Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are some of the largest snakes in captivity. They are native to Southern and Southeast Asia and the surrounding islands.
It used to be considered a subspecies of the Indian python, but it was determined to be a separate species in 2009.
These are large snakes that average 12 feet, but they can grow to be over 20 feet long. They have a great personality as captive snakes, but due to their size, they can be hard to handle.
In my opinion, these are snakes only for experienced keepers due to their size. They need most of a standard room to themselves for an enclosure.
Remember that you will also need an assistant when you are feeding and handling the snake, so be sure you are prepared for this.
If you are sure you are ready for one of these massive snakes, here is how to care for them:
- Common Problems
The goal of housing any reptile is to provide everything your pet needs to be happy and healthy. Poor enclosure design or husbandry will weaken your snake’s immune system and may even kill it.
Your goal is to create a space that offers a good temperature gradient and the right humidity level to keep your snake hydrated and shedding well.
You will also need to provide furniture to help the snake fulfill its natural behaviors, meet its needs, and allow for plenty of exercise.
Since these are big snakes, remember that you will be committing to much more than a snake like a ball python or a corn snake needs.
The enclosure itself needs to help maintain correct humidity and temperature. It will need enough space for your snake to stretch out and exercise.
It will also need to be very sturdy and secure since these are big, powerful snakes. These snakes grow very fast, so you need to have bigger caging for a hatchling than you would think.
They need more floor space than height and far more space than you would think. Since they need high humidity, be sure you pick something that will hang onto humidity well.
Enclosure for Baby & Juvenile Burmese Pythons
Baby Burmese pythons hatch out at around 22 inches. However, they will double in size within a few months. Look for something that can handle the snake until you have the adult enclosure ready.
A 9-month-old snake will need something at least 3 feet long, but you may want to go a bit larger to accommodate for growth. You also need to make sure the enclosure is very secure.
These are powerful snakes and they can climb very well. Also, make sure the snake cannot access the heating elements or basking bulb.
Custom Reptile Habitats – PVC & Aluminum Enclosure – 48 L x 24 W x 24 H
- Sliding glass doors – Enjoy this big viewing area with crystal clear 1/4 inch Tempered glass that won’t scratch or discolor over time
- Stunning design with super strong Anodized Aluminum frame – Looks great in your home and will never rust or peel
- Real PVC panels – The preferred choice for reptile enclosures. Holds high humidity and will never break, rot or catch fire
This cage from Custom Reptile is great for a juvenile snake.
It will hold humidity well, is easy to clean, has a very secure lock, and is made to keep the heating elements out of the enclosure so your snake cannot access it and get burned.
Enclosure for Adult Burmese Pythons
Enclosure Size for adult Burmese Pythons
A 75-gallon (284-liter) enclosure is suitable to house a an Adult Male Burmese Python up to 8 feet. Adult females will need enclosures of at least 72 x 36 inches (181 X 91 cm), and up to 100 inches (254 cm) long for bigger specimens.
Adult Burmese pythons will be up to 18 feet long for a female, these are some of the biggest snakes in the world.
However, most captive animals will be around 12 feet long as adults (read more about Burmese python size here).
Females are much heavier, but not too much longer. Some care sheets claim that 8 feet cages are long enough, but we feel that this is too small. 10 feet by 6 feet wide by 6 feet high si a good standard for most captive-bred Burmese pythons.
A very long animal will need a larger enclosure. Most captive-bred animals stay under about 12 feet, but there are no guarantees on snake size. This size means that you will likely need a custom enclosure.
Many Burmese python owners choose to DIY their own enclosures, but there are many pitfalls when it comes to selecting materials, and making it safe.
Custom Reptile Habitats does make custom HDPE (high density plastic that is waterproof, does not smell, won’t scratch, or mold) enclosures that will be great for a Burmese python, I can’t recommend them enough.
They can make sure your enclosure has a secure lock ( they are escape artists), will withstand a Burmese python and has a nice door to view your pet.
You can also make one yourself, but since these snakes need high humidity, you will need to be careful with material choice. Wood would need to be sealed to withstand the humidity.
Since the cage is so large, you would need an aluminum frame for ABS plastic or PVC wall panels. You also need tempered glass for doors and a good locking system.
If you are not experienced in working with these materials, it would be best to stick to buying a custom enclosure. These snakes enjoy climbing, so make sure any ledges or branches are sturdy enough to hold your pet.
They will try to climb up, so make sure they won’t break anything.
Also, any heating elements or lights should either be out of the enclosure or have a cage over it to keep the snake from touching it.
Your substrate will help absorb waste and maintain humidity. Eco Earth is a great option that withstands humidity and also looks nice.
You can also use Plantation Soil from Zoo Med, Soo Med ReptiSoil, or Zilla Jungle Mix. Use what you like best.
You can use sterile leaf litter over the soil to help offer some depth.
The substrate should be at least 3 inches deep. Never use sand or any substrate with pine or other aromatic woods. Sand is too drying and aromatic wood is toxic to snakes.
Burmese pythons are ectotherms, meaning that they rely on external temperatures to regulate their body temperatures.
What is the correct temperature for a burmese python enclosure?
A Burmese Python needs a basking area that is around 90-95 degrees. The temperature on the warm size outside of the basking area should be around 86 degrees. The cool side of the enclosure should be around 78-80 degrees.
While young snakes can use under-tank heating options like heating pads, I recommend a cluster of basking bulbs with housings to cover the whole snake evenly for the basking area and a radiant heat panel for keeping the temperatures high during the night.
Make sure to protect your snake from the heat elements. A large adult female will need such a big enclosure that using electrical space heaters may be better, although be careful with the humidity as they tend to dry up the air.
Never let the night temperatures drop under 75 degrees at night to make sure your snake digests properly and can regulate its body temperature.
Make sure you have a thermometer to check the cool side, the warm side, and the basking area heat source that is set about 6 inches above the surface of the substrate.
Use a thermostat to control the heat!
While Burmese pythons do not need special lighting, it does not hurt to offer UV light to your pet.
Offer it with some basking lights and be sure to put this lighting on a timer to mimic a normal day/night cycle. Replace any UV bulb every 12 months.
Otherwise, keep any lighting on only for a max of 13 hours. Leaving any lighting on all day will stress out your snake.
All snakes need to feel secure. Baby and juvenile Burmese pythons are very nervous since they are very common targets for predators. This means they need shelter to feel safe. This is a great option for a young snake:
Make sure you have one on each side of the enclosure. The size should be just large enough to fit the snake but not have much extra space.
Dog kennels work well for full-grown adults. You can also use ledges, logs, and large plants to help offer cover to your snake.
All snakes need access to fresh water. Burmese pythons are good swimmers and frequently enjoy a soak.
Babies should have a dish that will fit their whole body if they want to soak that won’t tip over.
This is a good option, but be sure to get a larger size. For adults, you need a good sturdy tub or something like a kiddie pool.
Make sure it can fit your whole snake and make sure the container is easy to clean and can’t be tipped over. Burying it in the substrate can help.
What is the required humidity in a Burmese Python Enclosure?
A Burmese python should be kept between 60 and 75% humidity. They need high humidity to stay hydrated and healthy. Low humidity can cause skin and shedding problems.
Burmese pythons come from a region with high humidity.
Mist at least once a day or opt to use an automated misting system that is regulated by a good hygrometer.
You should also offer a humid hide filled with damp sphagnum moss. This gives your snake a chance to regulate its own humidity.
You will need to clean up any urine or feces daily and remove the soiled substrate. Offer fresh water every day, and be sure to clean the water bowl if your snake decides to defecate in it.
Once a week, wash out the water dish to keep any bacteria from building up. Every three months or so, remove and replace all the substrate.
Take this time to do a deep clean of all the decorations and walls to keep your snake in a healthy environment.
Use a reptile-safe sanitizer for cage cleaning, rinse well, and let everything air dry before returning things to the enclosure. This is a great time to change up the decor to give your snake some new things to explore.
In south east asia, their wild habitat, Burmese pythons – python molurus – are ambush predators that target any vertebrate that comes by.
They will eat deer, water monitors, and even birds in the wild. They can swallow very large prey, which they will take since they have no idea when their next meal might be.
Size and Type of Prey
Hatchlings can frequently eat juvenile or even adult mice at hatching. You want a prey item that is no more than 1.5 times the girth of your snake.
Keeping it closer to equal girth will help prevent obesity. Once your snake reaches about 6 feet, it will be eating adult rats.
A fully grown Burmese python will be eating rabbits or even whole chickens. Remember, your snake needs whole prey.
Stick with the same guidelines on prey size and you should be able to feed your pet throughout its life.
One important tip for owning a large snake is to teach them to take prey gently. This helps prevent accidents as an adult. A missed strike that hits you instead of the prey can cause serious damage.
These snakes benefit from switching up prey in their diet to help avoid nutrient deficiencies.
You should also supplement with vitamins every few feedings. Calcium is great for growing snakes and many will benefit from added D3.
Frozen Vs Live
For Burmese pythons, it is best to never offer live prey except as a last resort.
Even a very young snake will be eating animals that are likely capable of fighting back. Cornered prey will fight back and can seriously injure or even kill your snake.
Offer only frozen and thawed prey. You should thaw frozen prey the same way you defrost meat. Place it in the fridge ahead of feeding.
Once it is defrosted, put the prey in a BPA-free bag and place it in warm water to get the prey to around 100-105 degrees, so it registers as a prey to your snake’s heat sensing pits. You can also offer pre-killed prey if you can only locate live chickens or rabbits.
Rabbits in particular should never be offered live since they have incredibly sharp claws that can maim you snake with one strike.
There are also sausages made from whole prey if you are too squeamish to feed a rabbit to a snake. You can buy any solely carnivorous Reptilink for your snake.
If you want to feed live, you will need to locate a local breeder. Rodents are easy to find, but quail, chickens, and rabbits can be difficult.
Look for a local meat farm and ask if you can buy a whole animal that has been frozen or is at least pre-killed if you do not know how to humanely dispatch the species.
Burmese pythons are always hungry. As ambush predators, they never pass up a meal. You should start off a new hatchling with weekly meals, but two week intervals will be needed quickly.
Over time, you should decrease the frequency of meals. Always watch the body condition to see oof you need to offer food at a different rate.
These snakes are very prone to obesity and it will drastically shorten your pet’s lifespan and may cause it to grow very fast when young.
Adult snakes may eat once a month or so depending on the animal. Many keepers also recommend fasting your snake for 4 months a year will help its health in the long term.
Snakes shed their skin in order to grow. The outer layer of their skin does not grow with them. This means that they need to shed the old layer in order to grow larger.
This shedding also allows them to heal any injuries to their skin or scales. Young snakes shed more frequently than adults, but you should expect this to happen a few times a year for an adult snake.
Look for your snake’s eyes to go cloudy or blue. The colors of your pet may also seem dull. This is a sign your snake is getting ready to shed.
You should be sure to offer a humid hide and raise the humidity to the upper range to help your snake shed. Once it does, check the skin to make sure it is intact.
If it isn’t, you will need to help your snake by removing the stuck skin. You should place a young snake in a tub filled with warm, damp paper towels for about 15 minutes to half an hour.
Then you can try to gently rub off the old skin. If your snake is large, you may need to let it soak in a bathtub. Give it a good cleaning before and after and let your snake sit in warm water for a bit.
Then use a damp towel to try to help remove the stuck skin. Never force it, since this can injure your snake.
Hibernation is called brumation in reptiles. They will sleep through cold temperatures. During this state, they will cease to eat but will still drink water occasionally.
Burmese pythons will go into brumation in the northern parts of their range, but they do not need to do so in captivity.
It is generally used in captivity to help with breeding, so your average pet owner does not need to worry about it to provide proper burmese python care.
Most Burms have a docile and quiet temperament, but it is absolutely essential that you get your burmese python used to handling when it is a baby. This will help reduce your chance of injury once your snake is an adult.
Since they are so long, an adult can cause serious damage with teeth or constriction.
Never handle or feed an adult without a helper present. Handling a baby works much like any other snake. Start with short sessions that you end when the snake is comfortable.
You can extend the time as the snake gets more comfortable. Aim for once a week. Adults can be handled, but be very careful of behavior.
You should have enough snake experience to spot a grumpy giant snake but always listen to signs that your adult wants to be left alone like hissing or coiling up to strike.
Since adults can easily weigh over 50 pounds depending on the length and sex, be prepared to have trouble moving an adult.
For a new snake, wait two weeks before you try to handle it. Make sure you wash your hands and use hand sanitizer so you do not smell like food to your pet.
Always approach from the side and support as much of the snake as you can as you lift it. Try to let your snake climb onto you whenever possible so that it will learn to do this as it gets larger and harder to lift.
Make sure you never lift the snake by the tail since this can break it. Always end handling sessions when your snake is calm.
Have someone to help once the snake gets over 6 feet.
Also, never handle the snake in a room with other pets loose since it may decide they are a snack. Never let your snake roam without supervision as well.
This short section will answer any questions you may have. If you do not see yours answered here, leave it in the comment section below.
Regurgitation is when a snake vomits up the prey item. It can happen if the snake is stressed out, the temperatures are too low to allow complete digestion, or because the prey item was too large.
Gove your snake a minimum of two weeks to recover before you try offering another meal. If this happens twice in a row, your snake may be sick. Take it to your vet immediately.
Feeding Strikes and Refusing to Eat
Burmese pythons can go on feeding strikes if it is shedding, ready to breed, the temperatures are too low, or the snake wants to brumate. Fasting is not bad for them, but if your snake starts losing weight rapidly take it to the vet.
Common Health Concerns
Internal and external parasites are a huge issue for snakes. They can suck their blood, transmit diseases like the inclusion body disease, or make the snake stop eating.
Always look for signs of mites which look like black specks about the size of a poppy seed around the eyes and vent of your snake. They may also be drowned in the water dish. Any new snake should be tested for parasites when you get them.
Respiratory illnesses can kill a snake fast. Look for labored breathing, breathing with the mouth open, and sounds like wheezing or clicking.
Mouth rot can be caused by poor conditions and looks much like other infections including pus and blood.
- Burmese Pythons in the Florida Everglades – Berkeley
- Smith, S.N., Jones, M.D., Marshall, B.M. et al. Native Burmese pythons exhibit site fidelity and preference for aquatic habitats in an agricultural mosaic. Sci Rep 11, 7014 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86640-1
- Python bivittatus (Burmese python) – Invasive Species Compendium
- Barker, D.G. and Barker, T.M., 2008. The distribution of the Burmese Python, Python molurus bivittatus. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society, 43(3), pp.33-38.
We hope this burmese python care sheet has helped you learn how to take care of these wonderful snakes.
Whether you choose a granite, albino, patternless morph or a classic dark brown patches, burms are truly special and beautiful snakes and caring for these giant pythons is a unique experience.
Check out my list of burmese python morphs if you are interested in different mutations.
Remember, these are very large and powerful animals, so, in my humble opinion, you need to be experienced with snakes before you even think of owning one.
These pythons are too often sole in the pet trade to inexperienced reptile keepers and frequently surrendered by people who were not prepared for their adult size and care needs.
Unfortunately, some ended up in the florida everglades where they became an invasive species and decimated several populations of mammals and birds in just a few decades.
Consider it closely since these snakes can live to be over 25 years old.
If you have any experience with the species, please leave a comment below with any thoughts or tips for new owners.