Common boa, Boa imperator

Origin: Central & South America, some parts of Mexico

Size: 6-10 feet

Lifespan: 20-30+ years

Basking Temperature: 88-90 degrees

Cool End Temperature: 80-85 degrees

Humidity: 60-70%

Substrate: Coco chip or cypress. Paper is acceptable for adults.

Baby enclosure size: 20” x 10” x 12” – 30″ x 12″ x 12″

Adult enclosure size: 6’ x 2.5-3’ x 1-2’

Difficulty: Novice-Intermediate

The common boa, sometimes called the “red tail” boa, is a medium to large snake from Central and South America, as well as parts of Mexico. It is often confused with the Columbian or true red tail boa, Boa constrictor, of which it was considered a subspecies until relatively recently. Despite their size, common boas can make an excellent choice of pet snake for novice keepers due to their generally docile nature, hardiness, and longevity.

This guide is a brief overview of basic care and minimum husbandry requirements and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to boa care. Our best advice:

Read, read, read! Studying about your new pet is the key to a long and happy life for them, and years of enjoyment for you.


Enclosures for boas must be long enough for the boa to stretch out fully and exercise. Upgrade your boa’s enclosure any time they are no longer able to stretch out. Avoid glass aquariums with screen lids as they do not hold sufficient humidity.  Boas appreciate the opportunity to climb. Provide a hide at both hot and cool ends. 


Coco chip and cypress both make excellent and great looking substrates for most boa enclosures. Aspen will work if the humidity is too high, but it must not be misted as it will mold quickly. Remove any wet or mildewed aspen any time you notice it. 


Provide a basking spot at one end regulated to 88-90 degrees. We prefer heat panels as a heat source for plastic and PVC enclosures. A dome light with a ceramic heat emitter is preferable for front opening glass enclosures. Use a thermostat to regulate the temperature with the probe secured directly in the basing spot. Do not guess! Do not use only a thermometer. Overheating can be quickly fatal for your new pet. Night drops in temperature are not recommended. Boas do not generally require a UV light, but may benefit from one.


Humidity should be maintained at 60-70%. Place a good quality hygrostat in your boas enclosure to monitor humidity. Using the correct substrate and misting occasionally is usually sufficient to maintain appropriate levels. Do not mist aspen.


Provide your boa with a non-porous water bowl and change it frequently. Snakes frequently defecate in their water bowl, so frequent disinfection is essential. We recommend F10 Veterinary Disinfectant or original (yellow) Listerine diluted to 10% with water.


Boas are generally docile snakes, but they typically have strong feeding responses. You should study and practice tap training with your boa. There are numerous resources available online to show you how to do this, and you should be consistent in practice. Support your boa’s body when handling. Do not let them dangle loosely. Boas use their tails to support themselves, so expect that they will grab ahold of your hand, arm, or clothing when being handled. Boas should not be allowed to wrap around a handler’s neck as they can restrict airways in the process of supporting themselves. Instead, support larger animals over one shoulder and under the other arm. Children should always be supervised when handling snakes. Do not handle them while they are in shed or right after meals.


Allow your new snake at least a week to adjust to its new habitat before feeding. Mortal Coil Serpentry supports feeding frozen feeders. Your new pet is already feeding on frozen thawed. Live feeding is not recommended. Warm frozen prey to a natural body temperature (~90 degrees). Do not feed your snake from your fingers. Present prey with tongs, holding it by the base of the tail, and wiggle gently in front of the snake. Do not handle for at least 24 hours after feeding. Young boas do best on mice, but should be transitioned to rats by the time they are big enough to eat large mice.

Hatchlings to 1 year:

1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once per week. Mice and African Soft Furs are superior to rats of equivalent size for nutritional value. Baby quail may be used to add diversity to their diet.

1-2 years:

1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once every 2 weeks. Poultry may be used to add diversity to their diet.

2 years and up:

1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once every 3-4 weeks. Poultry may be used to add diversity to their diet. Boas are especially fond of guinea pigs, but a diet of strictly guinea pigs should be avoided as they are too fatty.

The correct body shape for a boa is that of a bread loaf: square on the sides and round on top. A round boa is obese.