Care sheet From NERD Name: Blood Python
Scientific name: Python brongersmai
AKA: "Red blood python, Malaysian blood python, Sumatran blood python"
General Information Distribution This Indonesian species is found in palm plantations, tropical forests and marshes in the Malaysian peninsula, eastern Sumatra and outlying islands. Wild Status Widespread throughout their range but diminishing in numbers, blood pythons are extensively exploited in the skin trade, and large numbers are slaughtered for their meat & hides. Over 60,000 blood & short-tailed python skins are harvested each year, a grim and sickening fact. Description Blood pythons are squat, heavy-bodied serpents with variable markings. The body ranges in coloration from yellow, tan &brown to a bright red, cherry red or oxblood, with lighter tan, gold, orange & black blotched markings. The head is typically gray, although specimens may exhibit black, light gray, or even red heads. Blood pythons are well known for their changing head colors - what may be a black-headed snake in the evening could have a very pale, faded head in the morning and vice versa. Some blood pythons exhibit broken dorsal striping.
Wild-caught bloods tend to be nervous, irritable and even aggressive; on the other hand captive-bred specimens often mature into docile, placid animals that are a joy to handle. This is a species where choosing a good, CB animal can make a huge difference in your snake-keeping experience.
Size Hatchlings approximately 12 - 16"+/-. Females average 4'- 6', males average 3' - 5' adult size. Maximum size is around 10 feet, although 8'+ specimens are considered large. Blood pythons are heavy, robust snakes that may exceed 40 pounds in weight as mature adults. Lifespan Blood pythons may live 25 years or more in captivity. Color Mutations Color & pattern mutations of Python brongersmai include Striped, T+ albino, T- albino, Ivory (white body with gray & black dorsal speckling - amazing!) and hypomelanistic. Captive Maintenance Guidelines Difficulty Level Intermediate. Not an animal for the beginner, a blood python can make a rewarding captive for the intermediate keeper who has successfully kept other species for a length of time. This is a species that requires prior experience & some ability to perceive and understand snake behavior. Enclosure Enclosures can be as simple or elaborate as one is capable of caring for. Remember that the more "stuff" you put in a cage, the more "stuff" you have to clean & disinfect on a regular basis. That said, there are many different enclosures that work well for blood pythons, including but not limited to: plastic sweater boxes (i.e. Rubbermaid), melamine racks, Freedom Breeder cages, and any of the commercially available plastic-type reptile cages, (i.e. those from Vision Herp & other similar manufacturers). Glass aquariums & tanks are adequate; keep in mind that the screen tops on such enclosures can make it difficult to maintain humidity levels. Also refer to our Snake Caging care sheet for more information. Juvenile blood pythons seem to do well in smaller enclosures that make them feel more secure; a small snake in a big cage can become overwhelmed & stressed. For large blood pythons, a minimum cage length of 4' is necessary. Also, if you must choose between the width of the enclosure & the height, always choose the extra width, as your blood will appreciate the extra floor space. Remember that ALL enclosures must allow for a proper thermal gradient that the snake can utilize, with a hot spot on one end and a cooler spot on the other. Substrate There are a few substrates that work well. Newspaper is the cheapest & easiest with regards to cleaning & disinfecting: out with the old, in with the new. Cypress mulch is great for controlling humidity, but remember that too much humidity can be as detrimental (if not more) as too little. Never use any substrate containing cedar, as this is deadly to reptiles! Temperatures & Heating Provide your blood with a basking spot of 88-90°F and an ambient (background) temperature of 78-80 °F. The ambient temperature should not fall below 75 °F. It is vitally important to KNOW the temperatures at which you are keeping your snake(s). DO NOT GUESS!! A great way to monitor temps is to use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe. Stick the thermometer to the inside of the cage on the cool end and place the probe on the warm end, and you'll have both sides covered at once.
Note: If you are able to maintain strict temperature control in your "snake room" (or wherever you keep your animal), you may want to consider setting up your juvenile blood python in a simple rubbermaid/melamine rack setup with an ambient temperature of around 80 - 82 degrees and no basking spot or supplemental heat. A basic hide box, water bowl & substrate are all that is necessary, and we find that young blood & short-tailed pythons do very well in this sort of setup. Once again, please note that this works best if you are able to maintain very good control over the ambient temperature in the room, and is not recommended if the temperatures are subject to major fluctuations.
There are several ways to go about heating the enclosure: undercage heating pads, ceramic heat emitters, basking bulbs (both regular daytime & red "night" bulbs) are just a few. With heat emitters & bulbs it is necessary to really keep an eye on the humidity within the enclosure, especially if combined with a screen top, as both will dry the air quickly. Use thermostats, rheostats and/or timers to control your heat source. Do not use hot rocks with snakes as they often heat unevenly over too small of a surface area & can cause serious burns.
Humidity Providing proper humidity for blood pythons is important, but as stated previously too much humidity can be as problematic as too little. First off, let's establish "humidity" as the amount of moisture in the air. To provide your snake with a humidity level of 50% - 60%, you have a couple of options.
1. Use cypress mulch or a similar substrate that can be misted & is mold-resistant. Cypress is good for this as it turns a tan color when dry & a rich brown when wet, giving a visual cue as to when it needs to be dampened again. Using cypress mulch requires disciplined maintenance, as a dirty & humid enclosure will quickly lead to unhealthy conditions.
2. Make a "humidity box" for your snake. This consists of packing a plastic container with damp sphagnum moss (think well-wrung-out wash cloth to gauge moisture), cutting a hole in the top or side & placing it in your python's enclosure so that it can access the box as it pleases.
Keep in mind that if you have a screen top on the enclosure you will probably want to cover it most or all of the way with plastic, a towel or some other means of keeping moisture from escaping. This is also where having proper, reliable ambient temperatures (back to that thermometer!) is important, as warm air holds more moisture than cool air. You want the enclosure to be humid, not WET. A soggy cage can eventually lead to bacterial & fungal infections and consequently, death.
Lighting Supplemental lighting is not necessary for this species, but if used should run on a 12/12 cycle, meaning 12 hours on & 12 hours off. Continuous bright, overhead lighting is stressful to snakes, especially a nocturnal serpent such as this one. Water Always make fresh, clean water available to your blood python, as they have a tendency to drink copiously. The size of the water dish is up to you. If it is large enough for the python to crawl into and soak, sooner or later your snake will make the most of the opportunity, and most seem to enjoy a nice soak from time to time. Ensure that the bowl is not too deep for juvenile animals - 1" or so will suffice. Snakes of many species will defecate in their water bowls from time to time, so be prepared for cleaning, disinfecting & a water change when necessary. It is often beneficial to have a spare water bowl for such occasions, so that one may be used while the other is being cleaned. Accessories One cage accessory that is essential to a happy blood python is a good hide box...maybe even a couple of them. These are sensitive snakes that appreciate & utilize a hide spot. Provide one on each end of your python's enclosure so that it doesn't have to choose between temperature & security. Clay flowerpots, plastic flowerpot trays, and commercially available hide boxes all work quite well. Feeding Feed your blood an appropriately sized rodent weekly. By "appropriately sized" we mean prey items that are no bigger around than the python at its largest point. Blood pythons can eat rats from the time they are young - starting off with rat pups or "crawlers" for younger snakes & moving up in size as the animal grows. These snakes are enthusiastic feeders and do well on a 7-day feeding regime. Do not handle your snake for at least a day after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation. Bloods are generally pretty easy to convert to frozen/thawed or pre-killed rodents (see Snake Feeding caresheet). Never leave a live rodent unattended with ANY snake. Maintenance Spot-clean your snake's enclosure as necessary. When feces/urates/uneaten prey items are present, remove them as soon as possible. Clean & disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Depending on cage conditions, remove all substrate & cage furniture and completely disinfect using a 5% bleach solution approximately every 30 days. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing cage furniture & your snake. Basic Reproductive Info Blood pythons reach sexual maturity anywhere from 18 months to 4 years of age. Breeding size occurs at lengths of 3 - 5'. Breeding season in captivity typically ranges from November to March. Stop all feeding at this time. Animals should be well established and in excellent condition before any breeding is attempted. Breeding may be induced by reducing daytime photoperiod to 8 - 10 hours and dropping nighttime temperatures into the mid 70's. Introduce the female into the male's cage. Misting the animals with water may induce breeding activity. Females typically shed 14-20+ days after ovulation; eggs are typically laid within 30 days of post-ovulation shed. Clutch size for bloods ranges from 8 - 20 eggs. At an Incubation temperature of 88 - 90F (optimal), these eggs take an average of 60 days to hatch. Notes/Comments Blood pythons can be quite a joy to experience. CB specimens typically become docile individuals that are fun to care for and interact with. As these snakes are being bred more and more in captive situations their popularity has begun to grow, especially as they disprove the bad reputation previously earned by aggressive wild-caught animals. Blood pythons make an excellent choice for the intermediate keeper looking for an intelligent, alert, yet medium-sized serpent.