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ROSY BOA CARE SHEET

written by Ryan Edwards of 
      Golden West Reptiles

Rosy boas make excellent pets, both for experienced keepers and people new to the hobby of herpetoculture.
Their relatively small size and simple care requirements make it an ideal species for many. While their care is
straightforward, there are potential pitfalls that must be avoided if you want to successfully keep a Rosy Boa in
captivity. The information detailed below is a distilled summary of care requirements, and is being provided to
help lessen the learning curve of newer, less experienced keepers. The information is based on my own
experience, as well as information gathered from many other experienced Rosy Boa breeders and collectors.
These are the guidelines we follow, as they have provided us with success in maintaining large collections of
healthy Rosy Boas, and have also yielded consistent healthy Rosy Boa litters year after year. While other
methods and techniques of husbandry may be suitable, we have decided to focus here on methods that put
simplicity in maintaining the overall health and well-being of the animal at the forefront. With this guidance in
mind, some modifications of the stated care may be appropriate, to ensure that the unique conditions of your
home are considered and properly adjusted to ensure adequate husbandry for your snake(s).


Enclosures:   Rosy boas seem to do best in smaller sized enclosures. A typical 10-20 gallon glass aquarium
with screen top will be suitable for most Rosy boas. Obviously, this depends on the snake’s size. Generally,
Coastal varieties tend to be on the larger size. It is recommended that you provide an adult with a tank that has
a perimeter at least equal to 1.5 times the length of the snake. Adult Rosy boas can range in size from 26-44
inches in length. Most tend to fall within an average range of 28-38 inches. Given these averages, neonates
can be started in a 5-10 gallon glass terrarium with a full screen top equipped with a pin lock or some other
form of locking device. A 10 gallon enclosure may be large enough for the snake as an adult, but this depends
on how large your Rosy grows. It may be necessary to upsize to a 15 or 20 gallon after two years or more if
your Rosy boa grows beyond the 36 inches mentioned earlier. Fortunately, glass terrariums of this size can be
purchased at most reptile specialty stores for less than $50. A snug hide should be provided on both the warm
and cool end of the enclosure. Rosy boas prefer hides that allow them to feel secure. It is recommended that
you start with small hides and increase the size of them as your Rosy grows. Empty toilet paper and paper
towel cores make excellent disposable hides. If a large enclosure must be used, it is strongly recommended
that several snug hides be provided throughout the enclosure. It is also recommended that glass enclosures
have the back and sides blacked out with paint or paper to help provide additional security for the snake. While
most breeders and collectors prefer glass terrariums, it is possible to keep Rosy boas in tub-and-rack systems,
and melamine or pvc enclosures, so long as low humidity and adequate ventilation can maintained.


Substrate and Decorations:   It is strongly recommended that you use a 1-2 inch layer of shredded aspen or
aspen chips as the substrate for your Rosy boa. These materials offer excellent bedding for your snake to
burrow through. Be sure to choose a brand that is low in dust. Aspen is not likely to hold a lot of moisture which
will help in keeping humidity levels in your enclosure down. If you are unsure as to whether to choose
shredded aspen or chips, it is probably best to use chips as these smaller pieces are less likely to cause
digestive system impaction if they happen to get stuck to the prey prior to swallowing.
Many keepers feel a strong desire to decorate their snake’s enclosure. When considering decorations that you
feel provide your snake with enrichment consider ones that are easy to clean and do not pose any threat of
entanglement or injury. To the snake, crawling over a small rock, branch, and/or paper towel core is no
different than climbing through a fancy faux skull or cactus with the added benefit of being slightly flexible and
disposable when soiled. One of the main purposes of cage design for captive snakes should be the attempt to
limit or even eliminate the threat of injury or death. Also be careful with fake plants/vines. Many of these have
thin wire cores that can become exposed over time and can cause significant eye injuries. Again, choose

decorations with safety and cleanliness in mind and do not put your desire for enrichment ahead of the well-
being of your snake.
Some keepers have a desire to provide “naturalistic” types of enclosures. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of
this care sheet is to provide basic husbandry guidelines that are “fool proof”. It is recommended that the
beginner keep their snakes according to this care sheet. As you gain experience with the species and its
husbandry requirements it is appropriate for you to attempt a more natural looking enclosure or even a
“bioactive” enclosure. If you choose to go this route, it is recommended that you set up a second enclosure in
this manner and test it for a considerable amount of time before moving the snake from its more basic, original
enclosure.


Lighting/Heating:   Rosy boas do not require any form of lighting. If you prefer the look of an illuminated
enclosure it is recommended that you use a fluorescent bulb as they do not contribute excessive heat to the
snake’s environment. A temperature gradient should be provided with the cool end of the enclosure being kept
at approximately 72 F and the warm end being maintained with the use of an under tank heat pad plugged into
a thermostat set to a maximum temperature of 87 F to aid in digestion and gestation. The heat pad should
cover approximately 1/3 of the bottom cage surface. Please do not use heating pads designed for human use.
Ceramic heat emitters are not typically needed; however they can be used if you are looking for additional
heating and/or another method of reducing humidity. Make sure that any heat source is controlled by a
thermostat and that the heat source is properly positioned at a safe distance from the enclosure’s internal
surface. All of this depends on where you live and the ambient temperature and humidity of your home. Many
who seek out Rosy boas in the wild do not normally encounter them “on the crawl” at temperatures beyond the
mid 80s F and most are found within a range of the low 70s to mid 80s. These observations have led many of
us to provide this temperature range in our enclosures.


Feeding:   It is recommended that you feed your Rosy boa from rubber tipped tongs. Tong feeding allows the
Rosy boa to strike upwards and away from the substrate helping to reduce the likelihood of getting a mouth full
of substrate. There is no need to feed your rosy in a separate container. If you are worried about your snake
swallowing substrate when eating in its enclosure, carefully place a paper towel under the snake while it is
constricting its prey to prevent substrate from sticking to the food. Substrate sticking to the food is usually only
a problem when using frozen-thawed (f/t) prey. Some feel that feeding in a separate container will prevent the
Rosy from developing a strong feeding response. There is no strong evidence to support this claim and moving
the snake after eating can cause regurgitation. To prevent your snake from becoming food aggressive, be sure
to handle it frequently and not just on feeding day. If you do not open your snake’s enclosure on days that do
not involve feeding you are conditioning your snake to be in feeding mode every time the cage is opened.
Mice are the most suitable food item for Rosy boas. Neonates typically start feeding on large pinkies. The size
of the food offered depends on the girth/diameter of the snake. There is no exact science in determining proper
food size. Do your best to purchase food items that will leave a slight bulge in the snake. Smaller food items
are less likely to be regurgitated than larger food items and for this reason, you should use caution when
increasing prey size. You can always try a bigger mouse at the next feeding. I find it better to start out with
slightly smaller meals to ensure that the snake does not regurgitate.
Keepers often want to grow their boa as quickly as possible and they mistakenly assume that feeding bigger
and bigger prey is the best method for achieving rapid growth. I would caution you in this assumption! Nothing
will slow the growth of your snake down more than regurgitations and the resulting loss of nutrition and stress
that this causes. Rosy boas should not be fed more than once every 7-10 days, this can be decreased to once
every 10-14 days once the snake reaches full size. Note: these are approximations; it is okay if your snake
misses a meal from time to time. They do not find prey in the wild on a set schedule of 7-10 days. Just

because your snake eats when you provide food does not mean that it was hungry. They do not experience
hunger in the same way you do. Snakes are opportunistic feeders in the wild, and do not have the same
number of opportunities to feed as they do in your care. Rosy boas and most snakes will overeat and become
obese if given the chance, so it is up to you to limit the amount of food they are provided. New keepers will
often comment that their snake “looked hungry” because it was moving about its enclosure. Remember, your
snake will eat most of the time if given the opportunity. It is your responsibility to provide opportunities at an
interval that keeps your snake fit and healthy. If your snake is constantly moving around its enclosure, it may
be seeking out better husbandry such as: lower/higher humidity, a colder/warmer spot, or a more suitable hide.
Rosy boas are typically very good eaters. Some individuals can be slow to start feeding immediately following
birth. For this reason, it is recommended that you never buy a Rosy boa (or any snake for that matter) that has
not had at least three meals. Reputable breeders typically will not even sell a snake that has not had at least
three meals, so beware of situations where a breeder is willing to go against this recommendation. All snakes
can go “off feed” from time to time. Do not panic! It is normal for a snake to skip a meal or two. Possible
reasons include: “being in blue” (preparing to shed), changes in barometric pressure or season, stress, and/or
illness (least likely if good husbandry is provided). If your husbandry is proper, you should not panic! Try again
in a week. Do not stress your snake by trying to feed it every day until it finally eats. Rosy boas that are healthy
can go without a meal for several weeks to months without harm. Sexually mature snakes (3 years and older)
will typically go “off feed” in late fall and may need to be brumated until late February/early March if they refuse
to eat. Sexually mature males will also go “off feed” during the breeding season (typically mid-April and into
July) especially if a mature and ovulating female is near. Gravid females typically will not eat during the last 4-6
weeks of pregnancy. All of these “off feed” situations are perfectly normal and should not be of concern.
If regurgitation of a meal occurs, you should wait 14 days prior to feeding again. Offer fresh water immediately
so the snake can replenish its reserves of water and stay hydrated. You should reduce the food size at the
next feeding to lessen the likelihood of another regurgitation. Do not offer water within 3 days before or after
feeding your snake to also help reduce the likelihood of a regurgitation. Once a snake regurgitates, take things
very slow. Consider feeding once every 10 days and make sure the snake has had a few meals without
regurgitation before slowly increasing the size of the prey again.


Water and Humidity:   Rosy boas do not need water at all times. Providing water in the enclosure for 1-2 days
every other week is suitable. Rosy boas come from very arid environments and do not require constant access
to water. Again, Rosy boas are opportunistic. They will typically drink water or even soak in it if it is provided.
This does not mean that the snake was thirsty; it simply means the snake was taking the opportunity to use
water that was available. In the wild the snake would not have water available to it every day, so there is no
threat of over utilizing the water in the wild. When you do provide water, it is best to use smaller water bowls
that have less exposed surface area to help limit the impact on humidity due to evaporation. It is also
recommended that the water dish be kept on the cooler side of the enclosure to also help limit evaporation.
Some keepers have also experienced regurgitation when water is made available within 2-3 days of feeding.
Humidity should be kept below 50%. While short periods of humidity in excess of 50% will be tolerated, the use
of dehumidifiers to help control humidity may be necessary depending on where you live and the conditions
within your home. Long periods of humidity in excess of 50% can lead to respiratory illness. Many have
questioned these recommendations often referencing high humidity levels that can be found from time to time
within the Rosy boas normal range. Just because humidity is high on the day you check the weather does not
mean that humidity is typically high. Yes, these snakes can tolerate higher levels of humidity on occasion, but
care must be given to ensure that they are not exposed to high levels of humidity for extended periods of time.
Handling: Rosy boas are very docile snakes. They almost never bite when encountered and handled in the
wild. In captivity, they can develop strong feeding responses and are more likely to strike/bite than wild snakes.

Their overall calm behavior has made them a very common “classroom snake” along with their relatively small
size and easy care requirements. If a Rosy boa does bite, while often startling, it is insignificant. Many bites
can be avoided with proper technique. When attempting to handle a Rosy boa, it is recommended that you first
touch the snake towards the back third of its body. If the snake is looking at you with a cocked neck, you
should use tongs to first touch the snake. This method allows you to notify the snake that you are present and
that you are not a prey item. Once the snake realizes that food is not present, you can more confidently pick up
the snake with a less likely chance of a strike. Sanitizing your hands with Purell or some other alcohol-based
sanitizer prior to handling can also help overcome any odors that the snake may mistake for food. It is also a
good practice to always sanitize your hands before and after handling any reptile, both for your safety and the
safety of the snake. Once you are holding your snake, it is important that you allow it to move freely throughout
your hands. You should provide adequate support using both hands. If your snake does bite, try to remain
calm so you do not injure it. If you cannot get the snake to let go, try a small drop of rubbing alcohol in its
mouth or hold it under water. The snake will typically let go in less than a minute. If you are new to snake
keeping or are interested in getting your first snake, it is important for you to know and accept the fact that all
snakes can bite and it will likely happen to you at some point if you choose to keep one as a pet. The methods
mentioned above work very well in reducing the likelihood of being bitten, but no method is perfect.
Cleaning: feces and soiled substrate should be cleaned immediately as it is encountered. I typically take the
opportunity to spot clean my enclosures whenever my snake has a prey item wrapped up. More thorough
cleanings where all of the substrate is removed and the inside of the enclosure is disinfected with a bleach
solution (one half-cup bleach to one gallon of water) should be done monthly. Other products such as
chlorhexidine are also suitable for cage sanitizing. Be sure to properly rinse the enclosure and allow it time to
air out and be absent of any residual odors from any disinfectant before placing the snake back in the
enclosure.


Shedding Issues:  If the husbandry of your snake’s enclosure is properly maintained you will likely avoid all
issues with shedding. If your snake fails to properly shed, put it in a deli container or Tupperware container
(with air holes) surrounded by crumpled up and dampened paper towels. Leave the snake in the container for
at least an hour and then check on it. Crawling in and around the damp paper towels helps the snake remove
the stuck shed by moistening it and giving the snake something to rub against. Some keepers will also provide
a humid hide box when the snake goes into shed, but these should not be necessary if your husbandry is
correct.


Brumation:   In the wild, Rosy boas will brumate starting in late fall and through winter. They do this to conserve
energy during the time of year when temperatures are too low for them to properly digest food. In captivity,
there is no need to brumate unless you plan to breed your snake the following spring or your snake stops
eating. If your snake stops eating, you should brumate it. To prepare a snake for brumation involves
maintaining its enclosure’s temperatures for 3-4 weeks to allow it to properly digest its last meal. You should
also provide water to your snake during this time. Most keepers brumate their Rosy boas from the end of
November until the end of February. To brumate your snake, put them in a small tub (approx. 6 quart) with
aspen substrate, a snug fitting hide and a small water dish. Find a location in your home/garage with
temperatures in the low to mid 50s and leave them there undisturbed. (Water should be offered every three
weeks but not left in the tub.) You should also keep the snake in complete darkness. Depending on the climate
where you live, it may be difficult to provide these temperatures. Some have successfully used a wine fridge to
maintain snakes at these temperatures. If you use a wine fridge, be sure to cut a small gap in the gasket seal
around the perimeter of the door. Run an aquarium airline attached to an aquarium air pump through this gap
to provide a steady flow of fresh air. At the end of the brumation season, increase temperatures by 5 degree
increments per day until you have reached normal husbandry guidelines. Once temps are steady for 3 days,
feed your snake a small meal. Sometimes baby Rosy boas will refuse to eat during their first winter. If this is

the case, consider putting them down for a short 8 week brumation period. They typically come out of
brumation with an improved appetite.


Sex Determination:   Rosy boas can easily be sexed by looking for the presence of spurs. Rosy boas should
not be “popped” (method to invert hemipenes in males). Some keepers will probe their Rosy boas, but this is
unnecessary. The presence of spurs to each side of the vent (cloaca) indicates a male Rosy boa, no spurs
indicate female. In very rare instances a female may have a spur(s). I have never encountered a male snake
with no spurs. Depending on your eyesight, you may want to employ the use of a magnifying glass or
dissecting microscope to enlarge the view of the vent area. It can be challenging for beginners to sex baby
Rosy boas without the use of magnification. In some cases, pigmentation in the area can confuse keepers so
be careful not to mistake pigmentation for spurs. Adult Rosy boas are very easy to sex as the spurs or absence
of them is incredibly obvious.


Quarantining and Mites:   Any new snake that you bring into your home should be quarantined for a period of
90 days before introducing it to any area near other reptiles. It is good practice to quarantine every snake
regardless of how trusted the source you obtained it from is. If you always follow this rule, you won’t be sorry.
When quarantining a snake, you should keep it in a separate room from the rest of your reptiles and have a
separate set of tongs, water bowls, and hides that are only used with the snake in quarantine. If you handle a
quarantined snake, you must wash your hands well before handling any other snakes. It is also a good idea to
keep quarantined snakes on paper towels to help identify the presence of mites. Allowing snake mites into your
collection can be very costly, both in time and treatment. It is best to treat all new snakes for mites before
bringing them into your main collection. I treat every single snake that I purchase with Frontline® for Dogs and
Cats (fipronil 0.29%) whether I observe the presence of mites or not. I have had 100% success keeping mites
out of my collection for several years following this practice. To apply the Frontline® treatment to the snake,
put on a pair of gloves, spray the Frontline® into your palm and rub your hands together. Next, rub the snake
from head to tail with the Frontline®. Let the snake “dry” before placing it in its new enclosure. The active
ingredient in Frontline® is diluted in alcohol. You will know your snake is dry when you no longer smell alcohol
fumes. Do not provide water for at least 24 hours after treating the snake.