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    Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria)

    Care sheet from NERD
     
    Name: Brazilian rainbow boa
    Scientific name: Epicrates cenchria cenchria
    AKA: "BRB"

     
    General Information

    Distribution    
    Northern South America: Amazon basin Brazil (as the name implies), but also Surinam, Guyana, and parts of Peru.
     
    Wild Status    
    Brazilian rainbow boas fairly widespread throughout their range, yet habitat destruction & human encroachment threaten wild populations.
     
    Description    
    Brazilian rainbow boas are slender snakes, typically bright orange, red, or reddish-brown in color. The dorsal pattern consists of dark brown or black rings that start behind the head and continue down the length of the body. Lateral markings are cresent-shaped yellow or orange blotches, and the entire body reflects a rainbow iridescence. placid disposition and limited size make this an attractive constrictor to hobbyist. Hardy as long as humidity requirements are met, tolerant of cooler ambient temperatures than many other boids. Semi-arboreal (climbs) and often nocturnal (active at night). Young animals tend to be nervous but in captivity they generally calm and make reasonable pets. Newborn maurus are heavily patterned, as the animal grows much of this patterning fades until an even brown coloration is reached.
     
    Size    
    Hatchlings approximately 15" - 18"+/-. Females average 5.5', males average 4.5' adult size. Maximum size for this species is around 7 feet in length.
     
    Lifespan    
    Brazilian rainbow boas may live 30 years or more in captivity.
     
    Color Mutations    
    Color & pattern mutations of Epicrates cenchria cenchria include hypomelanistic, anerythristic and calico.

    Captive Maintenance Guidelines

    Difficulty Level    
    Intermediate. Easy for the keeper who has some boid experience, we would not recommend Brazilian rainbows to the beginning herpetoculturist. Brazilian rainbow boas require very specific temperature & humidity to thrive. Babies are nippy & defensive until tamed. This is a good "next step" for the keeper who has successfully managed other species, i.e. Colombian boa constrictors or ball pythons.
     
    Enclosure    
    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. That said, there are many different enclosures that work well for Brazilian rainbows, including but not limited to: plastic sweater boxes (i.e. Rubbermaid), melamine racks, Freedom Breeder cages, and any of the commercially available plastic-type reptile cages, (i.e. those from Vision Herp & other similar manufacturers). Glass aquariums & tanks are rarely adequate for this species; keep in mind that the screen tops on such enclosures will make it difficult to maintain the humidity levels essential for keeping a healthy Brazilian rainbow. Also refer to our Snake Caging care sheet for more information. Juvenile Brazilian rainbows seem to do well in smaller enclosures that make them feel more secure; a small snake in a big cage can become overwhelmed & stressed. They also need higher humidity than adults, and this can be easier to control in a smaller enclosure. Small plastic shoeboxes work very well for housing juvenile Brazilian rainbow boas. For adult Brazilians an enclosure measuring 48" x 18" x 16" will be sufficient. As rainbow boas are semi-arboreal, a vertically-oriented cage will allow your snake more room to climb & is something to consider if you have the space to accommodate this sort of setup. Remember that ALL enclosures must allow for a proper thermal gradient that the snake can utilize, with a hot spot on one end and a cooler spot on the other.
     
    Substrate    
    There are a few substrates that work well. Newspaper is the cheapest & easiest with regards to cleaning & disinfecting: out with the old, in with the new. The downside to newspaper for rainbow boas is that it does not hold humidity well and quickly deteriorates in moist conditions. Cypress mulch is great for controlling humidity, as are the various coconut-husk beddings available in the pet trade. Never use any substrate containing cedar, as this is deadly to reptiles!
     
    Temperatures & Heating    
    Provide your rainbow boa with a basking spot of 85F and an ambient (background) temperature of 75-80F. It is vitally important to KNOW the temperatures at which you are keeping your snake(s). DO NOT GUESS!! These snakes will neither tolerate wildly fluctuating temperatures, nor temperatures over 88 degrees for extended periods of time. A great way to monitor temps is to use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe. Stick the thermometer to the inside of the cage on the cool end and place the probe on the warm end, and you'll have both sides covered at once.
     

    There are several ways to go about heating the enclosure: undercage heating pads, and radiant heat panels seem to work very well for this temperature-specific creature. Ceramic heat emitters and basking bulbs (both regular daytime & red "night" bulbs) may also be used, but it will be necessary to really keep an eye on the humidity within the enclosure, as both will dry the air quickly. Use thermostats, rheostats and/or timers to control your heat source. Do not use hot rocks with snakes as they often heat unevenly over too small of a surface area & can cause serious burns.

     
    Humidity    
    Providing proper humidity for Brazilian rainbows is crucial. This is a species that seems to be much more resistant to "scale rot" and blister diseases caused by excessive humidity, but it is still important to maintain a clean enclosure to prevent any possible problems. First off, let's establish "humidity" as the amount of moisture in the air. To provide your snake with a humidity level of 70% you have a couple of options:


    1. Use cypress mulch or a similar substrate that can be misted & is mold-resistant. Cypress is good for this as it turns a tan color when dry & a rich brown when wet, giving a visual cue as to when it needs to be dampened again. Using a mixture of cypress mulch and sphagnum moss can also work well for retaining moisture .
     

    2. Make a "humidity box" for your snake. This consists of packing a plastic container with damp sphagnum moss (think well-wrung-out wash cloth to gauge moisture), cutting a hole in the top or side & placing it in your boa's enclosure so that it may access the box as it pleases.

    Keep in mind that if you have a screen top on the enclosure you will probably want to cover it most or all of the way with plastic, a towel or some other means of keeping moisture from escaping. This is also where having proper, reliable ambient temperatures (back to that thermometer!) is important, as warm air holds more moisture than cool air. You want the enclosure to be humid, not WET and soggy.

     
    Lighting    
    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.
     
    Water    
    Always make fresh, clean water available to your rainbow boa, as they have a tendency to drink copiously. The size of the water dish is up to you. If it is large enough for the boa to crawl into and soak, sooner or later your snake will make the most of the opportunity, and most seem to enjoy a nice soak from time to time. Ensure that the bowl is not too deep for juvenile animals - 1" or so will suffice. 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.
     
    Accessories    
    One cage accessory that is beneficial to your rainbow boa is a good hide box...maybe even a couple of them. These are sensitive snakes that appreciate & utilize a hide spot. Provide one on each end of your snake's enclosure so that it doesn't have to choose between temperature & security. Clay flowerpots, plastic flowerpot trays, and commercially available hide boxes all work quite well. Brazilian rainbow boas also seem to enjoy climbing. If your enclosure can accommodate a branch or two, your boa will most likely utilize them from time to time.
     
    Feeding    
    Feed your Brazilian rainbow boa an appropriately sized rodent weekly. By "appropriately sized" we mean prey items that are no bigger around than the snake at its largest point. Rainbow boas can eat rats from the time they are young - starting off with rat pinks or fuzzies for younger snakes & moving up in size as the animal grows. Do not handle your snake for at least a day after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation. Rainbows are generally pretty easy to convert to frozen/thawed or pre-killed rodents and have a great appetite and feeding response (see Snake Feeding caresheet). Never leave a live rodent unattended with ANY snake.
     
    Maintenance    
    Spot-clean 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 to dry before replacing cage furniture & your snake.

    Basic Reproductive Info
    Brazilian rainbows reach sexual maturity anywhere from 18 months to 3 years of age. Breeding size occurs at lengths of 3' for males and 5.5' for females. Breeding season in captivity typically ranges from November to March. Stop all feeding at this time. Animals should be well established and in excellent condition before any breeding is attempted. Breeding may be induced by reducing daytime photoperiod to from 12 -14 hours to 8 hours, dropping nighttime temperatures in the 68 - 72 F range, and daytime temperatures into the low 80's F. Introduce the female into the male's cage. Misting the animals with water may induce breeding activity. Use of multiple males in a breeding situation may prove beneficial to breeding success. Females typically shed within 30+ days of ovulation. After 115 - 135 days of gestation, female Brazilian rainbows may give birth to litters of 10 - 30+ live young. These snakes are bred extensively in captivity, with several breeders specializing in nothing but rainbow boas.

    Notes/Comments
    Brazilian rainbow boas can be quite a joy to experience, with a natural beauty & iridescence that has attracted a large following of dedicated keepers. CB specimens typically become docile individuals that are fun to care for and interact with. As these snakes are being bred more and more in captive situations their popularity has begun to grow. Rainbows make an excellent choice for the intermediate keeper looking for an attractive, alert, yet medium-sized serpent.

  2. The Following 9 Users Say Thank You to BP.net Admin For This Useful Post:

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