Colombian Rainbow Boas (Epicrates maurus) – also called CRBs – are the lesser known cousin of the Brazilian Rainbow Boa. In this Colombian Rainbow Boa caresheet I’ll be talking about housing, heating, lighting, handling, sexing, breeding and more! Pretty much everything you need to know if you’re thinking about buying a Colombian Rainbow Boa as a pet, or already have one.

Colombian Rainbow Boa

Meet the Coloumbian Rainbow Boa

Colombian Rainbow Boas are both with a striking brown and black patterning, but this fades as they grow. As adults they are a beautiful deep brown with slight markings and a creamy white underbelly. Although they don’t have the bright beauty of the Brazilian Rainbow Boa, they still have stunning iridescent scales and are a wonderful snake to keep as a pet.

Colombian Rainbow Boa

Colombian Rainbow Boas come from South America and reach a modest size of three to five feet in length with females being larger than males. They’re a semi arboreal species, enjoying exploring branches as well as the floor and are a tame and placid species. They can live up to twenty or twenty five years in captivity, so this is a long lived snake that you need to be prepared to commit to.

Housing for Colombian Rainbow Boas

Although the Colombian Rainbow Boa only reaches three to five feet, they are quite a girthy snake and will enjoy some height. I’d recommend a 36x24x24 enclosure as a minimum. You could also get the same floorspace from a 48x18x18″ enclosure, but since they’ll benefit from a few branches, a 24″ height is better. A female on the very large end of the scale may need a larger vivarium. Note if purchasing our setup we recommend the Silver 36x24x24″ because this has a ceramic heater compared to a heat mat, for more information on why carry on to the next section.

Babies can be kept in a starter setup until well established feeding and are big enough not to be escape risks. This is a species that can be a little shy, but with a well decorated vivarium can usually move into their permanent enclosure at a young age.

Colombian Rainbow Boa Heating and Temperature

You need to create a hot and a cold end of your tank for your Colombian Rainbow Boa. This is so they can thermoregulate – choose between hot areas and cold areas depending on their body temperature. All your heating should be on one side of the tank, and this should provide a hot spot of 85-90F. On the unheated cool side of the tank your ambient temperature should be around 75 – 80F. At night you can allow this cooler temperature to be steady throughout the tank and they can tolerate as low as 70F at night.

You have two main options of heating but due to their body weight, we don’t recommend heat mats once they are over a year old. As soon as you move into a vivarium where your bulb can be attached to the ceiling, please use a Ceramic Heater. Heat mats don’t do well in high humidity tanks, nor do they do well with large bodied snakes.

1. Heat Mat

A heat mat is a device that goes underneath the substrate or against the back wall of a wooden tank. If your tank is made of glass, you can put the heat mat underneath. The heat mat should be well covered by substrate – you do not want your snake to sit directly on it, and should also be kept dry.

Your heat mat should always be controlled by a thermostat.

2. Ceramic Bulb

A ceramic bulb is an excellent option for providing heat. It has a much higher heat output than most heat mats, making it more suitable for larger tanks and for obtaining more reliable temperatures. Heating from above is more natural as well. Ceramic bulbs are particularly good for larger snakes or larger enclosures.

Your Ceramic Bulb should be controlled by a thermostat and must be guarded so the snake cannot burn itself as well.

Keep a thermometer in the vivarium at all times – digital ones are best – to ensure the temperature is correct.

Humidity

Humidity should be around 75-80% but can be as high as 90%. This will most likely require a large water bowl – you’ll want one big enough for your snake to soak in anyway – along with daily misting of the enclosure to increase the air humidity. You can increase the ambient humidity by keeping your water bowl on the hot side of the tank, but ensure it’s changed daily.

Lighting for Colombian Rainbow Boas

Having a small daylight bulb in the tank helps provide a natural photoperiod allowing the snake to distinguish clearly between night and day. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it has plenty of benefits and is very inexpensive. You can use a low wattage LED which won’t raise the heat much at all, or you can use a low wattage basking bulb if you do want to raise the heat a little in this area.

If you use any heat-emitting bulb you will need to put a guard around it to ensure the snake does not curl around the bulb and inflict burns upon itself. Snakes do not recognise pain very quickly and a snake can have horrific burns before it registers to move away.

UVB for Colombian Rainbow Boas

In the past people didn’t use UVB for nocturnal species of snakes. However, more recent research has shown that most snakes are active at dawn and dusk and will sometimes even bask in full sunlight. UVB has been shown to offer benefits to health, such as increased appetite, more activity and brighter colouration – something you definitely want to consider in the case of Columbian Rainbow Boas to showcase their natural beauty.

Following recommendations from Arcadia Reptile for low UVB snake species, we would recommend having a UV Index of 2-3 in your tank. This can be obtained with a 6% T8 UVB at 10-15″ height or at a 15-18″ height you can use a T5 6% UVB or a T8 12% UVB. You should use a UVB guard to stop the snake damaging themselves or the bulb.

UVB remains optional when it comes to nocturnal snakes like the Colombian Rainbow Boa, but we highly recommend it. You can read our entire UVB guide here.

Substrate

As a high humidity rainforest species, you want something that will cope well with moisture. We recommend either orchid bark or using a top soil / natural coco fibre or EarthMix substrate. This is natural and will not get moldy with high humidity. You can even add cleanup crew or go bioactive, although with a heavy bodied snake it can be quite hard to keep a live planted vivarium in good condition.

Decor

You will need multiple hides – at least one on the hot and one on the cold – side of the enclosure for your Colombian Rainbow Boa to choose where to hide in. They may also sleep in well positioned branches. Try to create a natural rainforest environment with plenty of exercise and stimulation opportunities such as branches and plants.

Branches, plants, cork bark – all will give your snake an interesting and natural looking habitat.

A water bowl containing fresh water should be provided at all times.

Social Needs

like most snakes, Colombian Rainbow Boas do not have any social needs and are fine to live by themselves for their entire lives. In the wild they only come together for breeding purposes. It is possible to house more than one together, but a male and a female may breed unduly, whilst two males may stress each other with territorial and competitive behaviour. If you are housing more than one we’d recommend two females, but you need to feed separately, and ensure there is ample space in the enclosure as well as multiple hides on both hot and cold sides. In general, snakes do better living alone.

Feeding Colombian Rainbow Boas

A breeder may find that Colombian Rainbow Boas can be quite tricky to get started feeding, but if you’re purchasing a pet from a shop or a breeder, your snake should already be well established on defrost rodents. Once established and eating regular, this species is a good feeder. Hatchlings will eat a pinky or fuzzy every 5-7 days, juveniles will tend to eat every 7-10 days whilst adults will eat every 7-14 days depending on their size and condition. 

Always feed defrost rodents and not live prey. For the best chance of feeding success, defrost your rodent at above room temperature, for example in hot (not boiling) water. Brazilian Rainbow Boas – and all boids – have sensory heat pits that allow them to sense prey based on temperature and will strike at a warm rodent.

Use a pair of tongs so the snake can clearly tell the difference between food and not – otherwise you risk them accidentally hitting your hand, which is also quite warm.

Handling Rainbow Boas

Rainbow boas have a reputation for being snappy as neonates but are almost always placid and docile as adults and are easily tamed with regular handling. Patience must be used whilst handling young as they are very defensive and can strike (although do little damage, it can sting and draw blood) and some people may prefer to use gloves with very young babies. With regular care and handling this snake will calm down considerably with most adults being docile and placid snakes – but still being keen feeders, so always take care around feeding time.

You should always wash your hands before handling a snake, to ensure there is no scent on your hands that could put them in feeding mode, and after, as good hygiene practice.

Sexing Colombian Rainbow Boas

Next up in this caresheet is how to sex Colombian Rainbow Boas. The most reliable way of sexing CRBs is to have them probed by an experienced reptile keeper. This is where metal sexing probes are inserted into the cloaca and down into the space in the tail where the hemipenes are stored. This needs to be done by someone experienced as there is a chance the snake can be damaged in the process.

Very young Colombian Rainbow Boas may be able to be sexed by palpating the hemipenile sac and feeling – or visibly seeing – the hemipenes. The older the snake gets and the stronger the muscles the more difficult it is to do this by feel.

Other ways of telling is that males tend to have larger spurs at the entrance to the vent, and males are quite a bit smaller than females, so if your fully mature Columbian Rainbow Boa is around the 3 foot mark rather than 4-5 foot then it’s more likely to be male. Neither of these are a 100% accurate way.

If you’re not intending to breed, the actual care and temperament of male and female Colombian Rainbow Boas is the same, so you may prefer a male if looking for a smaller snake or a female if looking for a larger one, but otherwise it shouldn’t matter if you go for a male or female.

Breeding Colombian Rainbow Boas

Before you breed, please consider whether your adults are healthy and genetically free of any problems that might be passed down. The female in particular should be fully mature. Breeding any snake too early can cause serious health problems. Even the most healthy snake can still have problems during breeding which will need a veterinarian to help with, so make sure you know who your local exotics veterinarian is, and have the funds to take care of any medical needs that might arise from breeding.

You also need to be sure that you can house all your hatchlings separate, get them feeding, and find new homes for them.

Brumation / Cooling

Not everyone cools their Colombian Rainbow Boas, and successful breeding is possible without it, but for the best success we recommend a drop in temperature down to 75F. We do this in November. Compared to colubrids this is a relatively warm temperature, but it does not get that cold in South America. After approximately two months, you can slowly increase the temperature back to normal over the space of a few weeks and then introduce the male into the female enclosure. This is ideal after she has shed, with the shed skin still in the enclosure to maximise the pheromones and encourage breeding.

Courtship and Birth

You may decide to leave the male in the female tank for several months to ensure the most success with breeding, or you can introduce him every other week to encourage copulation. We keep ours together during this time, but know people who introduce and monitor.

Ovulation will show the female is gravid, but it’s quite easy to miss. Ovulation is a hard bulge in the center of the snake, whilst she may be raising her belly to the heat or wrapping it around items in sometimes unnatural looking positions. She is likely to stop feeding when gravid, although some females continue eating so you should still offer food.

A week after ovulation the female will shed, and approximately 120 days after the post-ovulation shed, babies should be born. If the tank is warmer, this may be quicker, if the tank is cooler, this can take a week or two more. If you’ve not managed to keep track of ovulation, approximately 2-4 weeks before giving birth females will become more and more restless, will lie on their backs more often and will look larger and swollen.

Provide a moss box for her to lay her babies in, and at this point you may want to unclutter the tank a little. If your water dish is deep, make sure you have some branches and plants in the water dish. It’s possible she will lay her babies in the water and the babies need to be able to get out easily to avoid any potential drowning.

The neonates will be born inside an egg sac of amniotic fluid which immediately opens. There will be a lot of fluid and a lot of smell. It’s a very messy business! Some of the neonates will naturally not have made it, so it’s important to remove any slugs (unfertilized eggs, such as the white blob on the left of the above photo) and the stillborn babies.

The liveborn should be moved into individual tubs. You need to be careful to let them absorb all the goo and if it hasn’t absorbed, to move it with them.

Neonate Care

After absorbing any excess egg yolk and shedding, your baby Colombian Rainbow Boas will be ready to start feeding. They will need to be separated out into small enclosures with hides, water bowls and we recommend a small moss box as well. Now is a good time to make a chart for each of them on the tub, including their date of birth, sex if you have managed to sex them, weight and any other important details. You can then write down each successful feeding date.

Your enclosures will all need to be kept at the correct temperature and humidity until your babies have established themselves as good feeders – we recommend 6 consecutive feeds, then you can consider finding them new homes. Most breeders put the tubs into a larger enclosure or rack and heat the entire area rather than heating individual tubs.

I hope that this Colombian Rainbow Boa Caresheet has provided all the information you need to know, but if there’s anything you have a question about just drop it in the comments, leave us an email or contact us on Facebook! We provide free advice on all species of reptiles.

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