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In the wild, boas are found in a wide range of habitats, from rocky desert to rain forest. In captivity, you will want to mimic as much of the natural environment as possible.
By the time a boa reaches adulthood, it will need a terrarium that is at least 4 feet long and 3 feet high. Although this sounds like a large terrarium, it really isn’t, considering adult boas are usually at least 10 feet long. Boas are generally lethargic creatures that don’t need much more exercise than what they get at feeding time, so they don’t require a particularly large terrarium.
Because boas are so strong, the construction of the terrarium is very important. A wooden frame works well, with a bottom made out of marine plywood that absorbs water well. Three sides of the terrarium can also be plywood, but the front should be made out of glass or acrylic for easy viewing. The cover should be made of screening and should have a strong lock. There are many possible terrarium designs, in all different shapes and sizes and made from all different materials, so think carefully about which is appropriate for your boa. Once the terrarium is ready, find a place to put it, preferably a secluded corner that is not in direct sunlight or next to an air conditioning unit or vent.
The bottom of your boa’s terrarium should be covered with a substrate (bedding). Paper towels (dry and not colored), pine shavings, wood chips, bark mulch, or recycled newspaper are good options. Cedar shavings should not be used, as they can affect the snake’s lungs and cause skin blisters. Anything used as a substrate must be absorbent to keep odors to a minimum. It also must be large enough to not stick to food items and be accidentally ingested.
The terrarium should contain a heat source to help maintain a temperature between 84° and 90°F. Keep a thermometer in the terrarium to assist you in monitoring the temperature. Heat sources should be limited to one area of the terrarium so that the snake can cool down if necessary. However, the air cannot become too cool or respiratory diseases will likely develop. Overall heating can be provided by strips of electrical heat tape placed on the bottom of the outside of the terrarium, or by large heating pads placed under the substrate.
Your boa terrarium should also include a warmer area where your pet can bask, often a flat rock. This area is usually heated by an incandescent bulb, fitted into the cover of the terrarium, out of the snake’s reach. Incandescent bulbs get extremely hot and can burn your snake if contact occurs. Basking lights are normally left on for about 10 hours each day.
When considering lighting for your boa’s tank, keep in mind that every snake has its own lighting preferences. Some snakes will flourish with only basking lights in the terrarium, while other snakes will need additional fluorescent lighting. While no terrarium should be kept in complete darkness, many snakes do just fine with only basking lights, getting additional light from other lighting in the room or indirect sunlight from a nearby window.
Just like humans, boas sometimes need a little privacy. To make sure your boa has a place to hide, you will need to supply his terrarium with a hide box. It should be large enough for your snake to be able to curl up in it, but it shouldn’t be too big or it will make your snake feel insecure. A variety of hide boxes are available, including ceramic boxes and small, hollowed logs.
Every terrarium should also contain a water bowl. In addition to being a source of hydration for your snake, boas like to soak in their water bowls. Make sure that it is heavy enough that it won’t flip over if he tries to slither into it or over it. Also, keep an eye on the bowl and make sure to change the water as soon as it looks the least bit dirty, even if that means changing it two or three times a day.
As soon as you’ve finished setting up the terrarium, you should develop a maintenance schedule. The terrarium should be cleaned at least once every two weeks. A thorough cleaning should include cleaning the actual terrarium, removing and disinfecting the water bowl and decorations, and changing the substrate.