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Green Tree Python Care Sheet

Green Tree Python Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian. 

Morelia viridis

Green Tree Boa

Overview 

Green tree pythons are nonvenomous snakes native to Australia, New Guinea and the Indonesian islands. These arboreal (tree climbing) tropical pythons prefer thick vegetation and high humidity environments, such as rainforests. 

 

Typical appearance and behavior  

  • Babies are born with bright yellow, red or brown colors but grow into their characteristic green color as adults 
  • Green tree pythons under 3 years old may continue to change color as they age 
  • Each snake has different colors and patterns, and many green tree python color morphs have been bred with mixtures of green, yellow and blue 
  • Pythons have heat-sensing pits on their faces, near their mouths, to help them detect warm blooded prey 
  • Unlike most other snakes, who have only one lung, pythons have two 
  • Pythons have a reputation for being aggressive and nippy when handled, but this is generally only if they are grabbed and restrained roughly 
  • Never grab pythons while they are moving; wait until they are relaxed and still 
  • Always pick them up from below rather than grabbing them from above, and when holding them, let them move through your hands—don’t struggle to restrain them 
  • Green tree pythons typically loop themselves (rather than coil tightly) around a branch, with their heads resting in the middle, while waiting for their next meal 
  • They are constrictors who use their more than 100 hook-like teeth to hold on to prey as they constrict and suffocate them before eating them whole 
  • They have large, diamond-shaped heads and slim bodies 
  • At the ends of their tails, they have a small hook-shaped bend they use for caudal luring, which they wiggle in front of prey to attract them 
  • As snakes get ready to shed, their eyes will turn a milky blue-grey over the course of a few days, and their body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen; they may become irritable, so avoid handling if possible. 

 

Characteristics

Care Difficuty Intermediate
Average Life Span 20+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size 4–6 feet long
Diet Carnivorous
Minimum Habitat Size 18” L x 12” W x 12” H for a juvenile
36” L x 24” W x 24” H for an adult

 

Habitat 

Habitat size

Because many pythons are large and easily stressed when approached from above, traditional glass aquariums are not ideal habitats for pythons. Instead, opt for a habitat with side doors. The habitat doors (or lids) should lock securely to prevent the snake from pushing out and escaping. Provide a habitat that is longer than the length of the snake (ideally, the snake’s length should not be greater than the sum of the length and width of the enclosure), so it can stretch out fully. For green tree pythons, the habitat should be vertically oriented to allow for climbing. Habitats should be tall enough for the snake to easily reach the habitat floor from the highest perch in the enclosure. Pythons seem less stressed in a habitat with opaque sides and tops, which lets them feel secure from potential predators. Juvenile snakes may be stressed by living in a large habitat big enough for an adult, so habitat size should be upgraded as the snake grows. Habitats should allow proper ventilation, either with holes drilled in the sides or top or by having a screened lid.

Green tree pythons will reach adult size in 3–4 years under ideal conditions.

Building your habitat

  • Substrate - 
    • Commercially available paper-based bedding is ideal because it is digestible if accidentally ingested 
    • Aspen shavings also are acceptable, but pine and cedar chips should be avoided; they have oils on them that can irritate snakes’ skin and respiratory tracts 
    • Substrate should be deep enough for the snake to hide in; if using reptile carpet as a substrate, be sure to provide at least one hide box to allow the snake to feel secure 
  • Décor - 
    • Green tree pythons need sturdy, securely fastened branches or other perches to rest on and various sized climbing branches to crawl on 
    • Pythons should have a hiding area large enough to fit snugly inside of and feel secure 
    • Cork bark, commercially available hideaways or half logs all can be used as hide boxes; be sure the hideaway is large enough that a snake won’t get stuck in it 
    • Décor is also important for snakes to rub on when shedding 
  • Temperature - 
    • Snakes are ectothermic reptiles, which means they rely on their environmental temperature to control their body temperature 
    • To help them regulate their body temperatures, provide a temperature gradient from 85–90°F at the warm end of the tank to 75–80°F at cool end 
    • Temperatures should not fall lower than the low 70s°F at night 
    • Monitor temperature with at least two thermometers, one in the cool zone and the other in the hot (basking) zone 
    • Heat may be provided by a heat bulb, ceramic heat bulb or an under-tank heating pad 
    • Heat sources should be attached to thermostats to regulate temperatures; thermostats are especially important with heating pads, which can get hot and cause burns through the tank floor if not regulated properly 
    • Hot rocks should not be used as a heat source because they can burn reptiles 
    • Reptiles not kept at the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick 
  • Lighting - 
    • While snakes do not require ultraviolet (UV) B light to survive, studies suggest that UVB light may increase snakes’ activity levels and aid in their overall health
    •  low-level UVB light helps provide a clear day/night cycle (with 10–12 hours of daylight) that snakes need to perform their normal daily activities 
    • UV bulbs should be replaced every six months as their potency wanes  
    • Don’t leave white light on all the time; a nocturnal or infrared light should be used at night.  
  • Humidity - 
    • Maintain habitat humidity at 40–70% 
    • Monitor humidity with a humidity gauge 
    • Provide a large water bowl to increase humidity and for snakes to drink from and soak in  
    • Humidity should be higher during shedding; humidity may be increased during shedding by creating a humid hideaway containing moist sphagnum moss 
    • Moss should be changed frequently to prevent mold growth 
    • Increase humidity by misting with water, as needed 

Cleaning your habitat 

  • Spot-clean the habitat daily to remove droppings  
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week:  
    • Place snake in a secure habitat  
    • Remove all substrate and habitat décor 
    • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution 
    • Rinse tank and furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell 
    • Dry the tank and furnishings completely 
    • Add clean substrate and put furnishings back into the tank 
    • Put snake back into their clean, dry habitat 

 

Feeding 

A well-balanced green tree python diet consists of:

  • Appropriately sized frozen rodents, properly thawed and warmed 
  • Hoppers up to small mice may be fed to juveniles; large mice or rats are typically fed to adults 
  • Live rodents should not be fed, as live rodents may bite snakes who are not hungry and can cause life-threatening injuries 
  • If, under any circumstances, you must offer live rodents to a snake, never leave them unattended in the tank with the snake because of the potential risk for injury to the snake 

Things to remember when feeding your green tree python: 

  • Do not use a microwave to defrost frozen rodents; microwaved rodents can have hot spots that can burn snakes’ mouths  
  • Do not prepare frozen rodents for feeding in the same area that you prepare human food; if it is unavoidable, be sure to thoroughly disinfect the area—see the Feeding Frozen/Thawed Foods Care Sheet for more information 
  • Feed juveniles once a week and adults once every one to two weeks; decrease feeding for adults if they are becoming overweight 
  • Feed in an empty tank, separate from the habitat, so the snake doesn’t associate your hand or the habitat lid opening with food and doesn’t accidentally ingest bedding off the habitat floor when eating 
  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times in an untippable bowl large enough for the snake to soak in; the bowl should be placed in the cool end of the habitat so that the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly 
  • Because snakes will not typically eat while shedding, avoid feeding them when they are in shed 

 

Care 

  • Snakes will regularly shed their skin and the covering over their eyes (called the eye cap or spectacle) 
  • Ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow snake to shed properly; skin should be shed in a single long piece 
  • Never try to remove retained eye caps by yourself, as you can easily cause damage; seek veterinary care if eye caps are retained 

 

Where to buy a green tree python

Green tree pythons are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 

Supplies 

 

Habitat mates  

  • House pythons individually 
  • Do not house different snake species together 

 

Health  

Signs of a healthy green tree python 

  • Active and alert 
  • Clear eyes (except when shedding) 
  • No discharge or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth 
  • Eats and passes stool regularly 
  • Supple skin without lesions, swellings, scabs, parasites (mites, ticks) or discoloration 
  • Regularly sheds skin in one complete piece 

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian) 

  • Unusually frequent or infrequent shedding 
  • Vomiting 
  • Lethargy or reluctance to eat 
  • Abnormal feces or lack of feces 
  • Lesions, swellings, scabs, discoloration or parasites (mites, ticks) on skin 
  • Labored breathing/breathing with open mouth 
  • Difficulty shedding/shedding in numerous pieces/retained skin after shed 
  • White, cheesy discharge or redness or scabs in mouth 
  • Laying on back, unable to turn right side up or prolonged staring (“star-gazing”)  

 

Common green tree python health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueDermatitis Symptoms or CausesBlisters, rapid shedding; caused by skin infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, an unclean habitat or one that has inappropriate temperature or humidity Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity
Health IssueRespiratory tract disease Symptoms or CausesLabored or open-mouth breathing, stretching neck out, mucus or bubbles in mouth, eyes or nostrils; can be caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites or a habitat that has inappropriate temperature or humidity Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity
Health IssueStomatitis Symptoms or CausesRed, swollen or scabbed gums and/or white, cheesy discharge in the mouth, loss of teeth, decreased appetite, weight loss; may be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections or inappropriate temperature or humidity Suggested ActionImmediately consult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity; if untreated, may be fatal
Health IssueTicks and mites Symptoms or CausesParasites on skin can cause itchiness, inflammation and hyperactivity and can transmit disease Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; empty habitat and thoroughly disinfect it

 

FAQs

  • What do green tree pythons eat? Green tree pythons can be offered appropriately sized , properly thawed and warmed. Hoppers up to small mice may be fed to juveniles; large mice or rats are typically fed to adults. 
  • How big do green tree pythons get? Green tree pythons can reach 4–6 feet long. 
  • How many teeth does a green tree python have? Green tree pythons have more than 100 hook-like teeth that hold on to prey as they constrict and suffocate them before eating them whole. 
  • Is a green tree python venomous? Green tree pythons are not venomous. 
  • Can green tree python change color? Green tree pythons are born with bright yellow, red or brown colors but grow into their characteristic green color as adults. Green tree pythons under 3 years old may continue to change color as they age. 

 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile. 

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about reptiles and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.