Carpet python is the common name for a fairly diverse group of snakes from the Morelia genus, native to Australia and New Guinea. The name comes from the patterning, but there are in fact a wide range of species as well as localities and colour morphs within those species. It’s important to ascertain before purchase exactly what type or locality of carpet python you are purchasing as it can drastically affect the size that they grow to and thus the enclosure you need to provide.
The most common carpet pythons available as pets include:
Jungle Carpet Python – Morelia spilota cheynei – The Jungle Carpet Python is often the brightest in colour and very variable in patterning, the average size is 5 to 7 feet, with very large females reaching up to 8 foot and males being on the lower end.
Coastal Carpet Python – Morelia spilota mcdowelli – This is the largest species of carpet, most adults are in the range of 7 to 9 feet with very large females reaching 10 foot.
Irian Jaya Carpet Python – Morelia spilota variegata – This is the smallest species both in weight and length, males reaching 4 to 5 feet and females between 5 and 6 feet on average, with very large specimens approaching 7 foot.
Hybrids between the subspecies are common and it may be impossible to tell exactly what size your hybrid will be before it reaches adulthood. In addition to these different species, a variety of morphs are available such as granite, caramel, jaguar and zebra. Whilst this doesn’t affect the size of the animal, it’s worth noting that some morphs such as jaguar have gained an association for neurological problems and should never be bred with other jaguars. The estimated age is around 15 to 20 years, but individuals have been known to live much longer.
The size of your enclosure will be determined by the potential size of the snake. Carpet pythons are semi arboreal animals and are likely to spend as much time in branches and climbing as on the ground. In the wild they would spend the majority of their time in the treetops, therefore providing plenty of branches and an enclosure with some height is important. There is no specific minimum size for a carpet python, due to their variety and size differences, but we recommend considering a minimum of a 48x24x24” enclosure for most – with more height if you’re willing to provide it. Some of the dwarf species, such as Irian Jaya could be placed in an enclosure such as 36x24x30” or similar. We can provide custom enclosures and these are generally recommended for adults.
Hatchlings can be kept in much smaller enclosures whilst they grow, a process that will take two to four years to complete.
Whilst carpet pythons do not have specific lighting requirements, creating a photoperiod and a small basking area creates the most nature environment and is likely to result in an active snake. Due to their propensity for climbing, guarding your lighting with a light guard is essential to avoid contact burns. For a larger enclosure we would recommend a ceramic heat bulb to provide the majority of the heat. For smaller enclosures, a heat mat controlled by a thermostat may be adequate.
The temperatures you need are 75-80F as an ambient, rising to 88-92F under the hot spot, with a humidity of 50-60%. During the night time the cage can drop down to the low 70s.
Carpet pythons do not require a specific substrate and simple newspaper is often used but must be maintained regularly and not allowed to get too wet. However to create the most natural environment and to help maintain humidity, we would recommend a substrate such as orchid bark, or a coco fibre mix. Some people will prefer aspen; but this does not help humidity and needs to be changed if it gets wet. A large water dish should be provided, once again this will provide an ambient humidity but will also provide a place for the carpet python to soak. Provide plenty of branches and climbing – if you provide both angled and horizontal branches you will frequently find your carpet python chilling out in the open. They are fairly confident snakes as adults, but you should also be sure to provide enough cover (such as hides on both hot and cool end) so that the snake can feel secure and hide away both from movement and light if it feels the need to do so. As they grow and gain confidence, they are often found in full display.
Carpet pythons will readily take mice or rats. As adults most carpet pythons are large enough that they need rats so it is beneficial to get them eating those as soon as possible. Feeding one every 7-10 days is adequate.
Carpet pythons have a reputation for being a little bit snappy as youngsters but this has been over exaggerated and usually comes from either defensive posturing if afraid, or from their healthy appetite as youngsters. If handled, well fed and provided the right environment carpet pythons will tame down well and most adult carpet pythons are very docile. Even the most aggressive of carpet pythons has usually mellowed by a year old, so if you are concerned about dealing with a snappy youngster you could consider buying one that is a little older. They are lengthy snakes that are relatively light in weight in order to allow them the agility needed to climb so it’s important that when you handle them you support the full weight of their body so that they feel secure. Never pick one up by the head or the tail!
Overall this diverse species makes an excellent pet – both easy to care for and easy to handle and one of the best display snakes available - as long as you are willing to review the potential size and provide a large, semi arboreal enclosure for adults.