Blood Python: Care, Temperament, Handling & Breeding

They are changing their attitude and you can help them.

Be part of the Blood Python’s (Python brongersmai) attitude rebranding by owning one of these gorgeous reptiles.

These snakes have a bad reputation owning from the wild-caught specimens from the skin trade.

However, they have come a long way in adjusting their attitudes and captive-bred Blood pythons make decent and affectionate pets.

Owning one of these beauties is a long-term rewarding experience. By owning a stunning Blood python, you will be the envy of many herpetology enthusiasts.

This guide tells you how to properly care for your new best friend so that you share a long and happy life together.

Common NamesBlood Python, Brongersma’s Short-tailed Python, Red blood python, Bloods
Scientific NamePython brongersmai
Natural HabitatSwamps, Marshes, Tropical Rainforests
Adult Size4-8 feet 
Lifespan25 years
DietRodents and small birds
Experience LevelIntermediate
Enclosure Size48Lx24Wx12H inches

Overview

Blood pythons hail from Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. They were thought to be part of three sub-species of short-tailed pythons but were upgraded to their own species in 2001.

They have a reputation for being aggressive. Wild-caught specimens will be aggressive and often refuse to feed. However, captive-bred­ Bloods have docile natures and make good pets.

These snakes are not currently listed as endangered. However, they are actively hunted by people in the skin-trade in huge numbers.

Being a breeder or an owner of a Blood python can be tricky due to the size of the snake. However, these chubby snakes are completely manageable and will stick by you through thick and thin.

Temperament

These snakes have a historical reputation for having an aggressive temperament.

The only way they got into the pet trade was through the skin trade where they were hunted for their beautiful skins.

Captive-bred Blood pythons can be quite docile and are able to form bonds with their handlers through careful and regular handling.

Behavior

If a Blood python is being defensive, they may musk. This means they will spray a foul-smelling liquid from their vent to ward off attackers.

Otherwise, they may retreat to a hide or to their water bowl to relax and escape the attacker.

These snakes are crepuscular. This means that they are mostly active at dawn and dusk and will spend the day and night-time relaxing.

Lifespan

Captive-bred Bloods will live on average to 25 years. Some specimens have been known to live to 30 years.

This is a long-term commitment. Make sure you are ready for it.

Appearance

The average length of a male is 30-60 inches and a female is 48-72 inches, some specimens have been recorded at 96 inches! While this might not seem very long for a python, they make up for it in girth.

These pythons look like a strange mixture between comedic and aggressive because of the girth of their bodies compared to their relatively short length.

Blood python

Adults can weigh 20 pounds but some specimens have been reported to weigh in at 50 pounds!

This results in a short, chubby snake with a rather flat head. Regardless, these are truly beautiful creatures.

The best part about their coloring is that their heads are known to change color. An adult might start the day with a dark maroon head and end it with a pale tan head!

Their heads are blunted triangles and are quite flat. They have white lines on either side of the head which can make them quite sinister or funny-looking – you decide, we think they are quite striking.

Bloods will usually have some red pigmentation of the skin as is indicated by the name.

There are a variety of morphs in the Blood python and they can be bred with other short-tailed pythons in the area which results in a huge variety of morphs. Therefore, we chose to just describe the Blood python variations:

Normal

Normal Bloods have bright red bodies with yellow/tan/dark brown splotches running along their spines and sides.

Matrix

Matrix Bloods have a rusty-red to a dark brown body that is broken up by yellow/tan blocks in a pixelated-looking pattern.

Ivory

Ivory Bloods are mostly white with dark speckling down the spine.

Albino

Albinos can be orange, light red, caramel, or cream with one of the same colors breaking up the pattern in either the Normal or Matrix pattern.

Color and pattern morph predictions are pretty easy to make if you know the genetic history or the pythons you are breeding. This makes them a very rewarding species to breed.

Enclosure

We suggest a glass or plexiglass-type enclosure so that you can always view your stunning reptile. We would advise that it has wooden backing and sides to avoid excessive heat loss.

Always make sure that there is sufficient airflow, either through holes in the sides of plastic tubs or ventilation screens on top of adult enclosures. Be careful that the ventilation does not affect the humidity or temperature levels.

Make sure that the lids or doors of enclosures are secured because these snakes have a habit of pushing their way out to go exploring. Their bodies are heavily muscled so make sure that your enclosure is locked securely at all times.

Hatchlings

10 Gallon enclosures work perfectly for Blood python babies because they can get easily stressed in large enclosures. Plastic tubs are perfectly fine, provided they have ventilation holes poked through the sides or lid.

REPTI ZOO 10 Gallon Reptile Tank

REPTI ZOO 10 Gallon Reptile Tank

Six Months to Yearlings

When your snake gets to six months you must increase the size of its enclosure. You can either step it up to an adult enclosure or you can size up to a larger plastic tub that measures 18Lx10Wx7H inches.

Adults

Your adult Blood python should be able to stretch out its full length in its enclosure. It lives for 25 years so it deserves a decently sized enclosure. A good guide is 48Lx24Wx12H inches, always try to go for bigger though.

REPTI ZOO Large Glass Reptile Terrarium

REPTI ZOO Large Glass Reptile Terrarium

Provide your Blood python with some enrichment in the form of logs that it can hide behind or climb over and on top of. Make sure the logs are properly sanitized with boiling water and are not toxic to reptiles.

Substrate

Newspaper, brown paper, and paper towels are brilliant, economical forms of substrate. They might not look the best but they are easy to clean and do not cost a huge amount of money.

Consider that you will be spot cleaning the substrate once a day and completely replacing it every other week, fancy aquarium-style gravel can get pretty pricey and is completely unnecessary.

Some natural options are aspen and beech wood chips, coconut husk fibers, and cypress mulch. They are great forms of substrate because they hold moisture well.

Zoo Med’s Forest Floor 100% Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding

Zoo Med’s Forest Floor 100% Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding

Never use pine or cedar shavings. These types of woods have oils in them that are toxic to your snake. They will irritate the skin and cause respiratory issues.

Blood pythons do not necessarily burrow, however they do hide in leaf litter to ambush prey. Crumple up some of the newspaper/brown paper/paper towels so the snake can “dig” its way under it.

Spot clean the substrate daily, leaving feces in the enclosure will lead to health issues. Replace the substrate once every other week and do a full clean and sanitization once a month.

Lighting

Blood pythons do not need special lighting to live a full life, however, it can provide additional health benefits. The light will improve the enclosure’s aesthetic and bring out all the amazing hues in your snake’s skin.

You can put a fluorescent light or UVB light in the tank. Just make sure the lighting does not change the temperature gradient or humidity levels.

Your snake requires a 12/12 light/dark cycle. Put the light is on a timer so mistakes are not made. For this purpose we are using programmable Zilla Digital Timer.

Zilla Digital Timer

Zilla Digital Timer

Temperature

The enclosure needs to be long enough for there to be an even temperature gradient. Your snake will move between the two to thermoregulate.

Place a thermometer on either side of the tank as well as in the basking spot. Use reliable thermometers as the correct temperature is key to your Blood python’s health.

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

Cool Side

The cool side of the enclosure should be between 76°F and 80°F. Provide your python with a hide-away on this side of the enclosure.

Make sure the temperature does not drop below 74°F. Remember that the Blood python comes from tropical climates and the enclosure needs to mimic that.

Warm Side

The warm side of the enclosure should be between 86°F and 88°F. To maintain the heat, we suggest you place an under-tank heating pad on the warm side of the tank.

VIVOSUN Reptile Heat Mat with Digital Thermostat

VIVOSUN Reptile Heat Mat with Digital Thermostat

Provide your python with a hide-away on this side of the enclosure. In this hideaway, you can put some sphagnum moss to help your snake stay comfortable during shedding time.

Basking Area

The basking area should be a constant 89°F. You can place a heat bulb in this spot but make sure it is housed in a protective dome so your snake does not burn itself.

Makes sure the bulb is on a timer, like Zilla Digital Timer, so it does not interrupt the light/dark cycle of your python.

Humidity

Bloods come from humid tropical climates. Your enclosure needs to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible.

The humidity should be between 60% and 70%. Do not exceed this. Anything higher and your snake will develop respiratory issues and their scales will wrinkle.

Use a quality hygrometer to measure the humidity levels in the tank. Correct humidity is essential to your python’s health.

If humidity is running low, increase the number of times you mist the enclosure. You can check your snake to see if they are suffering from low humidity – their scales will look dimpled.

If humidity is running high, let the enclosure air out a bit and either reduce misting or see if the substrate has become saturated.

Diet

Your Blood python will drink a lot of water. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water every day.

These snakes love to soak, especially around shedding time. Provide them with a water-tight dish large enough for them to fit in and deep enough to cover just over half of their girth.

Keep this water clean, dirty water will encourage bacterial growth and infections like mouth rot. Do not make the dish too deep as the snake can drown.

Food sizing is fairly simple. The girth of the food should not exceed the girth of the snake at its thickest point (not the head).

We always recommend feeding your snake thawed food. Live prey can transmit parasites and attack your snake in defense, you also have the added expense of maintaining the live prey.

To thaw the prey item simply put it in a bowl of hot water until it reaches room temperature.

Never feed partially frozen prey to your snake. The temperature drop that your snake will experience is fatal.

  • Feed your hatchlings one pinky a week and juveniles one rodent a week according to our sizing recommendations.
  • Your juveniles will generally eat throughout the winter months.
  • Feed your adults one slightly smaller rodent once a week or a slightly larger rodent every second week.

We suggest that you feed your Blood python in their enclosure. They are ambush predators so they might not feed if they have just been moved.

Never handle your snake 24 hours before, during, or for 48 hours after they feed. Handling during this time will stress the snake and it will either not feed, attack, or regurgitate the food.

Bloods, like most snakes, do not generally feed around shedding-time. Do not stress, wait a bit, and offer them food in a week.

Handling

Always sanitize your hands before handling your reptiles and between handling different reptiles. Snakes have especially sensitive skin and are prone to communicable diseases and infections.

Blood pythong with hook

We suggest hook-training your Blood python right from the beginning. The hook training will let the snake know that when it is being hooked it is going to be handled and it will not associate it with food.

DocSeward Snake Hook

DocSeward Snake Hook

However, having said that make sure you have not handled any prey before you handle your python as their sense of smell is highly evolved.

Blood pythons are hefty snakes so make sure you support their body at all times to limit the amount of stress they may feel. They do not appreciate being draped over the shoulders due to their bodies’ proportions.

Avoid touching the top of your python’s head, it may jerk back and can surprise you/the handler which can cause the snake to be squeezed or dropped. This in turn can cause the snake to react aggressively and bite.

Regular and careful handling will lead to your Blood python developing a healthy relationship with being handled. Keep handling sessions short and calming.

Do not be surprised if your python huffs and puffs while you handle it! This is their way of vocalizing and can be a little startling at first.

Potential Health Issues

External Parasites

Mites are always a problem for snakes. They are red or black parasites that burrow under the scales to get at the blood.

They carry parasites themselves which can cause additional health problems. Getting rid of them is a top priority

You can spot them by looking for tiny dots on your snake or the substrate. They like to target the eyes and mouth the most.

Water provides relief for the snake. If your snake is over-soaking, check them for mites.

Your Blood has developed this infestation because of insufficient enclosure care. Immediately clean out and sanitize the enclosure.

Respiratory Issues

Blood pythons are incredibly susceptible to respiratory problems. This is partially due to their high-humidity environment and partially due to poor enclosure management.

If your snake is gurgling or blowing bubbles then it is a good sign that they have a respiratory infection and need the vet’s help. Check that their humidity levels are correct and look at shifting it to the lower side of the range.

Scale Issues

If humidity is too high or your snake is over-soaking their scales will become wrinkled and puckered. There should not be any lasting damage once you correct the humidity levels or figure out why they are over-soaking.

If humidity is too low your Blood’s scales will become dimpled, luckily this is an easy-fix situation. Give your snake a good soak and raise the humidity level of its enclosure.

Juveniles might have some issues surrounding shedding. If there are patches of shed adhered to the skin after a shed, they can become infected. In adults, they will simply shed these bits in the next shed.

You can fix this by giving your juveniles a good soak to help release the stuck pieces of the shed.

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot happens when a snake’s enclosure is too humid and they get a bacterial infection in the most vulnerable part of their body: the mouth. Your snake will need medical attention and your enclosure will need full sterilization.

Obesity

Bloods are chunky snakes so do not rush straight to the vet when your snake looks like it has swallowed a couple of footlongs. However, they can become obese due to their willingness to feed and overeager owners.

Obesity can lead to liver and heart failure so keep an eye on your snake’s weight.

Breeding

Blood pythons reach sexual maturity at two to four years old. We would advise only breeding a female that is at least three years old.

A brumation period is unnecessary for Blood pythons. You can drop the night-time temperatures slightly in the winter months to mimic their natural habitat but do not go lower than 74°F.

  • Introduce the male to the female’s enclosure in the winter months. This makes sure the female is the most comfortable.
  • Introduce the male in the evening because these snakes are crepuscular.
  • Mist the enclosure just before putting him in.

You can leave the male and female together for four to five months to ensure the pair mates several times.

Remove the male when you need to feed your Bloods. When you reintroduce him to the female it will create more interest and ensure that the snakes do not attack each other over the prey.

You will know the female is gravid when she begins to swell with the eggs. You can remove the male now.

Put a nesting box in the enclosure for the female to lay the eggs in at the 84°F mark. We recommend a wooden box lined with sphagnum moss that is large enough for the female to coil in.

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

The female will lay on average 12 to 16 eggs; however, this number can vary greatly according to her age, health, and size. If you wish to remove the eggs and incubate them separately do so now and not after the female has begun to brood.

Brooding

Brooding is the “maternal” behavior of the female once she has lain her eggs. She will wrap around them to incubate and protect them, in some instances, she will shiver to generate extra warmth.

Your Blood will not feed during this time and will lose almost half her body weight. This is natural and you should not panic.

Hatching

The babies will hatch in approximately 60 days. Once they have absorbed the yolk sac you can remove them to their own enclosure.

We do not recommend housing hatchlings together as they can cannibalize each other if their prey instincts get confused.

Conclusion

Blood Pythons (Python brongersmai) are stunning pets that you can develop a good bond with. Pick your breeder carefully to make sure that you are not getting a wild-caught snake.

Before purchasing your snake, look it over for any obvious health issues and ask lots of questions. Make contact with a vet in your area that has some experience with pythons.

Owning and caring for a Blood python is extremely rewarding. They live a long time and will develop a relationship with you through regular handling.

We wish you the best of luck on your new journey. We “herp” you have a successful relationship with your new Blood.

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