Keeping Carpet Pythons


I hope that it will give you a husbandry overview and put you on the path to have success with these wonderful pythons! This is not the only way to keep carpet pythons, but this is the way that has proven successful for me in my colony. Carpet pythons are a very hardy group of snakes. They display well, eat readily and are a manageable size. 
There is one exception to keeping carpet pythons, and that is the diamond python. Diamond pythons are kept at much colder temperatures all year long. I will address how I keep diamond pythons separate from the other carpet pythons.

There are two major rules I follow.
Rule #1- "Become a Student of the Serpent."
This is a quote I heard from Eugene Bassett 
And it struck a chord with me.  It means to pay attention to yourself. The snake and it will tell you what it needs. 
This is why I say there is not just one way to keep carpet pythons in captivity. An example might be that if you see your snake trying to escape from the heat, then maybe the snake is too hot. The more time you spend in your snake room, the better you will become at reading the cues that your snake is
giving you.


Rule #2- Buy quality stock from a reliable breeder.
This is something I see all the time. Someone gets a carpet from someone, and they don't know anything about it or its lineage. They put a label on it, but there is no way to know that it is what they are claiming it is. The problem comes down the line if you plan on breeding them. 
Do you have a coastal, or maybe its a jungle, or perhaps some type of cross? There is no way to know for sure unless you know the lineage and even then it can be difficult to truly know what you have. It can make it difficult to sell offspring that you're unsure of the lineage.  
So what do I mean by a reliable breeder? 
I would look for someone that has a good stock from known lines, that has a good reputation and has a passion for the species or sub-species that they work with. I would look for someone who can show you the parents and maybe even the lineage of the snake. Remember that you are also paying for the breeder's experience and knowledge after the sale. If you think it's a good idea to pick up a carpet from someone because you're going to save a few bucks you might want to think about the advice, you will get after the sale. If you have a problem wouldn't you prefer guidance from an experienced carpet breeder rather than someone who has one for sale on their table at a reptile show?
I don't think there is anything wrong with crosses. Some of them are amazing, They have beautiful colors and patterns, but it's good to know exactly what you're working with. If you buy from a reliable breeder, then they will be able to tell you exactly what they are working with.


Carpet Python Myths

Myth #1 - Carpet pythons are aggressive
Carpet pythons get the wrap as being aggressive because they can be nippy as babies. I have a few thoughts on this and why that is not necessarily a bad thing from a breeders perspective. 
Nippy babies are easier to get started feeding.
In my experience younger males that are high strung tend to make better breeders. You have to remember that snakes, like people, have individual personalities. I have worked with many different species of pythons, and I have been bitten by more ball pythons than carpet pythons. This doesn't mean that carpets are better than ball pythons but that if you decide to keep pythons as pets chances are that you will probably get a bite at some point. An adult carpet python is a medium-sized python, so their bite is not all that bad. Remember this is the exception and not the rule. 
From a keeper's perspective, most adult carpets are mellow and calm down pretty quickly.
The thing is that once they get some size on them and realize your not trying to eat them, 99.9% of carpets calm down. Carpets do have a strong feeding response, and sometimes that can be mistaken for them being aggressive. One way to avoid being bitten in a feeding response is to use a snake hook.  I simply open their tub or cage and tap them with the hook, and they snap out of their feeding response, and I reach in and grab them. When I feed them, I don't use the hook. I use hemostats, open their enclosure, offer them the prey, they grab it, I release the prey and close the enclosure and move on to the next snake.


Myth #2- Carpet pythons get big
Carpet pythons do not get as big as most people think they do. Carpets fall into that perfect size niche. They are big enough to be impressive looking, but not too big where they become difficult to work with. Carpets average about 6.5 ft. The largest carpets are Morelia spilota mcdowelli from the southern part of their range. Most of the coastals in the captivity, outside of Australia,  are from the northern range and will stay smaller than the coastals from the southern range.
Myth #3- Carpets get dull with age.
Carpet pythons are the ugly ducklings of the python world. They start as dull, gray or red babies, but most blossom into beautiful adults. Especially, from good lines of color and pattern. Carpets are very variable, even within a single clutch.
  Myth #4-  Carpet pythons need high humidity.
This is a big misconception. Humidity is a term that is thrown around, and it is simply misused. Carpets need hydration, not high humidity. By giving the snake fresh water at least once a week and you will keep your carpets healthy and happy. I have never had any major issues with shedding with carpets. I do not mist my carpets. Ever! 

I have noticed that carpets will always drink from a fresh water bowl. I wouldn't want to drink a glass of water that sat on my nightstand for five days, and neither does your snake. Some people do mist their snakes to raise the humidity in the enclosure, but that can cause problems. When you mist your snake, and you don't allow the enclosure to dry out, you're providing a breeding ground for bacteria. Too much humidity will promote bacterial and fungal growth, which can lead you to any number of health issues. The caging you use plays a major role in the overall health of your carpet, but more on that later. That being said, after being in Australia, there was a great deal of humidity where we found carpet pythons. This comes down to where you're from and what is the humidity in your house. I live in the Northeastern US, and during the winter the heat from my house is very dry. This has never been an issue for my carpets, but if I notice that the room feels dry, I have a humidifier in the room that I turn on for a little while to raise the overall humidity in my room. They don't need it, but I think it may make them feel a bit more comfortable. The take away is to pay attention to your snakes and if you feel it's to dry for them or you notice bad sheds, then I would raise the humidity in the snake room as opposed to spraying them.
 

​Temperatures

There are many different ways to keep carpet pythons. There are some that follow the standard python keeping temperatures of 85-degree ambient temp and 90-degree hot spot (I feel that this is too hot for carpets) and others that provide just an ambient temp between 78 degrees and 82 degrees and do not provide a hot spot at all. My setup is somewhere in between. 
I set up my carpets with an ambient heat of about 78-82 degrees. I provide them with a hot spot that hits a basking temp of about 85 degrees. I have a dedicated snake room 
that allows me to have a higher ambient temperature than the rest of my house. I don't do anything to the temperatures at night. I turn off the heater and the room ambient temperature naturally drops down to about 78 degrees, except during the breeding season which I take the temps a bit lower.   
I leave the hot spot on throughout the night after the warm up during breeding season in case the female wants to use it. 
Carpet pythons are very hardy captives. As long as they are allowed to bask during the day and raise their core body temperature to about 80-82 degrees, they will be able to withstand some dramatic temperature swings. 


Some of the equipment that I use to achieve the proper temps for my carpet pythons:
  • Space heater- If you have a dedicated snake room, this is an easy way to raise the ambient temperature in the room. I run my space heater with a thermostat to assure that it doesn't overheat.
  • Thermostat Power Module w/Home Thermostat-    
  • I picked this up from Spyder Robotics. It makes life very simple, and if you get the home thermostat with Wifi/Bluetooth, you can download an app to your phone to monitor the temps when your not home.
  • Some type of heating option for your hotspot-
  • I use Vision racks, and they come with heat cable. I have found the heat cable is good for my setup. I like the flexibility that you have with the cable. You can make your hot spot as big or as small as you like and you can make the hot spots bigger on the bottom of the rack and smaller on the top if you so chose. You can't get the same with flexibility with heat tape. In cages, I use radiant heat panels. They are the safest option. IMO.
  • Thermostat-
  • I use Spyder robotics. They are a great company with really good customer service.

Feeding

I think for the most part carpets are great eaters. They sometimes can be tricky to get started, but once they get going, they're usually good to go. I had a baby zebra jag that didn't feed for seven months, but with a little patience, I was able to get her going, and now she is a great eater.  I start baby carpets on hopper mice. This may seem like a big meal, but pythons are designed to eat larger prey.
One of the things I do to get baby carpets going is to lightly tap the prey on the neck, and nine times out of 10 this will initiate a strike, their instinct kicks in, and they constrict and consume the prey. Sometimes they will drop it, but I repeat the process, and eventually, they will take it. Another trick that I learned is the use of "chick down." The down of chicken is a layer of feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young chicks are clad only in down.
If you're going to breed carpet pythons, it is a good idea to get yourself a couple of frozen chicks. I cut some of the down off and scent the rodent with it. This worked for me a few times when I had a hard time starting babies. I have also used assist feeding in a few cases.
One thing that I have been thinking about for some time is a varied diet. They are opportunistic feeders in the wild, and it would only make sense that they would benefit from a varied diet in captivity.
Hatchlings-
I start them feeding on hoppers.  I feed them every 5-7 days, and I do this for about a year. I like to start them to live and switch them over to Frozen-thawed once they get going.
1-2 years old -
I increase the size of the mouse until I move them onto a medium-sized rat. I haven't had any issues with switching carpets from mice to rats. I feed them every 10-14 days.
Adults
Males-I feed adult male carpets rats once a month and I increase this to 2-3 times a month before the breeding season. 
Females- I feed my females two times a month, but from August- November I feed every week. I do this to get the females ready for the breeding season.


Tips and Tricks for getting picky feeders to eat.
Put a hatchling carpet in a paper-bag overnight with a fuzzy mouse. 
Braining-
Take a frozen thawed fuzzy and cut the top of the head to allow for the brain to come out.
Assist feeding- This is where you take a pink and put it in the carpets mouth just far back enough so that they have no choice but to swallow it. Bill Stegall has a great video that demonstrates this process.
Help my carpet won't eat!
I see this a lot from people that are new to keeping carpets. There could be a few things going on. 
We seemed to think that the only way to gauge how successful we are with our snakes is if it is eating or not and this is a way for us to interact with them. I think that we tend to overfeed our snakes in captivity and just like with humans, leads to a whole bunch of health-related issues. Unlike ball pythons, which seem to be able to put themselves on a fast on their own, carpets have a strong feeding response and 9 times out of 10 they will eat if offered food.
You will also see when males become mature, they have a tendency to go on a fast. You will often see them cruising their cages non-stop. They do this because they are looking for a mate.
As long as your snake isn't losing weight and appears to be in good health otherwise, then I wouldn't worry too much if your carpet goes off feed for a while.
Another important point is when acquiring a new snake is to find out how the breeder kept the snake before it arrives too you. You want to mimic that setup and gradually switch the carpet over to your setup. This is yet another reason for why you would want to buy a carpet from a breeder directly, you will be able to follow up with them if you run into some type of issue or you may need advice with a particular situation.

Caging

Caging
With so many options in the reptile hobby today, what is the right cage for keeping carpets? 
I am still trying to figure this out for myself. The three main things you have to remember are security, size and are you able to meet the snake's natural requirements to keep them happy and healthy.
Some people use naturalistic setups with branches and plants, while some keepers go for a simpler approach of using caging and/or rack systems with the standard paper and a water bowl. I have broken it down into two categories, d
isplay, and breeding.  
You can use a display cage and still breed carpet pythons but if you breed carpet pythons on any type of scale you may want to check out some rack/stack caging options. There is some controversy when it comes to using racks for carpets. Some people say they are not big enough to house carpets properly. They are also a very arboreal species so most keepers provide branches for them to perch and you can't really do that in racks. 
There are many different caging options for carpet pythons. Some of the popular brands are
Animal Plastic- AP
Vision
C-Serpents
Just to name a few. There are plenty of different options when it comes to caging so do your research and find the one that works best for your setup. I would say for the average carpet python 4 x 2 x 12 is an adequate sized cage. Smaller males may be kept in a 3 x 2 x 12. You will need some type of heat, a thermostat, water bowl some type of substrate. Things like hides and perches are all optional but carpet pythons typically will use them.
Display caging- Carpet pythons are a good choice for a display python for a variety of reasons.
They aren't shy and are quite active and they like to perch.
One thing that you have to think of when setting up a display cage is getting the proper plants. Larger constrictors can destroy plants as they cruise about the display. 

Caging for Breeding-
I personally use Vision racks and cages. I keep my carpets on the smaller side so this works for me. Like I mentioned in the temperature section. Typically, people that are breeding on any type of scale will have a dedicated reptile room and they are able to heat that room with a higher ambient temperature than what a person would typically have in their home. I use a space heater in my room so that I can get an ambient temperature of 78-82 degrees. If you're not able to do that then you will have to have something that raises the ambient heat in the enclosure along with a hot spot for the snake to bask.
For me, I like the Vision boa rack for most of my carpets. 
The dimensions are 40" x 30" x 9.5" which is a decent size for smaller adult carpets. I also use the V-70 rack for some of my adult carpets. The dimensions of that tub are 34" x 17.5" x 5.3"
The pros of this type of setup are that it helps with space, provides the snake with a sense of security and helps keep a good temperature and humidity. The cons of using this setup are that you really don't get to see your snakes all that much, but I often wonder if keeping reptiles in large display cages is more for the keeper then they kept. You also won't be able to provide a perch. I find that certain individual adult carpets will perch if giving the opportunity, but it's not a necessity for them to feel secure.
I find that because I heat my room I don't have any issues with having the open sides of a Vision rack. If you think that might be an issue then you would probably do better with a rack with closed sides, like AP or C-Serpents. You really have to figure out what works in your situation. I can't stress enough how important it is doing your research and make decisions based on your setup. What works for my in PA probably won't work as good in Texas. I think the one thing that I am leaning towards is using caging for the simple act of wanting to observe my snakes. One of the nice things about carpet pythons is that they make great display snakes.


Equipment

Here is a list of some of the equipment that I use in my snake room. 
Snake Hook-
I use a snake hook to tap the snake when going into its enclosure. When you tap the snake with the hook, you're turning off the feeding response. This works like a charm. Some people use paper towel rolls, but I prefer a snake hook. I have a small one, a medium one and a long one. I use the smaller for babies. I scoop them up and put them in a bucket while I clean the cage. This gets them used to the idea of using a hook. The medium one is used for the feeding response in bigger snakes.  I use the long one for opening tubs. This gives me some space for snakes that shoot out of the tub when looking for food.


The Carpet Python Complex

West Papuan Carpet Python- Morelia spilota harrisoni



Diamond Python- Morelia spilota spilota



Darwin Carpet Python- Morelia spilota variegata



Coastal Carpet Python- Morelia spilota mcdowelli
They are endemic too much of the eastern coast of Australia. The southern distribution extends as far as Coffs Harbour, NSW. They extend northward to the Cape York Peninsula. The great dividing range is their border to the west. They inhabit a variety of habitats within its range but is most often associated with heavily forested areas. 




Jungle Carpet Python- Morelia spilota cheynei



Inland Carpet Python- Morelia spilota metcalfei



 Centralian Python- Morelia bredli



Southwestern Carpet Python- Morelia imbricata