Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care, Appearance, Enclosure & Temperament

If you are reading this guide on how to care for a Brazilian Rainbow Boa, then you have either just acquired one of these magnificent creatures or you are debating on whether or not you are ready for the task.

Either way, you have great taste if you are considering owning one of these snakes!

Their shy nature and shimmering beauty will capture the attention of everyone who has the privilege of handling them.

This care guide will help you to prepare for what is required to own and maintain one of these awesome snakes.

Reptile Overview

Class:Reptilia
Order:Squamata
Family:Boidae
Genus & Species:Epicrates cenchria

The Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria) is native to Brazil and some of its surrounding countries. This snake has become very popular among snake handlers all around the globe.

The Brazilian Rainbow Boa’s beautiful iridescent markings are the main reason that they are so sought after by those who love snakes.

They can sometimes be confused with the Columbian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates maurus) due to their similarities in appearance.

Behavior & Temperament

Handling Brazilian rainbow boa

Brazilian Rainbow Boas can sometimes bite a little bit as babies, but typically they will calm down with regular handling.

In most cases, the nippiness is due to their shy nature.

Once they become used to being handled and begin to trust you they will typically stop that type of behavior.

In the instance that your snake does bite you, do not put it down. Continue to hold it so that it knows it is safe and that biting you will not give the snake, its way when it wants to get down.

Once you establish a hierarchy with the snake and it knows that you are not trying to hurt it, your chances of getting bitten again will be greatly reduced.

Some people argue that they are not the best snakes for beginner handlers; however, someone with little experience can handle them if they take the time to learn how to properly do so.

They are easier to handle once they are removed from their habitat.

It is recommended that you use a snake hook when transferring them from one place to another.

Brazilian rainbow boa on branch

The Brazilian Rainbow Boa is non-venomous but the bite of an adult will still be painful due to their long hooked teeth.

When picking up your snake, carefully slide your hand under its body.

Avoid picking it up near its head and support its body so that it feels secure and comfortable in your grasp.

When you first begin handling your snake, do so in small increments so that you do not stress it out. Handling your snake in small pieces of time will also allow you to gain your snake’s trust.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are solitary reptiles unless it is their breeding time.

It is recommended that you do not keep them in the same enclosure with other snakes unless it is for breeding purposes.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are naturally great swimmers, but they do not hunt in the water. They have been known to stalk amphibians along the water’s edge though.

Lifespan

The Brazilian Rainbow Boa’s life span can depend greatly upon how the snake has been cared for.

When properly handled and cared for they can live to be up to 20-25 years of age in captivity.

Many people bite off more than they can chew when deciding to own a Brazilian Rainbow Boa.

They do not always realize what kind of time and care is required for their snake to have a long and healthy life.

In the wild Brazilian Rainbow Boas do not live nearly as long as they do in captivity primarily because of disease and the high risk of predators.

Babies are often snatched up by large predator birds and adults become a target for larger predators such as alligators and crocodiles.

Another cause for a shorter lifespan in the wild is over-heating and dehydration.

Appearance

Brazilian rainbow boa in the sun

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are not actually rainbow-colored, however; their vividly colored markings and unique scales shimmer and create an iridescent effect, hence the common name Brazilian Rainbow Boa.

When the light hits your snake in the right way it can look as though it is shimmering.

Their background color is typically a shade of brown, orange, or red with distinct markings that have a dark black outline.

Although the Brazilian Rainbow Boas colors are vibrant and stand out, their markings blend quite well with natural foliage and act as a camouflage when moving through the jungle floor and the trees.

Juvenile Brazilian rainbow boa

Baby Brazilian Rainbow Boas are typically around 15-20 inches long when born.

By the time they reach 12 months of age they are typically 36-40 inches long.

Adults can average between 5-7 feet in length.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are considered to be primitive snakes because they have been around for millions of years without evolving very much over time.

They still exhibit vestigial limbs called spurs. Both males and females have spurs located near the cloaca.

Males typically have larger spurs, but not always, so do not use this as a definite way to tell the sex of your snake.

Other primitive features of this breed of snake are that they have two lungs versus modern-day snakes that only have one lung. They also have remnants of pelvic bones where other snakes do not.

Females are typically larger than a male, but this is not evident when they are firstborn.

In comparison, males tend to have a wider tail-end due to their internal sexual organs.

Brazilian rainbow boa head

Brazilian Rainbow Boas have very poor eyes sight, they do not have ears and cannot hear the sound; instead, they can feel vibrations that allow them to sense what is going on around them.

They also have the ability to “see” heat through infrared radiation. The infrared receptors are located above their top lip.

These sensors allow them to sense how far their prey is from them and helps them to hunt successfully.

In addition to helping them hunt these infrared receptors also help the snake to locate warm places to rest and sense impending predators.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are considered to be generalists which means they can live on the ground floor of the jungle or in the trees. They have a prehensile tail which allows them to grab objects such as tree limbs when moving around the forest.

Enclosure

Babies can be kept in a 10-20 gallon terrarium until they start to grow. Our recommendation for babies is 12 x 12 x 12 Exo Terra Glass Terrarium Kit.

12 x 12 x 12 Exo Terra Glass Terrarium Kit

Exo Terra Glass Terrarium Kit for Baby Rainbow Boa

As your snake grows you will need a larger habitat. Ideally, an enclosure for an adult should be a minimum of 48” long x 24” deep x 24” high.

We would like to recommend 120 gallon REPTIZOO Large Glass Terrarium. It has sliding doors and screen ventilation.

REPTIZOO Large Glass Terrarium

REPTIZOO Large Glass Terrarium

Brazilian Rainbow Boas do not require as much space as some other snakes, but you do want to be sure that they have adequate room to move around. It is important that the habitat is secure and the snake cannot escape.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas need a hot and humid climate to live in, therefore; it is recommended that your enclosure be made mostly of glass to keep the humidity in.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are naturally secretive and like to hide.

Brazilian rainbow boa sleeping in cave

Be sure to have plenty of places where your snake can stay out of sight. For this purpose we are using reptile hide boxes from Pangea. If you want more naturalistic looking hiding place, check Zilla Reptile Bark Bends or Exo Terra Reptile Caves.

Pangea Reptile Hide Box

Pangea Reptile Hide Box

If you want more naturalistic looking hiding place, check Zilla Reptile Bark Bends or Exo Terra Reptile Caves.

Create a cave-like space with moss or other damp organic materials for your snake to hide in and also be sure that you have some branches for it to climb on.

We are using Finn’s Forest Manzanita natural driftwood branches.

Finn’s Forest Manzanita Driftwood

Finn’s Forest Manzanita Driftwood

Always be sure that there is plenty of water in the enclosure.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas love to curl up in their water bowls; therefore, you will need to be sure that you have a bowl large enough for your snake to rest in.

Change the water in the resting bowl often, as Brazilian Rainbow Boas tend to defecate in the water which can create a bacterial nightmare when not cleaned properly.

Also, be sure that the bowl is sturdy so that it doesn’t tip over and spill when the snake is getting in and out of it.

We usually using simple black large water dishes from OMEM. It’s very practical and works well!

If you want a more naturalistic looking we would recommend to check water dishes from Exo Terra.

Exo Terra Water Dish

Exo Terra Water Dish

Some handlers use live plants in their enclosures. This helps to maintain the humidity and create a more natural atmosphere for the snake.

In the instance that your snake continuously crushes the live plants, you may use artificial foliage to create your atmosphere.

For our terrariums we are using Fluker’s Repta artificial vines-pothos. It comes with suction cups, so it’s easy to stick to the glass and they are made of non-toxic polythylene material.

Fluker's Repta Artificial Vines-Pothos

Fluker’s Repta Vines-Pothos

Keep in mind that you will need to clean the habitat at least once a week with occasional spot cleaning as necessary, so be sure to consider that in your design.

If you have too many elements in your habitat that is just extra stuff you will have to move or clean around.

Be sure to design with cleaning in mind to save yourself some time and aggravation in the long run.

Temperature & Lighting

Brazilian Rainbow Boas do not require special UV lighting like many other reptiles, because they are nocturnal animals.

Some people may use UV lighting in their enclosures for aesthetic reasons or simulate daytime hours, but it is not necessary.

During the day it is recommended that you keep your snake’s habitat between 80-85°F (26-29°C) never to exceed 90°F (32°C).

Since Brazilian Rainbow Boas like to have a range of temperatures in their enclosure it is good to include a basking light for them to lie under during the day.

We are using Zoo Med Repti basking spot lamps with Zilla Reflector domes.

Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp

Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp

Lights should be turned off at night time since these reptiles are nocturnal.

Nighttime temperatures should be slightly cooler because the Brazilian Rainbow Boa is nocturnal which means they move around more at night.

Night temperatures should be kept in the range of 75-80°F (24-27°C). It is good to have areas that are slightly different temperatures throughout the enclosure.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas like to move back and forth between cool and warm areas.

Do not let the temperature drop below 75°F (24°C). If you live in a climate that gets cold at night be sure to get an under-tank heater to provide ample heat for your shimmering companion.

VIVOSUN heating mat should be a great heating source at night, because it has digital thermostat, so you will be able to adjust the required temperature.

VIVOSUN Reptile Heat Mat with Digital Thermostat

VIVOSUN Reptile Heat Mat with Digital Thermostat

To be sure you are maintaining the proper temperature you can purchase a thermometer designed specifically for reptile enclosures, we are using Zoo Med digital hygrometer & thermometer.

Humidity

Brazilian rainbow boa on wet substrate

Brazilian Rainbow Boas thrive in humid climates. It is important that you have the proper humidity in your snake’s habitat.

Humidity should range between 75-90% and the habitat should be misted daily to maintain proper humidity at all times.

A good way to maintain proper humidity for your Brazilian Rainbow Boa is to install a humidifier in their enclosure.

There are many options available for purchase online that are designed specifically for use in reptile enclosures. It will automate the process and help maintain a more consistent level of humidity.

One of the most professional is MistKing Misting System. However, if you are looking for something simpler, we are recommend humidifier from REPTI ZOO.

REPTI ZOO 4L Reptile Humidifier

REPTI ZOO 4L Reptile Humidifier

One way to tell if your humidity is off is if your snake sheds its skin in flakey pieces instead of one whole sheath.

If you have an enclosure with a screen top, be sure to cover a large portion of it with glass to keep the humidity from escaping the habitat.

We are recommend to invest in a hygrometer. A hygrometer is a tool that measures the humidity in the air. This tool takes the guess-work out of maintaining the proper humidity.

Substrates help to maintain the proper humidity in your snake’s habitat.

Brazilian rainbow boa on moss

There are many options for a substrate, but the most commonly used ones are:

  • Coconut husks
  • Cypress mulch
  • Paper towels (typically used in younger snakes’ enclosures)
  • Sphagnum peat moss

Diet

Baby and juvenile snakes will typically eat pink feeder mice or small adult mice depending on their size.

It is best to feed them during the night time hours because that is when they are most active.

A good way to measure how large of a rodent your snake can consume is to remember that the food should be no larger than the thickest part of their body.

Baby snakes may be fed 1-2 times weekly whereas an adult only needs to be fed about every 7-10 days.

Brazilian rainbow boa before shedding

Many times snakes will not eat when they are preparing to shed their skin.

Frozen or thawed rodents are the safest for snakes to eat because live rodents can damage your snake internally with their teeth and claws.

It is recommended that you do not handle your snake for around 1-2 days after it has eaten because it can cause them to regurgitate their food.

In the wild, a Brazilian Rainbow Boa will eat rodents, birds, aquatic life, and some lizards.

They kill their prey by squeezing them to death, then they eat their victim whole and digest the bones and all, absorbing them for calcium and other nutrients that they need in order to thrive.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas don’t actually hunt their prey. Instead, they sit and wait for the opportune moment to pounce and squeeze their prey to death.

When feeding your snake it is a good idea to remove them from their enclosure to prevent them from expecting food every time you enter their zone.

If you handle them frequently and enter their terrarium for cleaning and socialization purposes on a regular basis they will be less likely to react in this way.

Potential Health Issues

Curious Brazilian rainbow boa

Snakes naturally carry a lot of bacteria which can quickly lead to infections if the habitat is not properly maintained and sanitized regularly.

When sanitizing your habitat, be sure to use a sanitizer that is approved for use in snake enclosures to avoid poisoning.

Anorexia can be an issue when:

  • Habitat has improper temperatures
  • Wrong size enclosure
  • Shedding
  • Given food that is different than what they are used to

Dry eyes are also a serious issue to contend with when the humidity is too low. Dry eyes can cause pits in the eye caps.

When a snake sheds its skin, the eye cap usually sheds as well. If your snake has a case of dry eyes it can cause a retained eye cap which can be irritating and cause infection if they do not shed within the next shedding cycle.

It is always a good idea to examine your snake’s shed to see if the eye caps are intact. If they are not, then they could have shed separately or could be retained on the snake’s eyes.

To check for retained eye caps look at your snake’s eyes. If they are grey or cloudy looking then there is a pretty good chance it did not shed properly.

If their eyes are clear then you’re safe to assume that they did shed properly and everything is okay.

Other things that can affect shedding:

  • Improper light and heat
  • Injuries to the skin
  • Malnutrition
  • Parasites
  • Skin infections

Ways you can help your snake shed if they are having issues:

  • Create a humidity hide for your snake to stay in during the shedding process
  • Let your snake soak in a bath of warm water, but be sure it’s not too deep so your shimmery friend doesn’t drown
  • Place your snake in a warm damp pillowcase or towel to help them remove the excess skin as they move around
  • Regular misting will also help to shed the skin more completely

To correct humidity issues, use the hygrometer and mist the enclosure regularly to restore it to the proper level.

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

External parasites such as ticks and mites need to be addressed immediately because if left untreated they can cause many fatal diseases.

Internal parasites in the gastrointestinal tract of the snake can also cause issues and compound a snake that is already sick. It is recommended that you have a fecal exam performed annually by your veterinarian to be sure these parasites are under control.

Mites and bacterial infections are also caused for concern in your snake. These issues need to be treated immediately by an experienced veterinarian who has knowledge of reptiles and other exotic pets.

Respiratory infections can be an issue for snakes living in reduced humidity levels, cool temperatures, or a dirty habitat.

Scale rot is an issue to watch for. This can occur when substrates are too moist or not properly cleaned. Dark ulcerated patches on the belly will appear and if left untreated will cause the scales to rot.

Breeding

Baby Brazilian rainbow boa

Typically breeding occurs during the cooler season where the nights are longer and the days are shorter.

The first step to successful breeding is to be sure that you actually have a male and a female.

Don’t always trust whom you purchased them from. To identify the male, palpate the tail. If it is a male you will feel the hemipenes (male sex organs on reptiles).

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are able to breed up to two times per year.

Determining if your Brazilian Rainbow Boa is ready to breed has more to do with the length and size of your snake rather than its age.

Males are able to start breeding when they reach a length of 4 feet and at a much younger age, usually around 18 months.

Many males will stop eating during the breeding season.

Female Brazilian Rainbow Boas can usually start to breed when they reach a length of 4 ½ feet. Typically they reach this length by 2 ½ years of age but it is recommended that you wait until they are closer to 4 years of age.

Many females will not eat anything during their entire pregnancy.

Two Brazilian boas

All boas are live bearers, so Brazilian Rainbow boa is no exception.

The typical gestation period for a female Brazilian Rainbow Boa is around 5 months. Most snakes will produce between 12-24 babies per litter.

Babies are born in clear egg sacs that they break out of soon after they are birthed.

Female Brazilian Rainbow Boas are also able to breed via parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is when a female reproduces asexually (without a male being present). When this occurs the baby snakes are an exact DNA replica of their mother.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a snake that has breath-taking, beautifully iridescent colors then the Brazilian Rainbow Boa is for you.

These unusual creatures will captivate you with their shimmering effects and spark interest in anyone who has the privilege of coming into contact with them.

Keep in mind that with any reptile proper care is imperative for long, healthy life.

Be sure you are ready for the commitment that comes with owning such a magnificent creature.

If you follow the tips in this guide you will be set up for a successful relationship with your Brazilian Rainbow Boa.

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