Rainbow Boa -Epicrates cenchria sp.
Argentine Rainbow Boa, Epicrates cenchria alvarezi
Brazilian Rainbow Boa, E. c. cenchria
Peruvian Rainbow Boa, E. c. gaigei
Colombian Rainbow Boa, E. c. maurus
Guyanan Rainbow Boa, (no subspecies name given yet)
[There are other species, but the four listed above are the most common in the pet trade.]
Semi-arboreal species from northern South America. Rainbow boas tend to be very colourful, and have an iridescent sheen to their scales due to microscopic ridges that act as miniature prisms, making them beautiful captives. Each species varies with coloration and pattern, but the Brazilian rainbow boa is arguably the most beautiful out of the group (heck, possibly one of the most beautiful snakes period!).These snakes tend to be flighty, and often a bit nippy. However, in time, many can tame down to tolerate regular handling.
Tropical forests of Central and South America.
As stated, this species is semi-arboreal and spends most of its time holed up in tree crevices, making use of very humid microenvironments.
Rainbows are medium-sized boids, adults average between 4 and 6 feet, with females tending to be larger, 7 feet is maximum length. They are a slender snake, so they have less mass per length than say a redtail boa.
Mine is definitely flighty, and I would say pretty aggressive, but generally only when on the defensive, or when he smells food. I have heard and read that hatchlings can become more docile and tolerant of humans with consistent handling. Basically if you’re looking for a snake to drape around your shoulders or hang out in the house with, get a ball python, not a rainbow boa.
With proper care these snakes can live thirty years in captivity.
Rainbow Boas, like most boids are rodent eaters, a diet of one appropriately sized (about the thickness, or slightly smaller than that of the snake at its thickest point) rat per week will suffice. If possible two smaller meals a week is sometimes regarded as even better. My adult male gets one medium rat a week. Their feeding response is quite good, mine has never refused a meal, and will hit a rat right off the tongs without much coaxing at all. I strongly recommend feeding frozen/thawed prey, whenever possible. With the feeding response these snakes have F/T prey should be readily taken. Also make sure to use tongs or hemostats/forceps to feed your snake; while they aren’t venomous, you still want to avoid being bitten.
Temperatures should range from a daytime high of about 85 to a nighttime low of 68, these snakes tolerate lower temperatures well, but not high temps, extended periods over 90 can easily kill a rainbow boa. Mine is kept at room temperature (74 during the day, 70 at night) but there is a UTH under one hide box, and a very small UTH under a large sterilite enclosed water dish to keep the water temps slightly warmed and to provide a temperature gradient, being ectothermic homeotherms, like most snakes, Colombian Rainbow Boas will regulate their own body temperatures if given that temperature gradient. Due to their high humidity requirements, I do not recommend the use of lights for heat on these guys, if additional heat is necessary, use an undertank heater, heat tape, heat rope, etc.
This is a high humidity species, their cage should be kept with humidity above 60% at all times, with a moist hide box, and a water bowl that would allow them to soak entirely. I use a dry hide over a UTH, a large dog water bowl that he can get into entirely, and I have a large sterilite container with a hole cut in the top which provides an enclosed water dish which is a favourite spot for my adult male. This species is very sensitive to dehydration and can have shedding problems without adequate humidity. In a high humidity, warm environment like this, mold can grow very easily, thus you should check, and clean the enclosure as needed. I change the paper towels, probably about every other to every third week, with a full overhaul about once a quarter.
Minimum space would be 6 square feet of ground space. These snakes like to move around, and should be given adequate space to do so. They also like to climb, so while it isn’t required, providing some climbing branches would give more viewing opportunities. I found that the branches I included almost seemed to invite mold growth so I removed them, and my snake doesn’t seem any worse for wear. I use a Vision cage measuring about 3’w x 3’l x 18” h. I do not recommend Vision cages, as they don’t allow much room to work with your snake, and there is a ridge around the edge that tends to collect dirty water when cleaning. An appropriate sized boaphile, or Neodesha would probably be more appropriate and easier to clean. My snake came with the Vision cage when I adopted him, and it has worked out fairly well, but it does have the aforementioned issues against it.
I have never bred these snakes before. I could probably regurgitate something I’ve read, but I’ll leave a few site names, and articles/books to read that should answer any breeding questions. I do know that they generally require a brumation period, and that females will usually go off feed while gravid. They are also livebearers.