Emerald Tree Boa Care Sheet: Needs & Habitat Setup Explained

There are two species of emerald tree boa: northern emerald tree boas, Corallus caninus, and Amazon Basin emerald tree boas, Corallus batesii.

Only intermediate or advanced reptile keepers should keep this species, and they should only handle the snake when absolutely necessary.

These snakes need specific temperature and humidity gradients, and feed largely on mammals like small rodents.

Distribution of the Emerald Tree Boa

The emerald is found in lowland jungles of South America and the Guianan regions of the country.

Corallus caninus is found in the Guiana Shield, which includes Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, Columbia, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Corallus batesii is found in the Amazon basin, which includes Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, and Suriname.

Fun Fact: The term “caninus” in Corallus caninus means “dog-like.” In 1758, A zoologist named Carl Linnaeus discovered the emerald tree python.

He thought that the snake’s wide head, snout, and large teeth resembled a dog, hence the name.

This snake is included in the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Appendix II is reserved for those species for whom international trade is regulated and monitored. This snake can’t be exported from Brazil.

Habitat of the Emerald Tree Boa

This boa is an arboreal reptile that frequents the canopy of low land rainforest and shrubs.

As these snakes are nocturnal, they spend the daytime coiled around a branch sleeping.

They rest their head in the center of their coils, a resting position that is commonly observed in captivity.

Emerald Tree Boa
The typical resting pose of the emerald tree boa.

These snakes are solitary, and research indicates a territory size of one snake per every 1.04 square miles (approximately).

Fun Fact: Though Emerald tree boas are found near water, they don’t swim.

Emerald Tree Boas’ Diet in the Wild

It’s commonly believed that emerald tree boas prey on birds. This belief is understandable given the nature of this snake.

More recent research is showing that birds are not a significant prey item for this snake.

The examination of the stomach contents of specimens found no evidence of birds being eaten!

Emerald Tree Boa Behavior

Emerald tree boas spend the daytime resting, coiled around a branch. They become active at night.

Using their prehensile tails, they suspend themselves above the ground and wait for prey to come within striking distance.

Emerald Tree Boa lying in ambush
An emerald tree boa in its ambush position.

Because these snakes have a slow metabolism, they may eat more infrequently than other snakes.

Appearance and Size

The body of this tree boa is a brilliant emerald green with white markings, while the underside is colored yellow.

Young emeralds are brown or red but take on adult colors as they get older.

young emerald tree boa against white background
A young emerald tree boa showing its juvenile colors.

This color change is due to a phenomenon known as ontogenetic color sets.

Ontogenetic color sets refer to a nonreversible color change that some animals undergo during development.

Emeralds have a broad head, a thin neck, a stout body, and a prehensile tail.

The heat sensory pits on their lips are among the most distinct of any snake, and their pupils are vertical.

Emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus)
The heat sensory pits of the emerald tree boa are the most pronounced of any snake.

The Amazon Basin emerald tree boa differs from the Northern emerald tree boa in that it has a solid white vertebral stripe running down the length of its body.

Northern Emerald Tree Boa
The Northern emerald tree boa lacks the white vertebral stripe. It has white markings instead.

The Northern emerald is the smaller of the two species, reaching a length of six feet. The Amazon basin emerald can reach nine feet in length

Amazon Basin Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus batesii)
The white vertebral stripe of the Amazon basin tree boa.

In emerald tree boas, females are bigger than males. Adults average four pounds while males are normally between two and three pounds.

Emerald Tree Boa Care

Caring for an emerald tree boa isn’t easy. The following sections will teach you everything you need to know.

Enclosure Setup for the Emerald Tree Boa

Carefully consider the enclosure needs of emerald tree boas before buying the snake.

As these snakes are tree-dwelling, it’s important that the enclosure has height to it.

Though they require height, these snakes may crawl on the ground at night, so you should also consider the width of the enclosure.

Ideally, the enclosure should have three solid sides and one side that allows for viewing. Having solid sides will give your snake a sense of security.

It’s also important that the enclosure provides ventilation.

Balancing ventilation and the required humidity levels can be challenging, but we’ll address this later.

The front of the enclosure can consist of screen, glass, or Plexiglass.

The front of the cage should be open to allow access to your snake as well as for maintenance of the enclosure.

Having the enclosure opening in front not only makes maintenance easier, but it makes your snake feel more secure.

In their natural habitat, birds of prey are the major predator of emerald tree boas.

When these birds attack, they normally attack from above. By having the enclosure open from the front, you will be closer to the snake’s level.

Fun Fact: The only known predator of the Amazon basin emerald is the Guianan crested eagle.

The minimum enclosure size for an adult emerald tree boa should be 36 inches wide x 24 inches deep x 30 inches high.

For juveniles, an enclosure measuring 24 inches wide x 18 inches deep x 24 inches high would be appropriate.

Baby boas can be kept in an enclosure measuring 12 inches wide x 12 inches deep x 12 inches high.

Tree Branches

Given that emerald tree boas are arboreal, the way the enclosure is furnished is very important.

In their native habitat, these snakes live in the canopy of forests, which means there’s dense vegetation.

You should furnish your boa’s enclosure in a way that reflects these conditions.

Equip the enclosure with a variety of perches, strategically placing them throughout the enclosure.

The perches should be placed at different levels of the enclosure and in relation to the heating sources.

In the next section, we’ll cover temperature gradients. You should offer your snake a range of temperatures that they can choose from.

Snakes, like other cold-blooded animals, regulate their body temperature by locating a location that offers the conditions that are needed by them.

You want to make sure that perches are positioned in a way that allows them to perch anywhere along the temperature gradient.

Emeralds prefer thin perches over thick ones. Perches that are too wide can cause damage to their tails, especially young snakes.

Perches that are a 1/4″ in circumference or less are good.

It’s also important that the perches are secure so that they can support the weight of the snake.

You can use PVC pipes, wooden dowels, or branches as perches.

When using wood or branches, it’s important to prepare them first in order to avoid health issues.

Prepare wooden perches by first placing them in boiling water and then letting them dry thoroughly. Doing this will sanitize them.

After placing wooden perches in the enclosure, keep an eye on them to ensure that fungus or mold don’t grow on them, due to the enclosure’s high humidity.

In addition to perches, you should offer plenty of artificial or live plants.

In the wild, emerald tree boas live in areas of dense foliage. This provides them with a sense of security, which is why these conditions should be replicated in captivity.

Another reason why you should furnish the enclosure with plants has to do with water.

In their natural habitat, these snakes get most of their water from drinking the raindrops that collect on the vegetation or even themselves!

Pro Tip: Some reptiles, including emerald tree boas, may not use a water dish, even if it’s provided. For this reason, it’s important to mist the enclosure.

Temperature

Keep the temperature in the enclosure in the low 80’s (Fahrenheit) during the daytime, while the basking temperature should not exceed 87 degrees.

In the evening, the inside of the enclosure should be kept at the upper 70’s.

In the previous section, we covered the importance of situating perches along the temperature gradient.

Situate some perches so that the snake can expose itself to the basking temperatures, and other perches so that it can expose itself to cooler temperatures.

When it comes to emerald tree boas, heating pads are of little use as they spend most of their time on their perches.

For this reason, it’s recommended that you use a heat bulb.

It’s VITAL that you set up the heat bulb where your snake can’t come into direct contact with it.

You may want to use a screen covering to separate the bulb from the rest of the enclosure.

Monitor the temperature daily by getting two reliable thermometers. Place one under the basking site and the other one at the far end of the enclosure.

Humidity

The natural habitat of emerald tree pythons, which is the tropical rainforest, receives an average annual rainfall of 59 inches (1500 mm).

Needless to say, having the proper humidity level for the health of your snake is essential. You should keep the humidity level between 70%-80%.

You can increase the humidity by keeping live plants in the enclosure. You can also place sphagnum moss on the branches or perches.

Another option is to mist the inside of the enclosure once a day with a spray bottle.

Though emeralds frequently get their water from misting, it’s important that you still provide a water bowl with fresh water.

As they’re arboreal, it’s recommended that you elevate the water bowl so that it’s easier for them to reach it, should they decide to drink from it.

You can also secure the water bowl to the side of the enclosure. The water bowl offers the added benefit of helping to increase the humidity of the enclosure.

There are also a number of automated misters and water elements for reptiles that you can purchase.

Monitoring the humidity in the enclosure is essential. There are a number of humidity gauges or hygrometers on the market.

It’s important that you maintain the humidity while not allowing water to collect at the bottom of the enclosure. Too much humidity can cause respiratory issues.

If your snake has difficulty shedding, it may be a sign that the humidity level is not high enough.

Diet of the Emerald Tree Boa

In captivity, emeralds eat rats and mice. We recommend feeding them dead prey, which reduces the chances of your snake contracting parasites from its prey.

You’ll also avoid the risk of your snake getting bitten by live prey. Keep frozen rats and mice and thaw them before feeding.

When feeding emeralds, choose feeders that are no thicker than the snake’s girth at its widest point.

We can’t repeat enough that this snake has a slow metabolism, so it’s important to take care and not overfeed it.

  • Snakes that are two years old or younger should be fed once a week.
  • Adult snakes should be fed once every two weeks.

It’s important that you don’t handle the snake for 24 hours after having eaten. If handled sooner, it could cause digestive issues for the snake.

Lighting

It’s recommended that lighting be provided in 12 hour cycles with 12 hours of light alternating with 12 hours of darkness.

Full-spectrum lighting is not needed for the metabolizing of calcium, but will bring out the boa’s vibrant coloration. Emeralds do well with LED lighting.

Substrate

When considering substrate, there are two directions that you can go with this. There’s the naturalistic approach and the practical approach.

If you’d like to create a natural-looking setting, and if your enclosure has a drainage system, you can use soil and plant vegetation in it.

The natural approach is pleasing to the eye, but involves a lot of maintenance.

The practical approach would be to use wood chips or newspaper. If you decide to go with wood chips, don’t use cedar or pine. The oil from these chips can be toxic to the snake.

Preferred choices are orchid, coconut fiber, aspen, and cypress mulch.

Both newspaper and wood chips should be changed weekly to avoid the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Emerald Tree Boa Handling

If you want a snake that you can handle, the emerald is the wrong snake for you!

This species normally doesn’t react well to handling.

You can easily damage the emerald tree boa’s prehensile tail if you don’t handle it gently. This is especially true in hatchlings or young snakes.

The temperament of this species is another factor.

Amazon Basins have a better temperament than the Northern emerald; however, even they prefer to be left alone.

For these reasons, it’s best to only handle emeralds when it’s necessary. When you do handle them, we recommend using a snake hook.

It’s not impossible to find an emerald that takes well to handling. There are breeders who socialize hatchlings by handling them daily.

There are also adults that may get used to their keeper and who tolerate handling. As a rule, it’s best to avoid handling this snake.

Are Emerald Tree Boas Good for Beginners?

With everything that we’ve covered so far, it should be evident that the emerald tree boa is not the preferred species for the beginner.

As with most arboreal snakes, this species should be left to experienced reptile keepers.

While the lifespan of emeralds in the wild is unknown, they have been known to live 15-20 years in captivity.

The humidity and heating requirements alone are reason enough that this species should not be kept by beginner keepers.

If you’re a beginner reptile keeper, and you want to get a constrictor, we recommend getting a rosy boa or ball python.

When purchasing emeralds, it’s strongly recommended that it be done through a reputable breeder as opposed to a pet store.

To begin with, these snakes are uncommonly found in pet stores. You’re more likely to find them available through breeders or reptile expos.

The Amazon basin emerald is more popular among reptile keepers due to its larger size and calmer disposition than the Northern emerald.

Are Emerald Tree Boas Dangerous?

Because of their relatively small size, emeralds are NO danger to humans.

They’re not large enough to cause harm should they wrap around you and constrict you.

However, this species has the largest front teeth of any non-venomous snake. An adult Emerald can have front teeth that are almost 2″ long. 

Are Emerald Tree Boas Poisonous?

Boas are non-venomous, this is true with emeralds. The large front teeth aren’t true fangs, as fangs are found in venomous snakes.

Can Emerald Tree Boas Live Together?

In the wild, the emerald tree boa lives a solitary existence, except at mating time.

These snakes should be kept separated, unless you want to breed them.

In captivity, aggression has been observed between males when housed with a female.

During these encounters, a male will pursue the other male until it can overpower it. The pursuing male may then constrict the neck of the other male.

Breeding Emerald Tree Boas

Emeralds aren’t the easiest snakes to breed, but it can be done. These snakes breed every other year.

Males are sexually mature at three or four years of age. For males, this means a weight of 800 grams. For females, it would be around 1,500 grams.

Some breeders introduce males to females around November.

It’s important to remember that these are solitary snakes, so keep the snakes separated before then.

Further, only introduce one male to one female. Males will become aggressive toward each other.

Like other boas, emeralds are oviparous, which means the female has live young. The gestation period is six to seven months.

First-time mothers will have four to eight babies. Older ones can have up to 18 young.

Newborn emeralds average 12-14 inches in length and you can house them individually using a rack system or aquariums that are equipped with perches.

Getting newborns to eat can be challenging. Some breeders warm up pinkies that have been thawed, and offer them with tweezers.

Pro Tip: The Amazon basin emerald boa and the Northern emerald boa are genetically similar. These two populations can interbreed and give birth to fertile offspring.

Emerald Tree Boa Health Issues

As with any snake, emerald tree boas may suffer from various health issues. Let’s look at some of the most common.

Parasites

Like other snakes, emeralds can suffer from parasites.

Mites are a common parasite that keepers have to contend with.

One parasite that is of particular interest is cryptosporidiosis. This parasite transmits a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans.

In humans, symptoms of this disease include fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

There are other parasitic diseases that, while not being zoonotic, can be transferred from the female snake to their offspring.

This would be an obvious concern for breeders.

For these reasons alone, we recommend taking your new snake to a veterinarian, who is familiar with reptiles. They would be able to evaluate your pet’s health.

Bacteria

Bacteria-related diseases, like mouth rot, are most commonly the result of improper maintenance of the enclosure.

In particular, the lack of routine cleaning and excessive humidity levels.

If your snake has a bacterial infection, it’s important to adjust the humidity levels, give the enclosure a thorough cleaning, and take your snake to a vet.

Obesity

Obesity is a common health issue with captive emeralds, caused by overfeeding.

The reason why emeralds are so susceptible is their slow metabolism and strong feeding response.

Emeralds have been known to accept food indiscriminately, whether they’re hungry or not.

Obesity can lead to heart and liver problems, so it’s important to follow the feeding guidelines mentioned earlier in this guide.

For experienced reptile keepers, the emerald tree boa is a jewel of the snake world. As with a precious jewel, it requires special care.

Despite this, it’s definitely worth it. This is one snake that will make any reptile keeper proud.

But if you’re not yet sure about getting an emerald tree boa yet, then perhaps the rainbow boa can be another interesting challenge.

Alternatively, more beginner-level keepers might find the rubber boa or the Arabian sand boa to be a better option for them.

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