In a nutshell, we subscribe to the “K.I.S.S.” school of thought when it comes to keeping our bloods & short-tails - in other words, Keep It Simple, Stupid! We feel that less is more in terms of providing a comfortable, low-stress environment for the snake, and ease of maintenance for the keeper.
We're far from saying "you have to go set up your snakes exactly like this or you’re going to fail!” In fact, what works well for one keeper in one situation may not work at all for another keeper in a completely different setting. The information we offer here is based on our personal experiences in keeping blood and short-tailed pythons, as well as some ideas that can be easily modified to suit just about any snake or keeper. Fortunately, snake keepers tend to be a creative bunch, and there are lots of options available for choosing a setup that meets your needs. To help with this, we've solicited input from a wide range of blood and short-tailed python keepers who are willing to share their setup pictures and information here to help you. In addition to the caging gallery, there's a thread on our forums with a great collection of setup photos (registration required for some sections).
There are many different types of snake-specific cages available in the reptile market, and just as many caging ideas that utilize containers modified by resourceful keepers. No matter what kind of cage you use, a good enclosure should have the following qualities:
- Supports stable environmental conditions
- Secure & escape-proof
- Appropriately sized for the snake
- Provides good ventilation/airflow
- Easy for the keeper to maintain
Ultimately, your snake's cage is a husbandry tool that should make it easier, not harder, to create a healthy environment for your blood python. Think about whether or not the cage style will help you to establish and maintain the right temperature & humidity for your snake. Some cages work better in certain situations than others. Is your "snake room" a high traffic area with people frequently going in & out the door, causing temperatures to fluctuate? If so, a glass tank with screen top is apcages thprobably not the best option, due to its high visibility (causing a snake to feel insecure & stressed), and open air exchange (which can make temperature/humidity regulation difficult). If your cage temps & humidity are all over the place and you're constantly in the enclosure tweaking and changing cage settings, it's going to cause both you and your snake some unnecessary stress. Pick a cage that makes it easy to regulate temperature & humidity levels, especially when you think about where you plan to keep it in your home.
Snake cages must always be escape-proof. Snakes are accomplished escape artists, and blood & short-tailed pythons are no exception. In this day and age of ever-increasing exotic animal bans and legislative pressure, it is essential to make sure our snakes are where they are supposed to be, AT ALL TIMES. When choosing a cage, pick one that closes securely & cannot be opened by the snake inside.
Many cage manufacturers offer locks as accessories, and we encourage choosing this option when available. If you use a rack system for housing your blood pythons, check the tub fit to ensure that they can't be pushed open from the inside, as the result of an active snake nosing about. It doesn’t take much of a gap at the top of a tub to tempt an opportunistic escape artist. Once a snake has figured out how to escape its cage, that animal will most likely try again at some point in the future, and some become habitual offenders in this regard if allowed the chance to escape successfully each time.
A loose snake may be exposed to all sorts of dangers: other household pets, incorrect temperatures, potential burns (i.e. water heaters or radiators), dehydration and/or starvation...basically a slew of issues that we'd never want a python to have to endure. It is our responsibility as keepers to ensure that this possibility doesn't become a reality for our beloved snakes.
Also take your python's current size into consideration. A good enclosure will be neither too big nor too small for the snake. Just as a 4' x 2' cage is large and overwhelming for a juvenile short-tailed python, a small, cramped enclosure will not accommodate the bulk of an older subadult or adult. We'll go into more specific detail on this later, but remember appropriate enclosure size as a guideline to follow when making your cage choices.
Adequate airflow is necessary to prevent a cage from becoming stagnant. This may mean custom ventilation in a purpose-made enclosure, melting multiple holes in a plastic tote with a soldering iron, or otherwise modifying the cage to accommodate air circulation. Blood python cages should always offer some form of ventilation for this purpose, and we'll touch on this more with regard to specific cage types in a bit. Inadequate airflow allows ammonia fumes and excessive humidity4-footcage th to build up in the enclosure, both of which can make a snake sick given enough time. Even short-term exposure to ammonia and/or damp, stagnant air makes for an uncomfortable situation for the snake, and we owe it to the captives in our care to ensure that they are always safe and comfortable.
Finally, a clean enclosure is the first step towards your blood python's health in captivity, therefore cage design should allow for trouble-free maintenance. Cage openings should make it easy for you to handle the snake, remove and replace cage furniture, and clean the interior. If the cage is really cluttered or hard to get into, cleaning will become a chore and may be neglected. Also avoid cages made of porous materials & left unsealed, as they will be contaminated by ongoing contact with water, feces, urates & other organic matter. If you're going to use or build a cage made of a porous material (wood, melamine, etc), make sure it is properly sealed & cured before putting a snake in it.
Now that we've touched on good caging fundamentals, let's take a look at appropriate cage size for blood & short-tailed pythons.