Whether you’re an expert at caring for reptiles, or you’re a first-time snake owner looking for a new pet, a rosy boa snake makes a good addition to your household. You just need to know how to care for a rosy boa.
Rosy boas are gentle animals that respond well to being handled. They’re easy to care for, with an infrequent feeding schedule, a non-aggressive temperament, and no need for other snakes as companions. Because they are desert reptiles, provide your rosy boa with a wide, well-ventilated tank at a high temperature. Giving your snake space to burrow and hide in will help it be comfortable in its enclosure.
Ready to call a rosy boa your own? Let’s explore everything you need to know about caring for a rosy boa. If you look after a rosy boa properly, it could easily live for 20-30 years in captivity.
How to Take Care of Your Rosy Boa
It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous when you first bring home a pet snake as you’ve got to learn everything from scratch. There’s a lot to keep in mind, and this animal is counting on you to give it a happy and healthy life.
What Is a Rosy Boa Snake?
The rosy boa has the scientific name of Lichanura trivirgata. These snakes are smaller and more docile than other members of the boa family. Rosy boas are good beginner snakes because of their laid back temperament.
An adult rosy boa will be between 24 and 36 inches long. Females are larger than males due to sexual dimorphism. Additionally, the males have pronounced anal spurs on either side of the vent. Females may not have these spurs at all, or they may have much smaller spurs instead.
The color and pattern of their skin vary greatly among individuals and across geography. They are generally a rose or salmon color on their belly, which gives them their name of the rosy boa, with some dark orange spots on the belly as well. Their back can be dark gray, tan, or yellow in color.
Rosy boas have a stout body and a blunt tail. The body often has 3 stripes extending the length of the snake. These stripes can be brown, black, orange, or brownish-red.
Rosy boa snakes are nocturnal, which means they usually sleep throughout the day in underground holes or caves. At night, they come out to hunt for prey. Because of their nocturnal nature, these snakes have very small eyes with vertical pupils.
Rosy boas are commonly found in Baja California. These snakes are desert animals, comfortable in either scrublands or rocky, mountainous areas. They often seem to prefer granite outcroppings over other kinds of rock. They can live in even the driest and hottest deserts in North America, regularly found near desert springs.
Researchers at San Diego State University identified three primary lineages of rosy boa snakes, native to California, Arizona, and the coast of Mexico respectively.
For a long time, it was assumed that these different lineages were completely different species. This was a fair assumption, given how far away these snakes were from each other and how greatly they can vary in physical appearance.
Most specialists believe there to be 5 subspecies of rosy boa snake in the wild. These include:
|Rosy Boa Type||Distinctive Features and Characteristics|
|Arizona Rosy Boa ( t. arizonae)||Often has chocolate brown or black stripes. Some have questioned whether this is a subspecies or just a variation of one of the other subspecies.|
|Coastal Rosy Boa ( t. roseofusca)||Often has blotchy, irregular red stripes against a gray, cream or light-colored background. Sometimes, the stripes can be difficult to recognize as they are not as bright as other subspecies’ stripes. Coastal rosy boas are most likely to be mistaken for rubber boas.|
|Baja Rosy Boa ( t. saslowi)||This rosy boa is held in high-regard by beginner and experienced snake handlers. It’s predictable temperament, manageable size, and vivid stripes make this subspecies very desirable.|
|Mexican Rosy Boa ( t. trivirgata)||Mexican rosy boas are the smallest of all the subspecies so also make a popular choice. They are also brighter colored than other snakes such as the coastal rosy boa.|
|Desert Rosy Boa (L. t. gracia)||This is the largest of all the subspecies (some can grow up to 48”). Desert rosy boas have vivid red or orange stripes/patterns on their backs. They also have quite a lot of black pigment separating the lower back stripes from the belly.|
However, Brigham Young University published a study proving that these snakes were conspecific – that is, they were from the same species. Rosy boas have a wide but close-knit family that ranges across the North American southwest. If you’re looking for color, size, and temperament options to choose from, you’re not limited.
What Do Rosy Boa Snakes Eat?
As for what foods they eat, rosy boas are carnivores, and they thrive well on live reptile food. In the wild, this species will eat rats, mice, birds, lizards, or even baby rabbits. In captivity, mice are preferred.
Starting with small, fuzzy mice when they are young, rosy boas will grow up to eat larger food items, such as adult mice. After they eat, the snake will have a slight bulge in its midsection – a good sign that it’s consumed a healthy amount of food.
Remember not to handle your rosy boa snake too soon after it’s eaten. It can regurgitate its meal.
Many beginner snake handlers worry that they are feeding their snake the wrong amount of food. The following guidelines should prove useful:
|Age of Snake||Rosy Boa Feeding Schedule|
|A baby (0-1 years)||Once every 3 days – 1 pinky mouse|
|Juvenile (2 years)||Once every 4 days – 2 pinky or fuzzy mice|
|Young Adult (2-4 years)||Once every 5 days – 2 large fuzzy mice or pinky rats|
|Adult (4-7 years)||Once every 5 days – 2 adult mice or fuzzy rats|
|Mature Adult (7 years+)||Once every 6-7 days – 3 large adult mice or 2 rats|
Rosy Boas and Water
While rosy boa snakes drink water, do not give them a very large water bowl. This could make the tank too humid. A small water dish, placed on the cooler end of the enclosure, will suffice for keeping the snake hydrated without letting the water evaporate too much and increase humidity.
Rosy boa snakes may also regurgitate their food if they are given water immediately after they eat. When it’s time for a meal, take the water dish out of the tank to avoid accidents. As a bonus, this is a great time to scrub the bowl and prevent a buildup of bacteria.
Eating While Shedding
Like most snakes, rosy boas do not like to eat while they are shedding. If your snake is refusing to eat during this period, don’t worry. It’s fine to wait until they’re done.
If your snake is still refusing to eat afterward, it could mean it’s drinking too much water. Sometimes, rosy boas drink so much water that they become too full to eat. Try removing the water dish and limiting its water intake to 2 times a week. Rosy boas can last even longer without water.
What Tank Do Rosy Boa Snakes Need?
What kind of home should you provide for your rosy boa snake? Let’s take a look at the basic requirements.
Beware of the Size
These relatively small boa snakes thrive in a standard glass terrarium. When choosing a tank, keep in mind how old or large the individual snake is. A hatchling will only need a tank that’s 10 gallons in size, while a large adult will need one with a capacity of twenty or even 30 gallons.
Pick Width Over Height
As a burrowing species, rosy boas prefer to stay on the ground and aren’t known to climb. As such, don’t worry about providing them with high walls to scale. Focus on buying an enclosure with ample floor space to explore.
Choose the Right Lid
Rosy boas are escape artists. They are burrowing snakes, so even the tiniest gap will be used as a tunnel. If your tank has a screen top, use a cage clip to hold it shut. Any cage for a rosy boa snake needs a secure lid.
Keep the Surfaces Smooth
It’s also wise to ensure your tank does not have abrasive walls or ceilings. Rosy boas tend to rub their snouts along the surfaces of their cage, searching out ways to escape. If they end up rubbing against screening or another rough surface, your snake may hurt themselves.
Improve the Ventilation
Good ventilation is a must. Rosy boas do not enjoy a humid environment. You don’t need to invest in complicated equipment, but be sure to keep your tank breezy, so your rosy boa is dry and comfortable. If you invest in a gauge, be sure the tank is under 25% humidity.
How Warm Should The Tank Be?
Because these snakes live in the desert, they prefer high temperatures during the day.
You want to provide a nice, warm basking spot in the snake’s tank, at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Other parts of the tank can be 80 degrees. This is known as the thermal gradient.
During the Night
During the night, it is fine for the tank’s temperature to lower into the 70s. However, if your house tends to get colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night, then you should add a nocturnal heat source to your snake’s tank.
Monitor the Temperature
A tank that’s too cold will be uncomfortable for your boa. A tank that’s too hot could not only overheat your snake.
Try connecting heat pads or heat tapes in your tank to a thermostat or rheostat. This will allow you to keep an eye on and maintain an appropriate temperature for your rosy boa.
What About Lights?
You do not need to provide a particularly bright light source for your tank. As nocturnal burrowers, rosy boas are not a big fan of sunlight.
However, it’s smart to establish a regular cycle of daytime and nighttime lighting for your snake. A gradual change in their surroundings to indicate the time of day will keep them active and healthy.
How Should You Furnish The Tank?
These desert-dwelling snakes love a familiar environment.
Unlike most other reptiles, rosy boas can safely and contently live on sand. While any sand will suffice, there are colored sands that are designed for reptile habitats.
These special sands are made of a finer grain, which is less abrasive on a reptile’s skin and face. This grain will also clump easily when it is soiled, allowing you to find and remove messes.
Rosy boas are adaptable to different areas. They will thrive on other substrates, such as Aspen chips, bark, or paper pulp products. Even paper towels and newspapers can be a handy substrate for your rosy boa’s enclosure.
If you use wood shavings, make sure they’re not too dusty. Cedar shavings can irritate your snake’s skin, and so can pine shavings with extra aromatic oils.
Layer it Properly
Whatever substrate you choose, provide a layer that is deep enough for your snake to burrow in and completely hide underneath. One to two inches deep should suffice here.
Rosy boas are most comfortable when they can burrow and hide. Provide your boa snake with handy spots, using rocks, half logs, and driftwood.
Be sure to spot-clean your snake’s tank at least twice every week, removing waste and other unhealthy messes. This will ensure the tank continues to look nice and smell clean for your home, while also giving your snake more sanitary room to explore.
It’s wise to clean your snake’s tank and change the substrate once monthly. A dirty substrate can lead to the collection of bacteria.
The good news? With their slow digestive cycle, this task certainly won’t burden your schedule.
Do Rosy Boa Snakes Need Toys?
Rosy boas are not as actively playful as other reptiles. They do not need toys in their environment. However, they do appreciate:
Your rosy boa will be happiest if given places to hide. You can make these hides yourself, from cardboard, a plastic container, or an old broken flowerpot. You can also get a little cave or log from a local pet store.
While rosy boas aren’t avid climbers, they can scale up gradual inclines. If your tank has vertical space, include branches for enrichment.
Warm Spots and Cold Spots
Give your rosy boa a place to hide in both the warm and cold parts of the tank. This will allow them to sneak away, without being forced to endure certain temperatures just to feel safe.
If you use rocks, include them on the warm side of the tank. Cold rocks can take away a snake’s body heat.
How to Handle a Rosy Boa
Rosy boa snakes have a calm temperament and are rarely aggressive. This makes them a good pet to play with. Here’s how to handle one:
- Boas tend to move slowly, so allow your snake to calmly explore your hands and its surroundings.
- Remember to not hold them too tightly
- Avoid restricting their movements.
- Use both hands, so your rosy boa feels supported and not threatened
Of course, be careful not to overstress your rosy boa with too much handling. Even the calmest pets can get fed up with excessive interaction.
If your snake is new to your home, allow them at least a day to get settled before trying to pick them up. You don’t want to scare them. With a little patience, they will warm up to your presence, instead of being scared into hiding for longer periods, or even biting.
How To Avoid Getting Bitten
Rosy boa snakes are rarely aggressive, and they prefer to ball up rather than attack you. However, it is still possible for a rosy boa to bite you.
For example, they may associate your presence with food. Like most snakes, rosy boas do not have great eyesight. They can learn that hearing someone open their cage means that they’re about to be given a tasty treat.
To avoid this food confusion problem, use a snake hook to pick up the snake instead of using your hand. The snake will come to associate the cage opening without the hook as “food time,” and the cage opening with the hook as “not food time.”
After picking up the snake with the hook, you can safely transfer it to your hands for handling time.
Lift Them From Behind
Whether they mistake you for prey, feel unsafe, or are startled by your sudden movement, picking up a snake head-on can provoke a bite.
Try picking up your snake from behind, instead of from the front. This will keep your hand away from its face and make it less likely to bite you.
Avoid Their Heads
Like many snakes, rosy boas can be “head shy,” which means they are sensitive about the top of their head.
If your rosy boa snake isn’t used to your presence, when you touch its head, it may jerk away from you. This can resemble a strike, which could startle you. Go slow and build up your snake’s trust.
Do Rosy Boa Snakes Live Alone?
Rosy boa snakes do not live in communities. They are happiest in their own tank, with you as a friend and neighbor. Two snakes living together can lead to competition for resources, such as heat, water, or food.
While rosy boa snakes can live together in the same tank, it’s not recommended. You also need to be careful not to crowd your pets. If one snake needs a 10-gallon tank, two snakes together need a 20-gallon tank.
However, if you keep a male and female together, expect there to be breeding. Rosy boa mating season is during the spring. A female rosy boa can give birth to anywhere between 2 and 10 babies at any time. These hatchlings are usually between 6 and 9 inches long.
How To Keep a Rosy Boa Healthy
Rosy boas have one of the longest life expectancies of all boas. In the wild, they often live for 20+ years. In captivity, this can extend up to 30 years.
You can expect a long-term friend in this snake. How do you keep them healthy and happy for over two decades?
Upgrade Its Cage As It Grows
As mentioned before, rosy boas grow dramatically in their first year, from around 10 inches to up to 4 feet. As your snake grows, make sure to upgrade its enclosure as necessary.
A hatchling rosy boa can be first kept in a small container, such as a deli cup with holes punched in the lid for ventilation. An adult rosy boa, on the other hand, needs a ten-gallon reptile terrarium.
When your snake is a year old, it’s wise to make the transition from a small tank to a larger one.
Watch Out for Signs of Illness
For the rosy boas, signs of illness are similar to other snakes. Since they are slow-moving animals, it can be difficult to tell if something is wrong.
Interacting with your snake regularly will help you spot sudden differences. Beyond this, watch for:
- Lesions, lumps, scabs, or swelling, according to Animal Care Hospital. A healthy snake has smooth, shiny scales
- If your snake is especially listless
- If they’ve lost a great deal of weight recently
These are common signs of illness, so consult your vet right away.
To keep your snake healthy and long-lived, try assisting with its natural yearly rhythms. In the wild, during the winter, rosy boas cool down for a few months. Mimicking this experience can help establish a good, eager feeding response come springtime.
Before the cooling period, do not feed your snake for 14 days. Cooler temperatures tend to inhibit a snake’s digestion, so you need to give the snake this 2-week period to clear out its stomach and intestines. Undigested food left in the intestines through the winter leads to a bacterial buildup.
After the 14-day fast, allow the cage to cool down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide fresh water for the snake once a week. Then, when spring comes around, gradually raise the temperature back up to normal.
Just follow the advice in this rosy boa care guide, and your pet snake will live a long, healthy life. Here are some other friendly pet snakes.