Simalia amethistina

Image Credit : Ouroboros Herpetological

Simalia amethistina is one of the six largest snakes in the world. It has a large elongate head, bearing enlarged plate-like head shields. Scales bear a milky iridescent sheen which has given rise to common and scientific names.

Ground colour is pale yellowish brown to brown, marked with numerous irregular angular dark brown to black bands, blotches and streaks. Juveniles are less glossy than adults, with a weaker pattern.

  • Scientific name : Simalia amethistina
  • Distribution : Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia (Northeast Queensland)
  • Average Size : 4 m (13 ft)
  • Lifespan : 20 years or more
  • Difficulty : Advanced


As scrub pythons are predominantly semi-arboreal snakes, it is optimal to provide them with adequate height in the enclosures, with 60cm tall being the minimum height of enclosure they should be kept in as adults, with 0.9+ meters (2.9+ feet) being more appropriate. Our adult animals ranging in size from 2.4-4.8 meters (7.8-15.7 feet) are kept in enclosures that range from 1.2 x 0.6 x 0.9 meters (4 x 2 x 2.9 feet) to 2.4 x 0.75 x 1.2 meters (7.8 x 2.5 x 4 feet) (length x depth x height), with sub-adult specimens between 1.2-2.4 meters (4-7.8 feet) being kept in 1.2 x 0.6 x 0.6 meters (4 x 2 x 2 feet) enclosures. Animals smaller than 1.2 meters (4 feet) are kept in appropriately sized enclosures, with yearling animals being kept in special juvenile enclosures of 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.45 meters (1 x 1 x 1.5 feet).
We supply several perching options for the animals, in the form of natural branches and shelves. Branches and shelves are secured by screwing through the end of the enclosures while we build them. Branches are aligned so as to provide a basking perch under the heat bulb, with one shelf being placed at either end of the enclosure. The shelf on the cool side of the enclosure is placed lower than the one on the hot side. The cool shelf also acts as a hide of sorts, especially with the fake vines that fall across the shelf.

Hide Spot

In my experience, adult Simalia amethistina very rarely use hide boxes if provided. Instead they prefer to be perched on a high branch or shelf either completely exposed or in such a way that the fake vines cover most of them. The only time an adult Simalia amethistina used a hide was for a nest box a few days before laying her clutch. All other time was spent out perching.
Juvenile animals, even neonates, prefer to perch hidden among fake leaves instead of using ground based hides. We have supplied elevated hides for juveniles, but they do seem to prefer branches with cover.


We use a layer of both fine and coarse orchid bark as it holds humidity extremely well and doesn’t mold like beech chippings if exposed to water. The snakes never get substrate in their mouths when feeding as they always feed from an elevated position if provided. The orchid bark is coarse enough and large enough to fall off prey items if the prey item touches the floor of the enclosure.

Lighting – Heating

Neonate scrub pythons are kept initially in 9L tubs with perches, hide and substrate, with a heat mat under one end giving a ambient of 26 °C (79 °F) with a warm side of 30 °C (86 °F) in the hide over the heat mat.
Once neonates have become established, they are moved into the hatchling enclosures that are heated from the back and bottom by heat mats. A thermostat is set with a probe secured to the floor of the enclosure and the thermostat is set to 27 °C (80 °F), with the floor being hotter than ambient. Predominantly, all neonates stay on the perches with an ambient air temperature of 26 °C (79 °F).
All other animals over a year old are kept with a basking spot of 30-32 °C (86-90 °F) and a daytime ambient set to 26 °C (79 °F). In spring, summer and autumn, the ambient night time lows are 24 °C (75 °F) and in winter this drops to 20 °C (68 °F).
We heat enclosures with infrared bulbs of appropriate size each enclosure. The basking bulb is on a timer, so it comes on for 8-10 hours in the summer and dropping to 6 hours in the winter. The bulb wattage is increased in winter. To help maintain night time temperature, we use combination of 1-3 75w radiant heat panels on a thermostat. This system allows us to do winter drops in night time low temperatures for breeding trials, while still giving the snake access to a more intense basking spot during the day.
All enclosures are fitted with UVB fluorescent tubes on timers that we change to simulate natural daylight hours depending on the time of year.


Like all pythons, Simalia amethistina benefit from large water bowls, big enough for the animal to bathe in fully. Large water bowls also help to maintain sufficient humidity levels. Water bowls are disinfected and cleaned every week and UV filtered water is used.


Humidity is maintained around 50-65% by using an automatic misting system every fortnight. We manually spray more often if we notice an animal is in the shedding cycle.


Simalia amethistina are slender bodied arboreal pythons and should be fed accordingly. They will take a variety of prey offered, from mice and rats, to day old chicks and quail, to hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. WC animals will often only take chick or quail or scented mice or rats. WC animals that eat chicks can usually be converted onto rats or mice by leaving the chick on top of a smaller rat than would usually be offered overnight in the enclosure.
Neonates are fed every 5-7 days on a mouse fuzzy/hopper mouse. After 6 months they are fed every 10 days.
Yearling animals are fed every 14 days on appropriately sized prey that only just leaves a visible bulge in the animal.
For each year old an animal is , another 7 days is added between feeding, until the animals are 6-7 years old. Adults up to 3.6 meters (12 feet) are fed on large or xl rats every 6-8 weeks. Simalia amethistina up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) are fed small or medium rabbits every 10-12 weeks.


These pythons can be quite defensive of their enclosure when approached, but are usually just curious to see what you are; not all are aggressive. Most of my animals can be taken out of the enclosure easily by using a hook to keep the head away from you and using your hand to gently maneuver them off the perch. Once they realize they can’t intimidate you they will generally turn to flee and this is when you can usually remove them by letting the animal anchor its head on a perch as you gently pull the remainder of the body of the perch, then just lift the neck of the animal to not let it anchor its head. Once out of the enclosure the majority of amethystine pythons are calm, relatively slow moving and inquisitive. Each animal is different and you will learn from your animal when you should leave it alone and when you can handle it.
Handling should be kept to a minimum as these pythons are quite nervous and prone to stress. Handling should be done only for full enclosure cleaning or for health inspections or cleaning. For any amethystine python over 10ft, I recommend having another capable person to be there while you are working with the animal, as the animals are incredibly strong.


General spot cleaning of the enclosure to remove faeces is done every week, usually with the animal left inside the enclosure, with proper care being taken to avoid a possible bite. Shed is removed except for females we suspect are gravid as reports of other Simalia species suggest females leave shed and faeces near their nest for marking reasons. New substrate is added whenever spot cleaning occurs. A full removal of substrate and disinfecting of enclosure is done every 2-3 months.


Shedding usually occurs every 6-9 weeks in adult Simalia amethistina. They will often bathe in the water bowl during the shedding process. Enclosures with lots of natural surfaces provide the animals with enough places to aid in the shedding process. Occasionally some animals will have a bad shed if humidity is slightly low or the cage is lacking in furnishings.

Potential Health Problems

Simalia amethistina are very hardy snakes and can withstand a lot. Common health problems associated with amethystine pythons are mouth or tooth infections from striking the doors of the enclosure or striking the prey too hard, or “nose-rub” from transport. Scrubs rarely get respiratory infections, though some can exhibit symptoms of infection during a shed cycle.
Osteomyelitis, a spinal infection, has been recorded in amethystine pythons and causes paralysis of the tail and impaction, leading to sepsis and ultimately death. A few cases of cancer have also been reported, but research is needed on this area.


LARK Pythons

The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.