Colombian red-tailed boas (Boa constrictor imperator) are among the most common boa constrictor subspecies in the pet industry. Before bringing one of these reptiles home as a companion, you should have his enclosure set up and ready for his arrival -- including the enclosure itself, substrate, heating apparatuses and furnishings. Don't forget the food.
Home Sweet Home
Like all reptiles and many other types of pets, Colombian red-tailed boas require an appropriate enclosure to keep them safe and contained. If you're adopting a juvenile boa under 1 year old, you can choose a 10- to 20-gallon aquarium with a properly fitting lid. After 1 year of age, however, these moderate-size boas require enclosures at least 6 feet long, 2 feet deep and 2 feet high -- but the bigger the better, for adult snakes. These snakes are natural climbers, so a taller enclosure will allow for climbing furniture. All captive snakes are known for their ability to escape, so make sure the enclosure has a tight-fitting lid and no loose doors the snake could potentially escape through. Glass may be expensive for such a large enclosure; however, many types of pre-built enclosures are available at pet supply stores.
An Appropriate Heat Source
Colombian red-tailed boas are tropical species who naturally live in warm and fairly humid environments. In addition, they're cold-blooded like all reptiles and therefore require supplemental heating in captivity. The enclosure temp should be in the mid-80s Fahrenheit, but the basking area should reach the low- to mid-90s. To achieve the proper basking area, place a heating pad under one side of the enclosure or use a heat lamp placed on the exterior of the enclosure.
Ground Level Accommodation
Wild Colombian red-tailed boas spend much of their lives in the trees, but captive boas are on the ground quite a bit, especially if you've chosen a low enclosure without climbing furnishings. Substrate is important for boas because they have soft bellies and slither over or lie on substrate on a constant basis. Aspen chips, coco bedding and reptile bark are ideal, though aspen chips don't promote humidity like the others.
Food and Water
A large water dish in part of his enclosure is a comfort and a necessity. The dish should be big enough and deep enough that she can soak but easy to get out of. As far as food goes, adults will take appropriately sized rats three or four times a month. Younger boas will gladly take baby mice or adult mice, based on their size, every seven to 10 days.
Last on the List: Creature Comforts
Before you bring your red-tailed home and after you've nearly completed his habitat, add a few creature comforts that will make the boa comfortable. A large hollowed-out log, either real or fake, will provide a hiding place that's important to your boa's well-being. In the wild, red-tailed boas spend a lot of time off the ground, as well, so providing some natural or artificial branches will provide some arboreal time; you can find appropriate climbing branches and furniture at major pet stores.
Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.