|Common Name:||Spotted python, eastern children’s python or small-blotched python|
|Scientific Name:||Antaresia maculosa|
|Life Span:||More than 20 years in captivity|
|Size:||Large specimens can grow up to 4 to 5 feet in length and can weigh up to 3 pounds|
|Habitat:||Rocky areas, hillsides, outcrops, caves and crevices|
|Country of Origin:||Australia in the extreme northern part of Cape York Peninsula, south of Queensland to the northern part of New South Wales|
The spotted python is a species of python that is native to northern Australia and New Guinea. It is known to be one of the most popular pythons in the pet trade because it’s small and has an even temperament. It is popular in Australia among reptile enthusiasts and even across the globe.
The spotted python was first described by Wilhelm Peters in 1873 calling it Liasis maculosus. Later, Wells & Wellington called the species Antaresisa maculosus in 1984. It is native to the extreme northern part of the Cape York Peninsula, along eastern Queensland and north of New South Wales. Groups of spotted pythons also called the coast of Queensland their home and along the southern Trans-Fly area of Papua New Guinea.
The spotted python is considered the smallest of the python species which can grow up to 55 inches or 140 cm in length. These can weigh up to 3 pounds when mature compared to their heavyweight cousins the reticulated python. You’ll find characteristic spots or blotches of dark and brown colors over a light brown background. These spots may join together and may sometimes look like stripes along the tail and head. You can tell which is the head because of its distinct size. The snake has a cream underside which barely noticeable as it slithers on the ground but can be easily seen when handled.
Male or female pythons?
Determining the gender of a python is done by popping and probing; if you are new to taking care of pythons then we suggest you ask a professional to do this for you. This must be done with total care.
When sexing a python, look for its hemipenes or its reproductive organs. Males have two hemipenes found at the base of their tail behind the vent. These structures are found inside the python’s body. This is not easily seen unless the snake is handled and the structures inverted using a method known as popping.
A vet or a herpetologist may also use the probing method wherein a lubricated probing tool is placed in the python’s cloaca towards the tail. The distance of the probe as it entered the cloaca will tell you if the snake is female or male. Female pythons have a shallow cloaca and the probe will only go in 1 to 3 scales. Meanwhile, a male will have a deep cloaca of up to 9 or more scales deep. Care must be done when probing or popping a snake because you can end up puncturing it.
Over many years of being sold as a lovable domesticated pet, there is growing concern that it may be exploited in the pet trade along the Indonesian West New Guinea border. However, it is not included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species but listed on CITES Appendix II making the international trade of spotted pythons controlled.
Other names for the spotted python include the eastern small-blotched python. This is a very skillful climber but won’t climb very large trees. You may see a spotted python climbing rock faces and shrubs possibly to check out prey. It has very few predators, therefore, you can expect this python to do fairly well in the wild.
The spotted python was still grouped with Children’s Python or A. childeni as well as Stimson’s Python or A. stimsoni under a single species. The pythons are still classified under Children’s Pythons, Children’s Python Group or the Children’s Python’s Complex when mentioned in literature and as reference under the exotic pet trade list.
Meanwhile, in 2003, a new subspecies was mentioned by Hoser called A. m. brentonoloughiini. He based the name from the specimens he found in the Cape York Peninsula. The python had a lighter base color and can grow up to 10 cm or longer.
But, herpetologists considered this subspecies invalid and specifically mentioned that there are no recognized subspecies of the spotted python. This python is the largest in the genus Antaresia.
In the wild, spotted pythons can live up to 20 years. There are recorded species that can live up to 30 years on average. But when bred in captivity, this python can live for more than 20 years or less depending on the care they receive.
Spotted pythons are like other reptiles with three life stages: hatchlings/young, juveniles and adults/mature pythons.
After three months inside the egg, the hatchlings finally come out. These small pythons look very similar to their parents and are usually born hungry and very curious. Hatchlings hatch together and wait in the nest for up to two days before they leave en masse, at the same time.
Juvenile pythons are larger and are young hunters. After leaving the nest, a young python is on its own as it looks for prey and possible spots to just curl up and rest. Juveniles look like their parents with the characteristic spots starting to show.
Adult spotted pythons grow in size, length and have the characteristic spots. When the male and female is mature, these are ready to mate. This happens late April and may continue till August. Mother spotted pythons are known to be very responsible as it won’t leave its nest after laying her eggs. She may stay curled around the eggs for up to 3 months and oftentimes, she won’t eat anything. The mating and reproduction of spotted pythons will be discussed in detail later.
The spotted python is a nocturnal animal which means it will sleep during the daytime and are active during nighttime. In the wild, spotted pythons actively look for prey in the evening, therefore, feeding captive pythons should also be done at night.
The spotted python’s diet consists of lizards, small birds, small mammals, and other reptiles. Pythons grow larger when they eat on a regular basis. To track down prey, spotted pythons use their heat-sensing organs found along with the lower labial scales. These pits are similar to those found on pit vipers and these allow them to hunt warm-blooded prey like rats, birds and other smaller mammals.
Pythons are non-venomous and kill their prey through constriction. They will coil around their prey and suffocate them by squeezing tightly. The heart stops beating and the prey eventually dies. The spotted python will then swallow its prey whole. It can take them a long time to swallow larger prey and depending on the size of the prey, digestion can be from only a few days to even a month.
To feed your spotted python, provide juveniles hairless mice. Adults are good on larger, adult mice. The ideal time for feeding a spotted python is two mice a week. Experts say that the ideal meal for a spotted python is around 10% of its weight. Use a calendar to track your python’s feeding schedule so you won’t forget.
Spotted pythons are nocturnal therefore will sleep during the day and are active at night. As much as possible, keep your snake’s enclosure inside a quiet area and never in the living room where there’s high traffic during the day.
Inside the python’s tank, place branches, rocks and small caves where it can stay and sleep during the day. It lives in a rocky environment in the wild so small rocks or sand can make the best bed for your spotted python to sleep in.
Spotted pythons need fresh water to drink. Place these in wide bowls made of ceramic or in clay pots. The python will simply slither around and lick water from the bowl anytime it wants to. Change the water inside this bowl often.
Snakes like spotted pythons don’t swim so it won’t require deep water inside its enclosure. It prefers to remain on land, on rocky areas where it can remain hidden from plain sight to bask under the sun, Pythons are unable to regulate their temperatures well because of their cold-blooded nature. They need to bask under the sun or under a strong tank light to increase their body temperature.
Development and Reproduction
Spotted pythons lay eggs or ovoviviparous animals. The eggs need a certain amount of heat to be able to hatch. The mother uses her body to provide warmth to her clutch of eggs. She will twirl around her eggs and will never leave this area until her babies hatch.
If the eggs are laid in an area where it’s not warm, the mother will leave the nest to go to a place where it’s warm to increase her body temperature. She will soon come back to the nest to resume her position around her eggs.
A kind of shivering action is observed in mother pythons in an effort to warm her eggs up. They shiver their muscles to generate heat to keep the eggs warm and cozy. This unique natural action allows the spotted python mother to remain with her eggs instead of moving away to warm up. This also helps her protect her eggs from predators.
The eggs can take up to three months to hatch. Some python hatchlings will open the eggs with their egg tooth. During this very long time, the mother snake will not eat. It will remain in the nest to ensure the safety of her little ones.
If you have a female python guarding her eggs, make sure to give it good food after her eggs have hatched. Offer live mice and small lizards laced with nutrients or supplements to bring back her state of health.
After laying her eggs, the female incubates the eggs inside a comfortable nest up to 90 days until the eggs are ready to open. The newly hatched pythons will remain in the nest for a few days before deciding to leave.
How to Breed
Breeding a spotted python takes skill, knowledge of the python’s needs and understanding its preferred habitat. The mating activity of spotted pythons start late April and may continue till the middle of August. Females will lay up to 18 eggs and will remain coiled near the eggs to provide heat.
You must prepare a tank that’s large enough to accommodate your python as it grows larger and requires more room. The tank must be tall as it is wide and should be secured under lock and key. Any successful breeder needs to understand that to be able to breed healthy young spotted pythons is to use healthy parents. Place the male and the female pythons inside your breeding tank and allow these to remain inside the tank until the female lays eggs. Removing the males is crucial to avoid providing stress to the female spotted python. Remember that the female has to concentrate on laying her eggs and guarding it against predators.
Unlike other reptiles that abandon their eggs as soon as these are born, spotted python mothers remain near their eggs till they hatch so it’s best to don’t bother removing the eggs at this point.
Support the mother with the best lighting to improve tank temperature. The enclosure must be at a constant temperature ranging from 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime but should be reduced 5 degrees during the night time.
Spray water using a mister inside the tank to increase humidity. This temperature and humidity levels will keep your spotted python mother happy and comfortable and so will her eggs.
Common Health Problems
Pythons are easy to keep as pets and to ensure that these are healthy and getting the right care and nutrition, you must learn to identify signs that your pet is healthy vs. signs that it is sick or unwell.
Pet pythons are generally healthy as long as it is given the right food and their cages kept clean. But sometimes these are not enough to avoid some health conditions.
Healthy pythons have clear eyes, clear nose and mouth, are alert and active, eats regularly, with a rounded and full body and has healthy skin. Snakes suffering from health issues may have wrinkled skin, lethargic, with discharge coming from the nose or mouth, with abnormal feces or urine, decreased appetite, and vomiting. For any of these signs and symptoms, take your pet to the vet at once.
Here are the most common health issues of spotted pythons
Your pet spotted python may become affected by several skin conditions including abscesses. This is due to a previous injury that becomes infected by bacteria and may look like a small lump on the skin. This can protrude to the internal tissues and organs and may be confused with tumors, constipation, and eggs that remain in the body.
Meanwhile, blisters also affect snakes and these are fluid-filled skin structures that form along the underside of the snake. This skin condition is because of the snake living in a moldy, dirty and overused substrate. Blisters should be removed by a vet because these could pile up and grow near the mouth and nose.
A spotted python may also suffer from cuts and blisters. This is a preventable condition by ensuring that the accessories inside the enclosure are safe and will never harm your python. Simple cuts may be treated by simple first aid but deeper and larger ones should be seen by a vet.
Mites and ticks may also affect your pet spotted python. You can see mites as tiny moving dots that can be red, white or black. Ticks are larger and fewer but these can bury itself in between the scales and will not let go. Do not remove the tick with tweezers, simply soak the snake in a warm bath to remove these parasites. If the mite and tick turn to an infestation, consult your vet right away.
The size of the snake and its metabolic rate affects the time it takes to digest its food. But if you think that it has already been days or a week from the last time your snake pooped then it may be constipated.
The first course of action is to let your snake remain in warm water for at least 15 minutes a day. This will help stimulate digestion and excretion. But if constipation is accompanied by swelling of the belly, take your snake to the vet at once.
This condition is common especially when you caught your snake in the wild. A wild spotted python can pick up parasites from other reptiles and also from infected prey. Some signs of internal parasites include lack of appetite, regurgitation, lethargy and an overall tired and unwell appearance.
One way to test for internal parasites is to take a fecal sample and test it in the lab. You must take your pet to the vet right away to have it checked for parasites.
Regurgitation is usually due to stress, holding or handling the snake soon after it has just eaten and due to an undiagnosed and untreated illness. This may be prevented by avoiding holding your snake after feeding, Make sure to have your pet checked by the vet for any untreated or improperly treated illness.
Prepare a heated area inside the tank where your pet can stay right after eating. Cut up large pieces of food to avoid regurgitation. Also if your python has regurgitated the same kind of food on several occasions, it may avoid eating this type of food altogether and develop a psychological problem in response to regurgitation.
If you notice symptoms like lethargy, coughing, open-mouth breathing wheezing, runny nose or unusual clicking noises, your snake may be suffering from respiratory issues. If you notice these, increase the temperature inside the tank to stimulate the snake’s immune response.
Move the cage or enclosure to another part of the room or house away from other snakes and pets. The area should be quiet so your snake can slowly recuperate. Most viral respiratory conditions will go away without treatment, just rest and the right temperature. But if your snake’s condition turns for the worse, consult a vet right away.
We will discuss shedding in depth later but to give you an overview, shedding happens to all snakes and this is a part of your spotted python’s life. Shedding may pose a problem to pythons especially when the snake and its tank are not properly hydrated. The skin in the body and tail may shed easily but the skin surrounding the eye or the eyecaps and tail can take time and may cling to the body if it is too dry.
Use a mister with water and spray this all over the tank, on the accessories and the snake body. Place a bowl of water inside the tank to improve humidity levels inside the enclosure.
As soon as you identify that your snake is beginning to shed its skin, soak it in warm water. Do this once a day. You must take your pet to the vet if it is having difficulty removing dried skin, especially on the eyecap.
To prevent illness, extra care should be observed when caring for your spotted python. First, make sure that the tank has the optimal temperature and hydration. Use the best tank lighting and humidifier. Use a digital thermometer and hygrometer to efficiently monitor tank health. Have backup power like battery-operated lamps in case of power outages.
Properly hydrate your snake by misting the tank with water. Keep a bowl of water inside and change this water daily. Change bedding often to prevent parasitic and bacterial infections. Never reuse bedding. Since a spotted python needs pebbles or rocks as bedding, inspect the area carefully for rotting food, poop and vomit because these can rot and cause disease.
If you have a new snake pet, quarantine it first before you allow it inside the room with your other pets. Remember that some infections are due to snakes and other reptiles caught in the wild. You must also take the new member of your family to a vet to ensure it’s healthy and ready to mingle with your pets.
When feeding your pet python, avoid wild-caught animals because these may have ingested pesticides which can harm your pet. Use food to disguise supplements or multivitamins. Never overfeed and keep a diary or calendar to monitor your snake’s feeding schedule.
And when it comes to shedding, leave your snake alone. Offer help only when you see problems with shedding along the tail and eyecap. Prevent these problems by maintaining the right tank temperature and humidity.
Understand your spotted python better by getting to know its natural behavior. Here are some important facts:
Very shy python
Ask any spotted python owner and he’ll surely tell you that this snake is one of the shyest. But it can overcome this natural behavior when you hold it frequently and treat it well. Learn how to hold a spotted python well so it can learn how to trust you.
This species is harmless and is very friendly as it learns how to trust humans. It is also the easiest to handle in the python family because of its size.
Bites only for self-defense
It may bite IF they feel threatened. This is just their defense mechanism especially to people and animals that they don’t trust yet. But adult pythons are usually docile and would not be a problem at all.
Gets nervous quickly
When not properly trained and handled less frequently, spotted pythons may develop a nervous attitude. Again, it can overcome this nervousness if you handle it well and with confidence.
Mother is protective of her eggs
Mother spotted pythons are very productive of their eggs. They would do anything to keep her eggs warm to the point that she will stay for many weeks around the nest. This behavior is seen in pythons giving birth in the wild but when in captivity, mother pythons can leave the nest to bask under the lamp and return to give radiated heat to her eggs.
Spotted pythons hibernate and also estivate. Estivation is the unusual behavior of hiding out even during the summer months. During the estivation and hibernation periods, spotted pythons will have a very low metabolic rate and are in a state of deep sleep. Basically, these animals just wake up to breed and eat the rest of the year.
Shedding is a sign of a healthy spotted python. Ideally, pythons shed once a month or regularly. During the shedding process, the skin grows to accommodate the increasing size of the python, hence this is very important to growing snakes. Shedding happens more often in young or juvenile pythons and rarely in adult ones. However, if the snake is not shedding then this could indicate malnutrition or other medical issues.
Just some of the reasons why spotted pythons fail to shed on time or may not shed at all are stress, too much handling, skin bacteria, trauma or other skin conditions. When a spotted python sheds, even the eyecaps shed as well. If this does not shed, take your snake to the vet.
Remember, when your snake is about to shed, its eyes swill become glazed and milky white. A complete shedding, the skin will come out in one piece and not in small flakes.
In the wild, the spotted python prefers to stay in rocky areas. The color and texture of rocks may help hide the spotted python from potential predators. But in captivity, spotted pythons should be kept in enclosures that are ideally 1.5 feet deep, 4 feet in width and a foot high. A larger enclosure may also be used if you can spare more space at home. If you can’t find a large tank, you may be better off with a made-to-order tank.
A glass terrarium is better so that it can keep humidity better. Place an insulator to prevent the escape of heat and humid air. Place accessories inside like perches, plants, and pots where your snake can perch and hide to sleep and hibernate.
Keep one python in one tank. Never place two pythons together because these animals prefer to remain alone. If you plan to take care of many pythons, convert a basement, attic or garage to accommodate your tanks. This way, your pythons, and other reptiles will be kept safe considering that these are nocturnal animals.
Lighting and Humidity
Use a good lamp made for reptile enclosures. The constant temperature should be maintained and this is between 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and reduced by five degrees at nighttime. Monitor the temperature and humidity constantly using a digital hygrometer and thermometer. Correct humidity using a pan of water inside the tank or using a spray bottle or mister to spray water.
What type of lighting is best for spotted pythons? The LED lighting is the best type of lighting for a snake tank. LED lamps will shine brightly but will not make the tank too hot. LED lamps can be very expensive but will last for a long time and will never consume too much power.
There are different types of LED lamps in the market but choose an adjustable one. Have backup lighting with lamps that are battery-powered in case of very long power outages.
Tank Bedding and Accessories
Keep in mind how snakes move; they slither and brush up against different surfaces inside the tank. It’s important to provide safe bedding and accessories for your pet.
Follow its natural habitat and use rocks and pebbles. Choose smooth rocks and sand which are somewhat the same color as the snake’s skin. The bedding should be spot-checked daily or several times a day to maintain overall tank cleanliness.
Use natural or artificial plants and ledges; it’s okay since snakes don’t eat plants anyway. Just make sure that these don’t have sharp edges that can scratch or cut your pet.
Clean the snake tank well and use natural cleaning agents as much as possible. Natural cleaning agents include lemon, baking soda or vinegar; these will remove dirt and smell without leaving any dangerous components that can affect the health of your snake.
If you want to use chemical products, to clean your tank, follow directions on the product label. Rinse the tank well and dry with paper towels before you place the accessories, bedding, and your pet in. Clean the accessories as well. Sometimes it’s better to use artificial plants and perches so you can wash them with the tank.
There are different cleaning products that you can use to clean your snake’s tank. You can select from disinfectants, sterilizers, and sanitizers. Another way is to use boiling water to sterilize the tank. Let the water stay in the tank for a few minutes before draining it. Open a window, door, and fans when using bleach and other cleaning solutions and make sure to rinse well and dry the tank before you place your python back.
Leave a dish of clean water inside the tank. The dish must be made of ceramic or clay and not plastic. You may also spray the tank with water in a mister. The python can lick vapor off the side of the tank and on the leave of the plants.
Always keep an eye on humidity to find out if you need to correct it. Use the mister to apply moisture inside the tank to correct humidity.
Availability – Where to Get One?
You can get a spotted python from a local pet store or an online pet or reptile shop. It’s important to buy your pet from a reputable dealer or pet store to ensure good health. Before you take one home, demand a certificate from the vet which should be provided by the seller to make sure that you are taking home a healthy snake. The same goes for buying a spotted python from a local dealer.
Spotted pythons can cost anywhere from $50 to $70 depending on the size, gender and the cost of shipment. You can save money by purchasing a snake from a local breeder or dealer instead of buying online.
How to Care for a Spotted Python?
Remember the following when caring for a spotted python
- Always maintain tank cleanliness and orderliness. Spot clean daily, change or wash bedding weekly or more often to prevent disease.
- Monitor tank temperature and humidity. Use a reliable digital thermometer and hygrometer.
- Keep a dish of water inside the tank not just for hydrating a spotted python but also for improving humidity inside the tank.
- Feed your spotted python insects, arthropods and lizards. Since spotted pythons will swallow its food, you can use this chance to sneak in some supplements or multivitamins in your snake’s diet.
- Handle your pet early to help it adjust. Start during the juvenile stage; handling it with steady hands and calmness. This will also reduce the python’s shyness and nervousness.
- Support your snake as it undergoes shedding. Provide it good food and hydrate its tank by misting to ensure that shedding will be complete.
- Take your pet to the vet for any medical issue. Simple cases like cuts and scrapes may be handled by basic first aid but to reduce complications, take it to the vet for proper care.
- Always settle for healthy pets when you purchase a spotted python. Demand a certificate from the vet from the buyer to ensure good health.
How big does a spotted python get when kept in captivity?
Adult spotted pythons can grow from 4 to 5 feet long and can weigh up to 3 pounds. Some spotted pythons can grow larger in the wild but lifespans can be shorter in the wild.
How often should you feed a spotted python?
Adults should be fed with live mice ever 5 days or at least once a week. After feeding a spotted python, leave it be for at least 24 hours to give them time to digest their meal.
Do spotted pythons require high humidity?
Yes, spotted pythons need up to 80% humidity to be able to live healthy inside its tank. This humidity level will also help them shed their skin better.
Do spotted pythons need lighting?
Spotted pythons don’t need supplemental lighting. If bright and continuous light is given, this can be very stressful to snakes which are nocturnal animals.
How often will spotted pythons shed their skin?
Spotted pythons can shed their skin every 6 to 8 weeks when they are young and every 8 to 10 weeks when these reach their adult size or when mature. The shedding process happens in 9 days and is affected by factors including temperature and humidity.
Are spotted pythons arboreal?
Spotted pythons are semi-arboreal, nonvenomous and are solitary. You’ll find spotted pythons living longer in captivity and may live shorter in the wild due to its predators.
Are bites from spotted pythons venomous?
Spotted pythons are nonvenomous but can cause extreme local pain, swelling, and possibly infection. Constriction is more dangerous in pythons rather than their bites.
How many eggs will a female spotted python lay?
A healthy female spotted python will lay a clutch with 18 eggs. Females are very protective of their eggs and may even coil around it for many weeks until these hatches.