Rosy Boa Care Sheet
Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian
Rosy boas come from the Southwestern part of North America: California, Arizona and parts of Mexico. These attractive snakes are desirable as pets because they are readily tamed and don’t get too large. They make great first reptiles for families with older children. Captive-bred rosy boas are usually very docile and tend to feed well. They live longer than many other pet snakes, so before you decide to add one to your family, be sure you’re prepared for a long commitment.
Typical appearance and behavior
- Rosy boas get their name from the pink color on their undersides; they are also sometimes called three-lined boas because they have three colorful stripes running the long way down their bodies
- Their exact coloration varies depending on where they are found in nature; they typically have light tan to gray bodies with orange, brown or maroon-colored stripes along their length, but as pets, these snakes are bred to have a wide variety of colors and patterns
- As your snake gets 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
- When they feel stressed or threatened, they will typically ball up and release a musky-smelling fluid from their vents as a defense mechanism to try to ward off predators
- In nature, their activity levels change following changes in ambient temperatures, becoming more nocturnal (active at night) when it is very hot and more diurnal (active during the day) when it gets cold; during changing seasons, they will become crepuscular (more active at dawn and dusk)
- These snakes belong to the Boidae family; they wrap around, constrict and suffocate their prey before eating it
- They move slowly in a straight line and don’t typically move as fast as some other snake species
- Their bodies are thick, and their tails, which appear blunt ended, are prehensile (able to grasp on to things)
- Females tend to be longer than males; males also have prominent anal spurs, which are claw-like protrusions on either side of their vent that represent vestigial remnants of hind legs lost in evolution
|Average Life Span||30+ years with proper care|
|Average Adult Size||2–3 feet long|
|Minimum Habitat Size||20L minimum for an adult|
Hatchlings may be started in 10-gallon habitats. Habitat size should increase as the snake matures. Provide an appropriately sized and shaped habitat for an adult rosy boa to accommodate normal behavior and exercise, at least a 20L to 40B tank. Tanks should have a securely fitting screened lid to prevent escape and allow adequate ventilation. Screens should be smooth and not abrasive, as these snakes like to rub their snouts inside their habitats and will suffer abrasions from rubbing on rough surfaces. If the enclosure has doors, they must be locked, as rosy boas are notoriously good at escaping.
These snakes reach adult size in 3 to 4 years under ideal conditions, depending on species.
Building your habitat
Substrate: Commercially available paper-based bedding is ideal, as it is digestible if accidentally ingested; aspen shavings also are acceptable
- Avoid pine and cedar chips; they have oils on them that can irritate snakes’ skin and their respiratory tracts
- Because rosy boas like to bury into substrate and rub their snouts against things in the habitat, reptile carpet may be too abrasive for them, and it does not allow them to dig and bury
- Substrate should be deep enough for the snake to hide in
Decor: Rosy boas like to have burrows in which to hide; burrows 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 hiding place at both the warm and cool ends of the tank; without hiding places, rosy boas get very stressed.
- Décor is also important for snakes to rub on when shedding
Humidity: To help sustain humidity levels, keep the snake hydrated and aid in shedding, provide a water dish large enough for the snake to soak in
- Maintain the habitat between 20% and 40% humidity; monitor humidity level with a humidity gauge
- Humidity should be higher during shedding; it may be increased during shedding by creating a humid hiding place containing moist sphagnum moss
- Moss should be changed frequently to prevent mold growth
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 (85–90°F for the warm end and 70–75°F for the cool end/nighttime) in the tank
- 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, as they can burn reptiles
- Reptiles not kept at the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick
- Lighting: While rosy 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; providing snakes with 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 6 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
- A well-balanced rosy boa diet consists of appropriately sized frozen rodents, properly thawed and warmed; small mice may be fed to juveniles, and rats are typically fed to adults
- Live rodents should not be fed, as live 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 rosy boa
- Do not use a microwave to defrost frozen rodents, as 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 one to two weeks
- Feed in an empty tank, separate from the habitat, so that the snake doesn’t associate your hand or the habitat lid opening with feeding and doesn’t accidentally ingest bedding off the habitat floor when eating
- Fresh, clean water should be available at all times in an untippable bowl large enough for the snake to soak in; the bowl should be placed in the cool end of the habitat so that the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly
- As snakes will not typically eat while shedding, avoid feeding when snakes are in shed
- Snakes will regularly shed their skin and the covering over their eyes (called the “eye cap” or spectacle); ensure habitat humidity is at an appropriate level to allow your snake to shed properly 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
Rosy boas are available for purchase at your local Petco location. Please call ahead to check availability.
- Appropriately sized habitat
- Sphagnum moss
- Water dish
- Hideaway place
- Climbing décor
- Heat light/emitter
- Heat fixture
- Under-tank heater
- Humidity gauge
- Low-level UV bulb
- UV bulb fixture
- Separate feeding tank
- Rosy boas are best housed singly
- Do not house different snake species together
Signs of a healthy snake
- 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
- 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 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, or an unclean habitat or one that has inappropriate temperature or humidity||Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; clean the habitat and ensure proper temperature and humidity|
|Health IssueRespiratory disease||Symptoms or CausesLabored breathing/open-mouth breathing, stretching neck out, mucus or bubbles in mouth, eyes, or nostrils; can be caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi or 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; if untreated, may be fatal||Suggested ActionImmediately consult your veterinarian and ensure proper temperature and humidity|
|Health IssueTicks and mites||Symptoms or CausesParasites on skin can cause itchiness and hyperactivity and can transmit disease||Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; empty and thoroughly disinfect the habitat|
- What do rosy boas eat? Rosy boas should be offered appropriately sized frozen rodents that have been properly thawed and warmed.
- How big do rosy boas get? Rosy boas can grow up to 3 feet long.
- How long do rosy boas live? Rosy boas can live 30+ years with proper care.
- Where are rosy boas found? Rosy boas are found in the Southwestern part of North America: California, Arizona and parts of Mexico.
- Is a rosy boa poisonous? No, rosy boas are not poisonous or venomous.
- What size tank does a rosy boa need? Juvenile rosy boas can be housed in a 10-gallon habitat; however, their habitats must increase in size as they grow. A 20L or 40B habitat is appropriate for an adult rosy boa.
- Where can I buy a rosy boa? Rosy boas can be purchased at Petco.
- How often do rosy boas shed? Adult rosy boas shed 4–5 times per year.
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, 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 if you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.