The 3 Most Popular Pet Boas

Of all the snake species commonly kept as pets, boas are one of the most reputable among hobbyists. These constrictor snakes can attain considerable sizes and are very well-known for being interactive pet snakes.

In this article, we will list our most popular pet boas and touch upon what makes each species unique and special.

Most Popular Pet Boas

Boa Constrictor (Boa c. imperator & Boa c.constrictor)

For the purposes of this list, we have lumped together two very closely related species of boas into a single category since they have exactly the same care requirements and are very similar in appearance as well. If you wish to know all the differences between these two boa constrictor species, we did devote an entire blog article to it that you can find here.

Herp enthusiasts know that when people think of a boa constrictor snake, these two species are the animal they picture. In other words, these boas are what we would think of as a “classic” boa.

most popular pet boas
This is a Central American Boa Constrictor (Boa c. constrictor).

Boa constrictors have been captive bred for many generations. This means that they are very healthy animals free of parasites, are fairly used to human handling, and also come in a variety of color morphs. All of these factors play into this snake’s popularity within the world of pet reptiles.

A typical boa constrictor will grow to be anywhere from five to seven feet long. Females are generally larger than males. You can expect your pet boa to live anywhere from twenty to thirty years, although there have been recorded cases of boas living to beyond forty years old!

It’s common to keep a boa constrictor in a glass tank with a screen top lid. Be sure that the cage is appropriately-sized for the animal. Young snakes do not require a large enclosure, but full-grown animals should have homes that are at least four feet long and two feet wide.

Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria)

The Brazilian rainbow boa is very aptly named. It has often times been dubbed “the most beautiful snake in the world” due to its unique color scheme. These boas tend to be a rusty orange or red color with dark black accent rings and spots. But what really turns heads and gives this snake so many admirers is its iridescent, rainbow sheen. Brazilian rainbow boas are just gorgeous to look at, especially if you take one outside and allow the sun to reflect off its scales.

brazilian rainbow boa
Notice the iridescent sheen on the scales of this baby Brazilian rainbow boa.

Brazilian rainbow boas are moderately-sized animals. Babies start out around  eight to twelve inches long. Adult snakes will grow to be anywhere between five and six feet long. Females tend to be larger than males. You can expect your pet Brazilian rainbow boa to live between ten and twenty years.

Rainbow boas are primarily nocturnal animals, so it’s important to provide a day/night cycle. And in order to get your boa’s iridescence to really shine through, we recommend placing a low-wattage incandescent light on one side of the cage. This will really bring out the shine in its scales.

Kenyan Sand Boa (Eryx c. loveridgei

Kenyan sand boas are the smallest of the boa species on this list. They will only attain lengths of approximately two feet at most. As is the case with most boa species, the females tend to be larger than the males, who rarely surpass twenty inches in length.

This species of boa is a burrower and is known for being shy and secretive. However, we’d like to mention that although they prefer to hide, they are overall a very docile species that takes well to human interaction.

kenyan sand boa
This is a standard morph Kenyan sand boa, but these snakes are available in a multitude of different color morphs, including black and white.

When considering a Kenyan sand boa as a pet, you need to think long term. Although this is a fairly small species with minimal care requirements, they do live for a very long time. With proper care and husbandry, a typical sand boa will live for around twenty years, although there have been reports of snakes living well into their thirties!

Conclusion – Most Popular Pet Boas

Any of the three species of boas listed in this article would make a great addition to any snake fan’s collection. They are all very interactive snakes with generally good dispositions. We would recommend them for both beginners and experienced herpers alike.

If you are interested in a pet boa constrictor, Brazilian rainbow boa, or Kenyan sand boa, Backwater Reptiles has got you covered! We hope you are more informed about the most popular pet boas in the world, and feel confident making a decision upon which species is  right for you.

 

Snakes for Kids

Are you thinking of getting your child a pet snake? Are you unsure which species would do well with children? Well, look no further – this article was created specifically to list the top four species of pet snakes for kids.

1. Ball Python (Python regius)

Ball pythons are at the top of our list for a few reasons, but mainly because they have been captive bred for many generations and are essentially the most popular pet snakes on the market. Captive breeding produces snakes that are not only healthier and more beautiful, but far more docile as well. In fact, captive bred ball pythons rarely bite or strike.

Pet snake for kids
Ball pythons are readily available pet snakes with a long history of healthy captive breeding. We highly recommend them for kids.

Hatchling ball pythons are about 10 inches long and will mature into snakes that can be up to five feet long, although most will average three feet long. If properly cared for, your ball python can live up to 30 years.

In general, ball pythons are somewhat thick snakes with hefty bodies, despite their relatively small size. We think this is great for kids because children can  move quickly around them and the snake will not get upset. In fact, unless they are preparing to strike at feeding time, your  ball python’s movements should be slow and calculated.

2. Corn Snake (Elaphe g. guttata)

Like ball pythons, corn snakes are readily available at pet stores and through breeders. They have been bred long enough in captivity to be extremely healthy and hardy snakes that are born to be many different colors or morphs. If your child wants a purple, red, or even black and white snake, there’s a morph out there that will make him or her happy.

albino corn snake hatchling
This is an albino corn snake hatchling. This snake can grow to be five to six feet long if properly cared for.

Corn snakes are medium-sized snakes and will require a medium-sized enclosure once they are grown. They are small enough as hatchlings to be kept in a home as small as a shoe box, but once they do grow up, they are still a size that a child could handle them without being intimidated.

If you want to educate your child about reptile breeding, corn snakes can give great lessons on genealogy as well as reproductive habits of reptiles. They procreate easily in captivity and also make excellent classroom pets.

3. King Snake (Lampropeltis g. californiae)

King snakes are very common throughout the U.S. in the wild. However, because these snakes have been bred successfully in captivity for so long, we recommend purchasing one through a breeder since it will be healthier and friendlier.

Like corn snakes and ball pythons, king snakes are available in a seemingly endless number of morphs or color variations. Their patterns will vary greatly and you can obtain a snake with patterns and colors as common or rare as you’d like.

Normal CA king snake
This is a “normal” morph California king snake. It has not been bred to express any special coloring or patterns.

King snakes can grow rather large, although it will take many years for them to reach their full potential. Hatchlings will be eight to twelve inches long and adults can reach more than six feet in length, although three to four feet is a far more common size. A king snake’s lifespan can surpass twenty years!

Mature king snakes should be kept in a 20 gallon enclosure (at the least), but babies are perfectly content in a shoe box. Whatever type of home you provide your king snake, we highly recommend that it has a secure lid since king snakes can be escape artists.

4. Kenyan Sand Boa (Eryx c. loveridgei)

Kenyan San Boas are also known as East African Sand Boas, but both names refer to the same animal. These snakes are very round with heavy bodies and relatively small heads. They have extremely smooth scales and are slow-moving, which we think makes them wonderful snakes for children to handle.

In addition to being available in many morphs like all the other snakes on our list, Kenyan sand boas are small snakes with simple care requirements. Even the largest sand boa will not usually surpass two feet in length and their cage need not be larger than a ten gallon tank.

Kenyan sand boa
Kenyan sand boas are small snakes with simple care requirements.

You can also keep Kenyan sand boas communally, so long as two males are not housed in the same enclosure. In other words, two female boas cohabitating is fine, and a male and female boa will also do fine together.

5. Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter snakes are great for kids because they’re harmless, a very manageable size, slow, and easy to keep and feed. Growing up a child in the Midwest, I used to catch “Garters” in the woods and on prairies with my good friend. The best place to find them was under a rotting log, tire, or plywood.

They usually only reach 24″-36″ or thereabouts, although once in a while they’re a little bigger. Garter snakes probably have the largest distribution of any snake in the United States, and are found in every single state except Alaska and Hawaii.

garter snake for kids
Garter snakes are a perennial favorite snake for children.

This species can comfortably be kept in a 10 or 20-gallon tank with a water dish, hide spot, and heat pad (although some believe heat is optional). They can have long lifespans.

These snakes are carnivores but can be fed crickets, nightcrawlers, slugs, amphibians, minnows, and baby mice (called “pinkies”).

One piece of trivia is that many people think these snakes are called “Gardner” snakes, but that’s incorrect. The correct word is “Garter.”

Snakes for kids – Conclusion

Each of the snakes on this list has very simple care requirements. All you really need to keep any of these species happy is a modest-sized enclosure, a simple heat source, and a water dish. Other cage accessories are optional.

We also feel that each of these snake species has a good history of captive breeding which makes them all healthy, tamer snake species overall. Over many years, we’ve also found that the above listed species are very hesitant to strike (if ever), which is another reason we consider them the absolute best pet snakes for kids.

If you’re interested in purchasing a snake for a child, we’ve got all of the above species listed on our snakes landing page.

Central American Boas (Boa c. constrictor) Versus Colombian Redtail Boas (Boa c. imperator)

Here we aim to explain the differences between Central American boas, and their Columbian Redtail boa cousins. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to identifying species of boa constrictors and the truth is it’s because these snakes look very much the same! They have similar markings, temperaments, and even body shapes making it tough to identify exactly which species or subspecies you’re dealing with.

Colombian Red Tail vs Central American Boa

The two most common species of boa constrictors kept as pets are the Central American Boa (Boa c. constrictor), also known as the “Common Boa,” and the Colombian Red Tail Boa (Boa c. imperator). Often times herp hobbyists will abbreviate these animals to B.C.C. (Boa c. constrictor/Common boa) and B.C.I. (Boa constrictor imperator/Colombian Red Tail Boa). For brevity’s sake, we will also adopt those terms for the remainder of this article.

columbian-redtail-boa
Central American Boa – B.c.c. or Common Boa.

Because these two snake species can look so similar physically, let’s start off by noting some of the differences you can actually see when you examine the  snakes. In general, B.C.I.s are heavier-bodied animals than the B.C.C.s and they will possess very red-colored tail spots (hence their name) with distinctly darker outlines. These tail spots can range from a bright red to a brick/ochre red, but they will definitely be red and not brown like the B.C.C.’s tail. B.C.I.s will also be lighter in overall complexion than the B.C.C.s.

columbian boa
Colombian Red Tailed Boa or B.c.i. boa.

The main differences of these animals however, comes from their place of origin in the wild. Because there is much debate and discussion over which specific regions in which specific countries each species of snake originates from, we’ll keep it simple and say that B.C.C.s are more readily found in the wild with a wider home range and are therefore less expensive than B.C.I.s. It’s best to find out from your supplier/breeder which country or area your snake or it’s ancestors came from as they tend to keep records of this information to maintain purity of genetics.

central american boa
Central American Boa or B. constrictor constrictor. Notice it’s rather dark complexion.

Backwater Reptiles offers Boa c. imperator for sale as well as Boa c. constrictor for sale. We also offer “Jungle Boas” for sale on our website, which are a specific species of B.C.I. with ancestors that were aberrant-patterned boas first produced in Sweden.

columbian boa eating
Red Tail Boa or B. constrictor imperator eating a fuzzy.

 

Backwater Reptiles Q&A Session

We recently gave our customers and fans the opportunity to ask us anything about reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates via our Facebook page. The results are in and now we are answering the top two questions.

reptile faq

Question One from R. Lorenz

“About what age do bearded dragons reach sexual maturity? I have two, a four year old male and a 6 month old – who up until last week was by all external signs a female. Very submissive, waving and bobbing and baring the throat, then all of a sudden it started displaying a black beard and the glands on its pelvis are just now starting to show (barely pin points that weren’t there before). The only time any aggression is shown to the adult beardie (who is not aggressive towards the baby at all other than defending himself) is in their mutual basking spot. Anywhere else in the house and the baby is still submissive. They have been together outside the cage (under supervision) and sleeping together since the baby was about 3 months. This just took us by surprise. I have heard of them morphing from one sex to the other, can that really happen?”

Question One Answer

In all of our combined experience at Backwater Reptiles, not a one of us has ever witnessed a Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) swapping gender. However, just because we haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

In fact, studies like this one discussed in National Geographic show that gender of Beardies can be swapped based upon temperature…however, this phenomenon only occurred while the lizards were still in their eggs.

Bearded dragons generally reach sexual maturity by eight to twelve months of age. This is the point at which their genders can truly be distinguished. Breeders can use certain tricks to help distinguish between the sexes prior to the sexual maturity mark, but it is not always a guarantee that you will end up with the gender you had in mind if you purchase a lizard prior to the sexual maturity mark.

If the aggression between your male Beardies continues to worsen, sadly, you will have to separate them. You can always try offering a larger enclosure for the two lizards with two separate basking areas first though if you still want to try to keep them housed together.

Question two from M. Zimmerman

“Don’t get me wrong, my Columbian Rainbow Boa, Ssssasha is a very healthy snake. But would it harm my snake if I was to feed it thawed mice with a sprinkle of vitamin/calcium powder? Also would that make her grow quicker and better? Or is it best to just feed her regular thawed mice?”

Question Two Answer

Professional snake breeders and most hobbyists don’t consider it necessary to dust their feeders, whether the snake is eating mice, rats, or even larger mammals like rabbits.

It’s not likely going to harm Ssssasha if you feed her dusted mice, however it’s also unlikely that she will grow any faster.

reptile frequently asked questions
Columbian rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria)

Snakes get all the nutrition they need from the critters they eat and if you are feeding your Rainbow boa rodents, she should be getting all the proper vitamins and minerals she needs naturally.

Probably more important to Sssssasha’s growth rate and overall health is the amount that she is eating and the frequency that she is offered mice. Most snakes will eat twice a week when they are juveniles and as they mature, they can be fed once per week or even every other week depending on the species. The bottom line is that the more you feed your snake (and this is true of any species not just Columbian rainbow boas), the quicker it will grow.

green anaconda eating
One of our juvenile Green Anacondas (Eunectes murinus) eating a fuzzy.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question to be answered. We’ll post another question and answer session in the future.

How to Keep Your Kenyan Sand Boa Healthy

The Backwater Reptiles staff are all huge fans of Kenyan Sand Boas (Eryx c. loveridgei) mainly because these snakes are so even-tempered, moderately-sized, and low maintenance.

kenyan sand boa care

Hobbyists have produced many interesting color varieties and morphs of Kenyan sand boas, similar to how many morphs of other popular snakes like reticulated pythons, corn snakes, and king snakes have been bred. This is why keeping Kenyan sand boas is a lot like eating potato chips – you can’t have just one! We bet you’ll end up with a breeding pair and beautiful offspring. It’s a good idea to know the gender of the snake you are receiving as Kenyan sand boas can be housed communally male-female and female-female, but it’s not advised to keep multiple males in a single cage.

When you receive your first Kenyan sand boa, you’ll want to make sure its enclosure is set up properly and that it receives everything it needs to stay healthy and live out its 20+ year lifespan.

The best type of enclosure is a ten-gallon glass aquarium as even the largest sand boas don’t usually need a home larger than this (they don’t tend to grow larger than 20 inches in length). A heating pad on the bottom of the tank is a good idea as these boas burrow. The hot side of their enclosure should be around 95 degrees during the day with the cool side staying around 80 degrees. This can generally be achieved by using an incandescent bulb set up. Temperatures dropping to the 70 degree range is acceptable at night time.

eryx loveridgei

 

Because Kenyan sand boas are known for burrowing, they will require a substrate that supports this habit, whether that be reptile sand, newspaper shavings, or aspen snake bedding. Minimal cage decor is necessary as these boas spend a lot of time hiding in their substrate. No heavy items are advised to be kept in the tank as the snakes can accidentally injure themselves by burrowing underneath.

eryx loveridgei care

 

Feeding a Kenyan sand boa is pretty straight forward. They strongly prefer pinkie mice and will generally constrict their prey even if it is offered to them already dead (i.e. frozen/thawed mice). As with most snakes, it’s a good idea to transfer your sand boa to a separate enclosure for feeding as it ensures communally housed snakes don’t battle one another for food. It also encourages your snake to not strike when being taken out of the cage because it trains it to recognize feeding occurs in a separate location.

kenyan sand boa

 

We hope you found this information on Kenyan sand boas helpful. If you’re interested in acquiring one of these beautiful snakes, we offer Kenyan sand boas for sale.