Former Moderator no longer active
Join Date: Feb-2002
Boa FAQ Sheet: Check here first!
What temperature should my boa be kept at?</b>
I find a temperature gradient of 78/82 - 90/95 works well for most boas.
<b>How should I measure the temperature?</b>
Stick on thermometers do not work well and they only measure the ambient (air) temperature around it. To measure the temps in your cage, you will need something that measures the surface temepratures in the cage, such as a temp gun or digital thermometer with a remote probe that can be placed in various areas around the cage.
<b>What is the best way to heat my snake?</b>
I prefer to use a bottom heat method, such as undertank heaters or heat tape. These are the most efficient method as they cost less, last longer, are very low wattage, and since heat rises, it makes more sense to heat from the bottom than the top. You can also use heat panels, incandescent bulbs, or ceramic heat emitters.
<b>What wattage bulb should I use?</b>
Nobody can tell you, as it will be different with each home and enlcosure. You will need to experiment to see which fits your situation best.
What should I keep the humidity level at?
I find they do well at levels around 50% or so.
<b>What kind of enclosure should I have?</b>
Babies can be housed in rubbermaids with holes drilled for ventilation, and older snakes can be housed in custom enclosures. Tanks can also be used for smaller snakes, however they aren't the best choice IMHO as they do not offer any security, control over humidity, or insulation for maintenance of temperature, in addition to which they are quite cumbersome and inefficient space-wise.
<b>What size enclosure should I have?</b>
This topic is still debatable to an extent, so I will just say that they are very commonly and successfully housed in enclosures that give them as little as one square foot of floor space per foot of snake (length) and under a foot of vertical space (ie- a 7.5' snake in a 4x2x1 cage). Some people also feel they should have a more spacious enclosure, with more room to stretch out and climb, and they have also been successful.
<b>What is the best substrate?</b>
You should avoid any softwoods, such as pine, fir, and especially cedar! These contain phenols which can be harmful to your snake, some can even be potentially fatal! Some safe substrates include, but are not limited to, newspaper, papertowel, flannel sheets, Carefresh, and cypress mulch. Susbtrates that should be avoided include, but are not limited to, astro-turf, gravel, soil, softwood mulch/chips, and sand. Note that most loose substrates come with inherant risk of ingestion, which can pose problems such as impaction. I prefer to house all my smaller snakes on Carefresh or papertowels, and my larger snakes on newspaper or towels/sheets.
<b>How big will my boa get?</b>
On average, Colombian boas (Bci) will attain a length of 5.5'-8.5' in length, as will most True Redtails (Bcc - Guyanese, Surinames, etc.). Occassionally, larger specimens may occur, reaching lengths of 9'-11' but this is not common. Hog Isle Boas typically stay within the 4.5'-6' range, though some may exceed this. Central American localities range anywhere from 4.5'-7.5' as adults, depending on locale. Argentine Boas (Bco) are the largest of the B.c. ssp. and lengths of 10' are not uncommon. Short-tailed boas (Bca) typically fit in the 5.5' -7' range as adults.
<b>How much should I feed my boa?</b>
Your snake will tell you when it is in need of a meal and what kind of meals it prefers, until you learn to read your snakes behaviours you can use the general guideline of feeding babies every 5-7 days and subadult and adult snakes every 10-14 days. Boas can typically take very large meals, if you choose to feed your snake larger meals and he has no problems with them, make sure you do not feed as often. Safe meal sizes are those that are roughly equal to the same size as the snake's girth. These are digested quicker and can be fed more often than large meals.
<b>What should I feed my boa?</b>
Baby boas can be started on either hopper or adult mice and baby rats. Your boa will quickly, so it is best to start them on rats or switch them overas soon as you can, to avoid the snake developing any preferences. Adult boas can be fed rats or rabbits, and sometimes guinea pigs as well (though these have a higher fat content and aren't as readily available in most cases).
<b>Why won't my boa eat?</b>
Some boas may need a week or so to settle in before they feel comfortable feeding, so it is a good idea to leave them alone in the beginning. If your boa still won't eat you need to assess the situation carefully. Is your snake sick? If so, a trip to the vet may be in order. If not, are you feeding your boa what it was feeding on before? If so, are your temperatures ok within the cage? Is it possible your snake may be feeling "exposed"? Some snakes prefer to have several hides placed in their cages. This is especially noted in open enclosures such as glass terrariums. Is it possible that your snake is being stressed out? Are you handling it a lot or is it an a busy area of the home, or perhaps a family pet is hanging around a lot? Snakes shouldn't be handled until they are feeding reliably.
<b>Is my boa sick?</b>
The most common ailments in captive snakes are parasitic, bacterial and respiratory infections. If your snake is having runny defecations, not eating well, lethargic, underweight (losing weight or having trouble gaining), sitting with it's head facing the sky ("stargazing"), and gaping it's mouth, your snake may be suffering from a parasitic or bacterial infection. A fecal flotation and smear as well as a tracheal wash/culture should be done to determine the exact culprit, and appropriate medicinal treatment should be followed. If your snake is making gurgling sounds from the throat, popping or other obvious breathing sounds, blowing bubbles from the mouth, gaping his/her mouth, "stargazing", and congested with mucus, it likely has a respiratory infection. A culture should be taken to determine the type of antibiotic treatment that would best cure it. During treatment periods, it may be helpful to slightly increase the overall temperatures in the cage (from the above mentioned temperatures) to help "burn" out the sickness, much like a simulated fever.
<b>Why is my boa soaking?</b>
If your boa is soaking in his dish a lot, there may be a few reasons. Mites are a common reason a snake may soak. Do you see little black specks in his water or crawling on your snake? Your snake may also soak if the humidity is too low in the tank and/or he is going in to a shed. Your snake may also be soaking if the temperatures in the cage are too hot. Sometimes snakes will also seek refuge in their water bowls if there are not other suitable hiding spots.
<b>How do I get rid of mites?</b>
There are several ways to get rid of mites, each with their own pros and cons. Some of the most popular treatments include Nix lice shampoo (available in your local pharmacy), Black Knight roach killer, Provent-a-Mite (same ingredient as Nix), and Reptile Relief. Regardless of the treatment, the snake should be soaked in water for a little while to rid it of any mites before putting it back in the enclosure (I prefer to add a few drops of Ivory dishsoap to the water - make sure if you add soap, it is very gentle, not antibacterial), and the enclosure should be thoroughly cleaned and disnfected using your choice of cleaning agent and hot water. Mites can get in to, and lay eggs in the tiniest of crevices. If you have any wood, it should be thrown out or baked/boiled to kill any mites/eggs. If you are using decorative setups, it is best to switch to functional setups with only the necessary items and newspaper/paper towel as substrate. Nix should be diluted one bottle to one gallon of water and sprayed over entire enclosure (excluding water bowl). Allow to dry and place the snake (rinsed in clean water if it was soaked in soap) back in the enclosure. Some people recommend keeping a bowl or water in, but during the treatment I feel it is best to leave it out so the snake cannot drag any Nix in to it and drink it. Make sure you offer your snake water once a day if you do this.
With BK it should be sprayed lightly inside enclosure and closed for a bit to allow the aerosols to get in to any crevices. I prefer put substrate over top, but it can also be sprayed over substrate as well. Allow to air out thoroughly before placing snake inside. Again, water bowl should only be placed in after it has thoroughly aired out.
<b>What is the difference between a Colombian Bci and a Bcc?</b>
The differences between the two subspecies are minimal. Bcc were the original "redtailed boas", however several decades ago dealers began applying the same name to the Colombian boas in order to squeeze some extra money out of their sales, as "true redtails" tended to have a nicer appearance to them. Bcc sometimes display a brighter tail colouration, more colouration throughout their body (silvers and/or pinks and/or purples), shaplier saddles that may have more contrast, and less than 22 saddles. Bci may have more or less than 22 saddles, which makes this method of identification unreliable. Bci have a much quicker growth rate than Bcc do and can easily attain lengths of 6' or more by their second birthday. They generally have the same maintenance requirements.