The feeding regimen you adopt for your animal(s) will depend on factors like age, sex, enclosure temperature ranges, and hydration/frequency of defecation. Although not all keepers agree, many feel GTP’s have a slower metabolic rate than other pythons. Also, some chondros become sedentary as they age. When slow metabolism is combined with low activity levels, chondros can easily become obese and develop health and reproductive-related issues. So both size and type of food offered, and frequency of feeding are very important.
It should be noted that it is normal behavior for your chondro to be active at night. And just because it appears to be searching for food doesn’t mean it should be fed. The bottom line is that a leaner snake will present far fewer health issues than an obese snake.
The most common food given to GTP’s is mice and rats (both African Soft furred and common rats). Over the years it has become an overwhelming opinion that mice are the “best” choice for feeding GTP’s of all ages. But African soft furred rats (AFSR) are likely only second to mice because they are considerably more expensive than mice. While some keepers like to offer their snakes a variety of food, there is no evidence that it’s necessary to do so.
There is a majority opinion among US breeders that rats (Rattus norvegicus) are a poor choice for feeding GTP’s. One of the main reasons is that rats are higher in fat than mice. And since chondros generally grow slower than other pythons, they don’t need the extra calories that rats provide. It stands to reason that obesity is more likely to occur on a diet of rats. The other main reason that rats are considered a “bad” choice is because of their coarse hair, relative to mice. It is commonly thought that a rat’s coarse hair is more difficult to digest and is more likely to contribute to rectal prolapse. It has also been suggested that a regular rat diet can lead to partially calcified eggs. Despite the above sentiments, it should be noted that chondros, both past and present, have been raised on nothing but rats with no ill effects. If you do feed rats, it is important to be in tune with your snake’s activity level and frequency of defecation to prevent obesity and prolapse.
Like us, your chondros are what they eat. So you should provide the highest quality rodents available. This means you should find a supplier with a reputation for offering clean rodents that come from a well-maintained facility, and that are fed a quality diet. See “Feeding” links in the appendix for some recommended rodent suppliers. Some breeders prefer to raise their own rodents, but this is usually a smelly and labor-intensive task. But if you have the time it can be well worth the effort since you have control of both the quality of food given to your rodents, and the cleanliness of the breeding facility. Also, you are likely to always have any size food item you need.
African Pygmy Mouse (Mus minutoides)
The African Pygmy mouse is native to sub-Saharan Africa and is one of the smallest rodents. Adults are between 30 and 80 mm long (1.2 to 3.1 inches), with a 20 to 40 mm tail (0.79 to 1.6 inches). Their weight ranges from 3 to 12 grams. The small size of the pinkies makes them ideal for the smallest neonate chondros, but currently there are no commercial breeders.
African pygmy mice reach breeding age at about 6 to 8 weeks. Pregnancy is approximately 20 days, and the litter of about 3 young is born blind and hairless. Their eyes open after 2 weeks, and weaning is complete after 4 weeks. The lifespan is about 2 years, although individual specimens have been reported to live over 4 years in captivity. They prefer social interaction and do best in small colonies.
African Soft Furred Rat/ Natal Multimammate Mouse (Mastomys natalensis)
ASFRs are a great substitute for common pet store rats and have been called the perfect chondro food. Not only are they less caloric than common rats, but as the name suggests, they don’t have the coarse hair of common rats. Adults grow considerably larger than jumbo mice and can be a good alternative for larger (1,200 gram +) females. Also, ASFR colonies have considerably less odor compared to common rats and mice. Although the startup cost for an ASFR colony is only a bit more expensive than a mouse colony, the retail price of ASFRs are considerably more than mice. This is likely due to the reproductive nature of ASFRs, such as smaller litter sizes. Hopefully their prices will drop as they become more available through commercial breeders.