Boa Constrictor Facts

This is a short list of boa facts, and frequently asked questions about boas.  If you have any questions to ask, or know of a boa constrictor fact that you think should be added to the list please do contact us!

What temperature should my boa be kept at?

The correct temperatures for your particular species is species dependant. While boas from temperate climates, such as the rosy boas, need very little in the way of supplementary heat, those from the tropics, such as the Emerald Tree Boa, need a much warmer environment.

For most Boa Constrictors, including the Common Boa and Red Tailed Boa an ambient temperature (controlled by thermostat) of around 78 – 80 F should be provided at night, rising to 85 – 90 F during the day. A basking area of around 90 F at one end of the enclosure, and a cooler end will allow your boa to thermoregulate properly.

How should I measure the temperature?

A digital thermometer probe is the best way to check your temperatures. The small plastic disc thermometers, often sold by pet stores, are often unreliable. Be sure to check the basking area at the position your boa will be basking (on a log, under a heat lamp etc.) and also the ambient air temperature at both the warm and cool end of the vivarium.

What is the best way to heat my snake?

There are various types of heating available. While heat mats/pads are easy to use and suitable for some ground dwelling species (such as the Kenyan Sand Boa) they are more suited to use with RUBS or aquarium style enclosures than wooden or melamine vivariums. My preferred method of heating is a ceramic bulb which heats from above and provides a good basking spot. Ceramic and incandescent bulbs must always be properly guarded to prevent potential burns.

What wattage bulb should I use?

This will depend on the size of your vivarium, what material it is made from (malamine holds the heat much better than glass!) and what type of boa you are keeping. As a general guide, a 100 watt bulb will heat a 4′ vivarium. Be sure to use a thermostat and check your temperatures carefully.

What should I keep the humidity level at?

Humidity is also species dependant. Boas from arid climates, such as the Kenyan Sand Boa, like a very dry enclosure but with access to a damp hide. Those from tropical rainforest, such as the Emerald Tree Boa, need high humidity, around 65 – 80 % and are very susceptable to dehydration.

For most boa constrictors, aim for a humidity of around 50 – 60 % and check with a hygrometer. All boas will require slightly higher humidity when they shed so when you see the signs (when the skin goes slightly cloudy) it is advisable to spray the enclosure with water. Providing a water bowl large enough for your boa to soak in will also allow them to regular their own humidity levels and many will choose to soak when they are about to shed.

What kind of enclosure should I have?

Another common question to which there is no single correct answer. Different styles of enclosure will be better to suited to different species of boa, and different owners. Arboreal tree boas will want a taller cage with lots of branches to climb on. Sand boas can do very well in a relatively small aquarium.

For a typical boa constrictor my recommendation is for a melamine vivarium of suitable size with sliding glass doors. These are relatively cheap, easy to clean, thermaly efficient and aesthetically pleasing. They can also be stacked if you decide to have more than one. If you are looking at breeding then RUBS are a great solution, especially for housing the neonates and juveniles.

What size enclosure should I have?

For a single adult boa constrictor a vivarium measuring 5′ x 3′ x 3′ or 6′ x 2′ x 2′ is adequate.  For more information see the boa housing page.

What is the best substrate?

Substrates are a hotly debated topic with snake owners. My personal preference is for newspaper, or paper towels. They are hygenic, quick and easy to clean, and inexpensive. If you prefer a more naturalistic look then aspen shavings, wood or bark chippings can be used but the snake should be removed from the enclosure when feeding to prevent possible ingestion. Burrowing species such as the sand boas will need a loose substrate at least twice as deep as the girth of the snake.

How big will my boa get?

Common boas typically reach around 6 – 8 feet in length with the females a little larger than the females. Red tailed boas tend to be 8 – 10 feet, but females as large as 12 feet do occur.

How much should I feed my boa?

For most adults a single prey item fortnightly is ideal. Juveniles should be fed weekly. Many boa species are prone to obesity in captivity, so care should be taken not to over feed. Certain species, such as the Emerald Tree Boa are especially prone, and should be fed once every 21 days.

What should I feed my boa?

Boas should be offered prekilled, preferably frozen and defrosted rodents. Neonates are normally started on pinkie (day old) mice and offered larger prey as they grow. Large adults are fed on rats, and even rabbits.

Why is my boa soaking?

Boas will often soak in their water for prolonged periods of time prior to shedding. This is normal behaviour and it is nothing to worry about. Another reason that a boa may soak however is due to mites, or overheating. First check your temperatures, and ensure that the cool end of the enclosure allows your snake to cool off. Then check for mites (see the health chapter for more details)

How do I get rid of mites?

Most snakes will soak in their water bowl in an attempt to down mites. The problem however is that many mites will remain safe on the head. If your snake is soaking, and mites are visible, try painting the snake’s head with olive oil which will dislodge the mites. At the same time thoroughly clean and disinfect the cage.

Sevin dust (5 percent) is a proven way of dealing with mite infections. The enclosure should be thoroughly cleaned and the dust left in the cage for 24 hours. Follow the instructions on the packaging, and consult a vet if in doubt.

What is the difference between a Colombian BCI and a BCC?

BCI stands for Boa Constrictor Imperator and is the Common Boa. BCC stands for Boa Constrictor Constrictor and is the larger Red Tailed Boa. BCC are generally more expensive due to their brighter tail markings, so if a boa constrictor is NOT specifically sold as BCC it almost certainly will be BCI.

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