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Spotted Python (Antaresia Maculosa)
This species is among the world’s smallest pythons with an average adult length of about 1.2 mtrs. They are a robust snake with a head that is slightly wider than the neck, coloration consists of cream to yellowish brown, occasionally tinged in red with a persistent dorsal pattern of chocolate-brown to purplish-brown. The ragged-edged blotches over their bodies can vary size and numbers between populations and often have a fluctuating iridescent sheen to their body with the ventral’s consisting mostly of white. The Spotted python usually occupies habitat association with rocky outcrops within woodlands, grasslands, sclerophyll forests and along rain forest edges. They are distributed throughout eastern Queensland and numerous offshore islands from Cape York, south to the Tamworth area of New South Wales. Spotted pythons are terrestrial and most often found under rock slabs but also inhabit hollow logs. termite mounds and caves. They are nocturnal and regularly cross roads on warm evenings. Their diet consists of small birds, frogs, lizards and small mammals.
Spotted Pythons are widely kept throughout Australia and other countries and there would have been many snake collections that where started with a spotted python. This small, easily maintained and easily bred species are a very popular "beginners" python, due to their ease of handling and small enclosure requirements. Apart from spirited individuals this species is very reluctant to bite and as a whole are very calm and docile by nature.
Adults should be house in wooden or melamine enclosures that measures 90cmL x 60cmD x 60cmH with a glass front for easy viewing and access. When constructed in this manor future enclosures can be easily stacked on top to create a “bank” for a tidy and more manageable setup. As spotted pythons are primarily terrestrial a heat mat or heat cord is the best way of providing warmth to your animal and must be used with a good quality thermostat. Temperatures should be between 28 - 32 degrees at the hot end of the enclosure with a 5-8 degree drop at the cool end.
There are many options for substrate from paper towel, newspaper, butchers paper, eucalyptus mulch, cypress mulch and aspen bedding, there are also many commercial brands you can find at your local pet shop also. When using a loose substrate any soiled areas are easily scooped out and topped back up making the cleaning process much easier.
“Hides” in the form of small hollow logs, plastic tubs or purpose bought resin hides are important for the animal to feel secure and are best placed over the heating source.
A water bowl for drinking should be placed at the cool end of the enclosure and should also be large enough for soaking. Ensure the water is changed regularly.
No additional light is needed inside the enclosure as long as there is a window nearby to provide natural day/night light cycle and uvb emitting lights are unnecessary and provide no additional benefit to spotted pythons.
Adult males and females can be bred at one and a half years of age provided they are of sufficient size and in good health and condition. Breeding activity usually commences in late April and continues through to August.
The snakes can be cooled through most of this period, from the start of May to the end of July, and it is during this latter period that most prolonged mating’s will occur. Males may combat and it is important to monitor any new pairings to ensure your animals are of opposite sex when first introducing them.
Female pythons will go through a prey lay shed approximately 25-30 days prior to egg laying and is more than likely that the female will refuse food during this time. At this stage the female will usually lie in a coil exposing part of the ventral area. Just prior to laying, the female will form a depression in the substrate in the area where the eggs are to be laid. Clutches of eggs are usually laid in late September through October and early November.
Eggs are best incubated in clear-topped, plastic containers, using medium grade vermiculite (or Perlite) that is mixed 1:1 water to vermiculite by weight with enough to fill about 3cm of medium in a container, the container size will vary based on how many eggs your incubating. A fine spray of water can be added at a future dates if required. The relative humidity is kept high and needs to range close to 99%. The temperature range during incubation is 31.5°C and at these temperatures incubation periods should take approximately 55-60days days.
It important to be prepared for the new arrivals, you will need to have small tubs setup with air holes for ventilation and some way to heat them all, usually a heat cord under some small “click clack” style tubs is ideal and record keeping is essential.
Once all individuals have hatched they should be kept on paper towel within their tubs with a water bowl and will need to be lightly misted daily to ensure the tub remains humid, hatchlings will go through a post hatch shed about 2 weeks after hatching and if the animal is dehydrated or in an environment that is dry they may not accomplish this correctly and I can assure you trying get stuck shed from a hatchling spotted python isn’t fun.
Individuals are issued with a record number that is attached to its container and entered on that individual's feeding card. This can be any kind of coding system that distinguishes the animal from the rest and should also include age, sex, shedding and feeding history. Other information could include parents, weight, mutations etc.
After approximately 3 – 4 weeks it is time to attempt feeding, typically wild spotted python hatchlings will eat small skinks and geckos but since that’s not a practically viable option we must convince them to take day old pinkie mice. These days most spotted pythons will happily accept mice with a bit of tease or strike feeding, this is achieved by gently nudging the animal around the neck area and getting them to strike at the food item, usually after a small number of meals like this they begin to take the food voluntarily. Stubborn individuals may need some encouragement with scented pinkie mice, its best to use fish or quail scent first and if that still doesn’t encourage them then you may need to trap some garden skinks.