Boa Constrictors are becoming one of the top snakes kept by hobbyists. In nature, they range from northern Mexico, through most of Central and South America, and as far south as Argentina. There are many supspecies, but for now we will stick to the two that make up the bulk of the Boas kept in captivity.
Boa Constrictor Imperator (or BCI) are the most common boas. They include all boas from Central America, the Carribean Islands, and Columbia. While Columbian Boas are the most common species available, amny Central American species are gaining in popularity. BCI reach an adult length of 6 to7 feet for males and 7 to 9 feet for females. Some of the localities of BCI reach smaller sizes such as the popular Hogg Island Boa which males rarely exceed 6 feet.
Boa Constrictor Constrictor (or BCC) are also known as "True Redtails". They range from western Columbia through Guyana, Venezuela, and Surinam, They tend to be larger with adult males reaching 7 to 9 feet and adult females reaching 8 to 12 feet. Their colors tend to have higher contrast and their tails do tend to be a little redder then the BCI.
Housing for baby boas should be at least 24 inches wide (preferably 36 inches) and can be a simple aquarium with a secure top, or one of the numerous plastic snake enclosures on the market today. Adults require a much large enclosure. Rule of thumb is to add the width of the cage (right to left) and the depth (front to back) together and that is the maximum size snake that that enclosure can house. An exmaple is a cage that is 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep can house a 6 foot snake. Most of the prefab plastic/PVC/Plexiglass enclosures have an average height of 18 to 24 inches.
There are many acceptable substrates available in the pet industry today. The most common used for large constrictors is Cypress muclh that can be purchased at any home improvement store such as Lowes or Home Depot. Cedar shavings and/or chips are never to used for any reptile as it is toxic to them. Another alternative is butchers paper which is a brown paper that comes on large rolls and is inexpensive and is a lot easier to work with when cleaning day comes along. Newpaper is another cheap alternative that can be used. For more details on the types of substrates please see out Substrate page.
Hides are important to boas and one must be present at all times for your snake to feel safe and stress free. One at each end of the enclosure (one in the cool end and one in the hotter end) is recommended. Hides can be half logs (pretreated to get rid of the little critters that may be present), upside down plastic buckets, commercially purchased caves, or even cardboard boxes (but make sure to throw these away if (and when) they become soiled.
Boas do not require any specialized lighting, although a photo period that distinguishes day and night is recommended. A fluorescernt light fixture can be used and set on a timer at 12 hours on and 12 hours off. During brumation the times can be changed to 16 hours off and 8 hours on.
The ambient air temperature of the enclosure shouold be between 80 and 85 degrees during the day and no lower then 78 degrees at night. Basking spots should be provide that should be no higher then 88 degrees. There are many way to reach teh ambient temperatures in the enclosure. There are under tank heaters, ceramic heaters, panel heaters, heat tape, etc. It is good to ahve these hooked up to a thermostat that will control when the heater is turned on when the enclosure drops below a certain temperature or when it is turned off when it reaches the optimum temperature.
The humidity level should be around 50 to 60 percent and around 70 to 75 percent during a shed cycle to aide the boa in the shedding process. The easiest way to achieve this humidity level is to provide a large water bowl. As the water evaporates the humidity level will rise to the desired level.
It is highly recommended that all snakes in captivity be fed only frozen rodents that have been thawed to room temperature. Feeding live rodents is dangerous and can result in injuries and sickness in your snake from bites, scratches, and parasites. The size of the food item can be determined by the girth of the snake. It should be equal to the girth at its widest location. Young snakes should be fed more often, usually around every 5 to 7 days. Adults should be fed every 10 to 14 days depending on the food items. Powerfeeding snakes is not recommended either. Your boa should be on a regular feeding schedule to ensure good health. Feeding your boa every 4 days just to get it to grow faster will only cause serious harm to your snake.
Boas can make a great first snake if you are not weary about a medium to large size snake. But as with every animal, you have to do you research before you purchase the snake. Read as many caresheets, buy a few books, and talk to other owners to gain knowledge. The only stupid question is the one that is not asked.