Burmese Pythons as Pets

Caretaking Essentials

Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus), curled up, close up
Tim Flach/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Expect an adult python size of 15-20 feet long and 100 to 200 pounds or more--these snakes are massive! Their huge size makes them both expensive to keep and potentially dangerous, so think first about committing to caring for a snake this size. Owners have died due to handling mistakes with these snakes -- they are not suitable for beginners and are generally best left in the wild. It's not easy to find someone to take a large snake if you can no longer care for it, and these snakes live for 25 years or more.

Never, ever release your pet - released Burmese pythons have invaded and are breeding in the Florida Everglades and have become a serious threat there. Think twice before getting a burmese.

Temperament

Burmese pythons are generally considered quite docile especially compared to other large snakes. Hatchlings can be skittish but are usually readily tamed with consistent handling. Still, these snakes are huge and quite aggressive feeders; they can inflict serious injury to their handlers and have been involved in several fatalities (due to owner complacency, ignorance or error). A second person should always be present when handling or feeding constrictors over 8 feet long.

Housing

A 55-gallon tank is fine for younger snakes, but as the snake grows, you'll need a larger and stronger enclosure. After the first couple of years, options include custom built wood and Plexiglass cages, or modifying a large closet or room for your snake.

They are good escape artists and are very strong, so any housing for these snakes must be large (e.g 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall), strong and very secure.

Substrate

For hatchlings, use paper towel or unprinted paper. These are easy to clean and make it easy to monitor the health of the snake.

For bigger snakes, indoor/outdoor carpeting is easy to maintain; keep a few pieces on hand and just switch them out when it is time to clean and disinfect. Linoleum is also a good option for large snakes as it is easy to clean and disinfect.

Hides

For young snakes, a half log or other hide sold at the pet store will work (even a cardboard box will suffice), but as they grow you will have to be more creative. Plastic storage bins make good hides for larger snakes - simply cut an access hole in one side (make sure there are no sharp edges though). Provide a humidity retreat, especially when shedding, by placing damp sphagnum moss in a hide. Provide hides at both ends of the temperature gradient.

Temperatures

Pythons need a daytime temperature of 85-88 F with a basking area at 90-93 F. The temperature can drop to 78-80 F at night. Use spotlights, ceramic heat elements and heating pads to maintain temperatures, but make sure lights are shielded to prevent burns. For large snakes, a pig heating blanket is a good option for maintaining temperature.

Water

A dish of water should always be available for both drinking and soaking (for smaller snakes), and change it frequently. As the snake gets larger, it will no longer be able to soak in its dish so you will need to regularly allow the snake to soak in a tub or pool of water.

Feeding

Burmese pythons are usually good eaters and care must be taken not to overfeed or you will end up with an obese snake. Hatchlings can be fed mice or fuzzy rats, moving up to rats and eventually rabbits as the snake grows (feed prey pre-killed). The prey should be no larger than the width of the snake. Hatchlings can be fed one to two times per week but adult snakes only need to be fed every two 2 weeks or so. Feed often enough to maintain optimum body condition but be careful not to over feed as these snakes are prone to obesity.

Handling

Handle these snakes frequently from a young age or else they will be difficult to handle as they get larger. Handle gently but firmly and be persistent if the snake resists at first. However, avoid handling for a couple of days after feeding or your snake my regurgitate.

If your python wraps itself around you, unwind it starting at the tail. As your snake grows, it is recommended that you have at least one other person present when handling or feeding these strong snakes. Once it is over 8 feet long, always have a second person available to help with handling; in fact it is a good idea to have a person present for each 4 feet of snake (three people to handle a 12-foot snake and four people for a 16-foot snake).

Care Sheets