Rosy boa Care
Rosy Boa Photo by Natalie McNear
The rosy boa, Lichanura trivirgata, is a fantastic charming little snake which makes a great pet. They are found in dryer regions throughout south-western United States in the states of California and Arizona, and north-western Mexico in the states of Baja California and Sonora. They are considered threatened in the wild by the IUCN, with that in mind it is essential you only buy captive bred specimens from reputable breeders.
These are a small boa species, rarely reaching over 1metre in length (however, 2-2.5ft is far more common), they are very good natured and easy to rear which makes them a good choice of snake for a beginner. As members of the boidae family, rosy boas have a relatively chunky body (particularly when compared to a colubridae such as corn snakes).
Whilst the colouration is variable, the common name of the rosy boa is derived from the rosy or salmon like colouration which often adorns their body. The pattern is three stripes which run longitudinally down the snake. The degree to which these stripes are visible is extremely variable, in some individuals they are very pronounced whereas in others they are nearly invisible.
Rosy boa housing
Rosy boas are small snakes and as such don’t need a large enclosure, something 24x12x12in (Length x Width x Height) will suffice for a single adult, however something a little larger (30 or 36inches long for instance) would be better. There are a number of housing options, an aquarium with an escape proof lid; a simple DIY Storage box (commonly referred to as RUBs in the hobby) or, and this is my personal favourite, a wooden vivarium. The advantage of a wooden vivarium is not only does it look attractive but the fact the snake is enclosed in and as such feels more secure.
Ventilation is important as rosy boas don’t cope too well with humidity. Try to maximize the ventilation available, this could mean using an all screen lid if you use a converted aquarium, or installing an extra vent if you use a wooden vivarium.
It is important to provide your rosy boa with at least two hides, one in the cool end and one in the warm end (see the section on heating for more information on this and why it is important). There are a tonne of options for hides for rosy boas, anything from an old cardboard box with a hole cut in it, an upturned plant pot, an empty coconut husk with a hole (only suitable for youngsters), or one of the many commercial reptile hides available. Alternatively you can build your own hide – check out our guide to DIY reptile hides. In short, use your imagination.
In addition to the two hides you will require a water bowl which is large enough for your rosy boa to take the occasional dip. You need to change the contents of the water bowl at least every other day – however daily is preferable.
Other decor is largely up to you. I like to provide a heavy relatively rough rock in the vivarium as it aids shedding (the rough surfaceof the rock is good for them to rub up against and creates the required friction). In addition to this I like to provide my rosy boas with a few (secure!!) branches and the like for them to climb up. They aren’t the worlds best climbers, but that doesn’t stop them having a go every now and again.
Substrate for hatchlings and juveniles should always be newspaper/tissue paper. This carries no risk of impaction and also lets you keep an eye on them regarding feeding, stool production etc etc. As your rosy boa ages (once it it say, a year old) it can be moved on to an “adult substrate”, there are a number of options for this. Bark chips are ok, as is sand (remember their natural habitat is very dry, often scrubland), my personal favourite however is aspen shavings. They are cheap and clump together well when the snake defecates on them – this allows for easy cleaning. They also smell nice in my opinion...
An important note to remember is if you keep your snake on a particulate substrate such as those mentioned above you will need to feed your rosy boa outside of its enclosure (by particulate I simply mean one which is made of particles, so anything really, bark chips, sand, aspen etc). This is because if fed in the enclosure there is a risk of impaction if the snake ingests some substrate by accident. An alternative to this (and one I’ve used sometimes, and use all the time for my royal pythons as I keep a lot of them, its a good time saver) is to place a piece of slate in the vivarium and use that as a sort of feeding platform. The slate provides a flat surface which is separate from the substrate so there is little risk of impaction when placing food items on it. Do be wary of the snake moving the food however.
Feeding Rosy boas
Rosy boas should be fed a diet of rodents. In contrast with other snakes, you should feed your rosy boa comparatively small food items due to their smaller gape (size of mouth when stretched open). As a general rule of thumb, don’t feed food which is wider than the snake at its widest point. Hatchlings can be fed pinkie mice every 3-5 days (one pinkie per sitting), with the size of the food item increasing corresponding to the size of the rosy boa. Adults will take adult mice and should be fed once every 7-10 days.
Rosy Boa Photo by raindog
Rosy boa heating and humidity
Rosy boas are from arid regions, but not desert ones. As such they like it warm but not excessively hot. A warm end of about 85f with a cool end of room temperature will keep your rosy boa nice and happy.
The best way to heat them in my opinion is with an under tank heat mat which is attached to a thermostat (see our guide to reptile thermostats). Thermostats are essential; never use a heating device without them. You should position the heat mat below the vivarium so that no more than 40% of the surface is covered. This will allow you to provide the warm end and cool end required for necessary thermoregulation.
Humidity is important when keeping rosy boas, or rather its a lack of humidity that is important. Rosy boas need a dry environment with humidity around 40%. As such ventilation is important as previously mentioned. If you live in a region where humidity is generally above 60% you should consider either having atleast two sides of the enclosure made of mesh, or alternatively go for a more humid tolerant snake such as a ball python.
Handling rosy boas
As I have mentioned before, rosy boas are docile snakes and take well to handling, which is one of the reasons they make appealing pets. When handling your rosy boa make sure you are gentle and support the body. Always approach your snake from the side rather than from above when you pick it up – many of the snakes natural predators attack from above (ie birds) so a snake approached in such a manner may be slightly more nervous.
Breeding Rosy boas
Hibernation is important to get rosy boas in to breeding condition. In order to do this feeding should be stopped around November time, the snake should then be given a few more weeks in order to defecate and clear out any gut contents (this is important, gut contents left in the gut during hibernation can cause major problems if they decay). The temperatures should then be gradually reduced until by mid December the temperatures are approximately 13c. This temperature should be maintained, and the snake not disturbed, for about 12 weeks. At this point you should slowly increase the temperatures over the course of about 3 weeks back to the temperatures they were at before you began hibernation.
After they have been successfully hibernated you will need to start feeding your rosy boas again. Males can be fed their usual once weekly meals however females may require more food to get them up to breeding condition. Try feeding females every 5-7 days for the month or so after hibernation. This allows them to put on the appropriate weight and get in to optimal condition prior to breeding.
At this point (which will likely be roughly April time) you should introduce the male in to the females enclosure and keep a close eye on them at least for the first few hours to watch for problems. Leave them together for a week or two, during which they will mate multiple times.
You can slightly increase the temperatures in the female enclosure by a few degrees to aid embryo growth if you like. The females are unlikely to feed again until they give birth – hence the need for the extra feeding prior to breeding. Since rosy boas are boas, they give birth to live young – usually 5-8, however as many as 12-14 isn’t unheard of.
The females are likely to shed a couple of weeks before they come to give birth – this is often an exciting indicator that the big day is looming. They also become restless, seemingly searching their enclosure for a suitable place to give birth. They usually give birth a few months after mating – generally around September time.
Hatchlings should be separated from the parents and reared separately in small, simple, sterile containers. Keep them on tissue/newspaper to allow for ease of cleaning and spotting health problems.
Rosy Boa Photo by SARAH RA RA
Rosy boas are fantastic little boas. They are small and as such only need a small enclosure, keep them dry and give them a warm spot of approximately 85f. Feed them a diet of rodents twice a week for youngsters, once a week for adults. They are usually quite tame and make great pets for those which wish to handle their snake.
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