Origin: West and South Sumatra
Size: 4.5-6 ft. Heavy bodied.
Lifespan: 15-20+ years
Basking Temperature: 86 degrees
Cool End Temperature: 76-78 degrees
Substrate: Cypress for juveniles. Paper is acceptable for adults when supplimented with a humid hide. Coco chip not recommended.
Habit: Terrestrial, arguably semi-aquatic. Will climb some if given rocks, thick limbs, low shelves.
Water: Sumatran short-tailed pythons require a bowl large enough to lay in comfortably at all times.
Baby enclosure size: 16” x 10” x 7” – 30″ x 12″ x 12″
Adult enclosure size: 1’ x 2’ x 4’ – 2’ x 3’ x 6’.
Sumatran short-tailed pythons (or SSTs) are relatively short, heavy-bodied snakes from the island of Sumatra. Normal Sumatran short-tailed pythons are dark, largely black animals often with bright orange-red eyes. SSTs are also often seen in a chromehead phase, which has somewhat higher contrast and a gray background and top of head. A pumpkinhead phase is also known, which is dark with an orange background and top of head. A caramel albino morph exists. Sumatran short-tailed pythons are largely terrestrial, and will even spend much of their time laying in water. They will climb some on large, low surfaces like rocks, shelves, tops of hide-boxes, etc. SSTs have large personalities and can be extremely defensive if not socialized from a young age. Their bite, while non-venomous, is significant due to their large teeth and powerful striking force. We do not consider these to be appropriate for beginning keepers under most circumstances.
This guide is a brief overview of basic care and minimum husbandry requirements and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to care. Our best advice:
Read, read, read! Studying about your new pet is the key to a long and happy life for them, and years of enjoyment for you.
Enclosures for young Sumatran short-tailed pythons do not have to be long enough for the snake to stretch out fully, but additional space is beneficial. As Sumatran short-tailed pythons mature, they often become more sedentary. SSTs do best when given a large bowl for soaking. Many keepers will find that their SST enjoys a hidebox, especially when filled with sphagnum moss for burrowing. Sumatran short-tailed pythons should always be kept in a sturdy, escape-proof enclosure with an operable lock.
We recommend cypress for young Sumatran short-tailed pythons. Paper can be used for larger animals, but should be accompanied by a large hidebox with cypress and sphagnum for humidity.. We do not recommend coco chip, as it can become stuck in the cheek of the Sumatran short-tailed python where it will cause severe discomfort and stomatitis (mouth rot) if not removed.
HEATING AND LIGHTING
Contrary to common misconception, Sumatran short-tailed pythons do not require high temperatures. Provide a basking spot at one end regulated to ~86 degrees. We prefer heat tape mounted for belly heat as a heat source. We strongly recommend using a PVC enclosure when using this heat method. Use a thermostat to regulate the temperature with the probe secured directly in the basing spot. Do not guess! Do not use only a thermometer. Overheating can be quickly fatal for your new pet. Night drops in temperature are not required. Sumatran short-tailed pythons do not generally require a UV light, but may benefit from one.
Humidity should be maintained at 60-70%. Place a good quality hygrostat in your python’s enclosure to monitor humidity. Using the correct substrate and misting occasionally is usually sufficient to maintain appropriate levels. Despite their love of water, their substrate Sumatran short-tailed pythons should not be kept wet, as this may lead to scale rot.
Provide your python with a non-porous, tip-resistant water bowl large enough to submerge in and change it frequently. Snakes frequently defecate in their water bowl, so frequent disinfection is essential. We recommend F10 Veterinary Disinfectant or original (yellow) Listerine diluted to 10% with water.
Sumatran short-tailed pythons typically tame well, but require regular handling to achieve this. They also have explosive feeding responses. You should study and practice tap training with your python. There are numerous resources available online to show you how to do this, and you should be consistent in practice. Support your python’s body as completely as possible when handling. Do not let them dangle loosely, as these are largely terrestrial animals and the sensation of hanging freely can stress them. Pythons should not be allowed to wrap around a handler’s neck as they can restrict airways in the process of supporting themselves. Instead, support the animal over one shoulder and under the other arm. Never handle larger Sumatran short-tailed pythons alone. Please study safe handling practices for these animals. Children should always be supervised when handling snakes. Do not handle them while they are in shed or right after meals.
Allow your new snake at least a week to adjust to its new habitat before feeding. Mortal Coil Serpentry supports feeding frozen feeders. Your new pet is already feeding on frozen thawed. Live feeding is not recommended. Warm frozen prey to a natural body temperature (~90 degrees). Present prey with tongs, holding it by the base of the tail if possible, and wiggle gently in front of the snake. Do not handle for at least 24 hours after feeding. Sumatran short-tailed pythons do well on rodents and enjoy poultry as a treat.
NOTE: Sumatran short-tail pythons frequently go months between bowel movements. This is normal, but make sure your snake has contact access to enough water to soak in.
Hatchlings to 1 year:
1 prey item the approximate girth of the snake once per week. Mice and African Soft Furs are superior to rats of equivalent size for nutritional value.
1 prey item the approximate girth of the snake once every 2 weeks.
2 years and up:
1 prey item the approximate girth of the snake once every 3-4 weeks.
The correct body shape for a Sumatran short-tailed python is essentially round, but care should be taken to avoid obesity, as this leads to multiple health concerns including fatty liver disease, which can greatly decrease the longevity of your pet.
Impaction – Sumatran short-tailed pythons naturally spend a good amount of time in water, especially when digesting meals. They may become impacted if not provided with enough water to lay in comfortably. As SSTs naturally go a long time between bowel movements, detecting an impaction may be difficult for novice keepers. The best solution for impaction is prevention by proper housing and husbandry. An impacted snake will frequently be lethargic, and may appear lumpy. If impactions are not cleared, they may eventually harden and lead to death. Impacted snakes may benefit from frequent soaks in lukewarm water and mineral oil given orally. If this does not result in a bowel movement within a couple of days, it is imperative that the animal see a veterinarian.
Stomatitis (Mouth Rot) – Frequently a symptom of pushing, this can also be caused by bedding or other debris lodged in the corners of the python’s mouth. Foreign objects should be removed with tweezers, with the help of an assistant (or two) to hold the snake safely and securely. Consult your veterinarian for treatment.
Scale rot – The first sign of scale rot is white areas where the scales seem to be receding. Scale rot is commonly caused by the enclosure being too wet. It is also frequently caused by stress as a result of improper sanitation, improper enclosure size, lack of hiding area for security, or heat being too high or low. You should confirm that all aspects of your enclosure are optimal first and foremost if you notice the beginning of scale rot, and consult your veterinarian for treatment. We also recommend that you change any python experiencing scale rot to unprinted newsprint or paper towels. Sterilize their environment thoroughly. Clean affected area on snake with chlorhexidine 10% solution. If an open wound is observed, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Respiratory infections – Respiratory infections are not extremely common in SSTs, but as a fairly common issue among constrictors overall, we feel it’s worth mentioning. Unlike with other animals, respiratory infections in snakes are typically a secondary infection, symptomatic of an underlying issue with husbandry or another health concern. Wheezing and mouth breathing are the most common symptoms. Discharge may or may not be present. Respiratory infections require addressing the underlying issue, as well as a course of antibiotics.