snake-care

How to Care for Your Carpet Python

February 10, 2021

carpet python

Carpet pythons (Morelia sp.) are a group of 5-9’ long, semi-arboreal snakes native to New Guinea and most of Australia. There are 8 different species and subspecies of carpet python:

  • Morelia bredli (Centralian Carpet Python)
  • Morelia imbricata (Southwestern Carpet Python)
  • Morelia spilota cheynei (Jungle Carpet Python)
  • Morelia spilota harrisoni (Irian Jaya Carpet Python)
  • Morelia spilota mcdowelli (Coastal Carpet Python)
  • Morelia spilota metcalfei (Inland Carpet Python)
  • Morelia spilota spilota (Diamond Python)
  • Morelia spilota variegata (Darwin Carpet Python)

Because of their diverse range, carpet pythons can be found in a variety of habitats such as tropical forest, eucalypt forest, temperate grasslands, and rocky desert. Their appearance is similarly varied, although most carpet pythons have a banded pattern and some combination of earthy cream, yellow, orange, red, brown, and/or black color. An exception to this “rule” is Morelia spilota spilota, which is often black with yellow speckles. All carpet pythons have streamlined, muscular bodies, teardrop-shaped heads, and distinct heat pits.

Carpet pythons are fairly popular pet snakes. Due to their size and sensitivity to poor husbandry, these are an intermediate-level pet reptile. With good care, they can live up to 30 years or more!

Minimum terrarium size for carpet pythons

Due to the variation in size between different types of carpet python, it’s important to know exactly what species (or subspecies) you have so you can predict its adult length and choose an appropriately-sized enclosure accordingly. As a general rule, the absolute minimum enclosure size for a carpet python will fit these requirements:

  • Length plus width is equal to or greater than the snake’s expected adult length
  • Height is equal to or greater than half the snake’s expected adult length

So, if you have a carpet python that is expected to grow 6.5-7’ long, you will need an enclosure that is no smaller than 4’L x 3’W x 4’H. Of course, larger is always better! 

Cohabitation (keeping multiple carpet pythons in one enclosure) is not recommended.

Do carpet pythons need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for carpet pythons. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits. 

The best UVB bulbs for carpet pythons are:

  • Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0
  • Arcadia Forest 6%

The bulb you buy should be approximately half the length of the enclosure. For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture from Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 11-13” above the basking branch if over mesh, and 14-16” above the basking branch if not. 

UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

Lights should be on for about 12 hours/day. All lamps should be turned off at night.

Best temperature for carpet pythons

Like other reptiles, carpet pythons are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively.

Although exact temperature needs vary by species/subspecies, generally speaking, carpet pythons should have a basking air temperature of 95-100°F, an average ambient temperature of 80-82°F, and a cool side temperature between 75-80°F. Air temperatures should be measured with at least two digital probe thermometers.

Provide heat for your snake with at least two halogen flood heat bulbs, placed close together over the basking area (ex: a piece of flagstone or stone paver) to evenly heat the snake’s entire body. Do not use colored bulbs, as these are not as effective. 

Light-producing heat sources should be turned off at night. However, if the enclosure tends to get colder than 68°F at night, you will need supplementary heating. Use a ceramic heat emitter or radiant heat panel connected to a thermostat to do the job.

Best humidity levels for carpet pythons

Carpet pythons are not particularly sensitive to humidity, but it’s still a good idea to pay attention to it, since some of them are quite tropical in origin. As a general rule, humidity should be between 40-60% on average. M. bredli prefers lower levels between 30-50%. There should also be a humid hide for your snake, lined with moistened sphagnum moss. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.

Increase humidity by misting your snake’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. Mixing water directly into the substrate can also help.

Best substrate for carpet pythons

Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help cushion your python’s body, maintain correct humidity levels, and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for carpet pythons:

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.

Substrate should be at least 3” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

How to decorate a carpet python terrarium

An empty terrarium makes for a bored snake, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

Since carpet pythons are semi-arboreal, it’s important to use available floor space and vertical space in the enclosure. You will need to provide places for the snake to hide as well as opportunities for climbing. You can do this with items such as:

What to feed to a carpet python

Carpet pythons are carnivores, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Here is a basic feeding schedule based on snake age:

  • Hatchlings — every 10-14 days
  • Juveniles — every 2 weeks
  • Adults — every 3-4 weeks

Prey items should be around 10% of the snake’s weight and no larger than 1.5x the snake’s width. Although live prey can be offered, it’s best to use frozen whenever possible. Prey should be thawed in a BPA-free plastic bag in warm water until it reaches ~100°F, then use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake.

One of the keys to great nutrition is variety, so aside from offering mice and rats, African soft-furs, gerbils, chicks, and quail can also be used to add diversity to your snake’s diet. Some carpet pythons demonstrate a distinct preference for mice and birds, which are smaller prey items and may require offering multiple prey items per feeding or feeding more frequently.

Supplements

Carpet pythons can survive without supplementation, but using them every once in a while can help prevent your snake from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on the prey item before offering.

Water

Of course, don’t forget a large water bowl for your snake to drink from and soak in! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

How to handle your carpet python

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, carpet pythons generally tame down quite well. They have something of a reputation for being aggressive and bitey, but this is a myth! They do tend to be defensive and nippy as babies, but that is normal for many snakes. When cared for properly, carpet pythons often become calm, perfectly handleable adults. 

When picking up your python, be gentle and try to pick it up from the side or below rather than from above. Support as much of its body as possible, and NEVER pick it up by its tail, as this can damage its spine!


*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!

 


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