Carpet Python Care Sheet

Carpet pythons are a popular snake in the exotic pet hobby. Maybe not as popular as the ball python, but a great snake nonetheless. Carpet pythons are native to Australia and New Guinea, and there are several recognized subspecies like the Jungle carpet python, the Darwin carpet python, and the Diamond carpet python to name a few.

Carpet pythons are nocturnal and semi-arboreal and live in shrubs, trees, and on the ground as well. They are excellent climbers and will use that to their advantage when they hunt down prey in shrubs and trees. Even though these snakes are considered nocturnal, they will come out into the sunlight to bask for a while, presumably to help with thermoregulation or digestion.

So how did this snake get its name? It’s said that the colors and patterns of the snake resemble the intricate colors and patterns of the woven carpets in the Middle East. Ok, that’s a fair statement, but why the Middle East I wonder? Why not the Aboriginal carpets? Those are loaded with colors and patterns and come from the same continent as the snake, but I digress.

Carpet pythons are a very healthy, medium-length, slender-bodied constrictor that do well in captivity as along as the keeper exercises proper husbandry techniques. Carpet pythons are a member of the Morelia genus python family, which includes the green tree python.

Carpet pythons have a very wide range of habitats that suit them just fine, including rainforests, coastlines, woodlands, and in gardens hunting dinner. You get the fruits and veggies; the snake gets the garden critters. I’ll take that deal myself.

Availability

These snakes are available online at reptile classified sites, fan-based websites (there are websites devoted to carpet pythons solely), and at reptile shows (when those come back around). I always recommend getting any reptile from a reputable breeder that has captive-born and -bred species.

Make sure to check to see which breeders offer an “arrive-alive guarantee”, so if something were to go wrong with your snake delivery, you should be covered, as long as you followed the instructions correctly. The breeder will know far more about the snake species they are caring for than any big box-style pet store.

The breeder will be able to help you chose the right snake for you; they will know what, when, and how much the snake has eaten and if it is a healthy eater; and they will know when the snake last shed, which is a sign of a healthy snake. Breeders are very meticulous about the way they treat their animals; proper husbandry is always at the top of a reputable breeder’s list.

Snakes from a breeder will be at the very least used to seeing and being around people and at the very best be “hand-tame” to some degree depending on the animal of course. The snake will also likely be parasite free, and that is a great first step in the right direction.

One last note on availability. Just because I am discussing carpet pythons as a potential pet and have researched their care for you, and just because these snakes are available online, does not mean they are legal for you to own in your area. Make sure you check out all the laws in your area before purchasing this snake or any other reptile to make sure you can legally own it in your area.

Size

Every subspecies of carpet python will grow to a different adult length and should reach their adult size by the time they are 2 to 3 years old. Carpet pythons are a fairly fast-growing snake. Hatchlings come out of the egg between 12 and 14 inches long, and, depending on the subspecies, adult carpet pythons can be between 4 and 10 feet long.

Here is what I have found to be the captive-bred and -raised adult sizes of all 7 subspecies, starting with the smallest first: the Inland carpet python grows to be 4 to 5 feet long, the Irian Jaya grows between 5 and 6 feet long, the Darwin grows up to 6 feet long, the Jungle carpet python grows to be 6 to 7 feet long, the Diamond grows up to 7 feet long, the Southwestern carpet python grows up to 8 feet long, and the Coastal carpet python can reach 10 feet long.

Please be ready for these growth rates.

Health

Before you bring home a new pet python, please know where a qualified exotics veterinarian is located, and the closer to you the better. This way, should an emergency happen, you know where to go and how to get there. Always take your new animal to see the vet as soon as you can after you purchase it—the same day would be outstanding.

The vet wants to see your snake while its healthy and happy and to make sure that you didn’t miss anything on your initial inspection of your new snake. Your vet is your ally. They want to help you and your snake live long happy lives together.

When it comes to their health, carpet pythons are generally pretty healthy. There have been a few genetic issues in the past like kinking, and I know there are certain color morphs that are prone to one issue over another but, for the most part, carpet pythons are as healthy as the next snake.

There are some health issues that all snakes face, and you can find a more complete list here. Know that with proper husbandry skills and practices, all the following health issues can easily be eliminated:

  • Acariasis: An infestation of mites and ticks. These can and often do jump from one snake to another.
  • Respiratory issues: Usually caused by improper humidity level.
  • Scale rot: Usually caused by not properly cleaning the enclosure or not properly cleaning the enclosure often enough with reptile-safe cleaners.

Lifespan

Something else to take into consideration when thinking of keeping a carpet python is they can live up to 30 years in captivity, and 20 years seems to be the average.

Habitat

In the past, fish aquariums were the norm for housing not just fish but most every type of small animal. Not because aquariums were all that special but mainly because it was the only thing available. About the only differences were the sizes and of course the prices. While they had good qualities to them like unobstructed views of the snake inside and plenty of room for young/smaller snakes to move around and climb, they have drawbacks as well.

They can be difficult to clean, and the glass can absorb heat over extended periods of time and cause a heat buildup, which is not good for any animal. Also, a top opening can make handling stressful for the snake. Because most of the snake’s natural predators attack from above, the snake may think you are a predator looking for a meal, at least until the snake figures out it can trust you, and that trust is built up over time and with proper handling and husbandry techniques.

Thankfully there are a wider range of enclosures available today built just for reptiles using reptile-safe materials. There is a large selection of shapes and sizes and several different places that will custom-build a snake enclosure for the type of snake you have, and it will fit anywhere you want. The only limitation on a custom-built enclosure is your budget.

There are doors on the enclosures that open from the side with sliding glass or even from the bottom that raise up. These openings make it much easier to clean the enclosure when needed, removing the snake without scaring it from this angle, and helps make feeding a breeze as well.

Always make sure the enclosure doors, no matter what they are made of, are shut and locked securely to avoid an escape. Most people won’t believe that your “harmless” snake got out. They just hear “There’s a wild human-eating creature on the loose and the police need to be called.” And seriously, they will call the police when or if they find out your snake is out roaming the neighborhood.

The minimum enclosure size needed to make an adult carpet python comfortable in 4’x2’x2’. This is for the smaller pythons like the Inland carpet python, which grows to be 4 feet long, or even an Irian Jaya, which reaches up to 6 feet long. This size does allow for some room to roam and climb. If you get a larger subspecies, you must get a larger enclosure.

As far as enclosure decoration goes, some branches are good for climbing (carpet pythons are semi-arboreal after all), fake leafy vines are good for hiding while hunting, and cork bark is good as well. Make sure that all the decorations placed inside the enclosure are tightly secured. Your new snake will be testing out all of them, and you don’t want a branch to fall on the snake while its climbing on it.

Make the enclosure look as real as you like, just be sure the snake still has room to move comfortably and do some climbing. The snake will need a hide placed on the cooler side of the enclosure, so it has somewhere to cool down and rest during the daytime. If you would like to have 2 hides, you can place one on the cooler side and one about halfway between the cooler side and the basking area (hot side). That way the snake can choose its ideal temperature.

Substrate

Carpet pythons will do just fine on paper towels or newspaper. Be sure to remove the soiled ones and replace them as soon as you notice they have been soiled. Pythons get skin infections if they have to move around on moist 2-ply or the comics section for long periods of time. However, if you have a nice display enclosure, you may want to use something a bit more natural.

Aspen shavings or cypress mulch are great choices for the display enclosure or any enclosure really. They are natural, they look great, and they also help keep the odors down. Make sure you get substrate specifically for reptiles. If you don’t, there could be chemicals or other woods in it that could harm your snake.

Never use cedar, pine, or any other aromatic woods in your snake enclosure. They are known for causing respiratory infections in reptiles. Always buy reptile-specific substrate. It will not have any of the woods or chemical additives in them that will harm your snake.

Every 3 to 4 weeks, remove all the substrate and replace it with fresh stuff. Clean all the decorations—the branches and vines and everything inside the enclosure—and the enclosure itself with reptile-safe cleaners. Then place all the nice clean things back into the enclosure, including the snake (don’t forget the snake!), and go celebrate a cleaning job well done.

Lighting and Temperature

As I mentioned earlier, carpet pythons are nocturnal, which means no special lighting is needed for them to go about their lives. With that said, I do recommend providing some sort of lighting for the ease of the reptile to be able to distinguish daytime from nighttime and to help the snake keep its circadian rhythm regulated. Turn on the light for 10 to 12 hours per day, and that should be fine. If you don’t help keep it regulated, the snake will undergo some stress.

If you have live plants in the enclosure, you will definitely need the correct lighting for them: maybe a full-spectrum bulb, which should work well for your plants and will provide a bit of benefit to your snake. Remember to change the bulb every 6 months. While the light will still turn on and heat will still be produced, there will be no special full-spectrum benefits from the light after 6 months.

As with most reptiles, there must be a temperature gradient in the enclosure, which should range from the cool side at 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the basking area or hot side. This can be accomplished by using light (it does produce heat after all), a ceramic heat emitter, or radiant heat panels. Use a thermostat to help regulate the temperature more accurately, and make sure to use a digital thermometer for the most accurate testing possible.

Never use under tank heat pads or heating devices. They have proven to be unreliable and a fire hazard too many times in the past. With today’s technology, there is no need for them. On a side note about these devices, they aren’t natural.

What I mean by that is, in nature, heat comes from the sun, which is in the sky above. When a reptile is too hot they will seek shelter or burrow into the ground for a cooler, moist area to lay. If there is heat coming up from underground, there is nowhere for the snake to burrow and cool off. This will create stress for the snake and, if it stays too hot for too long, there are plenty of health issues that can manifest.

The humidity level should stay around the 40 to 50 percent mark. Use a large water dish inside the enclosure and that should do the trick. If your heat emitter dries out the enclosure too much, mist the enclosure and even your python lightly with a hand spray bottle, and the humidity will rise again. Wait for the enclosure to completely dry out before you mist again because too much moisture in the enclosure can cause different molds or mildews and such to grow in the enclosure, and you can’t have that. Make sure to keep an eye on your hygrometer to keep track of the humidity level.

Food

When carpet pythons go hunting for food in their native environment at night, they seek out food sources like lizards, rodents, and birds to name a few. In captivity, their diet should consist of appropriately sized rats only. The reason for rats over other food sources like mice is because of the size. There are many carpet pythons that started out on mice and stayed almost exclusively on mice, and those are known as “mousers”. As far as their dietary needs are concerned, there is nothing wrong with giving pythons, young or old, mice. The problem is cost.

Once your carpet python reaches adulthood, if it is a mouser and you want it to stay a mouser, it will need 8 to 10 mice per week to sustain itself. I don’t know where you live, but that is expensive where I live, so I suggest starting out your carpet python on appropriately sized rats from the beginning, so you don’t have this problem of switching later. Switching them over at a later time can be tricky and even stressful to a certain degree on your snake.

Appropriately sized frozen rats are available online and at exotic pet stores and should be thawed and warmed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Do not microwave them to thaw them out! That is a mess you don’t want to clean.

Appropriately sized rats mean rats roughly the diameter of the snake at the snake’s biggest point. Do not feed your snake prey items that are larger than the snake’s largest point. While carpet pythons are outstanding eaters, trying to feed them too large of a prey item can cause digestion issues, as well as regurgitation, which is painful for your snake.

A solid beginning feeding guide is below:

  • Hatchlings get 1 pinkie rat every 7 days.
  • Young juveniles get 1 pinkie rat every 5 to 7 days.
  • Juveniles get 1 small rat every 5 to 7 days.
  • Adult snakes should get 1 adult rat every 10 to 14 days.

Also keep in mind that these are very enthusiastic eaters, you should consider using a pair of tongs or forceps to feed your snake. You do not want your snake accidentally biting you at feeding time.

Growth rates from one snake to another will vary. In general, increase the size of the prey item based on the size of your snake. This is only a guide to help you get started. Always check with your exotics vet to be sure your snake is getting all the nutrition it needs.

Water

Make sure the water dish is filled with clean water. The snake will soak in the bowl during its shed to help loosen the old skin. It will use the water bowl as a restroom and will not flush. How rude! No snake will drink poop water, so clean it often using the correct reptile-safe cleaners.

Use a large, heavy water bowl. You don’t want the bowl of water tipping over and spilling every time the snake crawls in or out, and then you have to clean the enclosure because of the different molds and mildews that can grow. There are some large, natural looking water dishes out there to fit your snake’s needs and help your enclosure look more natural. There are also water features for your snake’s enclosure, some with waterfalls. Make sure the water dish/feature is large enough for the snake to fit its entire body.

Handling and Temperament

There are many websites and people out there in this world that would have you believe that being a bit defensive or protective at first is a bad thing. It’s not. Which brings me to my point: I hear/see so much of this: “Carpet pythons are very nippy. Carpet pythons will always lash out and try to bite. Carpet pythons are ill tempered and shouldn’t be held. Carpet pythons are display pets only.”

Ok. Please understand that if you lived in a world where everything in it was big enough to eat you, and a few times something has tried to eat you, you would be defensive or nervous too. Cave people survived by being a bit defensive when the dinosaurs came around looking for a meal. Here we are today because of it.

So yes, hatchlings up to juvenile snakes can be a little defensive. They don’t know you are going to care for them and not try to hurt them. They think you may try to eat them. Carpet pythons will usually outgrow the defensiveness and will calm down in about a year. Sometimes it can take as long as 2 years.

If you get a snake that doesn’t settle down after that or if you prefer, use a snake hook. Whatever makes you feel comfortable being around your snake. Be sure to get proper instruction on how to use a snake hook, or you could hurt your snake. The more relaxed you are, the more likely you will have a good experience with your snake. Sounds like fun, right?

Pick up your carpet python from below rather than from above because from above is the direction predators strike. Use one hand to hold on to the heaviest section of the snake and the other hand to hold the snake’s head in a forward-facing direction. Never face a snake’s face to yours. Many people think it’s cool right before they get bitten. Let the snake, depending on its size, run through your fingers, hang around your arms, or just lay on your shoulders. Enjoy the time with your snake.

 

This care information is a brief overview of a subject that has been covered in many books by respected authors and on many breeder forums. For more information, please consult a specialized book, visit one of the breed-specific forums/message boards, or contact an expert in that particular field. Your new animal will thank you for it.

Queensland Government

Melbourne Museum

 

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