Meet the Amazon Tree Boa

The Amazon Tree Boa (Corallus hortulanus) is a magnificent display snake from South America that comes in an array of colours and patterns, from browns and greys to oranges, reds and yellows. In the pet trade you’ll often hear the name shortened to ATB. We strongly recommend this snake as a display snake for the more experienced or confident keeper – for even with due time and handling they tend to range from unpredictable to aggressive. Over time, as this species learns the feeding patterns and your behaviour, they do usually calm down, but this could take several years of patience. They can also be a bit sensitive both in personality and in care, which marks them as a more intermediate species. That being said if you’ve done your research and are looking for an absolutely stunning display species – the Amazon Tree Boa could well be perfect for you.

The Amazon Tree Boa is a very slender and agile snake, allowing it to perch in branches in trees. They have a broad head and large eyes, along with large heat sensing pits, giving them an excellent hunting advantage any time of day or night. They are usually around 6 feet in length, and can exceed that – but weigh very little compared to terrestrial boa species. Their exact lifespan in captivity isn’t well documented, but should exceed twenty years.

Captive bred individuals are available in the UK and here at Reptile Cymru we have been successful with several breeding programs to produce high red, yellow and orange colours.

Some individuals are still wild caught and imported into the UK, a practice we’re not particularly fond of. This is a snake that is already prone to stress. Wild caught animals tend to need deworming and a long period of adjustment into captivity. They are also often incorrectly listed as Cook’s Tree Boas with the latin name Corallus cooksii, which adds confusion to their origin and care. Wild caught Amazon Tree Boas can be disturbed and stressed by movement, causing them to strike at the glass, so should be situated in a quiet area of the house, without cats and dogs as well. They will usually remain much more volatile in temperament than captive bred babies for their entire lifespan. Our captive bred adults are alert and aware of movement, but have never struck at the glass or been stressed by activity outside the tank. We would strongly urge you to purchase captive bred wherever possible.

Amazon Tree Boa Housing

Amazon Tree Boas are very adaptable, and can be found in various habitats, from low lying bushes, to the tops of the canopy, but are almost always perched up in a bush or branch. Therefore the enclosure for this snake should have some height, and personally we would recommend something like the VivExotic Large Arboreal enclosure, which is 35 x 20 x 36″ in size.

We have also put together an arboreal snake setup in the 35 x 20 x 36″ enclosure which is ideal for species such as Amazon Tree Boas, Emerald Tree Boas, Green Tree Pythons, Carpet Pythons, Bredl’s Pythons and other arboreal species of snake.

You can house hatchlings in smaller enclosures as a temporary measure whilst ensuring they’re feeding well, but as long as they are well established and there are extensive decorations to make them feel secure, most Amazon Tree Boas are not daunted by going straight into a larger enclosure.

Heating and Lighting

Ambient temperature should be approximately 80 to 82 degrees F in the daytime on the warm side of the enclosure and and can drop down to 70 to 75F at night. A basking spot can reach the high 80s but should not exceed 90F. Provide a steady, mild temperature range and provide a cooler end of the tank that the snake can retreat to. Any heat source should be guarded and thermostatted and we would recommend a ceramic bulb for overall heat rather than a heat mat.

Controlling Temperature – Thermostats – A thermostat controls the temperature of the device it is attached to. These are simple devices that can help maintain the temperature at optimum, which helps with the overall health of the animal. Both extremes of hot and cold can be very damaging to reptiles, as they cannot regulate their own body temperature like mammals. A thermostat is an essential piece of equipment for the responsible owner. 

Measuring Temperature – Thermometers – In the best case scenario you will know what the temperature is on the hot and cold end of your tank as thermostats can fail or be inaccurate, so you want to take manual readings regularly.

UVB Lighting

Whilst UVB is not a requirement for a healthy Amazon Tree Boa, we now recommend UVB as best practice with all snakes. Amazon Tree Boas are often alert and active during the day, which means they would get some natural UVB in the wild, although it would be filtered by the dense rainforest canopy. Read our complete guide to UVB bulbs here.

Your UVB bulb must be guarded because the snake could potentially burn themselves on it. A T5 7% Shadedweller kit, or equivalent forest UVB (T8 6%) bulb will be fine for this species.

Water and Humidity

You should have a large water bowl available with fresh water changed daily and if a large enough water container is provided this is a species that will quite happily soak in water.

This species is prone to dehydration and needs a humidity of 70-80% increasing to 90% during shedding. You’ll want to spray the tank once or twice a day depending on your natural humidity. Live plants will help increase the humidity naturally, as will a large water bowl on the hot side of the tank. Elevated water bowls can also be used, or moving water such as a dripper plant.

Use a reliable humidity meter to measure the humidity. If you notice your Amazon Tree Boa in shed, increase the humidity, as they’ll rarely go down to the ground to sit in a moss box.

Substrate and Decor

Use a natural substrate that can hold humidity without mold growing – for example Orchid Bark, EarthMix or Coir. Amazon Tree Boas won’t borrow, so substrate is there mostly to provide humidity, or to allow you to add live plants to the vivarium. If you’re adding live plants, you’ll want a layer of drainage balls and mesh underneath your substrate.

An Amazon Tree Boa will often be seen out in the open, draped over whatever branches and plants you provide – which should be plentiful. Even though they are arboreal, you should provide plenty of hiding places – secure cork bark, logs, hides and enough foliage to help them feel secure and as with many species; the more hiding places they know are around, the more secure they will feel about sitting out in the open. Amazon Tree Boas prefer branches that are perpendicular, rather than horizontal – they like to feel secure when draping their body over a multiple contact points rather than the single horizontal branches preferred by the Emerald Tree Boa.

Housing Amazon Tree Boas together

This species is best kept solo per enclosure, although it is not cannibalistic, it can be extremely challenging to feed two in the same habitat and in feeding confusion, it is easy for accidents to occur. We only introduce our adults during the breeding season, and separate out for feeding. In the wild they would generally not live in the same space and they do not get lonely, it’s perfectly fine to keep an Amazon Tree Boa solo for their lifespan.

You should never house Amazon Tree Boas with any other species of snake, lizard or amphibian.

Sexing Amazon Tree Boas

Sexing Amazon Tree Boas can be notoriously difficult, particularly as hatchlings. The most reliable way of sexing an Amazon Tree Boa is through probing, but this is not a calm species that likes being held down to probe, and they also have a delicate backbone so you can’t handle them too firmly. Probing should only be done by a very experienced person, and may not be possible for small or particularly feisty snakes.

Care for male and female is the same. Males can be a little smaller than females, but not significantly enough to make any difference in housing size or to make it a reliable sexing method. If you’re not intending to breed, it really doesn’t matter what gender your snake is and it may be worth avoiding the stress and potential damage of probing them to find out.

Handling your Amazon Tree Boa

Amazon Tree Boas can be easily stressed out and generally do not enjoy handling. They are a flighty species that is always hyper alert for any danger. They have a very long reach and have large teeth, so taking a bite from one at full striking force can be very painful (although unlikely to require any medical treatment other than cleaning the wound and ensuring it does not get infected as with any pet bite).

We recommend using a hook with this species for removing them from the vivarium, which supports their body and maneuvers them without you having to lean into a small space such as a vivarium to reach for them. It also allows you to remove them safely should they need to be removed for health reasons, cleaning or feeding, even if they are in a bit of a mood and disinclined to be moved!

Feeding your Amazon Tree Boa

In the wild these boas are opportunists – often eating frogs, small birds, lizards, bats, or anything that ventures near them without question. In part, this is what has added to their reputation of aggression in captivity, as they have a “strike first, ask questions later” philosophy. They are also a prey item for many of the larger hunting birds and monkeys, and as such, are always on their guard.

In captivity they will strike feed defrost mice or rats, but can be quite tricky to get started on feeding as their diet is so varied in the wild. When buying a hatchling just make sure you’ve spoken to the breeder or seller and are sure they’re feeding on defrosted rodents.

Always feed with tongs, this is a snake with a very long reach for it’s size and you don’t want any accidental mishaps happening with your fingers!

Juveniles should be fed every 7-10 days whilst adults should be fed every 10-14 days. Take particular care that this species doesn’t get overweight and don’t be tricked by the fact that they always look hungry! They’re a naturally alert and opportunistic species and will watch your movement whether they are hungry or not. They have a slow digestive process and are only likely to poop every 2 – 4 feeds. If it gets longer than that, check your temperatures and humidity, as an incorrect environment can cause gastrointestinal problems.

I hope you’ve found my care guide to Amazon Tree Boas helpful. I’ve tried to cover everything you might need to know about housing, temperatures, feeding, handling and more but if you have any questions at all about Amazon Tree Boa care then leave a comment, message us on Facebook or drop us an email!

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