The Burmese Python
(Python Molurus Bivittatus)
The Burmese Python, scientifically known as Python Molurus Bivittatus, is a very common pet for many snake enthusiasts. Growing quite large (between 15 - 18 feet), Burmese Pythons can be quite intimidating. Don't let the size scare you, however, for they are quite docile with regular handling.
Housing a Burmese Python can be quite space consuming. Juveniles up to the size of 4 ft long can fit comfortably into an aquarium tank thats 36" long X 18" wide X 18" high. Remember that snakes rarely stretch themselves out fully when resting and if well-fed will not be overtly active. They will get adequate exercise from regular handling sessions. Once a Burmese Python reaches 4ft or more, however, it is best to construct a cage of a size that will be suitable for them for the rest of their lives, otherwise you will be building a bigger cage every time they grow another foot or two! One suggestion I've heard for the adult sized cage is 6 ft long X 3 ft wide X 6 ft high, another suggestion was 8 X 3 X 8. Whatever the case, the more room you give these herps the happier they'll be. Please remember that if you purchase a juvenile Burmese that you must think ahead! Too many times people don't think about the actual size of an adult Burmese python, until it gets that big and they're overwhelmed. It is not at all uncommon for a female to even reach close to 20 feet long! Please make sure you can handle these snakes at their full size, or a Ball python may be more suitable for you.
Burmese Pythons will require supplementary heating in all areas outside the tropics. The air temperature in the cage should be maintained at 80 to 89 degrees F during the day, reducing to around 70 to 75 degrees F at night. There are many ways to control the temperature in your snake's terrarium (ceramic heat emitters, heat rocks, under-tank heaters). I've always found that under-tank heaters are a good source. They provide evenly distributed heat, and don't create hot spots that can burn the snake. Whichever heat source you use, make sure that the snake has a spot to retreat from the heat. This way it can regulate its own body temperature.
There are two views on the subject of lighting. Some people think that full spectrum light is required, giving the snake a sense of photoperiod and thus improving the snakes general health. Others think that it makes no difference because snakes don't absorb sunlight like other reptiles, utilizing it to create minerals for itself. Whichever you decide, lighting should be provided in some way. There are many full spectrum lights on the market made for just reptiles, but any plant light does the same thing. My thought on light is that full spectrum is the way to go. The bulbs are more expensive, but especially if you plan to breed, the daylight photoperiod will increase breeding success.
Watching a Burmese Python feed is an incredible sight, and it is definitely not for the weak of stomach! Reports of what wild Burmese Pythons eat are scattered. We do know they are fairly opportunistic, likely to grab anything they can overpower. What I find fascinating is that large Burmese Pythons have been known to eat small deer, monkeys, jackals, leopards, birds, goats, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks. If this doesn't give you an indication on how big these herps can get I don't know what does! In your home, however, a fare of rats, guinea pigs, or rabbits should suffice. When Burmese are tiny (about 3 feet) medium rats are suitable. Of course, young rats can be fed to smaller specimens and large rats to bigger specimens. A rat of appropriate size once a week should be sufficient. A Note on Feeding : Whatever is used as food should be freshly killed. Feeding them live prey can get your snake bit, which may cause infection.After feeding, give your snake a few days without handling and keep the temperature optimum. This will aid in digestion. As your snake gets bigger, a guinea pig once every 1 1/2 weeks would be ideal. Only after your python gets very large should you graduate to large rabbits - about 1 every two weeks. When dealing with any of these prey do remember - though they will be food for the snake they are animals and should be treated humanely.