Rosy and sand boas are popular pets that have been produced in captivity in large numbers. Stout snakes that average only 24-30 inches in length, rosy and sand boas are hardy, easy to handle, and adapt well to small enclosures.
Coastal & Tropical Regions
The rosy boa, Lichanura trivirgata, inhabits deserts and arid scrubland from southern California through southwestern Arizona to Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. Three subspecies are known, though many individuals are blue-gray and marked with 3 pink to brown stripes. A number of color morphs have been developed by hobbyists.
Eleven species of sand boa originate in deserts and semi-deserts of Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. The Kenyan sand boa, Eryx colubrinus colubrinus, is the most commonly kept species. It averages less than 2 feet in length and is often attractively colored and patterned. Sand boas are highly specialized ambush predators that wait below the sand for passing prey with only their eyes exposed. To assist in this hunting strategy, the eyes and nostrils are located high on the head.
Both rosy boas and sand boas are generally inoffensive and easy to handle. Rosy boas often tolerate handling better, although they may remain shy. Sand boas may become more stressed when removed from their enclosures, and some may strike as a feeding response if they are touched while buried in the substrate. It should be noted that sand boas in particular spend almost all of their time below the surface of their substrate and will seldom be seen unless removed from their enclosure. Despite their innocuous appearance and sluggish movements, when agitated or hungry they are capable of rapid strikes. While bites from rosy or sand boas are nearly painless and of little consequence, care should be taken to avoid startling the snake when digging a boa out of its enclosure.
Setting up the Terrarium
Juveniles may be started in a 10 gallon aquarium, which will suffice for smaller adults. Larger adults and pairs can be accommodated in 20-30 gallon tanks. The screen cover must be secured with screen clips.
Sand boas must be provided with a deep substrate of smooth reptile sand in which to burrow. Aspen shavings or a dry soil substrate are also acceptable, but the layer should be even deeper as sand weighs more, and this weight above the boa is part of what allows them to feel securely hidden underground. Flat hides may occasionally be used. Rosy boas can be kept on reptile sand, dry soil, or aspen bedding. Cork bark, plastic caves, and partially buried sections of PVC pipe make suitable hiding places.
Light, Heat and Humidity
Boas do not require UVB lighting, but a photoperiod is essential to their health. Standard fluorescent bulbs or daylight heat bulbs can be used to provide roughly 12 hours of light per day. It is important to provide a period of relative darkness overnight to prevent stress-related health issues.
An incandescent spot bulb should be used to provide a basking area of 90-95°F. Ambient temperatures during the day should range between 78-85°F. Temperatures in the 70's are safe at night, and an undertank heating pad can be used to provide a warmer area, although in many cases it may not be necessary. Red or black night bulbs or ceramic heat bulbs can also be used for this purpose.
Rosy and sand boas must be kept dry. Skin and respiratory problems can develop rapidly in damp conditions. Water bowls should be heavy and filled partially so that they will not overflow when the snake curls up within. Water can be offered several times weekly for a few hours if high humidity becomes a problem. If shedding problems occur, the snake can be soaked in a shallow amount of lukewarm water for approximately 1/2 hour. If the snake has begun shedding on its own it is generally safe to remove leftover old skin by hand at this point. Do not attempt to remove old skin from a snake before it has begun to shed on its own, as this can cause serious injury.
Rosy and sand boas accept pre-killed small mice. Juveniles can usually be fed small pinkies or fuzzies depending on their size. While they are capable of handling fairly large prey, as most snakes are, these boas have smaller heads and jaws for their size than many other boas. When in doubt, it is always safer to err on the side of caution. Juveniles should be fed weekly, while adults can be fed every 7-14 days. Because sand boas are fossorial snakes and captive specimens will not be actively waiting for prey at all times, the best method may be to remove a buried boa to another enclosure during feeding. Gently scoop the snake up from below and place it in a container or box with air holes, or in a paper sack. The rodent can then be placed in the container (it is highly recommended to use frozen-thawed mice to avoid injury to the snake in confined quarters). The snake and rodent can be placed back in the cage as long as the container is not directly under the heat lamp. Boas will often feed almost immediately even with this somewhat unnatural but very convenient method.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Daily care includes checking your animals for signs of illness such as blisters, a limp appearance, mites, or any discharge from the mouth or nostrils. Water should be kept clean or offered regularly and waste removed as it appears.
Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations for additional instructions.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our reptile room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.