Health and Care Information

This page contains information relevant to the captive care of Boa constrictors and details related to health concerns.

Housing/Cage: 

Before purchasing a new boa you should have a cage set up and ready for it when it arrives.  Keep in mind that a boa needs to be kept in a cage of suitable size for its current age and size and you should not drop a baby into an enclosure for an adult.  Typically babies start out in plastic shoebox size bins, best kept in a rack specifically designed for such bins.  Animal Plastics, Vision, and ARS Caging all offer great racks to house young boas.  As your boa grows its cage size should be increased to accommodate their growth.  Most boas can live out their lives in a 4'x2' cage once they reach maturity. Some smaller locales, or small males can be kept in CB-70 tubs housed in racks.  Be aware of the material the cage is made out of.  Some materials (although the company makes them for reptiles) are not suitable for live animals, also some may be difficult to clean or perhaps weak and prone to cracks or breakage.  I've founds cages made from ABS, PP, and HDPE to work great.  For cages I have used and recommend Proline, and Animal Plastics.  Currently my collection is housed in Vision Racks and ARS Racks.  I suggest finding one company that you like most and using them, often this requires some trial and error.

Substrate:

While many substrates are on the market, only a few are really acceptable for boas.  Aspen, Cypress, Paper Towels, Craft Paper, Newspaper, and Corrugated sheets can all work well.  I personally keep all of my baby boas on Paper Towels, which are absorbent, and sterile.  Adults are kept on Aspen, having a substrate with a third dimension is incredibly important with large boas, especially breeding and gravid females.

Climate Regulation:

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of keeping Boas are proper controls for the environment.  As such it is also important that you use safe heating products.  Boas need belly heat and can best obtain this from flexwatt or well installed heat cable.  Use the lowest wattage of heat possible to maintain proper temperatures.  While many people use radiant heat panels for other snakes such as Green Tree Pythons these should really be avoided for boas.  They can be used to raise ambient temperatures if the room the cage is in is too cold, but the cage should always have belly heat.  It is important to use quality thermostats to regulate your temperatures.  Digital proportional are best.  In fact the on/off type are NOT designed to work with flexwatt.  A lot of keepers tend to use one thermostat for multiple cages, while this can function, I do not recommend it.  If that thermostat fails there are a lot of animals at risk.  For this reason I personally use one thermostat per cage.  The Herpstat 4 is an excellent product for this.  It offers four independent thermostats in one unit, each with its own resettable fuse.  The Herpstat models offer an easy way to raise and or lower temperatures which works well during cycling for breeding.  Including built in night drop features as well for those who choose to use that feature.

Feeding:

Feeding regimens vary for boas dependent on subspecies, sex and age of the individual animal.  Typically babies are fed every 7-10 days depending on the subspecies.  Boas benefit from meals on the smaller side rather than large.  Smaller meals will ensure good growth and strong muscle development versus a fat boa.  As such your boa will not only live a longer and healthier life but will breed very well.  Adult females can be fed every 7-14 days, again it depends on the type of boa, BCC and BCA may be better off with more time between meals, while BCI can handle more frequent feedings.  One thing is certain, adults do not need to eat often.  Males are fed much less and I find that my males do best fed every 3 weeks to once a month.  When people visit and handle my male boas they respond how the animals feel like iron because of such strong muscle tone.  These strong and lean males make champion breeders.  Typically in preparation for breeding a month or two before cooling males are fed on a 7-14 day schedule.  It is best to feed your boas frozen thawed rodents.  Rodents that have been frozen for at least 2 weeks have killed off any viruses or parasites they may have had.  Freezing does not kill bacteria and for this reason it is even more imperative that you know the condition of your prey animals.  Female boas that contract round worms from live prey may not be affected in general health because of the parasite if the parasitic load is small but they will not breed.  More reason to always feed frozen thawed.

Disease/Treatment:

Consult with a reputable reptile veterinarian.  Your local Zoo should be able to put you in contact with numerous qualified reptile vets, but try and find someone specialized in your species.  Miss diagnosis and improper medication often cause more problems for your boa than before the visit.  Also be cautious of antibiotics to treat your boa and only do so if there is no other means.  Antibiotics cause kidney damage which lead to a shortened life.  Many keepers report that babies treated with antibiotics may only live 5-7 years, much less than the normal life span of a Boa.  Amikacin is one drug that is best avoided as it is very easy to overdose.  If there are any other stresses on the boa during treatment with this medication a frequent outcome is death.  The best treatment for health issues in captive boas is preventative medicine.  By that I mean proper care for your boas so they do not develop any problems that would need treatment.

Compiled and written by Christopher Gilbert, © Gilbert Boas 2008-2017                                      Contact: Chris.GilbertBoa@gmail.com