Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)
Welcome to the ReptiFiles Green Tree 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.
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Green tree pythons are moderately robust, constrictor-type snakes with smooth scales, peanut-shaped head, distinct neck, vertical pupils, and heat pits on the snout and lips. The rear portion of the head is divided into two large bulges. Length averages between 40-51″ (1-1.3m), with females being significantly larger, and as long as 63″ (1.6m) is possible.
Although best known for their bright green adult color, adult green tree pythons may also have aquamarine and/or yellow markings. Due to a phenomenon called ontogenetic color change, juvenile green tree pythons look very different from adults, with a dark red or bright yellow base color interrupted by yellow/white or maroon/brown markings, respectively.
Green tree pythons are primarily native to New Guinea and the surrounding islands, but they can also be found on Northern Australia’s Cape York Peninsula. They prefer tropical forest for habitat, where they are mainly arboreal (tree-dwelling) in habit, although they will come down to the ground to hunt. Adults are crepuscular, which means that they are mostly active around dusk and dawn, but juveniles are more diurnal (day-active).
Due to their stunning appearance, green tree pythons are popular pets and display animals, and when purchased captive-bred, can be relatively hardy in captivity. If you pay attention to providing appropriate green tree python care, this pet is likely to live 15-20 years.
Supplies You Need for a Pet Green Tree Python
These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional green tree python enclosure. 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.
- 3’L x 2’W x 2’H reptile enclosure (front-opening)
- Zoo Med Nano Combo Dome Lamp Fixture, x2
- 35w Zoo Med Nano Halogen Lamp, x4
- Arcadia ShadeDweller MAX UVB kit
- 34″ Arcadia JungleDawn LED Bar
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- Exo Terra Mister
- 30-60 quarts coconut fiber/coir
- Climbing branches, at least 2
- Live or artificial foliage (preferably live)
- Zoo Med Digital Combo Thermometer Humidity Gauge, x2
- Large water bowl
- Repashy Calcium Plus LoD
- 12″ soft-tipped feeding tongs
Recommended Enclosure Size for Green Tree Pythons
A snake’s enclosure should be at least large enough to allow the animal to stretch out to its full length as desired. Since green tree pythons are arboreal, you must also allow enough height for climbing/perching. This leads to a fitter and overall healthier snake both physically and psychologically. An enclosure measuring at least 3’L x 2’W x 2’H, or 0.9m x 0.6m x 0.6m is a good starting point.
Here are some enclosures suitable for housing a green tree python long-term:
- Custom Reptile Habitats
- Zen Habitats
- Reptile Habitats
Using an enclosure larger than the minimum is strongly recommended. Bigger is always better as long as the space is useable to your pet! Green tree pythons have a reputation for being sedentary and sitting curled up on a branch all day, but the truth is that they are active snakes which will travel an average of 164’/50m per day in the wild (Julander).
Once established, young green tree 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 green tree pythons be housed together?
Green tree pythons are not particularly social animals, so you don’t have to worry about them getting lonely. In fact, keeping multiple pythons together is likely to be stressful for the snakes and lead to competition for resources, preventing them from thriving. For this reason it’s best to house only one individual per enclosure.
Lighting & UVB Requirements for Green Tree Pythons
One of the things that makes green tree pythons unique is that they are primarily diurnal when they are young, but they become more crepuscular after they change into their adult coloring. Crepuscular means that they are primarily active at nighttime, particularly around sunset and sunrise.
What does this mean for you? It means that your pet is likely to benefit from having a brightly illuminated environment during the day, as well as access to UVB lighting, even as an adult. Aside from regulating their day/night cycle and associated hormonal rhythms, UVB lighting in particular gives snakes all of the vitamin D3 they need, supports immune health, and encourages increased activity and better appetite. Although green tree pythons can technically survive without UVB light, ReptiFiles strongly recommends providing it in order to promote optimum welfare!
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day and completely turned off at night.
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 should be placed as follows. Given distance is from the snake’s back to the UVB lamp.
- Arcadia ShadeDweller MAX
- mounted over mesh — 6-8″
- mounted under mesh — 8-10″
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 or Arcadia Forest 6%
- mounted over mesh — 9-11”
- 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.)
Your UVB bulb must be long enough to span half to two-thirds 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).
Halogen and UVB lamps generally 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 for both sheer illuminatory power and nurturing plant growth.
Heating Requirements for Green Tree Pythons
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Green tree 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 green tree pythons:
- Basking: 80-86°F (27-30°C)
- Cool end: 70-80°F (21-26°C)
- Nighttime: 68-72°F (20-22°C)
In captivity, using incandescent heat bulbs is the best way to replicate the way a reptile’s environment is warmed by the sun. Because green tree pythons prefer relatively low temperatures and will be basking fairly close to the heat source, ReptiFiles recommends using a cluster of at least 4 35w halogen flood bulbs such as the Arcadia Halogen Flood Heat Lamp or Zoo Med Nano Halogen Heat Lamp in a couple of Zoo Med Nano Combo Dome Lamp Fixtures. This combination is likely to deliver the best results by heating the snake’s body evenly with high-quality infrared radiation.
- If this is not possible for whatever reason, success is also likely to be achieved with an arrangement of 2 60-100w tungsten incandescent heat bulbs such as the Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp mounted in the Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome Dual Lamp Fixture.
How to measure temperature in a green tree python enclosure:
To measure basking temperature, you will need a digital probe thermometer placed on the basking branch. Zip ties often work well for holding probes in place. 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.
If you notice that your basking area is getting too hot, dial it down with a rheostat or proportional (dimming) thermostat. If your basking area is too cool, you will need higher wattage bulbs.
Humidity Requirements for Green Tree Pythons
Green tree pythons are a tropical species, and sensitive to dehydration, but that 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! The key is to keep their enclosure humid but well-ventilated enough that is is capable of drying out between mistings.
Green tree pythons are likely to do best with humidity levels that fluctuate between 40-70%. Higher right after a misting is fine as long as the enclosure is allowed to dry out to around 40% before misting again.
- Note: Hatchlings and juveniles are more prone to dehydration than older individuals.
Ambient humidity should be tracked via digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the setup.
How to humidify your green tree python terrarium:
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 4 nozzles.
Substrate Options for Green Tree Pythons
Green tree pythons are likely to be 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. Options for substrate include:
- DIY tropical mix: 40% plain topsoil + 40% coconut fiber + 20% play sand (by weight)
- Zoo Med Reptisoil
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Bio Dude Terra Firma bioactive kit
- Josh’s Frogs BioBedding Tropical bioactive substrate
Provide a substrate layer that is 2-4” deep to cushion your snake’s body and help maintain healthy humidity levels. This takes about 30-60 quarts of substrate to achieve in an 3′ x 2′ 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 Green Tree 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
- thick and/or braided vines
- large, sturdy live plants (ex: ficus, dracaena, pothos, schefflera)
- sturdy artificial plants
- ceiling-mounted hide boxes
At minimum, you will need a couple of sturdy branches and foliage for cover. One of these branches needs to be within 12″ of the ground to function as a “hunting perch”. However, I encourage you to go well beyond the minimum to maximize the amount of usable space in your pet’s home.
All branches should be firmly secured to the walls or floor of the enclosure to prevent them from falling and potentially injuring your snake. However, it’s best to make these branches removable as well so you don’t have to fight your snake if you need to take it out.
Feeding Your Green Tree Python
Green tree pythons are carnivores, which means that they need a diet of whole animal prey in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. Here’s a potential feeding schedule to keep your pet in lean body condition:
- Hatchlings — every 5-7 days
- Juveniles — every 1-2 weeks
- Adults — every 2-4 weeks
Food should be offered after the snake starts to ‘tell’ you that it’s hungry by demonstrating more restless behavior/increased activity and hanging out on the lowest “hunting perch”.
A good rule of thumb is to provide a prey item(s) which totals around 15% of your snake’s weight for individuals younger than 2 years old, 5-10% for individuals between 2-5 years old, and around 5% for those older. You can weigh your snake by placing them in a plastic tub or bowl on a kitchen gram scale.
Although rats and mice are the most common feeders, snakes generally need to more than just rats and mice to truly thrive. The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet snake is VARIETY, the way they eat in the wild. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier snake!
Prey ideas for green tree pythons:
- African soft-furred rats
- domestic rats
- Reptilinks (iguana and frog meat in particular)
These can be purchased from high-quality breeders such as Layne Labs, RodentPro, and Reptilinks.
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.
- Tip: Hornworm moths can be offered to green tree pythons as an occasional treat and enrichment activity! You will need to raise them yourself from captive-bred hornworms, but these can be released live into your snake’s enclosure for it to hunt.
Green tree pythons can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements, but using them can be a good way to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Occasionally 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 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 Green Tree 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.
Green tree pythons have a reputation for being “bitey” or “unhandleable,” but respectful, gentle handling and sourcing your pet from a breeder can result in a quite tame adult. Note, however, that it is very normal for juvenile green tree pythons to be nervous and defensive at first.
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.
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 an adult green tree 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, particularly for juveniles!
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 green tree 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 snakes alone.
Of course, always wash your hands and arms or apply hand sanitizer after handling your snake.
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The ReptiFiles Green Tree 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.