Bonus content from the December 2010 REPTILES magazine article "6 Steps to Success."
Although certain cage designs are advantageous to successfully keeping green tree pythons, it can also be said that there is no perfect enclosure. Most design elements have advantages and disadvantages, and each keeper must choose what works best for their animals and for them, in that order. The needs of the snakes must always supersede the preferences of the keeper if there is a conflict. For example, many keepers look at cost first when choosing a cage, but price may not be the best indicator of a good enclosure. Here is a quick list of features that I consider to be important for keeping green tree pythons.
1. Green Tree Python Cage Size and Shape
Green tree python cages should be approximately 24 inches tall, 18 to 24 inches deep, and 30 to 40 inches long. This size and shape allows the establishment of a thermal gradient, which should be about 82 to 88 degrees. A horizontal aspect makes this easy; therefore cages should be oriented horizontally rather than vertically. While this may seem counter-intuitive for an arboreal species, the fact is that most chondros will use the highest perch in a cage regardless of temperature. In a tall, narrow cage the highest perch will also be the warmest, and the animal will choose height over thermal preference. Avoid small cages such as the common 24-inch cube; these are not large enough to provide an adequate thermal gradient.
2. Materials to Build a Green tree Python Enclosure
With the advent of the plastic cage, setting up a chondro enclosure is easier than ever. These pythons require moderate to high humidity, and porous materials will degrade in a warm, moist environment. It makes sense to use a water-impervious material that is also light and easy to clean. However, not all plastics are the same. Some melt easily. Others allow too much heat transfer, making them difficult to keep warm. These also make poor choices for thermal cycling during breeding, losing heat too quickly and gaining it back too slowly. The best plastic cages I have used are made from hollow core PVC.
3. Green tree Python Enclosure Glass Doors
I prefer front-opening cages with sliding glass doors. Top-opening cages can’t be stacked and rapidly lose heat and humidity when opened. Sliding glass doors allow excellent visibility and incremental access to the cage, which is important at feeding time. Hinged doors work well also, and I have used both types for many years.
4. Green Tree Python Enclosure Ventilation
Finding the correct amount of ventilation is a matter of trial and error, and it will be impacted by the local climate and ambient humidity levels. Unless the entire room is humidified, too much air exchange will cause low levels of humidity in your cages. Too little air exchange will result in stagnation and mold. Ideally, your cages should retain high humidity for several hours after misting and then slowly decrease over each 24-hour cycle. The general rule of thumb is that if the animals are having good sheds, the humidity is adequate and the ventilation is OK. If cages dry too quickly and animals are having bad sheds, there is probably too much air exchange. If the cages are always wet and mildew is developing, there is probably too little air exchange (as well as possible over-misting). It is a balancing act that is affected by local ambient conditions, cage size, misting regimens, etc. I don’t use fans, because drafts may cause respiratory infection. Air exchange can be adjusted by adding more holes or covering existing holes with clear Plexiglas.
5. Décor for your Snake Enclosure
Simple is better, and it is best to avoid heavily planted vivaria, which are difficult to clean. Damp newspaper substrate is best, and wood mulch of a non-toxic species, such as cypress, is also good. Provide sturdy perches of about the same diameter as the snakes’ bodies.
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