Green Tree Python Care Guide
Table of Contents
Introduction to Green Tree Pythons
There are few other snakes that will receive more nervous glances from guests than the green tree python. They look more deadly than the truly venomous green tree viper. But in reality, they are harmless. These arboreal snakes do spend a great deal of time in trees, but are active animals that need space to move and groove on the ground as well.
Although a bright neon green is a predominant color in adults, they can also come in a wide variety of other colors.
Many breeders are now experimenting with various color morphs, including hybrids of the recessive gene morph albino. Stunning varieties that sport maroon and white splotches on a neon yellow background are available from conscientious breeders.
Avoid Illegal Reptile Trade
Always buy these pets from a reputable breeder outside of Indonesia. Imported snakes (often sold as farm raised but actually illegally wild caught) have been shipped ½ halfway around the world and are usually riddled with parasites. They do not tend to live long, and so the new owner is wasting their money and subsidizing illegal trade in reptiles. Take the time to find a good breeder and get a nice little juvenile to raise.
Juvenile green tree pythons are ironic. Their typical color isn't green. Instead they're normally yellow, red or dark brown-black. As they mature, their color gradually changes to the adult bright green. Some individuals retain their bright-yellow juvenile colors, while some other young python turn rebelious blue!
Green Tree Python Size
Hatchlings usually measure between 8 and 10 inches long, growing between 4 and 6 feet as adults, with females being thicker and longer than males. They can live up to 20 years of age with proper care.
These snakes have a reputation for being aggressive. Actually, the times they strike at handlers is when they are being approached from above or yanked aggressively from a limb. There are simple ways that a handler can prevent a crabby snake attack. Correct habitat design is one way, and will be discussed below.
Another way to keep your snake’s temper sweet is to always approach the animal from below. Imagine yourself sunning on a lounger beside the ocean, dozing off now and then in the pleasant warmth. Suddenly, a giant hand descends from the clouds to snatch you up and take you somewhere else that you may not want to be! You’d be crabby too.
Although this pet may not be a good choice for a hasty or thoughtless pet keeper, mindful handling generally prevents most snake and handler disagreements. With that being said, some races are just naturally more aggressive than others, such as the colorful Biak locality type. If ease of handling is important, then the potential python owner needs to consult with various breeders. Those breeders will inform you which species have the most placid temperaments.
Green Tree Python Habitat Design
Green Tree Python Tank Size
The beauty of these animals just begs for easy viewing. Therefore, a front-opening glass terrarium is the habitat of choice. Over the course your pet’s life, if starting with a juvenile, you will need more than one size of living quarters. Like most snakes, juveniles tend to be shy, so it’s best to start them off in small enclosures such as one measuring 1 foot long, 1 foot wide and 1 foot tall.</p> <p>Adult green tree pythons will need more than double the space. A 3 foot long, 2 foot wide and 2 foot-tall enclosures is a good amount of space for an adult green tree python. You may be wondering if more vertical room is better, since they are aboreal animal. Weirdly, the taller the habitat, the more likely they are to suffer from dehydration. The green tree python will engage in their natural behavior of perching as high as they can in their habitat. And once they find their high spot, they'll remain there for extended periods of time. The snakes do need to drink regularly, but, if they become too comfortable and too lazy to climb back down to their water bowl to drink, their health can be badly affected.
One of the reasons for this self-harming behaviors is that they just don’t like to crawl vertically. Which is another irony for a
The basic elements of the tank should include:
- a suitable substrate
- a warm and a cool side
- a water dish/shallow pool
- something for the snake to climb and bask on
They are notorious escape artists and the setup of a comfortable and secure habitat requires a bit of forethought. A well clamped screened top is essential as they will test their surroundings at night.
There will be times when you have to handle your green python. Which means that a front opening terrarium is highly recommended. And those front opening habitats should be filled with a removable perch. By employing a front opening system, the handler can approach the snake from below, which seems to agree with them better than a hand from above.
Gently unwrap the coils and allow the snake time to voluntarily climb onto your arm. It takes a few minutes, but this process makes everyone happier. Alternatively, you can provide the snake with only one perch that is easily removable, snake and all, and relocate the whole perch to a different location.
Green Tree Python Substrate
Most beginners’ tanks will have a glass bottom. Some advanced models may have a false bottom with some sort of screening to allow feces and urine to sift down. Similar to a fancy cat box type of setup. Absorbent sheets in the bottom of a false set up are fairly affordable. And they will greatly reduce urine odor and eliminate urine from the substrate very quickly.
If you forgo the false bottom option, and start with a simpler, solid bottomed setup, you should line the bottom with either paper towels, or some other type of absorbent material. A 2 inch layer of cypress shavings is favored by most snake keepers. If possible, try to purchase cypress substrate from an earth-friendly supplier. Aromatic woods such as pine and cedar should be avoided as they can cause lung and eye irritation.
Temperature and Lighting
Provide your python with a basking spot temperature of 85 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit and an ambient temperature lower in the habitat of 78 to 80 degrees. Nowhere in the habitat should the ambient temperature be less than 70 degrees. It’s important to take temperature readings on the surface of the warm side of the bottom. It's also good habit to measure the cooler side, and any basking areas.
For temperature measurement, a digital laser thermometer is a worthwhile investment. For less than $20, a new keeper can take readings from all over the habitat with the push of a button. Keepers need to remember that the ambient temperature of the room can affect the temperature of the habitat, so frequent readings are strongly recommended.
A basking lamp can be provided, but it must be carefully placed so that it can never exceed 88 degrees F at the closest possible point to the snake. An adult Green Tree Python is very strong and only a screened top clamped down tightly on all four sides will prevent escape. Also, monitor your snake’s nose, as they can scrape off the skin, rubbing against the screen incessantly while trying to escape.
Most experienced keepers recommend an undertank heating mat, especially for night time usage. Place this under only ½ the tank until you are really confident in the temperature gradient. Some green potted plants grouped together over the heating mat will provide a nice retreat for your snake.
If you're familiar with bearded dragons, corn snakes, or other reptiles, you might think a hide is necessary. However one should not be provide for a Gree Tree Python. Instead, only offer a retreat. These silly serpents will sometimes hide for too long and fail to thermoregulate properly, which will negatively impact their health.
Take care to monitor the temperature frequently. Unlike many snakes, the green tree ptyhon does not need a period of brumation (semi-hibernation). Just the opposite, especially in winter when changes in house temperatures can cause your pet to be unnecessarily lethargic and even anorexic. This is yet another reason why temperature monitoring regularly is really quite important.
This species is used to some fairly humid conditions in their native lands. The humidity range for green tree pythons should be between 40 to 70 percent. It can be higher than 70 for short periods – such as after a misting, but should be thoroughly dry between mistings to prevent bacteria buildup. The environment should not be constantly wet as it can cause the snake to develop dermal infections. Misting is, however, a very good way to simulate the daily rain showers that this species would experience in the wild. When the snake is shedding is a good time to mist twice per day. Here are is a wide variety of reptile misters that will assist your green tree python.
If you choose to mist your shedding snake twice daily, be sure to spray the entire habitat with warm water, not just the snake. To spray your snake with cold water is just asking for a traumatized animal. Because the humidity level throughout even large habitats will be more consistent than temperature gradients, an hygrometer attached to any inside wall of the enclosure will take the guess work out of managing humidity.
Check the humidity daily. A successful keeper never assumes that once temperature and humidity provisions seem optimal, they will always stay that way. That is seldom true, and good monitoring of the conditions with changing seasons will prevent problems.
It can be challenging to keep the humidity up in a habitat with a screen top. There are various ways to accomplish this. Some are more labor intensive than others, but it is up to the individual keeper’s preferences and life style. Some keepers have two alternative tops, one that is solid for times they must be away and one that is fully screened for those times when they are home. Others prefer a single top that is half solid and half screened. T
he most appropriate choice will depend on the geographic region and the keeper’s lifestyle. For instance, keepers in Florida should be fine with a ½ and ½ top and once a day misting, since the ambient humidity tends to be in the optimal range anyway. A keeper in the desert southwest will have challenges keeping the humidity up, and so the solid top during the day may be the best choice.
Green Tree Python Diet and Feeding Schedule
When you feed your snake depends on what times he/she is most active. Early evening is a good time to feed a GTP. If feeding live food, it is wise to observe your snake the entire time that a live prey animal is inside the habitat, so plan ahead for that observation period.
For convenience, you may choose to feed dead prey instead of live. Thaw frozen prey in hot water long enough to be sure that the center is well above 85 degrees. You will need to dangle the item in front of the snake, using forceps for juveniles and longer hemostats for adults, who can display a very enthusiastic strike.
Feeding right after dusk in a dimly light room has been reported to produce the fastest feeding response (good to know for those winter months when the snakes may be a bit fussy about eating). When the strike and squeeze has occurred, leave your snake in peace for at least 24 hours.
How often should I feed my Green Tree Python?
How often you feed your snake depends on how old it is. Baby snakes don’t even start to think about food until they are two to four weeks old. Once they do, they generally need to eat about twice a week. More frequent feedings will encourage them to grow faster, if that is what you wish. As your snake gets older, he/she will not need to be fed quite as often. An adult Green Tree Python needs to eat a rat about every 12 days.
What should I feed my Green Tree Python?
Depends on how old he/she is. A very young snake can only manage pinkies for quite a few months. After that they will graduate to fuzzies, then hoppers or fluffs, then weaners. If you're new to reptile care, then these terms may sound unfamiliar. But it's part of the lexicon that distinguishes a mouse's age. And here's how each term is classified:
Mice Ages and Sizes
- Pinky: A pinky is a newborn mouse. Ranging from one to three grams in weight, depending on where you purchase them. They have no fur and are high in protein.
- Fuzzy: A fuzzy is a slightly older baby mouse, with the beginnings of fur. They are slightly bigger in size and weigh around 3-5g.
- Hopper: The next age stage. These are around 5-9g in weight and are fully formed, but not fully grown.
Rat Ages and Sizes
- The rat equivalent of a pinky would be a ‘rat pup’. These are slightly bigger in size, around 5g.
- The rat equivalent of a fuzzy is called a ‘fluff’. They are around 10-25g in weight, so quite a substantial difference in size between mice at rats at that age.
- The rat equivalent of a hopper would be ‘weaner’ rat, at around 25-50g.
Note: Adult mice and rats are only suitable for snakes over 4 feet long.
The size of the prey you choose will depend on whether or not the snake can both swallow and digest it. When in doubt, consider the width of the diner. That is, prey should be no wider than the widest part of the snake's body. Choosing prey that is too large, if it is actually swallowed, can result in regurgitation at the very least (if you’re lucky). But the most extreme results can be injuries, seizures, partial paralysis, gut impactions, and death being unpleasant possibilities as well.
Is it better to feed live prey?
Some keepers believe that the live prey offers the ability for the snake to perform natural behaviors. Others claim that this is nonsense and that a rich environment and positive interaction with a human handler should provide sufficient stimulation. So it's really just a preference for the owner. But there are advantages of pre-killed, frozen dinners over live chow are:
- Live prey can be too active for young snakes.
- Sometimes dinner bites back. Attacks by live prey can permanently disfigure your snake. Injuries caused by live prey can include lacerations to the snake's mouth area and eyes. Cutting through his/her tongue sheath is not uncommon.
- Attacks by live prey can traumatize your snake, and it can be very difficult to get that snake to feed on that prey item again.
- Pre-killed offerings are actually much more convenient than live and can last in the freezer for up to six months.
Cleaning and Sanitation
Cleaning the habitat is fairly easy and should be done lightly once a week, and thoroughly once a month. Performing sanitation weekly is something you and your snake will be thankful for. This is because snake feces can become rank in a musty way that is distinctively snake and definitely unpleasant.
- Daily: Spot remove any feces that you see.
- Weekly: Remove and dispose of the top 1 inch of bedding and replace with fresh.
- Bi-weekly: Place dishwasher safe furniture in the dishwasher every two weeks. Perches will benefit from this treatment.
- Monthly: Remove everything, and spritz the habitat interior with 10% bleach solution. If the terrarium is glass, spray sides with vinegar after the bleach has been applied and removed and wipe down for better visibility. Do not use bleach stronger than a 10% solution and do not place your snake back inside without wiping down all damp areas after it has soaked in bleach for ½ hour. After wiping down, wait another ½ hour, install fresh substrate and reposition the sanitized perch. Monthly cleaning time is a good opportunity to let any potted plants dry out well and to wipe down the leaves, top and bottom, to discourage soil gnats and mites.
This is one time where a separate container for your snake is handy. It's unnecessary to buy an extra habitat. All that's needed is a Tupperware box with tight fitting lid, a thick rumpled terry cloth towel in the bottom, and a warm location. Or you can but the box right next to the aquarium/vivarium, remove the undertank pad from the underneath the primary habitat and slip it under the secondary holding container, so that you green tree python as the warmth it needs.
If using supplemental heat beneath a Tupperware or other plastic box, be sure to slip a hand towel over the heating element so it does not come into direct with the plastic. Also, preheat the box for at least 15 minutes before placing the snake inside.
Proper feeding and sanitation can help to prevent most common illnesses in pythons. For example, blister disease is associated with damp, filthy environments and effects the bottom scales, the scutes, that are in constant contact with the filth. The scutes develop a reddish appearance and if untreated they become swollen and infected by bacteria and fungi. The habitat must receive a comprehensive cleaning immediately and the snake must see a local vet, who will probably administer an injectable antibiotic, followed by a course of topical treatments administered twice daily (by the owner).
A common ailment to green tree pythons is called rectal prolapse. This can be prevented by feeding well-hydrated food items. This condition is really a form of hemorrhoids and can be fatal. This is one disadvantage to frozen mice used for snake food, since a fair amount of water is lost by freezing. So defrosted rodents should be injected with small amounts of water, preferably augmented with a calcium syrup such as that sold by Novartis.
Green tree pythons become constipated easily if they do not receive enough exercise. So in addition to a nice, large habitat, allowing your pet to roam about the house or on the lawn may encourage defecation.
Other conditions such as mouth rot, respiratory infections, and fungal infections are often a function of poor care or a dirty environment. Mouth rot is a very common outcome of a filthy habitat. It is often first noted as a pus lined mouth, or bubbling nostrils. When this is discovered the animal should see the vet immediately. Antibiotics and mouth rinsing twice a day may be required. This will make your snake cranky, so prevention is the best medicine.
These snakes are stunningly beautiful and interesting creatures and deserve the best care you can provide. As a result, they will provide you with many years of viewing enjoyment.