Rosy Boa Care, Temperament, Lifespan & Enclosure

The perfect snake for a herper looking for a long-time companion

Rosy boas (Lichanura trivirgata) are the perfect pet for beginner snake owners. They are relatively small, nonvenomous, and quite docile.

They come from the Southwestern part of North America and parts of Sonora, Mexico.

Different locations have individual coloring and patterning. This is very exciting because a new owner can choose their preferred colors!

Rosy boas typically have three stripes of color that run laterally down the body, which gives them their nickname of three-lined boas.

Another name the Rosy boa goes by is Rosys (Rosies), for the pinkish coloration of some variation’s bellies.

These boas are hardy animals and can withstand those small beginner’s mistakes well. However, the better care you provide your boa with, the healthier it will be.

Caring for your boa correctly means that you will develop a good relationship with it.

This care guide will provide you with key information to developing a healthy environment for your boa, feeding it, and handling it correctly, as well as what to look out for in health emergencies.

At the end of this guide, there are some helpful tips on breeding Rosy boas for newer handlers who want a snake that is simple to breed.

Reptile Overview

Common Name:Rosy boa, three-lined boa, Rosys
Scientific Name:Lichanura trivirgata
Indigenous:Southwestern USA, Baja California, Arizona, Sonora Mexico
Natural Habitat:Dry shrubland, near-desert (Mojave and Californian), chaparral, coastal areas
Endangered Status:Least Concern
Experience Level:Beginner

Temperament

These snakes are good pets because they have a docile temperament. This is especially beneficial if you are a first-time snake owner or you have children in the house that are interested in handling snakes.

If the boa feels threatened while being handled it will ball up in your hands.

After balling up, it will release a scent called musk from its vent. Musk does not smell good to predators so it is a good defense mechanism against being eaten.

Behavior

Rosy boas generally use the ambient temperature to determine when they are active. In hotter climates during summertime they will be nocturnal, meaning they are active and hunt at night.

During the change of season, they will become more crepuscular, meaning they are active and hunt during dawn and dusk.

In winter or colder climates, they will be more diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

Mid baja rosy boa

These snakes belong to the Boidae family. This means that they are constrictor snakes that suffocate their prey by wrapping around them and squeezing them so that they cannot breathe.

Rosy boas are slow snakes that use a rectilinear motion to move. This means that they are less likely to make a break for it in the form of a sprint.

However, because they are so inquisitive, they are known to be expert Houdinis and will escape enclosures that are not properly sealed.

Lifespan

These snakes are incredibly long-lived. So, make sure that when you are purchasing one, you are ready for the commitment.

An average life span of a captive Rosy boa is 30 years! There are extreme cases where these boas have lived to 50 years!

This long lifespan can only be positive, this precious pet gets to grow up or grow old with you. That is a special commitment.

Appearance

This is a relatively small boa at an average of 24 to 36 inches.

There are rare cases of Rosy boas reaching 44 inches, however, they are few and far between. Females will typically be longer than males.

Rosy boas are a thickset snake and have roughly the same girth as a golf ball. Their heads are elongated and slightly larger than the body.

Rosy boa in white backround

They have quite a blunt tail that is slightly prehensile. This means it can grip onto things like rocks, branches, and fingers.

These snakes are strikingly beautiful. Most snakes have lateral stripes down their bodies.

However, some have reticulated granite patterning like the boas found near Otay Lake in California.

Color and pattern by the locality:

  • Coastal: overall rather dark with irregular or less-defined orange stripes on a cream or gray background.
  • Desert: dark maroon, unbroken/well-defined lateral stripes on a light tan or gray background.
  • Mexican (including San Matias Pass and Bay of Los Angeles): dark brown or black stripes on a yellow/cream background.
Mexican Rosy Boa

These locality colors and patterns are quite general as there is an incredible amount of variation. True albinism can occur where the snake is white in color and has pink eyes.

Color variations can include background colors mixed with different locality striping. Striping can be blue, orange, brown/black, red, or brown on any background.

Rosy boas have anal spurs, they are vestigial organs leftover from evolution. Male’s spurs can be quite pronounced and are used during mating.

A female’s spurs rarely break the skin and look like little nubs.

Enclosure

Hatchling enclosures can be around 10 gallons. Adults enclosures can be around 30 gallons. However, when your boa starts growing you must increase the size of their enclosure. A good size for adult snakes is 36×18 inches.

Your snake lives for over 25 years, give it decent space to live a happy life. The enclosure does not have to be very tall as Rosy boas are terrestrial snakes.

Glass aquariums are fine to house your snakes, especially the hatchlings.

We would suggest a glass terrarium with a door for easy access and pleasant viewing. Ensure that the enclosure has adequate ventilation.

Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium 36x18x24

Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium 36x18x24

However, ventilation must not negatively affect the temperature gradient.

If your enclosure has a top screen, ensure that is not rough.

Rosy boas are always exploring by rubbing their noses along the inside of enclosures, therefore rostral (their snout) abrasion is common and must be avoided.

Your enclosure must have a sneaky snake-proof lock on it. These boas are incredibly curious and will always look for a way out.

If you have an enclosure that has a lid, make sure it is securely clipped in place because these snakes are quite strong.

Your snake’s natural habitat is a desert biome, provide it with rocks and dry logs that it can hide in and behind.

Make sure these are secured properly and will not fall on the snake when it goes exploring. You can sanitize all branches and rocks by boiling them in water or using aftermarket products made for reptiles.

Ensure that the rocks are not abrasive so they do not damage your boa’s precious skin. Research the type of wood you are using to make sure it does not contain any harmful oils.

Substrate

Substrate is the stuff at the bottom of the enclosure. A great substrate is a newspaper and paper towels. They might not look the prettiest but they are the cheapest and easiest to keep clean.

You can also use aspen wood chips that are not small enough to be accidentally swallowed.

Galapagos Aspen Digs Shavings Bedding

Galapagos Aspen Digs Shavings Bedding

Never use pine or cedar wood chips. They have oils in them that will irritate the snake’s skin and can cause respiratory issues.

Rosy Boas like to slither into burrows. Make sure the substrate is deep enough for the snake to wiggle into and be hidden.

Rocks are important for your snake to have. They will use them to assist in shedding and to hide behind or lie on top of.

Have fun with this, change up the layout of the rock or logs when you are cleaning. 25+ years is a long time to live in an enclosure that looks exactly the same.

Changing up the layout will also provide enrichment for your Rosy.

Spot clean the substrate daily and do a full cleanout every two weeks. Be careful to not use harsh chemicals that will irritate your snake’s skin and cause respiratory issues.

When you do a full clean make sure all elements are 100% dry before returning them to the enclosure. You do not want to accidentally increase the humidity levels.

Temperature

The enclosure should be long enough for there to be a suitable temperature gradient. This means that there is an even temperature change between the hottest part of the enclosure (basking spot) and the coolest side of the cage.

We recommend to use VIVOSUN heating mat, it has a digital thermostat, so you can easily handle the required temperature.

VIVOSUN Reptile Heat Mat with Digital Thermostat

VIVOSUN Reptile Heat Mat with Digital Thermostat

Rosy boas are ectothermic which means they need external heat sources to maintain their body temperature.

Cool Side

The coolest side of the enclosure should not drop lower than 75°F at night.

Place a hideaway at this end of the enclosure for your snake to retreat to when it needs to rest in privacy or for when it is stressed.

Keep a thermometer on the coolest side of the enclosure to constantly monitor the temperature.

Warm Side

We suggest using an under-tank heating pad that is controlled with a rheostat under a third of the tank.

Using a heating pad will help maintain nighttime temperatures and provide an even heating gradient.

Place a hideaway on the warm side of the enclosure so that your snake can retreat to it for rest and to destress.

Basking Area

Place a heat lamp above the basking spot.

We recommend a 75-watt bulb from Zoo Med.

Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp

Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp

Ensure the bulb is enclosed in a heat-protective casing, remember you boa will like to explore and can burn itself.

Vipe Heater Guard

Vipe Heater Guard

90°F to 95°F is the recommended temperature range for right under the heat lamp.

Keep a thermometer in this area to monitor the temperature.

Lighting

Your Rosy boa does not need special lighting. However, UVB lighting does have added health benefits.

For this reason you can use a compact Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB.

Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB Mini Compact Fluorescent

Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB

Rosy boas are mostly nocturnal animals and require a 12/12 light/dark schedule.

We suggest you use a timer, like Zilla Digital Timer, to avoid any mishaps, snakes cannot bark or meow if their light has not been turned on or off.

Zilla Digital Timer

Zilla Digital Timer

Humidity

Rosy boas come from a pretty dry and arid habitat therefore their enclosure’s humidity levels should mimic this. The humidity level should be 40%.

Use a hygrometer to keep accurate track of this level. It is key to maintaining your boa’s health.

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

Zoo Med Labs Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer

If the humidity is too high then your boa can develop respiratory problems. If it is too low then your boa will battle to shed.

When it comes up to shedding time, you can have a hideaway dedicated to a higher humidity range. It will go into the hideaway and let its shed absorb the extra moisture to ease the process.

To create this humid hideaway, you can put some sphagnum moss inside a hideaway at around the 82°F mark in the temperature gradient.

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

Galápagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss

Diet

Rosy boas will overdo it on water if they have free access to it, therefore limit your boa’s water intake.

Put a non-porous water bowl in the enclosure for two nonconsecutive days a week.

Do not do this on the day before or after they have been fed.

Make sure you scrub the water bowl out properly every time you use it.

Prey items should be no thicker than the thickest part of your snake’s body, not the head.

You can feed your snakes one rodent once a week from hatchlings to adults.

You can feed your adult once every second week, if you do this, make the prey item slightly larger than normal or feed them one and a half rodents.

Using frozen prey is best. Simply put the mouse/rat in a tub of hot water until it thaws to room temperature.

Make sure the prey is thawed completely. Feeding semi-thawed prey to your boa can kill it because of the temperature difference.

Never handle your snake 24 hours before feeding, during feeding, or for 48 hours after feeding. Doing so can cause a stress response and the snake will regurgitate their food.

We do not recommend live prey items. They can carry diseases and cause physical harm to your snake with their claws and teeth. There is also the issue of the extra expense of keeping live prey.

You can feed your Rosy boa in its enclosure. This will not encourage it to become aggressive or bite you.

Most snakes do not eat during shedding time. If your boa refuses food, try again in a week. At this time, you should see signs of the shedding process.

Handling

Rosy boas do well when it comes to handling and touching. However, there are some key issues to consider:

  • Do not hold (with a closed hand) the boa’s body. This can make it feel trapped.
  • Rosys are quite hefty snakes so make sure you support their full weight in your hands.
  • These snakes like to explore so allow them to. You might find that they enjoy curling up in your pocket or collar depending on how small they are.
  • Always sanitize your hands before handling your snake and between handling other reptiles.

If you are nervous of an attack response when you go to pick up your snake for handling you can try hook training them.

To hook-train, you gently nudge the boa with your hook to alert them. If they do not shy away or ball up then you can go ahead and hook them out of the enclosure.

This will allow your boa to associate the hook with being handled and it will know what to expect. Hook training is not essential. However, if it makes you feel better then there is no harm.

If the snake is seriously stressed or feels threatened it will release a scent called musk from its vent.

Consistency is key to handling your Rosy. Make sure you handle it often and gently to help it get used to the feeling. A well-socialized boa will enjoy being handled.

Potential Health Issues

Before purchasing your Rosy boa, search for exotic pet veterinarians in your area. You know where to go for your own health emergencies. A snake that is this long-lived needs the same connection to a vet.

  • Rostrum abrasion: Rosys are highly inquisitive and will run their snouts along the interior of the enclosure. If the interior is rough then the snake can damage its snout.
  • Respiratory issues and scale/mouth rot: These are caused by incorrect enclosure care. High humidity and incorrect substrate encourage bacterial growth which snakes are susceptible to.
  • External parasites: Mites are a common health issue for snakes. They will appear as tiny red or black dots on the snake’s skin, specifically around the nostrils, eyes, and mouth. They burrow under the scales to get at the snake’s blood. Mites carry their own diseases so getting rid of them is a top priority.
  • Internal parasites: These parasites could be from cross-contamination with other pets, from live food, or poor enclosure hygiene. Snakes may stop eating if they have a high parasite load. They will need an urgent trip to the vet.

Breeding

Rosy boas reach sexual maturity at two to three years old. When they reach maturity it should be the first time they are brumated, not before.

There has not been any documented aggression from male boas during this time. However, it is always good practice to keep an eye on your boas during mating for an unfortunate pairing.

A period of brumation is required to encourage successful breeding. Before beginning brumation ensure that your snake has completely digested its last meal (roughly 14 days from the time of feeding).

At the beginning of Winter slowly lower the enclosure temperature so that the cooler side sits at 55°F at night.

Change the enclosure’s light schedule to eight hours of light and 16 hours of dark.

The enclosure should stay in this state during Winter. Have minimal handling during this time.

Your snake will refuse food during this time, do not feed them.

Offer them water in a container two days a week. Do not leave the container in the enclosure overnight

At the end of Winter and beginning of Spring slowly start raising the temperature back to normal and set their light schedules back to 12/12.

After five days reintroduce their normal feeding pattern. Their first meal should be slightly smaller than normal. After this, normal feeding can take place.

Rosy boa breeding

Introduce the male to the female’s enclosure after brumation has ended and they are feeding well.

Do not feed them while they are together, this can trigger aggressive behavior.

Leave the couple together for 12 to 24 hours at a time every second day. Continue this until you are sure they have mated a couple of times.

Within three to four weeks you should see an increase in the female’s girth. Remove the male from her enclosure.

She may refuse food while she is gravid, however, offer her small prey items every five days. Avoid handling her as much as you can during this time.

In about four to five months she will most likely shed and become more active.

Rosy boas do not lay their eggs. Instead, they incubate them in their bodies. This means that it will look like she is giving birth to live young.

An average clutch of Rosy boas has between five and eight babies.

The baby boas will quickly find their way into every nook and cranny of the enclosure to burrow and hide.

Once the female is finished giving birth you can gently take the hatchlings out of the enclosure.

The female will accept a lot of food after this. Be careful of over-feeding.

House the hatchlings separately as cannibalism, although rare, can happen. Once they have their first shed at 14 days you can offer them their first meal.

We suggest a small pinky. If they refuse food, do not stress, try again the following week.

If they continue to refuse food, change their enclosure around, make sure the humidity is correct, hold back on the water a bit, alter the temperature slightly.

Be consistent, eventually, the snake will feed.

Conclusion

Rosy boas (Lichanura trivirgata), are wonderful pets for first-time snake owners. They are beautiful creatures with a huge variation in coloring and patterns.

Rosys are calm and even-tempered snakes that do well with frequent handling.

We “herp” you have a wonderful journey with your new boa friend.

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