The Rosy Boa (Is It The Right Snake For You?)

By Snaketracks / August 20, 2019
Rosy Boa

The rosy boa is one of the more popular snake species available on the market. Not only is this species gorgeous, but they are also docile and low maintenance.

Additionally, they do not grow large and as such do not need a large vivarium. Other pros to this boa include their calm demeanor and beautiful colorful patterns. However, they do live long. Careful consideration needs to go into the purchase of this magnificent snake.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Boidae
  • Scientific Name: Charina trivirgata / Lichanura trivirgata
  • Risk Factor: Nonvenomous, constrictor
  • Average Adult Size: 1.4 to 3.6 feet (0.44 to 1.12 m)
  • Lifespan: 15 to 30 years
  • Litter Size: 3 to 8 younglings
  • Gestation Period: 103 to 143 days
  • Food: Frozen mice & rats
  • Average Temperature: 85°H/73°L
  • Humidity: 30 – 50%
  • UVB Lighting: Optional
  • Average Price Range: $75 to $400
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern on IUCN Red List

Facts and Information

Mexican rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata trivirgata)
Mexican Rosy Boa

The binomial name of this snake is Charina trivirgata or Lichanura trivirgata. The species belongs to the genus Charina and the family Boidae. Rosy boas are endemic to the Americas specifically Sonora in Mexico, the Baja California and the Southwestern United States (which stretches from the Mojave Desert in California to Carlsbad, New Mexico and from southern Colorado, Utah, and Nevada to the Mexico–United States border).

There are several subspecies of the Charina trivirgata, including the Arizona rosy boa, the desert rosy boa, the coastal rosy boa, the Baja rosy boa, and the Mexican rosy boa. Each subspecies has distinct patterns and colors.

In general, the Charina trivirgata is a small snake with an adult length of 17 to 44 inches (43 to 112 cm). They are heavy-bodied with smooth scales. The coloration of specimens varies and usually depends on the locale where the boa originates from.

Rosy Boa Habitat

The rosy boas are desert reptiles and can be found in arid landscapes such as dry shrublands, near-desert areas, and deserts. They also like to live near free water such as desert streams. They are terrestrial and do not climb.  

Enclosure

It is best to house the rosy boa in a vivarium designed for reptiles. It is important that terrarium is well-aerated and have a secure lid. The secure lid ensures that the snake can’t escape. Since they are not arboreal, a short terrarium with a volume of 10 to 15 gallons best suit this species. It is important that you don’t house a snake in an aquarium since aquariums have poor ventilation.

For juveniles, a small terrarium such as the Exo Terra Glass Reptile Terrarium which measures 12 x 12 x 12 inches is most suitable. As the snake matures and grows in size, you have to move it to a larger terrarium.

A vivarium that measures 24 x 18 x 12 inches such as the Exo Terra Terrarium is an excellent choice. It is a short terrarium with more than enough space of the snake, a steel mesh cover to promote good ventilation and secure dual front panel openings.

You can decorate the terrarium with cork barks, fake plants such as the SLSON Reptile Plants, fake rocks, and other features usually found in reptile terrariums. Regardless of the items you choose to decorate the enclosure with, you must have several hide boxes in the enclosure.  

The snake needs at least 3 hide boxes – one at the warm end of the enclosure, another at the cool end and finally one in the middle (which also acts as a moisture/humidity box). The humidity box helps the snake shed. Two perfect hide boxes for the rosy boa are the Pangea reptile hide box and the Zoo Med Reptile Shelter.

Substrate

Because the rosy boa prefers low humidity, almost all types of substrates can be used as bedding for the enclosure. The bedding doesn’t have to be good at regulating or improving humidity.

Of course, it is important that the substrate isn’t harmful to the snake. Substrates such as rocks, gravels, and sand should be avoided as these are abrasive. Cedar and pine shavings, of any kind, should also be avoided as they are toxic to snakes.

Simple substrate choices include newspapers, paper towels, paper tissues. These materials can be used with no problem. You can also use reptile carpet. These are more aesthetically pleasing than normal paper. These are designed for reptile enclosures and are easy to clean.

A great example is the Zoo Med Eco Cage Carpet. Another substrate I recommend is Aspen Snake Bedding. This is easy to clean and a popular choice among many snake keepers. If possible, ensure the bedding is about an inch to two inches deep. This allows the snake to burrow.

Clean the enclosure twice a week. This involves removing any excrement and waste. The entire substrate should be changed every two months if possible.

You can use a bleach solution to clean reptile carpets every two months. Similarly, the entire enclosure can be cleaned using a bleach solution every 6 to 12 months. Ensure the enter enclosure is rinsed and dried properly before moving the snake back into it.

Temperature

Maintaining a temperature gradient is necessary when it comes to safely housing snakes. This ensures that the terrarium can offer a wide range of temperatures. Snakes need this gradient in order to regulate their body temperature. Do this by ensuring one end/corner of the enclosure is warm and the other end is cool.

While the ambient temperature of the enclosure needs to be around 78 F, the temperature at the warm end needs to be 88 to 90 F. The cool end of the enclosure needs to be 70 F the best way to warm the enclosure of a ground-dwelling boa is by using a reptile heat pad such as the Fluker’s Heat Mat.

Tape the heat pad to the underside of the terrarium. The heat pad should cover just a one-third of the terrarium. Use a heat mat thermostat controller to regulate the heat produced.

Humidity

Since the rosy boa’s natural habitat includes arid areas as such members of this species do not require high relative humidity to be comfortable. An ambient humidity level of about 30 percent is best for the boa. With this in mind, there is no need to mist the enclosure. However, it is important to have a humidity hide box which aids the snake to shed properly.

The water in a water bowl in an enclosure contributes significantly to humidity levels. If you have a large water bowl placed at the warm end of the terrarium, the water evaporates easily and significantly increase humidity levels. Ensure that the water bowl used is small but heavy (so the boa is unable to knock it over).

Lighting

The rosy boa doesn’t require special lighting. However, it is important that the source of light provided maintains a day-night cycle so as to support the snake’s circadian rhythm. Access to sunlight is preferable as long as the terrarium is not close to a window that has direct access to sunlight.

This is to prevent the terrarium from overheating. If there is no access to sunlight, the light in the room that contains the terrarium can be used to regulate the circadian rhythm. Turn the lights on for 12 continual hours, and off for 12 continual hours so as to mimic the passing of each day.

Feeding the Rosy Boa

Baja Rosy Boa (Lichanura Trivirgata Myriolepis)
Baja Rosy Boa (Lichanura Trivirgata Myriolepis)

Wild rosy boas feed on small mammals, lizards, rodents, bats, nesting birds, and other snakes. Small mammals such as baby rabbits, wood rats, kangaroo rats, and deer mice made up the largest portion of their meal. Similarly, captive-bred rosy boas should be fed small mammals such as rats and mice.

It is better to feed them frozen mice and rats as compared to live mice and rats as frozen prey are easier to store and cannot harm the snake. Young snakes need to be fed small prey, and mature snakes need to be fed large prey. The following schedule acts as a guide when feeding the snake.

  • Feed a youngling, below the age of 2, one pinky mouse every 3 days.
  • Feed a 2-year old juvenile two pinky mice or a fuzzy mouse every 4 days.
  • Feed a young adult, between the ages of 2 and 4, two large fuzzy or pinky rats every 5 days.
  • Feed an adult, between the ages of 4 and 7, two fuzzy mice every 5 days.
  • Feed an adult, above 7 years, two rats or three large adult mice weekly.

It is crucial to have a feeding schedule you follow as a strict feeding schedule makes it easy to detect any changes in eating habits.

When snakes are shedding or the temperatures drop (in winter), the snake may refuse to eat. As such, it is also important to track the shedding habits of the snake so you don’t worry about uneaten mice.

Remove the water bowl a day before feeding the snake and only return it a day after the snake has been fed. This prevents the snake from regurgitating the meal.

Avoid holding, and handling the snake for 2 days after it has eaten. Lastly, while it is best to feed adults large mice or rats, some adults prefer pinky mice. If that is the case, feed the adult several pinky mice instead of rats.

Rosy Boa’s Temperament

Coastal Rosy Boa (Lichanura Trivirgata Roseofusca)
Coastal Rosy Boa
(Lichanura Trivirgata Roseofusca)

The species is known for their docile nature, elegant appearance and small size. These characteristics have made them a favorite among snake lovers all over the world.

Their docile nature means that they are easy to handle. Regardless, it is best to follow the guidelines provided for a stress-free handling experience for both the human and the snake. Nudge the snake with an inanimate object before picking it up. 

That way it knows it isn’t feeding time. Ensure you wash your hand properly before picking the reptile up. Washing your hand gets rid of any lingering food scent. Handle the snake gently and hold it with both hands. It is also important not to handle the snake when it is shedding, have just eaten (in the last 48 hours), appears stressed, or is new to the enclosure.

Rosy Boa’s Lifespan

While the maximum and average lifespan in the wild is not known, captive specimens generally live from 18 to 22 years. The maximum lifespan of captive specimens is over 30 years. The typical lifespan status in captivity is 15 to 30 years.

Breeding Rosy Boas

Albino Rosy Boa
Albino Rosy Boa

Breeding rosy boas is an extensive topic that can’t be covered in a few paragraphs, however, we will try to cover the basics. Although not as popular as ball pythons or corn snakes, the rosy boa is still a popular snake.

This means that it has been bred successfully and frequently. The species are viviparous and as such gravid females incubate the eggs within their body and produce live babies. They give birth from August to November and produce a litter of 1 to 14 young although the average is 3 to 8.

Both sexes reach maturity at 2 to 3 years, but at different lengths. Females reach maturity when they reach a length of about 60 cm while males each maturity when they attain a length of 43 to 58 cm.

In order for the rosy boa to breed successfully, they need to brumate for about 2 months. In the wild, brumation occurs during the winter when the temperature drops and food is scarce.

The snakes cease to eat and enter a dormant state. You need to mimic this in their enclosure. The temperature of the enclosure needs to drop to about 55 to 65 F, and the enclosure needs to be quiet and dark.

After brumation, the enclosure needs to be warmed back up and the male and female need to be introduced to one another so as to mate.

Gestation takes between 120 to 140 days. After which, the female gives birth.

Even without morphs, the subspecies are of different distinct colors. Common subspecies include Arizona Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata arizonae) which has brown or black stripes, Coastal Rosy Boa (L. t. roseofusca) which has irregular red stripes, Mexican Rosy Boa (L. t. trivirgata) which are brightly colored and smallest in size, and the Desert Rosy Boa (L. t. gracia) which has vivid orange or red stripes and are largest in size.

Health Issues

San Ignacio Rosy Boa
San Ignacio Rosy Boa

Although rosy boas are hardy snakes that need little care, they can still suffer from health complications like any other animal. It is important that you stick to a strict feeding schedule, keep humidity levels low, and spot clean fastidiously. Here are some common health issues to keep in mind.

  • Obesity is a major health issue since rosy boas hardly turn down a meal. The threat of obesity makes it extra important to follow a strict feeding schedule so as to not overfeed the snake. With this species, obesity is more often a problem that lack of appetite is.
  • Improper digestion can be a problem if the temperature is too low or the snake drinks too much water. This can lead to the snake throwing up its meal. Ensure there is no water available within a day of feeding and up to a day after feeding. Also, don’t handle the snake after feeding.
  • High humidity levels can lead to respiratory problems. If you notice that the snake has difficulties when breathing, reduce the humidity levels and see a herp vet.

Pricing and Availability

Some excellent sites from which to acquire the rosy boa from include Underground Reptiles, Snakes at Sunset, Backwater Reptiles, and Morph Market.

As with many other popular snakes, the availability and price of specimens are down to the morph desired. While plain rosy boas can cost as low as $70, rarer morphs can go for prices as high as $500. They are quite readily available and can easily be found at most reptile conventions.

Conservation/Threats

According to the Bureau of Land Management in the State of California, the species is considered to have a sensitive status. However, the IUCN Redlist has listed the species as of least concern. Regardless of the pet trade, the wild population is considered stable as stated by the California Dept. of Fish & Game.

Conclusion

Apart from the manageable size and attractive coloration, the rosy boa is a docile and hardy boa which require very little attention to thrive. This makes them an excellent pet for beginners. As with most snakes, this boa is long-lived and as such requires dedication and long term commitment. If you have any information or questions on the rosy boa, we would love to hear them. Kindly leave a comment.

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