Carpet and Diamond Pythons
A complete guide for keeping Morelia spilota, Carpet and Diamond pythons in Australia
Carpet and Diamond pythons are great snakes for the intermediate keeper that has already successfully kept smaller pythons like Stimson's and Children's pythons, and are looking for more of a challenge! Carpet and Diamond pythons are the same species, with Diamond pythons being a subspecies - Morelia spilota spilota. There are several other subspecies of carpet python:
â¢ Jungle carpet python - Morelia spilota cheynei
â¢ Coastal carpet python - Morelia spilota mcdowelli
â¢ Inland carpet python - Morelia spilota metcalfei
â¢ Darwin carpet python - Morelia spilota variegata
Many pet carpet pythons may be hybrids of two or more different subspecies, which is not a problem for pet snakes. However, breeding animals should have more controlled lineages, and the parentage of any breeding animals should be known.
Carpet pythons can grow up to 4 metres long and weigh 15 kg! The average adult length is about 2 metres, and females tend to get larger than males. Genetics also plays a part in the adult size of carpet pythons, with the Coastal subspecies being the largest, and the Darwin subspecies the smallest.
While carpet pythons are commonly kept as pets, they require some experience due to their size, strength, and temperament. Many carpet pythons are docile and easy to handle, but they can also be aggressive and difficult to handle depending on the individual. Females are more likely to be difficult to handle, and they also grow larger than males. These snakes can be very strong when fully grown, and although they are not venomous, their razor-sharp teeth can cause serious injury, so ensure that you are ready for a carpet python before committing to one.
Their size also means that an appropriate enclosure for an adult needs to be at least 150 cm long, 60 cm tall, and 100 cm wide. While juvenile snakes certainly can be kept in a smaller enclosure, always factor their adult size into account when planning, and smaller snakes can be kept in larger enclosures as long as there is no risk of escape. Hatchlings can be kept in plastic containers inside large enclosures.
Reptile Licensing Requirements
Facts About Carpet and Diamond Pythons
Preparing for your Carpet or Diamond Python
Caring for Your Carpet or Diamond Python
All pet reptiles require a reptile keeping licence in Australia, and these differ from state to state, so ensure that you check your local requirements before getting any pet reptile. For Carpet and Diamond pythons, the licensing requirements are generally aimed towards beginner and intermediate keepers.
Place of origin
Day and night
Are Carpet and Diamond pythons good pets?
While many Carpet and Diamond pythons can have great temperaments, and many are used for interactive reptile displays, some pythons can have irritable, cranky personalities. Large female pythons have a reputation for being difficult to handle. Combined with their size and strength, Carpet and Diamond pythons should be kept by more experienced keepers that have had pythons before.
Apart from their size and temperament, they are tolerant and forgiving of a wide range of enclosure parameters, and are generally hardy. They are also good eaters and are not usually fussy with prey items. As they can reach up to 3 metres in length as adults, they will need quite a large enclosure. However, these pythons like to climb, and so the floor space of an enclosure can be reduced by increasing the vertical space.
For keepers with the experience behind them, Carpet and Diamond pythons are beautiful, impressive pythons that give their keepers decades of joy and wonderment.
Are Carpet and Diamond pythons nocturnal?
Carpet and Diamond pythons are active both during the day and the night, and the Darwin Carpet python (Morelia s. variegata) is more likely to be nocturnal. Basking is a common behaviour in the daytime, and these pythons prefer to search for prey at night, but will eat during the daylight hours too. Many pet pythons are happy to eat during the day.
What do Carpet and Diamond pythons eat?
Carpet and Diamond pythons eat whole prey, which includes birds, other reptiles, small mammals, and small marsupials. These pythons kill their prey via constriction, using their powerful body to squeeze their prey. They do well eating frozen and thawed mice through to large rats in captivity. Due to their size, wild pythons have been seen eating animals as large as wallabies!
How big do Carpet and Diamond pythons get?
These large pythons generally reach an average size of 2 metres in length, and 15 kg in weight. Females tend to be larger and wider than males, and have a reputation for being aggressive, but some males can be aggressive as well. The largest recorded python of this genera was almost 4 metres long!
Like all snakes, Carpet and Diamond pythons shed their skin regularly as they grow, and adults will still shed 2-4 times a year.
How long do Carpet and Diamond pythons live?
Carpet and Diamond pythons can live up to 30 years with the appropriate care, and most captive animals live for 20-25 years. These animals are a long-term commitment, especially with regards to their space requirements. These pythons are prone to respiratory conditions, as well as spinal problems as they get older and heavier.
Are Carpet and Diamond pythons aggressive?
Part of the reason why these pythons are not recommended for beginner keepers is their variable temperaments. Some pythons can be very docile and friendly, but some can also be aggressive. Although they are not venomous, aggressive larger pythons have rows of needle-sharp teeth and can produce a nasty bite. Unfortunately it can be difficult to assess the temperament of young or hatchling pythons, as most young animals are flightier and more prone to striking than adults.
However, there are ways to increase your python's comfort and temperament while being handled, such as ensuring that all handling experiences are positive, reducing stress with good handling techniques, hand-washing prior to handling, and keeping handling and feeding activities separate.
After getting your licence, the next step is putting together an enclosure for your python. An adult Carpet or Diamond python will need an enclosure that is at least 150 cm long, 60 cm wide, and 60 cm deep, but the larger the enclosure, the better. Some length can be reduced by increasing the height or depth of the enclosure. Although you may be getting your python as a juvenile, it is best if you can commit to the full adult enclosure as it will save you from having to upgrade in the future. Very small snakes can be housed in a plastic tub inside the main enclosure.
Carpet and Diamond Python Supplies Checklist
Type of Enclosure
Glass enclosures are always better than plastic, especially since heat sources can melt plastic! Glass enclosures will also last, are scratch-resistant, and are much easier to clean. Enclosures should be easy to access for handling and cleaning, and avoid enclosures with small doors. Well-designed enclosures will have large front doors that often will open an entire side of the enclosure, along with top access. They normally will include mesh panels on top for ventilation and UV access, and have no potential escape routes. Doors should all be latchable, and some enclosures will have attachments for locks. Exo-Terra enclosures are high quality, and come in several different sizes and configurations to suit most species.
Size and Location of Enclosure
Ensure that the enclosure you choose is large enough to accommodate your furniture, as well as allowing for enough space for your snake to stretch out and roam. This also involves planning where the enclosure will be located in your house, as you don't want to get an enclosure that doesn't fit in the location you've chosen. Your enclosure should be in a quiet room that isn't a common area or thoroughfare. Remember that stress can cause injury or illness in reptiles, and signs of stress may not be as apparent as in mammals.
Your enclosure should also be located in a room with as few temperature fluctuations as possible. For example, a room where the air conditioning is constantly being turned on or off is not ideal, or a room that gets strong sunlight for only a few hours each day.
Finally, other pets in the household should not be able to access the enclosure, even if they canât open it or get on top of it. Dogs and cats are predators of reptiles.Â
A proper, well-maintained heating system is vital for keeping your python healthy and happy. Reptiles are ectothermic, which means that they need to rely on external sources of body heat. All body functions are heat-dependent, including heart rate, digestion, and respiration. Pythons that don't get enough heat will suffer from suboptimal organ function and become unwell.
Although setting up a thermostatically-controlled heating system can be more expensive and tricky in the short run, a proper system should only require basic maintenance in the long run, and will be invaluable for ensuring your snake stays healthy.
Reptiles require a basking spot in the enclosure set to their preferred body temperature (PBT), which in Carpet and Diamond pythons is 33-35 degrees Celsius. At the opposite end of the enclosure, they should have their "cool end," which is an area that sits around 25-28 degrees Celsius. Reptiles are great at sensing environmental temperatures, and having a "hot end" and "cool end" will allow them to regulate their body temperature by moving between the hot and cool end as needed. The basking area can mimic a natural spot in the wild, and include flat, smooth rocks, or thick branches for your python to adjust their distance from the heat source.
The great thing about a thermostat is that it will automatically monitor temperatures in the hot and cool end, and adjust the heating to account for that. This means that very little input is required to maintain an ideal temperature gradient for your python.Â
Type of heat source
Heat lamps are much better than heat mats as they mimic heat from the sun, and often can be placed with less risk of thermal burns, but also more effective heating. Heat lamps can be augmented with heat mats in the basking area as long as the reptile cannot come into direct contact with the heat mat.
It is best to get separate heat and UV lamps, as combined lamps often do not do either job optimally. However, as pythons tend to have lower UV requirements than lizards, a good quality combination lamp may be acceptable. All heat sources should be inaccessible to your pet, and heat globes should either be out of the enclosure, or contained within a mesh cover. Without this, there is a risk of your snake coiling around the heat source and suffering from thermal burns, which can be very tricky to treat.
The importance of UV lighting in Australian pythons can be a topic of debate, as some keepers feel it is less important due to some species' nocturnal habits. However, there is no downside to providing UV light, and so we recommend ensuring that your python has a consistent source of UV as well as visible light.
Choosing a good quality UV globe is important and will save you money in the long run, as they won't have to be replaced as often and are less prone to failure. However, no matter how good your UV globe is, it cannot be filtered through glass or plastic, as this will filter a lot of the UV waves out. It is fine for it to go through mesh, but also be aware that UV light will decrease the further the animal is from the globe, and most globes require no more than a 30 cm distance between the globe and animal. The best globes in the world also won't match up to natural Australian sun, and it is also recommended that your python receive at least an hour of natural sunlight a week.
Visible light should also be provided to ensure that your snake has a normal day-night cycle. An automatic timer can produce a day-night cycle of 14-16 hours of daylight, and 8-10 hours of darkness. If you want to have visibility in the enclosure during darkness, you can install a red light, which is visible to humans but not snakes.
Carpet and Diamond pythons are arboreal, which means that they live in trees and enjoy climbing, and so plenty of climbing branches and structures of different sizes and textures should be the priority. At least one suitable hide should be provided. Pythons particularly love a hide that makes them feel safe by being small enough that their sides contact the walls of the hide when they're coiled up inside, but do ensure that it is still large enough that they won't get stuck. This may need monitoring as your python grows.
All furniture should be non-abrasive and easy to clean or dispose of. For example, natural wood is a great option for reptile enclosures, but will need to be thrown out when overly soiled as it can be difficult to clean properly. Imitation wood or rock has been designed to be easier to clean, but still mimic natural surfaces and be enticing for your pet.
Have a few spare pieces of furniture so that it is easy to swap out soiled items from the enclosure.
The substrate of your enclosure is the flooring or bedding material that you use. Substrate should never be used from the wild or from your garden, as this may harbour pathogens that can make your snake sick. Commercially produced substrates are a much safer option. Substrates should be absorbent but not damp, non-abrasive, and suit your reptile's mode of transportation - this means that snakes generally prefer finer substrates, and lizards coarser substrates. They should also be easy to clean and throw out.
Your enclosure should be spot-cleaned of any soiled or wet bits every day, and a full clean should be done at least once a month, or after each bowel movement.
All pythons are carnivorous, and eat only whole prey. It is important to note that live prey feeding is illegal in Australia under animal welfare grounds, and live prey can severely injure or even kill reptiles. Frozen mice and rats are available in several sizes, and these are a great option for feeding, as they are free from parasites or diseases. Never feed any wild-caught items to your reptile. Your feeder mouse or rat should be about the same width as your python's head, and the size will gradually increase as your snake grows. Juvenile Carpet and Diamond pythons will take fuzzy mice up to adult mice, and adult pythons will generally need large to extra-large rats, or other similar sized prey.
Ensure that your feeders are always kept frozen, and only defrost one item at a time, right before you intend to feed your snake. Feeders should be defrosted to normal body temperature, about 35-40 degrees Celsius, and this can be achieved with a warm water bath.
Feeding tongs should be used when feeding your snake to reduce your risk of injury. While your snake may not intend to strike you, a mis-timed strike may accidentally get a hand or finger. While pythons are not venomous, their teeth can still cause injury and infection.
As pythons hunt by smell, ensure that your hands are washed prior to any interaction or feeding. If you smell of prey, your python may mistake you for a prey item! If you smell of something else, it may put your python off feeding.
Hatchling snakes can be fed weekly, and adults fortnightly to monthly. Your vet can help you condition score your snake and figure out the best feeding schedule.
Your snake should have a shallow dish of water available at all times, and water should be changed out weekly at least.
Have hand sanitizer close to your enclosure so that you can clean your hands before and after handling your snake. This is important to ensure that you and your reptile stay healthy. For enclosure cleaning, ensure that you use a reptile-safe disinfectant, and always wipe down after spraying and leaving the disinfectant for the recommended time.
Proper hand washing should also be practiced, especially after a longer handling session, and before eating or drinking.Â
Now that you've set up your enclosure, most of the hard work is done! The next thing to do is allow your snake to settle in and relax. In this time, make a booking with an exotics or reptile vet, as an initial checkup is important to ensure that everything is set up appropriately, and that your snake doesn't have any issues to look out for. The veterinarian will perform a full physical examination of your snake, and if you don't know the gender, they will be able to perform probe sexing to tell you if your snake is male or female.
Preparing for your vet visit
There are a few other things to prepare apart from ensuring that you have a suitable transport enclosure or bag for your snake. Take a few good photos of your enclosure to show your vet, including brands and models of your equipment. Ensure that you bring any records including weight, feeding schedule, and temperature. While this may sound a bit gross, save your snake's most recent stool to bring to the vet, and you can do this in a double sealed plastic or ziplock bag, then refrigerate until your appointment. Your vet will be able to examine the sample for parasites or infection.
Your vet will ask some basic questions about husbandry and source including:
- Where did you get your snake from?
- Is this your first time keeping reptiles?
- What is the temperature at the hot and cool ends of the enclosure?
- When and what did you last feed your snake, and did they strike and swallow normally?
- What substrate are you using, and what is your cleaning schedule?
- What disinfectant do you normally use for cleaning?
- When did you last change your UV bulb?
- How often does your snake get direct natural sunlight?
- Do you know if your snake is a male or female?
- Do you have any other pets at home?
Your reptile should have a vet visit at least yearly, even if they appear completely healthy. Signs that your reptile needs to go to the vet include inappetance, failure to produce faeces after feeding, lethargy, change in colour, injury, swelling, or bleeding.Â
Reptiles do not require regular parasite prevention, and book a vet visit if you are concerned about parasites, as they will be able to prescribe an accurate and safe treatment.Â
Regular, gentle handling is the key to helping your snake feel comfortable being handled, reducing the likelihood of your snake striking or biting. This is particularly important when Carpet and Diamond pythons are juveniles, as positive handling experiences will increase the likelihood that they are good to handle as they grow. Snakes can be handled up to twice a day, but ensure that each session does not last longer than your snake's comfort. In the beginning, handling sessions should last no more than 10 minutes. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after each handling session, and separate handling sessions from feeding sessions.
Signs of comfort include slow, deliberate movements, and regular tongue flicks. Tongue flicks are your snakeâs way of assessing their surroundings by smell, and slow, regular flicks indicate that your snake is curiously figuring out whatâs going on. Signs of discomfort include rapid movements or your snake trying to escape into a dark place, such as a sleeve. Rapid, irregular tongue flicks may indicate that your snake is unsure or concerned about what is happening.Â
Never allow children or people inexperienced with reptiles to handle your snake unsupervised, as injury or escape may occur. They can be surprisingly fast when theyâre worried!Â
Regular exposure to natural sunlight is good for all reptiles, and this can be a positive handling experience for you and your snake! On sunny days where it is not too cold, it can be enjoyable to sit outside with your snake and a good book. Ensure that your snake canât get out of the area easily, and canât get away and hide or become lost.Â
At least an hour a week is a good minimum for natural sunlight, and thereâs no such thing as too much natural sunlight for Australian reptiles.
All snakes will shed regularly, and young snakes may shed as often as every 3 weeks when they are growing rapidly. Signs that your snake is going into shed include duller colouration, behavioural change, and cloudy eyes. The cloudy eyes are the âspectacles,â or clear scales over the eyes, starting to separate from the new scales underneath in preparation for shed.
If it looks like your snake is preparing to shed, the best thing to do is ensure that the water source has been freshly cleaned and refilled, ensure that the temperature is optimal, then leave your snake alone until they have finished shedding. This includes stopping feeding and handling. If your snake is due for a feed, they can be fed after the shed is complete.
Handling or feeding your snake when they are coming into shed is stressful, and it can also lead to dysecdysis, or a pathological/abnormal shed where the shed doesnât come off in one piece. If you are concerned your snake hasnât shed properly, book a vet visit, and do not attempt to peel off any shed. This may make the problem worse.Â
And finally, the most important thing to remember when starting your reptile-keeping journey - enjoy! Reptiles are unique, interesting pets that have a lot of joy to give, and individuals will develop their own special personalities as time goes on. Pythons are rewarding pets, and the Carpet and Diamond pythons are majestic, impressive animals as adults.
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