• Pythons

    Pythons

    Everything you need to know to raise Pythons

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Pythons

Pythons

Raising Pythons
"Trust in me, just in me; shut your eyes and trust in me; you can sleep safe and sound; knowing I am around". Now where have you heard that before? In Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, of course! It's the lullaby the wily python Kaa sings to Mowgli, hoping to hypnotize him into a slumber so that he might make a midnight snack of li'l jungle boy.

Now, I know that doesn't give snakes a very good reputation but come on, everybody's got to eat! Ok, maybe humans should be struck off the food chain, and the truth is, very few people have actually fallen prey to large snakes.

It's just that the poor creatures have been given a bad name because they slither on the ground - "You just can't trust an animal that hasn't got legs!", grandpa used to tell me, squinting his wise old eyes.

Of course, there is also this false belief that all snakes are poisonous, and that all of them will gladly bite you just for fun, but those are big fat lies. As Kaa would say, "Trust me!"

My brother Reuben keeps a ball python, and it is one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. It is also non-poisonous, extremely well behaved and intelligent, although its lullabies still sound like hissing after all these years. We've had sand boas in India, but still prefer pythons because the markings along their backs make them so much prettier.

If you'd like a python for a pet, you have to be willing to take good care of it and respect it like you would any of God's creatures. Just don't get a pet mongoose as well!

A name for your python

Quasimodo. Ok, no, that's a joke. There are lots of names you can give your snake, but don't be cruel and call him Legless Larry or something like that. Here are some that you might find interesting:

Names for a boy ball python:

  • Spot (for the markings on his back)
  • Twister
  • Bobby Bigmouth
  • Curly
  • Jake the Snake

Some interesting names for girl pythons:

  • Primrose Python
  • Slithery Sheila
  • Minnie Mouselover
  • Squiggles
  • Fat Freda

Before you buy

Check with mom and dad! Yes, different people have different opinions about the kind of pet they should have, and snakes unfortunately still haven't made it to the top of most people's favorites list.

If everyone in the family is OK with the idea, then you have to decide if you really want a pet that won't play fetch. Buy a book on ball pythons, and read up as much as you can about them before you make your decision. Snakes are delicate creatures and require attention and tender care.

You should set up the python's pad before you bring him or her home, and this would essentially be an inexpensive modified aquarium. This information is provided in more detail in the Care and Feeding section, so read it before you make your visit to the pet store.

Choosing your pet

Ball pythons all look pretty much alike, but don't go 'Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…" when the time comes to choose one. Choose a snake that has a well-rounded body, clean eyes and nostrils, and shows no signs of respiratory problems like wheezing and bubbles around the nostrils. Needless to say, the snakes' cages should also be clean and free of poop.

Monty should be alert and inquisitive, and should grip your hand gently when handled, although he can be skittish before he calms down enough to be held. Avoid aggressive snakes that lunge at you every time you try to pick them up. The python's mouth should be clean with a pinkish tint and no signs of mucus. A good book on ball pythons will teach you all this, plus how to look for ticks and mites.

If he hasn't been fed recently, you could ask the store attendant to show you a feeding demonstration to check whether or not he takes his meals readily. If he has been fed, ask for when his next feeding is so you can visit again to watch, because it is very important to make sure your new pet will eat without a fuss.

Care and feeding

Housing

Small ball pythons that are 16-28 inches long will do well in a ten gallon size enclosure of 20x10x12 inch dimensions. An enclosure of less than 20 gallons would be too small for an adult of 30-48 inches, and a long 30 gallon one of 36x12x18 inches is probably best.

You can make sure your snake stays home all at all times by securing the aquarium with a screen lid that can be found at a pet store. Use a fairly heavy weight on top like a large glass ashtray for baby pythons, or something heavier for an adult one. The best option is strapping the lid down. You can also inquire about a 'Lizard Lounge', which is an aquarium with a sliding screen lid. Use a heat mat to provide belly-heat of about 82-85 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm side of the tank. A lamp is also required of about 40-60 watts, to give the snake a warm basking spot, but don't use it if the room temperature is already high.

A hygrometer tells you what the humidity is inside the tank, and this should be between 60 and 80%. Low humidity is often the cause of poor skin shedding, dehydration and even a lack of appetite sometimes. To increase the humidity, you can place water bowls inside the aquarium, which the snake can also drink from and slither through when it wants.

Don't forget to add fresh water regularly, and to provide a hide-box. A hide-box can be anything that feels like a rodent's burrow to a snake. You can use an upturned clay pot that has an access hole at the side. Use newspaper at the bottom of the aquarium which is cheap and easy to replace when it becomes soiled, although you could use mulch made of aspen or pine wood (and never cedar wood). Check also about Astroturf which is readily available from home supply stores.

Lastly, you will need something fairly rough for Monty to rub himself against come shedding time, preferably a plastic plant (which does not smell of plastic, as this could indicate that it is toxic).

Feeding

Ball pythons like mice and medium-sized rats (depending on their own size, of course), and they only need to be fed every week or two. A young snake should be fed fuzzy mice every 5-7 days, and as the snake gets older, the prey can get larger. It is a good idea to use pre-killed mice, which you can buy at a pet store, because live ones can injure a snake. You should ideally move the snake and its prey to a separate enclosure for feeding. That way, he'll know that that's the dining room and will be more ready to eat when he's there. Use a snake hook to handle him, or else he might mistake your hand for din-din.

If your python stops eating, don't worry until he starts losing weight or looks ill. Some tricks to get it to eat include dipping the prey in chicken broth, trying different colors of mice, feeding it at night and covering the aquarium with towels after you've put a mouse inside.

Medical care

You will need to find a vet who is familiar with reptiles, so that you can take your python to him or her if it falls ill. If after two shed cycles, the eye caps of your snake are still intact, you might want to visit the vet, who can also take care of your pet's other ailments, if any.

Python Trivia

  • The ball python is also called the royal python
  • It's called a 'ball' python because it often curls up into a tight ball, especially when afraid.
  • The longest-living ball python on record was over 48 years old when it died!
  • Ball pythons are excellent swimmers and pump themselves full of air to stay buoyant. To dive they let out some of this air!
© 2004 - 2019 Leonard Rego