In this section I am going to go through my procedures when it comes to care, keeping, breeding and just enjoying these awesome animals. It’s hard to write out one specific care sheet because not everyone’s care is going to be the same. For instance, I live in Southern California. If you live somewhere in mountain’s where it drops below freezing for like half the year then you’re probably going to have a different process. Please don’t take what I’m telling as gospel more of just a guideline of how things can be done. If you don’t agree with me that’s ok, I totally get it, do your thing. This is how I care for my animals and what I have learned in my journey through Herpteculture.
This is one of the more controversial topics that I’ll be discussing. The answer to “how big does my cage need to be '' has apparently changed over the last few years. Now I need to sell all of my cages and buy new ones to fit today's standards… Ok I’m kind of joking, but If you scroll through a Facebook group there will be plenty of people to make you feel that way.
Enough banter let’s get to it!
I hate my 12" tall enclosures. Purchasing them was a mistake and I'm looking forward to switching them out. A little more height is definitely beneficial. Other than the 12" tall setups I also have 16",18", 24" and 48" tall enclosures. All of those offer some room to perch but Ideally a 24” tall enclosure is what I would consider the perfect cage height. If you want to go taller, have fun! They will absolutely use it. Mine are a little shorter for space reasons. In my opinion most carpets will not need an enclosure larger than a 4’x2’x2’ but if you can go 6' long then you can really set up an awesome enclosure. No cage will be too large for an established animal if it is set up properly and provides your animal with proper security.
Hatchling/yearling animals I keep in tubs. They grow from 6qt to 16qt to CB70 tubs and then graduate to their adult enclosures. I do this for space reasons but if you are the type of pet keeper that is only working with a small number of animals then I really recommend spending some time and setting up an amazing enclosure. I will be the first to admit that reptile keeping is far more enjoyable when it isn't done in racks. They certainly have their place in the hobby and some animals do quite well with them, but carpet pythons are best kept on display to enjoy!
Depending on the size of your cage you can use perch’s, shelves, or both. If your cage height is only 12" then you really limit your options. I find most of my carpets to spend their time on shelves or branches with a T shape so they can feel steady and secure. The straight single perch like you would see in most Green tree python set ups will get very little if any attention. The larger the cage the more climbing opportunities and hides you should have available. Natural branches will get more use than PVC perches. There is something about the texture of real wood that they seem to prefer. I highly recommend arboreal hides, If you offer an arboreal hide then you can expect them to spend a large amount of time inside of them with their head draped down in search of prey. It’s a pretty cool thing to see. For younger carpets in tubs I highly recommend ordering perches from 3D specialty design (link) they use a 3D printer to create perches and the snakes do great on them (get the one with the cup holder)
There are many different methods of heating and what’s best will just depend on what type of enclosure you are trying to heat. I swear by Radiant heat panels. My adult enclosures are PVC style cages and for me, heat panels are best for that style of enclosure. I have some panels over 10 years old that are still going strong. I really appreciate how accurately you can set temperature. Make sure to follow the directions on the heat panel and firmly secure the probe in place. The main reason I prefer panels is their ability to hit night time lows. Racks can be heated using either heat cord or heat tape. Both work well but old heat tape can become a fire hazard and I recommend switching it out every few years. Light bulbs work and have worked for decades but mine have always burned out too fast and I just do not prefer them. If you choose to use a bulb fixture then ceramic heat emitters are much more consistent than bulbs, have a longer life span and you can also use them to accompany your night cycle instead of having deal with both a day and night bulb. Never use a bulb or ceramic heat emitter unshielded inside of your enclosure. Your snakes WILL GET BURNED! They can be fine for years and then one day they are fried! It is a bad lesson to have to learn the hard way. Another lesson you do not want to learn the hard way is to always, no matter what, use a thermostat! One thermostat probe per heat source.
The most important piece of equipment that you will own is your thermostat. There are too many thermostats to go over so I will only be talking about the ones that I use in my collection. The Vivarium Electronics thermostat (300x2) and the Herpstat. I currently have both running in my reptile room. In my opinion the Herpstat Is a superior product. They are slightly more expensive but to me are more consistent and user friendly. Herpstat also has the option to go up to 4 and 6 probes in one Unit. The main thing to look for when buying a thermostat is the proportional and night drop setting. There are thermostats that you can buy for under $100 but most of them only have the pulse setting, do not have a night drop option and have less safety features. Don’t go cheap, do your research, Spend the money and get a good product. Make sure to place your probe appropriately, mine is placed within 3” of my heat panels or directly on my heat tape. (If you have multiple animals the herpstat 6 is my favorite). Very important One thermostat probe per heat source. Do not daisy chain heat sources together on one temp probe. If A heat source fails then you risk over heating the rest of your enclosures. I know this from personal experience, Its not worth the snakes life. If you have multiple animals, spend the money and have the proper amount of thermostats.
The temps that I shoot for most of the year are 86F for a hot spot and about 75F on the cool end. During the evening’s and night time I do a night drop down to 75F. My heat kicks on around 8AM and turns off around 6PM. Usually for me this heat setting lasts from March-November. During the winter this will change depending on which carpet python that your talking about. Jungle, Coastal, Darwin and Popuan (Irian Jaya) carpets I take down to 72 at night. Bredli, diamonds and Inlands should go much colder, they can be cooled down as low as 55F during the winter months but if you want to play it safe go with 60F. Day time highs should stay the same year round but during this cool down period you’ll want to shorten it to about 8 hours a day. Remember your not feeding during the winter period. If you feel like you really need to feed your snake then make it a meal that is about half the size of a normal feeding. I wait until the snakes second winter to do a cooling cycle but after that they are cooled each year, even if I have no intention on breeding them. I believe this really helps keep obesity in check and promotes long term health for your animals. The exact months that you will decide to start and stop your cool down are going to depend on your room and geographic location. My cool down lasts for 4 months and I do it during the coldest 4 months of the year.
Bedding choices are all over the place and most of it is honestly personal preference. I’ve used basically all of them (except hemp, still need to try that one). I use Coco husk, cypress mulch and packing paper. There are pros and cons for all of them. Paper works great for three reasons. It's affordable, quick and easy to clean and there won’t be bedding that can get stuck in your snake's mouth (more on that when I get into feeding). Coco husk and cypress mulch are both pretty interchangeable. They are great for creating a more humid environment and require less attention than paper bedding. This can be invaluable when you’re dealing with a defensive snake, a breeding pair or a gravid female. Aspen is my least favorite bedding but again this is personal preference.
You could also consider going bioactive depending on how much you want to deck out your enclosure. I don’t really have a ton of experience with Bioactive setups but if they are something that you are interested in learning more about then follow this link for more information (The Bio Dude Josh Halter - YouTube). I do not know Josh but his videos are extremely educational.
This schedule is going to change with the age, season and sex of the animal that your feeding. Hatchlings you will want to feed on a weekly schedule to get them off to a good start. I slow my feedings down to bi-weekly once they are about 9-12 months old depending on how quickly they were started off. Once they are two years old the males get slowed way down to monthly feedings. Females will be fed closer to every 3 weeks until they hit sexual maturity. Once a female has attained sexual maturity the amount that she is fed will have more to do with the time of year and her body condition than anything else, especially if there are plans to breed her. For females, the summer will be a time of less food and smaller meals eating every 3-4 weeks for the months approaching September, at that point I feed heavier every 14 days or so until thanksgiving. November About mid-month in December after she has defecated and cleared her body of waste her winter seasoning will start. She typically won’t be fed again until after she lays a clutch of eggs. If you want to you can feed her after she has been copulating for a few weeks and that’s totally fine but only offer a prey item about half the size that you normally would (don’t feed the male yet). The males are much easier, the older they get, the less they need to eat. Follow the cooldown schedule that I explained above and just feed about once a month while the heat is on. I’m serious, once they are about 3 years old they only need about 8 decent sized meals a year. I would consider anything over 12 meals in a year over feeding for an adult male. Remember the goal is to have a lean, muscular, slender bodied adult. If your focus is to get it as large as it can get, as quickly as possible, then you are going to feed your carpet into an early grave.
Hatchling carpet pythons can typically be started on either hopper mice or pinky rats. On a rare occasion there will be a twin or a runt that is so small it needs to be started on fuzzy mice. There are pros and cons to pinky rats. You can start them on pinky rats if you want but know that they aren't the healthiest until they have some fur on them. When they defecate (poop) after eating a pinky rat the stool tends to be more of a diarrhea than a solid. The lack of fur and the soft bones just make a mess of things. The plus side of Pinky rats is that you never have to stress about the animal not wanting to eat rats. Sometimes switching prey items can be difficult and that is reason enough for some keepers to start on pinky rats instead of hoppers. There is no reason that a carpet python should ever be fed a pinky mouse. As snakes get larger so will their meals. As the meals get larger the frequency of feeding will slow down. My largest adults are very rarely fed anything bigger than a large rat. Jumbos are less nutritional than large rats due to the amount of fat content. Don't always feed your snakes that maximum prey size. I will switch up food size quite a bit depending on the season and what kind of frequency that I want to feed. They will accept and can handle a wide variety of prey sizes, but if you are unsure, a good rule of thumb is to select prey whose girth is similar to that of the snake.
If you feel like switching up food items and adding a bit of variety then quail or chicken are both commercially available. It’s common for me to rotate birds into the feed schedule. I have a female Brisbane coastal carpet that would never switch to rats. She has been on chicks most of her life, has laid two fertile clutches and looks fantastic.
After your carpet python has eaten, you will want to let it relax and digest a bit before handling. Personally, I wait at least 48 hours after feeding before handling my animals. Sometimes 72 hours if the meal was large and there is still a noticeable lump. If you handle too quickly then you could end up with regurgitation problems.
So, you have two snakes and think you want to breed them? My first question is why do you want to breed? Do you have a goal in mind for your projects? Are you careful to select top notch animals that will be desirable to potential customers in the future? If not then don’t be surprised when you have to wholesale them out to the local pet store at $40 bucks a pop. Think about this stuff before you start a breeding project.
The first and most important thing about breeding is making sure that you have a male and a female. Sound’s stupid to bring that up but I can’t tell you how many breeders have been let down because it comes time to pair the snakes and they turn out to both be the same sex. It happened to me and that will seriously set you back. Learn to pop and probe your animals. Do not leave it up to someone else to tell you what the sex of your animals are. Both probing and popping should be taught in person by someone with experience doing it.
Food and temp cycling are things that we went over earlier on this page. Both are keys to a successful breeding season. It’s all about creating optimal conditions to promote copulations, trigger ovulation and healthy egg production. The feeding and cooling cycle is about 80% of that.
Timing your pairings. This again depends on which species you are talking about and the flow of your room. The colder that it gets their natural habitat the later in the year they tend to breed. Paupan (Irian Jaya), Coastal and jungle carpets will typically start to lock up mid to late winter with Paupan carpets typically going first. Diamonds, Bredli and Inlands typically don’t start to breed until spring. About 6 weeks after you start your cooling cycle you should start to pair your winter breeders. About two weeks before you warm up your spring breeders is when they should be paired. There are quite a few different ways to go about this, but I try to stick to two weeks on, one week off schedule. It never really works out that way though, "Be a student of the serpent". Pay attention to your animals. They will let you know when they have lost interest and are ready to be separated. Males will also let you know when they want to be paired. Is your male cruising around the enclosure franticly trying to get out? Pair him! Are your snakes paired and the male is frantically cruising the enclosure trying to get out? Then separate them.
Having trouble getting locks? Sometimes the males need a little extra motivation. Carpet python males are known for combat and that extra male presence really gets them going. Two things you can do. Either battle them or just add a shed to the cage from another mature male. Combat can get intense. You do not want to leave them together for more than a minute or two. That Should be all it takes for them to get riled up and ready to go. Immediately after they are separated you want to pair them with the females. It’s important that neither male feel like they have lost. If you let one loose then it may not breed. You can also try the shed trick, place a shed from another mature male in the enclosure with the pair. This is much safer than male combat and is also effective.
Carpet pythons are pretty easy to breed. There is a strong chance that you could do absolutely nothing that I say, put a pair of snakes together and hatch viable offspring. Take all this stuff with a grain of salt and just don’t over think it.
Hydration & Humidity
Carpet pythons come from a wide range of environments and have adapted to humidity that ranges between 30% and 80%. My reptile room typically sits at about 50% humidity. Hydration is much more important. Fresh water every 3 days or so should be all you need to ensure that you have a good full shed. If you are having shed problems then take a good look at your water schedule. I mist just to watch the animals drink from their coils, Its just fun to watch and for me, doesn't get old. I only mist about once a month and that's more for my own personal enjoyment then it is anything else. If you would like to occasionally mist them it's totally fine just don’t go overboard and create a wet environment. If I do end up with a stuck shed that's difficult to remove I will soak the snake in a room temp tub of water for about 2 hours and then remove it by hand. If this is something that you constantly then something is off that should be corrected. Partial sheds are going to happen occasionally, It's just part of the learning process.
Incubation has come a long way from the days of using a Hovabator chicken incubator. There are a few good models that are commercially available that will make your life a breeze. If you want to build one, then you are in good company. Most people build their own. I would recommend scrolling YouTube to see all the different builds people do. For the most part a mini fridge, heat tape, two fans and a thermostat seems to be the go-to. The old school water, ice chest and fish heater work pretty well too. Whatever it is you're using you want to make sure that the temp holds between 86-89F. The egg box should be almost completely sealed with just a pin hole in the lid of the container. I use a 70-30% mix of vermiculite/perlite. Add enough water so when you squeeze the substrate with your hands it feels like a wrung out washcloth. Have about a ¼” hole drilled into your container. You will want to tape off the hole until about day 50. At that point you will take the tape off and let it vent a bit more. I recommend burping your eggs on about a weekly basis. If artificially incubated, carpet python eggs should pip between day 54-60.
Carpet pythons have a history of being fantastic maternal incubators.
Step #1- Set up an egg box with a crap ton of bedding/moss.
Step #2- leave them alone for 60 days until suddenly there are baby pythons cruising the cage.
It really is that simple, change the water in the enclosure about twice a week and do absolutely nothing.
The downside of this method is that it is much harder on the female. I don’t recommend doing maternal incubation two years in a row. You will want to give them a year off in between clutches. Females will eat while incubating, just make sure the meals are spread out and about half the size of their typical meal.
Lighting with carpet pythons is one of those topics that can get a bit controversial. Do carpet pythons NEED light. With all the years of breeding and keeping success without lights being used by keepers all over the world I would say no, they do not NEED light. Do they Benefit from light? That is simple and easy, yes, of course they benefit from light! I think the main struggle with a lot of keepers that have been around for extended periods of time is that people in general don't like change. About half of my enclosures have LED lighting and a handful of them have UV. I am slowly switching my enclosures over to incorporate UV lighting. I don't see noticeable differences in my animal’s behavior but there have been enough peer reviewed studies done displaying the benefits of UV light to know that it certainly doesn't hurt. You want the best thing for your animals right? If that's the case then go ahead and set them up with UV, what do you have to loose?
For further information regarding UV and recommended products check out Viv Tech https://www.vivtechproducts.com/
Things are always changing, and we are always adapting as keepers. As my keeping evolves so will this care sheet. This isn’t a one size fits all care sheet. Just the routines that work for me and my animals. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have.