The Brazilian Rainbow Boa is a non-venomous constrictor snake found in South America. It is closely related to the Colombian Rainbow Boa but this species has far more vibrant colours and greater iridescence.
Although this wouldn’t be considered one of the easier snakes to care for due to their demanding temperature and humidity requirements, they are very popular amongst hobbyists due to their striking appearance.
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Description
The Brazilian Rainbow Boa has tiny ridges on its scales that act as prisms, reflecting light to create a rainbow-like iridescence along their body. They are generally a vibrant reddish brown colour with darker rings along their body. The scales inside these rings are often a lighter colour to the background scales.
They usually have 3 very distinctive parallel black stripes on the top of their head. They are a medium sized snake and generally only grow to between 4ft and 6ft in length. They have a rounded body with a fairly slim head, although the head is clearly distinguishable from the body.
Natural Habitat and Distribution
As their name suggests, these snakes are indigenous to the lush forests of the Amazon Basin in countries such as Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname and southern Venezuela. This is primarily a terrestrial snake but they are also known to climb trees in search of food.
Their habitat generally consists of humid woodlands and rain forests but they can also be found in open savannahs.
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Behavior
This is a nocturnal reptile that can usually be handled easily as they generally have an excellent temperament. Babies and hatchlings are known tom be quite nippy but with regular handling, they soon grow out of this.
It is important to hold your nerve when handling small snakes, especially if you are not used to it. Their bite won’t really hurt you but it may startle you. Ensure you don’t jerk away or drop the snake as you could injure them.
Brazilian rainbow boas generally become active an hour or two after dark. You will notice them wandering around their cage in search of a new hiding place or taking a drink of water.
In the wild, they will seek out a hiding place that has a high amount of rodent traffic. They will them wait for prey to come without reach before striking at them.
Brazilian Rainbow Boa Lifespan
Brazilian Rainbow Boas can live for about 25 years in captivity if giving the correct care. There have been reports of specimens living for up to 50 years but this would be more of an exception rather than a rule.
It has also been reported that female Brazilian Rainbow Boas have successfully reproduced in their 20s.
Brazilian Rainbow Boas as Pets
These snakes make great pets as they are amongst the most beautiful snakes in the world. Their care requirements are more advanced than beginner species such as Corn Snakes and Garter Snakes but with careful control over temperature and humidity, these snakes thrive in captivity.
Hatchlings tend to be a bit nippy but with frequent handling they soon realise that you are not a treat and quickly grow out of it.
Feeding a Brazilian Rainbow Boa
In captivity a Brazilian Rainbow Boas can be fed exclusively on appropriately sized mice and rats. Hatchlings can be offered pinky mice every 5 to 7 days. As the snake grows, the size of the food item should be increased. The rodent should be the same size or slightly larger than the largest part of the snake’s body.
Once the snake is established, food can be offered weekly and this feeding schedule can be maintained for the duration of the snake’s life. Don’t worry if your snake refuses a meal. This is common for snakes and as long as they are not loosing weight you generally have nothing to worry about.
Baby boas can be housed in a 10 – 20 gallon enclosure until they reach about 2 foot in length. As the snake grows, they will require more space. An adult can be comfortably housed in a 4ft x 2ft enclosure with sufficient hides and a water bowl. If you choose to house a pair together, more space is required. You should also add additional hides so that the snakes can have their privacy.
Conventional wooden terrariums generally aren’t suitable for these snakes due to their high humidity requirements. If you do choose to use a wooden enclosure, it is a good idea to include a large plastic moist hide box rather than keeping the entire enclosure damp.
Glass terrariums are more suitable than wooden enclosures as they will not rot. The downside is that they do not hold humidity very well so regular misting may be required. Moulded plastic enclosures are probably the most suitable enclosures for these snakes as they hold temperature and humidity very well. They are also easy to clean and will not rot or decay.
It is vital to ensure proper humidity and availability of clean drinking water in the boa’s enclosure. These snakes do well with humidity levels of 70 percent or higher. Overheating and dehydration are the two most common causes of death in rainbow boas so it is vital to ensure these conditions are closely monitored. Provide the snake with a water bowl big enough for them to soak in. This should be changed regularly to avoid dirty contaminated water. Some of the most common signs of dehydration include an incomplete shed, regurgitation and dry wrinkly skin.
Light and Heat
Brazilian Rainbow Boas prefer a daytime temperature of about 85F while night time temperatures can drop to around 75F. The snake should be provided with a thermal gradient along its enclosure so it can regulate its body temperature as required. This can be achieved by having the heat source at one end of the enclosure.
A heat pad or overhead heat lamp with a suitable thermostat can be used to achieve the appropriate temperatures within the enclosure. By using a thermostat you can ensure that your enclosure will always be at the correct temperature for your reptile.
As these snakes are nocturnal, they do not require any special lighting such as UV. However, if you are keeping your snake in a naturalistic enclosure, this lighting may be required for the live plants in the setup.
A florescent light mounted on the top of the enclosure can also be used to display the iridescence of the snake’s scales. All lighting will need to be turned off for a night cycle of 8-12 hours.
When choosing a substrate for this snake you need to take into account their humidity requirements. The substrate you choose should be able to retain moisture to keep the humidity in the enclosure high. It should also be resistant to mould as damp conditions can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Good substrates for this purpose include Coconut Husk, Orchid Bark and Cypress Mulch. It is also highly recommended to add some sphagnum moss to the enclosure as this will further increase the humidity in the enclosure as well as provide a more naturalistic looking setup.
You can use live plants in juvenile setups to help increase the humidity. Adult snakes will likely squash any live plants in their enclosure but you can add some branches for the snake to climb on.
A Brazilian Rainbow Boa will have a milky grey appearance when they are ready to shed. This usually occurs a couple of days before the snake actually sheds its skin and it is the first stage of the shedding process.
Each snake will shed at a different rate as the process is directly rated to the growth rate of the snake. Hatchlings and juveniles typically shed every 4-6 weeks while adults will shed less frequently as their growth rate will decrease as they reach full size.
Handling a Brazilian Rainbow Boa
A Brazilian Rainbow Boa can be a great pet and with a bit of time and effort they can be easily handled. Baby boas can be a bit nippy but once they learn that you are not a treat, they quickly grow out of this. To minimise stress to the snake, slide your hand under their belly to pick them up. Most threats to snakes come from above so this technique may be less stressful to the reptile.
Start with short handling sessions a few times a week. As the snake becomes more comfortable with you, start to increase the duration of handling sessions. Do not handle your snake for at least 24-48 hours after a feeding to allow the snake time to digest their food.
Breeding Brazilian Rainbow Boas
Before thinking about breeding Brazilian Rainbow Boas, you first need to ensure that the snakes are healthy and kept under the right conditions. Once these basic requirements are met, breeding isn’t too difficult. After all, snakes have been breeding successfully on their own for millions of years.
The first step is to ensure you have a male and female pair. Like other snakes, they can be sexed by popping or probing. However, these boas can also be sexed by palpating. This is a great way to sex the snake as it is a non-intrusive method.
Palpating involves sliding your fingers from the vent towards the tail of the snake. Applying a little pressure you will feel two little bumps inside the snake’s tail if it is a male. If the snake is female you will not feel any bump due to the lack of hemipenes. You can palpate the snake from the day it is born.
A female Brazilian Rainbow Boa is able to breed from about 2 1/2 years of age if they are big enough. However it is better to wait until the snake is at least 3 1/2 years old as the process will take a lot out of them. A female should be about 1,500 grams before she is bred. You will actually get more babies by waiting an extra year as the female will have a small litter if bred too early. It is also highly likely that they won’t regain enough weight to breed again the next season. Like most snakes, males can be bred much younger. Once they are about 18 months old and measure 3 feet in length they are usually good to go.
You can stimulate breeding by reducing night time temperatures to about 65F but a basking spot should be maintained during the day. You can also choose to increase the hours of darkness. This can simply be achieved naturally by using seasonal changes in daylight hours. Cooling can start around December and temperatures can gradually be restored to normal for March.
During the cooling cycle, you can pair a male with up to three females. The male should be cycled between females ensuring he has a couple of days off each week to recover.
Females should be offered smaller food items throughout the breeding season although they may go through the entire breeding season without eating. It is also common for males to go off food during the cooling period, even if they haven’t been introduced to a female.
The female will start to bulge as follicles develop in the middle of her body. You may notice her behaviour changes during this time and they can often be found soaking in their water bowl or lying inverted in their enclosure. During ovulation the bulge becomes very pronounced and is easy to identify. This bulge doensn’t last long though and is easy to miss. After ovulation the bulge starts to move towards the lower end of the snake’s body.
It is a common mistake to remove the male when the female starts to bulge under the assumption that he has done his job. The bulge occurs when the female starts developing ova, not when fertilisation has occurred. The ova have to grow to an appropriate size before they are fertilised. Ensure that the male has done his job before you stop introducing him to the female or it will increase the number of slugs in the litter.
Females often seek out the heat spot after ovulation which should be kept at about 85F. She will give birth about 90 days after ovulation. Once this date approaches, you should introduce a moist hide box for the snake to give birth in. It is also common for them to give birth in their water bowl. This is a drowning hazard for the babies so water levels should be reduced at this time. The baby boas are born in egg sacks which they will break out of soon after being born.
The baby boas should be removed from their mother’s enclosure once they have left their egg sack. They can be set up in individual setups and after about a week you can offer them their first meal.
It is recommended to do as much research as possible before purchasing your reptile. If you are planning to purchase one of these snakes, read as many Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care Sheets as you can in advance.