Welcome to the Blood Python Care Sheet. Click each section to expand and read about how to care for Blood Pythons.
About Blood Pythons
Blood Pythons are thick and muscular pythons found in Indonesia, Thailand, Sumatra and Singapore. Caring for Blood Pythons is more advanced than some other species of snakes because of their large size and unpredictable temperament. However, if you have enough experience caring for snakes in general and want to gain more experience with larger snakes, Blood Pythons are the perfect and exciting challenge for you.
Blood Pythons get their name from their red color but several "morphs" or color patterns, have emerged in recent years.
Blood Python Size?
Blood Pythons are considered medium length snakes — much larger than Ball Pythons but nowhere near as long as Reticulated Pythons—but they are extremely thick snakes. A full grown Blood Python can weigh between 20 - 45 pounds! Keep in mind, these snakes get more than big enough to injure or kill other pets, children, or even adult humans. Do not buy one of these snakes unless you are fully prepared to care for a large, powerful and also unpredictable python.
How Long Do Blood Pythons Live?
Blood Pythons will live for for 15 - 25 years in captivity—sometimes even longer. You need to keep this in mind when deciding on buying a Blood Python – They are a long term commitment and live much longer than fish, birds, cats or dogs and require more specialized care than other animals. Make sure you are prepared to take care of a pet Blood Python for at least 25 years or more BEFORE actually buying one.
Blood Python Temperament
As stated earlier, Blood Python temperaments vary widely from snake to snake. For some snake keepers this is a fun and exciting challenge but this can be an absolute nightmare, and even dangerous to an unprepared owner. Many Blood Pythons are completely tame and docile and wont strike at anything other than a tasty rat. Others are extremely defensive and aggressive and are near impossible to handle even for regular cage maintenance. The best way to keep a Blood Python tame is to either buy one young and handle it regularly, or to buy one that is older and proven tame.
Choosing a Blood Python
Most of the times when someone gets a Blood Python with a nasty temperament, it's because they bought one without asking the right questions and got a wild caught Blood Python.
Don’t make that mistake and buy the first Blood Python you see. There are important questions to ask when choosing your Blood Python.
Number one piece of advice: Avoid buying your Blood Python from big name pet stores. Not only are they typically more expensive, the snakes are usually not taken care of very well and you won’t get the answers to the questions you need. You won't see too many in a typical pet store, but in case you do, avoid buying one. There are plenty of Blood Python breeders around who can get you the Blood Python you want and help you out before and after the sale.
First off, ask your dealer or breeder if the Blood Python is captive born and bred or wild caught. If the dealer says it is wild caught you might want to pick a different Blood Python. Wild caught Blood Pythons carry parasites, are more defensive and are generally more stressed out. Not to mention, the less we remove Blood Pythons from their natural habitat, the better. These snakes are taken from the wild and killed by the hundreds of thousands for thier skins. Blood Pythons are incredibly popular so finding a breeder shouldn’t be hard.
There is a difference between captive born, and captive born and bred. A captive born Blood Python means that the parents were wild caught and this is the offspring of wild caught snakes; or, it means they were bred on a farm and then shipped to the dealer. A captive born and bred Blood Python means that the snake was bred from 2 captive born snakes. Make sure you know who the parents are! Not only do you want to know where the snake came from, it’ll also give you an idea of what your Blood Python will look like when it’s fully grown.
Of speical note for these snakes, many times Blood Pythons become obese but it gets overlooked because of their naturally thick bodies. A healthy Blood Python should have a round body but it should not look like it is bulging. If where their body ends and tail begins is very obvious, and does not have a natural taper, this is an obese Blood Python and you should avoid it. Their bodies should taper off cleanly at their tail. If you think it looks fat, there's a good chance it is.
Boy or girl? A reputable dealer will determine the sex of your Blood Python for you with a probe. Female Blood Pythons get longer and heavier than a male so keep this in mind: Bigger, heavier snakes require bigger, heavier cages. As stated earlier, a full grown female can get up to 8' long and weigh 40 pounds or more.
Next, look for skin folds. Skin folds are a sign of dehydration, and malnourishment. You can also tell if a Blood Python is dehydrated from flaky and retained skin sheddings; very common at pet stores.
Ask to see the mouth of your Blood Python. The mouth should be clean and free from any gunk, goop and sores. Any of those listed are signs of mouth rot, respiratory infection or parasites. A reputable dealer will have no problem doing this for you.
Ask about the feeding schedule and when the last time the snake was fed. Ideally, you want your Blood Python eating either fresh killed, or frozen/thawed (F/T) rats instead of live rats. Ask to see the feeding records of the breeder has them. Good breeders will have feeding, cleaning, and shedding records as well as the lineage the snake came from.
And of course, ask to hold the Blood Python. Is it alert and active? Is it curious and exploring? Or is it just lying there not moving, or acting defensively like it wants to bite you? Your Blood Python should be alert and active but not trying to bite you. If you find a tmae, young Blood Python you have a better chance of having a tame adult Blood Python. Keep in mind that if the Blood Python is just lying there not moving, that is not a tame snake, it is most likely an unhealthy snake.
Blood Python Cages
The cage for a Blood Python, or any other snake, is probably the most important part of keeping a snake. Often times, the snake will be cheaper than the cage and accessories you need so make sure you have the money for everything before you buy your Blood Python. Keep in mind that snakes are natural escape artists but with a snake that gets as large and muscular as these do, special care needs to be taken when choosing a cage. A cage that locks is an absolute must. Don’t underestimate their strength – A fully grown Blood Python is capable of breaking a cheap cage.
You need to buy the right size housing for your Blood Python based off its size. Too small and too big of a cage will be stressful and result in an insecure Blood Python who might not eat and could possibly die from stress. Especially with a cage too small for an adult, they will be able to apply more muscle force against the cage walls than they would be able to if they have more floor space to stretch out and can use the additional force to break the cage walls of a glass cage. I can't stress this enough, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THEIR STRENGTH.
Blood Pythons are terrestrial, or ground dwelling, snakes so floor space is more important than height. However, some height isn't a bad idea because it will make it harder for your snake to escape.
A good rule of thumb for determining cage sizes for your Blood Python is 1 square foot of floor space per 1 foot of snake. For example, a 3–foot Blood Python needs a cage about 24" L x 18" W x 12" H (2 feet x 1.5 feet=3 square feet of floor space.)
Do not buy a large cage for a small snake. This will stress your snake and cause it to not eat and generally be detrimental to their health.
Blood Python’s need to feel secure at all times. They want to know their surroundings and have plenty of places to feel snug and secure. Keep in mind that functional is more important than looks when providing hides and décor for your cage. You’ll need to clean whatever you put in the cage so keep this in mind when providing accessories for your Blood Python. Nice looking and natural looking cage décor isn’t always easy to clean.
Always clean anything you put inside your Blood Python habitat with diluted alcohol or peroxide or F10 disinfectant products.
It is critical to have at least 2 hide boxes for your Blood Python – 1 on the warm side of the cage and 1 on the cool side. You can use a simple plastic hide box, or use something more elaborate like rock caves or half logs.
Black plastic hide boxes are great for the warm side because the black color soaks up heat if you use a heat lamp. Your Blood Python can even go on top of the cage to get belly and basking heat with these hides. Plus, they’re lightweight and easy to clean.
Your Blood Python’s Water Bowl
Provide a large, sturdy water bowl for your Blood Python. It should be large enough for your Blood Python to fit inside if it wants to soak a bit; however, soaking can be a sign that the humidity is too low. Make sure your water isn’t too large where your snake could drown in.
Use either bottled water, or ‘treated’ water for your Blood Python. Tap water contains chlorine which is deadly to reptiles. Bottled water is obviously expensive so if that is not within your price range, buy Zoo-Med ReptiSafe Water Conditioner. You only need 2 drops per 8oz. of water and it will remove the chlorine from the water. This way you can use your tap water safely.
Do not use distilled water. Distilled water will deprive your Blood Python of the nutrients and minerals it needs. Just don’t use it.
Plastic ‘rock’ water bowls at pet stores are good because they won’t get knocked over but they can be a little expensive. Plus, when you have a large bowl and add water to it, they can get pretty heavy. If you’re feeling creative, try modifying your cage with some plastic and hot glue to create a “pen” to keep a water bowl in. Then, just use some Tupperware or whatever else you have as a water bowl. Just make sure that your Blood Python can find the water bowl.
Be sure to clean the water bowl regularly and change the water once a day, or once every other day. Completely change the water, do not just top it off. If your Blood Python defecates in the dish, change it immediately!
Blood Python Substrates
You can use a variety of substrates for Blood Pythons from something as simple as newspaper to something like Eco–Earth. Since Blood Pythons need a fairly high level of humidity, Eco-Earth, Cypress Mulch or Repti-Bark is recommended. Here are the pros and cons of each substrate:
NEVER USE PINE, OR CEDAR SHAVINGS FOR YOUR SUBSTRATE. THESE ARE TOXIC TO BLOOD PYTHONS AND WILL KILL YOUR SNAKE.
Heating and Lighting
Blood Pythons need pretty moderate temperatures. Provide a nice gradient so your Blood Python can thermoregulate between the warm and cool side of the cage.
You can provide heat for your Blood Python in several different ways. Since they are ground dwelling snakes, Under Tank Heaters (UTH) work pretty well.
Under Tank Heaters are a great choice for terrestrial dwelling animals because they heat the ambient air temperature from the bottom up and provide belly heat.
Overhead Heat Lamps are the most conventionally used heating sources. You can find them at any pet store and online and are simple to use and setup.
Heat tape is a great choice for a well–rounded heating solution. You can stick it to the cage and works great for snake breeding rack systems.
Radiant heat panels are a relatively new product that started out in the bird keeping industry.
You can regulate these temperatures by using a thermostat such as the ones made by Helix, Vivarium Electronics and Spyder Robotics.
Make sure you have 2 thermometers in your Green Tree Python cage – 1 on the warm side, 1 on the cool side. You can use digital or analog thermometers: Digital thermometers are more precise and easier to read but cost a little more. Analog thermometers save you a couple bucks.
A wise investment for your Blood Python, or any other snake, is an infrared temperature gun. They are cheap and easy to use. Simply point and pull the trigger for an instant temperature reading. Some even have laser sites so you know exactly where you’re aiming.
Blood Pythons do not have specific lighting requirements. A normal 12 hour on, 12 hour off cycle is fine. Some say that UVB lighting is psychologically beneficial for Blood Pythons, and they definitely make the colors stand out on your snake, although they are not required.
Blood Python Humidity
Humidity Level: 50% – 70%
Blood Pythons need a higher humidity level than snakes like Colubrids but too high of a humidity level can cause respiratory infections or skin blisters. Keep in mind that humidity is not how wet the cage is: Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air.
Humidity is measured by hygrometers. Make sure you have one, don't guess what the humidity is.
When your Blood Python is about to shed, maintain the humidity between 60% and 70% to help with the shedding process.
A large and sturdy water bowl can provide enough humidity for a Blood Python but you may need to mist your cage every couple of days.
You have a lot of options when it comes to keeping the optimum humidity levels for Blood Pythons. The type of substrates you use will hold humidity differently – Cypress mulch, Eco–Earth etc. hold humidity better than newspaper or aspen sheddings – and so does the size of the water bowl and even the cage itself.
Glass enclosures do not keep humidity as well as plastic enclosures. Plastic enclosures may cost a little more, but maintenance is much easier.
Snake Humidity Boxes
Some snakes enjoy and may require a humidity box. These are easy to make if you like, or you can buy one. When it gets time for your snake to shed, you can simply put some sphagnum moss inside the hide box on the cool side of the cage and mist it. Some people prefer to use a dedicated humidity box in conjunction with regular hide boxes. Just do whichever works for your Blood Python.
Be sure to check the humidity box regularly for mold and droppings. The increased humidity will promote bacteria growth so it is important to clean it often.
Feeding Blood Pythons
Blood Pythons are carnivores and feed on small mammals in the wild. In captivity they feed on rats. Because of the Blood Python's large size, they can be fed rats from the time they are born. Rats are cleaner than mice and more nutritious than mice so if you do need to feed a smaller Blood Python mice, it's best to switch them to rats as soon as possible. It is recommended that you feed your Blood Python either frozen and thawed (F/T) or fresh killed prey. It is safer since a dead mouse/rat cannot fight back and hurt your snake, plus, it is more sanitary and more cost effective. You can buy frozen mice and rats in bulk and store them in your freezer.
Blood Pythons have a very strong feeding response. This is usually mistaken for aggression but this is not the case. But be warned, when they smell food, they are likely to strike at anything warm - this includes you! Be sure to take extra precaution when feeding your Blood Python.
When Should You Feed A Blood Python?
Blood Pythons are nocturnal and in the wild they hunt at night. This is the best time to try and feed them if you are having problems getting your Blood Python to eat.
How Often Should You Feed A Blood Python?
While it's true that Blood Pythons are stocky and heavy built, they can easily become obese if they're overfed. Many pictures you see of them online are obese, but people think this is normal because of their build. If you think your snake is fat, there's a good chance it is. A Blood Python should have the build of a weight lifter, not the build of a fast food junkie. These snakes have a pretty slow metabolism so you don't need to feed them as often as other species.
What Should You Feed A Blood Python?
Even hatchling Blood Pythons are large enough to feed on pinky or fuzzy rats. If you happen to have a stubborn eater, try using a mouse. If you can avoid using mice, do it. Rats are much better for your snake.
Baby Blood Pythons grow much faster than adults do so they require food more often. Be careful not to over feed your Blood Python! This will cause health issues! If you can see skin in between the scales, your Blood Python is overweight. Just hold off on feeding it once or twice until the weight drops down to the right level.
Since adults do not grow as fast, they only need to be fed once or twice a week.
Blood Pythons have a reputation of being picky eaters, especially wild caught ones. If they do not eat immediately, don’t worry – Blood Pythons can go months without eating sometimes, this is normal. Just keep track of its weight. As long as it hasn’t lost too much weight and appears to be healthy, your snake is fine.
Do not force feed your Blood Python. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can seriously injure, or even kill your snake. If your Blood Python hasn’t eaten, AND is underweight, take it to a veterinarian or your local snake expert to help you with force feeding. Force feeding should always be a last resort.
When feeding your Blood Python frozen/thawed or fresh killed prey, simply use a set of feeding tongs or hemostats to hold the prey by its tail and dangle it near your snake. Your Blood Python should strike at it and coil over it. Release the prey right after your Blood Python gets a good grip on it in its mouth but before it begins coiling. It’ll be a pain to get your tools back after your Blood Python coils over them.
A good rule of thumb: Don’t feed your Blood Python anything larger than 1.5x the diameter of the thickest part of your snake.
How to Feed Blood Pythons
When feeding your Blood Python frozen/thawed or fresh killed prey, simply use a set of feeding tongs or hemostats to hold the prey by its tail and dangle it near your snake. Your Blood Python should strike at it and coil over it. Release the prey right after your Blood Python gets a good grip on it in its mouth but before it begins coiling. It’ll be a pain to get your tools back after your Green Tree Python coils over them.
A good rule of thumb: Don’t feed your Green Tree Python anything larger than 1.5x the diameter of the thickest part of your snake.
Feeding Blood Pythons Live Prey
Live feeding your Blood Python CAN be done but it’s not recommended. If your Blood Python is not eating frozen/thawed prey or fresh killed prey, you may need to try feeding your Blood Python live prey.
If feeding live prey, it's good to lay down a sheet of newspaper inside the cage. This way, if your Blood Python strikes at the prey and misses, it won't get any substrate in its mouth. It's really a pain to clean a snake's mouth out, not to mention it's dangerous because they can swallow the substrate which will cause health issues.
Before putting the rat or mouse in the cage, get your snake's attention. You can do this by dangling the prey near where your snake is hanging out. Your snake will pick up the scent and know it's time to eat. You don't want to let the prey loose in the cage without your snake knowing another animal is going to be running around. If the mouse or rat suprises your Blood Python in its hidebox, it can make your snake insecure and also hurt your snake. Your Python won't have the space to strike and constrict the prey and can be injured in the process of attempting to defend itself.
Some people prefer to feed live prey to their snakes in a spot outside of the cage in something like a Rubbermaid box, cardboard box or even the bathtub. This has both its pros and cons. It's good because their is no chance of your snake ingesting substrate and it will always know when it's feeding time. On the other hand, you will need to handle your snake to put it back in the cage. Since it just ate it may act aggressively because it still thinks it's feeding time. You also need to be extremely gentle when putting it back in the cage. You can cause the snake to regurgitate if you are too rough, press on its stomach, or frighten it.
Never leave your Blood Python unattended when feeding live prey. Mice and rats have teeth and can hurt or kill your snake. Blood Pythons might not even defend themselves if attacked by a mouse or rat. Never leave a live prey animal in your Blood Python cage overnight. Leave the animal in the cage for about a half hour or so. If your Green Tree Python does not eat, remove the prey from the cage and try again later.
Handling Blood Pythons
As stated, Blood Pythons have often times have a very unpredicatble temperament. But, regularly handling your Blood Python will build trust and help to make your snake docile. Even an aggressive Blood Python can mellow out over time once it gets used to handling. Keep in mind however that over–handling your Blood Python is stressful to your snake. Keep handling to about 2–3 times a week.
When handling Blood Pythons, it is important to be confident and deliberate in your movements. If you are nervous or scared, they will sense it and act scared and nervous in return. Also important, your snake needs to know you're there. If a snake is unaware of your presence and you touch it, you will startle it and it might bite.
Gently, but firmly grasp your snake from the middle of its body. Try to avoid moving towards its head; many snakes, including Blood Pythons, are “head shy” and will perceive movements towards their face as an aggressive act.
Once you have a hold of your Blood Python, bring it towards your body and support it with both hands. You can let it go up your arm or rest against the back of your neck. Warning: do not underestimate a Blood Python’s strength. Even small pythons are extremely powerful. Do not let it coil around your neck completely. If your Blood Python is over 6 feet long, it's a good idea to have someone else around just in case your snake becomes aggressive. Feel free to pet your snake down the back and you can even train them to be less head shy by petting the back of their head. Make sure to approach their head from behind and not directly.
Blood Python Health
Your Blood Python will shed periodically. Young Blood Pythons shed more often than adults since they grow faster. A young Blood Python will shed about once a month, an adult might only shed 3 or 4 times a year.
When your Blood Python is about to shed, you will notice the skin looking dull. This is your cue to pay very close attention to the humidity levels and utilize a humidity box, or increase the misting.
Soon after, your Blood Python’s eyes will turn a milky blue. Once this occurs, do not handle your Blood Python. Your snake cannot see as well and is under stress. This can cause even a perfectly tame Blood Python to lash and strike at you.
About 2-4 days after your Blood Python “goes blue,” the eyes will clear up and the actual shedding process will occur. Keep the humidity up and leave your snake be. Check the cage for the shed skin but don’t throw it away immediately.
Check the shedding and make sure that it came off cleanly. A “good shed” means that your snake shed its skin in 1 or even 2 pieces. If the shed came off in several pieces and looks shredded, the humidity was too low.
If this happens, check your Blood Python to see if all of the skin came off or not. If not, do not try to peel the skin off. This will hurt your snake. Instead, soak your Blood Python in luke-warm water for about a half hour. GENTLY run your fingertips over the shed skin to see if it comes off. If not, do not try to force it to come off. Repeat the soaking daily until the stuck skin comes off. You can buy Zoo–Med Repti–Shedding Aid if the skin does not come off after a few days.
Blood Python Products