Care and Breeding Australia's Diamond Python
by Stan Chiras


Maligned by some, misunderstood by even more, Australiaís most stunning python
makes not only a great pet snake, but a wonderful breeder as well. The animal is just
plain misunderstood, and if it wasnít for the breeding efforts of a dozen or so
dedicated individuals, to this day weíd be shying away from keeping them. I say this
because almost half the calls I get about diamonds start out the same way: ďIsnít it
true that they donít live very long, and that they die from bone deficiencies?Ē

Obviously, if some of us have great success with diamonds, then it can be done
- and believe me - it ainít difficult. The problem is in overcoming basic flaws in
what-used-to be common husbandry practices. Iíve said this a hundred times if Iíve
said it once: diamonds are not carpet or reticulated pythons, and you canít keep them
the same as most other pythons. More on that later.

Diamonds are cold weather pythons, as evidenced by their dark coloration - an
adaptation of animals in colder climates, enabling them to absorb heat from the sun
quickly and efficiently. That doesnít mean you have to freeze their tails off, though.
Found exclusively in Southeast Australia, the weather gets downright cold during the
winter months (our Northern hemisphere summer months) and these snakes are
accustomed to hibernating. The colder the winter, the more complete their
hibernation. During periods of mild winter weather, diamonds are frequently seen
basking on rock ledges, apparently attempting to gain whatever solar radiation they
can. Messing with partial hibernation is a bit risky in captivity, and once again, more
on that later.

Studies of radio telemetry-equipped diamond pythons by University of
Sydneyís David Slip and Richard Shine have revealed interesting behavioral habits,
primarily that of extensive summer/winter ranging. Males were found to follow
females extensively during the winter months and typically a ďreadyĒ female had
several males nearby. Oddly, and unlike their close relative the carpet python, male
diamonds do not seem to engage in male combat during the mating season. Perhaps
nature programmed these cold-weather serpents to save their limited winter energy for
breeding, and survival of the fittest is defined as those with the energy to find a female
more than the male who is capable of winning a battle. Reports of diamonds
combating in the wild, and in captivity, simply do not exist. This isnít to imply that
one needs only one male for a successful captive breeding program, because wild and
captive observations prove that females take more than one mate at a time, and while
one waits his turn nearby, another may actively copulate the female.

Diamonds are medium-sized when compared to carpet pythons. While
exceptions do exist, adult females generally attain an adult length of 6 1/2 to 7 feet,
while most males average about a foot shorter. One of my best ever breeding males
never got an inch over 4 1/2 feet his entire life.

Their color and pattern are somewhat variable, ranging from black and white
to black and gold. The latter variation is highly sought by collectors for its obvious
beauty. A diamondís pattern is itís true mark of excellence. The spots, or rosettes,
ideally should be small, measured in scales, and not interconnected. Ideally, rosettes
should be between three to seven scales across. The perfect diamond has evenly
spaced, small rosettes. Those with connected rosettes, or large blotches instead of
small rosettes, are considered to be less attractive by diamond python aficionados.
Those with significant variations from this theme are oftentimes referred to as
intergrades - which occur naturally where the diamond python range extends North
and West into the carpet pythonís range. Commercially offered diamonds are
sometimes suspect because of the common practice of cross breeding the very
beautiful, but mongrel diamondxcarpet morph.

Letís have a look into the care, feeding, and breeding of this fantastic python.
I first started working with them in the middle 70ís, when information was sadly
lacking. By implementing care techniques congruent with the animalsí natural habitat,
I was able to successfully breed them by the late 70ís, and it has become easier with
each passing year. When the profiteer breeders got involved, and began introducing
speed raising techniques into the picture, the diamond python began getting its bum
rap. If you like diamonds for what they are - a true cold weather python - youíll have
absolutely no trouble keeping, and even breeding them successfully.

BASIC FACTS

Cold weather animals adapt to their environment specifically. Expecting them
to survive if kept in captivity differently is a chancy endeavor at best. While you might
be able to keep them alive, keeping them healthy is another story altogether. Here is
the problem, so-to-speak.

Diamonds migrate from low, warm environments to higher, cooler winter
quarters - usually along the sun-exposed faces of rocky hillsides and cliffs.
Evolutionary time must be taken into account; that is, diamonds have evolved into this
behavioral adaptation to the environment over millions of years. Taking a captive born
animal and changing its evolutionary needs is a sure-fire prescription for trouble. This
is a fancy way of saying that you canít keep a polar bear in a South American
rainforest any more than a tapir could be expected to survive in the Yukon Territory.
Even our own species, man, if it werenít for our expertise at adaptation, would survive
only briefly without technological innovations (like clothing...) in places like the desert
or the far north. Expecting diamond pythons to do well when kept like carpet
pythons, boa constrictors, or Burmese pythons is sheer lunacy. Long ago we learned
that even tri-color kingsnakes fare better if hibernated each year...

Diamonds have evolved and adapted to the conditions of Southeast Australia,
and as keepers we must adhere to the rules established by nature for these pythons.
While many snakes have been kept in conditions differing from their natural
environment, this is one that requires certain adherence to the rules of nature.






CARE

Caging

Diamonds are quite arboreal, especially as youngsters. Typically, they are
raised in flat-bottomed cages with virtually no limbs. This isnít best for the snakes,
and to this day some of my breeders almost never leave their limbs for the bottom of
the cage. One male, in particular, virtually never leaves his branches, except for
defecation. Others, especially the large females, spend more time on the cage floor, in
hide boxes. Nevertheless, providing diamonds with limbs and shelves for basking is a
good idea. They will use them a LOT, and especially for the young, by providing them
with elevated areas theyíll feel more secure.

I prefer to keep my diamonds in fairly large cages, usually six to eight feet
long, by 28Ē wide, by 24Ē to 42Ē high. They are very active, and if given enough room
will exercise on a regular basis. One common syndrome of diamonds is obesity and
resultant flaccid muscular development. An active snake by nature, it stands to reason
that this activity (exercise) should be provided in captivity.

Since nobody makes a hide box of adequate size for diamond pythons (Iíve
called and inquired, but gotten the standard response...) (they do make one model
thatís way too large, though!), I usually provide my diamonds with cork bark hiding
places. While they love to hide, typically theyíll pose as sentries, ready just inside the
hide box entrance for any passing food item. It seems an obvious read that diamonds
are opportunistic feeders, as my careless hands can attest. Picking up cage litter, or
the water bowl, in the vicinity of the hide box opening often results in a feeding stab -
by no means an act of aggression toward the keeper, but merely an opportunistic
snakeís response to a warm body within striking range!

This aggressive, ever-ready feeding response has lead many keepers to
overfeed their diamonds. Thinking they always want to and (mistakenly) NEED to
feed, the well meaning, but somewhat ignorant keeper obliges and ends up
inadvertently overfeeding the poor snake, leading to obesity and unavoidable
deleterious health hazards. I canít say it any other way, or ever enough: Do not feed
diamonds at the same rate as most other pythons. Mine get fed about six months out
of the year, and oftentimes less than ten regular-sized meals during that time. They
always seem hungry, but thatís the nature of an opportunistic feeder. Believe me, they
donít need a lot of food! A diamond python, whether young or old, should be a lean,
muscular, highly alert animal that is always wishing it had more to eat. Since nature
rarely provides too much food (probably she never does...), wild diamonds simply
spend their lives hungry. Of all the snakes Iíve caught in the wild, from rattlesnakes to
tri colors, to boas, pythons and anacondas, Iíve never caught or even seen a fat snake.
So why should we overfeed them in captivity?

The somewhat ingrained adage that you have to get your pythons, especially
females, fat for breeding does NOT apply to this particular species. It has been my
experience that most herps donít need to be fat, but merely healthy and not skinny to
successfully reproduce.

Temperature

Temperature has been a fairly controversial topic among diamond
keepers. I first bred diamonds back in the middle 1970ís, when it had never been done
before anywhere, to the best of my knowledge. After communicating with people in
Australia, it became evident that this black snake lived in a place where basking and
heat retention were fairly important to itís health. While it gets hot as Haiti during
summer, diamonds manage to keep themselves within reasonable temperature limits
throughout the year, save the winter hibernation period.

Diamonds do well if kept in the low-to-middle eighties (day) to high seventies
(night) during three quarters of the year. The key to not only breeding, but to
successfully maintaining HEALTHY diamonds is to give them time off each year, to
duplicate the natural seasonal cycles these wonderful snakes have evolved to
biologically expect from nature (or in our case, from their captive environments).
Cooling theories vary considerably, and certain factors must be considered.

After experimenting for many years, and after experiencing too many
respiratory problems with gradual entry and emergence from artificial hibernation, I
have resorted to a sudden plunge into and out of this critical time period to (1)
properly and safely hibernate my animals, and (2) create the conditions necessary for
successful reproduction. Since reproduction depends on (1) actual breeding behavior,
that is, courting and copulation, and (2) viable sperm and egg, or spermatogenesis and
oogenesis, just getting your snakes into and out of hibernation isnít necessarily
enough. Achieving the proper temperature and humidity parameters are also
necessary.

Nature operates under relatively loose guidelines in regard to the diamond
pythonsí winter. She might throw an extremely harsh winter, or conversely a
wonderfully mild winter at her charges, at the whim of El Nino or whatever
contrivance she elects to utilize. Likewise, she might impose severe drought on
Southeastern Australia and make conditions for growth or reproductive cycling
difficult on the local herpetofauna. We can better that in captivity. We can always,
with a little care, make sure our animals are adequately fed and sufficiently
thermoregulated and conditioned. While nature might throw a particularly cold period
of days at the snakes, we canít necessarily afford the same carelessness. A wild
diamond might simply retreat farther underground, or even come out to bask in the
warm sun during such a time, but nature has designed into her babies ways of dealing
with such extremes. It is far more difficult to do so in captivity, or at least more
difficult to understand all the variables at work during such a time.

What Iím leading up to is the actual procedure Iíd recommend during the
diamond pythonís captive maintained cold period - a time, as previously indicated -
which is vitally important to the animalís health and well being.

Many keepers have s-l-o-w-l-y dropped their animals into the cold period. In a
similar fashion, some other keepers offer their pythons a spot to get warm during the
day, with night time lows still imposed on the animals. This has proven to be a
dangerous procedure in my personal experience, one which oftentimes leads to
respiratory complications. Hereís how it goes: the python, and its ever-present,
non-colonized, potentially non-pathogenic bacteria normally get along just fine - much
the same way as you and I live with bacteria in our systems everyday - UNTIL we
become highly stressed - and our immune systems become compromised.

The daily passage through high and low temperatures (when oftentimes a
captive pythonís inner body temperature may not achieve the cageís high temp) is
prone to inducing stress to the immune system - to its ability to ward off normal
bacterial fauna from proliferating to pathogenic levels. As the snake is warmed
(oftentimes not warmed enough, anyway...) and cooled, eventually the immune system
becomes depressed and the bacteria takes over. The result is oftentimes respiratory
infection that goes unnoticed until the spring warm up period; at which time the snake
is oftentimes so infected that swift death will result.

The problem is simple enough to avoid, by taking another route. I generally
feed my snakes their last meal by November 1, and by Thanksgiving, while Iím
consuming my last turkey of the year (well, maybe second to last...) their
gastrointestinal tract is cleaned out completely. Consider it a diamond pythonís
ďThanksgiving acknowledgmentĒ to you - to have a clean bill of health heading into
the cooling chamber and a long winterís rest, which they need so much. They really
do.

During November lower the temperatures a little, perhaps to the middle
seventies at night and low eighties during the day. In nature weíve all seen snakes in
North America basking during that mild Indian summer respite from fallís oncoming
siege into winter, but we can dispense with that foolishness in captivity. Quite simply,
the party is over when we say it is. No breaks, no mini vacations. Quit feeding, cool a
little (enough to keep the snakeís metabolism going well enough to empty the gut and
ward off the bacteria), and Pow!, itís time to hibernate.

And I do mean hibernate. My diamonds spend the next three months in
Styrofoam boxes in the cold garage, which ranges between 50 and 60 degrees
Fahrenheit all winter long. Thermostatically-controlled heaters keep it from getting
too cold, and for the next few months my snakes lay coiled, in total darkness,
undisturbed in silent, peaceful slumber. Their bacteria too are dormant, and together
they ignore each other. It might sound crazy, but it makes sense.

Think about it. Both snake, its metabolism and its potential pathogens, lie in a
suspended state - neither having any effect on the other. Spring comes, I move the
snakes back into their cages during the dark of night, and the next morning they are
greeted by the rising sun through a room window and warm temperatures - just as
though they had crawled from a burrow back into the lengthening days of Springtime,
together with the wonderful, snake-friendly temperatures that come with Spring. The
snake quickly warms, and with that warming comes a full-strength immune system and
a competent ability to resist bacterial infections. It is very rare that a diamond python,
hibernated in this manner, becomes ill. After a week of enjoying the warmth, and a
week of fully getting its body ready for action, feeding can be resumed.

If hibernated at a cold enough temperature, weight loss is very minimal -
because, you guessed it - the snakeís metabolism wasnít using up any of its reserves at
the low temperature! A common mistake is to hibernate them too warm, where their
metabolism uses up reserves. Wild pythons might be able to deal with those variables,
but in captivity itís best to avoid the situation. My diamonds typically come out of
hibernation just like they went in - muscular and healthy. A meal or two and theyíre
ready to breed. I also breed gilas, hibernating them much the same, with very minimal
weight loss in their fat tails over the winter.

Photoperiod

Light cycling, or photoperiod, is a major emphasis of many diamond
breeders. For the most part the theory is of little use. Early failures with diamonds
lead many herpers to believe they had special light-quality requirements. Actually,
what they need are light periods that follow our four seasons, with short days of
winter and long summer days. Special lights they do not need, although thereís
nothing wrong with using them. I use Vitalites or plant grow lights to help keep my
cage plants thriving, but no cage light at all works just fine. Ambient light cycled to
our North American seasonal day-night fluctuations are all the diamond python needs.
It is highly unlikely they absorb any ultraviolet radiation from the sun, as keepers
sometimes hypothesize. Surely though, in the wild they do need to get heat from the
sun, a commodity that can easily be supplied in captivity through various artificial heat
sources. Give a diamond a hot-as-hell basking source and youíll have one happy
snake. Keep its cage hot and you will do the poor animal a disservice. Like most
herps, itís best to provide a temperature gradient in the cage, where the animal can
select itís own, preferred temperatures. Thatís why I like long, tall cages. Itís easy to
provide a hot basking site, with places for the snake to retreat to hold itís warmth (like
a cozy hide box, well insulated with bedding) or a spot where the snake can go to cool
off if it so desires. Generally they prefer to simply coil tightly to retain their warmth
close to the level achieved while basking.

Humidity

So much for temperature and light. Humidity and feeding are all thatís
left, so letís tackle humidity first. Diamonds donít come from particularly humid
environs, but nevertheless keeping most pythons on the dry side can be hard on their
respiratory systems. Living in Colorado, where the air is pretty dry, Iíve resorted to
keeping live plants with wet pots and retaining pans in the cages, to provide the snakes
with a wet spot if they so desire. Oftentimes I find my diamonds wound through a
pothos plant, enough evidence for me to think they like it. For most parts of the
country, where humidity levels are naturally higher, this isnít a major concern. But
remember: itís awful easy to apply artificial heat sources to a cage and end up making
the internal cage environment a little too dry. Just adding a water bowl isnít
necessarily the best way to humidify a cage or hydrate the snake. A nice wet spot
oftentimes is just what the doctor ordered. Wet bedding increases the surface area
many times over, and hence increases the humidity (evaporation) enough to benefit the
animals.

A cat litter pan, filled with mulch or shavings, kept very damp, works wonders.
Occasionally youíll find the snake burrowing through the wet medium, and sometimes
theyíll even bury themselves in it. If thatís what they want, within limits, then thatís
fine with this keeper. For the most part, though, if the cage humidity is sufficient
(40-70%), diamonds wonít seek higher humidity sources.


Feeding

Overfeeding diamonds is one of my pet peeves. You might as well try to raise
them in the freezer, because if you overfeed diamonds, thatís where theyíre eventually
going to end up. As noted earlier, overfeeding LEADS to health complications. NOT
might lead to health complications, it LEADS to health complications - like dead
snakes through the many risks of obesity. Rapid growth is not something diamond
pythons experience in the wild, and in captivity, with a general reduction in exercise, it
turns into a detriment.

Diamonds take four to five years to reach maturity. Sure, it can be done in
two, but youíll most likely have a pin headed snake with an obscenely obese, unhealthy
body. It will have poor bone density, over taxed internal organs, and a very limited
potential for breeding or a long life span. In the urgent rush to quickly reproduce this
serpent, usually to gain eagerly sought revenues (the wrong reason to keep any snake,
if you ask me...) many a snake keeper has rushed their diamond python to an early
grave. Once again, you can do it with tri colors and some pythons, like Burmese, but
you CANíT do it with the highly specialized, temperate diamond python. Iím
currently raising some retics for a calico/albino/supertiger project and canít get over
the almost supersonic growth rate of these animals. They grow in six months to sizes
a diamond couldnít attain in three years! And they do it comfortably, with nothing but
healthy, proportional development. So remember, diamond pythons are a horse of a
different color when it comes to growth rates.

If your goal is to make a lot of money in a hurry, work with another animal.
Diamonds are not your snake. But if you want to enjoy these fantastic snakes for what
they are - beautiful serpents - and youíre willing to take time and grow them slowly -
then diamonds are a wonderful addition to any collection. Theyíre active, alert, and
quite friendly animals that will often grace you with the sight of themselves perched on
the branches of their cages - instead of always hiding out of sight. That alone makes
me love this snake above most others.


Breeding

Breeding diamond pythons is very simple. As mentioned earlier, I think I was
the first person to breed them successfully in captivity, almost twenty years ago. After
frustrating myself for a few years, I decided to study their environment a lot more, and
came up with the outlines for feeding, temperature, humidity and photocycling
indicated throughout this article. They are the rules of the road for diamond python
breeding. Follow them and you should get fertile eggs. Violate them and youíll most
likely get nothing. Itís that simple.

In order to make it very simple, Iíll outline what I do the breed diamonds. Iím
sure these schedules can be varied somewhat and still result in fertile breedings, as
evidenced by breeders other than myself that usually have eggs up to two months
earlier than I! But I do what works for me, and as long as my eggs are fertile, I stick
with it.

Diamonds probably lay eggs every third year in the wild. Itís most likely
related to a femaleís ability to build body mass. Captive diamonds have done well for
me by giving the female, no matter how good she looks, a year off between breedings.
Those who have bred diamonds repeatedly, without time off, oftentimes either lose
their animals or go through years of non productivity - stark testament that the animal
needs time off. Breed your female every year and youíre asking for trouble.

So, my females get every other year off. If they look a little skinny, Iíd gladly
give them two years off - which I have only had to do once. Normally, with a regular
feeding schedule, theyíre firm and healthy in 18 months, including a hibernation time
in-between. As with most snakes, hibernation temperatures are necessary for
production of viable sperm in the males and ovum in the females.

Assume you have two perfectly healthy diamonds. The male should be at least
four years old and four to five feet long. The female should be five years old and six
to seven feet long. Feed them sparingly, as discussed elsewhere in this article. Quit
feeding them on November 1. Begin cooling their room on November 15. Allow the
night time lows to reach the low 70ís, and the day time highs to reach the low 80ís.
Then, just after Thanksgiving or by December 1, put the snakes into hibernation - cold
turkey.

I use Styrofoam boxes filled with lots of aspen bedding and maintain the snakes
in a room that is kept between 50 and 60 degrees. Theyíre kept dark, quiet, and cold
for at least three months, with a few checks to make sure theyíre doing OK. At those
temperatures they simply coil up and hibernate. They have no water (although each
box has a litter filled wet bowl to keep humidity at a moderate level), and their cages
never need cleaning because their gastrointestinal tracts are empty and their
metabolisms are in a suspended state. As mentioned earlier, while their immune
systems are likewise shut down, so are the bacteria which might cause problems for
animals kept at moderately higher temperatures. My personal experiences with ďhalf
temperature hibernationsĒ has been that the snakes metabolize their reserves too
rapidly, while susceptibility to disease rises dramatically. Those who are afraid to fully
hibernate diamonds oftentimes end up exposing their snakes to additional health risks,
and ultimately end up taking more chances with the snakesí health than if they had
hibernated them at colder temperatures. Hibernating pythons is a foreign concept to
most keepers. In the case of this particular snake, common theory doesnít apply.

Remove the snakes from the hibernation boxes by early to mid March. I take
my animals out at night, place them in the darkness of their cages, and leave them
alone. The snakes will be between 50-60 degrees, and the room should be around 75,
with a basking light coming on the next morning - which allows them to get as warm
as they want. Red 250 watt heat lamps warm the basking area to around 100 degrees.
At this temperature the snakes will bask for an hour or so and retreat to the hide box.
After a week of this pattern, itís all right to raise the temperatures to the high
seventies to low eighties at night, and the middle eighties during the day, with the
basking area still available. As mentioned, itís important to make sure the snake can
cool off if it wants, and to that end I always provide large cages with thermal gradients
available for the animals. Typically, they can find places in their cages where the
temperature is near 70 degrees, which they seem to prefer at certain times. Large,
long cages with hot and cold ends are the best way to achieve these gradients.

Within a week to a month, after the female has had a small meal or two and
shed, itís usually time for breeding. Quite often the male will begin pacing his cage,
assumedly because he smells the pheromones of the female, who should be
reproductively ready. I ultrasound my females at this time and usually their follicles
are lined out, and approximately just over one (1) cm in diameter. Introduce the male
to the female at this time. Introducing the female to the male oftentimes results in a
female exploring the new cage while the male is frantically trying to breed. Introduce
him to her, and he wonít be very concerned with the new cage, believe me! Many of
my cages have trap doors between the pairs, and I simply open it and the male quickly
scoots over to the female.

Carpet pythons often exhibit combat behavior, which led many early diamond
breeders to assume the same would be true of diamonds. To the best of my
knowledge combating has never been observed in wild or captive diamonds. This isnít
to say that having two males in the cage isnít a good thing, for I have noticed more
frequent breedings when two males are present. But actual combat simply doesnít
seem to occur in this species. Theyíre lovers, not fighters, one could assume...

Breeding usually lasts four to six weeks, when the males lose interest in the
females they should be separated. Shortly afterwards the males usually resume
feeding, making their feeding year generally a May through October affair, one meal
every few weeks. Keep them slim and a little hungry and youíll have healthy, active,
virile breeder males. Fatten them if you prefer duds.

Females oftentimes feed right up to egg laying. I will let them feed, but reduce
the meal size and frequency. If sheís healthy she shouldnít need any food, but limited
feeding doesnít hurt the egg production/fertility and it does seem to help the females
recover after laying if they have been fed beforehand.

Approximately two months after breeding, and 21 to 28 days after shedding,
the female will grace you will 15 - 30 eggs, although larger clutches have been
recorded. My experience with many diamond breedings has been a maximum clutch
size of 21, and the smallest being 11. Iíd have to carefully inspect diamonds laying
larger clutches, suspecting hybridization with the more prolific carpet python. Not
being a fan of cross breeding, consider it fair warning that integration with carpet
pythons makes anything but the most perfect specimens of diamond python suspect.
Look for pure colors - gold, white, black and no browns, banding, patches, or striping.
Perfect little rosettes with black and white or black and gold colors usually assures
youíve got the real thing. It also helps to get your animals from a reputable breeder.

Their eggs can be hatched like any python egg - high humidity and somewhere
around 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Although Iíve never allowed a female to incubate the
eggs herself, this year I have two females with which I intend to let nature take itís
course. Itís fun to weigh eggs weekly and record their growth, but somehow Iíve
come to feel it is the females right to hatch her own eggs. Weíll see how it goes...

Care of Hatchlings

Donít expect hatchlings to be beautiful. Theyíre dirty and pale looking at
birth, but within a few months their colors really emerge. And because they are
programmed to know the cold season isnít far away, the neonates are voracious
feeders. Unlike carpets, which can be finicky, diamonds usually accept small fuzzy
mice eagerly. They grow very fast, and once again remember that it isnít in their best
interest to let them do so. Feed the little buggers once a week, keeping them warm
with a nice, moist place in the cage. Give them branches to climb on and youíll think
theyíre tree snakes. When winter approaches, cool them for a couple months to the
very low seventies night and the middle seventies day. Donít feed them during this
period.

After the cool, no food period, resume normal feeding - still remembering not
to over feed. Theyíll grow into healthy, normal snakes that will mature in four to five
years and turn into fantastic pets or breeders. Commence normal hibernation with
yearlings and theyíll be so perfectly cycled by the time theyíre adults that youíd have
to run them over with a truck NOT to breed them.

Just remember, fat is dead to diamond pythons. Keep them muscular, active,
and hungry and youíll end up with perfect specimens of this fantastic python.


Summary

Diamonds are beautiful and wonderful snakes. Iíve never heard anybody say
anything to the contrary. They must be kept in a specific manner, which isnít
particularly difficult to accomplish - unless you sweater box all your animals and you
canít subject individual species to appropriate environmental cycling. But even the
babies do best if fed only eight or nine months of the year for the first year, and then
put into the same total care regime as adults. The young are usually voracious feeders,
and if kept just a little cool and off feed their first winter, they become even more
voracious the following spring. After that, they slowly grow and mature into
magnificent, healthy specimens in the hands of a competent herper.

Breeders have been lamenting about the decline of herp prices for a couple
years now, and the diamond python is no exception. Weíve seen them dip from $2500
each for hatchlings to sometimes as low as $1000. If youíre a hobby-orientated
herper, like myself, it shouldnít matter. Iíd work with diamonds if they were a $25
snake. Keep in mind that in the future, only the best animals will command respectable
prices, so keep your stock pure. Avoid hybrids at all costs. And if the price gets too
low for the commercial breeders to consider it worthwhile, prices will eventually swing
in the opposite direction as less diamonds are supplied to the market. Regardless, it is
a fantastic, medium-sized python which fits well into just about any collection. Just
having beautiful diamonds in your collection is worth the price of admission, if you
really like snakes for what they are...

The misinformation regarding this species has been a tragic product of
irresponsible keepers, who didnít bother to find out how to maintain them
successfully. Myself and many others have proved them ever-so-wrong in their almost
universal condemnation of the diamond python. If youíre willing to play by the
diamondís rules, their health and reproductive viability can be assured in any
collection. Few snakes stir me the way a solid, slim, mature adult diamond python
does. They are beautiful and interesting snakes. With a little common sense and a
healthy dose of restraint, they will reward you with two decades of fascination, and if
you want, lots of nice, ivory-colored eggs.


Stan Chiras
13790 E Progress Way
Aurora CO 80015
Email coils@earthlink.net
phone/fax 303 617 1408