Resource Center Menu
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care Sheet

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Epicrates cenchria 

Brazilian Rainbow Boa

Overview 

Brazilian rainbow boas are native to Costa Rica and central South America, where they inhabit the trees and grounds of grasslands and swamps. They are beautifully patterned snakes who are named specifically for their iridescence, which can be seen in daylight. This iridescent hue is caused by microscopic ridges on their scales that refract light like a prism and cause a rainbow-like effect.

 

Typical appearance and behavior  

  • Rainbow boas are generally docile and become used to regular handling 
  • These snakes tend to be more slender than other large snakes and are easier to handle 
  • Females are slightly larger than males 
  • They are typically orange-red to brown with three parallel black stripes on their heads, large black rings down their backs and black blotches surrounded by lighter orange crescents; patterning varies greatly from snake to snake 
  • Males have large spurs (remnants of hind limbs) on either side of their vents and have thicker tails than females due to the presence of hemipenes (reproductive organs) inside 
  • Their arrow-shaped heads are significantly wider than their bodies 
  • They have small, heat-sensing pits on the sides of their faces that help them detect prey, as well as small, hook-shaped teeth that hold on to prey as they constrict around them 
  • They are nonvenomous but will hiss loudly when threatened and to ward off predators 
  • As they get ready to shed, their eyes will turn a milky blue-grey over the course of a few days, and their body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen; they may become irritable, so avoid handling, if possible 
  • They have poor eyesight but feel vibrations to sense what is going on around them 

 

Characteristics

Care Difficuty Intermediate
Average Life Span Up to 30 years with proper care
Average Adult Size 4–6 feet
Diet Carnivorous
Minimum Habitat Size 75 gallons for one adult

 

Habitat 

Habitat size

Provide an appropriately sized and shaped habitat for an adult rainbow boa to accommodate normal behavior and exercise. The minimum habitat size is 20L for a single juvenile and 75 gallons for an adult rainbow boa. Tanks should have a securely fitting screened lid to prevent escape and allow adequate ventilation. Habitats should be long enough to allow a fully grown adult to stretch out completely and should be upgraded as the snake reaches full length.

Building your habitat

  • Substrate 
    • Commercially available paper-based bedding is ideal because it is digestible if accidentally ingested
    • Aspen shavings also are acceptable, but pine and cedar chips should be avoided; they have oils on them that can irritate their skin and their respiratory tracts
    • Because boas like to burrow into substrate, avoid reptile carpet; it is too abrasive for them and does not allow them to dig and burrow
    • Substrate should be deep enough for the snake to burrow and hide in 
  • Décor  
    • Rainbow boas like to have hideaway boxes, where they can feel secure 
    • Commercially available resin hides boxes are available, or they can be constructed from commercially sold rocks or logs that are arranged securely so as not to fall 
    • Provide a hiding area just large enough for the snake to fit inside, as well as a branch or other décor to climb on 
    • Ideally, there should be a hideaway at both the warm and cool ends of the tank 
    • Décor is also important for snakes to rub on when shedding 
  • Temperature  
    • Snakes are ectothermic reptiles, which means they rely on their environmental temperature to control their body temperature 
    • To help them regulate their body temperatures, provide a temperature gradient from 85–90°F for the warm end to 75–80°F for the cool end and at night 
    • Monitor temperature with at least two thermometers—one in the cool zone and the other in the hot (basking) zone 
    • Heat may be provided by a heat bulb, ceramic heat bulb or an under-tank heating pad 
    • Heat sources should be attached to thermostats to regulate temperatures; thermostats are especially important with heating pads, which can get hot and cause burns through the tank floor if not regulated properly 
    • Hot rocks should not be used as a heat source because they can burn reptiles 
    • Reptiles not kept at the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick 
  • Lighting  
    • While rainbow boas do not require ultraviolet (UV) B light to survive, some studies suggest UVB light may increase snakes’ activity levels and aid in their overall health 
    • A low-level UVB light helps provide a clear day/night cycle (with 10–12 hours of daylight) that boas need to perform their normal daily activities 
    • UV bulbs should be replaced every six months, as their potency wanes 
    • Provide 8–12 hours of light daily 
    • Don't leave white light on all the time; a nocturnal or infrared light should be used at night 
  • Humidity  
    • The habitat should contain an untippable water dish—large enough for the snake to soak in—to help sustain humidity levels, keep the snake hydrated and aid in shedding 
    • Maintain the habitat at 70–80% humidity; monitor humidity level with a humidity gauge 
    • Humidity should be higher during shedding and may be increased by creating a humid hideaway containing moist sphagnum moss; moss should be changed frequently to prevent mold growth 

Cleaning your habitat 

  • Spot-clean the habitat daily to remove droppings 
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week:  
    • Place snake in a secure habitat  
    • Remove all substrate and habitat décor 
    • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution 
    • Allow the bleach solution to remain on the enclosure for 10 minutes before washing off to ensure disinfection; if using a commercial cleaner, follow manufacturer’s instructions 
    • Rinse tank and furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell 
    • Dry the tank and furnishings completely 
    • Add clean substrate and put furnishings back into the tank 
    • Put snake back into their clean, dry habitat  

 

Feeding  

  • A well-balanced Brazilian rainbow boa diet consists of appropriately sized frozen rodents, properly thawed and warmed; prey should be approximately the size of the snake’s midbody width  
  • Hoppers or small mice may be fed to juveniles; rats are typically fed to adults 
  • Do not feed snakes live rodents because rodents may bite snakes who are not hungry and can cause life-threatening injuries; if, under any circumstances, you must offer live rodents to a snake, never leave them unattended in the tank with the snake because of the potential risk for injury to the snake  

Things to remember when feeding your Brazilian rainbow boa: 

  • Do not use a microwave to defrost frozen rodents; microwaved rodents can have hot spots that can burn snakes’ mouths when they eat them  
  • Do not prepare frozen rodents for feeding in the same area that you prepare human food; if it is unavoidable, be sure to thoroughly disinfect the area—see the Feeding Frozen/Thawed Foods Care Sheet for more information 
  • Feed juveniles once a week and adults every 1–2 weeks 
  • Feed in an empty tank, separate from the habitat, so the snake doesn’t associate your hand or the habitat lid opening with food and doesn’t accidentally ingest bedding off the habitat floor when eating 
  • Fresh, clean water should be available all the time in an untippable bowl large enough for the snake to soak in; place the bowl in the cool end of the habitat so the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly 
  • Because snakes will not typically eat while shedding, avoid feeding when they are in shed 

 

Care 

  • Snakes will regularly shed their skin and the covering over their eyes (called the eye cap or spectacle) 
  • Ensure habitat humidity is at appropriate level to allow the snake to shed properly; skin should be shed in a single long piece 
  • Never try to remove retained eye caps by yourself, as you can easily cause damage; seek veterinary care if eye caps are retained

 

Where to buy a Brazilian rainbow boa

Brazilian rainbow boas are available for purchase at your local Petco location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 

Supplies 

 

Habitat mates  

  • House Brazilian rainbow boas singly 
  • Do not house different snake species together 

 

Health  

Signs of a healthy Brazilian rainbow boa 

  • Active and alert 
  • Clear eyes (except when shedding) 
  • No discharge or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth 
  • Eats and passes stool regularly 
  • Supple skin without lesions, swellings, scabs, parasites (mites, ticks) or discoloration 
  • Regularly sheds skin in one complete piece 

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian) 

  • Unusually frequent or infrequent shedding 
  • Vomiting 
  • Lethargy or reluctance to eat 
  • Abnormal feces or lack of feces 
  • Lesions, swellings, scabs, discoloration or parasites (mites, ticks) on skin 
  • Labored breathing/breathing with open mouth 
  • Difficulty shedding/shedding in numerous pieces/retained skin after shed 
  • White, cheesy discharge or redness or scabs in mouth 
  • Laying on back, unable to turn right side up, or prolonged staring (“star-gazing”) 

 

Common Brazilian rainbow boa health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueDermatitis Symptoms or CausesBlisters, rapid shedding; caused by skin infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, an unclean habitat or one that has inappropriate temperature or humidity Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity
Health IssueRespiratory tract disease Symptoms or CausesLabored or open-mouth breathing, stretching neck out, mucus or bubbles in mouth, eyes or nostrils; can be caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites or a habitat that has inappropriate temperature or humidity Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity
Health IssueStomatitis Symptoms or CausesRed, swollen or scabbed gums and/or white, cheesy discharge in the mouth, loss of teeth, decreased appetite, weight loss; may be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections or inappropriate temperature or humidity Suggested ActionImmediately consult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity; if untreated, may be fatal
Health IssueTicks and mites Symptoms or CausesParasites on skin can cause itchiness, inflammation and hyperactivity and can transmit disease Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; empty habitat and thoroughly disinfect it
Health IssueLumps or bumps in skin Symptoms or CausesRaised, firm lesions on skin that may get larger over time; may be caused by infections with bacteria, fungi or parasites or by tumors Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian

 

FAQs

  • How big do Brazilian rainbow boas get? Brazilian rainbow boas can grow to 4–6 feet long. 
  • How long do Brazilian rainbow boa live? Brazilian rainbow boas can live up to 30 years with proper care. 
  • Are Brazilian rainbow boas dangerous? Brazilian rainbow boas are not venomous but they can bite with their small, hook-shaped teeth that hold on to prey as they constrict around them. 

 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile. 

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about reptiles and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.