Reticulated pythons are some of the largest pet snakes there are. They are not snakes for beginner reptile enthusiasts, nor are they ideal for children, but some experienced herpetology lovers opt to care for them as pets. Native to Southeast Asia, reticulated pythons grow to be very long and heavy and can also live for two or three decades. Knowing what kind of care they need as pets is necessary to help them achieve this long life span as well as ensure you and your family stay safe.
Common Name(s): Reticulated python
Scientific Name: Malayopython reticulatus (but also known as Python reticulatus)
Adult Size: Over 16 feet
Life Expectancy: Over 20 years
Reticulated Python Behavior and Temperament
Reticulated pythons are not cuddly pets; they have the ability to coil around a person and suffocate them, but if care is taken, they can be handled by multiple individuals when necessary. Weighing in at over 200 lbs., these snakes are usually slow moving, spending most of their day at rest or waiting for their prey. Reticulated pythons are typically found on the ground, but they may also enjoy swimming in nearby bodies of water. They are typically regarded as being an aggressive species of snake because it is difficult to regularly handle them.
Housing the Reticulated Python
Because adult reticulated pythons are extremely large, a typical snake terrarium will simply not do. Reticulated pythons require a large, custom enclosure that measures about two feet wide by three feet tall by eight feet long, a small bedroom, or a walk-in closet. A hide box or log of some sort should be available in the enclosure at all times. Security is of the utmost concern; these large snakes are very strong and can escape from an enclosure that is not made of strong materials. Latches or locks should also be present on all lids and doors to ensure your reticulated python cannot push its way out of its enclosure.
Spot-cleaning after your snake sheds or eliminates are necessary but to maintain the cleanliness of your enclosure, monthly full cleanings should be performed. This full break down of the enclosure will help prevent build-up of debris and bacteria. Some people opt to clean half of the enclosure at a time while the other half contains their reticulated python. It's a good idea to have someone watching your snake if you are inside the enclosure. You won't be paying attention to what your snake is doing, and having someone else keep an eye on the space while you are near the snake will help prevent any accidental injuries or your snake escaping.
Reticulated pythons are from rainforest environments but they don't require extreme heat. You should provide a basking area of 90-92 degrees during the day with the thermal gradient dropping to about 75 degrees on the cool part of the enclosure. A heat light or ceramic heat bulb are ideal for providing these air temperatures but make sure your snake cannot touch the bulb or fixture or thermal burns will result. Use thermometers placed around the enclosure to ensure there are no spots that are too hot or too cold.
If you are using a white heat light to provide heat, then you are also providing light for your reticulated python, but if you are using another type of bulb then you'll still want to provide a source of white light. A 12-hour day and night cycle is necessary to decrease stress and mimic a natural environment. As with the heat light, make sure your snake cannot get to the white light or it can become injured.
Reticulated pythons typically need their enclosures to have humidity levels between 50-70%. During shedding, your hygrometer in your enclosure should read closer to 70% unless you have a humidity hide box. If you keep the humidity too high, mold and bacteria will grow more quickly which puts your snake at a higher risk of developing skin infections and mouth rot.
Substrate or bedding for your reticulated python should consist of a bioactive soil, newspaper, aspen wood shavings, cypress mulch, or cardboard. More natural environments will be more difficult to clean. Depending on your level of commitment, money invested, and time available to clean out the enclosure every month, you may want to choose an affordable and easy to replace option like newspaper for the bottom of the enclosure.
Food and Water
Chickens, rabbits and rats are the common prey items fed to full-grown reticulated pythons in captivity. The size of your snake's prey should be comparable to the widest portion of your snake and offered every one to two weeks. Overfeeding will cause health issues but you shouldn't underfeed it either. Make sure your snake's spine is not visibly sticking up under the skin. You should be able to feel the spine if you press lightly on your snake's body, but the body should be round in appearance.
Finally, a large container of water that fits your snake's entire body or even allows it to swim should be provided at all times. This will aid in the humidity in the enclosure but also provide your snake with a spot to soak, swim, and defecate.
Common Health Problems
Like other snakes, mouth rot, parasites, wounds from live prey, respiratory issues from cold enclosures, bacterial and fungal infections, retained shed, and impaction are common health concerns for reticulated pythons. Maintaining an appropriately warm and humid environment for your snake can help avoid these and other health problems.
Choosing Your Reticulated Python
When purchasing any reptile, make sure it is a captive bred (cb) pet and not wild caught. Look for signs of illness around the vent, eyes, and mouth as well as pieces of retained skin from an old shed. If the snake has any nasal or oral discharge or abnormalities to the face, eyes, or skin, it may not be a healthy snake.
Once you have found a healthy snake to purchase, ask the breeder or pet store what type of food it is currently eating and the time of its last feeding. If they do not know, find a new seller that can provide this important information for you. Expect to pay anywhere from $175 to $14,500, if not more for a reticulated python, depending on the size and morph of the snake. These snakes usually cost more the larger they are and the more exotic their colors and patterns are.
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