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The Nuts and Bolts of Reptile Care Children’s Python’s as pets By Stephen Boys About the Species

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The Nuts and Bolts of Reptile Care

Children’s Python’s as pets

Stephen Boys
About the Species
There are currently 5 species known to science of the children’s python complex, these are as follows:


Common name

Maximum size


Average market value/hatchling




Ant hill or pygmy python

Smallest python in the world

Up to 70cm in total length

Pilbara region of WA

Rare in captivity

Approx $1000EA




Spotted python

Up to 1.5 metres in length

East coast of Australia form Northern NSW to the tip of the Cape Yok peninsula

Approx $250EA




Children’s python

Up to about 1 metre in length

Northern Australia –Kimberly district in WA to the west side of Cape York in QLD.


$150 -250 EA


(Liasis) Stimsonsi

Note: a new subspecies form central Australia

Has recently been described

(B.Walker -

pers comm)

Stimson’s Python

Average 0.9 metre.

Reported up to 1.4 metres

The arid interior of Australia form the WA coast to inland QLD and NSW


$200 – 300EA

Growth and size

The Children’s Python group are a small python, one of which

(Antaresia (Liasis) perthensis) is the smallest known python in the world. The range within the group is from 0.7 – 1.5 metres in total length. Hatchlings range between 18 and 30cm. These snakes will grow to maturity within 2 years if maintained under optimum conditions.
Recommended beginner species

Of the Children’s Python group the best starter species is the Children’s Python

(A.childreni). This species is commonly bred, which keeps their purchase price reasonable and they are also very easy to keep, handle,

breed and maintain.

Potential health concerns

If kept under the right conditions this species is extremely hardy and rarely has any health problems. Recently acquired new arrivals should be quarantined for 3 – 6 months as a quarantine precaution, requiring them to be separated from any other reptiles in your care. As much information from a supplier should be acquired at purchase to ensure you understand their health status and that of their own stock. Despite this, as a precaution a quarantine period should always be adhered to. Hatchlings may be difficult to get feeding at first. They can literally last weeks without feed on reserves so don’t panic. Things to watch out for during this period is the passing of irregular or “runny” faeces,

Over soaking in water bowls or white specks over the body possibly indicating mites, failure to feed, shed skin properly etc whereby an experienced herp vet should be consulted. Feeding problems are usually associated with the feed type being offered, how it is being offered or the environmental conditions the snake is being held under such as incorrect temperature, no hide etc. A strategy needs to be put in place to look at all these factors when getting your snake into a routine. Many health problems occur due to poor husbandry or a misunderstanding of these needs, so if you follow the guidelines on care as listed it should reduce their occurrence to a minimum.

Housing should initially be as simple as possible. Smaller caging is preferred for this species as it offers them security and you the ease of cleaning, monitoring and handling.

0-6months = Hatchlings may be kept in a well ventilated, clear ‘chinese style’ food container approximate dimensions 25cm x15cm x 5cm. Holes are best firstly put in these by the use of a soldering iron. Once hot the iron is used to carefully puncture a series of holes I the lid and sides.

6-12 months = depending upon your snakes growth rate you will need to upgrade to a slightly larger cage such as the Plastic pet housing , which is a multi purpose cage designed for all sorts of animals approximately 40cm x 30cm x 30cm ( these are basically a plastic fish tank with a clip in lid) .

The permanent fixture = once your snake is settled and feeding well it is time to upgrade it to a larger enclosure. This again should not be too large as this will make your snake more difficult to care for. For 1-2 adult specimens a cage about 60 cm x 40cm x 40cm in size is recommended. Fish tanks can be converted in to housing but these will require secure lids to be fitted. If you are handy, for a reasonable price you can construct you own housing out of ply or laminated timber materials. Glass doors can be fitted by your glazier on sliding rails/channel and basic electrics such as light socket and thermostat by an electrician. Alternatively

(Although not as attractive) 50 – 60 litre clip top plastic tabs can be converted to suitable and easy to clean housing at a very reasonable cost by inserting ventilation mesh or holes and having heating devices safely fitted. This type of cage is also ideal as a second cage for feeding, during cleaning of the main cage or for transport of your pet to the veterinarian.

Cage substrates or flooring material should ideally be cheap to purchase, easy to maintain and exchange and absorbent. At the hatchling stage this best served by the use of either paper towel or paper pellets. (The latter is not necessarily cheap but is an easy to use material). As your snake grows and is placed into a larger cage, materials such as paper pellets, newspaper and clean pine bark can be used. It is important that all bedding materials are kept dry to avoid fungal growth.

The most important element of heating any reptile cage is the provision of a thermal gradient. This principally means providing a heated area at one end of a cage with a gradual decline of temperatures within the cage to the other end, giving your snake a choice. This is achieved by using the right type and wattage heating elements for the cage size you are heating and by providing an adequate size cage and ventilation to ensure that the cage does not overheat. In the middle of the cage temperatures should be maintained at 24 – 28oc. This means the temperatures at the other extremes will be much hotter and cooler respectively.

The plastic ‘chinese - style’ containers or pet pack housing are best heated by the use of a low wattage heat pad placed under 1/3 of the base or by housing them within a larger heated cage. The latter requiring more monitoring to ensure you are able to provide a variety of temperatures. In larger cabinets or fish tanks a combination of a suspended incandescent light and under tank heat pad can be place at one end of the cage to provide a heated area.

On purchasing a children’s python it is preferable that the previous owner has had it feeding and in some sort of routine. You will need to find out what it was feeding on and how it was being fed. Initially this species will tend to take ‘live’ baby pink mice and then be gradually weaned onto pre-thawed pinky mice and then larger mice relative to the snake’s size can be offered as it grows. Some children’s hatchlings can be difficult feeders. It is best to offer feed to your snake at night as they are nocturnal hunters. When training your hatchling to feed empty your cage of the substrate water bowl etc and leave the ‘pinky’ and the snake alone overnight. Do this a few times to get your snake into a routine.

When offering pre–thawed feed into a cage with a floor substrate such as bark, paper pellets or any other material that may adhere to the food it is best to offer the food in some sort of bowl to reduce the risk of your snake swallowing some of this material that may adhere to the food. This can potentially cause gut impactions and in severe cases, the death of your snake.

Over handling your snake is stressful and can cause all sorts of problems such as failure to feed. Handling a snake directly after feeding may also cause your snake to regurgitate its food. When offering your snake food to its cage by hand you are associating your scent and presence with the food and feeding process which will often lead to a feeding response such as striking when you open the cage. To avoid this occurrence you are best to remove the snake by a wire hook to a separate container for feeding, removing you and the cage from the equation. Most children’s pythons quickly become accustomed to handling and have a pleasant demeanor and this practice will only help encourage this behaviour.


Fresh water should be made available daily and soiled water replaced as soon as you observe it. Initially hatchlings only require a small bowl such as a the lid off a cleaned 2 litre bottle orange juice or milk container. As your snake grows the water bowl can then be increased in size. Ceramic dog bowls make ideal water containers and are available in various sizes from most pet shops. These are also fairly heavy which prevents them from being easily knocked over and water being spilt and fouling the cage. A descent sized bowl should also be provided regularly to allow the snake to soak if required. This species grows extremely quick when housed correctly and due to this it will shed frequently.


As mentioned this species grows quickly and may reach sexual maturity within 2 - 3 years and are also relatively easy to breed. Mating takes place in May to August whereby a clutch of 4-20 eggs can be expected to be laid late September through to early October. Sexing is best performed by an experienced person via probing. Generally males of python species tend to have distinctly large hook like appendages at the base of the tail (in comparison to females) known as spurs, while females tend to have tails that terminate to a sharper point than males, not needing to house the hemipenes in this area.

Final Checklist before you purchase your Children’s Python

Here is a suggested checklist of important items you should acquire before purchasing your children’s python:

Hatchling Children’s Python Starter Kit

  • 1 x ventilated chinese container

  • 1 x roll of paper towel

  • 1 x low wattage heat pad

  • 1 x thermostat

  • 1 x water bowl ( e.g. milk/o.j. lid)

  • 1 x large lockable container/cage with lid for security holding of your snake cage e,g 20 – 40 litre clip lock tub

  • 1 x maximum/minimum thermometer e.g. mercury bulb or digital style

  • Supply and source of pinky mice for feed

  • 1 x keeping reference e,g, Care of Australian Reptiles by John Weigel

Adult Children’s Python Kit ( as your snake grows)

  • 1 x large cage e.g. fish tank with tight fitting lid and/or plastic tub or home made cabinet ( approx 60cm x 40cm x 40cm)

  • 1 x large ceramic bowl ( approx 20cm in diameter)

  • 1 x light fitting and lead

  • 4 x light globes of various wattages 25w – 40w preferred

  • 1 x under tank heat pad ( can use as per hatchling stage if large enough)

  • Thermometer as above

  • 1 x pkt of substrate material ( e,g. paper pellets)

  • 1 x light bulb safety cage ( to prevent burns)

Suggested question list for your potential snake supplier/breeder

    1. Price

    2. Date of birth of snake

    3. Origin of parents

    4. General health of snake, parents and siblings

    5. Current feeding routine

    6. What is the snake feeding on now

    7. What caging was the snake previously kept in

    8. How is the snake heated and what temperature is it kept at

    9. What is the demeanor of the snake

    10. When did the snake last shed


Thanks to Brad Walker for his talk at the HHS that inspired this article and for his useful comments on the information provided.

Recommended reading

Published by

Weigel. J. 1988.

Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity

The Reptile Keepers Association

Gow.G. 1989.

The Complete Guide to Australian snakes

Angus and Robertson

Banks .C. 1980

Keeping Reptiles and Amphibians as Pets


Cogger H. 2001.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia

Reed/New Holland

Barker.D&T. 1994.

Pythons of the World – Australia

The Herpetocultural Library

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