written by Jeff Vandersteen Name: Amazon Tree Boa
Scientific name: Corallus hortulanus
AKA: ATB (Corallus hortulanus), Cooks Tree Boa (Corallus cookii), Corallus grenadensis, Corallus ruschenbergerii
General Information Distribution
Corallus hortulanus has a large range. You can find Amazon tree boas throughout the entire Amazon rain forest, as well as the forests and plains of Brazil. Corallus hortulanus has found ways to cope with differing habitats unlike Corallus caninus (Emerald tree boa) whom you will find only in the canopy of the rainforest.
Amazon tree boas are not known to be in jeopardy in the wild.
Amazon tree boas are slender, arboreal species that are known for their nervous temperaments. ATB’s come in a variety of different colors; which, with the exception of the morphs, are random. A garden phase and a yellow ATB could very well sire reds, yellows, or any other color. ATB’s fit into 5 different categories. Red, yellow, orange, garden phase, and olive phase.
Hatchlings are approximately 12”+/-.
Captive adults tend to reach around 4-5 ft. Although some have been known to reach 7 ft. They are slim rail-like snakes, which aids them in climbing.
Amazon tree boas may live 20 years or more in captivity.
Color Mutations There are two known color mutations found in Corallus hortulanus. Hypomelanistic, and tiger phase. Hypomelanistic tree boas lack all black pigment. Some argue that pure yellow, red, or orange tree boas could be considered hypomelanistic because they lack black pigment as well. Genetically speaking, those are natural color variations rather than mutations. The tiger phase ATB’s have stripes along their body rather than the regular patterns you find in the wild. Both mutations are rare and valuable in the marketplace. Captive Maintenance Guidelines Difficulty Level
Intermediate. Amazon tree boas have specific husbandry that is necessary to their well being. These husbandry requirements can be more difficult to maintain than others. ATB’s are also known to be nervous and nippy.
Enclosures can be as simple or elaborate as one is capable of caring for. Remember that the more stuff you put in a cage, the more stuff you have to clean & disinfect on a regular basis.
There are many different methods in which you can keep ATB’s. When yearlings, something as simple as a 10-gallon aquarium turned on end (with most of the screen covered), or a sterilite container does the job quite nicely. When full grown, you will need a minimum of a 2’x2’x2’ enclosure. When choosing your enclosure, be sure to keep in mind the high humidity and ventilation needed for these snakes. Wooden enclosures are less than satisfactory for precisely this reason. High humidity will warp uncovered wood. Melamine is somewhat better, but if not sealed properly, will bubble and warp as well. Sterilite containers work well for ATB’s. They are easily cleaned, hold humidity and heat well, and are less expensive than other enclosures. Many experienced arboreal keepers prefer to use high impact plastic (such as Vision) and acrylic enclosures. They hold humidity very well, are attractive and easily cleaned. The final point you need to consider when choosing an enclosure is accessibility. These snakes are a bit more ornery than most and they do bite. You will want to have room enough to dodge their long sharp teeth. If building your own enclosure, consider building a tray in the bottom. This makes it much easier to change substrate without disturbing the snake.
Whichever route you decide to take, remember that these are arboreal snakes. They will spend the majority of the time on perches. ATB’s like to have three points of their bodies touching their perch at all times. It is best to cross branches or use forked branches in their enclosures.
There are a few substrates that work well. Newspaper and paper towels are the cheapest & easiest with regards to cleaning & disinfecting: out with the old, in with the new. Reptile carpet and Astroturf make very aesthetically pleasing substrates. Cypress mulch is great for controlling humidity. If you feed in your enclosure you may want to avoid loose substrates. These snakes attack from above and it is easy to take substrate in with their prey, which can cause impaction.
DO NOT USE PINE OR CEDAR SUBSTRATES! These pungent substrates are known to cause nerve problems in snakes.
Temperatures & Heating
It is often thought that coming from the jungle, Amazons need very warm enclosures. This is not the case. ATB’s should be kept around 80-82 degrees, with a nighttime drop of a few degrees.
There is some argument when dealing with heating arboreal enclosures. Some people like to use the classic warm on one end and cool on the other approach. The problem with this method is that these snakes spend the majority of the time off the ground. In nature, it is cooler up in the canopy where there is usually a slight breeze. The canopy acts as an insulator for heat and it is warmer near the ground. For this reasoning, I prefer to use a human heating pad, covering the entire floor, to warm the enclosure. If you chose to heat using this method, remember to have several perches throughout your enclosure to ensure that the snake can properly regulate its body temperature.
Avoid using heat lamps in your ATB’s enclosure. Heat lamps will lower your humidity. ATB’s are also very sensitive to heat and have been known to strike at heat lamps.
Humidity Providing proper humidity for ATB’s is essential. If too low your snake will develop a respiratory infection. If too high for too long, you will get mold and fungus. Their humidity requirements are similar to the Emerald tree boa, but they are a little more tolerant to deviations than an ETB.
ATB’s prefer a humidity level of 65-70% on average with spikes up to 95% during the day. It rains often in the Amazon, so you will want to spray a couple of times a day to attain the spikes of 95%. Be careful not to keep it that high for too long or you will develop mold. High ventilation helps discourage mold and diseases, but it also lowers humidity. A good way to get the humidity AND ventilation required is the use of a humidifier. The humidifier found in our do it yourself section is an excellent one. It is controlled by running an air pump through a body of water and into your enclosure. The humid air flows in pushing old air out, creating excellent air circulation.
There are a few ways to reach your desired humidity.
-Using a mulch (such as Cyprus) that when misted, will absorb the water, letting it evaporate throughout the day
-Larger water bowls.
-Humidifiers, foggers, and misting systems
-Sterilite or other containers that have hold humidity well.
Supplemental lighting is not necessary for this species, but if used should run on a 12/12 cycle, meaning 12 hours on & 12 hours off. Continuous bright, overhead lighting is stressful to snakes, especially nocturnal animals. ATB’s are especially sensitive to heat and will often strike at a warm lamp, so it is recommended that you use lighting that gives off very little heat.
Always make fresh, clean water available to your ATB. The size of the water dish is up to you. Just keep in mind, the larger the water dish, the more humidity. Snakes of many species will defecate in their water bowls from time to time, so be prepared for cleaning, disinfecting & a water change when necessary. It is often beneficial to have a spare water bowl for such occasions, so that one may be used while the other is being cleaned.
Perches are vital to the well being of your ATB. If you have perches in your enclosure, but your ATB makes no use of them, something is wrong. ATB’s prefer to have several points of their body touching their perch unlike Emerald tree boas and Green tree pythons. Crossing branches or using forked branches is ideal. Some ATB’s prefer a high ledge overlooking their enclosure. Provide foliage (live or fake) for your ATB to hide in while perched. Live plants also help add humidity.
Your ATB will also spend some time on the ground, so having a terrestrial hide or two is recommended.
Most arboreal species have a lower metabolism than terrestrial snakes meaning you do not need to feed them as often. This is not the case however, with ATBs and feeding them once every 8-9 days is just fine. ATB’s are a slim snake, and feeding prey the size of the largest point in their body is sometimes inadequate. I good way to measure appropriate sized prey for your ATB is to feed a prey item the size of its head or slightly smaller. They will sometimes take multiple prey items in one sitting.
Amazon tree boas are not known to be picky eaters, and rarely have problems feeding even when they are wild caught. They are sometimes nervous for their first few feedings however. There are a few tricks to the trade in getting your ATB to eat for the first time.
Before attempting live prey, try over heating the p/k or f/t prey. Warming under hot water, under a lamp, or even a few seconds in the microwave (although micro waving can be risky) will do the trick. Warm prey seems to stimulate a higher feeding response.
Sometimes your ATB may not take dead prey, so using tongs, give your mouse a little dance. Sometimes you may even need to continue wiggling the prey after your Amazon begins to restrict.
If this does not work, attempt to feed live prey. Live prey is a last resort because feeding live can be dangerous to the snake. Adult prey will fight back, so please supervise closely when attempting this.
The most important thing to have is patience. Some snakes will not accept for the first few tries. If you have tried the above methods with no results, wait a few days and attempt to feed again.
Maintenance Spot-cleaning your snake's enclosure as necessary. When feces/urates/uneaten prey items are present, remove them as soon as possible. Clean & disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Depending on cage conditions, remove all substrate & cage furniture and completely disinfect using a 5% bleach solution approximately every 30 days. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow it to dry before replacing cage furniture & your snake. Remember to clean the walls of the enclosure thoroughly as well. (They do poop when perched) Notes/Comments Amazon tree boas are often times over looked by snake keepers due to their snappy personalities. I however find that they make an excellent addition to any collection. While not as hand able as other snakes, they make beautiful display animals and are a joy to breed. They come in a rainbow of different colors and are a very variable snake. ATB’s are also a great steppingstone into the world of arboreal. They have very similar requirements to most tree boas, but are a bit more forgiving when husbandry is not precise.