Green tree pythons (Morelia viridis) are 4-5’ long, arboreal snakes native to the New Guinea area, as well as Northern Australia’s Cape York Peninsula. They generally prefer a tropical rainforest habitat, where they spend most of their time in trees and shrubs, although they occasionally spend time on the forest floor.
Green tree pythons have slender, muscular bodies, peanut-shaped heads, prominent heat pits, and prehensile tails. This species is best known for their bright green adult coloration, but there’s actually a good amount of variation, and they look completely different as babies. For the first 6-12 months of their life, green tree pythons are either yellow with brown/maroon markings or maroon with pale markings. Adults have a yellowish underside, and may or may not have a white dorsal marking or scattered blue scales. Due to selective breeding in captivity, there is also a variety of other colors and patterns known as morphs!
Their stunning appearance and manageable size makes green tree pythons popular display animals. Although they have a reputation for being defensive and difficult to care for, when kept at the right temperature, humidity, and feeding schedule, green tree pythons are intermediate-level snakes. With appropriate care, a green tree python can live 15-20 years.
Minimum terrarium size for green tree pythons
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single green tree python is 36”L x 24”W x 24”H, but preferably larger. Of course, larger is always better! Green tree pythons may look small due to their slender bodies and tendency to coil up on a branch, but the fact is that they still need enough room to stretch out fully, climb, and thermoregulate. When not fed too frequently, they can actually be fairly active snakes.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple green tree pythons in one enclosure) is not recommended, as keeping them together is likely to cause stress.
Do green tree pythons need UVB?
Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for green tree 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 provides other benefits. Plus, it’s quite likely that they are regularly exposed to direct sunlight in the wild, as green tree pythons are known to be active during both day and night.
The best UVB bulbs for green tree pythons housed in a 36-48” x 24” x 24” terrarium are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 22”
- Arcadia Forest 6%, 22”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture such as Vivarium Electronics or the Arcadia ProT5. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 10-12” above the basking branch if over mesh, and 13-15” 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!
If you’re using live plants in the enclosure, you will need to add a 6500K T5 HO grow lamp long enough to span most of the enclosure as well. Plants can’t grow well with a UVB lamp alone!
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Best temperature for green tree pythons
Like other reptiles, green tree 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.
Specifically speaking, green tree pythons should have a basking air temperature between 80-86°F. Ambient temperature should be maintained between 70-80°F, dropping to no lower than 68°F at night. Make sure you’re maintaining an appropriate temperature gradient with digital probe thermometers.
Provide heat for your snake with at least two incandescent bulbs, placed close together over the basking branch to evenly heat the snake’s entire body. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. If the bulbs are a little too hot, use a plug-in lamp dimmer or rheostat to reduce output. If the bulbs are not hot enough, you will need a higher wattage.
The heat lamp should be turned off at night. If you need a little extra heat to maintain appropriate nighttime temperatures, use a radiant heat panel connected to a thermostat.
Best humidity levels for green tree pythons
Green tree pythons may be a tropical species, but that doesn’t mean that they should be kept soaking wet. Average humidity levels should stay between 40-70%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium. Humidity levels should rise at night and then be allowed to dry out during the day.
Increase humidity by misting your snake’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle or automatic misting system. Mist each afternoon/evening and then again in the morning if needed. A cool mist humidifier connected to a humidistat is best practice for raising humidity levels at night without drenching your snake.
We also recommend installing a humid hide, lined with moistened sphagnum moss, in the upper levels of the enclosure.
Best substrate for green tree pythons
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for green tree pythons:
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Zoo Med Forest Floor
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Exo Terra Coco Husk
- Zilla Jungle Mix
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity. Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
During quarantine, it can be helpful to use puppy training pads to maintain humidity while also making the enclosure easy to clean.
How to decorate a green tree 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 green tree pythons are arboreal (and proficient climbers at that), it is extremely important to provide branches for it to climb and perch on. Branches should be at least as wide as the snake’s neck and placed both horizontally and diagonally for variety. The main perch should be removable so the snake can be easily removed from the enclosure when needed.
Here are some other ideas to consider:
Aside from branches, make sure that your snake also has covered areas to retreat to when it wants privacy.
What to feed to a green tree python
Green tree pythons are carnivorous, 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:
- Babies should be fed once every 5-7 days.
- Juveniles should be fed once every 1-2 weeks.
- Adults should be fed once every 2-4 weeks.
Appropriate prey size varies based on the snake’s age. When the snake is younger than 2 years, prey can be up to 15% of the snake’s weight. Between 2-5 years old, reduce the size of the feeder to 10%. After 5 years old, feeders should be around 5% of the snake’s weight.
Appropriate prey options for green tree pythons include mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, quail, and chicks. For best nutrition, offer a variety of prey. (Some green tree pythons might not be very fond of birds.)
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. Don’t use your hand to offer the prey, as you might confuse your pet and get bitten by accident.
Snakes can survive without dietary supplements, but using them every once in a while can help prevent your pet from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on the prey item before offering.
Green tree pythons must have constant access to drinking water. Keep the water clean and free of debris, and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your green tree python
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. While green tree pythons have a reputation for being defensive and nippy, captive-bred adults are generally calm enough to tolerate regular handling. Make sure to pick up the snake with two hands, supporting the body as well as possible, and scoop from above rather than grabbing from above. Green tree pythons have delicate tails that get damaged easily, so make sure to be especially careful with the tail.
If you’re worried about getting bitten, use a snake hook or paper towel roll to occupy the snake’s head while picking up its body.
*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!