming it. Fake plants can also be used to great effect. Go wild, have fun and make something attractive looking.

Childrens Python

Childrens python by entheos

 

Childrens pythons feeding

As mentioned in the introduction, in the wild childrens pythons feed on a diet of lizards, amphibians and the odd mouse. In captivity however a diet such as this is impractical for most keepers. As such captive bred childrens pythons are usually raised on a diet of rodents which are widely available as they are the choice feeder items for reptiles and birds of prey (meaning they are bred commercially on a large scale).

Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed on one pinky mouse once every 4-5 days or so. As the snake grows the size of the food should increase accordingly. As a general rule of thumb never feed your childrens python a rodent which is 1.5x wider than the snake at its widest point, however food items which are equal in width compared to your snake at its widest point are preferred. A food item should leave a slightly noticeable bump for a day or two but nothing huge.



As your childrens python grows you should decrease the frequency of feeding as you increase the size. A juvenile snake should be fed every 5-6 days and an adult should be fed once a week. Upon reaching adulthood your childrens python should be able to easily tackle adult mice. If you notice your snake is starting to look a little podgy it is obviously time to decrease how often you feed, try feeding every 10-14 days in that instance until is slims down somewhat.

If you find your snake isn't feeding properly, find out why, and what you can do to start your snake feeding again.

Breeding Childrens heating and humidity

As I am sure you are aware, snakes are cold blooded and as such they need to make use of external temperatures in order to regulate their own internal body temperature. In order to allow them to do this properly you must provide a warm end and a cool end to the vivarium. Having access to an area of warmth and an area of relative cool will allow your childrens python to properly regulate its own body temperature.

There are a number of heating options available, and which you use will depend upon your personal circumstances and to an extent, your budget. My preferred option is to simply use an under tank heat mat which covers no more than 50% of the floor space in the vivarium, I generally aim for 30-40%. These should be placed under the vivarium and ALWAYS used with a thermostat. There are no exceptions to this, using a heating element like a heat mat without a thermostat is simply dangerous and irresponsible.

Other heating options include ceramic heat emitters and even incandescent light bulbs. These work by warming the air temperature in the vivarium. Please note that due to the snakes tendency to climb these must always be used in conjunction with a bulb guard and of course, as with any heating element, a thermostat. One thing I’d like to point out about this as these methods are very efficient at heating particularly in wooden vivariums. As such you may have difficulty providing a temperature gradient appropriate for your childrens python if you only have a small vivarium. In my humble opinion, ceramic heat emitters and light bulbs are only really suitable as heating options when your vivarium is at least 3ft long.

Please note, never use a heat rock in your vivarium, they are dangerous and I have no idea why manufacturers still produce them.

For more information on thermostats, how they work and exactly what kind of thermostat you need, take a look at our guide to reptile thermostats.

Temperature wise, you should aim to provide a hot spot of approximately 88-90f with the cool end simply being room temperature, or failing that, about 70-75f.

Humidity isn’t of great concern with childrens pythons, 40-50% is usually sufficient (ie the standard humidity in most households). You should raise the humidity when your childrens python is about to shed its skin. This is characterized by the snakes colouration going dull, opaque and almost milky. The eyes do the same. When thishappens simply give them a light misting every other day until they have shed their skin.

Sloughing

Childrens python shedding was covered to some degree in the humidity part of the care sheet, however I did want to say something more on the matter. Childrens pythons shed their skin periodically so they are able to grow. In hatchlings shedding occurs very often (as much as once every 3-4 weeks when they are very young) however in adults this slows down to once every few months.

When you notice the symptoms of shedding previously mentioned (dull colouration, milky eyes, etc) then you need to raise the humidity until it sheds as previously managed. As an interesting point to note, for the week or so after your childrens python sheds its skin its colours will be particularly bright and the snake in general will look its best. This is a fantastic time to photograph your beloved pet.

Handling Childrens pythons

Childrens pythons are generally very docile when handled from a young age, they take well to handling. Always be very gentle with your snake and be sure to approach it from the side when picking it up. The reason you should never approach your snake from above is a lot of their natural predators strike from above (ie birds etc) so they can be a little more nervous when approached in such a manner.

Childrens Python

Childrens python by tysonA

 

Summary

These rather beautiful small pythons make great pets due to their forgiving nature and small size. Keep them in a wooden vivarium with two hides, a water bowl and a couple of things for them to clamber over. Temperatures should be kept at 88-90f in the warm end with a cool end of about room temperature. Feed them a diet of rodents roughly once weekly depending upon their size. Childrens pythons take well to handling provided you are gentle.

Enjoy!

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