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BLACK-HEADED PYTHON CaresheetCommon Name: Black-Headed Python
Scientific Name: Aspidites melanocephalus
Origin: Lives in a range of habitats in Northern Australia. Grass and scrublands are favored but also found in farmland and forests. Avoids the most arid regions.
Size: 7 to 10 feet
Lifespan: 20-30 years
You will find many ways on the internet on "how to" take care of this animal. This care sheet is showing the way we found works best for us from our many years of experience of breeding and caring for this species.
Black-headed python babies can start out in enclosures as small as 15 gallons. At around 8-12 months, you can increase the size of the enclosure. There are several kinds that work for black-heads, e.g., glass aquariums, snake racks and any of the commercially available, plastic-type reptile enclosures. For an young adult, you can step up to an enclosure that is at least 36" x 18" (Exo Terra Large, or Zilla 40 gal) or a larger 48" x 24" (Zoo Med 50 gal). For adults you will need an enclosure that is at least 6’ x 2’. If you use a glass tank, you'll want to provide a humid hide--that is, a hide that has some damp moss in it for humidity or mist the enclosure good when they are in shed. All snakes are skilled escape artists. It's extremely important that your top is clipped or locked to the tank to prevent them from getting out.
You can use many types of bedding for your pet. The ones that look and work the best are Exo Terra (natural) sand, Zoo Med eco earth, and Zoo Med aspen. Spot clean the bedding whenever they defecate. If you choose sand, use a thin layer (1" or under) and do not use calcium sand. It can clump in your animals gut like cat litter. Spot clean the bedding whenever they defecate. You should only need to clean the whole thing out about once a month. Disinfect the enclosure and change out the bedding at that time. Zoo Meds wipe out or vinegar and water both work good for cage cleaning.
LIGHTING AND HEAT
Blacked-headed pythons originate from the northern regions of Australia and they like it warm, though they need to be able to cool off if they want to. Like all reptiles, they are dependent on external thermoregulation to control their body temperature. This essentially means you need to provide both a hot and cool side to your enclosure. All the heat elements should be on one side and the other will then be the cool side. This way your snake can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs.
The hot side basking spot should be at 89-95 degrees. For babies, put one hide there and another hide on the cool side. (Adults usually don’t need a hide.) The cool side can be between 75-80 degrees. At night it can drop down to 72 ambient temperature. It's a good idea to use a basking light and an under tank heat pad also. The heat pads are usually placed on the hot side with a hide over it. We recommend a Zoo Med heat mat or Exo Terra heat pad that stays on 24/7 to give them a little bit of supplemental heat during the night. Both of these are placed on the outside underneath the enclosure. You want a heat pad that only covers half the tank (or less). The basking light should be housed in a good quality light dome like Exo Terra and Flukers that has a ceramic housing to tolerate high heat and an on/off switch.
Use a good quality temperature gauge too, like Zoo Meds digital temp gauge or Exo Terras Thermometer to figure out the temperatures in your enclosure. Don't guess at it. You can also use a rheostat and/or timers to control your heat source. We do not recommend the use of hot rocks. They have a tendency to heat unevenly over too small an area and can cause serious burns.
Keep a non-porous water bowl in with your python and make sure they always have clean water. Exo Terras water bowls or Flukers water bowls are good decorative choices or if Magnaturals constrictor 5 gallon bowl. Scrub the bowl at least once a week to keep bacteria slime from building up. If you maintain a humidity level of around 50%, your snake will be able to shed properly. Hand misters are usually sufficient.
Black-headed pythons are known for being good eaters. Do not handle your snake for several hours before you are going to feed it. We do recommend feeding in its own enclosure. Feeding in its home will not make your pet more aggressive or associate you with food. Young babies might be a bit nervous and nippy but they will usually grow out of it with some gentle handling. If you are worried about your pet associating food with you, get yourself a good snake hook. Gently hook your snake out of its enclosure when you want to hold it. Check out these hooks: collapsible hook for babies and larger hooks for adults. Using a snake hook when you take your pet out will greatly reduce the chances of you being bit from a feeding response. If you don't have a hook and are still worried about picking up your snake, use something like a dowel rod to gently touch your snake first. This lets him know you are picking him up not feeding him and also makes sure he is awake before you grab him. Then just reach around and pick your snake up from behind, rather than from the front. This way your hand is not coming at his face.
Hatchlings to 2 years
1 chick, duckling or rodent of appropriate size once a week. This means the girth of the rodent should not exceed 1 1/2 times the girth of the snake (at it's biggest point, not his neck size) We suggest providing a variety by rotating what kind of prey item is offered. Do not handle your snake for at least 24 hours after it has eaten. Snakes in general tend not to eat when they are in shed. Just wait to feed until your pet sheds. Snakes over two years can eat every 2 weeks if you want. Make sure it's a decent size meal.
Black-headed pythons can be gentle snakes with a good tolerance for being handled. However, they get big and strong. We consider this species to be good for people who have kept other snakes successfully before and are ready to try something more advanced. If you work with them, they can be friendly and easy to care for.
When holding your pet, always remember to support your snakes body. Once a black-head realizes that you will not hurt it, they often seem to enjoy (or at least tolerate) being handled. Relax and give your snake time to get used to you. Avoid touching the top of its head. Unless it knows and trusts you, touching the top of the head will cause it to jerk away from the touch. The fast movement of the snake tends to scare a lot of new snake owners. This is called being "head shy." A lot of black-heads will get over it with gentle handling.
Give your new pet at least a couple of days to settle in to its new home before handling. Start slow and gradually increase the amount of time you have your snake out. Remember your new python's life is in your hands. So please take care of it properly.