Rainbow Boa Care Sheet

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Care sheet for Rainbow Boas (Epicrates Cenchria)

Argentine rainbow boas (Epicrates Cenchria) are considered to be one of the more beautiful snakes in the world.  Not only do they display vibrant orange and red coloration, but they also produce an abundant amount of Rainbow iridescences. Microscopic ridges on their scales that refract light cause this phenomenon. Rainbow boas inhabit a large geographical range including South America and lower Central America. The rainbow boa group currently (as of 2008) consist of five subspecies:


Common Names

Brazilian, Peruvian, Espirito Santo  (E.C.Cenchria

Paraguayan, Central Highlands (E.C Crassus

 Colombian, Marajo Island (E.C Mauro’s)

Coating (E.C Assisi

Argentine (E.C Alexei)

However only two subspecies are imported regularly.  Brazilian rainbows (E.C. Cenchria), and Colombian rainbows (E.C. Maurus) are the most commonly kept rainbow boas. 

Rainbow Boa Availability

Rainbow Boas are readily available.  They can be found at Exotic Pet stores, and at any local reptile show.  Genetic Mutations (Morphs) are available as well, however they are very rare in collections and come bearing a large price tag. 

Rainbow Boa Size

Rainbow boas are born measuring about 8 to 12 inches. Adults reach an average length of 5 to 6 feet; Females tend to be slightly larger than males in both girth and length.   

Rainbow Boa Life Span

With the proper care, captive rainbow boas on average live 20+ years. There have even been recordings of females reproducing at the age of 24 years old. 

 Rainbow Boa Lighting and Temperature

The ideal temperatures for rainbow boas are a night time low of mid to low 70’s Fahrenheit and a day time high in the mid to high 80’s F. A thermal gradient is also recommended. This is easy to achieve by using under tank heat pads, and or overhead lighting such as heat lamps, or radiant heat panels. Subspecies such as Brazilian rainbow (E.C. Cenchria) are more sensitive to higher temperatures and should never be in prolonged temperatures over 90 F (unless being a gravid female). Colombian rainbow boas (E.C Maurus) tend to have a higher tolerance for both higher daytime temperatures, and lower night time temperatures, thus making this subspecies slightly easier to keep than the Brazilian. I strongly recommend using a thermostat to regulate proper temperatures. By using a thermostat you can ensure that your enclosure will never be too hot, or too cold, and has proven to be an important tool to create optimal breeding conditions.

The key to have your rainbow boa “glow” is light. A low wattage fluorescent light mounted overhead will provide a beautiful rainbow display to your snake. Rainbow boas are primarily nocturnal, so you will want to make sure your ambient lights turn off for a night cycle of 8-12 hours. Ambient lighting is also important for any live plants you might use to decorate your terrarium.

Rainbow Boa Substrate

The ideal substrate for rainbow boas is one that can withstand moisture without molding or breaking down. Some of these substrates include high grade cypress mulch, coconut products such as Zoo Med’s “Eco Earth,” and aquarium gravel.  Both sphagnum and green moss are a great way to visually enhance the look of your terrarium, while providing extra moisture and increasing humidity.  It is also important to provide some kind of hide for your rainbow boa. I like to use large pieces of cork flats, or domed wooden hide logs in my exhibits. 

Rainbow Boa Food 

Rainbow boas are generally voracious eaters. In the wild their diet consists of small mammals, rodents, birds, bats, and even small lizards including tegus (Tupinambis merianae).  A variation in their captive diet has not been proven to be necessary, and can suffice on an all-rodent diet.

Rainbow Boa Water

Proper humidity and available clean water is crucial for keeping a healthy rainbow boa.  Most rainbow boas thrive with humidity levels of 70 percent and higher, however Colombian rainbows (C.C.Maurus) are known to thrive in humidity levels as low as 50 percent.  Dehydration and overheating are the two most common causes of mortality in rainbow boas. Signs of dehydration include: incomplete sheds, wrinkly dry scales, and regurgitation. A water source big enough for your snake to soak in is very important, and should be changed frequently to avoid  dirty stagnant water.

Rainbow Boa Handling and Temperament

Rainbow boas are generally docile and can withstand regular handling, however neonates (babies) tend to be a little nippy for the first few months. This behavior is a natural instinct for survival, but after a few meals and some time to adjust to new surroundings they seem to tame down and become great companions.

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