Brazilian Rainbow Boa 101: Care, Habitat & Diet for Beginners

Brazilian Rainbow Boas (BRBs) have been popular pets for many years, thanks to their striking red coloration and beautiful rainbow iridescence.

Unfortunately, many BRBs suffer as a result of their popularity because buyers oftentimes have no idea of the species’ specific care requirements and often end up making their new pet sick…or worse.

While they’re considered an intermediate-level species in terms of care requirements, even people who have never cared for a pet snake (opens in new tab) in their life are capable of providing the proper husbandry for this species – as long as they do the appropriate research!

The good news is that you’re already here and on the right path to learning how to provide the best care for your new, or upcoming, pet Brazilian Rainbow Boa!

If you are looking to purchase a reptile pet that is strong and healthy, instead of sickly and malnourished - you should never purchase a reptile from a pet store. Find out the three reasons why here.

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Species Overview

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Overview
Did you know? Brazilian Rainbow Boas are also part of the larger family of constrictor snakes, meaning that they dispatch their prey by wrapping around them with their long bodies and squeezing them.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas (Epicrates cenchria cenchria) is one of five subspecies of Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria), a moderately-sized boa native to the jungles of Central and South America.

They’re also known as the slender boa since they’re much thinner than their Boa constrictor cousins.

Even though it’s often found cruising bushes and branches several feet off the ground, this species is considered terrestrial meaning they spend most of their time in the wild on the ground.

Like most other boa species, Brazilian Rainbow Boas give live birth to litters of 12 to 24 fully-formed babies.

Size & Weight

Pair of Brazilian Rainbow Boas
A pair of Brazilian Rainbow Boas

Adult Brazilian Rainbow Boas usually reach a length of 4 to 6 feet and weigh 2 to 5 pounds. In terms of gender differences, huge females may reach 7 feet and 9 pounds!

In contrast, newborn Brazilian Rainbow Boas are 14 to 18 inches long and weigh a mere 15 to 30 grams. 

Lifespan

Coiled Brazilian Rainbow Boa
Poor husbandry practices and obesity are the leading causes of early deaths in Brazilian Rainbow Boas, so keep those things in mind as you keep reading and discover how to provide the proper temperature, humidity, and feeding schedule.

Like most other snakes, Brazilian Rainbow Boas have an impressive life expectancy.

In fact, healthy and well-cared-for boas can be expected to live for over 25 years.

There are even reports of captive Brazilian Rainbow Boas living half a decade!

Quick Facts at a Glance:
Common name Brazilian Rainbow Boa
Scientific name Epicrates cenchria
Adult size 4-6 feet
Price $200
Lifespan 25 years
Diet Mice & other rodents
Tank Size 4’ x 2’ x 2’ at minimum
Temperature & Humidity Warm side: 80-85°F & Cool side: 78-80°F, Humidity: 75-100%
Popular alternatives Corn snake, Mexican Black Kingsnake

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care Sheet

Wild Brazilian Rainbow Boa
Normal Brazilian Rainbow Boas typically cost at least $200 or more including shipping if you can’t find one locally. After you factor in an enclosure, heating equipment, a thermostat, at least two thermometers, and an accurate hygrometer, it would be difficult to set up a suitable adult enclosure for less than $300.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are usually considered an “intermediate” species to care for because…

  • A substantial enclosure
  • Specific temperatures and humidity

Still, as long as you do your research ahead of time  before bringing your boa home, this species isn’t impossible for even beginner snake keepers that have their heart set on them.

In fact, one of your first tasks SHOULD be setting up their enclosure prior to adoption.

Most experienced keepers state that, once babies are established, they’re one of the hardiest captive species, and they rarely refuse a meal.

Neonate rainbow boas are notoriously finicky eaters, nippy, and require constant humidity over 90%.

If you’re just getting started with snakes and pick a BRB as your first species, you’ll probably have much more luck with an adult animal compared to a neonate (newborn snake).

After you gain a solid understanding of their care requirements, another critical aspect to consider is the overall cost of ownership.

Enclosure Size & Dimensions

Captive Brazilian Rainbow Boa
The more space you have, the better temperature and humidity gradients you can provide, and the more enrichment materials you can fit into the habitat.

Smaller neonates and juveniles can be temporarily housed in smaller enclosures, but be prepared to provide your adult BRB with at least a 4’ x 2’ x 2’ enclosure.

Adult animals will make full use of their enclosure’s floor space and height, so if you have the resources to go even bigger, that’s better!

Habitat & Enclosure Setup

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Close Up
While Brazilian Rainbow Boas are considered primarily terrestrial (meaning they’re more apt to stay on the ground), they will also utilize climbing opportunities in the enclosure. In fact, many wild boas are found cruising on fallen branches 2 to 3’ off the ground.

One of the most important aspects of Brazilian Rainbow Boa care is their need for high humidity.

Screen-topped glass aquariums are a poor choice because the screen lid allows moisture to evaporate too quickly, and glass is a poor insulator of heat and humidity.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are also a shy species. If you reach in from the top of the enclosure, they will likely see you as a predator.

To avoid these complications, the editorial team at Reptile Guide suggests instead using a front-opening PVC or sealed wooden enclosures.

Reaching in from your snake’s “ground level” makes you seem less intimidating, and both PVC and sealed wood are excellent at holding humidity and insulating warmth.

You can recreate a BRB’s natural environment using any of the following:

  • Real branches
  • Driftwood
  • Ropes
  • Fake vines
  • PVC pipes

This species is also notorious for burrowing.

Your pet would certainly appreciate a fine, humidity-friendly, diggable substrate, such as any of the following:

  • Coconut coir
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Snake-friendly topsoil mixtures

Cork tubes or rounds make for perfect, naturalistic hides, or you can craft one by cutting a hole in a dark-colored plastic box and filing down any sharp edges.

Your Brazilian Rainbow Boa will appreciate at least two hides: one on the cool end of the enclosure and one on the warm end of the enclosure.

You may also choose to provide a third hide that’s filled with damp sphagnum moss. This will create a microclimate with almost 100% humidity, which is especially helpful for very young snakes and snakes that are preparing to shed.

Temperature & Lighting

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Temperature Chart
Whether or not you choose to offer a UVB light or heated lighting, “colored” heat bulbs, like red light or blue light bulbs, are strongly discouraged. If left on at night, they will interfere with your animal’s day/night cycle and may even harm their vision.

Like all ectothermic animals, Brazilian Rainbow Boas are the healthiest and happiest when they’re provided with a temperature gradient.

One side of the enclosure should be heated, which will keep that side warm and allow the temperature to gradually drop to it’s coolest on the other side of the enclosure.

This will allow your Brazilian Rainbow Boa to regulate its own body temperature instinctively.

Temperature & Lighting Summary
Lighting Schedule: 12 Hours On/12 Hours Off
Ideal Warm Side Ambient Temperature: 80°F-85°F
Ideal Basking Spot Temperature: 85°F
Idea Cool Side Ambient Temperature: 78°F-80°F

Lighting for nocturnal snakes, like Brazilian Rainbow Boas, is a frequent debate amongst snake keepers.

While it’s certainly not necessary, several studies have proven that captive snakes provided with UVB lighting had higher levels of Vitamin D3 in their bloodwork.

The fact of the matter is that all wild animals would be exposed to some level of natural sunlight, and they would be able to choose how much exposure they receive.

If you choose to utilize UVB lighting for your Brazilian Rainbow Boa, be sure to use a bulb with a low UV-index, and provide plenty of opportunities to hide and get away from the light. Keep the light mounted at least 12″ from the snake.

Many nocturnal species engage in a behavior known as cryptic basking, where they hide most of their body while exposing maybe a few inches of their body to absorb the sun’s rays.

Humidity

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Humidity Requirements

Humidity is one of the most crucial aspects of proper Brazilian Rainbow Care.

This species frequents Brazil’s wet jungle floors, and they will quickly become dehydrated in a low humidity environment.

Humidity Summary
Ideal Adult Humidity: 75% or more
Ideal Neonate Humidity: 90-100%

If you’re using an insulating enclosure with a humidity-friendly substrate and still have difficulty maintaining these levels, try introducing live plants.

Not only do they help to increase the humidity, but live plants also offer your snake enrichment with new textures and smells and provide additional areas to hide and feel secure.

A terrarium misting system is another option.

Despite the need for high humidity, adequate ventilation is still mandatory. Warm, stagnant, humid air fosters the growth of bacteria and fungi – not good!

Instead, utilize adequate ventilation and take advantage of other methods for keeping the humidity level up. It might be more work, but your snake’s health is worth it.

Water

In the wild, Brazilian Rainbow Boas have consistent access to large water bodies, where they can fully submerge their bodies and even swim.

Reptile Guide recommends providing a water dish inside the enclosure that’s large enough for your snake to soak its entire body.

Remember to place the dish on the cool side of their enclosure because water will evaporate and raise the habitat’s humidity level if the dish is kept under a heat source!

Food & Diet

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Eating Mouse
With any snake, it’s always better to feed pre-killed or frozen & thawed prey, as opposed to live. You see, live mice and rats are capable of inflicting severe bites and scratches to your pet snake, even if you’re monitoring the situation.

Neonate Brazilian Rainbow Boas will eat baby fuzzy mice and grow to eat medium rats eventually.

As a general rule of thumb, feed one prey item that is 1.25 times the width of the widest part of your snake’s body with the following frequency:

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Feeding Frequency Schedule
0-12 Months: Appropriately sized meal every 7 days.
12+ Months: Appropriately sized meal every 14 days.
3 Years+: Appropriately sized meal every 21 days.

Potential Health Issues

Like most snakes, the primary illnesses that affect Brazilian Rainbow Boas are related to husbandry.

Improper temperature or humidity can result in anorexia, stuck sheds, and respiratory infections. Moreover, dirty enclosures can result in scale rot and abscesses.

Luckily for you, since you’ve read this care sheet, you have a solid understanding of the appropriate temperature gradient and humidity level to prevent husbandry-related illnesses in your Brazilian Rainbow Boa.

Always spot clean waste as soon as you notice it, and consider changing out all of the substrate every 1 to 3 months.

Although these snakes require high humidity, allowing your substrate to dry out before remoistening it will prevent the growth of mold and anaerobic bacteria, which can also cause your snake to become sick.

Behavior & Temperament

Neonate Brazilian Rainbow Boas are naturally defensive and nippy. Can you blame them? They’re so tiny; everything is a giant threat to them!

Luckily, babies are so small that their teeth typically can’t break human skin.

Don’t let their initial defensiveness deter you from handling your pet.

In fact, getting them used to you as a baby means they’ll be less likely to bite you as an adult – when their bite actually matters because it hurts!

In their enclosure, most Brazilian Rainbow Boas are relatively inactive.

They usually prefer to stay hidden or burrowed during the day.

If you’re a lucky night owl, you may be able to see them exploring their enclosure at night.

The more enrichment opportunities you create, the more likely they are to use them!

Handling Them

Owner Holding Brazilian Rainbow Boa
After you bring your boa home, give it at least 7 days to settle in before handling it. Additionally, avoid handling it for 24-48 hours after it eats, as well.

While Brazilian Rainbow Boas are typically a shy species, they certainly don’t mind being periodically handled.

Once your snake is settled in, you can handle it 3 to 5 times per week, for around 20 minutes at a time.

Of course, you should gradually work up to these levels, following your Brazilian Rainbow Boa’s comfort or stress cues.

Wash your hands before handling your snake to remove any irritants or potentially appetizing scents.

Always handle it in a well-lit room without any other pets present. Small dogs and cats have a high likelihood of triggering your snake’s feeding response.

Support its body as much as you can, and avoid allowing it to grab hold of anything dangerous or that it could use to anchor itself somewhere you won’t be able to get to it.

Appearance & Colors

Brazilian Rainbow Boa 2
Since Brazilian Rainbow Boas are quite popular in captivity, breeders have managed to produce several genetic morphs. Discover some of the various morphs and colors below!

Wild-type Brazilian Rainbow Boas are rusty, brownish-red on top with white or cream-colored bellies.

Their burgundy backs feature irregular black-outlined rings that are sometimes connected and solid black or bulls-eye circles along their sides.

Rainbow boas are named after the beautiful rainbow-like iridescence that their scales reflect in the right lighting, especially after a recent shed.

Morph Description
Anery

Anery snakes have reduced or no red pigment. Anery Brazilian Rainbow Boas are gray and white at birth and develop a yellow hue as they grow.

Hypo

Hypo snakes have reduced pattern intensity and reduced black coloration. Hypo Brazilian Rainbow Boas still feature dark markings but have a light red, almost lavender base color.

Pastel

Similar to hypo, Pastel Brazilian Rainbow Boas have dark markings and a light base color, usually described as peach or pink.

Ghost

Ghost is the combination of Anery and Hypo genes. Ghost Brazilian Rainbow Boas are white with light gray markings at birth. The color becomes more yellow as the snake grows.

Riso Xanthic

Riso Xanthic Brazilian Rainbow Boas have a bright yellow base color.

Calico

Calico Brazilian Rainbow Boas have blotches of white on the top of their body, although the reduced pattern doesn’t typically show until the snake reaches maturity.

Pied

Pied Brazilian Rainbow Boas have sections of white scales and a completely different pattern, almost similar to leopard print. Their eyes can be blue or black.

Albino

Albino Brazilian Rainbow Boas lack melanin or black pigment. They’re usually white, yellow, or light orange, with lavender or white markings.

Striped

There are several different lines of striped Brazilian Rainbow Boas with varying degrees of pattern aberrancies and connected circles that create visual stripes.

Unlike Ball Pythons, most Brazilian Rainbow Boa morphs are relatively new, and the genetics aren’t fully understood. Some morphs come with a price tag of over $4,000!

Do Brazilian Rainbow Boas Make Good Pets? A Summary.

Brazilian Rainbow Boas are popular pets thanks to their:

  • Relatively calm demeanor
  • Manageable size
  • Beautiful color and pattern

Still, they require knowledge and a level of care that is a step above simpler snakes like corn snakes.

While they require fairly specific care parameters, once you’ve gotten their temperature and humidity consistently dialed in, this species is reasonably easy to care for!

But if you’re curious about owning other “rainbow” snakes, then check out the rainbow python or our comprehensive rainbow boa care guide.

Alternatively, if you are already an intermediate or advanced reptile keeper, then maybe the emerald tree boa can be an interesting new challenge for you.

Leave a Comment