Green Tree Python or Chondro Python Care
(Morelia viridis)
By Chris M Jones

Green Tree Pythons are the dream of many reptile
hobbyists.  They are one of the most stunning species of
snake known to the pet trade; a real gem of the rainforest.  
Green Tree Pythons are arboreal (tree dwelling) and
nocturnal (active at night), making this species incredibly
difficult to find in the wild and highly valuable.

As the name suggests, this species is predominantly green
in colour, although some individuals may be blue or yellow
with flecks of white, black and yellow.  Babies are born
yellow or red with white and black flecks.  This species if
native to New Guinea and it’s surrounding islands, reaching
as far south as the Northern Tip of Australia in the Cape
York Peninsula.  As the reptile industry has progressed,
keeping this snake has become easier and easier.  The old
tales regarding the extreme difficulties keeping this snake
alive have been thrown out the window, and with enough
time, effort and money spent, this species is easy and
incredibly exciting to keep.  In this care article I will explain
exactly how this is possible.

Housing

When keeping any snake as a pet, you generally want to
be able to view the snake from the outside of its enclosure,
in the most natural surroundings you can offer.  This will be
more aesthetically pleasing and also aid in the general
condition of the snake.  If the snake likes its surroundings, it
will have a better feeding response and generally grow
quicker.  A larger vivarium also offers more interest to the
python’s life, and by adding branches and other natural
products you will enhance the quality of life the snake has,
and stop it from becoming lethargic and overweight.  Also,
being stronger it should have more of a resistance to any
viral infections or any other problems that it may encounter
later in life.











For an adult Green Tree Python, a vivarium 90cm Length x
60cm Width x 60cm Height is ample.  Many keepers opt for
60cm cubed vivarium or one which is vertically shaped
rather than horizontal.  Providing they have a minimum of
60cm cubed, I do not feel it is too important which shape is
provided.  Green Tree Pythons are fairly timid and need to
feel secure at all times.  Too large an enclosure may scare
the snake, yet an enclosure too small will not allow good
exercise nor will it be easy to obtain an appropriate
temperature and humidity gradient.  Juveniles should be
housed in smaller enclosures; 30cm cubed is a good size.  
As they grow, so should their enclosure and if you feel your
python will adapt and prefer a larger vivarium, I urge you to
consider giving it that opportunity.

Snake enclosures can be made from a number of
materials.  Most commonly used is a melamine coated wood
which covers all sides except the front, which has glass
sliding doors.  Aquariums can too be used, although a
specialist lid should be bought or made rather than the
original aquarium lid.  It is essential when thinking about
what type of enclosure you use, you think about these 6
‘SSSHHH’ factors:

1)        Safety – Can the snake or owner injure itself from
the enclosure or any appliances held within?

2)        Secure – Can the snake escape through any small
hole or cavity?

3)        Size – Will the enclosure be appropriately sized?

4)        Heating – Is the enclosure able to regulate the
temperature enough?

5)        Humidity – Will the enclosure last well in humid
conditions?

6)        Hygienic – Will the enclosure build up a lot of
bacteria in small cavities? Is it easy to clean?

Green Tree Pythons have become such a prized
possession for reptile hobbyists that specialist brand
vivarium designs have been built specifically for them.  
These are usually plastic or fiberglass, but melamine and
glass are also common.  Providing the following steps
above are taken into consideration, you can have a
suitable enclosure made from a variety of materials.














Decor

Décor in your tank serves two purposes.  First being extra
cover for your snake, second making the vivarium more
aesthetically pleasing.  When choosing décor, think about
the safety of the snake.  Make sure that whatever you
decide to use, it is securely fixed and that no rocks, wood or
anything heavy can fall and possibly injure, or even kill the
snake.  You must also make sure that everything used is
parasite free.  If anything has been picked up from outside,
or has originally come from outside, such as cork bark, you
should either boil it, or place the item in the oven at 200
degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes.  
Freezing works for some parasites, however others have
been known to survive months in freezing conditions.  Some
parasites found in English conditions last winters in minus
temperatures, so it is not entirely effective.

Once all your décor is parasite free, it is then safe to place
inside your enclosure.  As a general rule, if you can put
pressure on an item to knock it down, a Green Tree Python
is also capable of doing this.  When positioning wood or
heavy objects, make sure they are completely secure. If it is
still uneasy, screw them or use superglue to fix them
securely.  If it is not possible, the rule is simple:  Do not
place the item in the vivarium!

If you decide to go for a large enclosure, you must provide
plenty of cover and hiding areas.  Green Tree Pythons do
not typically hide under or in objects like most snakes do;
instead, they may choose to sit on a branch situated
amongst foliage or with the sides of the enclosure around
them.  There are many brands of fake plants and décor you
can use which is both safe for the animal and pleasing to
the eye.  Cork bark is available from almost any reptile pet
shop in the UK, and can be ordered in if they do not have it
in stock.  This is excellent cover for any reptile and is 100%
natural.  One thing you must consider when thinking about
the size of the vivarium, is the bigger you go, the more
hiding areas you must provide.  For Green Tree Pythons, I
do not recommend a particular number of hides, although it
is important to provide several ‘sitting’ spots around the
vivarium.

NOTE:  Never use sticky tape in an enclosure; this is an
accident waiting to happen.  Believe me; removing sticky
tape from any snake is no easy task!

Substrate

As Green Tree Pythons are arboreal, I do not feel much of
an importance on how the snake should react to a
substrate.  Rather, how the substrate reacts with the
enclosure is more important.  Newspaper is cheap, easily
disposable, soaks in moisture and will also dry out easily.  
This is for me the easiest and best substrate for Green
Tree Pythons.  Aspen, bark chips and other wood chips can
also be used, but be sure that no mould is allowed to grow
and that regular cleaning takes place.

Heating

Green Tree Pythons require a very slight thermal gradient
within the vivarium, meaning they must be allowed to move
around the enclosure to find their required temperature.  
The hot end of the enclosure should be 86-90ºF while the
cool end should be approximately 75-78ºF.    The ambient
air temperature should be around 84-86ºF.  During the
night, a slight decrease in temperature by a couple of
degrees is acceptable but not necessary.

In my opinion, the ideal way of heating a Green Tree
Python enclosure is to use a power plate.  This is a small
thin square plate, about 25mm thick which is screwed into
the top of the vivarium.  It does not need to be protected,
as there is no way a snake can grip onto it.  It is almost
invisible to the eye as it simply sits on the ceiling of the
vivarium.  The only brand available in the UK is HabiStat
Reptile Radiator; it is 75 Watts and is sufficient for any
vivarium up to 4ft long and possibly larger.  It produces no
light and therefore in a vivarium you will need a form of
lighting as well.  A power plate should be used in
conjunction with a HabiStat Pulse Proportional Thermostat,
which will stop the power reaching the power plate as soon
as the temperature goes above the setting, and turn back
on as soon as it is too cool.  This is one of the most
accurate thermostats on the market today.

Ceramic heaters, spot bulbs and heat mats are also ways
of heating a vivarium.  These all have their advantages and
disadvantages, but in my opinion, none quite weight out to
be as good as a power plate.

Lighting

Green Tree Pythons are primarily nocturnal, meaning they
venture out in the dark of night.  This is when their main
predators are sleeping, and their prey is awake.  This is not
to say though, that they never see the sun, or any form of
lighting for that matter.

Having artificial light in a vivarium is aesthetically pleasing
to the owner, and is a good addition to any snake’s
enclosure.  They will use this as a photo-period, and their
regular time clock will generally adjust to the settings on
which you have your light set to.

They do not require any form of special lighting, such as a
D3 Ultra-Violet light commonly used for diurnal species.  An
Arcadia Natural Sunlight Fluorescent Lamp is a good form
of lighting.  This comes in lengths of 12” up to 48” and I
suggest you use the largest size able to fit inside your
vivarium.

During night time hours, an infra-red bulb will make a good
addition to a Green Tree Python’s enclosure.  If a spot bulb
is used, be sure the vivarium does not become too hot.  It is
recommended that spot bulbs are also encased in a mesh
cage to prevent the snake from burning itself.  Be sure to
also ensure that if using a red bulb at night, that the
appropriate temperature change is given to the heating
device which is used during the day.

Humidity & Water

This is one of the most important parts to keeping this
species, and one which many are confused about.  When
keeping any snake, I always bare in mind and research the
native country to which that snake comes from, and then
the habitat in which it decides to live.  With this in mind, it is
possible to recreate the snake’s environment and
successfully enjoy keeping and perhaps breeding it.

Green Tree Pythons are a rainforest dwelling species
native to the most Northern tip of Australia and New
Guinea.  These places have high humidity levels all year
round, although it obviously fluctuates greatly from day to
night and month to month.  It is therefore not important to
have exact humidity levels all the time.  Rather; it is more
important to fluctuate the humidity level and offer dry
patches as well as high humidity patches.

Humidity levels vary depending on the temperature of the
cage and the ventilation offered.  Enclosures that keep high
humidity levels all the time are more damaging to a Green
Tree Python than enclosures which dry out too quick.  It is
not important to give a level of humidity, although I suggest
that an optimum level of high humidity is reached every day
or two, and then allowed to slowly dry out.  Misting the cage
and substrate is a perfect way of achieving this.  Be sure
that the cage itself is not too wet; humidity is not dependant
on how wet your enclosure is, but how much water vapour
is held in the air.  If stagnant water is sitting at the bottom of
your vivarium, this may cause more harm than good.

Many Green Tree Pythons are not observed drinking from
a bowl; instead they are seen drinking from water droplets
when misting the cage or from water dripping systems.  
Most individuals will happily drink from a bowl which is
regularly changed, although I suggest with emaciated
individuals not observed taking on water, that a drip system
is put in place.

Feeding

Juvenile Green Tree Pythons are capable of feeding on
pinky mice.  As they grow, so should their food.  I
recommend using a food item no larger than the girth of the
snake.  The girth is the diameter of the widest part of the
snake, which should be the middle part of the body.  
Hatchling Green Tree Pythons should be fed once a week
on one or two appropriately sized food items.  As they grow,
their food should too increase in size, but not in quantity.  
As an adult, their food intake can slow down to once every
two or three weeks, and a larger rat or mouse should be
offered.  Green Tree Pythons have a very slow metabolism
and obese individuals are regularly seen in captivity.  Some
individuals roam more than others and some are handled
more than others, so feeding should depend on each
snake and not the species as a whole.  It is perfectly
acceptable, particularly for male Green Tree Pythons to eat
once every six weeks or so, providing of course they do not
lose weight.

By Chris Jones

Director of Pet Club UK Ltd.

http://www.petclubuk.com

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