The White Lipped Python is one of the lesser-known snake species in the reptile-keeping hobby.
Still, it’s voracious appetite, hardiness, and beautiful, iridescent skin attract a decent following of dedicated keepers.
That being said, this species is not for the faint of heart.
They’re known for being nippy and defensive: bite first, ask questions later!
Some keepers appreciate the adrenaline of handling such a difficult snake, while others enjoy the challenge of taming it down.
If you feel like you might be ready for such a challenge, this beautiful species might be for you.
In This Article
White Lipped Python Species Overview
The White Lipped Python (Bothrochilus albertisii), also known as the D’Albertis’ python, the D’Albert’s water python, or the northern white-lipped python, is a medium-sized python native to the lowland forests and rainforests of New Guinea.
Although they’re considered terrestrial, White Lipped Pythons aren’t afraid of heights. In the wild, they can be found high up in trees and on the forest floor.
Adult D’Albert’s Python’s natural prey species include small and medium birds and mammals, while hatchlings typically hunt lizards.
They’re nocturnal hunters that use heat pits for detecting warm-blooded prey.
Interestingly, this species has been observed regurgitating balls of partially digested fur after a mammalian meal. This behavior is known as “casting” and is believed to increase their food digestion efficiency.
Like other pythons, White Lipped Pythons are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs.
Adult females lay a clutch of around a dozen eggs, which hatch after incubating for around two months.
Appearance & Colors
Northern White Lipped Pythons are slender-bodied snakes with smooth, iridescent scales. The striking rainbow-like shimmer and gloss have fueled their popularity in captivity.
D’Albert’s Pythons are patternless, with a bronze, gray, or golden body and a black head.
As their common name suggests, the scales above and below their lips (known as their labial scales) are white.
White Lipped Python Size
These medium-sized pythons reach an average size of around 6 to 7 feet.
Baby White Lipped Pythons emerge from their eggs at around 20 inches long. They take 3 to 4 years to reach maturity.
White Lipped Python Lifespan
Like most pythons, White Lipped Pythons have quite a long lifespan.
A healthy, well-cared-for animal can be expected to live for over 30 years.
|Quick Facts at a Glance:|
|Common name||D’Albertis’ python, the D’Albert’s water python, or the northern white-lipped python|
|Scientific name||Bothrochilus albertisii|
|Adult size||72-84 inches|
|Diet||Small to medium-sized birds and mammals|
|Tank Size||6’ Long x 2’ Wide x 2’ Tall|
|Temperature & Humidity||Basking spot: 95°F, Warm Side: 80-95°F, Cool side: 80-95°F, Humidity: 60-70%|
|Popular alternatives||Sunbeam Snake, Amazon Tree Boa|
White Lipped Python Care
Enclosure Size & Dimensions
Minimum Adult Enclosure Size: 6’ Long x 2’ Wide x 2’ Tall
This is a curious species that actively hunts for its prey.
They are not ambush predators, and every night they will utilize and enjoy as much space as you can offer it.
Since they’re semi-arboreal, aim for a minimum cage height of 2 feet – taller is better.
When housing youngsters, a good rule of thumb is to house them in an enclosure that allows them to stretch out completely length-wise.
PVC, melamine, and sealed wood enclosures work better than glass aquariums since White Lipped Pythons prefer high humidity and warm temperatures.
Glass is not a good insulator, and screen tops allow moisture to evaporate.
Equip your White Lipped Python’s enclosures with hides and decor at ground level and at an elevation.
This species is just at home climbing branches while it hunts for birds, as it is hunting for rodents on the forest floor.
As with most snakes, you should offer your D’Albert’s python a minimum of two hides: one on the cool side and one on the warm side.
You can use an optional third hide as a “humid hide” by filling it with damp sphagnum moss, which this species will appreciate.
Without branches, rocks, and other climbing opportunities, the vertical space of your cage will go to waste.
Get creative by incorporating some of the following into their habitat:
- Store-bought branches
- Ropes and ladders from the bird section
You can also use natural materials that you find outside, as long as you take the time to sanitize them properly.
Some keepers have also had success keeping this species in a bio-active set-up with live plants and “clean up crew” invertebrates.
Temperature & Lighting
|Temperature & Lighting Summary|
|Basking Spot Temperature:||95°F|
|Warm Side Ambient Temperature:||85°F-90°F|
|Cool Side Ambient Temperature:||75°F-80°F|
|Night-time Ambient Drop (optional):||68°F-75°F|
Like all cold-blooded creatures, wild White Lipped Pythons engage in a behavior that’s known as thermoregulation.
They will find a spot with the ideal temperature, humidity, and light exposure, depending on their current metabolic needs.
For example, a shedding animal might find a mossy, humid, cool retreat under a log, while an animal that just ate a large meal may expose its body to the sun to warm up as much as possible.
To provide these conditions in captivity, you need to create what’s known as a “thermal gradient.”
Your White Lipped Python’s enclosure should have a warm end and a cool end. The temperatures should be maintained at the levels listed in the table above.
The best heat source for snakes is a topic of debate amongst herpetoculture fanatics.
Some keepers argue that nocturnal, terrestrial species, like the White Lipped Python, would do best with belly heat from a heat mat or heat tape.
It’s important to note that heat mats or heat tape don’t do a very good job at increasing the ambient temperatures. They typically only increase the surface temperature of the floor.
Others argue that, in nature, heat comes from above, from the sun, and that we should try to replicate that.
Incandescent light bulbs, like halogen light bulbs, produce infrared waves most similar to the sun. These should only be used during the day, a maximum of 12 hours per 24 hour period.
A nighttime temperature drop is optional, but there may be physiological benefits. Again, this is an event that White Lipped Pythons would experience in the wild.
If you still need or decide to provide additional heat at night, you can use any heat source that doesn’t emit light, like a ceramic heat emitter, a carbon filament bulb, or a radiant heat panel.
While it’s not required, you may also opt to provide your White Lipped Python with a low-output UVB bulb.
Even nocturnal wildlife has been observed engaging in a behavior known as “cryptic basking,” where they expose parts of their body to the sun for UV absorption and warmth.
Ideal Humidity: 60-80%
D’Albert’s Pythons are native to humid, almost swamp-like forests and jungles, so you need to replicate these conditions in their captive habitat.
To further add to the importance of this matter, this species has thin skin that allows it to dehydrate rapidly in suboptimal conditions.
The BEST method for maintaining a high humidity level is to use a compatible substrate.
Great substrate choices for a White Lipped Python include:
- Coconut fiber
- Organic topsoil
- Sphagnum moss
- Cypress mulch
It’s essential to let the substrate dry out every once in a while and never let it get “swampy” or muddy. Allowing it to dry out will prevent scale rot and mold growth.
Keeping the water dish under or above the heat source(s) will cause the water to evaporate faster and raise the enclosure’s humidity.
You may also opt to mist the enclosure as often as once a day, although most keepers prefer to limit this to a few times per week.
A bioactive enclosure with live plants is another great way of maintaining the high humidity level that D’Albert’s Pythons need to thrive.
In the wild, White Lipped Pythons are almost always found near rivers. It’s thought that they occasionally enjoy taking a dip in the water.
Like most species, you should provide them with a water dish that’s large enough for them to submerge their entire body.
It’s best to provide fresh water daily, but you should wash the bowl and change the water every week at a minimum.
Always change the water immediately if you notice your snake has defecated or urinated in it, which some D’Albert’s pythons are known to do.
Food & Diet
|White Lipped Python Feeding Schedule|
|0-12 Months Old:||Appropriately sized meal every 5-7 days.|
|12+ Months Old:||Appropriately sized meal every 10-14 days.|
Captive White Lipped Pythons will thrive on a diet of frozen and thawed or pre-killed rats of an appropriate size.
Compared to other large snakes, they have a fast metabolism.
When feeding your python, aim to provide a rat that is slightly wider than the widest part of your snake’s body – after it eats, there should be a very minor bulge.
D’Albert’s Pythons usually have a voracious appetite and do not typically refuse food.
Sometimes, hatchlings may be picky about accepting rodents – they naturally prefer reptilian prey at that age.
Reputable breeders will ensure that the juveniles they’re selling have successfully taken a few rodent meals, so be sure to ask the seller about the animal’s feeding history.
When feeding captive snakes, freshly killed or frozen and thawed prey is always a better option than live prey.
Live rats can cause life-threatening injuries to any snake, but especially to the thin-skinned White Lipped Python.
A variety of prey items, while not necessary, may offer some enrichment and a boost in specific vitamins and minerals to your D’Albert’s Pythons.
The following are all great options for adding variety into your White Lipped Python’s diet.
- Guinea pigs,
- Young rabbits,
- Young chicken,
After all, variety is the spice of life!
Potential Health Issues
White Lipped Pythons are not particularly prone to many health issues. They’re mainly affected by the same diseases that all captive snake species are susceptible to, such as:
Mites are visually identifiable as small, black dots that move around on your snake’s body and embed between the scales, especially around the eyes, neck, and vent.
You might observe your snake soaking itself more often, and you’ll be able to see the drowned mites that look like pepper flakes in the water dish.
Reptile mites can be treated with OTC products marketed for such purposes.
Mite infestation can be prevented by:
following proper quarantine protocols with new animals, washing any supplies you purchase from a pet store, washing your hands, and changing your clothes after handling strange reptiles from outside your home.
Scale rot is identifiable as brown-tinged, thin, damaged scales, especially on the snake’s belly and sides.
It’s caused by a buildup of bacteria in an overly damp environment, which is why it’s imperative to allow your substrate to dry out.
Branches that enable your snake to climb and air-dry its scales are also helpful in preventing scale rot.
Early-stage scale rot can be treated with OTC antimicrobials, but severe cases may require antibiotics or even surgery from a veterinarian.
A respiratory infection can be life-threatening since snakes only have one functioning lung, and veterinary treatment is mandatory.
Respiratory infections are typically caused by:
- A dirty cage
- Cold temperatures
- Excessively high or low humidity
Symptoms of respiratory infection in a snake include a rattling or crackling sound when breathing, open-mouth breathing, and excessive discharge from the nostrils or mouth.
Usually, treatment requires a course of injectable antibiotics.
Even though White Lipped Pythons are active snakes with a fast metabolism, snakes as a genus have evolved to survive on little sustenance.
They’re experts at storing fat for periods of prolonged fasting – which typically never happen in captivity.
Snakes store fat internally before it ever shows externally, so it’s essential to keep track of your snake’s weight.
If your D’Albert’s Python is gaining weight, but it’s not growing, that should signal you to decrease prey size or feeding frequency.
Behavior & Temperament
White Lipped Pythons are notoriously nippy and defensive.
Combine those attributes with their considerable size, and it’s clear to see why they aren’t necessarily the best choice for fresh, nervous snake keepers.
Captive breeding has done well for reducing the defensive tendencies of this species. Wild-caught individuals are said to retain their nippiness throughout the rest of their life.
A snake hook is a must when handling an adult White Lipped Python, as they’re much more likely to strike inside of their enclosure.
Once you gently remove the animal with your snake hook, you can allow it to move freely between your hands. Restraint is another big trigger for bites.
Even though White Lipped Pythons are known for being nippy, handling them is the KEY to taming them.
Short, daily handling sessions will allow your snake to become used to your presence and scent. Once the snake is comfortable around you, it will have less of a reason to be defensive.
Again, we stress that you shouldn’t squeeze, grip, or restrain your White Lipped Python. Doing so will only scare it even more, causing it to bite.
Allow your snake to move freely through your hands, with you acting as a branch.
Be sure to wash your hands before handling to avoid smelling like potential prey.
Unlike defensive bites, which are fast and quickly released, feeding response bites involve the snake latching onto you and wrapping around you.
You will likely have to use cold water or mouthwash to convince the snake to release you.
Always wash snake bites thoroughly and treat them with an antibacterial doubt. When in doubt, make an appointment to see your medical provider.
When it comes to White Lipped Pythons, it’s not a matter of if you get bit… It’s a matter of when!
Still, we agree with this species’ fans: their intelligent and inquisitive nature and gorgeously iridescent appearance make them well worth the risk!
We hope this guide has given you all of the information you need to decide which side of the fence you’re on.
If you’re interested in more on pythons, read our blood python care sheet!
Or if you’re curious about other snakes with a rainbow-like sheen, then you can explore our guide to the rainbow python.