There are many variations of feeding, husbandry and breeding protocols, These are the protocols practiced here at Roussis Reptiles that have helped us successfully maintain and reproduce these pythons.
Usually begin feeding on mouse hoppers or fuzzy rats and start around 3 to 4 weeks after birth, typically after the first ecdydis (shed), which is usually 2-3 weeks after birth. Hide box recommended. Adults feed on live and frozen thawed medium rodents or large adult mice. Fresh water is always available and replaced twice a week.
Ambient cage temperature in the spring and summer seasons are kept mid to high 80′s in the day, mid to high 70′s at night. A hot spot is provided under 1/3 of the enclosure reaching 90 to 100 degrees.
These temperatures can be attained with the use of Flexwatt heat tape and any reliable thermostat. We use Ranco thermostats but there are many other industry specific thermostats, choose one that is easy to program. Under floor heating preferred. We prefer to keep the rear of the cage where the hide box and hot spot are on the damp or humid side as heat will dry out a cage.
We individually house and breed our adult Ball Pythons in our own custom built reptiles racks as well as Freedom Breeder Racks if you are a beginner or a professional a Freedom Breeder will meet your needs. The Freedom Breeder enclosures are 5″ deep, 27 inches long, and 14 inches wide. Our preferred substrate is 1 ½ to 2 inches of damp Cypress mulch, which can be sprayed once weekly, this helps keep humidity at appropriate levels, the open screen tops aid in proper evaporation and ventilation. The hide box offers a secure hiding spot, which aids in feeding and provides an area of increased humidity, which aids in shedding. We use disposable deli cups for water. The cups are disposed of weekly and replaced with new ones; this cuts down on the possibility of disease transmission and allows for quick and efficient maintenance.
Babies are housed in Freedom Breeder 9′ x 18″ enclosures with a hide box and can easily out grow this space in as little as 6 months if fed heavily. The hide box offers a secure hiding spot, which aids in feeding and provides an area of increased humidity, which aids in shedding. We keep them on a thin layer of damp Cyrpress mulch and use disposable deli cups. The cups are replaced of weekly; this cuts down on the possibility of disease transmission and allows for quick and efficient maintenance.
We have been reproducing Pythons every year since 1994, Ball Pythons are among the easiest reptiles to breed. We found Ball Pythons tune into the outdoor environmental cues despite what we do as breeders to manipulate the indoor environment. We have found it best not to fight this but rather play along harmoniously with mother nature.
We do not have a set date we start cooling on every year but rather wait for the weather outside weather to tell us when to implement the changes inside. When we feel the first fall chill in the air and days are shortening, we modify the ambient temperatures inside our facility to coincide with the temperature changes outside. Temps are dropped from the normal summer temperatures of high 80’s to our fall temperature of low 80s in the day and high 70s at night. We turn off all heat tape during this period. If you do not have complete control over your room’s ambient temperature you may want to utilize heat tape to help achieve and maintain these temperatures during this period.
More cues…windows in our facility allow for a natural shortening of daylight hours, although this is probably not necessary we feel it is beneficial to have as many environmental cues as possible to aid in the animal’s “cycling in” for breeding. Humidity is maintained from 55% to 65% a drop from 75% to 85% in the summer months. We make sure to offer food frequently during this period. Adult females will readily accept large frozen thawed rats during this time, it is this increase in appetite that signals us that the females are preparing themselves for reproduction.
We usually start paring males by the end of December early January and continue through April or when ovulations and or males show no further desire for mating. Males are typically introduced into the females cages on a 3 day on 2 days off schedule. We have experimented with longer breeding trials and less days off based on individual basis and have had successful outcomes with stronger more sexually active males but it is important to recognize each snake is an individual and may require more rest time. Males are typically 18 months old minimum 800 grams when first introduced to into a breeding program with exceptions. It is not uncommon for a 4 month old 450 gram male to successfully sire clutches but this often comes with risks and is not recommended. It also not uncommon for male to take 2 ½ to 3 years to breed or to take every other season off. Females are typically 1500 grams 3 ½ years old with the some producing at 18 months and other taking 4 years or more. Most often sexual maturity comes with age and patience is a virtue. Slow and steady growth almost always wins over power feeding and accelerated growth rate.
Although we do make use an ultrasound to satisfy our scientific curiosities we feel it is not necessary when it comes to successful reproduction of Ball Pythons. Although we were one of the first breeders to incorporate ultrasound machines into our breeding program, we reproduced Ball Pythons for many years before the use of ultrasound machines became popular. Many believe mating must take place when follicles are at 20mm and although this is the optimal time, it not the only time. We have multiple records supporting viable sperm retention for 6 months or more and in rare instances from prior breeding seasons. Sperm retention from prior breeding seasons often result in multiple sire clutches or clutches of weak or disfigured babies. That being said if we breed from January through April we are within the window of time in which most our females ovulate and sperm can be stored throughout this period awaiting ovulation. If you wish to preserve a male or reserve him only for “fertile” females with follicles in the 20-25 mm range then the use of an ultrasound machine or palpating the females can prove beneficial.
As day lengths and outside temperatures show signs of increasing we gradually raise our ambient temperatures, this normally occurs around March or April and temperatures in our facility will increase to the highs 80s on there own in the summer months. Interestingly we receive fertile clutches early on during the cool months of February and continue to receive them into the hot summer months of June and July and sometime August. If your cage can maintain humidity above 75% and ambient of high 80s a female Ball Python can successfully incubate her eggs. Although we have experimented with this and were successful on multiple occasions we prefer giving mom a break and artificially incubating the eggs.
NORTERN BLUE TONGUE SKINK ( Tiliqua Intermedia), Eastern Blue Tongue Skink ( Tiliqua S. Scincoides} Blue Tongue Skinks are among some of the easiest reptiles to keep. There are many ways to house, heat and feed Blue Tongue Skinks. Although there are multiple arguments for each, the goal is the same. Blue Tongues skinks thrive in captivity if the basic requirements are met, proper temperature, humidity, substrate and diet.
Blue Tongue Skinks are omnivorous and can be maintained on a variety of diets. This is a huge topic and comes with much debate. There is plenty of information regarding Blue Tongue Skink diets on the web. Some people choose to prepare their skinks meals from scratch and other reach for commercially prepared options. One of the things that make Blue Tongue Skinks such easy reptiles to keep is that they thrive on commercial cat and dog food. We have experimented with many self-prepared diets, commercial cat and dog foods both wet and dry supplemented with calcium and D3 and without varying results. It’s all a matter of ease of preparation and personal preference. There are some great skink specific diets available such as Repashy Bluey Buffet that requires no supplementing at all. Our adults are fed twice a week and babies three times a week. If all needs are met a healthy Blue Tongue Skink can live for 20 years or more.
We were the first to house and breed Blue Tongues in commercial tub and rack systems without overhead lighting and we continue to have success. We believe as long as the skinks are offered a hot spot from 95 to 115 degrees F and a cool side between 68 to 85 degrees F they will thrive, how you provide this is up to you. Some breeders use overhead lighting, others underbelly heat via heat tape. There is also debate about the need for UV lighting, by now there is enough evidence to support that with a proper balanced diet of calcium and D3, UV lighting is unnecessary.
Enclosure options are endless ranging from glass terrariums to homemade cages, and even rack systems. We recommend a minimum of 30” x 18” of floor space for adult Blue Tongues, long enough to provide a heat gradient and wide enough for the animal to easily turn around. There are multiple options for bedding, we have experimented with a lot of them, including Cypress Mulch, Aspen Bedding, Coco Coir Chips, Bark Chips, Wood Pellets, Compressed Paper, Pine Shavings, Pine Bark, Newspaper and few others. We find that they all have their pros and cons and except for newspaper no one bedding option is suitable for every skink, some of our Blue Tongues do well on all types of bedding and others do better on some then they do on others.
We found that no matter the choice of bedding the characteristics they need to have in common are they shouldn’t contain excessive amounts of dust or moisture, either extreme can cause a host of problems for Blue Tongue skinks. We find that Aspen, Cypress and Newspaper tend to be the safest choices for us. No matter what you choose, the substrate shouldn’t be too dusty or wet and it should be at least a few inches deep, deep enough for the skinks to burrow and cover themselves which they do often. We found that Blue Tongue Skinks are tolerant of a wide range of humidity as long as the cage is not wet, damp or stagnant and substrate is deep enough to burrow when shedding.
BREEDING NORTHERN BLUE TONGUE SKINK ( Tiliqua Intermedia), and Eastern Blue Tongue Skink ( Tiliqua S. Scincoides} Under proper conditions, healthy Blue Tongue Skinks breed readily captivity. We have been successfully reproducing Northern and Eastern Blue Tongue Skinks every year since 2009. Although many of the breeding principles do not differ that much from other reptile species, the pairing portion of the process does require close supervision and in our opinion is the most difficult part. As with other reptiles, best results are experienced if the Blue Tongues are exposed to a hibernation or brumation period. On Occasion we have successfully reproduced both sub species without cooling them, however we do regularly hibernate / brumate our skinks. The cooling and mating processes put a lot of stresson the skinks, because of this only animals in peak condition should be considered for breeding.
Injured, weak or underweight animals should remain in optimal temperatures and have continued access to heat gradients and nutritional meals until they are healthy and reconditioned. We like to sync as much as possible our skink’s breeding cycles with the seasonal cues in our geographic area. We typically start cooling our Blue Tongues sometime in November or December and offering them heat again in February or March. This process starts with an “empty out” period where we stop offering food for 2 weeks to let the skinks empty their bowels before cooling. Water is offered during this period and throughout the entire cooling period. This “empty out” period is followed by a gradual decrease in temperature and natural decrease in day light lengths over a 2-week period. By the end of the second week we have turned off our hot spots and have lowered both the day and night ambient temperature to 55 degrees. During this period our skinks are very sedentary, most of them have burrowed beneath the bedding or remain in their hidebox. We do not handle or disturb the skinks at all during this period, opening draws only to replace water bowls and to make certain there are no signs of weight loss or illness. Sometime in February we gradually warm our Blue Tongues up over a two-week period to normal day time time temperatures and then start offering food. When we see the skinks are eating well and have resumed normal levels of activity we start pairing up males and females. To put it plain and simple the breeding process is dangerous and comes with risks, death or serious injury can occur. It is anaccepted fact that specimens can and will get injured during mating trials, toes, tails, hands and feet can come off even under the most closely supervised breeding trials. We pair males and females one at a time for short intervals, if animals show no interest by ten minutes of being paired they are separated. If individuals show signs of hostile aggression (open mouth with body arching, biting of the head, hands, feet or tail tip) they are separated immediately. If mating occurs, it is usually within the first five minutes and last a very short time usually between 20 and 90 seconds. We continue to pair individuals for a few weeks until copulation ceases.