Brazilian Rainbow Boas are a subspecies of Epicrates cenchria, commonly known as Rainbow Boas. The range of Brazilian Rainbow Boas is quite large. It includes northern Peru and Brazil, southern Venezuela and Guyana and much of Surinam and French Guiana. Although not endangered, due to habitat destruction they are not common in their range. They are a semi-arboreal, slender-bodied snake with an adult size of 5-7 feet, with females being slightly larger than the males. Rainbow Boas have beautiful colouration ranging from a deep red to orange (sometimes brown) with dark rings down their back, and several rows of dark spots along their sides. The first row is highlighted by bright, light coloured crescents. Rainbow Boas get their name from their incredible iridescence caused by microscopic ridges on their scales that act like prisms to turn light into rainbows.
Neonates amd sub-adult BRB’s do very well housed in a 60 x 45 x 45cm vivarium. The general guide for an adult snake is to provide it with 2 thirds it’s total length ie. 7ft snake – 4.5ft vivarium. Substrates that BRB’s do well on include Komodo’s Forest Terrain bark chips, sphagnum/peat moss, newspaper, Cyprus mulch and tropical terrain. Neonates require much higher humidity levels than adults as they dessicate much more quickly. Neonates can be housed in a similar fashion to adults, just with an appropriately sized vivarium and more frequent spraying of the enclosure. With such high humidity comes the risk of mould and bacteria growth, therefore attention must be kept to maintaining very clean enclosures. It is a good idea to let the cage dry out between spraying as this helps to prevent mould and fungus growth. Rainbow Boas should have free access to a large bowl of fresh water at all times (ensure the bowl is large enough for the snake to fully submerge and soak in). As adults, they will usually drink large amounts of water, and will not require quite as high relative humidity in their vivariums as the young do, however they can and will still dehydrate so ensure their humidity is approx 75-80%. This will also ensure that they don’t have shedding issues. They should always shed their skin in one piece, if your snake is shedding in bits and getting shed stuck, this is more than likely due to fact that the humidity is not adequate enough and/or temperatures are not correct. As well as providing your snake with several inches of loose substrate that they can burrow into, they should also provide plenty of hiding spots. Providing some branches for your boa to climb up and exercise on is highly recommended as they will regularly climb low branches on the forest floor in the wild.
Common mistake – using a fish tank with a screen top. This will not provide your boa with the correct ventilation and can lead to upper respiratory problems and potentially death.
Temperature and Humidity
BRB’s are more tolerant of lower ambient temperatures than many other boids, but they cannot tolerate excessive heat very well. They should have a basking spot of around 85f in the ‘hot end’, an ambient hot end temperature of around 80f and a cold end of around 70f. This ensures the snake can thermoregulate its body temperature and move from the hot and cold areas as it wishes. Using a thermostat on your heat sources is by far the best and safest way to control your temperatures and is always recommended.
Adult BRB’s require a minimum humidity level of 75%. Should humidity drop into the 50’s or 60’s for extended periods of time results in respiratory infection, regurgitation and death by dehydration. Making a ‘humid hide’ with sphagnum moss goes a long way to providing the much-needed humidity these snakes require. They will spend the majority of their time in these humid areas and venture out at night to explore and climb.
Neonate BRB’s should be kept at or near 85% humidity, with similar temperatures to adults. Provide the snake with a thermal gradient (hot and cold areas) within the enclosure, a humid hide and a dry hide, and a water bowl large enough to soak in.
BRB’s can often be quite nervous snakes as newborns, as any young snake can. They are well known for being a little skittish, but with regular, gentle handling they will tame down really nicely and become wonderful pets. They will soon learn the big hand coming towards them is nothing to be scared of providing they are handled correctly. Pick up your baby with a steady, confident action. The baby will typically be coiled in one area. Aim for the back of the snake away from the mouth and just do it. If you happen to be bit, there will be minimal pain and perhaps a couple of pinpricks in your skin and most snakes bite and instantly release as a shock tactic. If your snake does hang on, again the pain will be minimal. I have sat with a snake latched on to my hand many times before now, and you do get used to it, it’s far better, in my opinion, to be bitten by a young snake you are taming, than a large one that is not used to handling! Resist the urge to pull back as that will only make it worse as BRB’s teeth curve back so as they can hold onto their prey in the wild. If you pull away, you will tear your skin and could easily damage some of their teeth.
Rainbow boas are typically a more active snake when being handled than your average boa, seemingly often on the move, however, on occasion, they can curl up and just sit with you.
BRB’s are voracious feeders that primarily on rodents, birds, and lizards in the wild. In captivity, they eat defrosted mice, rats and chicks that are approximately the same size as the fattest part of the snake’s body. Neonates will take pinkie mice, and soon within a few months upgrade to fuzzies. If BRB’s refuse food, their husbandry should be carefully examined first. Stress, poor husbandry, or illness are the likely causes of a rainbow boa that refuses to eat.
BRB babies should be fed on a schedule of from once every 5 days to 7 days with appropriately sized defrosted mice/rats. They usually have very good appetites and will continue to feed even when they are opaque prior to shedding
BRB’s will grow rapidly on the correct sized mice/rats fed regularly. Yearling often grow to 48 inches in length, though 36-40 inches is more typical. Many 2-year-olds are 4-5 feet long. Females get on average 6-7ft and males 5-6ft.
BRB’s are often overfed to obesity in captivity as adults. Feed at once every 7-10 days when the snake begins feeding on larger meals such as rats.
Avoid handling your snake after a sizeable meal as it may cause stress, and alongside inadequate temperatures may cause regurgitation.
Never handle rodents and then handle a snake; you may be mistaken as food. Develop proper feeding habits. As the rainbow boa grows it may be wise to feed the snake in a separate feeding tub, this reduces the chance of the snake thinking whatever is coming into it’s viv is food, and also reduces the chance of your snake becoming impacted by accidentally ingesting some of the substrate.