Carpet Python (Morelia spilota)
Carpet pythons (also known as diamond pythons) are moderately robust, constrictor-type snakes with a broad base of the head, distinct neck, vertical pupils, and heat pits on the snout and lips. Coloring varies significantly from subspecies to subspecies, with a pattern that can be banded, spotted, or blotched. Length also varies, between 5’ to 8’ / 1.5-2.5m on average.
Carpet pythons can be found throughout Australia, excluding southern Victoria and the arid central and western regions. But generally speaking, this species is highly adaptable, and may be found in tropical forest, dry woodland, savanna woodland, rocky outcrops, and even in urban areas. Though semi-arboreal, they are most often encountered on the ground, and may occupy burrows made by other animals.
There are 6 known subspecies of carpet python, although some are more common than others in the pet trade:
- Morelia spilota cheynei (Jungle Carpet Python)
- Morelia spilota harrisoni (Irian Jaya Carpet Python)
- Morelia spilota mcdowelli (Coastal Carpet Python)
- Morelia spilota metcalfei (Inland Carpet Python)
- Morelia spilota spilota (Diamond Carpet Python)
- Morelia spilota variegata (Darwin Carpet Python)
These snakes can make interesting and engaging pets for keepers who have the space and are willing to make the effort to tame them. When you pay careful attention to providing appropriate carpet python care, this pet may live 20-30+ years.
Supplies You Need for a Pet Carpet Python
These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional carpet python enclosure. The recommendations below apply to most carpet pythons 8′ / 2.4m long and shorter. Some of the links in this care sheet are paid links — if you’d like to know why ReptiFiles uses paid links, visit this page.
Items marked with an * are recommended to be purchased in-person rather than online.
- 8’L x 4’W x 4’H reptile enclosure (front-opening)
- Arcadia Pro Ceramic Lamp Holder & Bracket or Zoo Med Deep Dome Lamp Fixture, x4
- 50w Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp, x4
- Power strip (for heat lamps)
- SUNTHIN 240W Outdoor Dimmer
- Etekcity 774 infrared thermometer
- Zoo Med Digital Combo Thermometer Humidity Gauge
- Arcadia Forest 6% or Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0, 46″
- Arcadia ProT5 fixture or Vivarium Electronics T5 HO Single Bulb Light Strip, 48″
- 34″ Arcadia LED Bar, x2
- Exo Terra Mister
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- 2-4″ substrate
- 1 cu. ft. bag plain topsoil, x2*
- 24qt bag Zoo Med Reptisoil, x2*
- 50lb bag play sand, x2*
- 4′ long (or larger) climbing branch*
- Reptile hides/caves, x2 (small enough to provide a tight squeeze)*
- Environmental enrichment items
- Large water bowl
- Repashy Calcium Plus LoD
- 12″ feeding tongs
Recommended Enclosure Size for Carpet Pythons
A good formula for estimating the minimum enclosure dimensions for a semi-arboreal snake is: Full snake length x half snake length x full snake length = length x width x height
Carpet pythons vary in adult length based on subspecies and parentage, so it’s best to ask the breeder about the size of your snake’s parents, and then plan the enclosure based on the largest measurement given. If you don’t have access to information about your snake’s parents, planning for your carpet python to get about 6.5’ / 2m long is a good starting point. This would require an enclosure of at least 6.5’L x 3.25’W x 6.5’H, or 2m x 1m x 2m.
Here are some enclosures suitable for housing a carpet python long-term:
- Maximum Reptile Essential 8 Foot PVC & Aluminum Enclosure
- Kages 96″X48″X48″ / 8’X4’X4′ Premium PVC Reptile Enclosure
Using an enclosure larger than the minimum is strongly recommended. Bigger is always better! Carpet pythons are active snakes that need a spacious enclosure that offers both terrestrial and arboreal space to facilitate natural behaviors such as thermoregulation, hydroregulation, photoregulation, hunting, climbing, and hiding. This leads to a fitter and overall healthier snake.
Because you will need such a large enclosure, it’s most cost-effective to build your own enclosure rather than buy one, if at all possible. The DIY Reptile & Amphibian Enclosures group on Facebook is a good place to get tips on how to do this.
Once established, young carpet pythons can be housed in an adult-sized enclosure with no problems as long as they have enough places to hide and feel secure.
Can multiple carpet pythons be housed together?
Carpet pythons are not social animals, which means that you don’t have to worry about them getting lonely. In fact, keeping multiple pythons together is stressful for the snakes and causes competition for resources, preventing them from thriving. For this reason it’s best to house only one python per enclosure.
Lighting & UVB Requirements for Carpet Pythons
Carpet pythons are primarily nocturnal, but they are also known to be occasionally active during the day. This means that they are highly likely to benefit from having a brightly illuminated environment during the day, as well as access to UVB lighting. Aside from regulating their day/night cycle and associated hormonal rhythms, UVB lighting in particular gives the snake all of the vitamin D3 it needs, supports immune health, and encourages increased activity levels. Although carpet pythons can technically survive without UVB light, ReptiFiles strongly recommends providing it in order to promote optimum welfare!
Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter to encourage natural hormonal cycling.
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. To provide appropriate UVB, you will need a Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 or Arcadia Forest 6% bulb, long enough to span half of the enclosure and placed on the warm side of the enclosure. This bulb should be housed in an Arcadia ProT5 or Vivarium Electronics reflective fixture (yes, this does make a difference).
The basking branch should be placed as follows. Given distance is from the snake’s back to the UVB lamp.
- UVB mounted over mesh — 9-11”
- UVB mounted under mesh — 12-15”
(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.)
In such a large enclosure, halogen and UVB lamps aren’t enough to create the kind of bright light that simulates daytime. You will also need a nice bright 6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow light, long enough to span most of the enclosure’s length. I prefer the Arcadia Jungle Dawn LED Bar and the Bio Dude Glow & Grow LED.
These lamps are also great for supporting any live plants you may have in the setup.
Heating Requirements for Carpet Pythons
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Carpet pythons, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures in order to regulate their body temperature. In captivity, using a halogen flood heat bulb is the best way to replicate the type of warmth provided by sunlight.
- Basking surface: 95-100°F (35-38°C)
- Cool end: 75-80°F (24-26°C)
- Nighttime temps: 72-78°F (22-25°C)
Decreasing winter temperatures by 5-10°F / 3-5°C helps encourage natural seasonal hormonal cycling.
Generally speaking, a cluster of 50w halogen flood bulbs such as the Arcadia Halogen Flood Heat Lamp or Zoo Med Repti Tuff Halogen Lamp should be plenty to achieve your target surface temperature on the basking branch.
If you notice that they’re getting too hot, dial it down with a plug-in lamp dimmer or proportional thermostat. The most way to dim everything evenly is to plug the lamps into a power strip, and then plug that power strip into the lamp dimmer. If your basking surface is too cool, you will need higher wattage bulbs.
You will need multiple heat bulbs to create a large enough basking area to evenly heat your carpet python’s coiled body. Start with two bulbs and add more to the cluster as your snake grows.
To measure the basking surface temperature, use an infrared thermometer (a.k.a. temperature gun). To measure the temperature of the warm hide, use a digital probe thermometer. The Etekcity 774 is a good infrared thermometer, and most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.
Humidity Requirements for Carpet Pythons
Carpet pythons are not picky about humidity, but they seem to do best between 40-60%, with free access to a humid hide lined by moistened sphagnum moss or substrate to use as needed. Ambient humidity should be tracked via digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the setup.
To raise the humidity in your snake’s enclosure, you can use a pressure sprayer like the Exo Terra Mister to mist the habitat every evening, and again in the morning if needed. Alternatively you can install a Mistking automatic misting system with at least 6 nozzles. The enclosure should be well ventilated enough to dry out between mistings.
Substrate Options for Carpet Pythons
Carpet pythons are healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a substrate (a.k.a. “bedding”) that imitates the conditions of their natural habitat and facilitates moderate to high humidity.
- DIY temperate mix: 40% plain topsoil + 40% Zoo Med Reptisoil + 20% play sand
- Zoo Med Reptisoil
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
- Bio Dude Terra Firma bioactive kit
Provide a substrate layer that is 2-4” deep to cushion your snake’s body and help maintain healthy humidity levels. This takes about 5 ft³ or 150 quarts of substrate to achieve in an 8′ x 4′ enclosure. A generous layer of clean leaf litter on top is recommended.
Feces and urates should be removed immediately, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Substrate should be completely replaced every 3-4 month depending on how diligent you are about routine spot-cleaning.
Décor Ideas for Carpet 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.
- cork logs
- sturdy branches
- large, sturdy live plants (ex: ficus, dracaena, schefflera)
- sturdy artificial plants
- additional hides
At minimum, you will need a sturdy climbing branch, foliage for cover, and two hiding places.
All branches should be firmly secured to the walls or floor of the enclosure to prevent them from falling and potentially injuring your snake. This is especially important as your pet matures and becomes heavier!
Feeding Your Carpet Python
Carpet pythons are carnivores, which means that they need a diet of whole animal prey in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. Juveniles should be fed every 1-2 weeks, and adults should be fed every 2-4 weeks.
A good rule of thumb is to provide a prey item(s) which totals around 10% of your snake’s weight, assuming that the snake is not obese. Each item should be no more than 1.5x larger than the snake at its widest point.
Although rats and mice are the most common feeders, carpet pythons should eat more than just rats and mice to truly thrive. The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet snake is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier snake!
Prey ideas for carpet pythons:
- African soft-furred rats
- domestic rats
- guinea pigs
It’s best to offer frozen-thawed prey rather than live to your pet snake. 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. Use soft-tipped feeding tweezers to reduce the risk of getting accidentally bitten when the snake strikes.
Carpet pythons can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements, but they can be a good way to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Occasionally lightly dust the prey item with a 50/50 mix of calcium and multivitamin before thawing. Arcadia RevitaliseD3 and Repashy CalciumPlus LoD are both good options.
Your snake should have free access to a large bowl of fresh water every day. This water should always be kept clean, with the bowl scrubbed out with veterinary disinfectant such as Rescue or F10SC weekly for good hygiene.
Handling Your Carpet 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. Regular handling, when done correctly, can also be a beneficial source of exercise and enrichment for your pet.
After your python has settled into its new home, start handling sessions at no more than 5 minutes every few days. After a couple weeks of this, gradually work your way up to longer periods of time more frequently. Once your snake is up to it, handle for 10-15 minutes daily for best results. Note that it is normal for carpet pythons <2 years old to be more nervous and nippy.
Before you get your snake out of its enclosure, wash your hands with soap and water. This gets weird scents off, and removes potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites from your hands. If you are particularly smelly/have been spending a lot of time around other animals, it is also advisable to change clothes. I like to rub hand sanitizer on my hands as well to make sure I’m labeled by a consistent scent that is very different from food.
Once your hands are clean and smell like chemicals, use a paper towel roll or snake hook to gently tap the snake on the head. This lets your pet know that it’s time for handling — not food — and prevents potential accidents caused by a misunderstanding. Once the snake shows calm, slow tongue flicks, it is safe to pick it up.
Use both hands to pick up and adult carpet python. One hand should be behind the head, and another should support the rest of the body. 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 carpet python will treat you like a tree, wrapping around your body, arms, 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 carpet pythons alone.
Of course, always wash your hands and arms or apply hand sanitizer after handling your snake.
- Battaglia, J. (2011, December 1). Jungle Carpet Python Care Tips. Reptiles Magazine. https://reptilesmagazine.com/jungle-carpet-python-care-tips/
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- Borden, S. (2019, February 4). Husbandry of the Jungle Carpet Python in Captivity. Medium; Medium. https://medium.com/@morelialife33/husbandry-of-the-jungle-carpet-python-in-captivity-706039def4a5
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- O’Shea, M. (2018). The Book of Snakes (p. 93). The University of Chicago Press.
- Sunrise and sunset times in Brisbane. (n.d.). Timeanddate.Com. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/australia/brisbane
- Vella, D. (2019, March). Carpet and Diamond Python Care. Sydney Exotics & Rabbit Vets. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a32eb11bce176ea4c483683/t/5c918ff2652dea5cc3912c69/1553043444555/DiamondCarpetCare.pdf
- Wilson, S., & Swan, G. (2020). Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia (Sixth Edition, pp. 550–555). Reed New Holland.
The ReptiFiles Carpet Python Care Sheet is a simplified care summary, not a full ReptiFiles care guide. 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 guides. 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.