Green tree pythons are one of the most beautiful and fascinating snakes in the world. They have a striking green color, a prehensile tail, and a unique way of resting on branches. They are also highly sought after by reptile enthusiasts, but they are not easy to keep. They require specific care and attention to thrive in captivity. In this article, we will provide you with everything you need to know about green tree pythons, including their species profile, natural habitat, care guide, health issues, and more.
Green tree pythons (Morelia viridis) belong to the family Pythonidae, which includes some of the largest snakes in the world. However, green tree pythons are relatively small compared to other pythons. They can reach a total length (including tail) of 2 m (6.6 ft) and a weight of 1.6 kg (3.5 lb), with females slightly larger and heavier than males. They have diamond-shaped heads with irregular scales and labial pits that help them detect heat from their prey. They have a white or yellow vertebral stripe, and many also have yellow, green, or blue spots.
Green tree pythons are named for their vibrant green color, which helps them camouflage among the leaves of tall trees. However, they are not born green. Juveniles are bright yellow, red, or red-brown and do not get their characteristic green color until they are 6 to 12 months old. The color change is triggered by hormonal and environmental factors, such as temperature and light cycle. The color of the juveniles may also indicate their geographic origin. For example, yellow juveniles are more common in Australia, while red juveniles are more common in New Guinea.
In addition to the natural variation in color and pattern, green tree pythons also have several color morphs that have been selectively bred by hobbyists. These include blue, albino, melanistic, axanthic, and calico morphs. Some of these morphs are very rare and expensive, while others are more readily available. Color morphs do not affect the health or behavior of the snakes, but they may have different breeding compatibility with other morphs.
Green tree pythons are native to New Guinea, some islands in Indonesia, and the Cape York Peninsula in Australia. They prefer tropical rainforests with thick vegetation and high humidity. They may also inhabit secondary forests and gardens. Most of their time is spent in trees, but they also come down onto the ground, especially at night. They rest coiled up, hanging horizontally on branches. They dangle their tails to lure curious prey, and then hold onto the branch with their tail when they strike.
Are Green Tree Pythons Endangered?
Green tree pythons are not endangered in the wild. They are rated as least concern on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. However, they face some threats from habitat loss, illegal hunting, and smuggling for the pet trade. In Indonesia, large-scale smuggling of wild-caught green tree pythons has been reported. Therefore, it is important to buy green tree pythons from reputable breeders who can provide proof of captive breeding.
Green tree pythons eat mostly small mammals and reptiles. As juveniles, they are diurnal (or active during the day) and hunt smaller animals. As adults, they are nocturnal and hunt larger prey that is more active at night. These pythons locate prey by sight and use labial pits to identify an animal’s heat signature. They may also wiggle their tail like a lure. When curious prey gets close enough, they strike. They use their sharp teeth to grab the prey and then wrap their body around it to constrict it. They swallow the prey whole, head first.
Green tree pythons are not recommended for beginners. They require specialized care and handling to keep them healthy and happy in captivity. They can be easily stressed by improper conditions or excessive handling. They can also be aggressive and defensive if they feel threatened or disturbed. Therefore, they are more suitable for experienced keepers who can provide them with adequate space, equipment, and attention.
Here is a summary of the basic requirements for keeping green tree pythons:
- Enclosure size: At least 90 x 60 x 90 cm (36 x 24 x 36 inches) for an adult
- Enclosure type: Glass terrarium with secure lid and ventilation
- Substrate: Cypress mulch, orchid bark, or coconut husk
- Branches: Several sturdy branches of different diameters and angles
- Plants: Live or artificial plants for cover and humidity
- Water bowl: Large and shallow water bowl for drinking and soaking
- Heating: Ceramic heat emitter, heat mat, or heat tape
- Thermometer: Digital thermometer with probe
- Thermostat: Thermostat to regulate the heating source
- Temperature gradient: 28 – 32 °C (82 – 90 °F) on the warm side, 24 – 26 °C (75 – 79 °F) on the cool side, and 22 – 24 °C (72 – 75 °F) at night
- Humidity: 60 – 80%, measured with a hygrometer
- Lighting: No special lighting is required, but a natural light cycle of 12 hours on and 12 hours off is recommended
- Food: Pre-killed or frozen-thawed rodents of appropriate size, offered every 7 to 14 days for adults and every 5 to 7 days for juveniles
- Handling: Minimal handling, only when necessary for cleaning or health checks
Green tree pythons need a spacious and secure enclosure that mimics their natural habitat. The enclosure should be at least 90 x 60 x 90 cm (36 x 24 x 36 inches) for an adult, but bigger is better. The enclosure should be taller than it is wide or long, as these snakes are arboreal and spend most of their time in the canopy. The enclosure should have a tight-fitting lid that can be locked to prevent escapes and ventilation holes to allow air circulation.
The enclosure should be furnished with several sturdy branches of different diameters and angles. The branches should be arranged in a way that allows the snake to move around comfortably and choose different basking spots. The branches should also have some horizontal sections where the snake can coil up and rest. The branches should be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent mold and parasites.
The enclosure should also have some live or artificial plants for cover and humidity. The plants should be non-toxic and easy to clean. They should also be securely attached to the enclosure or the branches to avoid falling or being knocked over by the snake. The plants should provide some shade and privacy for the snake, but not block the heat or light sources.
The substrate for the enclosure should be something that can retain moisture and prevent bacterial growth. Some good options are cypress mulch, orchid bark, or coconut husk. The substrate should be about 5 cm (2 inches) deep and changed every month or whenever it gets dirty. The substrate should be kept slightly damp, but not wet or soggy.
The enclosure should also have a large and shallow water bowl for drinking and soaking. The water bowl should be placed on the cool side of the enclosure and cleaned and refilled daily. The water bowl should be big enough for the snake to fit in, but not too deep that it can drown. The water bowl should also be stable and heavy to avoid spilling.
Green tree pythons need a temperature gradient in their enclosure to regulate their body temperature. They need a warm side where they can bask and digest their food, and a cool side where they can retreat and rest. The temperature gradient should be maintained by using a heating source such as a ceramic heat emitter, a heat mat, or a heat tape. The heating source should be placed on one end of the enclosure and controlled by a thermostat to prevent overheating or burning the snake.
The temperature on the warm side of the enclosure should be between 28 and 32 °C (82 and 90 °F), measured by a digital thermometer with a probe. The temperature on the cool side of the enclosure should be between 24 and 26 °C (75 and 79 °F), measured by another thermometer. The temperature at night should drop slightly to between 22 and 24 °C (72 and 75 °F), which can be achieved by turning off the heating source or lowering the thermostat setting.
Green tree pythons do not need any special lighting in their enclosure, as they are nocturnal and do not bask in direct sunlight. However, they do need a natural light cycle to regulate their circadian rhythm and seasonal behavior. A natural light cycle can be achieved by placing the enclosure near a window that receives indirect sunlight, or by using a timer to turn on and off a regular fluorescent or LED light. The light cycle should mimic the day length of their natural habitat, which is about 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
Green tree pythons feed mainly on rodents in captivity, such as mice, rats, hamsters, or gerbils. They should be offered pre-killed or frozen-thawed rodents of appropriate size, as live prey can injure or stress the snake. The size of the prey should be no bigger than the widest part of the snake’s body. Juveniles should be fed every 5 to 7 days, while adults should be fed every 7 to 14 days. Feeding frequency may vary depending on the snake’s age, weight, activity level, and season.
To feed a green tree python, the rodent should be thawed completely and warmed up slightly to make it more appealing. The rodent can be held with tongs or tweezers and dangled in front of the snake’s head. The snake may strike and coil around the rodent, or it may ignore it. If the snake does not show interest, the rodent can be left in the enclosure overnight and removed if not eaten by morning. The snake should not be disturbed or handled for at least 48 hours after feeding to avoid regurgitation.
Tips and Tricks for Keeping Green Tree Pythons
Green tree pythons are not easy to keep, but they can be rewarding pets for experienced and dedicated owners. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping green tree pythons:
- Choose a healthy and captive-bred snake: Buying a healthy and captive-bred snake from a reputable breeder is crucial for avoiding health problems and stress. Wild-caught snakes may have parasites, diseases, injuries, or behavioral issues that make them unsuitable for captivity. Captive-bred snakes are more accustomed to human interaction and care. A healthy snake should have clear eyes, smooth skin, a round body, and a calm demeanor.
- Provide proper humidity: Humidity is very important for green tree pythons, as they come from humid rainforests. Low humidity can cause dehydration, shedding problems, respiratory infections, or scale rot. Humidity can be maintained by misting the enclosure daily with dechlorinated water, using a humid substrate, adding live plants, or using a humidifier. Humidity should be measured with a hygrometer and kept between 60 and 80%.
- Handle with care: Green tree pythons are not very tolerant of handling and may bite or constrict if they feel threatened or stressed. Handling should be kept to a minimum and only when necessary for cleaning or health checks. When handling a green tree python, one should wear gloves and use a snake hook to gently lift the snake from the branch. The snake should be supported with both hands and held close to the body. The snake should not be squeezed or restrained too tightly.
- Watch out for signs of stress: Green tree pythons are sensitive animals that can get stressed by various factors, such as improper conditions, excessive handling, loud noises, bright lights, or predators. Signs of stress include hiding, hissing, striking, refusing food, regurgitating, or developing health problems. Stress can be reduced by providing a suitable enclosure, maintaining optimal temperature and humidity, offering hiding places and cover, feeding regularly but not too often, and leaving the snake alone most of the time.
Where to find Green Tree Pythons for sale
Green tree pythons are popular pets among reptile enthusiasts, but they are not widely available in pet stores. They are more likely to be found online or at reptile shows or expos. However, not all sellers are trustworthy or ethical. Therefore, one should do some research before buying a green tree python from any source.
Some factors to consider when looking for green tree pythons for sale are:
- Reputation: The seller should have a good reputation among other buyers and breeders. They should have positive reviews and testimonials on their website or social media pages. They should also be willing to answer questions and provide information about their snakes.
- Quality: The seller should offer high-quality snakes that are healthy and captive-bred. They should provide proof of captive breeding and health certificates for their snakes. They should also disclose the origin, age, sex, color morph, and lineage of their snakes.
- Price: The price of green tree pythons can vary depending on their rarity, color morph, size, and sex. Generally, green tree pythons are more expensive than other snakes, ranging from $300 to over $1000. Some color morphs, such as blue or albino, can cost even more. The price should reflect the quality and condition of the snake, but it should also be reasonable and fair. One should avoid buying from sellers who offer extremely low or high prices, as they may be scams or unethical.
- Shipping: The seller should offer safe and secure shipping for their snakes. They should use reputable and licensed carriers that specialize in live animal transport. They should also pack the snake properly in a sturdy box with insulation, ventilation, and a heat pack if needed. They should also provide a tracking number and a delivery confirmation for the shipment. The buyer should be prepared to receive the snake as soon as possible and check its health and condition upon arrival.
Common Health Issues
Green tree pythons are generally healthy snakes, but they can suffer from some common health issues if not cared for properly. Some of these issues are:
- Respiratory infections: Respiratory infections are caused by bacteria or viruses that affect the snake’s breathing. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, or mouth gaping. Respiratory infections can be prevented by keeping the enclosure clean, maintaining optimal temperature and humidity, and avoiding stress. Respiratory infections can be treated by antibiotics or antivirals prescribed by a vet.
- Mites: Mites are tiny parasites that feed on the snake’s blood and cause irritation, itching, and anemia. Symptoms include red spots, scabs, or crusts on the skin, excessive shedding, or rubbing against objects. Mites can be prevented by quarantining new snakes, disinfecting the enclosure and accessories, and avoiding contact with other reptiles. Mites can be treated by using mite sprays or dips, or by consulting a vet.
- Scale rot: Scale rot is a bacterial infection that affects the snake’s scales and skin. Symptoms include blisters, ulcers, or lesions on the belly or sides of the snake. Scale rot can be prevented by keeping the substrate dry and clean, removing any sharp or dirty objects from the enclosure, and treating any wounds promptly. Scale rot can be treated by cleaning and disinfecting the affected area, applying topical antibiotics or antiseptics, or visiting a vet.
- Mouth Rot: Mouth Rot, also known as infectious stomatitis, is a condition that causes the tissue in the snakes mouth to die and rot away.
- Inclusion body disease (IBD): IBD is a viral disease that affects the snake’s nervous system and organs. Symptoms include stargazing (looking upwards), head tremors, corkscrewing (twisting of the body), regurgitation, weight loss, or paralysis. IBD has no cure and is usually fatal. IBD can be prevented by buying from reputable breeders who test their snakes for IBD, isolating sick snakes, and disposing of infected materials properly.
Here are some frequently asked questions about green tree pythons:
Are green tree pythons venomous?
No, green tree pythons are not venomous. They are constrictors that kill their prey by suffocation.
How long do green tree pythons live?
Green tree pythons can live up to 20 years in captivity with proper care.
How big do green tree pythons get?
Green tree pythons can reach a total length of 2 m (6.6 ft) and a weight of 1.6 kg (3.5 lb), with females slightly larger and heavier than males.
How often do green tree pythons shed?
Green tree pythons shed every 4 to 6 weeks as juveniles and every 2 to 4 months as adults.
Can green tree pythons change color?
Yes, green tree pythons change color from yellow or red to green as they mature. They may also change color slightly depending on their mood or temperature.
Can green tree pythons be kept together?
No, green tree pythons are solitary animals that prefer to live alone. Keeping them together can cause stress, aggression, or cannibalism.