Spotted Python Care

Antaresia maculosa

Spotted Python

Spotted python, image by C.Sicars

Spotted pythons, Antaresia maculosa are small pythons from northern Australia where they are found  . They make great pet snakes and are particularly popular in Australia. They are easy to care for, reach a very manageable size of 4-5ft and they make a great first or second snake. Slender bodied, these snakes get their name from their spotted pattern. In reality their pattern is somewhat variable and can take on a mottled or patchy appearance.

Spotted Python housing

Housing for spotted pythons is quite typical of most snakes. They require a simple set up consisting of two hides (one in the warm end and one in the cool end, more on that later in the temperature and heating section), along with a water bowl which is large enough for them to submerge in from time to time.

In terms of vivarium choice, wooden is best for this species because like ball pythons they can be somewhat agoraphobic and therefore benefit from the slightly more enclosed feeling a wooden vivarium with glass front provides. Alternative housing methods include plastic storage boxes (often called RUBs – really useful boxes), these are favoured by breeders and can be great for the casual hobbyist too. RUBs also make great enclosures for youngsters as they come in lots of sizes and allow you to increase the housing size as the snake grows. A small 15x12x12 enclosure or there abouts is ideal for a baby, increasing to a 2ft vivarium as it grows and then eventually a 36x18x15in (Length x Width x Height) for an adult.

As previously mentioned, two hides need to be provided for spotted pythons. These can be anything from up turned plant pots, pieces of cork bark, commercial hides, empty shoe boxes, etc. Your choice of hide will depend how natural you would like the vivarium to look, opt for natural solutions if you are aiming to craft a nice looking vivariums, whereas simple setups only require basic hiding choices.

Substrate is another important factor when it comes to creating the right set up. When using particulate substrate (ie substrates made up of small particles, think bark chips, aspen etc), whilst more aesthetic there is a risk of the snake ingesting substrate and becoming impacted. It is therefore recommended that you keep juveniles and hatchlings on tissue/newspaper in a simplistic fashion. If you opt to house on bark chips, aspen, coconut fibre etc (which make all make great substrate choices) it is a good idea to feed the snake in a separate container to completely remove the risk of impaction. We’ll talk about that more in the feeding section.

The only other additions are the aforementioned water bowl and perhaps a few climbing structures like pieces of driftwood etc. You will find spotted pythons will take the odd climb when given the opportunity to do so. Make sure these kinds of structures are secure and cannot fall. A silicon adhesive can be used to secure things in place but be careful not to stick things in a manner which makes them difficult to clean. Also you should make sure not to use a silicon adhesive which  contains mould repellent as this can be toxic to your spotted python. Other decor for your spotted python can be added to suit your aesthetic tastes, things like stones, driftwood, dead leaves, etc can all enhance the look of the set up and leave you with a nice looking focal point for a room.

Feeding Spotted Pythons

Like the majority of snakes kept in captivity, spotted pythons should be fed on a diet of rodents (namely rats and mice as they are the two rodents which are bred most commercially and therefore they represent the best option both in terms of price and availability). As a rule of thumb, you should feed your spotted python rodents which are no winder than 1.5x the width of the snake at its widest part – the meal should leave a slight lump in the snake after it has eaten but nothing massive.
                      
Hatchling spotted pythons can take pinkie rats as soon as they hatch and should be offered them straight away. Whilst spotted pythons aren’t really known for being difficult feeders, in some snakes making the transition between mice to rats when they get older (a large spotted python would require a couple of even the largest mice a week, as opposed to just one appropriately sized rat) can be tricky. Its therefore recommended that you start with rats and simply continue to use them throughout the snakes life.

Hatchling spotted pythons should be fed one to two pinkie rats every 5 days or so, increasing the size of the food item as the snake grows as per the sizing rules mentioned earlier. As your snake grows to what can be called juvenile – once it is comfortably eating fuzzy rats – feeding should be decreased to once a week. Adult spotted pythons should be fed one appropriately sized food item (which will probably be a weaner rat or there abouts depending upon the size of the individual snake) every 10 days or so. Personally I like to vary how often my snakes are fed to keep them on their toes (scales?) so to speak, and so that feeding does not become too routine for them.

It is good to get in to the practise of feeding your spotted python outside of its vivarium. If you feed inside the vivarium the snake can soon learn to associate the opening of the tank with food and may become a little nippy and expectant of food every time the tank is opened. Personally I feed my snakes in a separate Tupperware container, when its time to feed them I simply remove them from their vivarium and place them in a decent sized plastic container (like those you get from any good DIY or general goods store) and offer the food up with tweezers. Assuming you have bought your snake rather than bred it, you should ask how the snake has been fed up until now. Most breeders favour strike feeding, whereby the rodent is wiggled in front of the spotted python until it strikes and constricts the prey. This is my preferred method of feeding too (not simply because its very enjoyable to watch, it also provides some exercise and a bit of natural behaviour for the snake) so even if your spotted python is used to food simply being left in the tank for it to eat at its leisure you might want to try to persuade it to strike feed.

Spotted python temperature and humidity

Like all reptiles, snakes are cold blooded and use the external environment to regulate their own temperature via a process known as themoregulation. They move in between warmer and cooler spots in order to maintain an optimum temperature. In order to allow your spotted python to do this you need to provide a temperature gradient in the vivarium whereby one end is warm and the other end cool.

Heating options include heat mats, ceramic heaters and light bulbs. All heating equipment must be used in conjunction with a thermostat (see our guide on thermostats if you are unsure about them) and if you are using a bulb or ceramic heater, or any similar heat source it must be used in conjunction with a bulb guard. These can be bought from any good pet shop, or online. You should place the heater in one end of the vivarium, in the case of heat mats you should ensure that the heat mat covers no more than 40% of the floor of the vivarium. Ceramic heaters can simply be attached at one end either on the top or the side towards the top. Personally I have a preference for using heat mats as they make it extremely easy to provide a good temperature gradient.

Keep the warm end at 88-90f, the cool end should be about 75f, that said provided the snake has access to a good warm spot the cool end can usually simply be room temperature (be cautious in the cooler months however).

Humidity

Ideal humidity for spotted pythons is 50-60% which can be achieved with a light misting once a week. You should raise the humidity by 10-20% prior to moulting by upping the misting to twice a week. I tend to find that hydrometers are fairly unreliable and inaccurate so I don’t use them personally, however you may wish to for peace of mind – like I say though they are inaccurate, particularly the cheap ones, so take what they say with a pinch of salt.

Handling Spotted pythons

Spotted pythons are usually easy going snakes which are very handleable. Hatchlings can be a little nippy (however that can be said of many snake species) and may tak a little bit of patience in order to tame down. Always approach your snake slowly and deliberately, and from the side rather than from above, avoiding any sudden movements. If you’ve acquired your snake from a breeder it will probably already be fairly used to handling so you won’t need to worry so much. Be sure to support the body your spotted python and simply let it explore your hands and arms, they tend to be quite inquisitive and easy to handle.

Summary

Spotted pythons make great pet snakes for both beginners and those with a bit of experience. They can be kept in a fashion typical of many other snakes, providing a warm spot of about 88-90f with a cool end of about 75f or room temperature, whichever is easier to achieve. Feed on a diet of rodents, increasing the size of the rodent as the spotted python grows. Good luck with your new spotted python!

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