Reticulated Python Care Sheet
Although they are the longest snake species in the world reaching lengths of 30 feet, reticulated python care is straightforward and quite easy. Because of their large size, this snake is recommended for experienced snake keepers and not novices or first-timers.
Even the smallest subspecies will reach lengths of 5½ feet. Their large size makes them difficult to handle. They are also more aggressive than most snakes. As a rule of thumb, never handle large pythons alone. Always ensure there is an experienced snake keeper around.
These pythons are quite strong and require an extra pair of hands if things go wrong. Because of their large size, they can easily injure and even kill humans (especially children and teens) and other pets. It is the responsibility of the snake keeper to ensure that the enclosure is securely fastened.
Quick Reference Section
- Experience Level: Expert
- Family: Pythonidae
- Scientific Name: Python reticulatus / Malayopython reticulatus
- Risk Factor: Nonvenomous, constrictor
- Adult Size: 5.25 to 29.53 feet (1.6 to 9.0 m)
- Typical Lifespan: 18 to 27 years
- Litter Size: 15 and 80 eggs
- Incubation Period: 60 to 90 days
- Food: Frozen/live mice, rats, rabbits, & chicken
- Average Temperature: 85°H/75°L
- Humidity: 60 – 70 %
- UVB Lighting: Optional
- Average Price Range: $150 to $1500
- Conservation Status: CITES Appendix II (No IUCN Red List status)
Reticulated Python Facts and Information
The reticulated python is officially the longest snake on earth, with specimens reaching over 25 feet. A pet reticulated python currently holds the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest snake in captivity. The two common binomial names of this species are Malayopython reticulatus and Python reticulatus.
Their geographical range is south Asia. Specifically, they are can be found in Nicobar Islands, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Indo-Australian Archipelago.
Although they are the longest snake species in the world, they are not the heaviest. That honor goes to the green anaconda. The main distinguishing characteristic of this snake is the length. Additionally, they come in a wide variety of colors and patterns thanks to the discovery of many morphs. The reticulated patterns on its body give this python its name. The average adult length of these snakes is 6 to 25 feet. As adults, they generally weigh between 190 pounds to 590 pounds.
Reticulated Python Habitat
Reticulated Pythons prefer habitats where humidity is relatively high such as rainforest clearings/edges. With that being said, they are also found in dry tropical forests, grasslands, thorn scrubs, woodlands, and even semi-deserts.
In the wild, this species lives near lakes and rivers and can be found in rainforests, grasslands, and other woodlands. They can swim very well and can be found far out at sea having crossed large stretches of ocean to colonize many small islands.
The species is very large and as such requires very large enclosures. Because they are strong and curious, the enclosure must be securely fastened. Adults that are 10 to 20 feet long require an enclosure which is 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. As you can see, these terrariums usually need to be custom-built.
Start babies with 20-gallon terrariums. If the enclosure is too large, the snake becomes stressed, scared and aggressive whenever approached. It may even refuse to eat. As such, the enclosure for babies must be small. An enclosure such as the Exo Terra Terrarium is perfect for juveniles.
However, they will quickly outgrow this. You need to upgrade their terrarium to match their size. If the enclosure is too small, the snake will be unhappy and unhealthy. Adult dwarf reticulated pythons grow to be about 6 feet and can be housed in a terrarium which is 4 feet by 2 feet such as the Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium.
As already mentioned, other adults require an enclosure which is 8 feet by 4 feet in size. The height isn’t that important. 2 to 3 feet of height is acceptable.
As with any other snake, provide a few hiding spots. Small dark boxes (with an entrance and) large enough for the snake to curl up in are adequate.
The enclosure needs to be spot cleaned daily and the substrate needs to be changed every two weeks. Lastly, the entire enclosure needs to be wiped cleaned every three months with a 5% bleach solution.
Most substrates will do for this species. For juveniles, use newspaper or paper towels. These are easy to clean/change. Additionally, it is easy to spot parasites such as mites on paper.
If you have a newly acquired snake (regardless of age), it is important to initially use paper as bedding until you are sure they are healthy. This makes it easier to inspect for mites and other signs of illness such as bloody bowels.
Many different types of substrates can be used including aspen shavings, cypress mulch, reptile bark such as the Zoo Med Repti Bark, and coco coir. These substrates are soft and make comfortable bedding.
You have to provide different temperatures at different parts of the enclosure. Since reptiles are cold-blooded, they must move to between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature.
Create a temperature gradient where one end of the enclosure is very warm. When the snake wants its body temperature to drop, the snake can move away from the heat source.
Use a heating pad taped to the underside of the enclosure floor at one end of the enclosure. This will be the warm end. The temperature produced by the heat pad needs to be around 92 F. The temperature of the cool end will be about 76 F.
An ideal heat mat is the Fluker’s Heat Mat. Along with a heat mat, you also need a thermostat controller to regulate the heat produced so the enclosure doesn’t overheat.
Other options include overhead lamps and ceramic heat lamps. Ensure, the fixture isn’t something the snake can pull down or even touch.
These snakes require high humidity levels to thrive. A relative humidity level of 60 to 70 percent is ideal. You can use a reptile fogger to acquire the required humidity level.
You can also mist the enclosure with a spray bottle 3 times a week. Spray the walls as well as the substrate. The heat source will dissipate the moisture of the substrate and bedding helping to increase the humidity level of the enclosure.
A water bowl can help increase humidity in the enclosure. The water bowl needs to be sturdy and heavy so the snake doesn’t tip it over.
They do not require UVA or UVB lighting to grow. Having it won’t harm the snake unless it produces heat which is not accounted for when setting up the enclosure. A UVB light that produces heat like the MyComfyPets UVB and UVA Reptile Bulb can be used to complement the heat produced by the heat pad underneath the enclosure.
However, it is a good idea to provide the snake with a day-night cycle. If the enclosure is in a room that is lit by natural light, you do not need fluorescent lights to maintain the circadian rhythm of the snake. Without access to sunlight, use a fluorescent bulb to provide a day-night cycle.
The light should be on for 12 hours and then off for 12 hours. If you cannot fastidiously turn the lights off and on every single day, use a timer such as BN-LINK Compact Outdoor Mechanical Timer. It is absolutely important that the lights don’t remain on for 24 hours continuously. This will stress the snake.
Feeding the Reticulated Python
These large predators are excellent hunters. They use their pit organs to detect warmth produced by warm-blooded mammals and birds even if the prey is well hidden or not in sight.
They feed on bats, tree shrews, deer, and even sun bears. They are also most likely to prey on humans than any other snake on earth because of the retic’s large size and proximity to settlements.
It is best to feed it dead prey only. Most captive-bred reticulated pythons will accept mice, rats, rabbits, and fowls. It is best to feed the snake, pre-killed prey bought from a pet shop. These are free of parasites and can be kept frozen. Feed the snake every 7 to 10 days. Don’t overfeed it as it can lead to obesity and other health complications.
The size of the prey depends on the size of the snake. The prey needs to be as wide as the widest girth of the snake. Hatchlings can be fed a single small adult mouse and juveniles can be fed a single medium-sized rat. As it grows, you will need to feed it a single large rat.
After about 2 years, the snake will need to eat a rabbit or fowl every 10 to 14 days. Unlike many other snakes, this python will continue to eat as long as you keep feeding it. It is up to you, the keeper, to ensure the snake doesn’t become overweight.
Feed the snake during the evening and night when it is most attentive. Use a tong to offer food to the snake.
Lastly, ensure you keep to a feeding schedule. That way you can easily notice any change in appetite. Loss of appetite can be a symptom of illness.
Reticulated Python’s Temperament
The reticulated python has a reputation for being aggressive and difficult to handle. This is true to an extent, however with patience and frequent handling, you can easily tame this snake in no time.
It is critical that you handle the snake frequently and regularly when it is young and still little so it gets used to you as it grows. If you wish to handle your snake, make sure that it is awake and active.
Tag the cage to awaken the snake, ensure the snake is aware of your presence and follows you with the eyes. Approach the snake with a snake hook or a full roll of paper towels. The snake will investigate and realize it’s not time to feed since there is no food.
Even with that ensure the snake is one you are familiar with and it isn’t too large. Regardless, you should never handle a fully grown large python alone, ensure there is an experienced snake handler in the room with you in case the snake attacks.
Reticulated Python’s Lifespan
These large reptiles are long-lived. in the wild, a reticulated python will live to between 15 and 22 years. The longest-lived wild reticulated python is 23 years. In captivity, they live even longer. They generally live to between 18 and 27 years in captivity. The longest-lived domestic reticulated python is 32 years.
Breeding Reticulated Pythons
This super large reptile is actually easy to breed. This has led to the discovery of numerous morphs and a successful captive-bred market. In cold parts of the world, they do not breed seasonally, however, most are bred during autumn and winter with eggs being laid in late winter and spring.
There is no need to manipulate the temperatures when breeding retics. After the laying of eggs, incubation takes up to 84 days. The mother will curl around the eggs to keep them warm and moist. If you decide to incubate the eggs in an incubator, do so at 90 F.
Some retic morphs include
- Clark albino (three color phases are available – white, purple, and lavender)
- Amel (extremely white in color)
- Caramel (orange glow, a form of T+ albinism)
- Pied (low white to high white)
- Striped (no patterns except for a dorsal stripe)
- Orange ghost stripe (brown hatchling but changes color to very bright orange with a dorsal stripe)
- Anthrax (no back patterns)
- Anery (lack of red pigmentation)
- Ghost (resembles a faded purple that remains dark)
- Tiger (white dots on the side of the body)
- Titanium (no patterns, snake is gold and brown as a juvenile, and silvery as an adult)
- Platinum (bright yellow in color)
- Sunfire (burnt orange in color)
- Motley (no patterns on the side
- Only dorsal markings are present)
- Golden child (no patterns except a black line that runs down the center of the back)
- Phantom (resembles orange ghost stripe but with less color)
- Tribal (resembles phantom but with less patterning on the back)
- Marble (resembles phantom and tribal but with more contrast)
- Dwarf (grow to about only 6 feet).
As with any snake, the retic can suffer from a variety of health issues although this is not common as they are hardy and resilient snakes. Common issues include parasites (they are susceptive to mites in particular), respiratory infections (pneumonia is the most common. Providing a temperature gradient will help prevent this.), IBD (Inclusion Body Disease – a severe disease that affects pythons. It can lead to death).
If you notice parasites such as mites (red and black dots), or signs such as wheezing, foaming at the mouth, regurgitation, and loss of appetite, contact your herp vet as soon as possible.
Pricing and Availability
Because of the growing popularity of this snake, they are now commonly bred. This means they are relatively easy to find. Snake enthusiasts are impressed by their size and as such find them interesting.
They are common at reptile trade shows and exhibitions. They cost between $150 to $7000 in price depending on the rarity of the genetic traits of the snake/morph.
Although they are hunted for food, and skin throughout the year they are not listed on the IUCN Red List. Similarly, they are not threatened with extinction. Because of their large size, they are eaten by indigenous tribes such as the Agta. The trade of the skin of this snake is regulated under Appendix II of CITES.
As large snakes, retics should only be kept by experienced snake keepers. They are heavy (weighing up to 595 pounds), require large enclosures and eat a lot. All of this makes them expensive to acquire and tend to. They can also live up to 30 years.
If you wish to care for a reticulated python, you must be committed and ready to care for its every need. As with most snakes, the retic can go two weeks without eating.
This should be done when you move them to new enclosures. Additionally, do not overfeed this snake. Obesity is one of the main health issues captive snakes face. If you have any comments on this species, we would love to hear them. Thanks!