Children’s Python: The Ultimate Care Guide & Enclosure Setup

The best pet snake ever!

The Children’s Python (Antaresia Childreni) is one of the best snakes to own. They are small enough that the costs associated with purchasing and providing upkeep are not huge or even close to another python such as a Ball Python.

Children’s Pythons are very long-lived, great handlers, and have unique personalities. They are often overlooked by owners for their bigger relatives such as the Ball, Carpet, or Reticulated Pythons.

Common Name:Children’s Python
Scientific Name:Antaresia Childreni
Natural Habitat:Northern and Central Australia
Adult Size:Average at 3 feet
Lifespan:20 to 30 years
Diet:Mice and Rats
Experience Level:Beginner
Enclosure Size:20 gallon long with height for climbing

Reptile Overview

The Children’s Pythons is named after the British scientist who described it, John George Children. Even though ‘children’ is in their name, they are not the best pets for children as they are fragile due to their smaller stature.

These snakes are often overlooked in the reptile community outside of Australia as they are somewhat plainer looking than a Carpet or Ball Python. However, they make fantastic pets and require very little in the way of special care.

They are incredibly easy to breed and feed. They readily take pinkies from the week after they are born and will happily switch to mice and rats as they get older. They are eager breeders, just leaving males and females in the same enclosure will result in babies.

Appearance

Australia put a ban on exporting animals before the newer color morphs made it to countries outside of the continent. Therefore, outside of Australia the Children’s Pythons that you will see will have very similar patterning and coloring.

Having said that, they are still incredible to look at. They have the traditionally triangular python-shaped head with labial heat pits. They have massive eyes that are brightly colored that look very similar to Reticulated Python’s eyes.

Children's Python head and eyes

As they are pythons, they have very small vestigial ‘legs’ near their cloacas. However, they only get to 3 feet in length!

Children’s Pythons are tan-colored snakes with darker markings. The markings can range from pale brown to black. These markings follow a similar pattern to the Green Anaconda. Their bellies are usually a light tan to yellow color.

In Australia, there are many different color morphs. They range from lilac to almost melanistic looking. In terms of patterning, the Australian breeders have been able to find and breed patternless Children’s Pythons!

Temperament

As juveniles, the Children’s pythons can be a bit nippy. However, their heads are very small so the bite isn’t too bad.

As well-socialized adults, they have a mellow temperament that makes them wonderful for handling. They rarely bite when they get to adult size and live a comfortable life.

Captive breeding is partly responsible for their relaxed temperaments as adult snakes. The ‘wildness’ has been bred out of them and they do not come from highly stressful situations that would provoke aggressive behavior.

Behavior

Children’s Pythons are very active snakes. This is why they need the length and height of their enclosures to explore and be properly enriched.

They are naturally nocturnal snakes to avoid the blistering heat of Australia. However, you can spot them at most times throughout the day exploring a new part of their enclosure.

These snakes are mostly terrestrial; however, they are semi-arboreally inclined. They love finding spaces that are high up to explore and curl up into.

Lifespan

The average well-cared-for Children’s Python will live over 20 years!

They are slow growers so do not power feed them to get them to their adult size as this will shorten their lifespan dramatically.

Enclosure

The juvenile-sized enclosure should not be smaller than 10 gallons. At about 18 months they should be moved up to a 20-gallon enclosure.

If you have a female, a larger male, or multiple Children’s Pythons in the same enclosure then the enclosure must be a minimum of 30 gallons.

REPTI ZOO Large Glass Reptile Terrarium

REPTI ZOO Large Glass Reptile Terrarium

Glass, plexiglass, or plastic enclosures are perfectly suitable. We do not recommend a wooden enclosure as the chance of mold developing is high. Mold and fungal spores are toxic to snakes.

Keep in mind that the enclosure should provide a fair amount of vertical space for your Children’s Python to explore.

The enclosure should have decent ventilation as stagnant moist air will lead to respiratory issues.

There should be a number of hideaways to provide your Children’s Python with suitable coverage and privacy. Ensure that there is sufficient coverage between the hideaways so that your snake does not feel exposed.

Hideaways can include hollow logs, hollow bamboo, caves, upturned plastic bowls, real or fake foliage, etc. The hideaways should be large enough to fit the whole snake but small enough that the fit is snug and there won’t be much room around your snake.

If you decide to use a bioactive enclosure, ensure the plant life is not toxic to your snake. Ferns are always a good idea as they are cheap, do well in reptile enclosures, and provide wonderful natural coverage for the snake.

Include nature’s helpers in the bioactive enclosure to minimize the clean-up for you and maximize your snake’s health. Isopods, earthworms, and springtails all help to aerate the soil, eat fecal matter you might’ve missed, and keep the enclosure mold-free.

If you are maintaining a bioactive enclosure, you will need to top up the substrate every 3 months and keep a careful eye on drainage. You will need to scrape and clean the walls every month.

If you are not using a bioactive enclosure, the entire enclosure will need to be cleaned out every month and the substrate replaced every two weeks.

When you use any form of wood or stone in the enclosure it must be properly sterilized first. Boil the item in water then bake it at a low temperature in the oven till it is bone dry. This process will kill off any harmful microbes.

Substrate

For a non-bioactive more natural-looking enclosure, we recommend aspen shavings, cypress mulch, coconut fiber, or any form of reptile substrate that is not too small that it easily swallowed. The substrate should be able to hold some moisture and not dry out immediately.

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Never use cedar or pine as substrate. These woods are harmful to all snake’s skin and they cause respiratory problems.

Newspaper, butcher’s paper, and paper towels are also perfectly good substrate materials. They are cheap, easy to replace, and easy to clean.

Lay down a thick layer of the paper to provide a base and then scrunch up some sheets to provide some coverage and enrichment.

Spot clean the substrate daily.

Temperature

Children’s Pythons are ectothermic which means that they do not produce their own body heat and need external sources of heat to help them regulate their metabolic processes.

They know when they need to be hot and when they need to be cool. You need to provide them with the temperature gradient so that they can choose their necessary temperature.

We suggest using an under-tank heating pad under a third of the enclosure to help create the warm ambient temperature. Your cool side will be at the opposite end of the enclosure. If the cool side isn’t getting cool enough then adjust the heat settings.

VIVOSUN Reptile Heating Pad with Digital Thermostat

VIVOSUN Reptile Heating Pad with Digital Thermostat

A hideaway should be placed at the 80°F mark. This hide will probably be used during the day when your snake is not digesting food.

Your Children’s Python will need a basking spot of 88°F to 90°F.

You can achieve this by adding a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter to the top of the enclosure. The bulb or heating element must be in a protective dome or behind a screen top so that the snake cannot touch it and burn itself.

Fluker's Ceramic Heat Emitter

Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter

Connect the heat lamp/ceramic heat emitter and the heating pad to a thermostat to control the temperature carefully.

Play around with the heating pad and heat lamp/ceramic heat emitter to find the perfect placement and gradient BEFORE you purchase your snake. Drastically altering the temperature while the snake is in the enclosure can kill it.

  • Cool Side: 72°F
  • Warm Side: 85°F
  • Basking Area: 88°F

If your Children’s Python isn’t using the basking spot at all then it might be too hot. Reduce it 1°F at a time and keep checking for until your snake starts frequenting it.

The same goes for if your snake is always in the basking spot then you may need to up the heating pad slightly. Again, do this 1°F at a time and check for when your snake starts moving throughout the enclosure.

There should be at least one hide on the cool side and one in the basking spot.

You must have two thermometers in the enclosure at all times to measure the heat in the basking spot and on the cool side of the enclosure. You can cook your Children’s Python if the temperature is too high.

Lighting

Full-spectrum lighting is not essential for your snake. However, UVB lighting has been known to provide additional health benefits like boosted immunity. If you have a bioactive enclosure you will need a UVB lamp anyway for the plant life.

You can get a combined heat and UVB lamp to save on electricity costs or use LED energy efficient lighting.

Zoo Med Reptisun Led Terrarium Hood

Zoo Med Reptisun Led Terrarium Hood

Any lights in the enclosure must be on a timer to provide a 12/12 light/dark photocycle. This will let your snake know when it is day and night. It is best to have the lights on a timer, like Zilla Digital Timer, to avoid mistakes.

An inconsistent photocycle will cause your snake stress.

You can keep your Children’s Python enclosure in a room that receives natural daylight. But make sure there is no direct sunlight falling on the enclosure as this will cook your snake.

Humidity

Your Children’s Python needs a humidly level of between 50% and 70%. The higher end of the range will be necessary for when your Children’s Python is in a shed.

There are a number of ways to ensure your snake has optimal humidity. We suggest maintaining a 50% humidity level in the enclosure and provide your snake with a humid hide. Another way is to use automatic mister.

REPTI ZOO Reptile Mister

REPTI ZOO Reptile Mister

The humid hide needs to be on the warmer side of the enclosure. Take a hide and line it with sphagnum moss. Mist the sphagnum moss regularly to keep it damp. The external warmth will encourage the evaporation of water in the hide and create a humid environment.

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

Use a quality hygrometer to keep an eye on the humidity levels. Play around with the humidity and your process to get it to the optimal range BEFORE your snake comes home.

Additionally, if you do not want a humid hide and decide to maintain an overall level of humidity level of about 55%, keep an eye out for when your Children’s Python is in a shed and then mist the enclosure daily to bring the humidity up to 70%.

Always keep a careful eye on the humidity levels. Incorrect humidity levels can result in a stuck shed and infection (too low) or respiratory infections (too high).

Diet

Your Children’s Python will need a water bowl that is:

  • heavy-bottomed,
  • nonporous as this will alter the humidity levels,
  • large enough for your snake to get into, and
  • deep enough that your snake won’t slosh water over the side and alter the humidity levels when getting in or out.

You must change the water daily or more often if you see the fecal matter in it.

If you are housing more than one snake in the same enclosure, have two water sources on either side of the enclosure.

Children’s Pythons are fantastic eaters and will eat as often as you provide them with food.

Therefore, it is important to keep them to a weekly or bimonthly feeding routine.

We suggest feeding your Children’s Python one prey item of appropriate size once a week.  Use our prey sizing guide to help you:

Largest point of girth of prey = largest point of girth of the snake

Children’s Pythons eat small mammals and other reptiles in the wild. In captivity, they should be kept on rodents. They switch between mice and rats quite happily.

We always recommend frozen/thawed prey. Frozen/thawed prey items do not carry parasites and cannot harm your snake. Feeding your snake live prey also comes with the additional costs of keeping that live prey in an ethical manner.

When it comes to feeding your snake, place the frozen prey item in a hot bowl of water until the prey is fully thawed. Never feed your snake partially frozen pray as the temperature difference will be fatal.

It rarely happens but if your Children’s Python is a reluctant eater then you can scent the frozen/thawed prey item by braining it.

You can vary your Children’s Python diet by alternating between mice and rats when they are large enough.

We always recommend feeding your snake in its enclosure. This will not make it more aggressive.

Handling

Children’s Python’s are lovely snakes to handle. They are calm and even-tempered and do not try to escape when being handled. They are semi-arboreal so they will hold onto you and explore their surroundings.

Handling Children's Python

Occasionally Children’s Pythons can have a high prey drive. If your snake has a high prey drive then use a glove to make yourself more comfortable. If you are more comfortable then your snake will be more comfortable with being handled.

Always sanitize your hands before dealing with your reptile especially between dealing with two different reptiles as they are very susceptible to parasites.

When you remove your Children’s Python from its enclosure make sure to not pull it off a branch or grasp it too tightly as they are smaller and more delicate.

These delicate snakes can be easily handled because they do most of the handling! Set them in your hand and let them move around.

We recommend handling your Children’s Python at least once a week. This will help keep it socialized throughout its life. They are also really cool snakes to handle.

Never handle your Children’s Python 24 hours prior to, during, or for 48 hours after feeding. This can cause your python to regurgitate its meal.

When you handle your snake make sure that your clothing or hands do not smell like their prey items as this can encourage them to bite as they may mistake your fingers for their prey items.

Potential Health Issues

Parasites

All snakes are susceptible to parasites. Mites are a major concern for snake owners. They are visible as small black or red dots on your snake or the substrate.

Mites burrow under the scales to get at the blood and skin of your snake. If your snake has mites, it is an indication of poor enclosure hygiene.

You will need to do a full sanitization of the enclosure and get your Children’s Python treated for a mite infestation.

Scale and Mouth Rot

If the humidity levels are too high your snake can suffer from a bacterial infection of its scales, nostrils, or mouth. Scale and mouth rot must be addressed immediately by a vet.

Your snake will have a bright red mouth, skin irritation, or pus oozing from its nostrils. If you have more than one Children’s Python in an enclosure you will need to quarantine the ill one.

Respiratory Problems

If the humidity levels are too high your Children’s Python will develop a respiratory infection. You will notice that your snake starts gurgling, wheezing, and bubbling from its mouth and nostrils.

Your snake will also tend to breathe through its mouth instead of its nostrils if it has a respiratory infection. It must be seen by a vet immediately and the humidity levels reduced.

Obesity

A fat snake is not a funny snake. Children’s Pythons are fantastic eaters and will eat whenever offered food. This means that they are susceptible to obesity.

Obesity puts additional strain on the heart and liver and other internal organs and will lead to death. Stick to a structured feeding regime with your snake.

Breeding

Children’s Pythons will breed if they are in an enclosure together. Think about this if you are housing males and females together.

You can brumate them for a month or two. Slowly lower the temperature so that the warm end is sitting at 82°F and the cool end is sitting in the low 70s. You can also adjust the photocycle to 16/8 dark/light.

However, this is not necessary as they will simply stick to the cooler side of the enclosure when they feel ‘it’s time.’

Your snakes will mate throughout this period. The female will take food and the male will most likely refuse it.

If you have more than one male in the same enclosure watch out for violence. If the two males start attacking each other then remove one of them. If the female no longer shows interest in him replace him with the other male.

When the pair stop mating you can slowly bring the temperature and lighting back to normal. Now the male will feed and the female will not if she is gravid (pregnant).

If she is gravid, she will lay her eggs in 90 days. Provide her with a nesting box that she can fit in and turn around in. Line the box with sphagnum moss to keep it moist.

Children's python with egg clutch

Once she lays her eggs, remove them from the enclosure and incubate them at 90°F in a closed box with vermiculite for humidity and stability. Check them every week to remove any eggs that are moldy or turning black.

Do not turn the eggs from their original position!

In about 60 days they will start to hatch!

Take the neonates (carefully) and place them in shoebox-sized enclosures. After a week officer them their first pinky. Upgrade their enclosure to a 10-gallon once they are feeding regularly.

Conclusion

Children’s Pythons are one of the most overlooked snakes and they make one of the best pets! Their care is pretty simple and because they are so small, they won’t eat you out of the house and home.

These Australian natives are great to handle and just watch them move around their enclosures. They are super inquisitive and friendly once socialized.

We wish you and your new best friend all the success in the world and we ‘herp’ you have a wonderful journey together!

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