Rosy Boa (Lichanura sp.)
Rosy boas are a 17-44”/43-1112cm long species of snake with a refined oblong head, robust body, small eyes, vertical pupils, smooth scales, and cloacal spurs. Expected adult length varies by locality. Coloring varies based on locality, but generally there are two types of rosy boa: one with red-brown to orange stripes on an off-white to pale gray-blue background, and the other with dark brown or black stripes on a white to cream background. All rosy boas have three broad stripes running down the length of the body.
Rosy boas are native to the southwestern United States, the Baja peninsula, and northwestern Sonora, Mexico. They are most often found in scrub, dry woodlands, rocky slopes, and desert to semi-desert areas near a consistent source of water. They are terrestrial and nocturnal in habit, and like to hide in rodent burrows and in rock crevices.
Although not particularly common in the pet trade, rosy boas can make great pets. They’re low-maintenance, manageably-sized, and generally tolerate handling well. If you pay attention to providing excellent rosy boa care, your pet may be able to live 30+ years.
These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional rosy boa enclosure. The recommendations below apply to most rosy boas 36″ long and shorter. Some of the links in this care sheet are paid links — if you’d like to know why ReptiFiles uses paid links, visit this page.
- 36”L x 18”W x 18”H reptile enclosure (preferably front-opening)
- Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome Lamp Fixture
- 50w Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp, x2
- Lutron Credenza plug-in lamp dimmer, x2
- Flat basking stone
- Etekcity 774 infrared thermometer
- Zoo Med Digital Combo Thermometer Humidity Gauge
- Arcadia ShadeDweller kit
- Exo Terra Mister
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- Zoo Med ReptiSand, 40+ lbs
- Reptile hides/caves, x2 (small enough to provide a tight squeeze)
- Environmental enrichment items
- Small water bowl
- Repashy Calcium Plus
- 12″ feeding tongs
Because rosy boas’ adult size varies so widely based on their genetics, it’s best to figure out what species and locality of rosy boas you have/plan on getting so you can plan the enclosure size accordingly. The formula for calculating a snake’s minimum space needs is snake length x half snake length x half snake length = length x width x height.
For example, if you use this formula and you have a rosy boa that is expected to only grow 24” long, then the minimum acceptable enclosure size will be 24”L x 12”W x 12”H. Alternatively, if you use this formula and you have a rosy boa that is expected to grow up to 44” long, then you will need a 48”L x 24”W x 24”H enclosure.
Here are some enclosures that ReptiFiles recommends for housing rosy boas:
- Custom Reptile Habitats 3 Foot Reptile Enclosure
- Exo Terra 36″ x 18″ x 18″ All-Glass Terrarium
- Carolina Custom Cages Large 36″ x 18″ x 18″
- Repti Zoo 36″ x 18″ x 18″ Reptile Terrarium
- Custom Reptile Habitats 4 Foot Reptile Enclosure
- Zen Habitats 4’x2’x2′ Wood Panel Reptile Enclosure
Of course, using a larger enclosure than the minimum is strongly recommended. Bigger is always better!
Can multiple rosy boas snakes be housed together?
Rosy boas are not known to be significantly social animals, so it’s best to house only one per enclosure.
Lighting & UVB
Rosy boas are nocturnal, which means that they are most active around nighttime. They are capable of surviving without UVB light, but it’s important to remember that they can’t thrive without it. This helps regulate their day/night cycle and associated hormonal rhythms, as well as provides all of the vitamin D3 they can possibly need, supporting all associated physiological processes.
UVB lighting can be tricky, because in order to get the right strength of UVB (UV Index, or UVI), distance and potential mesh obstruction must be considered. To provide appropriate UVB, you will need a high-quality, low-intensity UVB bulb, 1/3 to 1/2 the length of the enclosure, placed on the warm side of the setup. The basking platform/branch should be placed as follows:
- Arcadia ShadeDweller kit: 7-9” (mesh), 10-12” (no mesh)
- Arcadia T5 HO 6% / Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0: 10-12” (mesh), 13-15” (no mesh)
(These recommendations are approximations based on available data. For best results, use a Solarmeter 6.5 to determine the best placement to achieve a UVI of 2.0-3.0 in the basking area.)
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Rosy boas, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures in order to regulate their body temperature. In captivity, using halogen flood heat bulbs is the best way to replicate the type of warmth provided by sunlight.
- Basking surface: 85-90°F (29-32°C)
- Cool zone: 75-80°F (24-27°C)
Heating should be turned off at night. Temperatures can safely fall to 60°F/16°C.
Generally speaking, 50w halogen flood bulbs should be plenty to achieve your target basking surface temperature. The basking rock should be placed on top of the black plastic hide box, which will act as your warm hide. If you notice that they’re getting too hot, dial it down with a plug-in lamp dimmer. If your basking surface is too cool, you need higher wattage bulbs.
You will need multiple heat bulbs to create a large enough basking area to evenly heat your snake’s coiled body. Two bulbs should be enough for an average rosy boa.
To measure the basking surface temperature, use an infrared thermometer (a.k.a. temperature gun). To measure the temperature of the warm hide, use a digital probe thermometer. The Etekcity 774 is a good infrared thermometer, and most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.
Rosy boas should be cooled/brumated during winter.
Rosy boas are very sensitive to living in an excessively wet environment, so ambient humidity should be kept lower than 60%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe place in the middle of the enclosure. Humidity levels that are consistently higher than this range may make your pet unwell, although it is normal for humidity to be higher on the cool end and lower on the warm end, as well as higher at night.
That being said, rosy boas’ sensitivity to moisture in their environment is often exaggerated. They do need consistent access to water, and they are perfectly capable of surviving occasional spikes of humidity (ex: rain) as long their environment is allowed to dry out afterward. Furthermore, rosy boas are known to hang out under rocks and in burrows, where humidity is often significantly higher than ambient.
To keep your rosy boa hydrated without keeping it wet, it should have access to a humid hide for use as desired. This should be a hide box on the cool half of the enclosure with lightly moistened substrate or sphagnum moss inside. It’s also beneficial to occasionally mist the enclosure with a water sprayer, as this may stimulate your snake to come out and drink the resulting droplets. However, the enclosure should be kept mostly dry.
Rosy boas are healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a substrate (a.k.a. “bedding”) that imitates the conditions of their natural habitat and facilitates appropriate humidity levels. Sand or sandy soil is generally best for meeting a rosy boa’s needs.
Zoo Med ReptiSand and Exo Terra Desert Sand are the best commercial substrates for a rosy boa’s needs. Alternatively, you can use a DIY mix of 60% organic, additive-free topsoil + 40% play sand. Provide a substrate layer that is around 3-4” deep.
Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Substrate should be completely replaced once every 3-4 months.
Decorations play an important role in your rosy boa’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your snake’s natural instincts, and help promote overall wellbeing. And, of course, they make the enclosure look nice!
Décor ideas: additional hideouts/caves, cork logs, cork flats, cholla wood, ghostwood, ledges, artificial plants, drought-tolerant live plants
Rosy boas are carnivores, which means that they need a diet of whole animal prey in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. Juveniles should be fed every 5-7 days, and adults should be fed every 10-14 days. At each feeding, provide a prey item(s) which totals around 10% of your snake’s weight, assuming that it is not obese, and/or no larger than 1.5x the snake’s width at its widest point.
Although mice are the most common feeders, the key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet snake is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier, less picky snake.
Prey item ideas: mice, young rats, young hamsters, young gerbils, young quail, quail eggs, chicks, green anoles, Reptilinks
It’s best to offer frozen-thawed prey rather than live to your pet snake. This is safer for the snake and generally considered to be more humane as well. Prey should be thawed in a plastic bag in warm water to around 100°F/38°C before offering. Use soft-tipped feeding tweezers to reduce the risk of getting accidentally bitten when the snake strikes.
Rosy boas can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements, but using them occasionally is a good way to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Every once in a while, lightly dust the prey item with a 50/50 mix of calcium and multivitamin before thawing.
You will need to wait a little while after bringing your new pet home to let it settle in. This usually takes about 2 weeks, but you shouldn’t start handling until it’s eating regularly.
Once your rosy boa is ready for handling, take it slow at first — just like any relationship. Start with brief handling sessions (no longer than 5 minutes), and don’t return the snake until it is calm. This teaches your pet how to behave during handling by using rudimentary positive reinforcement. Once this has been accomplished, you can work up to longer sessions. Handling should occur at least weekly, but no more than once daily.
While handling your snake, be gentle. Rather than grabbing it, let it crawl onto your hand. Lift it from below rather than above, and support as much of its body as possible. Use slow movements and don’t walk around too much. Rosy boas usually tolerate handling well and very rarely bite.
- Charina trivirgata: INFORMATION. (n.d.). Animal Diversity Web. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Charina_trivirgata/
- Goss, P. (n.d.). Rosy Boa Care. Goss Reptiles. https://www.gossreptiles.com/rosycare
- Holycross, A. T., & Mitchell, J. C. (2020). Snakes of Arizona (pp. 79–91). ECO Publishing.
- Limburg, R., Montoya, B., & Merker, G. (2011). Rosy Boas: Patterns in Time. ECO Herpetological Publishing & Distribution.
- Merker, G. (2012, September 13). Rosy Boa Care Sheet. Reptiles Magazine. https://reptilesmagazine.com/rosy-boa-care-sheet/
- O’Shea, M. (2018). The Book of Snakes (p. 121). The University of Chicago Press.
- Rorabaugh, J. (n.d.). Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata). Tucson Herpetological Society. https://tucsonherpsociety.org/amphibians-reptiles/snakes/rosy-boa/
- Rosy Boa Care Sheet. (n.d.). VMS Professional Herpetoculture. https://www.vmsherp.com/CarePages/CareRosyBoa.htm
- Underwood, E., & Smith, M. (1997, June 7). Rosy Boa Care Sheet. ColoHerp. https://coloherp.org/rosy-boa/
- Walls, J. G. (1994). Boas: Rosy & Ground (pp. 17–32). T.F.H. Publications.
The ReptiFiles Rosy Boa Care Sheet is a simplified care summary, not a full ReptiFiles care guide. While I have done my best to ensure that the information contained is accurate, due to time constraints, the research behind ReptiFiles care sheets is not as thorough as the research involved with my full-length care guides. I strongly encourage readers to do their own research from high-quality, reputable sources outside of just this care sheet as part of preparing for your new pet reptile.