Snakes are quite controversial pets – some people are scared of them while others love them to the point of keeping them as treasured pets. As you might expect, they are not your average cuddly pet. However, with regular handling, many snakes can become quite tame as pets. This post takes a look at a unique snake species – the rainbow boa – that has become one of the most popular to keep as a pet.
Rainbow boas are considered by many to be one of the most beautiful snakes in the world, which could explain why they have become popular as pets. Their outward appeal, in addition to their gentle nature, is what made me get one in the first place. While they can be gentle and loving pets, they have very specific dietary and environmental needs that have to be met to keep them healthy and happy.
That said, as a first-time owner, it is important to take into consideration a number of factors before getting yourself a rainbow boa. If this is your plan, you need to take these factors into consideration and do as much research as possible so that you are well prepared for your new pet.
Are Rainbow Boas Good Pets?
With proper handling and care, rainbow boas can make for great pets. Here are some reasons why you may want to consider getting this beautiful snake species as a pet:
- Rainbow boas are quite easy to take care of
As long as you provide your rainbow boa with food regularly, clean their enclosure, and refill their water daily, you won’t have to worry about too many responsibilities taking up your time.
- They prefer to spend their time in their enclosure
Rainbow boas enjoy spending their time in their enclosures, especially if you take the time to set up the enclosure like their natural habitat. This means that you won’t have to worry about taking them for walks or getting them to exercise as they are generally more independent than cats and dogs.
- They can groom themselves
Rainbow boas, as with other snakes, can shed their skin as long as you maintain a suitable humidity and temperature. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about grooming them yourself.
- They are quite easy to handle
Rainbow boas are relatively easy to handle especially if you start interacting with them from an early age. Baby rainbow boas are a bit skittish and defensive, but you can gradually make them more comfortable with you by handling them regularly.
- They are not poisonous
Many people are wary of getting snakes as pets due to the understandable fear that they may be venomous. However, many snake species are non-venomous, and rainbow boas fall into this category, making them ideal pets.
- Rainbow boas don’t need much room
Rainbow boas are not particularly big, with adults reaching an average size of 5-6 feet. As long as you provide an enclosure that is large enough to comfortably accommodate them, you don’t have to worry about them taking up too much space in your home.
- They are very quiet
Cats meow, dogs bark, and pretty much every other animal makes some sort of noise. On the other hand, snakes only hiss, which is non-intrusive and relatively quiet.
How Big Do Rainbow Boas Get?
Rainbow boas fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to size – they are not particularly big or small. When they are first born, baby boas can range from 8 to 12 inches in length. Adults can range anywhere from just over 4 feet to 7 feet. That said, the average size of adults ranges from 5-6 feet. Female rainbow boas grow larger than male ones.
When it comes to weight, an adult rainbow boa typically weighs around 9 pounds. The head of a rainbow boa is not particularly large, but it is noticeably wider than its neck.
How Long Do Columbian Rainbow Boas Live?
While it is difficult to keep track of the lifespan of a Columbian rainbow boa in the wild, it is much easier to determine their life expectancy when they are in captivity. On average, Columbian rainbow boas in captivity can attain a lifespan of 20 years, although it is not uncommon for them to live for up to 25 years when they are properly taken care of.
Are Rainbow Boas Poisonous?
Rainbow boas are non-venomous, using their powerful constrictor muscles to subdue their prey instead. A rainbow boa can detect the heat emanating from the body of its prey using special heat-sensing pits that are found on its face. When they feel threatened, rainbow boas may bite in self-defense, and while the bite can be painful, it is not dangerous.
How Often Do Rainbow Boas Shed?
The frequency of shedding will depend on the rate of growth of your rainbow bow as well as its condition, but it typically occurs every 3-6 weeks in babies and juveniles. Adult rainbow boas shed their skin less often once they attain their full size.
During the shedding process, you may notice that your rainbow boa refuses feeding attempts – this is completely normal and should not be a cause for worry. As your pet snake approaches a shed, you will want to increase the humidity to help reduce the risk of a dry shed.
With the right amount of humidity, the shed should come off a rainbow boa without shredding. While the shed can easily get torn, it should not be tattered. If you notice that your rainbow boa is having a bad shed where parts of the skin are stuck on, you can ease the process by wetting a pillowcase and putting the snake in the pillowcase.
The next step is to then tie a knot in the pillowcase to keep the rainbow boa from slipping. Place the wet pillowcase back in the snake’s enclosure at a neutral temperature location and leave it this way. If your boa still doesn’t shed fully, continue the pillowcase treatment for a few more hours or overnight.
Do Rainbow Boa Bites Hurt?
Rainbow boa bites can be painful, but they do not particularly hurt as they are not chewers, preferring a quick bite and release. Biting is a natural response that rainbow boas have to what they perceive as threats. That said, there are strategies you can employ to reduce the risk of getting bitten by your rainbow boa.
For instance, you might discover that it is easier to pick up your rainbow boa while it is in a hidden spot in its cage. You could partially expose the snake’s body from under its hiding spot and then hold it around its mid-section, taking care to avoid its head. Once your boa is aware that it is being picked up, it might exhibit a less aggressive attitude, reducing the likelihood of getting bitten.
It might serve you well to avoid grabbing your rainbow boa when it is out in the open or cruising around its enclosure. This is because there is a higher risk of getting accidentally bitten when you try to retrieve your pet snake this way. This is especially true if your rainbow boa has become accustomed to being fed inside its enclosure as opposed to a separate tub or enclosure.
If you notice that your rainbow boa is particularly aggressive, consider investing in a high-quality snake hook. A snake hook is useful in lifting a snake from its enclosure without having to come in contact with it, reducing the risk of a bit.
While it might be hard to fully tame an aggressive rainbow boa that is mature to get it to stop biting, you may be able to train it to a point where you can handle it without incident. Having several hides in the snake’s enclosure will help as it will allow you to be able to extract your rainbow boa in a controlled manner while ensuring that its head remains partly covered.
Are Rainbow Boas Nocturnal?
Rainbow boas are primarily nocturnal, so how you light their enclosures is of utmost importance to ensure their comfort. Therefore, you will want to ensure that your ambient lights are turned off for a night cycle of 8-12 hours.
Can Rainbow Boas be Housed Together?
Rainbow boas can be kept together when the time comes for them to breed. They can also be kept together when they are still babies and don’t occupy as much space as when they are fully grown.
Housing rainbow boas together during breeding
When breeding rainbow boas, you want to ensure that you have a male and female. You can determine the sex of your rainbow boa through palpation. When you palpate the tail of a male rainbow boa, you will feel hemipenes, which is what sets them apart from females. Hemipenes are two little bumps that are usually found inside the tails of males.
Before housing a male and a female rainbow boa together for breeding purposes, you must make sure that they are healthy and old enough to breed. Female rainbow boas have to a minimum of 2 1/2 years of age, although waiting 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years might be more suitable. On the other hand, males start to breed much younger, at around 18 months of age.
The breeding season of rainbow boas seems to be partially triggered by cooler temperatures. However, when temperatures drop below the optimum at night, ensure that the boas have access to a warm spot at least a couple of hours a day.
During the breeding season, the females may eat, but it is not uncommon to find healthy females going through a whole pregnancy without eating any meals. This is because the internal space of the female becomes filled with developing, and eating heavy meals may stress her body.
During the development of follicles in females, they tend to swell mid-body. This swelling typically lasts for several weeks, and during this period, the female may prefer to rest in an inverted position occasionally. As ovulation progresses, there is usually a large mid-body swelling which lasts for several hours.
While your female rainbow boa might appear pregnant, you might want to hold off on removing the male solely based on your observation. The ova has to grow to around 30 millimeters before ovulation/fertilization takes place. Therefore, the female might appear pregnant due to the development of ova inside her.
Having a male rainbow boa with the female for too long is not a problem, but housing them separately too soon may increase the likelihood of infertile ova occurring in the litter.
Housing baby rainbow boas together
Once the female rainbow boa gives birth, you will notice that the babies stay near the mother for a couple of hours or even for a few days, but after some time, they scatter to other areas of the cage where they feel secure.
It is recommended that you put baby rainbow boas in a separate sterile cage. Females are quite protective, so you will want to be cautious when removing the babies from the mother’s cage.
Are Brazilian Rainbow Boas Arboreal?
Brazilian rainbow boas are primarily terrestrial, most likely to be found near water in their natural water. That said, they do possess a prehensile tail that is meant to help them climb, but they are not considered to be true arboreal snakes.
Despite being mostly terrestrial, Brazilian rainbow boas have been found in trees, and when in captivity, some of them have been known to climb when given the opportunity. As a result, you can incorporate some vertical structures in your Brazilian rainbow boa’s cage to encourage it to climb and move around.
Do Rainbow Boas Have Fangs?
Rainbow boas do not have fangs, instead of possessing small, hooked teeth that they use to grab and hold onto their prey as they squeeze them to death. As they age, their teeth may fall out or become damaged, but they are usually able to regrow them.
After a rainbow boa grabs its prey, it then proceeds to wrap itself around it to minimize the animal’s movements. Like with other snake species, a rainbow boa swallows its prey whole without chewing.
They can do this thanks to their specialized jaws that can separate partially, which allows them to consume animals that are larger than their heads. The teeth of a rainbow boa are also useful in forcing its prey down the throat.
Do Rainbow Boas Like to Climb?
When provided with platforms or branches, most rainbow boas will climb. Climbing will stimulate your rainbow boa as well as provide it with more hiding places.
You can place leafed vines, artificial plants, and other artificial foliage throughout the snake’s enclosure. Try providing more than one plant to give your rainbow boa a range of spots where they can climb and relax.
Another option is to make a DIY climbing branch or simply buy one from a pet store in your area. You can place the branch wherever you want in the enclosure, but ensure that your rainbow boa can climb on it, it is sturdy enough to handle the snake’s weight, and it is slender enough for the snake for your snake to comfortable curl around it.
Do Rainbow Boas Lay Eggs?
Rainbow boas are categorized as ovoviviparous. This means that their eggs emerge within their bodies, specifically in the oviduct. Because they are ovoviviparous, their offspring are born already alive as they come out of the eggs that are located inside the females’ bodies.
The embryos grow internally, and because baby rainbow boas are born this way, they are relatively quicker than their counterparts to become self-sufficient.
Fertilization will take place internally for rainbow boas, and while the offspring grow inside the eggs of the mother, they are connected with a yolk sac and enclosed within a tenuous membrane that is clear-colored. They remain this way for a couple of months as they continue to grow, and when the mother is about to give birth, these membranes break.
Care of Rainbow Boas
Rainbow boas are naturally voracious feeders, primarily feeding on birds, lizards, rodents, and bats. In captivity, they eat rats and mice that are approximately the same size as the widest part of the snake’s girth.
Rainbow boa babies are usually born large enough to eat rat pinkies and hopper mice. They should be fed every 5 to 7 days. As they get older, you should gradually move on to larger prey items. When your rainbow boa becomes older, provide it with one food item once a week.
Once your rainbow boa is large enough to be weaned, consider offering frozen/thawed or freshly killed prey items. This will not only allow for more convenience, but it will also significantly reduce the risk of your snake getting injured by its prospective meal.
It is also important to provide your rainbow boa with clean water to prevent overheating and dehydration. Signs that your snake may be dehydrated include wrinkly dry scales, incomplete sheds, and regurgitation. It is recommended that you provide a water source that is big enough for your rainbow to soak in. remember to frequently switch out the water to prevent dirty stagnant water.
Rainbow boas are generally calm and docile. However, neonates (babies) can be quite nippy for the first couple of months, but after they adjust to their new surroundings, they tame down and become loving companions.
Baby rainbow boas can be kept in enclosures that are approximately 20 inches long by 10 inches wide by 13 inches tall. When the boas are around 2 feet long, you can move them to enclosures that measure 23 inches long by 16 inches wide by 6 inches tall. Once the animals are 4-6 feet long, consider moving them to enclosures that are at least 36 inches long by 24 inches wide by 21 inches tall.
Do Rainbow Boas Need UV Light?
As rainbow boas are nocturnal, they do not need any special lighting like UV. However, if your snake’s enclosure features live plants, you may need this type of lighting to maintain them.
Baby rainbow boas can be quite defensive. As a result, you want to handle them regularly to get them to become more comfortable. Once they get used to their new surroundings and start eating regularly, you can then handle them more frequently.
Depending on the amount of food your rainbow boa has eaten, give it about 24 to 72 hours for digestion before attempting to handle it to reduce the risk of regurgitation. By consistently handling a baby rainbow boa gently, you can tame it down within a couple of weeks.