Colombian rainbow boas are one of our absolute favorite pet snakes. These reptiles are not only beautiful, but fairly easy to care for as well.
But it’s important to have a firm understanding of their care requirements before you consider buying one. This isn’t like owning a typical pet snake!
This guide will teach you the essentials of Colombian rainbow boa care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, enclosure setup, and much more.
Table of Contents
The Colombian rainbow boa (Epicrates maurus) is a rarer species that’s highly sought after in the reptile trade. While often mistaken for their more common cousins, Brazilian and Argentine rainbow boas, Colombian rainbow boas are a unique species of snake in their own right.
Colombian rainbow boas are the northernmost species of the rainbow boa family. They typically live in the southern parts of Central America. However, they also inhabit humid jungles throughout Trinidad & Tobago and northern South America.
This semi-arboreal snake species is a sight to behold. Thanks to its eye-catching good looks and relatively docile nature, they make wonderful pets for any snake lover.
Average Colombian Rainbow Boa Size
The average Colombian rainbow boa size is between three and five feet in length, making them very manageable compared to other species. This is one of the reasons why these animals are such a favorite among snake-owners.
On rare occasions, these snakes can get closer to six feet long. However, those snakes are the exception rather than the rule.
Expert Tip: Generally, females are significantly bigger than males. This applies to both length and girth! Females reach the upper end of the size spectrum while males stay closer to three feet.
The typical lifespan of Colombian rainbow boas is at least 20 years with top-notch care. Most boa constrictors can live for several decades, and the Colombian rainbow is no exception.
As always, there are no guarantees when it comes to life expectancy (there’s always a bit of luck involved when it comes to genetics). However, the quality of care you provide will significantly impact your snake’s lifespan.
Snakes with proper living conditions and an appropriate diet are less prone to disease and premature death.
Appearance & Colors
Colombian rainbow boas are a beautiful and stunning snake to look at. Unfortunately, photos just don’t do them justice!
At face value, this snake has pretty basic colors. Most have a light brown base color. They may have darker vertebral ring outlines as well. Those rings can have lighter centers, creating that iconic saddle pattern.
The coloration continues along the entire length of the snake. However, their belly is usually a bit different. It’s often a bit lighter and uniformly colored.
But the thing that really sets the Colombian rainbow boa apart from other snakes is the finish of its scales.
When you shine a light on the snake, you’ll notice a beautiful iridescent sheen! Depending on the lighting conditions, the scales can shimmer in a spectrum of different colors.
You might see hues of purple, green, blue, and more. The iridescent quality of the snake is what gives the species its name.
Colombian Rainbow Boa Care
Colombian rainbow boas care is usually recommended for reptile enthusiasts with some experience caring for snakes. This species has some slightly complex temperature and humidity needs that you need to stay on top of.
The good news is that these snakes aren’t too demanding outside of these essentials. The following sections cover the most important care guidelines to help your snake stay happy and healthy.
Finding the right enclosure is half the battle, since Colombian rainbow boas need an appropriately sized habitat. It can’t be too big or too small.
Chances are, you’ll have to upgrade the enclosure several times before your snake reaches adulthood (assuming you start them in a small enclosure when they’re young).
Juveniles do best in small enclosures and will do fine in a standard 10-gallon glass aquarium. Plastic habitats and snake rack baskets work well too. Keep the enclosure small, as too much space will just cause undue stress for the young snakes.
As adults, your snake will need an enclosure that measures at least 36 inches long by 18 inches deep. However, we recommend going a bit larger if possible.
The ideal enclosure will measure approximately 36 inches long, 24 inches deep, and 24 inches tall. A slightly larger enclosure for adults will provide plenty of room for exploration and enrichment.
Expert Tip: This should suit both small males and larger females. Despite the size difference, they both have similar needs when it comes to enclosure size.
What To Put In Their Habitat
When planning your Colombian rainbow boa’s new home, you can get as complex or as simple as you want.
The first thing to add is the appropriate substrate. The best material will be one that holds onto moisture without growing mold. Juveniles can do just fine with paper towels at the bottom of their enclosure.
For adults, you can use something like orchid bark or coconut fiber substrate. Commercial products that combine sphagnum moss and natural bark shavings work well, too.
You can add plants to provide a more natural look in the enclosure. However, it’s not absolutely necessary.
It’s also a good idea to add some climbing branches and vines since Colombian rainbow boas are semi-arboreal.
Some snakes take full advantage of the climbing surfaces. Others will not because many snakes grow out of the behavior. Keep an eye on your snake and make adjustments as necessary.
Finally, your snake’s enclosure needs a couple of hide boxes. Place one hide box on either end of the enclosure. The boxes should be sturdy and large enough for your snake to curl up in.
Temperature & Lighting
Like all reptiles, Colombian rainbow boas rely on external thermoregulation to adjust their body temperature. As a result, you’re going to have to create a temperature gradient in the enclosure.
On one side, you’ll want to keep the temperature a bit cooler. The ambient temperatures there should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Expert Tip: These snakes can tolerate temperatures as low as 70 degrees at night. Anything cooler than that and you’ll want to invest in heat emitters or under-tank heating systems.
For the opposite side of the tank, you’ll need to create a basking spot. Using a basking lamp with a high-quality protective dome, raise the temperature to around 85 to 90 degrees. Invest in a high-quality thermometer and check those temperatures regularly.
Your lights should only be on during the day. Put them on a timer to ensure that your snake is getting a full day and night cycle. If you want to view them at night, you can install red lamps that don’t disturb their cycle or generate heat.
Hailing from the warm jungles of Central and South America, Colombian rainbow boas need a high level of humidity!
They prefer 75 to 85 percent humidity in their enclosure. Some will prefer even slightly higher levels around 90 percent!
Use a hygrometer to keep an eye on levels and mist the enclosure daily. You can also invest in an automatic misting system to take care of the job for you.
Expert Tip: The substrate material will do a lot to maintain humidity. You can also use plants to raise levels up. Many owners also like to add balls of sphagnum moss throughout the enclosure and in a hide box to give the snakes an extra boost of humidity.
Another thing that will help with humidity levels is a water bowl! Add a shallow water dish to the enclosure and fill it up daily.
The bowl should be large enough for the snake to get in since many Colombian rainbow boas use the bowl to soak. This is especially true around shedding time.
Keep the bowl refilled and scrub it clean regularly. The bowl will become a source of bacteria and algae, so you must wash it out at least once a week to avoid issues.
Food & Diet
Colombian rainbow boas are pretty easy to feed. In the wild, they survive on everything from birds to small lizards! However, captive boas do just fine on a diet of mice.
Feed juvenile Colombian rainbow boas once a week. Mature snakes only need feeding every ten days or so.
Regardless of their age, only provide feeder mice as large as the thickest part of the snake’s body.
Expert Tip: It’s best to feed Colombian rainbow boas in a separate enclosure. This will prevent the snake from associating your hand with food. Avoid handling your snake after feeding to prevent regurgitation.
Potential Health Issues
Colombian rainbow boas are susceptible to a range of health issues. Some of the most common are respiratory infections, skin infections, and parasites.
Respiratory infections are usually a product of improper humidity levels or temperature. The snakes can develop mouth rot or experience swelling in the tissue of their respiratory tract. This can often lead to bleeding, discharge out of the nose, and other physical symptoms.
Skin infections are a result of a dirty environment! It’s very easy for bacteria to build up in an enclosure. This is especially true if it’s not cleaned out regularly. The bacteria will cause blister-like lesions. Some snakes can even suffer from external fungal infections.
Finally, we have parasites. Like skin infections, parasitic infections are usually a result of a poorly maintained habitat. Parasites can latch onto your snake’s body or wreak havoc internally. You’ll need to visit a vet to take care of parasites.
The good news is that most health problems are easily avoided. Stay on top of your snake’s living conditions. Monitor temperature, humidity, and overall cleanliness. Spot clean the enclosure daily and do a full sanitization once a month to keep bacteria out.
Behavior & Temperament
As adults, Colombian rainbow boas are generally very peaceful. However, they don’t always start out that way!
Juveniles can be a bit nippy. Their curiosity often leads to small bites here and there. Luckily, most snakes will grow out of this very quickly, resulting in a docile and calm adult.
Of course, all snakes are different. Colombian rainbow boas need time to develop some trust with their owners. Give them some time to get used to their new home and take things slow. The more you interact with them, the more comfortable they will get.
Once your snake trusts you, handling shouldn’t be a problem. Colombian rainbow boas are pretty easy to handle as long as you are gentle.
Support their body and don’t make any sudden movements. Many snakes can be head-shy at first. They will jerk away if you attempt to touch their head, so avoid that area in the beginning.
Over time, your snake will get more comfortable with handling. Take it easy and read the snake’s body language! If they seem uncomfortable, don’t force handling.
Now that you’re familiar with Colombian rainbow boa care, it’s time for you to decide if you want one for yourself!
We highly recommend these snakes as pets. Once you get used to some of their unique requirements, the whole process becomes rather simple.
If you’re curious about something that wasn’t covered in this care sheet we’re always happy to give you a hand. Just ask!