For lovers of the huge Burmese pythons we all know and care about, who cannot afford the space that they need, a fantastic alternative has arrived. Dwarf Burmese Pythons were imported into the UK and USA for the first time in 2003. They occur from a small off-shore Island in South East Asia and grow to a maximum of 7 feet. Adult males have bred at just 4feet, and females at 5feet. They have an almost identical appearance to their larger cousins, and youngsters will tame easily. The unfortunate side however, is their current price range. This has become the leading project in Python molurus for many breeders, aiming to breed this Dwarf into colour and pattern variants of its larger cousin, to ultimately achieve Dwarf Burmese Pythons in a wide array of colours and patterns.
When keeping any snake as a pet, you generally want to be able to view the snake from the outside of its enclosure, in the most natural surroundings you can offer. This will be more aesthetically pleasing and also aid in the general condition of the snake. If the snake likes its surroundings, it will have a better feeding response and generally grow quicker. A larger vivarium also offers more interest to the snake?s life, and by adding branches and other natural products you will enhance the quality of life the snake has, and stop it from becoming lethargic and overweight. Also, being stronger it should have more of a resistance to any viral infections or any other problems that it may encounter later in life.
For an adult Dwarf Burmese python, a vivarium 120cm Length x 60cm Width x 60cm Height is ample. Unlike their larger cousins, these snakes are very shy and prefer a smaller, darker more compact space. Even in this 120cm Length enclosure, a minimum of 2 hiding areas should be offered. I kept a number of Wild Caught adults in enclosures half this size with no light for many months before they became accustomed to captivity. As soon as they fed on a regular basis and became more comfortable with me, I gave them larger enclosures. Some individuals when put in these enclosures, reverted to being more aggressive and refused their food, while others took to it like icing on a cake. Juveniles should be treated in a similar manner, with a small enclosure being offered to begin with, and as time progresses the enclosure should grow with the snake.
Snake enclosures can be made from a number of materials. Most commonly used is a melamine coated wood which covers all sides except the front, which has glass sliding doors. Aquariums can also be used for juvenile Dwarf Burmese Pythons, although a specialist lid should be bought or made rather than the original aquarium lid. It is essential when thinking about what type of enclosure you use, you think about these 6 ?SSSHHH? factors:
1) Safety ? Can the snake or owner injure itself from the enclosure or any appliances held within?
2) Secure ? Can the snake escape through any small hole or cavity?
3) Size ? Will the enclosure be appropriately sized?
4) Heating ? Is the enclosure able to regulate the temperature properly?
5) Humidity ? Will the enclosure last well in humid conditions? Is there enough ventilation for the moisture to escape?
6) Hygienic ? Will the enclosure build up a lot of bacteria in small cavities? Is it easy to clean?
By following the steps above, you can have a suitable enclosure made from a variety of materials.
D?cor in your tank serves two purposes. First being extra cover for your snake and second, allowing for a more natural and pleasing appearance. When choosing d?cor, think about the safety of the snake. Make sure that whatever you decide to use, it is securely fixed and that no rocks, wood or anything heavy can fall and possibly injure, or even kill the snake. You must also make sure that everything used is parasite free. If anything has been picked up from outside, or has originally come from outside, such as cork bark, you should either boil it, or place the item in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes. Freezing works for some parasites, however others have been known to survive months in freezing conditions. Some parasites found in English conditions last winters in minus temperatures, so it is not entirely effective.
Once all your d?cor is parasite free, it is then safe to place inside your enclosure. As a general rule, if you can put pressure on an item to knock it down, a Dwarf Burmese Python is certainly capable of doing so. When positioning rocks or heavy objects, make sure they are completely secure. If it is still uneasy, screw them or use superglue to fix them securely. If it is not possible, the rule is simple: Do not place the item in the vivarium!
If you decide to go for an extra large enclosure, you must provide plenty of cover and hiding areas. A hiding place can be anything from a large tupperware box with a hole cut out to a naturalistic piece of cork bark. There are many brands of fake plants and d?cor you can use which is both safe for the animal and pleasing to the eye. Cork bark is available from almost any reptile pet shop in the UK, and can be ordered in if they do not have it in stock. This is excellent cover for any reptile and is 100% natural. One thing you must consider when thinking about the size of the vivarium, is the bigger you go, the more hiding areas you must provide. I recommend at least one hiding place per metre in length of the enclosure.
NOTE: Never use sticky tape in an enclosure; this is an accident waiting to happen. Believe me; removing sticky tape from any snake is no easy task!
Dwarf Burmese Pythons require a thermal gradient, meaning they must be allowed to move around the enclosure to find their required temperature. The hot end of the enclosure should be 88-94?F while the cool end should be approximately 83-86?F. During the night, the temperature should drop to a more constant overall temperature of 82-84?F. One of my adult males became a victim of a serious infection in its face, due to a drop in temperature for a day or so. This was due to a power-cut and the temperature dropped to around 60?F. The infection lasted for several weeks with antibiotics having little effect. Eventually, he had to under-go an operation to remove all infected areas and treated with an antibiotic gel. His eye-cap had to be removed in the process, which left me putting a moist antibiotic gel over his eye for several weeks until he sloughed. He eventually recovered, but I cannot re-iterate enough how important it is for this species to be given a high temperature and humidity.
In my opinion, the ideal way of heating a Dwarf Burmese Pythons enclosure is to use a power plate. This is a small thin square plate, about 25mm thick which is screwed into the top of the vivarium. It does not need to be protected, as there is no way a snake can grip onto it. It is almost invisible to the eye as it simply sits on the ceiling of the vivarium. The only brand available in the UK is HabiStat Reptile Radiator; it is 75 Watts and is sufficient for any vivarium up to 4ft long and possibly larger. It produces no light and therefore in a vivarium you will need a form of lighting as well. A power plate should be used in conjunction with a HabiStat Pulse Proportional Thermostat, which will stop the power reaching the power plate as soon as the temperature goes above the setting, and turn back on as soon as it is too cool. This is one of the most accurate thermostats on the market today.
Ceramic heaters, spot bulbs and heat mats are also ways of heating a vivarium. These all have their advantages and disadvantages, but in my opinion, none quite weigh out to be as good as a power plate.
Dwarf Burmese Pythons are primarily nocturnal, meaning they venture out in the dark of night. This is when their main predators are sleeping, and their prey is awake. I have found it better for wild caught individuals to be kept in a darker enclosure, only being allowed the light from the room. Captive bred individuals however, should be bought up and raised with a light in its enclosure during the day time.
Having artificial light in a vivarium is aesthetically pleasing to the owner, and is a good addition to a snake?s enclosure. They will use this as a photo-period, and their regular time clock will generally adjust to the settings on which you have your light set to.
They do not require any form of special lighting, such as a D3 Ultra-Violet light commonly used for diurnal species. An Arcadia Natural Sunlight Fluorescent Lamp is a good form of lighting. This comes in lengths of 12? up to 48? and I suggest you use the largest size able to fit inside your vivarium. In a room-sized enclosure, a few may be needed.
Dwarf Burmese Pythons occur in South East Asia and therefore are exposed to a high humidity. This should be replicated in captivity to aid to the general health and well-being of your snake. A 70-80% humidity range will allow to snake to slough it?s skin properly and become less prone to any problems such as respiratory infections.
Hatchlings should be offered fuzzy mice or rat pups, and as they grow the mice or rats should become larger. An adult Dwarf Burmese Python should feed on one large rat every 2-3 weeks. Hatchlings should be fed on a regular basis, every 7 days is ideal. Their metabolic rate is very high and as they are growing, they need a lot more food to keep them going. The only exception when adult females should be fed more is when they need fattening up for egg production, or just after they have laid. An egg-laying female should be fed double the normal amount for several weeks after they have laid. Snakes have the capability of building up a huge fat reserve, and become obese very easily. Taking the weight off however, is a much more difficult task. Obese snakes will not live nearly the length as a healthy snake would due to liver and kidney problems. If you are unsure about your snake?s weight, check with a reptile veterinarian.