Red-Tailed Boa Care

Red-Tailed Boa (Boa constrictor ssp. & Boa imperator)

Difficulty: IntermediateHard

Published: November 3, 2018                    Last Updated: November 5, 2020

Boa constrictors native range south americaThe boa is a semi-arboreal species of constricting snake native to Central and South America. Like many snakes, this species is surrounded by myths. Boas are often referred to as “red-tailed boas,” although this is a misnomer that applies to just one of the 8 subspecies, B. c. constrictor.

  • Boa constrictor amarali
  • Boa constrictor constrictor*
  • Boa constrictor occidentalis
  • Boa constrictor longicauda
  • Boa constrictor nebulosa
  • Boa constrictor orophias
  • Boa constrictor ortonii
  • Boa constrictor sabogae
  • Boa imperator*
  • Boa sigma

The most common subspecies (marked by an asterisk) are known for placid temperaments and tame down easily. All subspecies will be described in further detail in section 2 of this guide: Members of the Boa Genus.

Boas are nocturnal, which means that they are most active at night. Their nightly activity consists mostly of hunting for prey such as birds and small mammals. Because they don’t have hands or arms to help them eat, they use their muscular bodies to squeeze captured prey until it passes out (which is a humane process that occurs within seconds, according to this study).

Depending on the subspecies, boas grow between 5-8’ (1.5-2.4m) long on average. The most growth occurs during their first 6 years of life, but a boa constrictor can keep growing through age 15. Females are generally significantly larger than males, with giants topping out at 10-12’ (3.0-3.7m) long.

With correct care, boas can live for 30 years. There have also been documented cases of boa constrictors which have reached 40. This means that when you take on a pet boa constrictor, you must be in it for the long haul.

Fun Facts

  • Unlike most other live-bearing reptiles, boas are viviparous rather than ovoviviparous. This means that instead of developing inside egg-like sacs with yolks inside the mother, young are dependent on their mother for nutrient delivery via placenta, just like mammals.
  • Parthenogenesis has been documented in imperator, in which the young receive 100% of their genetics from the mother but are not necessarily her “clones.” (Evidence for viable, non-clonal but fatherless Boa constrictors by Booth et al.)
Red-Tailed Boa Care Guide - Photo by David Watson

Contributed by David Watson

Red-Tailed Boa Care Guide — Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction to Boa Constrictors, aka “Red-Tailed Boas”
  2. Members of the Boa Genus
  3. Red-Tailed Boa Shopping List & Starter Kit
  4. How to Select and Buy a Pet Boa
  5. How Big Should Your Boa’s Enclosure Be?
  6. Lighting & UVB Requirements
  7. Temperature Requirements
  8. Humidity Requirements
  9. What Kind of Substrate Should You Use?
  10. Tips for Decorating Your Boa’s Enclosure
  11. What Do Red-Tailed Boas Eat?
  12. How to Handle Your Pet Red-Tailed Boa
  13. What to Do When Your Boa Gets Sick
  14. Additional Resources

ReptiFiles’ first priority is providing accurate information on the species represented and their care. However, when a (albeit misleading) common name is more popular than an animal’s correct name, we have to make concessions for SEO reasons. So although we are well aware that the term “red-tailed boa” is something of a misnomer, this guide will be referring to members of the Boa genus interchangeably as either “boas,” “boa constrictors,” or “red-tailed boas” so new and prospective boa owners will be able to find this information via Google search. Thank you for understanding.


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