How to Keep an Australian Snake

To keep a snake is not too difficult.  Firstly you must choose what kind of snake you'd like or can afford to keep.  It is not that they cost so much to feed if you only have one, but the size of the enclosure must be considered.  Also the heating must be carefully thought about or the snake will die.

I would not recommend that you get a venomous snake, at least to begin with.  A good starter is something like a Children�s Python, a Brisbane or Victorian Carpet Python or perhaps an Olive Python.

Children�s Pythons only get to about a metre in length and so a cage of about that length is quite large enough, though of course, if you can afford to have it half that again it would be nicer.  Olive Pythons or Children�s Pythons don�t need to climb, so the cage does not have to be more than about half a metre high.  Children�s you feed on mice or very young rats if the snake is an adult.

A Brisbane Carpet, a Victorian Carpet Python, or an Olive Python are also a good choice but they can get to about 3 metres in length and when they get towards that length you would normally feed them on rats though rabbits will also do the job.  Carpet Pythons from further north than Brisbane are often a little nervous and can sometimes be a little snappy and so you are more likely to get a nip from one of these.

When handling these snakes they usually won't bite.  However, you never put your hand into the cage because all Australian pythons with the exception of the Black Headed Python and the Woma have heat-sensing pits.  This means that they can see you with their lower lips, meaning they see the glow of your warmth; Australian venomous snakes do not have heat-sensing pits.

If a snake with heat-sensing pits is hungry and you put your hand into the cage they see only the glow of a finger or a hand and that might look about the right size for a snack.  So what you do is use a hook and get the snake out of the cage, or at least start moving it around a bit before you put your hand in with it.  That way it is not likely to confuse you for lunch.  Once it is out you are most definitely not lunch.  Only a very nervous snake will then bite but that is a bite out of fear.  A bite out of fear, means that it will not hang on, that is usually just a nip; a warning.

Often Northern Carpets can be a little nervous and can bite even when out of the cage though of course at times you can find a Northern Carpet Python that is perfectly relaxed and it will never bite.

Olive Pythons can be great to keep but they get large and Black Headed Pythons are beautiful but usually cost a fortune.  Black Headed Pythons seldom bite.  Just don�t put your hand into the cage when it could confuse you for food.  Get the snake out first with a hook or at least move it around a bit before picking it up; with a little observation you�ll get the hang of it.

The enclosure for Carpets, or Diamonds which are a type of Carpet Python should be a metre or two high, as they are arboreal snakes (tree climbers) which means that they are comfortable when sitting in a branch.  Children�s, Olives or Black Headed Pythons don�t need to climb, as they are terrestrial.

Heating for the cage is one of the most important things to consider.  The cage should not be hot, but what you need to do is consider a thermal gradient.  That means it should be warm at one end and cooler at the other end; and the cool end is where its water bowl should be kept.

About water bowls.  Consider the water bowl carefully, as snakes often like to sit in a water bowl.  If the bowl is full to the top then of course you will end up with water on the floor of the cage.  For larger pythons i find it useful to use a larger container (tub) and put the bowl in the tub.  Then the bowl can sit in the tub and be full of water and some water can be at the bottom of the tub.  That way the snake has more water than just a bowlful but it cannot spill it.

If you have a good limb or branch for a Carpet Python, that should be in its warm area as that is where it will spend most of its time.  The snake does however, need a cool area in which to sit, otherwise it can stress out and die.  Remember also that it cannot digest its food unless it has a warm area to go to after eating.

Mammals generate warmth through digestion whereas reptiles need warmth to digest their food otherwise the food will go rotten in their stomach.  This fact alone should prove that the giant dinosaurs could not have been reptiles.  How could a giant brontosaurus sit out in the sun to warm up before digesting its food?  The sun would have set before poor old bronti had even started to warm up.

If you use globes for heating, make sure that the snake can get close enough to the globe to get warm but never be able to touch the globe.  It should have at least 30 degrees Celsius available for at least half the day and in the evening it should not get any colder than about 20 degrees unless it is a Diamond Python.  They can stand much cooler temperatures than many other Australian pythons and they should be cooled down in the winter.  Diamonds can be tricky to keep and may not be a good snake to start with, unless you are very keen to have one of them but they are usually quite expensive.

If using globes for heating there are 2 things that you must remember:
1) Never leave a globe socket empty as many people have lost snakes because the snake put its nose into a socket and got electrocuted.
2) When organising where the globes will go in the enclosure.  Never have a globe jutting out from the wall, as the snake will hang over it and either break it or, when the light comes on the snake will get burnt.  They don't seem to notice the slow build-up of heat and can be badly scarred from a globe.  It is better to have a globe in the ceiling or hanging but never in a way that the snake can affix itself to the globe as it will be burnt.  Never use �Sun tan lamps� to warm a reptile, you will burn it and kill it.

Before you get yourself a snake, check the temperature around where the snake will be sitting and make sure that it will have an area of at least 30 degrees Celsius available to it.  It will also need to use a cool area but that is the choice of the snake.  You will notice that it will move around the cage and sit in different places so the more options for temperature the happier it will be.  A thermostat can control temperature.

Melamine is usually a good material to build cages with, as they don't lose temperature so easily.  An aquarium is not a good place to keep a snake as it gets either too cold or too hot.  So Melamine with a glass front is usually a good start but it should have a few small vents in the top and the bottom of the cage.

Some people prefer to feed live food to their snake whereas others prefer to use frozen rats or mice, which must be thoroughly thawed out before feeding.  Remember if you leave a rat or mouse too long after thawing it can go rotten and your snake can get sick if you feed it rotten food.

The snake will slough (shed its skin) from time to time. (By the way, slough is pronounced �sluff� as in rough)  Just before it sloughs it will not eat, so if you have thawed a frozen food item and the snake will not take it, the snake is either coming into a slough or it is sick.  Unless you are sure of what you are doing it is better to lose the thawed animal than refreeze it.  A day or so after sloughing you�ll notice that it is interested in your movements and will soon resume eating.

Live rats or mice are not frightened of snakes because the last mouse that got eaten by a snake did not tell the next one about it.  Do not leave a live rodent in a cage with a snake because if the snake does not eat the rat the rat will start to eat the snake.  Rats and mice see the snake as meat (food) and will start to eat pieces from the snake when they are hungry.  The snake will not defend itself, as the snake is not smart enough to understand what is happening.

Do not make a habit of handling the snake just after it has eaten; it will need to sit quietly in a warm spot to at least partially digest its food.

Just watch carefully everything you see the snake doing and think about it and you will learn.  The snake cannot think about anything, you can.  Your snake has to rely on you to take care of all of its needs.  So, don�t let it down or it will die.

Enjoy your snake from

Fred the Snakeman