Originating from the tropical rainforests of Australia, the green tree python (Morelia viridis) has grown in popularity as pets in recent years. These snakes are known for their beautiful colors and feisty temperament. They can live for up to 20 years in captivity if you take good care of them.
Provide your pet green tree python with a warm (86 to 88 degrees on the warm side and 78-80 degrees on the cool side), humid enclosure (40-70 degrees) that mirrors its natural living environment. Thawed frozen rodents are a safe food source for your pet snake. Captive-bred green tree pythons can be tamed with calm, regular handling.
We will provide a complete guide to taking care of your pet green tree python. This includes setting up the snake’s enclosure as well as feeding and handling. We will also recommend several products that will enable you to provide a safe, comfortable home for your green tree python.
Caring for a Green Tree Python
Green tree pythons that were bred in captivity are relatively easy to take care of as pets. These snakes also have vibrant color changes over the course of their lifetime, adding tremendously to their appeal.
According to the Animal Diversity Web, green tree pythons are found almost exclusively in the Australian region, including New Guinea and its surrounding islands. They like to sit on tree branches all coiled and looped around themselves, making them seem smaller than they actually are.
- Hatchling Length: between 8 and 10 inches long
- Adult Length: between 4 and 5 feet long
- Record Length: 6 feet.
- Sexual Dimorphism: Males are shorter/more slender than females
As juveniles, green tree pythons are not yet green. Their scales can be either yellow, red, or a dark brown. As they get older and shed their skin, their color changes into the bright green typical to adult green tree pythons.
These snakes depend on camouflage to keep themselves safe in the wild. You will find the more brightly colored younger snakes near the edges of the forest, in more well-lit areas. Adults tend to stay in areas with more cover, where their green scales allow them to more easily hide.
Green tree pythons are solitary snakes. They prefer to spend their time quiet and alone on a tree branch, avoiding predators and waiting to ambush their prey. By day, you could mistake them for leaves on a branch. They move around much more at nighttime, under the cover of darkness.
Green Tree Python Enclosure Setup
Green tree pythons do well in wooden and plastic enclosures. These materials hold humidity well.
If your snake is a hatchling, you don’t want to overwhelm it with too big of an enclosure right away. Be sure to upgrade your snake to a larger enclosure as it grows.
Though green tree pythons like to climb trees, you do not need to worry about providing a particularly tall enclosure. They spend more time crawling horizontally through the trees than going up or down.
- Enclosure Size for Juveniles: 10 to 20 gallons
- Enclosure Size for Adults: 25 to 30 gallons
If there is a way to escape their enclosure, they will find it. Make sure that your enclosure is secure, without holes or easily opened doors.
Often terrariums have a screen top which can be nudged out of the way by a determined snake. A set of clamps or screen clips can hold a screen top in place, keeping your snake safely inside.
A substrate is a substance you use to cover the bottom of your pet snake’s enclosure. Green tree pythons thrive well on a variety of substrates, including paper products, coconut husk, and dampened mulch.
Avoid excessively dusty substrates, or ones made of cedar shavings. These can irritate your snake’s lungs if inhaled. You should also keep an eye on how wet the substrate gets. A little dampness helps maintain humidity. Outright wetness can irritate your snake’s belly scales, causing scale rot.
Choose a substrate that is easy to clean. You should be spot cleaning your substrate whenever you notice that your snake has left waste, and completely clean out the enclosure around once each month.
Green tree pythons are most comfortable in the wild while sitting on a branch. Provide this snake with something to climb on. A sturdy resting branch or perch is ideal. While the snake only needs one thing to climb on, provide your pet with multiple branches and rocks for added variety.
Always make sure the perches are securely fastened to the bottom of the enclosure. You don’t want your snake to accidentally get hurt by a branch collapsing underneath it or falling over on top of the snake.
Like other snakes, green tree pythons are happiest when they feel they can safely hide. Give your green tree python two hides to take cover under – one on each side of the temperature gradient. This will ensure your snake has a place to hide no matter what temperature it needs.
You can make your own hide from an old plastic container, cardboard box, or even a log from your backyard. Hides can also be found at a pet store or online.
You can also turn your green tree python’s enclosure into a bioactive terrarium by including live plants in addition to the resting branches. These will not only make the tank look nice, but they will also provide a natural, comfortable source of cover and camouflage. Live plants also help raise the humidity inside the enclosure.
Warmth And Light
These nocturnal snakes rarely move during daylight hours. To help your snake maintain a healthy day/night cycle, make sure it gets around 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day.
These snakes come from a part of the world where the day length is the same all year long. A UV lamp with a timer on it can help maintain this 12-hour cycle. Green tree pythons are used to tropical rainforest environments, so a warm and humid enclosure is a must.
Get two thermometers and attach them to opposite sides of the enclosure. This will help you keep track of the temperature range in the enclosure. You want to provide a warmer side and a cooler side for your snake, to give it options based on its moment to moment needs.
- Enclosure Temperature at Warm Side: 86 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit
- Enclosure Temperature at Cool Side: 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Minimum Safe Nighttime Temperature: 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit
Several tools can help you heat your green tree python’s enclosure to an appropriate level. This can be a basking light over the enclosure, a ceramic heat emitter on the side, or a heating mat under the tank. Whichever you choose, make sure that the snake cannot touch the heat source.
Green tree pythons are used to humid environments in the wild. A vital tool for you here is a hygrometer. This is a tool for measuring humidity levels in an enclosure. Remember that humidity is the measure of water in the air, not how wet the cage itself is.
- Enclosure Humidity Range: 40 to 70 percent humidity
If your snake is in its shedding period, then it may need a higher humidity level in order to be fully comfortable. If the humidity level in your green tree python’s enclosure is not high enough, you can adjust it in a few different ways, such as:
- Adding a larger water dish
- Adding live plants to the enclosure
- Covering half of the terrarium’s screen top with a towel
- Misting the enclosure with a spray bottle once per day
In the wild, green tree pythons mainly depend on rain showers for drinking water. You can mimic these showers with a daily misting of the enclosure. You may see your snake moving around to drink water droplets off of the sides of its cage.
However, it is also important to provide a source of clean, fresh water in the snake’s enclosure. This can be a simple water dish. Make sure that the dish is large enough that the snake could fit inside the bowl if it wants, but that it isn’t too big for the snake to get back out again.
Replace the water with fresh water every day. Also, thoroughly clean and sanitize the water bowl at least once per week. If you notice that your snake has defecated in the water bowl, clean out the bowl immediately.
Feeding Your Green Tree Python
Green tree pythons are carnivores. According to the Journal of Herpetology, in the wild, these snakes alter their diets throughout their lifetimes. Juvenile snakes almost exclusively prey on small lizards, which are much easier for a small snake to hunt. The larger adults prey on mammals, such as small rodents, as well as the occasional bird.
In captivity, green tree pythons thrive on a diet of rodents, such as mice and rats. Be sure to choose a prey specimen which is around the same size as the thickest part your pet snake’s body. Too big a meal at once can lead to indigestion for your snake.
- Juvenile Feeding Rate: Once every 7 to 10 days
- Adult Feeding Rate: Once every 10 to 14 days
Live Prey vs. Pre-Killed Prey
Some snake owners choose to feed their snakes live prey, because it seems like a more natural source of food. However, for your pet green tree python, frozen-thawed prey is a much better option.
For one thing, a live rodent can end up injuring your snake. Mice and rats will fight back when cornered, just like any animal. In captivity, your snake is unable to escape an aggressive prey animal like it can in the wild. If the rat bites your snake, that can lead to harmful infections.
Additionally, frozen rodents are much more easily available to you as a pet snake owner. You can easily purchase them at your local pet store.
Before feeding your snake a frozen rodent, thaw out the meal. Leave the frozen rodent on the kitchen counter overnight or place it in a bowl of warm water for a few hours. Do not microwave a frozen rodent.
Handling Your Green Tree Python
Green tree pythons, especially if they were bred in captivity, are relatively friendly snakes. As juveniles, they are usually a little more nervous around humans, but they tame well as they mature into adulthood.
When you pick up your green tree python, move in a calm, slow manner. The best time to pick it up is when it is on a perch, and so you can pick it up from below instead of coming down at it from above.
Support the snake’s lower coils and allow it to move as it wishes. Let it crawl off of its perch and onto your hands, and then allow it to freely explore your arms and shoulders. Use both hands so that the snake feels well supported.
If you handle your snake around once per week, it will learn to trust you. Do not handle your snake immediately after a feeding. This can irritate the snake and cause it to regurgitate its meal.
What If Your Snake Gets Sick?
Keep an eye out for signs of illness. Green tree pythons are vulnerable to respiratory infections which can be life-threatening if not treated.
If you notice that something is wrong with your snake, it is vital that you seek out veterinary help. Take your green tree python to a reptile veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose any illness and make recommendations about treatments.
Signs of Illness
A healthy green tree python is alert and active, moving around its enclosure at night and resting during the day. If you notice that your pet snake is behaving unusually, it could be a sign of an illness. Here are some symptoms to look out for in your green tree python:
- A sudden refusal to eat
- Difficulty shedding
- Wheezing sounds
- A white/yellow substance in the mouth (mouth rot)
- Lumps and bumps on the skin
Your pet green tree python is counting on you to take care of it. This includes giving it a comfortable enclosure to live in, feeding and handling it well, and taking it to a reptile-savvy vet when it gets sick. With these tips, you are ready to take care of your pet green tree python.