Rainbows By Design

Care Sheet for Brazilian Rainbow Boas

Brazilian Rainbow Boas


Caring for Brazilian Rainbow Boas

John Wiseman at Rainbows By Design



Brazilian Rainbow Boas (BRBs) make excellent pets. However, they do require husbandry conditions that are unlike most snakes on the pet market. They are hardy, generally well-tempered, typically grow to around 6 feet in length, and can live as long as 20 years if properly maintained. This makes BRBs ideal for anyone wanting a beautiful unique pet snake. Their size is much more manageable and practical than many of the other Boas and Pythons which can push up to 10+ feet in length. The caveat to this is that BRBs do require a little more attention than other common pet snakes and thus I would not recommend them for first time snake owners. But, with a few precautions anyone can enjoy these amazing animals.



First and most importantly is that BRBs require high humidity, especially when they are small. If kept too dry they will dehydrate. Dehydration is the number one killer of baby BRBs. Minor dehydration may only present shedding problems, but serious dehydration will kill them. Baby BRBs should be maintained with close to 100% humidity in their cages. I like to maintain this high level of humidity until they are at least one year old, then maintain humidity at approximately 70% for adults. Proper humidity can be accomplished a number of ways. You could use damp substrate or frequent misting, as well as limiting the ventilation. Because of the large number of BRBs in my collection I use newspaper as a substrate for easy cleaning so I prefer to frequently mist my animals, at least once a day in mildly ventilated cages. Keep in mind that excessively damp substrate and poor ventilation can lead to stagnant condition inside your enclosure. In addition cages with large screen sides or screen tops will lose humidity rapidly; these two points will be discussed later.  




It is important to note that damp substrate can quickly grow mold and cause problems. Substrate should be changed often whether or not it appears soiled.  You can’t always see the mold spores. In addition, BRBs drink more water and thus urinate more than most other snakes. On substrate other than newspaper and paper towels urine spots are not as obvious, making it necessary to clean the cages out more than you would otherwise to ensure a healthy environment. Remember substrate that is kept in the cage too long will become contaminated with urates. These urates are very acidic and this will harm the snake's scales and skin. Avoid using substrates from the garden section of home improvement stores. These products were meant for outside gardening and may contain parasites or even snake mites. (Snake mites can be a huge problem and difficult to fully cure, please read the section on mites.) It is extremely important to not use cedar substrate. Cedar and similar woods contain oils that are toxic to BRBs and other species of snakes. This is also important when feeding your BRBs; try not to feed them rodents that have been kept on Cedar or similar wood shavings.  Pine shavings and aspen shavings are also not suitable for BRBs because as they are very dry and dusty and will pull humidity out of the air causing the enclosure to dry out rapidly. If asked, I recommend cypress mulch, bark chips, sphagnum or peat moss as substrate.  These types of bedding are very efficient at holding in lots of humidity.



BRBs thrive in temperatures a little cooler than you would expect. Baby BRBs prefer the cool end in the low 70s and the warm end in the high 70s to very low 80s. Maintaining a good temperature gradient is vital to the health and happiness of all snake species. Maintaining cage temperatures higher than 85 oF can quickly cause dehydration and leads to poor feeding habits, incomplete sheds, and in extreme cases even death for baby BRBs. For adult BRBs (especially gravid females), I will keep a hot spot of 85 oF.  Most reptile heating products are too hot for any of the Rainbow Boa species, and because of that I always recommend a good thermostat.  I use RANCO thermostats because I can wire them myself and put as many outlets as I choose. BRBs, like many other species are nocturnal and secretive, thus using bright overhead lights to heat your cages will create stress for a BRB and may cause problems.  Also, heat lamps will quickly dry out the air in your enclosure and drastically reduce the humidity.  Cage temperatures should always be controlled with a thermostat, don’t play the guessing game. In addition, if a thermostat does not control the cage temperature, then room temperature fluctuations can have a dramatic effect on the cage temperature. Invest in quality temperature measuring equipment and use it!!! BRBs require temperatures about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than what is required for many other boids including Ball Pythons, Boa Constrictors, Burmese and Reticulated Pythons. Very often, vendors not specializing in BRBs may not be giving accurate information. As a general rule, always read up on every new species you plan on keeping to be sure they are properly taken care of. Keep in mind that the temperature requirements extend past caging BRBs; care should be taken when transporting them as well. Don’t foolishly leave your BRBs in closed cars in the sun where the temperature will rapidly rise, becausethis could easily kill them. As with other species, BRBs should be provided hiding spots to avoid light and activity that will cause stress. I suggest placing substrate material such as damp moss or damp paper towels in the hiding container. This will ensure a cooler and more humid environment for your snake.


Water Bowls and Cages

BRBs need a water bowl that is large enough for them to completely submerge in. They will often soak in the water for several days before shedding. Because BRB sometimes spend a lot of time soaking in their water bowl, it is very important to frequently change the water out to avoid them soaking in soiled water. Elaborate cages look nice but I suggest that new BRBs are kept in simple cages so that it is easy to monitor their health. When you are comfortable keeping your BRB and it is happy and healthy, then a more elaborate cage can be used. Keep in mind that BRBs will hide most of the day so your elaborate enclosure will be more for your enjoyment than your snake's. However, if you choose to decorate, start by making small changes to the cage and always monitor your snake's health and mannerisms as you introduce new variables.  I always encourage using enclosures like those found at boaphile plastics or similar products (all of my cages are from boaphile plastics) for several reasons. These types of enclosures are great for maintaining humid conditions.  Traditional glass aquariums with screen tops make it extremely difficult to maintain high humidity. I discourage cages made out of any kind of wood. This is because wood is porous and can both absorb waste (making cleaning difficult) and it offers an excellent hiding place for parasites like snake mites.  If you most use a wooden cage I strongly suggest a non-porous coating/finish applied before use.



Newborn BRBs should be fed small live mice fuzzies at first; though I have seen bigger newborns take live pinky rats for their first meals. I don’t suggest trying a pinky rat for the first feeding. BRBs along with other species will feed much more readily on a live meal than a dead meal. However, I feel that it is very important to move your BRBs onto pre-killed or frozen/thawed rodents as soon as possible, this goes for any species of snakes. I don’t advise feeding live meals because rodents can fight back and I have personally seen many beautiful snakes with horrible scars from rodents. A baby BRB can handle extremely large prey but are more likely to regurgitate and once a snake begins to regurgitate the problem is difficult to resolve. I have found that once a BRB is accustomed to eating live prey they almost always easily switch to eating pre-killed and then frozen/thawed rodents. BRBs are always more likely to eat at night when undisturbed than when being closely watched in bright daylight.  Once they begin to eat BRBs are generally ravenous feeders. Do not force-feed a BRB!!! Force-feeding is very stressful and stress is often the reason that a snake wasn't eating in the first place. I have had a lot of babies in my years of breeding BRBs (hundreds if not thousands), and I have never had to force a baby to eat. I have seen some babies go as long as a month before eating, but they all eventually start feeding. These snakes are eating machines, and if your BRB is not eating it is likely due to stress caused by improper husbandry. The most common husbandry problems are keeping the snake too hot and/or too dry.



When first born baby BRBs will often strike and bite, and have thus acquired a reputation for being aggressive. However, a bite from a baby BRB is not painful, it’s mostly just startling to people. If you handle the snake for several minutes every day it will quickly become tame. If your BRB is biting or striking it is either afraid or it thinks you are something to eat. Man (or woman) up, just let it bite and hold on and chew if that’s what it takes. By allowing the behavior when it is young, your BRB will learn that you are too big to eat and most importantly that you are not going to harm it. This will usually take care of any striking and biting problems. However, if you retreat when your BRB strikes or bites you will reinforce this behavior. This will be a problem when the snake becomes an adult. When handling your BRB always make sure you have not been messing around with rodents first, if so thoroughly wash your hands and forearms!!!