Burmese Python (Python bivittatus)
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Welcome to the ReptiFiles Burmese Python Care Sheet! This care sheet was written by a professional reptile husbandry specialist, compiled based on reputable sources such as scientific research papers, natural history data, and the experiences of longtime keepers and breeders of this species. You can find a list of these sources at the bottom of this page.
ReptiFiles care materials contain a variety of links to helpful resources and trusted products, some of which are affiliate links. I rely heavily on affiliate revenue to maintain ReptiFiles.com and further my research. For more information on why I use affiliate links, click here.
Introduction to Burmese Pythons
Burmese pythons are giant, thick-bodied, constrictor-type snakes with smooth scales, a rectangular head, vertical pupils, and heat pits on the snout and lips. Although a variety of different colors and patterns have been produced in captivity (a.k.a. “morphs”), wild-type burmese pythons generally have striking pattern of brown blotches with dark outlines against a beige to golden background. There is a typically a triangular marking on top of the head, with another marking that passes through each eye. Lifespan in captivity is generally 20-25+ years.
Burmese pythons are famous for their impressive length, averaging around 16′ (5m) long, but as short as 10′ (3m) and as long as 22′ (6.7m) are possibilities. There are also some dwarf localities/subspecies (Java, Bali, Sumbawa, Sulawesi) which max out around 8′. Female burmese pythons are generally substantially heavier than males, though not much longer.
Burmese pythons are native to tropical southern Asia west of southeastern China and Vietnam and have a well-established invasive population in Florida, USA. They generally prefer tropical forest, but can also be found in grasslands, warm temperate forests, and mangrove swamps, and are often associated with fresh water.
It is the author’s opinion that generally speaking, burmese pythons do not make good pets and are better suited to the capabilities of professional zoological institutions. (An exception may be made for dwarf burmese pythons where available.) If you know what you’re getting into and provide appropriate burmese python care, however, they can make rewarding pets.
Burmese pythons are illegal to keep as pets in some US states. Make sure to check with your local laws before planning to get one!
Supplies You Need for a Pet Burmese Python
Burmese pythons are giant snakes, and this makes them very difficult to properly house for most people. The following list applies to young and/or dwarf burmese pythons <8′ long and will help get you started while you put together its permanent home. Information on what you would need to accommodate an adult can be found in the rest of this care sheet.
- 8’L x 4’W x 4’H mesh-top reptile enclosure (preferably larger)
- Zoo Med Combo Deep Dome Dual Lamp Fixture, x2
- 75w Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp, x4
- Vivarium Electronics Rheostat, x2
- 48″ Arcadia Forest 5.0 Pro T5 UVB Kit
- 34″ Arcadia JungleDawn LED Bar, x2
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- 2 gallon pressure sprayer
- 80 gallons Reptichip substrate
- Large climbing branches, at least 2
- Artificial foliage
- Zoo Med Digital Combo Thermometer Humidity Gauge, x2
- Etekcity 774 infrared thermometer
- 30 gallon utility tub (or similar)
- Python aquarium siphon
- Repashy Calcium Plus LoD
- Large feeding tongs
- Snake hook
- F10SC Veterinary Disinfectant
- Spray bottle (for disinfectant)
Recommended Enclosure Size for Burmese Pythons
Before we get into discussing the particulars of creating an appropriate enclosure for a pet burmese python, I must address current common practice:
At the moment it is standard practice to house fully-grown burmese pythons measuring up to 16′ or longer in barren enclosures measuring around 8’L x 4’W x 4’H or shorter. For most pet reptiles, such an enclosure would be generous, even huge. For a burmese python, however, it is the equivalent of keeping a horse in a stall or a dog in a kennel for the entirety of their life. For the horse or the dog, such housing would be immediately condemned as incredibly cruel. For the burm, such housing has been justified by downplaying the facts about this snake’s intelligence and activity levels. While such misinformation certainly makes burmese pythons easier to sell as pets, it has also resulted in countless bored and obese pythons — along with all of the neurological and physiological health complications which accompany these conditions.
One goal of this care sheet is to raise awareness of and respect for the actual husbandry needs of burmese pythons, supported by the facts of their physiology and natural history.
A snake’s enclosure should be at least large enough to allow the animal to stretch out to its full length as desired. Since burmese pythons are semi-arboreal (meaning that they spend part of their lives in trees), you must also allow enough height for climbing/perching. This leads to a fitter and overall healthier snake both physically and psychologically.
Since burmese pythons can vary widely in adult length, rather than recommend a one-size-fits-all approach, here is a formula for calculating the appropriate minimum enclosure size according to the snake’s projected adult length:
- Length = snake length
- Width = half snake length
- Height = as tall as possible (although taller than the snake’s length is likely excessive)
If you have a juvenile burmese python, the best way to estimate its adult size is to talk to the breeder. Ask about the length and weight of both parents. If you have a male burm, it will likely end up similar in size to the father. If you have a female, it will likely end up similar to its mother.
Of course, if you have a burmese python estimated to grow 16′ long, providing an enclosure exactly 16′ long and 8′ wide or may be unrealistic, as at that point it’s generally better practice to convert a room or small outbuilding for the purpose. In this case, you can also estimate minimum enclosure size by calculating the floor space of such an enclosure (in this case 128 sq ft) and using that number as your minimum/target for the enclosure.
Here are some enclosures suitable for housing a young (or dwarf if you can find one) burmese python <8′ long. Juvenile burms grow very quickly, so while an enclosure of this size will give you some time, it should still only be used temporarily while you prepare the larger, permanent setup.
- Custom Reptile Habitats Essential 8 Foot PVC & Aluminum Enclosure
- Kages 8’x4’x4′ Premium PVC Reptile Enclosure
- Toad Ranch TRC 8’x4’x4′ Luxury Reptile Enclosure
If you’re handy and would prefer to save some money, I recommend checking out DIY Reptile and Amphibian Setups on Facebook for resources and advice on building reptile enclosures. Either way, you’re going to need the help for preparing your burm’s adult living quarters! The group Giant leaps in giant husbandry on Facebook is helpful for figuring out how to plausibly convert a room into a giant snake enclosure.
Using an enclosure larger than the minimum is strongly recommended. Bigger is always better as long as the space is useable to your pet! Burmese pythons have a reputation for being “lazy” and sitting curled up all day, (and it’s true that they’re more sedentary than another giant, the reticulated python), but when given the opportunity, they will still happily cruise every inch of the space given them.
Can multiple burmese pythons be housed together?
Burmese pythons are solitary animals which naturally live alone for most of their lives. Forcing a roommate upon them is likely to result in unnecessary stress (not to mention the immense enclosure that would be required!). In other words: No, it’s best to house burmese pythons individually.
Lighting & UVB Requirements for Burmese Pythons
Although generations of burmese pythons bred in captivity have proven that UVB lighting (or lighting of any kind beyond that in the room) is not necessary to survival, they are inevitably exposed to sunlight and UVB radiation during their daytime activities in the wild, and therefore likely to benefit from what these resources have to offer, such as:
- regulation of day/night cycle
- hormonal balancing
- vitamin D production
- immune health support
- neurological health support
- increased energy
- improved appetite
For these reasons, ReptiFiles strongly recommends providing daylight and UVB lighting to burmese pythons in order to promote optimum welfare!
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day and completely turned off at night. If you wish to practice seasonal cycling, they should have 13 hours of daylight during summer and 11 hours during winter. Alternatively, you can sync your snake’s lights with your local sunrise/sunset times.
UVB lighting can be tricky, because in order to get the right strength of UVB (UV Index, or UVI), distance and potential mesh obstruction must be considered. The basking branch or platform should be placed as follows. Given distance is from the snake’s back to the UVB lamp.
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 or Arcadia Forest 6%
- mounted over mesh — 9-11” / 23-28cm
- mounted inside enclosure — 12-15” / 30-38cm
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 or Arcadia Desert 10.0
- mounted over mesh — 15-17″ / 38-43cm
- mounted inside enclosure — 18-20″ / 46-51″
(These recommendations are approximations based on available data. For best results, use a Solarmeter 6.5 to determine the best placement to achieve a UVI of 2.0-3.0 in the basking area.)
Your UVB bulb must be long enough to span half of the enclosure and placed on the warm side of the setup. This bulb should be housed in an Arcadia ProT5 or Vivarium Electronics reflective fixture (yes, brand does make a difference).
In case of particularly large enclosures with a distance of more than 24″ from lamp to snake, an array of multiple UVB bulbs is likely going to be needed, which requires a Solarmeter 6.5 to set up correctly and safely.
Halogen and UVB lamps aren’t enough to create the kind of bright light that simulates daytime, particularly not in a giant python enclosure. You will also need nice bright ~6500K T5 HO fluorescent grow lights in a quad fixture, long enough to illuminate most of the enclosure’s length.
If you are trying to maintain live plants in your enclosure, you’re likely to get better results with LEDs rather than T5 HO fluorescents. The Arcadia Jungle Dawn LED Bar and the Bio Dude Glow & Grow LED are both good choices. One of these lamps is roughly equivalent in brightness to two T5 HOs of equivalent length.
Heating Requirements for Burmese Pythons
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Burmese pythons, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures in order to regulate their body temperature. This is the range that works best for keeping burmese pythons healthy:
- Basking: 90-92°F (32-34°C)
- Cool end: 80-88°F (27-31°C)
- Nighttime: 78-82°F (26-27°C)
In captivity, using halogen heat bulbs is the best way to replicate the way the earth is warmed by the sun. Because burmese pythons are large and require a warm tropical environment, ReptiFiles recommends using a cluster of at least 4 75w halogen flood bulbs such as:
- 75w PAR30 generic halogen flood heat bulbs
- 75w Arcadia Halogen Flood Heat Lamp
- 75w Zoo Med Repti Tuff Halogen Lamp
This combination is likely to deliver the best results by heating the snake’s body evenly with high-quality short wave infrared radiation.
If your heat lamps are mounted inside of the enclosure, make sure to cover them with bulb cages to prevent your snake from accidentally getting a nasty burn!
How to provide night heat for burmese pythons:
Because burmese pythons prefer nighttime temperatures that are higher than typical room temperature, you will most likely need a lightless heat source to maintain a comfortable environment for your pet at night. For a large enclosure, your best bet is a radiant heat panel (RHP) such as Pro Products or Vivarium Electronics.
To make sure the enclosure doesn’t get dangerously warm on accident, make sure to plug your RHP into a proportional thermostat such as the Herpstat 1, place the probe on the surface directly under the panel, and set it to 78°F / 26°C.
How to measure temperature in a burmese python enclosure:
To measure basking temperature, you will need a digital probe thermometer placed on the basking surface. Zip ties often work well for holding probes in place on branches, while silicone or grout can be used to secure them on other surfaces. For monitoring the cool end, you will need an additional digital probe thermometer placed in the shade in the middle of the setup. Most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well for this purpose.
Humidity Requirements for Burmese Pythons
Burmese pythons are a tropical species, and they are often found near bodies of water (remember, this species spends a significant amount of time in water in the wild). This means that they need higher levels of humidity in their enclosure. According to measurements taken from their native range, this should be around 60%, with occasional spikes higher during misting.
Just because burms need high humidity and like water doesn’t mean that they should be kept sopping wet. In fact, keeping them too wet can be just as bad as keeping them too dry, as this can quickly lead to respiratory infection. The key is to keep their enclosure humid but well-ventilated enough that is is capable of drying out between mistings. A screen top or enclosure with lots of vents on both sides is optimal.
Ambient humidity should be tracked via a digital hygrometer placed in the middle of the setup.
How to humidify your burmese python enclosure:
Given the size of even a “small” burmese python enclosure, it takes a lot to spray one down. You will need at least a gardening-grade pressure sprayer, or better yet, install a Mistking automatic misting system with nozzles every 2′ along the enclosure walls.
At minimum, the enclosure will need to be misted 2-3x/day, depending on your local humidity levels and how well the enclosure ventilates. Using an automatic misting system connected to a humidistat is arguably the best way to keep your humidity levels within optimal range, but make sure to keep the probe on the ground on the cool side to reduce the risk of flooding.
Creating a “pond” for your burmese python
Burmese pythons naturally live near bodies of water in the wild, and they are excellent swimmers. Although a pond isn’t technically “necessary” for this pet’s survival, it is highly recommended for their welfare. Spending time in water helps provide support for their heavy bodies, helps them feel safe from predators, and the water helps keep the enclosure humid. For these reasons it’s best practice to provide a sufficiently large, deep basin of water on the floor of the enclosure (it also doubles as a water bowl!). At minimum, this should be big enough for the snake to coil up and soak in with some room to spare. Optimally, it should be big enough for the snake to swim a bit.
Large plastic stock tubs and pond liners make great ponds, but they do take a while to clean. Alternatively you can build a bathtub-like basin and connect the pool to your home’s plumbing to make routine cleaning easier.
Change out the water once weekly or whenever it gets soiled. Give the basin a good scrub with veterinary disinfectant such as Rescue or F10SC before refilling. Using a Python siphon makes emptying the basin easier.
Substrate Options for Burmese Pythons
Burmese pythons are likely to be healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a substrate (a.k.a. “bedding”) that resembles the conditions of their natural habitat and facilitates high humidity. An additional consideration you need to make is cost-effectiveness and how easy it is to replace, as burms produce enough urine to make frequent substrate replacements a routine chore with this pet.
Good substrate options for a burmese python include:
- DIY tropical soil mix: 40% plain topsoil + 40% coconut fiber + 20% play sand (by weight)
- Coconut fiber
Provide a substrate layer that is at least 4” deep to cushion your snake’s heavy body and help maintain healthy humidity levels. In an 8′ x 4′ enclosure, this will take at least 80 US gallons of substrate to achieve. A generous layer of clean leaf litter on top will also help with humidity and provides a source of sensory enrichment for your snake!
Feces and urates should be removed immediately, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced as often as needed. In other words, it will be best to keep plenty of extra substrate on hand!
Décor Ideas for Burmese Pythons
Decorations play an important role in your python’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. These items are not optional — they are essential to promoting positive welfare for your pet! Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your snake’s natural instincts, and help stave off boredom. Pertaining to burmese pythons specifically, it’s important to support their natural proficiencies in both climbing and swimming!
- hollow logs
- sturdy branches
- thick and/or braided vines
- large, sturdy live plants (ex: ficus, dracaena, schefflera)
- large, sturdy artificial plants
- plastic dog kennels (for hiding)
At minimum, you will need a couple of sturdy branches and foliage for cover. However, I encourage you to go well beyond the minimum to optimize the amount of usable space in your pet’s home.
Finding décor items large enough for even a small burmese python is going to be almost impossible if you stick to pet stores. Try reptile expos or wholesalers for large branches and logs, or go foraging in chemical-free areas. Landscape supply stores can also be helpful. It’s also smart to brush up on your DIY skills, such as making homemade climbing vines.
All climbing objects should be firmly secured to the walls or floor of the enclosure to prevent them from falling and potentially injuring your pet!
Feeding Your Burmese Python
Burmese pythons are carnivores, which means that they need a diet of whole animal prey in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. While they are naturally thicker in body, this should not be confused for the obese, overfed animals often portrayed as “healthy.” There are different methods of feeding burmese pythons while keeping them in healthy, lean body condition. Here is one potential schedule based on the use of prey 1-1.5x the snake’s girth:
- Hatchlings (<1 year) — every 1-2 weeks
- Juveniles (1-2 years) — every 2-3 weeks
- Young adults (3-4 years) — every 3-4 weeks
- Adults (>4 years) — every 4-6 weeks
Larger meals should be more spaced out than smaller meals. Two smaller prey items can be offered in one feeding to add up to the equivalent of a larger animal. Beware of feeding too often (“power feeding”), as this may result in a larger adult, but it also strains their body and may cause organ dysfunction, obesity, and a shortened lifespan. In fact, occasionally letting adult burmese pythons go as long as 4 months between meals will help maintain good body condition, though the first meal after such a long fast should be smaller than usual.
Although rats are the most common feeders, burmese pythons are more likely to thrive with a more varied diet as a type of sensory enrichment. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier, happier snake!
Prey ideas for burmese pythons:
- African soft-furred rats
- domestic rats
- guinea pigs
These can generally be purchased from high-quality breeders such as Layne Labs, RodentPro, and Reptilinks. Talk to your local butcher or connect with a livestock farmer for access to larger whole prey.
It’s best to offer frozen-thawed prey rather than live to pet snakes. This is safer for the snake and generally considered to be more humane as well. Prey should be thawed in a plastic bag in warm water to around 100°F/38°C before offering.
Make sure to offer prey with a long pair of feeding tweezers to reduce the risk of getting accidentally bitten when the snake strikes! Alternatively, you can simply toss the prey into the enclosure.
Burmese pythons can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements, but using one every few feedings or so can be a good way to help deal with any nutritional deficiencies the prey items may have. Lightly dust the prey item with an all-in-one reptile supplement before thawing. Arcadia RevitaliseD3 and Repashy CalciumPlus LoD are both good options.
Your snake should be able to use its “pond” as a water bowl, but if for whatever reason you can’t provide a pond for your burmese python, make sure that it has a large bowl of clean water available at all times. These snakes drink a lot!
Handling Your Burmese Python
Handling is an essential part of owning a pet snake. Whether you prefer to keep it as a display animal, companion, or educational animal, getting it used to handling makes chores such as taking it to the vet and cleaning its enclosure a lot easier for both you and the animal, as it diminishes the stress of the experience. Regular handling, when done correctly, can also be a beneficial source of exercise and enrichment for your pet.
Considering that a full-grown burmese python will be effectively larger and stronger than you are, making the effort of taming and even training is extremely important for your own safety in caring for this animal. This is even the case for dwarves, although they are certainly more manageable.
After bringing your new burmese python home, place it in quarantine for at least 3 months to monitor its health and easily administer treatment if necessary. Once quarantine is finished, you can move the snake to/set up its permanent enclosure.
During quarantine, wait for the snake to be eating regularly before attempting handling. Before this point, you can start ‘tap training’ at feeding time and get your pet accustomed to you through daily enclosure maintenance. This is also a good time to learn about “choice-based handling” techniques, which is one of the best ways to develop a relationship of trust with a pet reptile — I recommend learning about this from professional snake trainer Lori Torrini on Youtube!
Your pet may require a readjustment period after being moved to its permanent enclosure.
Some additional handling tips:
- If your burmese python is 10′ long or larger, make sure to have at least one other person in the room with you during handling!
- Before you get your snake out of its enclosure, wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you are particularly smelly/have been spending a lot of time around other animals, it’s best to also change clothes.
- Once your hands are clean and don’t smell like potential food, use a paper towel roll on a snake hook to gently tap the snake on the head. This helps let your pet know that it’s time for handling.
- Use a snake hook to initially pick up the snake. After this, transfer it to both hands. One hand should be behind the head, and another should support the rest of the body. Then drape the snake around your body, supported by your shoulder on one side and under your arm on the other side. NEVER pick up a snake by its tail — this can cause severe damage to their spine!
- Since snakes don’t have hands or feet to help them climb, they use their powerful muscles to wrap around objects for stability. During handling, your burmese python will treat you like a tree, wrapping around your body, arms, legs, etc. so it doesn’t fall. Use your hands to guide its movement, and don’t let it wrap around your neck.
- Children should not be allowed to handle snakes alone.
Of course, always wash your hands and arms or apply hand sanitizer after handling your snake.
The ReptiFiles Burmese Python Care Sheet is a simplified care summary, not a full ReptiFiles care manual. While I have done my best to ensure that the information contained is accurate, due to time constraints, the research behind ReptiFiles care sheets is not as thorough as the research involved with my full-length care manuals. I strongly encourage readers to do their own research from high-quality, reputable sources outside of just this care sheet as part of preparing for your new pet reptile.