Selecting the correct size of caging for your short-tailed python will help your snake feel comfortable & secure within its enclosure. While the rack systems shown here have worked well for us at TBC, keep in mind that there are several styles of tubs, totes, and purpose-built cages that are also appropriate for housing bloods and short-tailed pythons. Use the dimensions listed here as a general gauge when making your cage selections, remembering that tall or cavernous enclosures should be avoided. Bloods and short-tails don't need elaborate caging, but there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when making enclosure choices. We'll cover these according to the age and size of the python in question throughout this section.
Newly-hatched blood & short-tailed pythons are small snakes, approximately 8"-10" in length (give or take). At this size they're often shy and prefer to hide whenever possible. Therefore, the ideal hatchling cage will encourage a sense of secrecy and security, which is especially important when starting these snakes on their first meals. Secretive young bloods & short-tails are easily overwhelmed by large enclosures and may stop feeding as a result, or take longer to start feeding when prey is initially offered. In a nutshell, they get freaked out when the cage is too big, and security becomes more important than food.
Many keepers err on the side of using an enclosure that is too large, with the mindset that the snake can grow into its cage. While this can be a successful practice for older juvenile snakes that are already feeding steadily and growing well, it is not one we recommend when making caging choices for freshly-hatched bloods and short-tails.
Our hatchling bloods & short-tails are kept in individual translucent plastic tubs, housed within rack systems from Animal Plastics. These tubs measure 10" (L) x 6" (W) x 4" (H) and provide 60 square inches of floor space. The dimensions of these plastic boxes are very close to those of the 6-quart clear totes that are found at large discount stores (Target, Container Store, etc), and popular among snake keepers for raising hatchlings. We had some custom racks built for this tub size that also double as a work station, and based on the needs of our collection this tub size has served us well. Some keepers prefer to use a larger tub for babies, and for keepers with just one animal, an alternative to this tub size is the 15-quart tote, or large plastic shoebox (please don't use a cardboard shoebox). As long as secure hiding spots are provided, and the hatchlings don't exhibit signs of stress (such as reluctance to eat), the larger size may be a good solution.
Additional ventilation is provided by using a soldering iron to melt multiple small holes in the ends of each tub. An 8-ounce deli cup provides water, and also helps to raise humidity within the enclosure. Young pythons are much more susceptible to dehydration than older, hardier, well-established pythons, and this should be kept in mind when picking out cages for such small snakes.
We fold double layers of paper towels for substrate in these boxes, and our baby pythons often hide between the layers. Usually these layers of paper towel are a sufficient hide for even our most timid hatchlings, but occasionally it is necessary to experiment with other hides if a very young animal refuses to feed or seems stressed.
As you can see, these boxes are too small to create a proper thermal gradient. It would be difficult for a young blood python in a baby box to effectively move away from a basking spot if provided. Additionally, due to the small size of such an enclsoure, a warm basking spot would affect the overall air temperature of the cage, potentially pushing ambient temperatures outside of an acceptable range. Since blood & short-tailed pythons thrive at somewhat cooler temperatures, we do not offer supplemental heat beyond that of our climate-controlled snake rooms. We go into more detail on this in the temperature segment of this article.
Selecting appropriately-sized hatchling tubs for your newborn bloods & short-tails will go a long way into starting these snakes off on the right (ahem) foot. Providing these young pythons with a cage that fosters a sense of security will help them become established feeders that grow into beautiful, thriving adults, and make your job easier as a keeper.
While hatchling short-tailed pythons are quite comfortable in smaller boxes at first, they will outgrow such tubs in just a few short months of regular feeding. Once our juvenile pythons have tripled in size, we graduate them up to tubs that measure 18” (L) x 10” (W) x 7” (H). These transluscent tubs provide 180 square inches of floor space, and our pythons live in them for the better part of a year.
Substrate in our juvie boxes is either kraft paper or coarse aspen chips. When we use aspen chips as substrate, we'll sometimes offer a layer of kraft paper for the python to hide under if it so desires. Water is provided in a 16-ounce deli cup, and we often use 4" diameter PVC pipe sections for cup holders to reduce the chance of spills if a snake decides to soak. Even when using aspen substrate, water cups of this capacity provide plenty of humidity within the individual tubs. As you can see from these photos, we do not modify the tubs in our juvenile racks to create any additional ventilation. Our snakes typically shed well and without issue, and in the event that we encounter a stuck shed, we'll mist the aspen chips to raise humidity even more within the enclosure.
These tubs are somewhat roomy at first, but this doesn't seem to bother our young pythons. We monitor their feeding activity and behavior after they move into the new enclosures, and ensure that our snakes continue to feed steadily and act calmly. Snakes that show any signs of stress, such as failure to feed or constantly cruising their cages, are offered hides. On the rare occasion that a young python continues to juvie1 thseem stressed by the larger enclosure, we'll move it back into a baby box. Once that snake has taken several more meals successfully, we'll attempt moving it into the larger enclosure once again.
On a typical feeding schedule of once a week, our bloods and short-tails outgrow these boxes in approximately a year. We let them get a little big for these boxes, again, because they feel secure in a smaller enclosure and we're not overwhelming them with a hot basking spot. All of these tubs are maintained at the ambient temperatures of our juvenile snake room (approximately 82 degrees Fahrenheit), although we do have the option to turn on radiant side heat in the individual racks if that ever becomes a necessity (it hasn't yet).
Juvenile blood & short-tailed pythons are fun snakes to raise. At this size and age they tend to be relatively low-maintenance. They're fantastic feeders, shedding frequently and growing like weeds. Because these pythons grow at such a steady pace, many keepers prefer to use simple, inexpensive, yet effective enclosures in which to keep them, as it won't be long before they need a larger cage.
At the average age of 18-24 months, we once again graduate our young bloods and short-tails into larger enclosures. This time they move into racks that hold Iris CB70 cb70mtubs. These tubs measure 33" (L) x 17" (W) x 5" (H), creating 561 square inches of floor space. This tub is quite popular throughout the reptile industry and racks that accommodate it are available from a variety of sources. Here we also use coarse aspen chips for substrate, and again we may offer a layer of kraft paper under which these snakes can hide.
Water is still provided via 16-ounce deli cup, with a PVC holder to cut down on spills. As with our juvenile boxes, we do not modify th CB70 tubs to include any additional ventilation. There's a slight gap between the top edge of these tubs and the rack shelf, so they receive plenty of airflow. Due to this airflow, we always make it a point to mist the pythons in our CB70 racks when they go opaque and throughout their shed cycle. We do have the option to provide supplemental belly heat to these tubs via 4" heat tape, but typically the snakes in these racks are maintained at ambient room temperatures without additional heat.
These snakes are initially fed once a week and this schedule moves to every 10 days as they grow and mature. Our pythons will live in the cb70-2 thCB70 tubs for another year or even two at this point. This is when bloods and short-tails really start to blossom and develop intense coloration, and it's always fun to open up these tubs and dream about our future breeding stock, and what they'll produce someday!
When our pythons first move into the CB70s these tubs tend to be a little on the large side, allowing plenty of room for the snake to grow. Fortunately, we have not run into any issues with pythons becoming insecure in a larger tub, and the addition of kraft paper over the substrate has been quite useful in creating that extra sense of security that bloods and STPs appreciate.
In the rare event that we come across a shy individual, we may offer a different style hide box that creates an even darker, snug hiding spot for the snake to use. We'll go into more detail on the various options for hides, and which ones work best in different caging solutions, in the hide/cage furniture section of this article. When our snakes outgrow these tubs, they'll graduate up one more time into the largest tub size that we utilize for our collection.
All of our adult snakes live in AP racks built for Iris VE-175 tubs and generally move into them by the age of three years. These tubs measure 52" (L) x 20" (W) x 12" (H), adults-2 which is 1040 square inches of floor space. Dual radiant side heat is provided by two 11" strips of heat tape, one oriented vertically on each sidewall of the rack. This heat is set to approximately 86 degrees Fahrenheit when provided. Otherwise, our adult snake room is calibrated to an ambient temperature of 82-84 during the day, and 80 degrees at night.
Water is provided in stainless steel, 96-ounce bowls, which are changed out and refilled on a regular basis. We do not modify the tubs to provide any additional ventilation, and we continue to mist our adults as they go through shed cycles to ensure good sheds.
We still utilize coarse aspen chips for substrate in these tubs, but without the layer of kraft paper for hides. These racks are very deep, and the only ambient lighting is at the front of the tub. The back of the tub is rather dark and therefore creates a sense of security, without the need for an actual hide.
VE-175 tubs are quite large and provide nearly the same amount of space as a 4' (L) x 2' (W) cage, also a popular size among blood & short-tailed python keepers. While this cage size can initially seem like overkill for some of our smaller adults, our largest blood pythons are over 6' in length and often utilize the length of the enclosure to really stretch out and get comfortable. While smaller adults may thrive in less spacious enclosures, we recommend a minimum of 48" (L) x 24" (W) for the largest bloods & STPs, to comfortably accommodate their heft and bulk.
While it is not necessary to create this exact setup to successfully keep bloods and short-tails, we do recommend the aforementioned cage sizes as a guideline to follow when selecting the best setup for your python. Enclosure size impacts a variety of factors, such as your snake's overall comfort and security, and its ability to thermoregulate properly. Keep in mind that the cage you choose for your blood python should make it easier for you to control these factors and create a proper environment.
For additional enclosure ideas, remember to stop by our caging gallery, as well as the enclosure thread on our forums.
In this section, we've established some guidelines for selecting the right cage size according to your python's size and age. Next let's discuss a variety of substrates that work well for all three species, as well as some to avoided for use in blood and short-tailed python enclosures.