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The Rosy Boa Care Guide- The Critter Depot

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Table of Contents

Rosy Boa Care Guide

Rosy Boa Care Guide

Table of Contents

Tid Bits about Rosy Boa Snakes

The rosy boa makes an excellent pet. It is a manageable size, and a hardy feeder, with a docile temperament. Like many other snake species, rosy boas are available in a wide array of color patterns and morphs from reputable breeders. Locality-specific rosy boas cost more than generic morphs because a breeder has taken the time to breed rosy boas found in the same locale. Some rosy boa locality types include the

  • Coastal California
  • Desert Phase
  • Mexican

Be advised that only the captive bred offspring of these species are legal. Wild capture and then subsequent sale can yield hefty fines for both the seller and the buyer.

Rosy Boa Size & Age

Young rosy boas are approximately 10 inches in length. Adults can reach 4 feet in length, but this is rare. They generally reach a length of about 36 inches. The record age for a rosy boa is more than 60 years.  This requires excellent husbandry and sanitation.  And as a caring boa owner, it's likely they'll receive this care, so plan on a long life for your new pet snake if you provide proper care.

Rosy boas are primarily diurnal by habit.  But if the weather is hot they will burrow during the day and emerge at night. In a climate controlled setting, it can expected that to see them regularly during the day.  And at this time during the day they can be handled.

Handling Rosy Boas

Gentle handling allows the snake to explore your hands and arms.  However, it's important for the care provider to not to grab, squeeze or otherwise restrain this curious snake, as this will frighten them. When alarmed during handling they may try to ball up with their head protected.  And then they'll release an unpleasant musk odor.  This is not a fun situation for snake or handler, so just be patient and attentive to the snake’s mood.

Also, they should not be handled right after eating (wait 48 hours) most other times will suit them. Once a trusting bond has been established, these snakes enjoy physical contact with owners and will crawl playfully up and down the keeper’s arms and body, and inside shirts and sleeves.

Rosy Boa Habitat Design

These snakes need room to move, but not too much, as this can make them feel insecure. A juvenile Rosy will do well in a 10 gallon tank for a couple of years. At 2 1/2 years old, your snake will have more than doubled in length and will be sexually mature. At this point, a 20-30 gallon tank is advised. Despite their tendency to climb, most keepers have had the best success with a horizontally oriented tank, rather than a vertical arrangement. The basic elements of the tank should include:

  • substrate
  • one-two hides
  • a warm and a cool side
  • a water dish/shallow pool
  • something for climbing and basking

They are notorious escape artists and the setup of a comfortable and secure habitat requires a bit of forethought.

Rosy Boa Substrate

rosy boa habitat

Most beginners’ tanks will have a glass bottom. Some advanced models may have a false bottom with some sort of screening to allow feces and urine to sift down. Sort of a fancy cat box type of setup. If you begin with a solid, glass bottom, you line the bottom with paper towels.  Then, you'll need to place a fluffy, absorbent material on top of the paper towels.  Here are two great wood shavings to use:

Do not use aromatic woods such as pine or cedar.  They can cause lung and eye irritation. A dense (3-4 inches) covering of shavings provides a light and sanitary bedding that the snake will normally disappear under as an alternative to its hide.  This is perfectly fine behavior.  But it is advisable to provide an insulating layer such as felt or reptile carpet between the glass bottom and heating mat.  This ensures that the snake will not burn itself in case she falls asleep on top of a too hot undertank.

Snakes can and will choose to rest in an area that ends up being too hot for their safety. Think in terms of the old adage about a ‘boiled frog’. As the temperature increases, they don’t always feel it in time to move to a cooler spot. It is up to the keeper to carefully test and retest all surfaces several times weekly to keep your snake safe.

Temperature Requirements

Provide your boa with a basking spot temperature of 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and an ambient temperature of 78 to 80 degrees. Nowhere in the habitat should the ambient temperature be less than 67 degrees. It’s important to take readings at the surface of the bottom of the warm side, the cooler side, and any basking areas. For temperature measurement, a digital laser thermometer is a worthwhile investment. For less than $20, a new keeper can take readings from all over the habitat with the push of a button. Keepers need to remember that the ambient temperature of the room can affect the temperature of the habitat, so frequent readings are strongly recommended.

A basking lamp can be provided, but it must be carefully placed so that it can never exceed 90 degrees F at the closest possible point to the snake. And remember, although a burrowing and grassland species, they climb quite well. If you provide your snake with a basking branch beneath a heat lamp, he/she is likely to use that branch as a launch pad. An adult Rosy is slow but strong and only a screened top clamped down tightly on all four sides will prevent escape. Also, monitor your snake’s nose, as they can scrape off the skin, rubbing against the screen incessantly while trying to escape.

Most experienced keepers recommend an undertank heating mat, especially for night time usage. Remember not to place the hide directly over the mat, unless you have monitored the temperature for at least one week before introducing your snake to the habitat. Half way between the cool and warm sides is best short term until you are really confident in the temperature gradient.


This species is used to some moderately humid conditions, not exactly tropical but not fully desert either. An average humidity of 40% should work, unless your snake is starting to shed, then 60-65% is better. It can be challenging to keep the humidity up in a habitat with a screen top. There are ways to accomplish this. Some are more labor intensive than others, but it is up to the individual keeper’s preferences and life style.

If you choose to mist your shedding snake twice daily, be sure to spray the entire habitat with warm water, not just the snake. And make sure you're spraying warm water.  Cold water can traumatize this cold-clodded animal.

If you must be away for the day and it looks like your Rosy Boa is beginning to shed, you can supply a second source of water, such as a second bowl or damp sphagnum moss. For a second water source, warm water is again essential. Once shedding is completed, it is recommended to remove the water bowl from the Rosy Boa habitat.  Many keepers have found that these snakes do best when a water bowl is offered only once a month.  Rosy boas has sensitive digestive tracks, and will regurgitate their food if provided with water immediately after feeding. It’s better to offer water for a 24 hour period, then remove it, wait a day, and then feed your snake.

Because the humidity level throughout even large habitats will be more consistent than temperature gradients, an hygrometer is a great tool to have.  They can be attached to any inside wall of the enclosure, which will improve your ability to monitor your Rosy boa's habitat. 

Check the humidity daily. A successful keeper never assumes that temperature and humidity provisions are consistent.  So meticulous monitoring of the conditions with changing seasons will prevent problems.


Rosy boas really like hiding. Provide a nice big hide or 2 smaller ones (always large enough to permit the snake to form a ball that is entirely contained within the hide). A hide made of something easily sanitized is essential. Plastic hides and branches may look tacky, but may be the most practical, depending on your lifestyle. 

Dishwasher safe hides and bowls are the easiest by far. If you decide to use cork wood as an attractive and snake friendly hide, replace it every year. Otherwise, you can try what some reptile keepers do and bake the wood at 250 degrees F for 2 hours to sanitize.

If the temperature gradient gets too low, it will encourage brumation. Brumation is more or less the equivalent to hibernation in mammals. It is a reaction to ambient temperatures kept below a threshold necessary for normal activities. Brumation can be deliberate, and is useful if you are attempting to breed Rosy boas, or it can be accidental due to heater malfunction or keeper inattention.

In captivity, brumation is not strictly necessary for health and may actually cause your pet to be unnecessarily lethargic, with a greater than normal tendency to hide and refuse food. This is yet another reason why temperature monitoring regularly is really quite important.

Feed Schedules for Rosy Boas

rosy boa feeding schedule

When you feed your snake depends on what times he/she is most active. Early evening is a good time to feed your Rosy in summer if you are offering live food. Observe your snake the entire time that a live prey animal is inside the habitat. Since this snake alters its waking/sleeping behavior seasonally, knowing when he or she is most active anyway is by default the best time to feed.

You may choose to feed dead prey instead of live. You will need to dangle the item in front of the snake (dancing it around the habitat is what some keepers do with picky eaters who don’t strike right away). Then when the strike and squeeze has occurred, leave your snake in peace for at least 24 hours.

How Often to Feed Rosy Boas

How often you feed your snake depends on how old it is. Baby snakes don’t even start to think about food until they are two to four weeks old. Once they do, they generally need to eat about twice a week. More frequent feedings will encourage them to grow faster, if that is what you wish. As your snake gets older, he/she will not need to be fed quite as often. Once a week for an older snake is often adequate.

The use of a separate feeding enclosure is a subject of debate among fanciers. Some feel that while a separate feeding enclosure may not be strictly necessary, but it can sometimes be helpful. One argument in favor is that using a different habitat for feeding times can help to keep the main enclosure cleaner and more sanitary. A separate feeding enclosure may also be necessary if you are housing more than one snake in a habitat or if you use a substrate that can possibly be ingested. Others feel it is unwise to move the snake to a strange environment, expect it to perform a natural behavior immediately, and then expect it not to throw up when it is handled for the purpose of placing it back in its main home. 

What should you be feeding your boa?

Depends on how old he/she is. A very young snake can only manage pinkies for quite a few months. After that they will graduate to fuzzies, and then hoppers. Well for the love of Mike, what do all of those terms mean? The terms mentioned above refer to feeder mice, rats have their own designations.

Mice Varieties

  • Pinky: A pinky is a newborn mouse. Ranging from one to three grams in weight, depending on where you purchase them. They have no fur and are high in protein.
  • Fuzzy: A fuzzy is a slightly older baby mouse, with the beginnings of fur. They are slightly bigger in size and weigh around 3-5g.
  • Hopper: The next age stage. These are around 5-9g in weight and are fully formed, but not fully grown.

Rat Varieties

  • The rat equivalent of a pinky would be a ‘rat pup’. These are slightly bigger in size, around 5g.
  • The rat equivalent of a fuzzy is called a ‘fluff’. And around 10-25g in weight, so quite a substantial difference.
  • The rat equivalent of a hopper would be ‘weaner’ rat, at around 25-50g.
  • Adult rats are not suitable for this species.

Feeder Size

The size of the prey you choose will depend on whether or not the snake can both swallow and digest it. When in doubt, consider the width of the diner. That is, prey should be no wider than the widest part of the snake's body. Choosing prey that is too large, if it is actually swallowed, can result in regurgitation at the very least (if you’re lucky).  Other problems that can occur are:

  • seizures
  • partial paralysis
  • gut impactions
  • death

Rodent Alternatives

Should you feed only rodents? Not necessarily. Everyone enjoys a change of pace and an older snake can be offered day old chicks now and then. Does the prey have to be alive? Some keepers believe that the live prey offers the ability for the snake to perform natural behaviors. Others claim that this is nonsense and that a rich environment and positive interaction with a human handler should provide sufficient stimulation. The advantages of pre-killed, frozen dinners over live chow are:

  • Live prey can be too active for young snakes.
  • Sometimes dinner bites back. Attacks by live prey can permanently disfigure your snake. Injuries caused by live prey can include lacerations to the snake's mouth area and eyes. Cutting through his/her tongue sheath is not uncommon.
  • Attacks by live prey can traumatize your snake, and it can be very difficult to get that snake to feed on that prey item again.
  • Pre-killed offerings can last in the freezer for up to six months. Remember to thaw it completely in the refrigerator and warm it to slightly above room temperature before feeding it to your snake. Do not use a microwave for this.
  • Tricks to tempt your boa into eating pre-killed meals:
  • Use tongs or hemostats to dangle the prey and "dance" it around the cage to make it appear alive and entice the snake to strike at it.
  • Sense of smell is very keen in most snakes. Make sure the prey is warmer than room temperature; it will smell more appetizing to your snake that way. You can also pith (pierce) the braincase of the prey with a pin or nail to release even more enticing odors (yum).

Cleaning and Habitat Sanitation

Cleaning the habitat is fairly easy and should be done lightly once a week, and thoroughly once a month. Attending to sanitation weekly is something you will thank yourself for, because snake feces can become rank is a musty way that is distinctively snake and definitely unpleasant.

  • Daily: Spot remove any feces that you see.
  • Weekly: Remove and dispose of the top 1 inch of bedding and replace with fresh.
  • Bi-weekly: Place dishwasher safe furniture in the dishwasher every two weeks.

Monthly Deep Cleaning

Remove everything, and spritz the habitat interior with 10% bleach solution. If the terrarium is glass, spray sides with vinegar after the bleach has been applied and removed and wipe down for better visibility. Do not use bleach stronger than a 10% solution and do not place your snake back inside without wiping down all damp areas after it has soaked in bleach for ½ hour.

After wiping down, wait another ½ hour, install fresh substrate and reposition the sanitized furniture. Only then should you place your snake back in. This is one time where a separate container for you snake is handy. A Tupperware box with tight fitting lid, a thick rumpled terry cloth towel in the bottom, and a warm location (or you can but the box right next to the aquarium/vivarium, remove the undertank pad from the underneath the primary habitat and slip it under the secondary holding container) are all that is needed. If using supplemental heat beneath a Tupperware or other plastic box, be sure to slip a hand towel over the heating element so it does not come into direct with the plastic. Also, preheat the box for at least 10 minutes before placing the snake inside.

Common and Avoidable Rosy Boa Diseases

Proper feeding and sanitation can help to prevent most common illnesses in Rosys. For example, blister disease is associated with damp, filthy environments.  These sanitation problems will effect the bottom most scales, the scutes, that are in constant contact with the filth. The scutes develop a reddish appearance and if untreated they become swollen and infected by bacteria and fungi. The habitat must receive a comprehensive cleaning immediately.  And the snake must see a vet, who will probably administer an injectable antibiotic, followed by a course of topical treatments administered twice daily (by the owner).

Other conditions such as mouth rot, respiratory infections, and fungal infections are often a function of poor care or a dirty environment. Mouth rot is a very common outcome of a filthy habitat. It is often first noted as a pus lined mouth, or bubbling nostrils. When this is discovered the animal should see the vet ASAP. Antibiotics and mouth rinsing twice a day may be required.

Most respiratory problems are also rooted in poor husbandry. Douglas Mader, DVM states that “If a reptile is not housed at its POTZ (preferred optimal temperature zone) it can become stressed. Over time, this will depress the animal’s immune system, predisposing it to disease”. One of those diseases is pneumonia. This is why correct heating combined with correct sanitation is critical. Respiratory infections can be lingering and often fatal, so prevention is the best cure.

A disease that is particularly prevalent and virulent for Rosy boas is inclusion body disease (IBD). This is a virus that is spread by a snake mite. There is no known cure, so prevention is the key. Because it is possible to house more than one rosy boa in the same habitat, be sure that any new snakes that you acquire are clean. Never place a clean snake in an un-sanitized habitat, such as one acquired from a garage sale. Use monthly sanitization techniques before introducing a clean snake to any previously used enclosure. Although tiny, these mites can be seen with the naked eye and when the snake is handled by an owner with wet hands, the mites will come off the snake and onto the hands, making diagnosis even easier. Good husbandry and sensible purchasing of new stock and equipment is the best way to prevent this disease.

Rosy boas are delightful creatures and deserve the best care you can provide. In turn they will provide you with many years of companionship and amusement.

Happy Herping!

1 comment

  • Can you feed Rosy Boas Dubia Roaches instead of mice?

    Gareth DeSanctis on

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