Added 27 June 2002. Last updated 12 December 2004: updated entry for L. albertisii and Bibliography.

A quick guide to PYTHONS:

The monotypic (single-species) genera


The following are all single-species genera. All offer interesting possibilities to a keeper who is interested in not just keeping something unusual but in making observations for publication and in particular in breeding. Calabria in captivity has been described in print a few times and seems fairly straightforward. Loxocemus is rather less known and is still an object of some mystery when it comes to deciding where it sits taxonomically in relation to pythons and boas.

Apodura papuanus, Papuan Python Bothrochilus boa, Bismarck Ringed Python Calabria reinhardtii, W African Burrowing Python
Leiopython albertisi, White-Lipped Python Loxocemus bicolor, New World Python  

Common Name Species Origin Adult size Notes
Apodora papuanus Papuan Python Western New Guinea (Papua and Irian Jaya) 14' Formerly a member of the Liaisis genus, but reclassified in 1993 into its own genus. This is a heavy-bodied terrestrial python of forested or grassland areas that, while apparently less aggressive than the big Python species, does not refrain from biting, which has somewhat limited its appeal. Apart from this they are fairly opportunistic in their choice of prey and thus can be easily fed. According to Bartlett and Wagner these snakes are fairly easy to obtain.
Bothrochilus boa Bismarck Ringed Python Bismarck islands (P.N.G) 3-6' Formerly classified as a member of the Liasis (Water Python) genus. Bartlett & Wagner describe these pythons as "mild-mannered and agreeable". They do not seem to fall distinctly into either the nocturnal or diurnal category, and likewise their habitat varies between forest, open land and cultivated areas. However, they do need fairly high humidity, even in the incubator. The young are born in bright orange and olive green colours that may be a mimicry protection, as the snakes rapidly fade to a brown colour as they mature. In captivity Bismarcks need a water bowl to soak in as well as the aforementioned humidity: a hot spot is also necessary, as is a hidebox. They will mostly take mice, although a few individuals may need to have their food scented with a lizard or snake before they will take it. They should not be disturbed unnecessarily while eating. Cages need not be tall as these pythons are primarily terrestrial.
Calabria reinhardtii West African Burrowing Python West Africa, esp. Liberia & Cameroons 18-40" The Burrowing Python is similar to the New World Python inasmuch as it likes to burrow, if not below the surface of the ground then at least under leaf litter or other debris, and as it is subject to some confusion over whether it is actually a python or a boa. Like L. bicolor, C. reinhardtii also has an enlarged nostral scale to assist in locomotion through its environment. It is a fairly easy snake to keep: maximum size given above is misleading since most individuals only reach 18" and can be easily kept in a terrarium provided there is an adequate depth of substrate for burrowing. Bartlett and Wagner also note that captive-bred young are less shy and seem content on just a substrate of newspaper: they are also less fussy about the rodent prey they accept. Both wild-caught and captive-bred specimens are fairly hardy.
Leiopython albertisii White-Lipped Python Islands of Torres Straits, N. Australia: N. Guinea below 6,250 ft: island of Mussau, Bismarck archipelago 7-9' Formerly known as D'Albertis Python, this is another water-loving, attractive but bad-tempered python. Natural habitat is rain forest, swamp or grasslands near water. It is nocturnal. In captivity persistent and frequent handling is required to calm these snakes down, during which time a keeper may be bitten quite frequently. However, patience apparently does pay off. Another problem is that hatchlings are also aggressive towards one another so need to be separated and unless given sufficient humidity will suffer respiratory problems - as will adults. Despite these difficulties and potential discouragements the White-Lipped Python is fairly popular with serious herpetoculturists and breeders. Scalation: anterior labials pitted; parietal shields normal, undivided; single loreal on each side; scalation smooth, in 45-55 rows at midbody; ventrals 260-290; anal single; subcaudals divided, 60-80. Coloration: There are three colour phases: solid black with white lips (only this form reaches the maximum of 9'): grey with a darker head and cream-coloured labial scales (this form is only found in the Torres Straits specimens): and most usually, dark and iridescent dorsally, golden sides and a black head with white lips with dark spots. Ventrally cream or opalescent white [Cogger].
Loxocemus bicolor New World Python Mexico 3-4' See the entry under Classification of Pythons for the confusion about whether this snake is in fact a true python. Not much is known about L. bicolor, either in the wild or in captivity, except that it is a rather secretive burrower. Nevertheless it is not unattractive, with a bluish sheen to its scales and an enlarged rostral scale rather like that of a Hognose Snake. They are not difficult to keep and offer an area of research for the interested keeper.


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.

Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians, John Breen, TFH, 1974, Neptune City, New Jersey. Now rather outdated in many details but still a good introduction and with the odd useful bit of information.

Boas, Rosy and Ground, Jerry G Walls, TFH, 1994, Neptune City, New Jersey. Has a useful section on Loxocemus.

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

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