Burmese Python Care Sheet (A Good Snake For Beginners?)

The Burmese Python is one of the largest snakes in the world, but can also live in your house too! The question is, should they and are they a good snake for beginners?

Typically a gentle giant, this snake is relatively docile when it comes to human interaction. He may be large, but he is very common as a pet and relatively inexpensive. He most commonly has a brown, leopard-like color pattern, however, he may also have an albino appearance too!

These snakes are naturally from southeast Asia, but they are now an invasive species to southern Florida, where the warm climate allows them to thrive.

They require a consistency, but this routine is manageable if this is really the one for you!

Burmese Pythons require an experienced owner who is committed to proactive husbandry and is fully prepared to deal with its size. If you think you are ready, keep reading to understand how to properly handle, feed, and care for this Python.

Are Burmese Pythons Good Pets?

Burmese Python

The Burmese Python is among one of the largest snakes to slither on this Earth. They are native to southeast Asia, and span across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and southeastern China.

First formally identified by European naturalist Heinrich Kuhl in 1820. Kuhl described the snake as Python bivittatus, and it wasn’t until 1910 when this snake was actually recognized as a subspecies of Python molurus.

Since 1910 it has been classified as Python molurus bivittatus, and the only other subspecies in this family is known as the Indian Python.

This large Python can grow to a giant 21 feet long and weigh nearly 200 pounds.

Commonly found with light and dark patterns of leopard-like spots, although recently albinos and banana-yellow Burmese Pythons have been discovered.

This snake is unique in the reptile-world for how infrequently they eat. They may eat once every several weeks or even months, and the meals they consume may be as big as they are themselves. After eating, they very nearly double in size. Because of this, they’ve been a vivid subject of interest to researchers who are interested in the extreme adaptations of snakes.

In terms of husbandry, they need heating and lighting, as do most snakes and require a very clean enclosure to prevent illness.

Summary Table
Common Names Burmese Python
Scientific Name Python molurus bivittatus
Adult Size 15-21ft
Adult Weight 40-200lb
Lifespan Up to 30 years
Diet Small mammals
Tank Size 5 ft x 5 ft x 10 ft (adults)
Temperature Humidity 60%
Temperatures between 80-86℉
Popular Alternatives Indian Python

Burmese Python Care Sheet

Naturally they are found in the tropical southeast of Asia, and their habitat consists of tropical lowlands, mangrove forest, rainforest, wet grasslands, and coastal plains. It is this natural environment that has allowed the species to thrive in Everglades National Park in Florida.

When caring for a Burmese Python in captivity, you will need to remember they are ground dwellers, so their enclosure should be much longer than it is tall and will need a warm, humid environment (just like their wild one).

Housing Requirements

Captive Burmese Python In Tank
Captive Burmese Python In Tank

Baby Burmese Pythons can be housed individually in 20-gallon plastic containers. As they grow, they will need to be moved to larger enclosures (they will grow fast):

  • A 9-month python will need a container of at least 3 ft x 1.5ft x 1.5ft
  • Adult pythons will need an enclosure that is about 5ft x 5ft x 10ft

For both enclosures, at least one side of their tank should be glass and a solid enclosure-top is a good idea to prevent potential escape.

Babies may need a soaking dish, but adult snakes will not use a soaking dish as often. Regardless of soaking or not, your python should always have access to fresh drinking water. Also, be sure to provide logs and branches for your snake to give them places to hide.

Heating and Lighting

Burmese Pythons need a tank that is between 80℉-86℉ with a high humidity of around 60%. The tank should have 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness.

Under tank heating may work well for younger snakes, but adults should be warmed using ceramic or infrared bulbs. They also need a basking area of around 90℉.

Some owners choose to give them a folded blanket that they can hide in to feel warmer. Fluorescence lighting can also be used as an addition to the heated bulb.

Substrate

Soil and artificial grass are the best substrate you can use when building a perfect habitat. Both substrates are difficult to maintain, so when you consider the convenience for the caretaker, many choose paper towels or newspaper for their quick and easy replacement.

A benefit of paper towels is they display bacterial growth much more easily than grass or soil, and they are much easier to clean (especially in a large tank).

Burmese Pythons are prone to bacterial respiratory infections, consistent husbandry is essential in helping them stay healthy. They need a clean, bacteria-free environment.

Tank Tips
Tank Type Glass
Lighting Fluorescence lighting
Heating Ceramic Heater
Best Substrate Soil

What To Feed A Burmese Python?

White Burmese Python With Forked Tongue
White Burmese Python With Forked Tongue

The diet and metabolism of this snake has piqued the interest of many researchers.

They can expand their jaws to accommodate a meal that may even be as big as the snake itself. They’ve been known to eat small and large mammals alike, and have even proven to strangle and swallow deer and alligators whole.

In the wild Burmese Pythons often eat deer, monitor lizards, large rodents, and ground-dwelling birds.

Like many snakes, they are a sit-and-wait type of predator. They wait for their prey rather than actively searching for it. He will only eat once every several weeks or even months.

The little energy they spend foraging is made up for how much energy they spend while digesting their food in their stomach. This process begins when they catch their prey by lunging and sinking their fangs into it. They kill their prey by coiling around it and crushing and suffocating it. Then the python expands its jaws to swallow their meal whole, head first.

The eating process observed in the wild should be replicated in captivity. Your Burmese python should eat every other week (if not more infrequently) and their food should be about the same width as themselves:

  • Babies they should eat pinky mice
  • Juveniles they should be eating several mice, large rats, or small rabbits
  • Adults can eat a large rabbit or a whole chicken

Their food should be freshly thawed and generally 30%-50% of the snake’s own bodyweight.

Once your Burmese Python has consumed his meal, do not be alarmed if he suddenly looks much bigger! After eating a meal, their small intestine, liver, heart, pancreas, and kidneys all expand tremendously in size (a trait unique to just this snake).

Diet Summary
Fruits 0% of diet
Insects 0% of diet
Meat 100% of diet
Mice, rats, rabbits, and chicken

Common Health Issues

Like most reptiles, Burmese Pythons are healthy in captivity. Providing they have good husbandry, some can live up to 30 years, however, they are prone to a couple conditions. Some exhibit various cardiovascular lesions and diseases. Symptoms include listlessness, swelling near the heart and mouth, and a bluish-color in their mouth.

Burmese Pythons are also susceptible to lower respiratory infections which may cause bronchitis and pneumonia.

If your python is wheezing, or they have nasal discharge, this may be indicative of respiratory distress. It is mostly caused by poor-husbandry, particularly a dirty enclosure or cold temperatures in their tank. Cold temperatures can even cause death if it gets too low.

Another issue that snakes are prone to is egg retention or oviductal rupture during delivery. Detecting this will require a veterinarian as you must be able to palpate and feel if an egg is stuck.

If you suspect any of these illnesses with your Burmese Python, it is best to consult your veterinarian, where they could get an ultrasound or x-ray, if necessary.

Because of how infrequently they eat, they usually have less of a problem with being overweight than other species. Nonetheless, you should still monitor their size, especially during the rapid growth during the first years of their life.

Tank Cleaning

To keep your Python healthy make sure to maintain correct temperature, daylight hours, and a good nesting place; preventing these health problems is easy with good husbandry and hygiene.

Make sure you keep the enclosure clean and maintain the proper temperature (between 80-86℉). Spot clean the cage and provide fresh water daily. Don’t let the large size of the tank keep you from cleaning!

Burmese Pythons typically defecate 8-14 days after a meal, their feces should be brown and relatively solid. You should use this as an opportunity to undertake a deeper-clean and replace the substrate.

Signs They Are Healthy Sickness Symptoms
Swallowing prey whole Not eating when given food
Breathing normally Wheezing or nasal discharge
Increasing in size after eating Abnormal swelling not related to eating

Are Burmese Pythons Aggressive?

Coiled Albino Burmese Python
Coiled Albino Burmese Python

In the wild, they are solitary and inactive. They do not tend to interact with each other, and mating season is the only time you will find them in pairs.

Cohabitation is more of a complex topic when it comes to Burmese Python. Housing two snakes together also increases the overall stress levels If it’s necessary, then yes it is possible, however, we would recommend against it if you can avoid this.

If you must house two together for any reason, they must both be healthy, adult pythons. Because Pythons can become aggressive towards their prey when feeding, it can be difficult to feed two pythons together. Some have been known to resort to cannibalism if they fight over food.

They do not have an obvious way to communicate with each other. They are good swimmers and live near water, but they are otherwise rather inactive. They do not actively forage, and most of their energy is actually spent on digesting.

In captivity, they will be similarly inactive. Most commonly they may bask or hide in logs or branches provided.

Handling Advice

When it comes to handling, they are docile creatures and rarely strike their owner. Burmese Pythons are not venomous.

Before and after handling any reptile, you should always wash your hands. This helps to maintain proper hygiene for both you and your pet. They should be handled frequently from a young age so that they get used to being held. This will help you avoid an unmanageable, 100-pound animal in the future.

These large snakes absolutely need proper handling. When he grows to an adult size, he must be handled by at least two people. These snakes are too long and too heavy to be held by one person. He should not be handled during feeding or while he is digesting food, which may last several days.

Many people often let them go, or they end up euthanized because owners could not handle having such a large animal. This is why the python has become an invasive species in Florida.

Appearance

Dark Brown Blotched Burmese Python
Dark Brown Blotched Burmese Python

The Burmese Python is a subspecies of Python molurus, and it has very little variation when it comes to different types. One of the few recognizable differences is their more rectangular shaped head when compared with rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and water snakes.

What sets the Burmese Python apart from other pet snakes is its remarkable size! The only real difference between sexes is that females tend to be bigger than males.

These pythons are light-colored with dark brown blotches. Their blotches are bordered in black, and the pythons’ bellies are always pale. The tops of their head are dark with light stripes on either side of their head, starting from the temporal region. Albino pythons have the same patterns, except they come with white and banana-yellow colors instead of shades of brown.

How Big Do Burmese Pythons Get?

The size of the Burmese Python is their most famous trait. Adult females on average are about 21 feet long and weigh between 80 to 200 pounds. Males are about 15 feet long and weigh 40-110 pounds.

Burmese Python Growth Chart
Age Size Weight
Hatchling 10-30 inches 100-115 grams
3 months 16-40 inches 190-650 grams
9 months 40-50 inches 570-780 grams

Females reach sexual maturity at about 18 months. Any snake weighing more than 200 pounds and is several feet longer than 21 feet is considered very large.

Buying a Burmese Python

Albino Burmese Python
Albino Burmese Python

They are considered to be near-threatened in their native home as they are routinely hunted and killed for their skin.

During the mid 90s and 2006 in the US nearly 100 thousand Burmese Pythons were imported. Whilst considered an exotic reptile, they are still very abundantly bred in the pet trade and well-established in southern Florida.

To avoid any more interference with their native home, you should purchase your Burmese from someone who has captive-bred the reptile and who has extensive knowledge about handling. The reason this snake is now taking over the Florida Everglades is because many reptile owners were not prepared to handle such a large snake.

How Much Do Burmese Pythons Cost??

They are relatively inexpensive when compared to many pet snakes and will sell for as little as $20 USD. Some pet stores may sell them for between $65-$80.

These are of course some species variations that cost more. The albino coloration being slightly more expensive at $500 USD.

Young Burmese Python

A male will attract a female with tongue flicks. He will lift his head to her dorsal side, and the female may respond with slow body jerks. Courtship takes place when the male mounts the females and forms himself into a c-shape. He then proceeds with sliding movements known as writhing.

Burmese Pythons generally breed between November and March.

They lay eggs 65-120 days after breeding, usually lying between the wide range of 8-107 eggs per clutch. Eggs will then hatch 53-88 days after being laid. Temperature does not affect the sex of the hatchlings.

Care Guide Summary

Why We Love Them What Makes Them Difficult
Very docile and calm Care routine requires commitment
Popular and inexpensive Prone to infections
Huge size and weight An unmanageable size for many

The Burmese Python is a gentle snake which can make a great, albeit large, addition to a home.

Their large cage requires a committed cleaning routine, and although they eat infrequently, they eat large meals that must be provided by their owner.

Reptile owners that were ill-prepared to care for this snake are responsible for the overrun of this species in southern Florida, and someone who is looking into buying a Burmese Python must be 100% confident in their handling and husbandry abilities.

It is possible for a beginner to own one of these snakes, but they must understand that they are committing themselves for possibly the next 30 years.

A snake that is just as docile but is a more manageable size is the popular Ball Python, one which many beginners start with. If you currently have or are thinking about getting a Burmese Python do let us know below.

Johnathan David Author Bio Picture
Johnathan David leads the editorial team at Everything Reptiles as our Editor in Chief. He brings decades worth of publishing experience. A reptile hobbyist since childhood, he has years' of experience in herpetoculture and has cared for Geckos (2 Gargoyles), Skinks (Blue Tongue) and a Frog (Poison dart). A trusted member of the industry, his work being featured by major publications (e.g. PetMD).

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