New - Updated Blood and Short-Tailed Python Care Sheet
Blood and Short-Tailed Python Care Sheet
Introduction and Classification
Blood and Short-Tailed Pythons have been classified into 3 separate species (Curtus, Breitensteini and Brongersmai) in recent years. They are each very similar in disposition and located in the same geographical areas. However each locale can produce different coloured offspring through colour polymorphism, the ability for a female Python Brongersmai to produce offspring of any colour, Brown being the most common, followed by red, yellow and rarely orange.
Python Curtus, Python Breitensteini, Python Brongersmai.
Common Names - Locales
The name Blood Python refers strictly to the often blood red coloration found on their bodies, this is a direct reference to the Brongersmai species. Locales include Malaysian, Sumatran and Bangka Island. At present, Tyrosinase Positive Albino’s are now being produced in some numbers and becoming available, especially in the US.
Borneo Short-Tailed Pythons are found geographically in Borneo, there are variants however known as the Sarawak, located in the State of Sarawak on Borneo Island. A few morphs are currently hitting the market, including the Latte Line and Marbles/Granites.
Sumatran Short-Tailed Pythons, also commonly referred to as “Black Blood Pythons” are very similar to the Borneo Short-Tailed Pythons, however they are generally of a much darker appearance, sometimes nearing tar-black. However these can also produce yellow headed variants, making it difficult to differentiate between the species without a scale count.
In the Wild
Often found in rice paddies, marsh and tropical swamps, often waiting in ambush for it’s next meal. They are a primarily nocturnal species that is usually active around dawn and dusk.
They eat a variety of food items in the wild such as small to medium-sized birds and mammals.
Hatchlings range from 10 inches-17 inches, Adult males typically range from 3-5 feet in length, and females between 4-6 feet although a few 7 foot specimens have been recorded. These species are however a very robust snake and almost always look overweight, but this is general appearance. Blood and Short-Tailed Pythons have a monstrous appetite coupled with a slow metabolism; they can become overweight without an implemented feeding regime.
A captive specimen will often attain up to 20 years and beyond. This is of course with a steady diet and optimal conditions; Temperature, Humidity etc.
When Buying a Blood Python;
The animal should have a fully rounded body. Thus shouldn’t have an over-pronounced backbone or rib definitions, however, the spinal ridge should be visible, when not visible the animal is quite often overweight. Skin should be firm and feel muscly, free from injuries or burns etc. Remember to check the snake’s underside too.
Check for mites, small parasites that hide under the scales of a “host” – your new Blood or Short-Tailed Python. Adult mites often look like crawling Poppy Seeds. There are several forms of Mite Treatment available, including Frontline, Hypoaspis Predatory Mites and Bathing.
Check the eyes are of normal colouration, unless in shed where they will appear a milky colour or even blue. They should also have no obvious marks or scratches.
The eyes, most notably with Python Brongersmai will often have a patch of darker pigment, this is normal.
The eyes, unlike many Pythons, are able to pivot, so you will notice that the animal will often “look at you”. They implement their pivoting eyes when ambushing prey.
Hold the snake, the snake should not be warm unless being cooled for breeding. Check with the breeder or supplier.
Suppliers may cool their animals if they are aggressive, when cold the animal will be slow to react and therefore appear calm and docile. If the body is warm or at least room temperature, then it would appear to be being kept in appropriate conditions.
The snake should be alert, and be able to support its body when lifting it’s head up a good distance. A good way to test this is to hold the snake by the mid section, with it’s head hanging below, a healthy specimen will lift it’s head to “level” itself. This shows it is fit and active.
Check the mouth for any obvious signs of Mouth Rot or other illnesses/defects.
Gently open the snakes mouth by securely holding the head in one hand but supporting the body, and gently pulling the soft skin on the underside of the lower jaw, the mouth should have an all round pinkish appearance but on occasion can be a black throat/gullet. Check there are no visible signs of teeth missing, or any bubbly mucus which often shows respiratory infections.
If you intend to buy a Blood or Short-Tailed Python, I strongly recommend that you have a complete set up ready before bringing it home, I recommend that this should be running and monitored for around a week before collecting the animal.
Potential Health Problems
Potential health problems commonly found with Blood and Short-Tailed Pythons are respiratory infections, this is normally due to lack of room to stretch out and high humidity. Humidity must be spot on, too much is as detrimental to the animal’s health as too little.
The following are essential;
Housing - With either a lock, or a secure lid.
Substrate – Of some description depending on preference.
Thermostatically controlled Heating and Lighting.
Hides – I suggest 2
Water Bowl – Enough to almost fully submerge the snake.
Food – Frozen Rats/Mice/Chicks available from your local dealer.
Lightguard – If you have an “open” spot light.
Thermometers – To monitor the temperature in the set up.
You should also prepare a suitable transportation method for taking your snake home, a polybox is commonly used as it is a good insulator of heat, simply place your snake inside a tub and then into the polybox, depending on the length of the journey heat will be needed, this can be implemented by the use of heat packs available at your local shops.
All housing needs to be secure no matter what, The last thing you want is an escapee.
Juvenile Bloods and Short-Tails like to feel secure so a small tub/tray would be good to start with, around 15 inches long x 10 inches wide. With hatchlings, I use 18 Litre Really useful Boxes, drilled with air holes. These are a good size up until around a year of age, where I will then house onto a 50 Litre Really Useful Box.
Adults however should be housed in a minimum of 4 foot long Vivarium. Larger is better, but not too big, this may cause stress to the snake.
Newspaper is the easiest to obtain, cheap and easy to spot clean/change. You can also use Shredded Cypress bark, Aspen shavings, Orchid bark to add a more aesthetic touch, however I recommend feeding in a separate container if these are to be used to avoid accidental ingestion.
Sphagnum Moss is also a great way to keep humidity levels up for Bloods and Short-Tails Pythons, This can be misted daily.
When using Newspaper, I tend to place a tray of Sphagnum Moss in to give a humid retreat.
Bloods and Short-Tails, like many Pythons; require 13-14 hours worth of lighting in the summer months and 11-12 in winter.
If you are using a heat bulb to keep the ambient temperature, I suggest the use of a red incandescent bulb as it is argues that snakes cannot see the infra-red heat rays being emitted.
For the day time a standard bulb is sufficient. Be sure to use wire light guards to prevent your snake from burning itself.
In vivariums, I personally I implement a Red Incandescent Bulb on a Dimming Thermostat as this will maintain the temperature at the Basking Spot and will contribute to a steady ambient temperatures. At night; this can be simply turned off if in a warm room. Otherwise supplemental heating will be required overnight.
With my Really Useful Boxes, a Heat Mat is placed under half of the Box, this gives a hot and a cool end. No additional lighting is required.
Heat mats can be used, inside or under the housing but must be used with a Mat Stat to regulate the temperature of the mat.
Ceramics are used in the same fashion as ordinary bulbs however I recommend using specialist ceramic bulb holders, as these are resistant to heat and won’t shatter over time.
One problem I find with the use of Ceramics however; is that they can often dry out the air in the vivarium. Ceramics should be used with a Pulse Proportional Stat.
A thermometer should be present at all times, an analog or digital thermometer is fine but it must be accurate either way so you can keep an eye on temperatures.
Temperatures should be maintained at 88*F (31 – 32*C) Optimum during daytime at the basking spot, with an ambient temperature that mustn’t fall below 75*F. Night time temperatures can fall to around 75*F (23 -24*C) I keep my youngsters at an ambient temperature of 82*F.
Remember, it is important to KNOW your temperatures, never guess.
Bloods and Short-Tails should always have access to fresh, clean water, this should be changed daily or whenever it becomes dirty, whichever comes first. Blood Pythons enjoy a good soak from time to time and also like to defecate in the water.
A quick spray once or twice a day should provide good humidity. When your snake is in shed, this should be doubled. Sphagnum moss will provide ample humidity if kept moist. Humidity should be kept at around 60-70% or higher when in shed.
However, monitor your humidity, too little or too much can cause respiratory infections.
Blood Pythons are very shy and secretive. They need to feel secure, this is why I recommend the use of 2 hides in the set up, one in the hot and one in the cool end. The snake will be able to stay safe and secure under or in his hide while not having to compromise heating. I recommend the use of Cork Bark, it is cheap to acquire and can be found in a variety of lengths and sizes which you can break/cut up accordingly.
Spot clean in the vivarium daily. Completely clean and disinfect once a month unless it is in need of a good clean. 10% bleach to 90% water is a good solution for cleaning the vivarium, Wash with water and allow to dry before returning everything.
Blood and Short-Tailed Pythons should be offered mice and rats in captivity, And are easily bought from your local dealer. Feeding live rodents to your snake is to be carried out only as a last resort, Live Feeding can very easily cause serious injury to your snake.
A hatchling Blood or Short-Tailed Python will usually start with small mice and when adult should feed on adult large rats. A general rule is you can feed a mouse or rat that is in equal width to the widest part of the body.
A slight bulge should be visible in your snake’s stomach. When this bulge is no longer visible, the snake may be able to move up onto the next size food, but check to see it isn’t too big in comparison, the width rule still applies. Chicks lack the nutrients rats and mice possess. However, if your snake is a fussy feeder then a chick is better than nothing. Rats are also more nutritious than mice so the sooner they are onto rats the better.
Foods should be offered by a pair of forceps so that you are away from striking distance. As mentioned before, try tub feeding where substrate other than paper is present.
I find Blood and Short-Tailed Pythons to be easily worked and manageable, although they rarely attain lengths over 6 feet, they can weigh anywhere between 10 and 35 pounds.
Supporting the weight and working the snake requires strength and determination.
Never let the animal look you in the face, you can never trust an animal 100%.
Bloods and Short-Tails tend to be head-shy, and with the slightest contact can often turn and strike. However some will tolerate or even let you stroke them on the chin.
Look for signs of annoyance, Tail wagging or flicking is a sign that leads to a strike or musk, you will start to see a gaping of the cloaca.
Frequently Asked Questions;
Why hasn’t my Blood or Short-Tailed Python defecated?
This is probably the most frequent question I receive, Blood and Short-Tailed Pythons have a very slow metabolism, they will defecate when they feel the need to, usually averaging at about 2-3 times a year on a good balanced diet. Regular bathing will help to induce bowel movements.
I’ve heard that Blood’s are aggressive, is this true?
In my opinion, no, Captive Bred individuals often turn out docile. However, as with all species, there will always be a live-wire, however I feel this is down to husbandry rather than individual, if never handled then it will develop aggression.
When dealing with my collection, I tend to stroke the animal a few times to let them know I’m there, gently sliding my hand under the thickest part of the body that is away from the head, If I see a reaction, I stop, if not, I continue as they will generally give a warning before striking. Learn the body language of your snake.
All care and advice are practices I implement within my collection, you may feel other methods are more suitable, however these work well for me and I will continue to practice them.