Blood Python Basic Care Guide
While the blood python has been a part of the reptile trade for decades, their popularity spiked when giant pythons such as the reticulated and Burmese were banned nationwide. The blood python stays shorter in length (but not in girth) and has a defensive and nippy reputation.
The blood python is found naturally in Southeast Asia. They’re found in Thailand, throughout much of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra in rainforests and swamps. The blood python is often found near water along river banks and streams.
Blood Python size
Blood pythons get impressively large when it comes to girth but their length is far more modest. Adults usually reach between four and five feet with four being the average.
How the blood python got its name
I’ve heard two different stories about how the blood python received their common name. The first is due to their often red coloring and cryptic patterning. The other is because blood is often involved after handling one. Take it for what it’s worth.
Blood Python Facts
Temperament and handling
The blood python is well-known for being nippy and defensive. They hiss rather loudly when stress and strike out repeatedly. Luckily, they usually bite and release in defense and not latch on for an extended period.
It’s best to get your blood python as young as possible. After it fully acclimates to its new surroundings and eats, begin handling it a few times a week.
Handling sessions last between ten to thirty minutes but start out with shorter ones. The snake might tame down completely or it may not. It could also tame down to some extent but still take an occasional strike at you. You probably will never be able to completely trust one. Use hemostats when feeding blood pythons to avoid accidental food response bites.
Blood python bite
Like all pythons, the blood python is nonvenomous. It still inflicts a painful bite with its long sharp teeth. Bites almost always result in bloodshed. The blood python usually releases after it bites which is a good thing. Food response bites are common when not using proper feeding equipment such as hemostats or forceps.
Don’t pull back from a bite because you could end up with teeth lodged in your flesh.
If a specimen bites down and refuses to release its hold (usually due to a food response bite), use rubbing alcohol on cotton balls. Dab the cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol over its nostrils and heat-seeking pits. It’ll release.
I’ve had food response bites from constrictor snakes where they latch on squeezing my hand and forearm. It’s not a pleasant experience and could turn people off from snake-handling for good. This is why it’s best to practice proper feeding techniques with the right tools for the job.
Temperature and humidity
Keep the ambient temperature between 80 to 82°F. Aim for relative humidity levels at between 60 to 80%. Ways to raise humidity include placing a water bowl over a heated area, misting the enclosure with water, or keeping substrate like coconut husk damp. Be careful not to keep the enclosure over-saturated. Avoid standing water other than the water bowl.
These snakes need high humidity levels. A substrate such as coconut-husk and coconut nuggets hold humidity well but remember, keeping a blood python is different from keeping an Asian water monitor. The snake needs a completely dry area to escape excessive moisture.
This is why I suggest using a separate humidity box. Exposure to excess moisture leads to skin blisters, upper respiratory infections, and other health ailments. Utilize a firm enclosure strategy to keep your blood python healthy.
These snakes don’t need full-spectrum lighting. In nature, blood pythons are found on the forest floor. They’re generally nocturnal and they’re ambush predators similar to the Dumeril’s boa. They do need a heating source though, especially for the higher end humidity levels they need to shed properly.
While many are against the idea of keeping snakes in breeder racks, they hold humidity far better than glass fish tanks. In fact, such racks are far more appealing to the snake because they feel more secure.
I prefer using heat tape controlled by a thermostat. If you keep the snake in a glass enclosure, I suggest an under-the-tank heat mat also controlled by a thermostat. Avoid heat rocks and heat stones because they cause burns.
I’m also not a big fan of keeping heat lamps on snakes. Heat tape and heat mats only warm an area of the enclosure, not the entire thing. The snake must be able to get completely off and away from any hot spot.
Have an enclosure big enough for the snake to include the following,
- a warm spot
- a cooler area
- a hide box
- a humidity-box
If keeping the snake in a rack system, a hide box won’t be necessary but a humidity box is still recommended.
Place the humidity box partly over the heating source to keep it warm and humid
Conditions that are too damp, too cool, or drafty lead to upper respiratory infections which are often deadly. If the snake has a humidity-box, there’s no need to keep the rest of the substrate wet.
Do keep a bowl of fresh water in the enclosure at all times. If you don’t have a humidity box in the enclosure, I suggest having a water bowl large enough for the entire snake to fit in. The bowl can also be placed over the warm spot to raise the relative humidity. I still recommend using a humidity-box overall.
Make a humidity-box out of an appropriately sized Rubbermaid container large enough for the entire snake to fit in. Keep the cover on it. Cut a hole for the snake to easily enter and exit the box. Use either vermiculite, paper towels, or coconut husk bedding.
Always keep it moist but not saturated with water. When using a humidity-box, it’s important for the rest of the enclosure to be dry with the exception of the water bowl. Clean up any urine and feces immediately after being discovered.
Food and feeding
Blood pythons eagerly accept rodents as their staple food source. This includes both rats and mice. Feed youngsters mice while switching over to appropriately sized rats as they get larger. Feed them appropriately sized prey once every seven to ten days. I prefer pre-killed/frozen-thawed rodents over live ones. Why risk injuring your snake?
Although this python is known for its rather wide girth and bulkiness, avoid overfeeding or power feeding. As with ball pythons, offer non-feeding blood pythons dark-colored rodents as opposed to white ones. You can also try offering gerbils which is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It often works for stubborn or picky eaters.
The blood python is bold and beautiful but not for everyone. Some specimens become “puppy dog tame” while most still keep (at least) some defensive characteristics. They also need higher humidity levels to shed properly. Providing a permanent humidity chamber in the enclosure is a good idea.
These snakes eat voraciously and are one of the easier pythons to breed. While a good alternative to keeping a Burmese or reticulated python, I still wouldn’t recommend them as a first-time pet snake. Instead, I’d recommend getting a ball python or spotted python. Blood pythons are for keepers with intermediate experience.
Keeping blood pythons is a rewarding hobby for those who adore them. Many different phases are readily available on the market today.
If you have experience with blood pythons you’d like to share, please feel free to add your comments in the section below.