Breeding Diamond Pythons: Introduction
Images and Text by Rob Sullivan
Let me start by stating the obvious. There is probably dozens of ways to go about keeping and breeding Diamond Pythons or any python for that matter, this is what works for me.
Over time I have chatted with a fair few breeders, not just diamond breeders but python breeders in general and come up with a medley from all the information I collected.
Like most keepers, I started out with a Diamond Python, then another, then a few more. There is something about this animal that just seems to catch a lot of enthusiasts like me, into wanting to have them in my collection. It might be their graceful nature or their lovely coloration or simply the cluster of rosettes that just mesmerize you. I’m not sure, but out of all the snakes I have kept these are the ones at the top of my list.
Breeding Diamond Pythons: Housing
I simply keep mine housed in an enclosure 1200 x 600 x 600mm x 3 banks high (old scale; 4 x 2 x 2ft) unit that butts up to another unit the same size with a sliding door in between, a mirror image type look. I can either open the sliding door so there is a 2400 (8ft) long unit for roaming or I can simply drop the slide in to separate for feeding or for a period of time during breeding. I find this type of unit handy at cleaning times as you can just have the snake up one end, clean the unit at the other end without having to have extra tubs floating around to keep your reptile in whilst cleaning.
Light and heat is provided through a 40w basking lamp and floor heating from the unit below, with each unit being able to be isolated individually.
I aim for 28 degrees at the basking spot and depending on the ambient temperature the cooler end averages 25 degrees in the peak of the day. I use a 40w basking globe in my enclosure but obviously that may not suit your enclosure as every area a person lives in is different so some homework needs to be done to get what suits individuals needs.
Breeding Diamond Pythons: Feeding
Our adult females and males are fed every 14 days on 200g rats, quail or rabbits. *Note for yourself “they seem to really love rabbits”. I have never seen so much excitement as when a Diamond Python checks out a rabbit. They hit it that hard you nearly lose the feeding tongs with the rabbit. Proper feeding is important with breeding diamond pythons.
Come the end of January our females feed every 7 days as I believe new body fats need to be available for their egg development period.
The males will stay as they are all year round except when cooling as I prefer to keep them leaner so they are/should be a bit more enthusiastic and not lazy when introductions are started. Hatchlings up to juveniles are fed every 7 to 10 days on appropriate sized rats.
Breeding Diamond Pythons: Brumation
Brumation or winter cooling is for me started at the end of April. Towards the end of April the average night temperature (in Victoria) is around 6 degrees with mid 20 degree days, so the ambient temperatures are ideal for the cooling period to start. As I said earlier, we run a basking light with a thermostat during summer in order to prevent over heating even in a cooled house.
During winter no thermostat is used. We basically just run the basking for heating from 8am to 3pm; it takes some 2 to 3 hours for the enclosure to heat up that’s why we start it at 8am. The basking spot gets to 26 to 28 degrees between about 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Our diamonds seem to love these conditions and move between the basking spot and cool end several times a day. 3pm is the cut off time for the basking light because when I lived in Ulladulla on the east coast of NSW the temperature started to cool down in the winter around this time. The way our units are setup I keep Bredli underneath the female diamonds, as the heat from their unit rises and acts as floor heating so no night heat is required.
I might add that the herp room has windows at either end so natural lighting hours are achieved from when the sun comes up until when it goes down. I don’t seem to worry about 3 hours of this and 4 hours of that, in the wild the sun comes up and the sun goes down.
We do not offer food during brumation, our feeding stops at the end of April and resumes in the middle of August.
Breeding Diamond Pythons: The Process
The female generally has a pre breeding shed in mid to late August and the introductions start at the beginning of September; I’ve tried earlier but never any success.
I use 2 males at any one time; I try to give 1 male 2 days with the female prior to introducing the next male. Then the 3 are together for 2 days until the first male is taken out and the second stays with the female 2 more days before being removed. So a 6 day event for 1 female which during this time at least 2 matings generally would have occurred. From my observations the females seem to choose which male they are receptive to so really a choice is made by the female even though the male is the one searching for the female. I can’t recall ever seeing a second male breed with the female, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just I have never seen this happen.
After each 6 day breeding session small food items are offered to the female. Food is offered after each mating session until she refuses, which generally would determine that the female has become gravid. From our records females are generally refusing food at the start of November.
We supply a nesting box with a hole cut in the top for access and a thick layer of paper kept moist at approximately day 20 after a pre lay shed. We used a plastic tub with a hole in the side one year and ended up with more sphagnum moss in the enclosure than in the tub, what a pain! The gravid female will spend the majority of her time in the box coming out a few times over the day to bask for a short time then returning to her nesting box.
Breeding Diamond Pythons: Incubation
We have noticed that our females are more active in the last couple of days prior to egg laying than any other period whilst she has been gravid - she just seems to be restless. Our excitement has also grown so the female diamond is not the only one that is restless; especially overnight when most of our females have laid we are up every couple of hours checking them out.
On collection of the eggs for artificial incubation a towel is placed over the female to assist collection. Sometimes we collect the eggs as they come out and other times she is left alone to finish the lay. It just depends on the female and where the eggs lay, sometimes it is just too stressful on the female and she is left alone. We have separated and left clumps together with no ill effects either way; however we have been fortunate never to have had bad eggs in the bottom of a clump.
Artificial incubation is done by using an esky, heat cord, thermometer/hygrometer and a dimming thermostat.
A container of sufficient size is used to house the eggs for the next 30 days. Vermiculite and water mixed at 50/50 weight is used, aiming for a layer approximately 30-40mm deep. Simply, this is one of those "careful" stages in breeding diamond pythons.
I measure temperatures in the incubator and the humidity in one of the containers aiming for 31 degrees and 99%+ humidity. It has not been too often I have had to add water to lift the humidity. The containers are set up well in advance; I find condensation builds up until the container has reached the incubator temperature.
A week before the eggs slit open there are noticeable changes with the eggs starting to collapse. Not long now!
At 35 days I slit the eggs myself if there is no sign of the little ones slitting them. They have been known to drown in their own fluids by not having an egg tooth to slit the egg themselves, so the process is done for them.
Breeding Diamond Pythons: Hatchlings
Once the hatchlings’ heads are poking out it will generally take a few days for them to come out completely. Once one starts the others follow suit.
When they are completely out of their eggs they are removed to their new home. Food is not offered until a week after their first shed which is generally after 7 to 10 days. We start them off by just leaving a pinky mouse on the floor of their tub. Some take it straight away, some are more reluctant. No force is needed with diamonds from what I have found, just a heap of patience. After 2 feeds on pinky mice we start them on new born pinky rats, after that there is no stopping them.