Tyrannosaurus Pets

 


Boa (Boa constrictor ssp.) Care Sheet


Boa constrictors are large powerful snakes, found throughout Central and South America.  They range in size from the 4’ Central American dwarf boas, to the 12’ red tail boas from South America.  They make relatively hardy pets, and generally have a good temperament.  Their large size precludes them from beginner status, but they are a good choice for the more experienced keeper looking for a larger pet.  These are attractive snakes with a wide range of natural colour forms, and an ever expanding collection of designer morphs are available.   


Housing Your Boa


A vivarium of 36”x18”x18” is suitable for a boa until it is between 3’ and 4’ in length.  For most boas this size will be reached between eighteen and twenty four months of age.   Baby snakes can feel insecure and have trouble feeding if put into too large a tank too soon.  Once the snake has outgrown its first enclosure it will need to be moved to the adult tank.  Depending on the type of boa the adult tank will range from 48” x 18” x 18” to 72” x 24” x 24”.  You should be informed of this at the time you buy the baby snake.


These are tropical snakes and require a high night time, as well as a steady day time temperature.  The best heater to use is a ceramic heating system.  These heaters produce heat, and no light so are ideal to heat a tank over night with out disturbing the snakes sleep patterns.  Ceramic bulbs get far hotter than incandescent lamps of the same wattage, so special fittings designed for this higher heat must be used.  Most of these fittings are of the hanging pendant type.


Once you have wired the fitting, hang it from the roof of the tank with a picture hook.  Place the ceramic bulb in the fitting and fit the guard.  It is easier to fit the guard if the tank is upside down.  Before turning the tank over, remove the glass as it will fall out.


Place a layer of orchid chippings across the base of the tank, we use orchid as the wood absorbs water and helps to keep the required humidity.  As boas like to burrow they appreciate a deeper level of substrate.  About 3cm is fine for babies.


The probe from the thermostat needs to come into the tank one third to halfway along, and hang down about two inches from the floor.  It looks neater if the cable is held in some conduit, but make sure the black section is exposed so you get an accurate reading.


Put a thermometer directly under the lamp, either on the floor, or on top of a hide if one is under the bulb.


Set the thermostat to 28◦c, this is an estimate but should get the temperatures close to the desired level.  Leave the tank to settle for two hours and check the temperature.  On the basking spot (directly under the lamp) the temperature should be 31’c – 33’c.  The cool end of the tank should be 26’c.  At night the temperature should not be allowed to drop below 25.5’c


Adjust the thermostat if required.  Only move the dial a small amount as even a small tweak can make a big difference.  After adjusting the thermostat leave the tank for two hours before rechecking the temperatures.  Keep checking and adjusting the tank until the correct temperatures have been reached.


When setting up the adult tank the process is the same, but using a more powerful heater.  Recent research has shown that larger reptiles such as boas benefit from having a larger heated area in the tank.  The easiest way to achieve this is to use two ceramic heaters positioned around 12” apart.  This creates a far greater basking area, and allows the animal to warm to the correct temperature at a more natural rate.


The snake will settle better if there is a hide in both the warm and the cool sections.  Additional décor can also help the boa to adapt to its new environment.  Place the water dish in the cool end, more towards the middle of the tank if space is cramped.  Boas like to soak especially when they are in shed so use a bowl large enough to allow the snake to sit in.  For adult snakes cat litter trays make a cheap and effective, though not very attractive water dish.


Daily Care for Your Boa Constrictor


As boas are tropical snakes we need to ensure a moderate humidity in the tank to keep them healthy.  Give the tank a gentle spray twice weekly, this should keep the humidity high enough.


When the snake is in shed a higher than normal humidity is required to help the old skin to soften.  When the boa is in shed spray the tank daily, this should allow the skin to come off in one piece, and with no problems.


The water in the dish needs to be changed every day.  While changing the water look for any mess left by the snake, and remove it.  If the spot check is done regularly the tank will only require a full clean out once every 4 – 6 weeks.  When cleaning the tank or any decor don’t use household detergents, as these can be toxic to reptiles.  A wide range of reptile specific pet disinfectants are available from any good pet shop.


Feeding Your Boa


Baby boas need to be fed once a week.  As the snake grows we increase the size of the meal.  Each level lasts for about 12 weeks, but the snakes behaviour will tell you when it is ready to move up. If after eating, the boa spends half an hour searching the tank smelling everything, or is out and active the day after then it is still hungry.  Next week move the snake up to the next level


 



  • Level 1  1 x Adult Mouse

  • Level 2  2 x Adult Mouse

  • Level 3  Weaner Rat

  • Level 4  2 x Weaner Rat

  • Level 5  Small Rat

  • Level 6 2 x Small Rat

  • Level 7  Large Rat

  • Level 8 Jumbo Rat


 


It can take snakes some time to digest their food.  Don’t handle the animal for 48 hours after eating.  If you disturb them too soon it can cause them to regurgitate.


Don’t handle a new snake until the animal has eaten twice, this allows the animal enough time to settle into its new environment.  During the first couple of weeks allowing the snake to adjust to the new environment is extremely important.  If it’s not allowed to settle sufficiently it may not feed for you.


All snakes regularly shed their skin.  Baby snakes shed more frequently than adult snakes.  It could be as often as once every 4 or 5 weeks.  When the snake is getting ready to shed it is best to leave them alone.  They feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, this makes them more likely to bite, and they may not feed.  If you have already defrosted the food see if the snake will eat but don’t worry if its not interested, if you notice before defrosting the food leave the snake till the following week.


After the snake has shed, check no skin is stuck on, if left this can cause problems for the future.  If any skin is still stuck on the snake it will look like sellotape or clingfilm wrapped around them.  Always check the old skin to make sure the eye caps have come off.  If any skin is stuck contact Tyrannosaurus Pets for further information.


The only time the snake can be handled in the first two weeks is if it sheds, when it will need to be checked over.

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