Spotted Pythons as Pets

The spotted python is very appealing as a pet. They’re a perfect miniature of their monstrous cousins. Considered a dwarf among pythons, this species is very similar to the Children’s python. Both snakes are neighbors found in their native home of Australia.

Populations of both may exist on the nearby barrier reef islands too. While their common pattern and coloring are attractive, a granite phase is also fairly common in the reptile trade.

The Australian spotted python
Spotted python pictures

Like all pythons, the spotted python is oviparous and the mother protectively coils over her eggs. You can expect many eggs from this species, averaging at ten to twelve per clutch. Eighteen eggs are not unheard of. Hatchlings vary in size averaging up to a foot in length.

I prefer the spotted python over the ball python for many reasons. While the ball python comes in an array of countless morphs, I feel they have over-saturated the reptile industry.

Nothing against the ball python industry as a whole, but when I go to a snake show, I’d like to see more variety than what’s available today. It would be really nice to see colubrids gain back their popularity. I’ve noticed boa constrictors have already made a comeback which is a good start!

Spotted python care

Spotted pythons are easy to care for. In my opinion, they’re even easier than ball pythons. They feed a lot easier than ball pythons, that much is certain. They’re also not especially prone to stress. Even though they’re a dwarf, they still have an appetite of a reticulated python. It’s easy to overfeed an animal that’s constantly looking to eat.

Feeding

Overfeeding and power feeding is not recommended due to the likelihood of the snake becoming obese. Feed them once a week when young and once every week to ten days as adults. Only feed your python appropriately sized prey items. These snakes eagerly take frozen/thawed rodents. 

While babies roughly up to a year are kept in various smaller enclosures, keep adults in enclosures at about 3’L x 18″W in size.

Heating and humidity

Keep the ambient temperature at about 82°F and with a warm spot to aid digestion. Nighttime temperatures can drop to about 72°F to 80°F. Keep humidity levels between 50 to 70%.

Size

A healthy spotted python reaches four to five feet as adults. That’s a bit smaller than ball pythons. They also don’t get as heavy-bodied as ball pythons. If yours acquires such a build, cut back on feeding frequency or drastically reduce the size of the prey items.

Handling 

Spotted pythons usually handle well. I find that they like to hold on tightly to my hand so they’re not likely to fall like certain other snake species. They’re quite gentle and seem curious. With their tongue quickly flickering about, I think they’re looking for their next meal more than anything else. As far as pythons go, a spotted python is a good choice for first-time keepers.

Spotted Python Facts

  • Experience level: Intermediate to beginner
  • Temperament: Usually docile
  • Family: Pythonidae
  • Scientific name: Antaresia maculosa
  • Constrictor: Yes
  • Average adult size: 4 to 5 feet
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Venom: No
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Stress level: Moderate to low
  • Food: Rodents
  • Reproduction: Egg laying
  • Breeding level: Easy
  • Average Temperature: 82°H/72°L
  • Humidity: 50-70%
  • Habitat: Terrestrial
  • UVB lighting: No, optional
  • Enclosure size: Adult - 3'L x 18"W
  • Average price range: $100 - $150

Proper snake handling for positive interaction

Gain trust from your snake through gentle handling. Be confident, handle confidently. Always treat your snake with respect. Don't be overly forceful.

Temperament

I have observed both docile specimens and those who bite. A Children’s python I kept years ago was a biter but neither in an aggressive or defensive way. Instead, this snake would bite in a food response every time I opened its enclosure.

Not only that, but it would bite my finger and constrict as if it caught a small rat. There was no way of breaking this habit. Some snakes simply aren’t as intelligent as others. On the flip-side, I have a spotted python that never bites. While always interested every time I open the enclosure, he doesn’t strike unless he’s certain it’s food.

Spotted python in this video

Enclosure 

The spotted python doesn’t need an enclosure suitable for a reticulated or Burmese python. A setup similar to a ball python will do. This means a medium-sized enclosure.

Don’t house adults in something as small as a ten-gallon tank. Even a twenty-gallon tank is a bit too small for a full-grown adult. I’d shoot for a fifty-five-gallon tank just to give an idea length-wise. I prefer tubs and vision cages over glass fish tanks. 

Cleaning snake enclosures

Keep your snake’s enclosure clean for both its health and to prevent unpleasant odors from forming. Snakes have no hair, therefore, produce no dander. If a snake enclosure smells, it’s due to bacteria buildup and needs proper cleaning.

The way and frequency of cleaning depend on the enclosure, the snake, the substrate, and most obviously, the smell. Spot cleaning is okay as long as all the bacteria is scrapped up in the process. If you still smell an odor, you didn’t get it all. While spot cleaning works in some situations, clean the entire enclosure when necessary.

A more thorough cleaning is required when unfortunate events such as regurgitation occur. Simply scrub down hard on soiled areas and decide by your own sense of smell if you eliminated all odor-causing bacteria. It’s not hard to keep a snake enclosure from smelling but you have to stay on top of it. I highly recommend quality air purifiers for snake rooms.

Humidity 

I keep my spotted pythons at moderate humidity. They shed perfectly every time. Humidity levels too high exposed to drafts lead to upper respiratory infections in pythons. Otherwise, spotted pythons are rather hardy, and long-lived snakes, possibly exceeding twenty years.

Pythons and upper respiratory infections 

The enclosure must have adequate ventilation to prevent excess moisture from building up. Too much humidity for an elongated time might lead to an upper respiratory infection. Especially if the enclosure is located in a drafty room. Be sure to clean any water that spills if the snake happens to tip its bowl over. Replace the substrate with a dry medium and always have a bowl of fresh water available in the enclosure.

If an upper respiratory infection occurs, take it to a reptile competent veterinarian. Sometimes, when caught early, keeping the snake a bit warmer than usual in low humidity may clear it up. On the other hand, this isn’t an infection you want to gamble with. My personal recommendation is to bring the animal to a qualified veterinarian.

Spotted python bite

Captive-bred spotted pythons are generally docile with an even temperament. However, the spotted python is still a python and such snakes have many long, sharp teeth. As with any snake, the spotted python may bite when stressed, when defending itself, or in an accidental food response.

Since these pythons aren’t very big, a bite from one is minimal compared to that of a Burmese or a reticulated python. Those pythons potentially do some damage that may need stitches. As for their smaller cousin, simply wash the wound in warm water with soap. Such lacerations heal quickly due to the curvature of the teeth. 

You can avoid being bit by your spotted python by not smelling like its food, namely rodents. Also, letting the snake know you’re present before sticking your hand in its enclosure drastically reduces the chance of getting bit. Do this with a roll of paper towels or a snake hook. Just remember that even though it’s a dwarf among the python family, treat it with respect.

Spotted Python eating
Spotted pythons feed eagerly.

Feeding the spotted python

Here’s one feeding practice that may come in handy for spotted pythons and other pythons in general. It’s a good practice to remove the snake from its enclosure and place it in a shoebox when it’s time for it to eat.

This way the snake will recognize that it’s time to eat only when it’s placed in the feeding box. Condition the snake not to expect a meal every time you open its enclosure.

I’ve never had an issue feeding a spotted or a Children’s python. They eagerly snap at anything smelling like a rodent that’s dangled in front of them. Needless to say, frozen/thawed works fine for this species and they also carrion feed. The eating process of these snakes is slow as they take great care in constricting their prey.

Other popular pet pythons

Blood python

The blood python has gained popularity over the past several years. I have enjoyed keeping them in the past. The only reason I don’t have any now is due to lack of space.

Blood python care
The blood python

This is another python species that stays at a manageable size although they can put on some serious girth. Their colors and patterns are extremely variable. Feeding them is usually not a problem but avoid power-feeding. 

The temperament of the blood python

I’ve heard two different stories about how the blood python acquired its name. One claims it is from the bleeding that occurs after a chance encounter with the snake while the other is due to its often red coloring.

The one concern with the blood python is its temperament. While the blood python has gained a reputation for being nippy, captive-bred specimens lean more towards docility over multiple generations. One thing is for certain, don’t expect a temperament like a Dumeril’s boa

Blood python shedding issues

Blood pythons need high humidity to shed properly. It’s especially helpful to keep a humidity box inside the enclosure of the snake. Depending on the size, an appropriately sized shoebox works well. Inside the shoebox one can leave some moist vermiculite or even dampened paper towels. Have a hole big enough for the snake to freely enter and leave from.

Make sure the temperature in the enclosure is warm enough and void of drafts. This is to prevent respiratory infections which are common with high humidity levels at lower temperatures. Don’t keep them too cool. Otherwise, the blood python is a very hardy snake.

A Reticulated python named ‘Evil Thing’

I had a reticulated python back in high school. Wow, what a snake. ‘Evil Thing’ was so named for its tendency to bite. The funny thing about Evil Thing was that there was no rhyme or reason why he would bite. Sometimes he’d handle great while other times he wouldn’t. I think I lost the most blood to this particular individual.

While being only a hatchling when I bought it, he quickly reached seven feet by the following year. Evil Thing was also featured in a photoshoot taken for my metal band at the time. The shoot actually went well and I specifically remember not getting a bite that day. That was one heck of snake. While banned across the country, a permit is all you need to keep a reticulated python today.

The Burmese python 

Another giant snake species that I kept in my younger/crazier days. The Burmese python has been at the center of controversy for the past three decades. Between its unwanted presence in the Everglades and the unfortunate accidents due to careless keepers, this snake remains loved by enthusiasts and hated by the rest.

Captive-bred Burmese pythons are known for their even temperament while wild caught specimens are downright dangerous. Still, mistakes that happen can usually be traced back to the human, not the snake. 

In captivity, this snake seems susceptible to respiratory infections. Back in 2010 and 2011, the Everglades experienced two extremely cold winters. While predictions stated these snakes would be completely wiped out due to respiratory infections, they survived and are still there today.

Some have theorized that Hurricane Andrew is responsible for the release of these snakes in the wild. The problem with that theory is that Hurricane Andrew happened in 1992 while sightings of these pythons occurred several years earlier. 

The pet trade is to blame for the Burmese pythons in the Everglades. As these snakes eventually reached unmanageable sizes, keepers released them in the Everglades. The Everglades is just outside the heavily populated Miami and many exotic pet keepers still live there today.

African Rock python 

The African rock python is one of the giant snakes that eluded me over the years. I almost bought a hatchling but passed it up and I’m kicking myself now. They’re one of the snakes banned across the US and I haven’t seen any available for years.

Unfortunately, an African rock python killed two kids in Canada. Even though I’m not familiar with the exact details of the incident, proper housing and handling techniques could have avoided this tragedy for both parties. 

While somewhat similar to the Burmese python in appearance, the African rock python has a more cryptic patterning that I find more appealing. They’re also known for being much nastier than the Burmese python. I wouldn’t know since I never had one myself. 

Spotted Python from Australia
A good-natured spotted python makes a perfect pet snake.

Sensationalism – reptiles in the media

Here’s another strange story that will have you banging your head against the wall. Several years ago, when cable television was overrun with hyped reptile oriented programs, I remember watching a show that claimed that the African rock python was cross-breeding with the Burmese python in the Everglades. 

The result of the pairing was a hybrid super-snake capable of attaining thirty feet in length. They’re resistant to cold weather and the most vicious of any snake known to humankind. To top it off, they claim this super snake was heading north showing a map of New York as part of its range. Talk about fake news and sensationalism.

Animal Planet came out with a show called, Fatal Attractions that demonized reptiles and the people who kept them. They made it ‘uncool’ to be associated with keeping reptiles, killing off the trend. All the other reptile programs on cable dropped off soon after.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the spotted python is a good alternative to larger species such as Burmese, reticulated, and African rock pythons. These Australian natives are a dwarf python and are much easier to care for. They also demonstrate a gentle disposition in most individuals.

I once had a Children’s python which is closely related to the spotted python, who constantly bit me and constricted my hand. This was not an act of defense, rather, it was a food response. Feeding with tools such as hemostats and forceps didn’t help since this snake was simply always in feeding mode. Even when not offering him food, once I picked him up he’d latch on one of my figures and begin construction.

On the other hand, my spotted python is as gentle as any docile snake species. If it all possible, handle your spotted python before buying it. If ordering online, tell the seller you want an extremely docile specimen who is feeding.

These snakes do great in captivity and don’t stress easily. They’re always willing to take a meal so be careful of overfeeding and obesity. A healthy spotted python has a strong grip and often latches to a finger or thumb with its tail for a feeling of security.

The spotted python certainly is a fun snake to keep. They’re also gaining in popularity. If you have something you’d like to add to this article, please gives us your valuable advice in the comments section below. 

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