Reticulated python housing
Lavender Albino Reticulated python, image by Andy_Mitchell_UK
The size of an enclosure for a Reticulated Python is a subject of some debate. Some say enclosures should be half the length of animal and the width should be a at least a third the length. Others believe that enough room for the snake to stretch its full length out around all four walls of the enclosure is enough (i.e. 6ft x 3ft for an 18ft individual). One thing that is absolutely certain is that there must be enough room for an appropriate temperature gradient so as the Python can thermo-regulate. Smaller Reticulated Pythons may climb but larger individuals have a predominantly terrestrial existence. As a result of this floor space is to be prioritised over height. It is also important that the snake is provided with hides at both ends of the enclosure so it doesn’t have to make a choice between safety and security; having a snake that feels insecure in its living quarters is a faste way to produce an aggressive animal. Often Reticulated Pythons kept in smaller enclosures develop much calmer dispositions than those raised in large tanks; however this is not an excuse to keep large animals in inadequately sized housing. Reticulated Python growth rates are determined by both genetic and environmental factors; obviously a snake provided with optimum conditions will grow to a larger size than those raised under sub-optimum conditions. Additionally Reticulated Pythons from Jampea and Kayaudi are said to be smaller on average as adults (it pays to bear in mind that these snakes are still not “small” and there is at least a little debate as to how much of their size is genetic and how much is due to sub optimum food supply on those islands). Regardless of this, Reticulated Python growth rates are explosive. Hatchlings are likely to outgrow their enclosure within a month and the pace of growth continues. Individuals have been known to hit lengths of 10ft in their first year (8ft is common). As a consequence it is important to have new enclosures pre-prepared. It is also pertinent to note that once a snake gets to lengths of 10ft feeding and handling are no longer a one man job (in general 1 person to every 3 feet of snake is considered adequate for support during manual transfer). You must be prepared for this.
An important consideration for any large constrictor is security. Reticulated pythons are very strong indeed and enclosures should be fitted with a lock.
Wooden made enclosures should be sealed in order to be efficient at retaining heat and humidity and this is something that should be considered when choosing a large vivarium (or materials to construct your own).
Reticulated Python Decor
Reticulated Pythons love water. Frequently when the water bowl is too light Reticulated python will tip the bowl in their efforts to submerge themselves. Obviously as the Python gets larger it may be difficult to provide a bowl large enough for a full body soak. In these instances it may be worth on occasion (and where practical) allowing your Reticulated python the use of your bathtub or some other similarly sized container in order to get a full body soak (be sure to follow safety precautions whilst doing this including having a partner to assist with handling). Keeping the water bowl near the heat source will cause the water to evaporate more readily which may be advantageous in maintaining the correct humidity level however you must be very conscientious in maintaining the water level and ensuring it does not dry out. It is also important to wash the water bowl thoroughly weekly.
As mentioned before, hides at both ends of the enclosure should be provided so the snake doesn’t face any kind of dilemma. It has been noted by some hobbyists that older Reticulated Pythons do not tend to use their hides so much and are fine without them, if you do remove hides however make sure you are doing it because the Reticulated python ignores them, not just because you find it impractical.
Young Reticulated Pythons seem very much to enjoy climbing and structures provided to allow this will be appreciated by your Python.
Outside of these commodities you may furnish the enclosure as you desire (be sure to disinfect thoroughly before placing in there) but it is worth bearing in mind that you will have to remove ad disinfect all items when doing a comprehensive tank clean-up.
Lavender Albino Reticulated python, image by Andy_Mitchell_UK
Reticulated Python Substrate
When considering what substrate to use it may be worth noting that a large Reticulated Python is going to defecate like a horse. With this in mind and hygiene as a priority it may be easiest to use a simple low maintenance substrate such as newspaper, paper towels or butcher paper. This kind of substrate can easily be replaced as and when it is soiled and is very cheap. The drawback is that it is visually quite dull. If you’re looking for something more exciting to the eye than newspaper but still relatively easy to maintain I would suggest Astroturf. If you do choose Astroturf as your substrate, make sure you get multiple pieces cut so there is always one to use whilst the other is being cleaned. Whatever you do don’t use Cedar or other wood shaving based substrates as the oils are very dangerous to reptiles. Gravel, sand and mulch are also known to cause health problems and should be avoided.
Your choice of substrate will dictate whether or not it is appropriate to feed your Reticulated Python in its enclosure or not; for example, it is inappropriate to feed a snake on coconut fibre as it may ingest the substrate with the food item and this in turn could cause intestinal blockages etc. It is best to feed your snake on newspaper or Astroturf, and this may mean you need to remove your snake from its enclosure for feeding.
You should have all of the information you need to create your vivarium now, I would advise searching around viewing other peoples set ups to get an idea of what you would like to create, and to think about the practicality of it before starting.
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