Added 27 June 2002.

A quick guide to



The genus Liasis is found in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia in a variety of habitats. Recently a number of species have been removed from the genus, leaving only a few. Macklot's Python (L. mackloti) and the Sawu Python (L. sawuensis) are seen on a regular basis in captivity. The genus is characterised by the presence of teeth on the premaxilla, head covered by large, symmetrical shields, and the presence of pits in some of the labial scales [Cogger].

L. fuscus, Brown Water Python L. mackloti, Macklot's Python L. sawuensis, Sawu Python
L. olivaceous, Olive Python    

Common Name Species Origin Adult size Notes
Liasis fuscus Brown Water Python N. Australia, Cornwallis Island (Torres Strait), E. Irian Jaya, W. Papua 4-8' Rather bad-tempered water python that in nature remains in one area (usually with high humidity, such as wet forest or drainage plain) and feeds on whatever it can find. Bartlett & Wagner recommend continuous handling to calm the snake down and thus reduce its propensity for spraying excreta when excited. It is also to be noted that some experts consider L. fuscus to be simply a colour phase of another species, L. mackloti (Macklot's Python). Feeding is at least reasonably simple as these pythons will take most things, including (in the wild) eggs of water birds. Interestingly, hatchlings do not eat until 4-5 months old. Scalation details [Cogger]: Anterior supralabials pitted. Parietal shields undivided. Single loreal on each side. Scales smooth, 40-55 rows at midbody. Ventrals 270-300. Anal single. Subcaudals 60-90, divided.
L. mackloti Macklot's Python SE Indonesia 6' Increasingly popular python among herpetoculturists due to the adaptability of mature individuals to captivity, although even captive-bred young are ill-disposed to start with. Macklot's Pythons are a brown-green dorsally, fading towards the ventral surface where they are normally white, but there are some slight variations on this basic pattern. In nature they live in areas of fairly high humidity (river basins, wet savannah and Indonesian forest) and this needs to be replicated in captivity or respiratory- or eye infections will occur. Captive specimens normally take rodents or fowl.
L. olivaceous Olive Python N. & W. Australia (coastal districts) 8-15' Largeish snake (though maximum size is usually 13') with a propensity for biting, hence not terribly popular among keepers. Natural habitat is river gorges and rocky escarpments, but also found in other areas including monsoon forest and savannah woodland. These snakes prey upon mammals, birds and sometimes lizards. There are two subspecies, but only the nominate form is usually kept in captivity. Scalation details [Cogger]: Anterior supralabials pitted. Parietal shields undivided. Single loreal on each side. Scales smooth, 55-80 rows at midbody. Ventrals 340-415. Anal single. Subcaudals 90-110, divided.
L. o. olivaceous Kimberleys, WA, to Queensland
L. o. barroni Pilbara region, WA
L. sawuensis Sawu Python Sawu (nr. Indonesia) 5' There is some controversy as to whether the Sawu Python is a species in its own right or simply a subspecies of Macklot's Python. It was only discovered in 1993 and certainly appears different to Macklot's Python, being a coral colour and smaller, and also less aggressive in its wild state. Natural habitat is woodlands, and diet the usual rodents and birds. They adapt well to captivity. Their main disadvantage is that although common on Sawu, the small size of the island means that prices will be high for some time. For that and conservation reasons, this is one python which is really crying out for captive breeding, and which according to Bartlett is not hard to encourage in this direction.


Pythons: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Patricia Bartlett and Ernie Wagner, Barrons, 1997, New York/Hong Kong. As mentioned above, a very useful and comprehensive guide to the principles of keeping and breeding pythons and with useful species accounts.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, Harold Cogger, 6th edition, Reed New Holland, Australia, 2000. Indispensable guide for an overview and identification details of all Australian herptiles.

Breeding and Keeping Snakes, Dr Dieter Schmidt (translated by William Charlton), TFH, 1995 (originally published in German under the title Schlangen [Snakes] by Urania-Verlag, Leipzig). Although a more general book inasmuch as it covers other snake families besides the pythons, most books by German herpetoculturists are always worth a look. Schmidt does not cover many of the python species other than the most common or desirable ones, and even here the reader should be aware that some of the species listed are placed under older classifications than Bartlett and Wagner's book (eg the Diamond Python which is now Morelia spilota spilota is here listed as Python spilotus, while the White-Lipped Python Leiopython albertisi is listed as Liasis albertisi, and so on). Nevertheless the book does have some useful sections, including a table "Compilation of Breeding Dates in Pythons", plus Genetics and Hybridisation.

Snakes of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford, 1986/1992, London. A good book with the only reservation being that applied to Dieter Schmidt's, ie some of the taxonomy/classification is now out of date. See also Mattison's Keeping and Breeding Snakes (Blandford) which is probably more immediately useful to snake keepers.

Reptiles and Amphibians: Management in Captivity, Eric M Rundquist, TFH, 1994, Neptune City, New Jersey. Very good on general husbandry practices for herpetologists and with a section on the incubation (by the female, if possible) of the eggs of Morelia viridis (Green Tree Python). See also the article by Peter Schu in Reptilia no. 7: "Chondropython viridis, a jewel in the terrarium".

If you are interested in the taxonomy of the Australasian pythons, an interesting article is Raymond Hoser's "Revision of the Australasian Pythons", Ophidia Review, Issue 1 Autumn 2000.

See also Periodical Index - Boas and Pythons for magazine articles relating to the various species listed here.

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