Brazilian Rainbow Boas are an absolutely stunning snake that we recommend all the time. This species is beautiful, mellow, and has very straightforward care requirements.
However, you still need to do your homework before you think about getting one for yourself.
There’s a bit of effort that goes into owning one of these snakes, and a lot of reptile-lovers don’t realize that before they get one. This leads to a number of issues later on.
This guide will cover all the essential aspects of Brazilian Rainbow Boa care. You’ll learn about their enclosure setup, diet, temperament, size, and other interesting facts!
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The Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria) is a gorgeous snake species with a stunning appearance. Known for its vibrant colors and iridescent shimmer, this pet snake is in high demand in the reptile trade.
As you might have guessed from their name, these snakes are usually found in Brazil. However, several subspecies are distributed throughout South America, Central America, and even southern North America.
Most often, these snakes live in South American rainforests surrounding the Amazon River Basin. They’re often mistaken for the Colombian rainbow due to their similar appearance.
Regardless of where it comes from, these snakes do very well in captivity. Some consider the Brazilian Rainbow Boa to be a snake that’s best for seasoned reptile keepers. However, the easy-going temperament of this species makes it a good contender even for those with little snake experience.
Average Brazilian Rainbow Boa Size
The average Brazilian Rainbow Boa size is around five to six feet in length when fully-grown. This is one of the many reasons why these snakes are a good choice for less-experienced owners.
These snakes aren’t small by any means. However, they’re considerably smaller than some other popular species in the trade. That means these creatures tend to be a bit more manageable.
Of course, outliers do exist. You might see Brazilian Rainbow Boas that only reach lengths of four feet or specimens that are closer to seven feet!
Expert Tip: Generally, females are a bit bigger than the males. This isn’t obvious when they’re young, but you can definitely notice the difference in adults.
With proper care, these snakes can be a part of your life for several decades! The average lifespan of a Brazilian Rainbow Boa is about 25 years in captivity.
Some snakes have reportedly lived up to 50 years, but those cases are very rare (and not all are confirmed).
As always, there’s no way to guarantee a long lifespan. Captive snakes depend entirely on high-quality care in order to reach their average life expectancy. Failing to meet their needs could lead to disease or an early death.
Appearance & Colors
There’s a reason why these snakes are called “Rainbow Boas!” Their bodies are noticeably more vibrant than some other species out there.
The main background color is usually maroon or mauve. This is accompanied by crescent-shaped patched. The distinct pattern is covered in bright orange and outlined with staunch black.
Expert Tip: In the right lighting conditions, you might see your snake shimmering. They have purines in their scales, resulting in an iridescent finish. The scales reflect shades of blue, green, and even purple.
The distinct coloration of this snake makes it stand out quite a bit. However, it still manages to blend in well with leaves on the ground.
Other color morphs are available as well. Many breeders specialize in creating snakes with different pigment issues, such as albino snakes and hypomelanistic snakes. These reptiles are rare and usually fetch a pretty penny.
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care
Proper Brazilian Rainbow Boa care is all about meeting their unique environmental needs.
Like all reptiles, these snakes can’t live in basic habitats with the same conditions as your home. They need tropical homes with the right temperature, lighting, and humidity levels!
Keeping these snakes healthy does take a fair bit of work and consistency. But as long as you follow established care guidelines, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Brazilian Rainbow Boas don’t need a massive enclosure, but you have to make sure that they have ample space to move around. When they are young, these snakes can do just fine in a 10 or 20-gallon aquarium tank.
As full-grown adults, they require a more expansive habitat. An enclosure that measures about 48 inches long, 24 inches deep, and about 24 inches tall is ideal.
Some owners choose a smaller enclosure than measures 36 inches long. This could work, but we recommend going a bit bigger to create a suitable temperature gradient.
These snakes need a lot of heat and humidity. So, you should choose an enclosure that’s made up of mostly glass. This will make it easier to maintain the appropriate levels. Choose a top that has some screening or adjustable air vents for further control as well.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is create a natural environment that’s easy to clean. This will save you a lot of work later on.
For the substrate, you have several options. For something simple, you can use paper towels. The towels are cheap and hold onto moisture quite well.
However, we prefer something more natural (and we think your Brazilian Rainbow Boa does as well).
Instead, try something like sphagnum moss, cypress mulch, orchid bark, coconut husks, or snake-approved sand mixtures. All of these materials absorb some moisture to keep humidity levels stable.
On top of the substrate, add a sizable hide box. Brazilian Rainbow Boas can be quite shy. Use an artificial cave formation or a large cork bark tube. Fill it with some damp moss to create a comforting space for your snake to sleep during the day.
Climbable branches and vines are important too. At first, this might not seem like an important part of the setup since these snakes are largely terrestrial. However, they do enjoy climbing trees every once in a while. Arrange the branches strategically to prevent injury while improving mobility.
Expert Tip: You can use live plants throughout the enclosure to provide even more natural appeal. Plants can help with humidity. Unfortunately, these snakes are known for crushing live plants. If that ends up being an issue you can swap to artificial plants that your snake can’t kill.
Temperature & Lighting
Brazilian Rainbow Boas need a nice temperature gradient in their enclosure. These snakes regulate their body temperature by moving to various cool or hot spots in their environment.
On the upper end of the spectrum, use a basking lamp to create a warm area that’s as high as 90°F. Ambient temperatures on the cooler side can be as low as 75°F.
Expert Tip: Do not let temperatures dip below 75 degrees. If temperatures in your area fall below that at night, use an under-tank heater or heat emitter.
These snakes are nocturnal, so lights should stay off at night. Unlike other reptiles, a UVB light isn’t necessary with the Brazilian Rainbow Boa. Some owners like to include them anyway to provide a realistic photoperiod, but it’s not a requirement.
Here’s where things can get a little tricky!
Brazilian Rainbow Boas need humidity levels to stay around 70 to 75 percent. Some snakes may prefer levels as high as 90 percent during times of shedding.
We highly recommend that you invest in a high-quality hygrometer! It can help take out the guesswork of maintaining humidity levels.
Many of the items in the enclosure will help you keep maintain these humidity levels. Among them are substrate material and any plants.
If you need to raise levels, mist the environment regularly. Auto-misting systems are available if you live in a drier climate.
Take advantage of any air vents, too. They can help improve circulation to lower humidity levels if things get too high.
Snakes usually don’t drink water from a dish like other pets. However, they still need a sizable dish to stay healthy. This is because they’ll use the dish to soak and regulate temperatures.
Choose a durable dish that won’t tip over. It should be large enough for your snake to climb in but not deep enough to drown your pet.
Keep a watchful eye on the water conditions in this dish. Brazilian Rainbow Boas like to defecate in their water dishes. If you’re not careful, the dish can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Replace the water regularly to keep things clean.
Food & Diet
Brazilian Rainbow Boas are relatively easy to feed. They do best on feeder mice that are appropriate for their size.
As a good rule of thumb, their food should be no larger than the thickest point of the snake’s body.
Juvenile snakes will need weekly feedings of pinkies. For adults, you can provide food once every 10 days or so. You can also dust the mice with vitamin powder supplements every few feedings for good measure.
We recommend using thawed frozen mice. These snakes can accept live mice for food, but there’s always the risk of the mouse scratching or biting your snake before they’re eaten.
Expert Tip: Many owners actually recommend feeding Brazilian Rainbow Boas in a separate enclosure with tongs. That’s because these snakes can strike!
Feeding them in their primary living environment could train them to expect food every time your hand enters the habitat.
Potential Health Issues
Snakes are prone to a lot of diseases. Brazilian Rainbow Boas are no different. These reptiles carry bacteria and can quickly succumb to infection.
To prevent this, keep the enclosure clean at all times. Spot-clean daily and do deeper cleanings once a week.
Every month, sanitize the entire habitat! This means removing the substrate and cleaning every surface with a reptile-approved sanitizer. Sticking to a regular cleaning schedule can help you avoid fungal problems, bacterial infections, and even parasites.
The most common issue you’ll likely encounter has to do with humidity levels. Like other snakes, Brazilian Rainbow Boas can experience respiratory infections when the humidity levels aren’t right.
Not only that, but they can suffer from a condition known as dry eyes.
This causes pitting on their eye caps. Dry eyes is a result of low humidity levels. Whip out your hygrometer and misting sprayer to bring the humidity levels back to an appropriate range.
Behavior & Temperament
Solitary by nature, Brazilian Rainbow Boas tend to be quite shy. When you first bring one home, they’ll likely nip at your hand anytime you try to interact with them.
This is completely normal and not an indication of their overall temperament.
In fact, most will grow out of that behavior once they start getting used to you. They can still bite (and their teeth definitely cause some pain), but most will develop some trust with owners.
With some patience and good care, aggressive behavior will be a thing of the past!
Expert Tip: Brazilian Rainbow Boas are nocturnal so don’t expect to see much activity during the day. Once the sun sets, they tend to be a bit more active for a few hours. This is also when you should feed them.
Once you get through the nippy defensive stage, Brazilian Rainbow Boas mellow out and don’t mind handling.
It’s actually a good idea to handle them regularly. This will build trust and help keep potential aggression at bay.
However, avoid handling your snake for a few days after feeding. They are prone to regurgitating food.
When you handle the snake, do so in a well-lit room. Gently remove them from the enclosure by supporting their body from underneath. If receptive, the snake should wrap itself around your arm.
Keep your handling times short in the beginning. Over time, you can gradually increase the amount of time you hold them. It’s all about building trust and getting comfortable with human contact. Handle them regularly and you shouldn’t have any issues taming your snake.
As you can see, there’s a lot to like about the Brazilian Rainbow Boa. These snakes are a pleasure to own once you get the hang of things!
We know plenty of owners who swear that they’ll always own at least one, and we don’t blame them.
If you have questions about anything that wasn’t covered in this care sheet feel free to send them over! We’re always happy to be of assistance and help you navigate the research process.