While not as popular as some of the competition, like ball pythons and corn snakes, Rosy Boas are undemanding little snakes (opens in new tab) that make the perfect first pet reptile for any beginner!
All in all, Rosy Boas have lovely temperaments, easy husbandry requirements, and stay small enough to not take up too much space or be capable of inflicting injuries.
Rosy Boas naturally come in a vast array of color and pattern differences depending on the locality of their wild ancestors, and some breeders are working on developing genetic morphs, as well.
If you’re looking for your first pet snake or just looking to add something a little different to your already-existing collection, look no further because sweet Rosy Boas capture the hearts of everyone who gives them a chance!
Table of Contents
Rosy Boas (Lichanura trivirgata) are native to the desert ecosystems of the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico.
Specifically, they range from California to the northwest, Arizona to the northeast, Baja California to the southwest, and Sonora to the southeast.
Rosy Boas are one of two species of Boa that are endemic to the United States. The other species, the rubber boa, thrives in more northern regions of the country.
Rosy Boas thrive in arid, rocky, desert regions where they utilize rocky crevices and caves for shelter and hunting territories.
Their usual habitats include granite outcroppings and rocky volcanic terrains, although they will sometimes use burrows in rockless environments.
During hot summer days, they stay hidden away beneath the shade of the rocks, emerging at night to look for food – including baby rabbits, pack rats, deer mice, kangaroo rats, and, occasionally, small birds and lizards.
In the cooler Spring and Autumn months, Rosy Boas are typically more active during the late afternoon and early evening.
Wild Rosy Boas are the easiest to find during their breeding season in the Spring when they are actively looking for mates.
Most Rosy Boas enter a dormant state, known as brumation, in the Winter.
They may move around within their dwelling, but they will not hunt or seek new territories when it’s cold.
Rosy Boas rarely bite as a means of self-defense, even wild individuals.
Their usual response to a perceived threat is to roll into a tight ball with its head in the center, like a ball python.
They also release a foul-smelling musk that dissuades most predators. This is part of the reason they’re so commonly kept as pets.
Like most other Boa species, Rosy Boas give birth to live young. Gravid females typically give birth to 5 to 10 live babies in late Summer or early Autumn.
Appearance & Colors
Another reason that Rosy Boas are popular among reptile keepers is their beautiful coloration!
Part of their Latin name, trivirgata, refers to the three stripes found on most Rosy Boa locales. These stripes may be brown, black, gray, red, or orange.
Most Rosy Boas have a creamy, off-white base color.
Some localities have very clean stripes, while other variations may have minor spotting or so much mottling that they appear uniform in color with little to no striping.
Some captive genetic morphs that breeders have produced include:
The most striking animals can be all white or appear gray-blue with powder blue eyes!
In terms of body shape, Rosy Boas have comparatively small heads and thick but proportionate bodies.
Their tails are somewhat blunt, and their scales are smooth. Like most boas, Rosy Boas have vertical pupils.
Rosy Boa Size
The size of Rosy Boas is, yet again, another factor that has contributed to their popularity as pets.
In fact, when it comes to pet snakes, Rosy Boas take the cake!
Adult Rosy Boas usually measure from 17 to 34 inches long as adults, with females slightly longer and larger than males.
Coastal Rosy Boas are usually a bit larger, sometimes growing up to 44 inches long!
Adult Rosy Boas weigh between 100 and 400 grams, depending on the locality and size.
They’re typically about the width of a quarter or half-dollar but can be as thick around as a golfball.
Obesity is a common issue in captivity.
Older overweight Rosy Boas tend to develop prominent fat deposits in their tail, while younger animals may simply start developing folds and wrinkles in their skin.
Baby rosy boas aren’t very small, surprisingly enough. They’re around 10 grams in weight and 12 inches long at birth, on average.
It’s usually presumed that Rosy Boas have the same average lifespan as most other species of snakes – 20 to 30 years.
However, a handful of keepers claim to own Rosy Boas that are over 35 years old!
Either way, this is undoubtedly a long-lived reptile.
Rosy Boa Care
Rosy Boas are one of the easiest snakes to care for.
You need not fuss about humidity, excessively high temperatures, or hunger strikes – these guys are hardy, healthy, and happy in just about any reasonable conditions.
Enclosure Size & Dimensions
Adult Minimum Enclosure Size: 36” x 12” x 12”
The general rule of thumb for any snake is to provide it space to fully stretch out without any bends, kinds, or curls.
For a Rosy Boa, this usually equates to an enclosure that’s at least 36″ long or longer for huge females. Most males and some small females could even be housed in a 24” long enclosure.
Rosy Boas are primarily terrestrial, so there’s no need to worry about cage height, although it’s wise to utilize whatever height the habitat offers.
While Rosy Boas are certainly not as graceful as Amazon tree boas, they do enjoy climbing if you give them a chance.
A glass enclosure with a screen lid, such as an aquarium or terrarium, usually offers the perfect amount of ventilation, as well as allowing you to observe your pet snake’s daily activities.
Plastic tubs may be used, but Rosy Boas are prone to respiratory infections from high humidity, so it’s imperative to add ventilation by means of a DIY mesh opening or numerous, small, drilled holes.
Plastic tubs offer the benefits of being lightweight, inexpensive, and offering a new Rosy Boa more privacy and security.
Rosy Boas don’t need much in the way of habitat decor to survive, but if you want your pet to thrive, try imagining their natural habitat:
- Dry, compact, rocky soil
- Rocks with numerous crevices and caves
- Limited moisture
- Dead branches, cacti, and desert grass
Depending on how naturalistic you’d like to make their enclosure, you could even go all-in with an arid bioactive set-up.
Rosy Boas make great inhabitants for these projects because of their small size and simple husbandry requirements.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could replicate rocky crevices with things like crimped paper tubes and sheets of cardboard.
Aspen shavings make a great choice that will help to keep the relative humidity low and give your Rosy Boa a chance to burrow.
While terrestrial by nature, Rosy Boas are curious creatures that enjoy exploring every surface of their habitat.
They will make use of branches, rocks, ledges, and even textured backgrounds for climbing.
We recommend not allowing your rosy Boa to climb more than 18″ off the surface of the substrate because these clumsy guys are prone to falling.
Temperature & Lighting
|Temperature & Lighting Summary|
|Basking Spot Temperature:||93°F-95°F|
|Warm Side Ambient Temperature:||80°F-90°F|
|Cool Side Ambient Temperature:||70°F-75°F|
|Optional Night-time Ambient Drop:||68°F-72°F|
As you can see, Rosy Boas aren’t very picky when it comes to temperatures!
The best thing to do is offer them a large gradient to choose from during the day, allowing the cool side to reach room temperature and giving them a warm area that gets at least to the upper 80s.
Under normal circumstances, you can turn off all heating elements at night and allow the entire enclosure to fall to room temperature.
That makes Rosy Boas a great candidate for daytime heating with a Halogen light bulb, which produces infrared heat that closely mimics the Sun.
If you choose to offer lighting or a heat source that emits light, be sure to limit it to 12 to 14 hours per day so that your Rosy Boa can maintain an internal day and night cycle.
When it comes to monitoring the humidity level in your Rosy Boa’s habitat, you want to aim to keep it as low as possible.
Ideally, the humidity level will stay under 50%.
This desert species is prone to respiratory infections when exposed to prolonged high humidity levels.
Thanks to their low moisture requirements, Rosy Boas usually have no issues with shedding.
If the relative humidity is spiking too high, you may need to consider:
- Increasing the ventilation in the enclosure
- Using a smaller water dish
- Moving the water dish to the unheated side of the enclosure
- Removing the water dish and offering fresh water 1-2 days per week
- Lowering the room temperature
- Running a dehumidifier in the room
Like most other desert-dwelling specialist animals, Rosy Boas don’t need a lot of water to survive. They obtain most of their water from their prey – whole rodents.
Especially if you’re having a hard time maintaining optimal humidity levels, consider removing the water dish for part of or most of the time.
Many long-time rosy boa breeders only offer water once a week.
It’s believed that access to water immediately after ingesting a meal can cause regurgitation, so it may be wise to remove the water source for 24-48 hours after each meal, regardless of the relative humidity.
Food & Diet
Rosy Boas happily and healthily live on a diet of mice in captivity.
The following chart is a general rule of thumb for feeding your pet Rosy Boa, based on its age.
|Rosy Boa Feeding Schedule|
|0-6 Months:||1 Pinkie Mouse every 7 Days|
|6-18 Months:||1 Fuzzy Mouse every 7 Days|
|18 Months:||1 Hopper or Small Mouse every 7 Days|
|3+ Years:||1 Small or Medium Mouse every 10-14 Days|
Generally speaking, feed one prey item every 7-14 days that is large enough to leave a slight bulge in your Rosy Boa or that is slightly wider than the widest point of your Rosy Boa’s body.
Animals coming out of brumation, breeding, or growing can be fed more frequently, while inactive adult Rosy Boas shouldn’t be fed more often than every 14 days.
Offering novel prey items can benefit your Rosy Boa in terms of both nutrition and mental enrichment.
Here are some other common food sources, although your Rosy Boa is not guaranteed to be interested in all (or even any) of them:
- Rat pinkies or fuzzies
- Rabbit pinkies
- Quail eggs and chicks
- Baby hamsters, gerbils, and African soft-furred rats
- Anoles, geckos, and skinks
Frozen and thawed prey is the best choice in terms of safety and health. Live prey may be carrying parasites and always pose a risk of inflicting nasty bites and scratches to your Rosy Boa.
Snakes are primarily attracted to heat, scent, and movement.
Most adult Rosy Boas readily take warmed, dead prey if you wiggle with a pair of tongs.
Baby Rosy Boas may be pickier; most keepers have better luck with frozen fuzzies or hoppers once their snake is large enough to eat them.
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Potential Health Issues
Rosy Boas are prone to the same health issues that affect other types of snakes, especially respiratory infections.
Symptoms: Open-mouth breathing, noisy breathing, mucosal discharge from nostrils and mouth
Treatment: Antibiotic injections prescribed by a veterinarian
Prevention: Keep the relative humidity in the enclosure by following the tips listed above.
Symptoms: Shed skin is in multiple pieces instead of one long piece, eyecaps visibly missing from shed skin, dry bits of skin hanging off snake’s body, ‘wrinkle’ or ‘dimple’ appearance on snake’s eyes
Treatment: Warm water (no more than 85 – use a thermometer!) soak or light cooking oil application accompanied by light rubbing on the stuck skin with a cotton swab
Prevention: Offer water more often, feed prey with wet fur or feathers, offer a hide with damp sphagnum moss
Internal Parasites (Worms)
Symptoms: Regurgitation, diarrhea, worms visible in feces
Treatment: Dewormer prescribed by a veterinarian
Prevention: Don’t feed wild prey, freeze prey before feeding, buy feeders from a reputable source
Symptoms: Excessive soaking, excessively rubbing on surfaces in the enclosure, poor sheds, visual observation of black or red specks moving on the snake or embedded between the scales near the snake’s chin and vent
Treatment: OTC topical anti-parasitics
Prevention: Freeze bedding before use, freeze prey before feeding, change your clothes and shower when you get home from visiting any place that houses unfamiliar live reptiles
Behavior & Temperament
Rosy Boas are an incredibly docile, sweet, and slow-moving species.
They’re great for folks who are nervous or unsure about handling snakes or reptiles in general.
Rosy Boas rarely bite defensively. Instead, they prefer to try to flee or curl into a defensive ball.
Rosy boas are typically more active during dusk, dawn, and at night, when they can frequently be observed exploring their habitat.
If you handle your Rosy Boa often, it may start to hang out around the opening to the enclosure – almost as if it’s asking to come out!
Unfortunately, Rosy Boas have a strong feeding response, and they often mistake wiggly fingers for delicious rodents.
Defensive bites are usually immediately released, while feeding response bites involve latching on and potentially coiling around your finger or hand.
Don’t worry; this won’t hurt very much – if your Rosy Boa is still small, you probably won’t even feel it! Only large adult Rosy Boas have teeth big enough to break human skin.
Here’s how to avoid a feeding response bite from your Rosy Boa:
- Always wash your hands before handling your pet, in case your hands smell like food.
- “Tap train” or otherwise teach your Rosy Boa to associate some kind of touch or environmental stimulus (like tapping on the glass) with being fed or being handled.
- Read your Rosy Boa’s body language. If it seems highly responsive to your movements, distract it while you grab it or wait to handle it another time.
If your Rosy Boa bites and won’t let go, you can run cool water on its mouth or apply a very minute amount of rubbing alcohol near its mouth.
Compared to other semi-arboreal snakes, rosy boas can be a little clumsy during handling.
It’s essential to pay attention to their movements and be sure always to support their body, or be ready to catch them if they’ve decided to climb.
Unlike ball pythons, corn snakes, and other popular serpents, Rosy Boas do NOT have prehensile tails and can’t grip your fingers or hand very well.
It’s your job to make sure they don’t fall from your hands, and they don’t make very good “neck wrap” snakes either.
Do Rosy Boas Make Good Pets? A Summary.
Truthfully, we don’t know why Rosy Boas aren’t the most common snake in exotic pet stores!
In terms of captivity, they’re a perfect size, with a perfect temperament, and have perfectly simple husbandry requirements!
The only potential drawback is their exuberant feeding response, which means you might get bitten – but they’re so small, it wouldn’t even hurt!
As an added bonus, Rosy Boas are unlikely ever to refuse a meal.
Now that you know what delightful pets these guys are, the most challenging part begins: it’s time to find a breeder or convince your local pet store to carry these beginner-friendly micro-boas!