What Are the Different Types of Pythons?

M.R. Anglin
M.R. Anglin
A reticulated python.
A reticulated python.

There are 25 known species of pythons in the world. Like all snakes, pythons are cold blooded. Pythons are not venomous; they kill their prey by constriction. Some of the different types of pythons are the reticulated python, the ball python, the Burmese python, the green tree python, and the carpet python. While some of these species should not be held captive by a non-professional, other types of pythons can make good pets.

A ball python.
A ball python.

The carpet python is one type of python that is often kept as a pet. Within the carpet species, there are several different types that come in varying colors. For example, the northern carpet python can be dark brown with tan spots, while the jungle carpet python can be black with golden yellow spots. This type of python can grow to lengths of five to 10 feet (about 1.5-3.0 m), depending on the type, and can climb trees. It eats small mammals, such as mice and rabbits, and may even eat chickens. It is native to Australia and New Guinea.

An albino Burmese python.
An albino Burmese python.

Another type of pythons is a green tree python. This snake can be found in Papua and Iran Jaya, New Guinea, and also on the Cape York Peninsula of Australia. It can grow up to six feet (about 1.8 m) and eats rodents and birds. It is usually born yellow, but upon maturation can change to green. Some types may also have blue spots or remain yellow.

A green tree python.
A green tree python.

The ball python, also called the royal python, is another snake that can be kept as a pet, providing it has proper export permits. It is a black snake that has brown, gold, or yellow markings. The snake can live up to 50 years in captivity, although it usually only lives between 20-30 years, and can grow to be five feet (about 1.5 m) in length. The ball python gets its name because of how it reacts when it becomes scared. When threatened, it curls into a ball.

A carpet python.
A carpet python.

The ball python has its origins in western and central Africa, where it can climb trees. Since it is a threatened species, exporters are required to have a permit to ship it out of its native land. The snake can eat many types of small rodents. In captivity, smaller snakes may eat mice. Larger snakes can eat rats several inches in length or even gerbils. When breeding in captivity, the snake can lay six or seven eggs.

A Burmese python is one of the larger pythons. It can grow to 23 feet (about 7 m) in length and weigh up to 200 pounds (about 90 kg). The female can lay up to 100 eggs at a time. Some of its prey includes small mammals and birds. Although it is docile, it has been known to attack its handlers. It is native to Southeast Asia, where it can swim and, during its younger years, live in trees.

A reticulated python is not recommended to be kept as a pet because it is so large. It is seen as the world’s longest snake; it is longer than an anaconda. This snake can grow up to 35 feet (about 10.6 m) in length. The temperament of the snake may depend on where it originated from. Some types of these snakes, such as those from Lesser Sundas and Thailand, can be more docile while others, like those found on the Sulawesi Islands can be more aggressive. It can eat birds, as well as dogs and pigs — and sometimes people.

Burmese Python vs Ball Python

An adult Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world, while an adult ball python is much smaller. Burmese pythons are an invasive species in Florida, as they breed readily in the wild there. Though ball pythons have been found in Florida, they have never been known to breed there. If they are reproducing, it’s in a much less explosive manner than the Burmese are. Therefore, they aren’t considered an invasive species.

The two species look fairly similar when young, especially to people unfamiliar with snakes. Burmese pythons have a more angular pattern with dark spots on a light tan background. The marks on ball pythons are rounded with light spots on a dark background.

Are Python Snakes Poisonous?

The terms poisonous and venomous are frequently mixed up yet are not interchangeable. A poisonous creature is toxic to consume, and a venomous one can inject toxins into another creature. Venomous animals may or may not be edible, but poisonous ones usually have no toxic offensive capabilities, although they may be dangerous to touch.

Poison is always a defensive survival strategy, while venom is typically more offensive, although it is also used for defense when necessary. A form of poison, venom requires an action by the animal to deliver the chemicals into its victim. Most jellyfish, many bees and wasps and some snakes are venomous. Many venoms are designed to kill prey, but others use a less-than-lethal approach. For instance, some venomous wasps paralyze their victims for future consumption.

The poison dart frog, found in South America, is possibly the most well-known poisonous creature. They have beautiful, striking colorations meant to warn potential predators of their toxicity — a strategy scientists refer to as aposematic. Pufferfish are also well-known for their poison. Venom or poison combined with aposematic coloration is such a successful strategy for frightening off predators that many nontoxic species mimic the look in hopes of fooling other animals.

Are Pythons Venomous?

Pythons are not venomous and are generally nontoxic. Some studies do show elevated mercury levels among invasive populations in the Everglades, so technically, those could be called poisonous, but pythons are otherwise considered edible. Regardless, none are venomous. They kill their prey by constriction, and the largest can be dangerous to dogs and even humans.

Are Ball Pythons Friendly?

If handled well, ball pythons are docile and friendly and can even learn to enjoy being held by humans. Even if treated improperly, they're much more likely to retreat into a ball than bite a person, although if thoroughly provoked, it may strike.

Will Pythons Bite a Person?

Pythons have backward-curving teeth that can inflict a painful bite if they feel threatened. More docile species, such as the ball python, are much less prone to bite, while more aggressive species, such as the Burmese or African rock python, tend to cause a higher number of human bites in captivity. Ball python bites are painful but not dangerous, outside the chance of infection. In most cases, you just wash the area with mild soap and water and then bandage it. Serious bites, or those that get infected, may require medical attention.

How Much Is a Ball Python Snake?

Recent surveys found a range of prices for ball pythons. Most will cost between $25 and $300, but some can range into the thousands. They need an enclosure, a source of heat and food. A typical startup cost would be around $400 with an annual maintenance cost of $150 to $200, depending on how fancy you want your setup to be.

What Do Ball Pythons Eat?

Depending on their age, ball pythons eat feeder or full-size mice or rats. It can sometimes take a while to train them to eat dead or frozen bait. You should choose bait that’s between 1 and 1.5 times the width of the largest portion of the snake for the best results. Young snakes need to eat around twice a week, but adults eat less as they age. Also, never use live bait — they may fight back and hurt your snake in the process.

Are Ball Pythons Legal To Own?

Most countries allow ball pythons to be sold or traded without restriction. However, it’s illegal to own any pet snakes in Hawaii without a license. There may also be local legal restrictions, so you may want to search for any in your area. However, since ball pythons are so friendly and noninvasive, most jurisdictions have no regulations against them.

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Discussion Comments

anon310029

Can I house my blood red python and my albino granite burmese python together?

MaPa

I saw something on TV the other day about ball python breeding and how they are able to make new color and pattern variations that are really beautiful. I had no idea snakes could come in so many interesting patterns. I'd like to get one myself, but the really cool colors are expensive.

winslo2004

@BigManCar - I agree with you that some species of python should not be in untrained hands, since they can get so big. In fact, this is how I got my African Rock Python. The previous owner could not handle him as he got bigger, and he knew I had experience with this type of snake.

BigManCar

I agree with the article that some of these snakes should not be kept as pets by a nonprofessional. They are beautiful animals, and many of them can make great household pets for the right person, but people forget that any python is going to grow into a large animal with the ability to do a lot of damage to other animals or even people.

People often buy snakes when they are cute little guys a couple of feet long, not thinking that in a few years it could be 10 feet long or longer. The big snakes can eat a lot, need a big space for a habitat, and could be a hazard to pets or children.

The belated realization of this can lead people to want to get rid of the snake. Some do it responsibility, returning it to a pet store or breeder, but others do not bother or cannot find anyone to take it, so they dump it.

There is a problem now with loose pythons in Florida because of this. Especially in the Everglades, they have thrived in the warm, swampy climate and are even starting to breed.

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    • A reticulated python.
      By: fivespots
      A reticulated python.
    • A ball python.
      By: mikemoore88
      A ball python.
    • An albino Burmese python.
      By: michelaubryphoto
      An albino Burmese python.
    • A green tree python.
      By: Eric Isselée
      A green tree python.
    • A carpet python.
      By: NatalieJean
      A carpet python.