A standard 20 gallon long aquarium is a good enclosure for baby boas, but eventually these snakes will require something larger and more elaborate. A secure lid is a must to keep your pet safe from other animals in the house and to keep your snake in the cage.
Bedding can range from cypress mulch to bark substrates, like Repti-Bark. The cage can be decorated with pieces of wood, plants, rocks or tree stumps to provide a more natural habitat. Make sure anything used in the cage is insect-free and secure so it does not fall on your snake. A shelter in the cage will make your snake feel more secure. Your snake is more likely to eat when it is less stressed.
Boas usually benefit from a small patch of moss kept damp, this adds humidity and is beneficial during shedding. Always provide a hiding area and objects for your snake to rub against when shedding.
Clean the enclosure weekly to remove any waste material. The entire cage should be disinfected with a diluted bleach solution at least once a month. Use one part bleach to ten parts water. If the bedding gets wet remove it promptly or a fungus may develop.Heating and Lighting Requirements
Reptiles need heat in order to digest their food and maintain their immune system. Each species has its own requirements for temperature and if these are not met the animal may suffer. One side of the enclosure should be warmer than the other so the boa is able to choose its correct temperature. Air temperature should be maintained between 85° to 88° with a hot basking area reaching temperature of 88° to 95°. Sand boas prefer the same temperature ranges but more toward the upper end of the scale. It is critical to know what the temperature is inside the enclosure before putting the snake inside. We recommend purchasing two thermometers so the temperature can be monitored at each end of the enclosure. At night, the temperature can drop to around 80°. We recommend the use of an under-the-tank heater to maintain air and sand temperature and a full spectrum reptile heat light for the basking area. At night, the light should be turned off to allow the temperature to cool down to around 80°. If you find that the temperature at night is below 80° you may need to purchase a reptile night light which gives off heat but not light that can be seen by the animal.
Boas, which are a tropical snake, benefit from fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent bulbs do not give off heat but do give the snake UVB rays like sunlight. Fluorescent light is recommended for tropical snakes at an output of 5.0 UVB. These UVB rays allow reptiles to change vitamins from their food into a useful form. These bulbs need to be on during the day hours only and replaced every six months. A fluorescent bulb will also enhance the many beautiful colors of the snake.Diet
A boas diet consists of mice and small mammals ranging from pinkie mice as hatchlings to full mice, rats and eventually, rabbits. Food should be offered once a week or about every 5 days for baby and young snakes and every other week for large snakes over seven feet. Some boas will take thawed frozen food and some, when large enough, will eat young rabbits.
When you feed your snake, it is important to keep the size of the food item small rather than too large. A large food item can cause difficulty in swallowing and some snakes will regurgitate after eating a large food item due to difficulty in digesting. If you feed frozen food be certain the food is completely thawed before offering it to your cold blooded snake--swallowing even a partially frozen food item can cause your snake to go into shock and die from the extreme temperature change. We recommend thawing at least 30 minutes in warm water before introducing the rodent to the snakes cage.
CAUTION: Always stun live food and remove any uneaten food. A snake that is not hungry may become afraid of the live prey and may lose its aggressive action. If the live prey bites the snake, the wound could become infected and the snake may refuse food for a time.
Fresh water should always be available. Provide a water bowl large enough for your boa to soak in. Place a young snake inside the water dish once a day until you see it go to the dish to drink on its own. This ensures that it does not quickly dehydrate while it is learning how to find water.Handling
Boas are usually very docile and calm. Do not attempt to handle your boa until it establishes a normal eating pattern. Handling causes stress which is likely to add to the time it takes for your snake to feel comfortable in its new home. Once your snake eats at least four times for you, you can begin short handling sessions remembering never to over-stimulate the snake. Over-handling can be stressful to a boa, especially since you will be removing them from their heated area. Always lightly touch the snake first before picking it up as the snake may be sleeping. Keep the snake away from your face and neck area. Always wash your hands before and after handling the snake.Health
If you notice any signs of illness in your snake such as refusing to eat, no tongue flickering, little movement between different temperature zones, or lack of muscle tone, it is critical to get treatment right away. Most animals are good at hiding an illness until it reaches an advanced stage.
If you notice any small parasites crawling on your snake they may be mites and need to be treated promptly. Mites dehydrate the reptile and can carry diseases just as fleas and ticks do in mammals. We also have several products which can be safely used for that purpose.Helpful Hints
Keeping a Boa in a small enclosure will not keep the animal smaller but it will cause stress and be just as uncomfortable as you living in your closet! Provide your pet with the largest enclosure possible while maintaining a safe and secure environment.
If you have a snake that is not eating, please call us or a veterinarian, do not wait. To encourage a young snake to eat you can try placing it in a paper bag with its food item, usually a pinkie. The bag helps the snake feel more secure and less anxious about being watched while it eats.
A baby snake will shed its skin often, sometimes once a month. It is very important that all of the shed skin is removed from the snake. If the shed skin looks dry and tight and is coming off in pieces the snake may be in trouble from lack of humidity in the air. You will need to soak the snake in warm water with one of the shedding aids we have available.
Boas are one of the longest lived of all snake species. Age reports of twenty years or more are common and one record is 40 years of age. Most boas will attain lengths of roughly ten feet with the exclusion of the Rosy boas, which grow to be only three feet in length. Boas do not grow to be the big, bulky thickness as pythons. Boas can grow to approximately four feet in about two years.
We strive to help our customers keep their animals healthy and we recommend regular veterinary checkups. We also recommend purchasing a book about your new pet. If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Reptile Room at 717-299-5691 ext 1246.