Do not handle new chondros, especially babies. If you would like to handle your reptile, consider one of our many other snakes that are able to be handled. Provide a thermal gradient between 82° and 88°F. Begin misting your cage and animal from the first day. Proper hydration is important to avoid stress and to assist in a smooth acclimation period.
Proper Cage and Environment
Nothing is more important to your success as a Green Tree Python keeper than:
(1) knowing how to select or build a cage that will allow the proper environment to be established and maintained and
(2) then knowing how to provide that environment. Methods used can range from simple to high-tech, but the fundamentals must be understood regardless of which means are employed to provide them.
There are many types of cages available for reptiles these days, made from several different materials. Each design and material has advantages and disadvantages. It is important to understand that there is no perfect cage design! However, some materials and designs are definitely better that others.
PLASTIC cages are ideal for a semi-humid environment and are lightweight. But they don’t always hold heat well, can crack or melt, may be impossible to stack and can be very expensive. They can be purchased fully equipped, are easy to clean, hold heat and humidity well, and have good visibility.
GLASS aquarium tanks will not suffer from contact moisture, give excellent visibility and are less expensive. You will need to build an appropriate cover, heat and humidity loss out of the top of the tank is high every time the lid is opened.
MELAMINE cages are affordable, attractive, easily cleaned, hold heat well and can be easily stacked. However, they are heavy to move and excessive moisture will damage the cage components. Even if you exercise reasonable care with moisture, melamine will eventually degrade.
WOOD cages have the same general characteristics as melamine, although somewhat lighter and slightly more resistant to moisture damage. Wood cages must be painted or sealed to allow easy cleanup and even then they will absorb odors. Unless you have the tools and skills to apply a professional laminate such as Formica, wood is not the best choice for a humid environment.
SCREENED cages, such as those sold for chameleons, should be avoided... they are much too open to maintain a proper humid environment.
PLASTIC tubs, available in many sizes, are ideal. They maintain high humidity easily and will never be damaged from moisture. They are an economical way to house many animals, but they do provide limited visibility and require you to make a top or cabinet to use them. This is the easiest way to house a single neonate or yearling.
Cage Size–Because these snakes are nocturnal and lead sedentary lives by day, there is tendency to use smaller cages for them. Smaller cages provide little environmental stimulation and little or no thermal gradient. Saving money and space are poor reasons to decide on a small cage size. The average adult chondro requires a cage that is at least 24” long, 24” high and 24” wide.
Cage and Envirnoment Setup
Heat– Captive chondros do best with a thermal gradient established in the cage. A horizontal gradient is much preferred over a vertical one. Most chondros will perch in the highest part of the cage and will often ignore a vertical gradient. The gradient should be between 78° and 89°F, with an average temperature of 85°F. Most captives seek out temperatures around 84° to 85°F under normal conditions, but may bask under warmer temperatures after eating and at other times. Avoid temperatures under 75°F and over 90°F. These temperatures can be reached with the use of heat lamps/ incandescent light bulbs or most other heating products sold for reptiles. Because of their arboreal nature, hat pads do not generally work for these snakes.
Lighting– Chondros respond well to some type of fluorescent light that provides a 12 hour photoperiod as a part of each 24 hour cycle. If you are using a fluorescent cage light, you should use a full-spectrum bulb that will show your animal’s true color and beauty. We recommend the Reptisun 5.0 for any and all snakes. A simple lamp timer is an easy way to regulate the daily photoperiod. Tree pythons are highly nocturnal and many will not feed except at night. It is natural for them to enjoy a long dark period as a part of each 24 hour cycle.
Humidity – This is an important topic when discussing chondro husbandry and is one that causes unnecessary confusion. The level of humidity in a given environment will be based on a number of factors such as how much moisture is added to the cage daily, temperature, ventilation, how well the cage substrate holds and releases moisture, etc. You will need to experiment with your own set up and existing factors, adjusting these until you have the correct balance. Use observation as the best guide, which is better than attempting to maintain a specific percentage of relative humidity. Also, remember that just having a wet cage interior is not the same as providing humidity, which is the amount of moisture in the air. For example, and excessively ventilated cage can have standing water on the floor and still not be humid.
Many people have an exaggerated idea of how much humidity these snakes require. They may suffer health problems if kept too wet, including, but not limited too, skin infections. the only time to err on the wet side is during the animal’s shed cycle. Chondros are very thin skinned and sheds will dry on them very easily if the relative humidity is too low during the shedding period. The goal should be a gradual drying out period at night and early morning, followed by an increase in humidity in the afternoon and early evening. Condensation on the glass 24 hours a day, or the growth of mildew or mold, indicates excessive humidity. On the other hand, if the cage is dry three hours after spraying, there is not enough humidity. A hand-held mister or pressure sprayer works fine for daily misting. Another important point to remember is that chondros may drink off of themselves after misting, so keep the water and the sprayer clean.
To sum up... provide moderate to heavy humidity, along with an overnight drying out period. Regulate cage humidity by increasing or decreasing the amount of misting and dampness in the cage substrate, along with adjusting ventilation. Remember, other than at shedding time, humidity is not critical. Getting it right is important to the long term health of your animals, but having it too high or too low for brief periods won’t hurt anything.
Substrate – The purpose of the cage substrate is to provide an easy to clean material that will hold and release moisture. Red cypress mulch is an ideal substrate material. It smells and looks very nice and holds moisture well, plus it is inexpensive. Do not use standing water as a substrate. It is potentially unsanitary and difficult to keep clean. Avoid any materials that grow mold quickly when damp.
Perches – Chondros spend most of their time perched on some type of branch. you will need to provide them with some type of secure perch that is about the same body diameter as the animal you are housing. Real wood perches work well. These look great, are safe and non-toxic, clean up easily by scrubbing with a stiff brush and some hot water, are free and don’t grow mold like wooden dowel rod does. Wash cut branches thoroughly, and make sure there are no parasites in or on them. Branches cut from live trees rarely have parasites inside. Other perch materials that work well are plastic rods and PVC pipes of the correct diameter. Avoid using hardwood dowels from the hardware store because these mildew and discolor quickly. Make sure to mount your perches securely so they won’t rotate or fall when the animals use them. Hooks and screw-in eyes from the hardware store work well to hang perches, using branches that are forked allow for a three-point contact when hanging, this prevents them from rotating
Plants – Live plants look nice if kept moderate in size and can contribute to a good atmosphere in the cage. Pothos works very well and looks great. The trouble with live Pothos and other plants is that they need a lot of light to grow and won’t thrive under the limited fluorescent light recommended for chondro cages. They also require pruning, watering and fertilization. A great alternative to live plants are good quality sild plants. Regardless of what you use, make sure to wash it first. Live plants must be assumed to have insecticide on them and in the soil, so be sure to replace the soil and wash the leaves well.
Drinking Water – Water bowl size is not critical and a large one will help increase humidity. Too large of a water bowl will make cleaning it and changing the water a chore, so it will then tend to be put off. Keeping the bowl clean and the water fresh is more important than bowl size. As was mentioned in the humidity section, chondros will often drink droplets of water off of themselves after misting. because of this, make sure the water you spray on them and the cage interior is safe and clean, as well as keeping the sprayer clean. don’t use petroleum based lubricants on pump sprayers, as this goes into the water. Use olive oil.
Some individuals tend to complicated GTP husbandry by suggesting elaborate of impractical methods for providing the animals’ needs and hydration is one of these issues. There is no need for foggers, humidity contraptions, elevated water bowls or other such devices. Healthy chondros, kept in a proper environment do not have a predisposition to dehydration.
Cage Setup – To sum up, set up your cage with a horizontal thermal gradient between 82° and 85°F. Use a good thermometer to establish cage temperatures, don’t guess. Provide clean drinking water in a medium sized bowl and spray daily to develop a high humidity period that dries slowly. Use a timer to establish a twelve hour photoperiod. Provide sturdy perches that are roughly the same diameter as your chondro.
Green Tree Pythons do well on a diet of mice or rats that have been fed a nutritious lab chow. Most chondros, especially non-gravid females and well-started juveniles, have hearty appetites. Getting them to feed is not an issue. In fact, care must be exercised in approaching the animal with a food item after dark, as the feeding reflex can be quite strong, resulting in a strike at the slightest movement. In addition, tree pythons have heat-sensitive pits in their lips that can cause them to target your hand if it is warmer than the prey item. This is usually the case when feeding frozen and thawed rodents. All of this makes using a pair of long 18” tongs or forceps a necessity when feeding your animals. Using anything shorter while feeding adults will result in bites to your hand! Never expose a part of your hand or face to a chondo when opening the cage, especially at night.
Unlike most colubrid snakes, Green Tree Pythons should not be power fed to induce rapid growth. Keep meal sizes reasonable. A meal that makes a noticeable swelling but not a huge lump is about right. baby chondros should eat every 5 to 7 days and every 7 to 10 days from 12 months and older. Large adults, especially females, during non-breeding periods, may only need food every 12 to 14 days. Prowling for food, growth rates and defecation cycles can help determine frequency of feeding.
Always feed dead prey items to those animals that will accept them. This will be true of most chondros. A very useful trick that will often produce an enthusiastic response from an otherwise disinterested animal is to hold the head of the dead rodent against a 100 watt light bulb for 15 to 30 seconds and then immediately place it in tongs in front of the snake’s face. The heat pits located in the lips of the chondro will detect the heat and will often trigger a good response in slow feeders. The same is true for feeding noenates, except better results will be had by heating a mouse pinky or fuzzy in very hot tap water prior to offering it to the chondro. Chondros get all the nutrition they need from being fed healthy rodents and they do not need variety or supplemental food items.
Shed & Defecation Cycles
Different chondros have different defecation rates, depending on growth, age, gender and other factors. Older females frequently defecate less often than males and young animals of both genders defecate more often than mature specimens. Some adults will “tail hang” prior to defecation. Although this often causes alarm among inexperienced keepers, it is rarely a problem.
There is a “rule” that has become somewhat popular, that says chondros should not be fed their next meal until they defecate from the last one. this policy will result in many specimens being underfed. However, if a particular animal has an obvious stool it needs to pass, wait until it does so before feeding the next meal. Environmental stimulation will often prompt regular defecation. Chondros will usually defecate when shedding as well. The snake that sits day after day without any movement or environmental stimuli could grow bored, obese and constipated. Soaking and some gentle handling can help stimulate a bowel movement.
Shedding takes place often in growing juveniles about once every 6 to 8 weeks. As the snake grows to adult size, sheds occur over a much longer time period, usually several months. Do not allow the humidity to drop too low during the shed cycle, which is a 10 to 14 day process that begins with a dulling of the colors and the opacity developing to the clear eye caps. In chondros, this milky appearance is much more subtle than in other snakes and it takes some experience and a trained eye to discern the opaque period in some snakes. This is especially true with yellow neonites, it can be very difficult to tell when opaque. The python will almost always go off feed during this period and may assume odd looking or unnatural postures, including coiling on on the ground. Learning to adjust the humidity to a proper level to ensure good sheds is one of the skills needed for good husbandry. If the humidity is too low during the opaque period, the animal will have difficulty removing its old skin.
Do not attempt to handle, feed or move chondros during a shed cycle. They should not be shipped or transported during this time either. Stress during the opaque period often results in poor sheds regardless of the environmental conditions.