If you’re a snake enthusiast, a boa constrictor might sound like an appealing new addition to your den.
As with any new pet, you’ll want to do your research before getting one.
A boa constrictor has one of the most extended lifespans of any snake, averaging 25-35 years in captivity.
While rare, some have been known to live up to 40 years.
Keep this in mind when considering a boa.
They will be your scaly friend for a long time!
Let’s talk about how to care for a boa constrictor.
You’ll need adequate space, regulated temperatures including a hot spot, the right kind of substrate or material used to line the enclosure, hide boxes, tree branches for climbing, a water source, and a proper healthy diet.
Learning about the kinds of common health issues your snake might face and recognizing them is an essential set of knowledge to possess.
It’s also essential to regularly handle your boa, so they get used to you and remain tame.
In this article, you’ll learn details on each of the necessities listed above.
You will have enough information to help you decide if a boa is for you, and how to be a proper boa parent if you choose to give this big beautiful snake a home.
How Big Should A Boa Constrictor’s Enclosure Be?
Boa constrictors will need a few different enclosures throughout their life.
As they grow, they will need their enclosures to grow with them.
Ensuring your boa has the proper size enclosure is of the utmost importance for their health and happiness.
Baby Boas and Young Boas
A baby boa can live happily in a 20 to 40-gallon glass terrarium available for purchase at most local pet stores.
They are typically around 20 inches long at birth and will grow rapidly over the first three years.
Shedding skin is a sign of healthy growth.
Baby boas will shed their skins around every one or two months during this time.
As your boa grows from baby to young, you’ll want to up their terrarium to a 40 – 60 gallon.
A boa constrictor reaches adulthood at around three years of age.
By this age, they will have more than tripled in size, at least.
Boas reaching adulthood will be 6 to 10 feet long.
Their growth rate slows dramatically after year four; however, they will continue to grow throughout their lives.
Make sure the length of the enclosure is no less than half the length of your snake.
Ideally, an adult boa needs a minimum of ten square feet of floor space in their enclosure.
What Temperature Is Ideal For A Boa Enclosure?
In the wild, boas are used to warmer daytime temperatures and cooler nighttime temperatures.
They also require a hot spot for basking, which aids digestion.
To recreate this temperature variation in an enclosure, you’ll want to have a radiant heat source on one end.
To provide the basking area, an under tank heater will provide high heat, so your snake’s abdomen is warmed correctly to digest their meal.
Temps should range as follows:
- “Daytime” side of enclosure – 82° to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (28° – 32° C)
- “Nighttime” side of enclosure – 78° to 82° degrees Fahrenheit (25° – 28° C)
- Basking area – 90° to 95° degrees Fahrenheit (32° – 35° C)
Keep humidity at the recommended level of 60% to 70% by regularly misting the enclosure and keeping a water source inside.
What Is The Best Type Of Substrate For A Boa?
A substrate, by definition, is the surface or material an organism lives on.
While talking about snakes, it is the material used to line the bottom of their enclosure.
The best types of substrate for a boa constrictor are paper or reptile carpet.
Paper is best for baby boas. Use something as simple as shredded newspaper or paper towels.
Adult boas would benefit from shredded paper or reptile carpet.
The reptile carpet option is more expensive and needs to be cleaned regularly.
The cheaper paper option can just be thrown away after use.
A snake’s enclosure should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week, which includes replacing disposable substrate or cleaning reptile carpet.
What Can You Use For Hide Boxes?
Having hide boxes, also referred to as hides, in a boa’s habitat assure your snake will be comfortable and feel secure in their home.
Boas like to curl up in these hides, similar to how a boa in the wild is often squatting in an abandoned rodent burrow resting away from predators.
When choosing a hide box, remember it should not be too large.
The snake will want to be able to curl up tightly inside and not have a lot of extra wiggle room.
Boa constrictors should have at least two hides in their enclosure, with one at either end, so they have one in both temperature areas.
Types Of Hides
Several different things could be used in your boa’s enclosure for a hide, ranging from natural or homemade to commercially purchased.
- Hollowed logs – Halved and hollowed logs provide a natural hide.
- Cardboard box – Cut an adequate size hole in a cardboard box so your snake can come and go easily.
- Plastic Containers – A plastic container turned upside down with a proper hole.
- Commercial Hides – There are endless options for hides at pet stores and available for purchase online.
What Can A Boa Climb On?
Boas are semi-arboreal and need something to climb on in their enclosure.
They will enjoy this, especially when they are younger.
Adults tend to climb less due to their body size and weight but still scale a good sturdy climbing apparatus from time to time.
Nocturnal in nature, boas will be more active during the nighttime hours and will be seen climbing most often at this time.
A boa can climb on any type of branch-like structure strong enough to accommodate its body weight.
At least one of these should be included in a boa’s enclosure.
What To Look For In A Good Climbing Branch
- Natural wood is best, whether you get it from your back yard or the pet store.
- The branch should be large enough and thick enough to handle the boa’s size and weight.
- A branch with a natural curve somewhere in the middle will provide a nice resting spot for your snake.
- A few forks throughout for the snake to curl and hook onto aid climbing.
If you choose a branch from nature, it’s essential to let the branch soak in a bleach solution and dry thoroughly before placing it in your boa’s enclosure.
This will sanitize it and protect your boa’s health.
How Much Water Does A Boa Need?
Water serves a few different purposes for your pet boa constrictor.
It helps keep the proper humidity level in their enclosure, but it also helps them grow.
Baby boas shed their skin once every month or two, while adult boas shed around four times per year.
A boa shedding their skin is part of their growth process.
To properly shed, their skin has to be moist and pliable.
Having a water source, the snake can fit into (but not too deep) is a vital part of their captive habitat.
Boas don’t ‘drink’ water in a sense we would think.
They soak up water through their open mouths to keep hydrated.
Your pet boa constrictor should have access to their water source 24 hours a day.
Clean and disinfect your boa’s water container every time you clean their enclosure (at least once per week).
What Does A Healthy Boa Diet Look Like?
A healthy pet boa’s diet typically consists of frozen rodents.
The rodents are thawed, then warmed to slightly above room temperature.
Yes, you read correctly.
If you’re going to have a pet snake, you need to be prepared to handle dead rodents.
If this is not for you, a snake is not the right fit for your pet.
Feed for a pet boa can range between mice, rats, rabbits, and even small chickens, but frozen mice are the most readily available feed choice sold in pet stores.
They come in a wide range of sizes and varieties.
A good rule to follow when selecting feed for your boa is not to feed it anything wider than the boa itself.
While some snake owners think it’s natural and even exciting to watch their snakes consume a live rodent, this is not recommended.
A pet boa could become seriously injured in the process of consuming live prey.
How Often Should A Boa Eat?
- Baby Boas – Once every 5 to 7 days
- Young Boas – Once every 10 to 14 days
- Adult Boas – Less often, usually every 3 to 4 weeks
How Do You Feed A Boa?
- Thaw and prepare whatever food source you have purchased according to directions. (never use your microwave to prepare your boa’s food and keep it away from your food prep areas in your home).
- Wash your hands thoroughly, so the boa doesn’t mistake your hand for its food source.
- If needed, use a handling stick to gently guide the snake away from the opening before feeding to avoid problems.
- Be alert to avoid inadvertent feeding bites. Boas know when it’s time to eat and will be ready. It’s up to you as a responsible owner to continue with your safety in mind.
- Use long tongs (at least 12”) to dangle the food near the boa in its enclosure. Even though the meal is already dead, it will still strike and likely constrict around the prey.
- After feeding, do not handle your boa for at least 24 hours to give it time to digest its meal.
What Are Common Health Issues For Boas?
Any responsible pet owner should know the signs and symptoms of an unwell pet.
Snakes are no different.
They can get sick and need veterinary care just as dogs or cats might.
Common Health Problems Seen In Boa Constrictors:
- Mites and Ticks – Signs of these parasites can usually be seen on the skin. If you notice something like this, you should contact your veterinarian for advice.
- Respiratory Disease – If your boa has mucus in its nostrils or mouth, it could be suffering from respiratory disease. An enclosure kept too humid or too cold could be the culprit, but you should contact your veterinarian for advice and make sure your snake is kept warm and dry in the meantime.
- Dermatitis – If a boa’s enclosure is not cleaned often enough or has a temperature kept too cold and too damp, it could end up with dermatitis. This could consist of unhealthy shedding (too fast or difficult and incomplete sheds), or blisters. You should adjust the humidity and temp of your snake’s enclosure and contact your veterinarian for further advice.
- Stomatitis – Possibly a deadly condition, stomatitis presents in the form of a cheesy white substance in the mouth, loss of appetite, and possible loss of teeth. If your snake exhibits any of these signs, it should be seen by a veterinarian right away.
- Inclusion Body Disease (IBD) – IBD is an infectious disease spread between snakes via mites and can lay dormant in a snake for years. Signs of IBD include trouble breathing, loss of appetite, and excessive salivation. As the disease advances, the snake will have difficulty controlling its movements.
Some key points to remember:
Boas need the right size enclosure with variating temperatures at each end along with a basking spot.
Paper or reptile carpet is best for the substrate, and the enclosure should be cleaned at least once a week.
Hides provide them a sense of security, and at least one branch should be available for them to climb on.
Water should be available at all times, and they will eat at different frequencies depending on their stage of development.
Watch for signs and symptoms of common health ailments and contact your vet when necessary.
You now know the basics of how to care for a pet boa constrictor!