Red Tail Boa Complete Care Sheet and Enclosure Setup

Red Tail Boas are one of the most popular pet constrictors along with Ball Pythons, Carpet Pythons and Rosy Boas.

They are easily identified by their vivid red tail markings.

These constrictors are a large pet snake and can reach eight feet in length.

Despite their size Colombian Red Tails cannot eat human beings – they are not venomous or dangerous.

Boa Constrictors are very good pets and come in a wide range of colors and morphs. Keep on reading to learn how to care for a Red Tail…

Red Tail Boa Species Overview

Red Tail Boas are one of four subspecies of Boa constrictor.

Each subspecies is similar, however only the Red-Tailed and Argentine are kept as a pets:

  1. Boa constrictor constrictor (Red Tail).
  2. Boa constrictor longicauda (Long Tail).
  3. Boa constrictor occidentalis (Argentine).
  4. Boa constrictor ortonii (Orton’s Boa).

Red-Tails are popular pets for many reasons.

They are a great size as most adults grow between six and eight feet. Other pet constrictors such as the Reticulated Python can grow to 20-foot.

This constrictor also has a beautiful color and pattern.

They have a tan, gray, pink or brown base color with darker saddle markings across their dorsal. These saddle markings become red as they get closer to the tail. Many have ruby-red markings on most of their tail.

Unfortunately they are hunted for their beautiful skin. This has led to some subspecies being considered threatened and protected.

Red-Tailed Boas lives in many different ecosystems throughout Latin America. It is common to see this species around human habitations since they eat rodents and pests.

They are very adaptable and capable of living in areas with differing altitudes and humidity.

Do Red Tail Boas Make Good Pets?

Pros

  • Beautiful color and pattern with ruby-red markings on most of their tail.
  • Only grow from six to eight feet so are a manageable adult size.

Cons

  • Expensive ($200) when compared to other common pet snakes.
  • Adults still require a large enclosure of 6 x 2 x 2 feet.

Red Tail Boa Appearance

Red Tail Boa Portrait
Their heads are normally wedge-shaped with dark markings running through the eyes.

There are four different species of Boa Constrictor of which all vary in appearance. This guide focuses specifically on the Red Tail (Boa constrictor constrictor).

Colombian Red Tail Boas have a base color of gray, tan, olive or pink.

They have darker saddles on their back that are either brown or maroon. These saddles become increasingly red towards their tail and range from a dark maroon to vivid red.

Constrictors have slightly different appearances depending on where they come from.

There are also dozens of morphs that alter their pattern or color.

Albino Red Tails retain their pattern but have a very light base color with striking orange patterns.

Albino Red Tail Boa
Albino Red Tail Boa

Red Tail Boa Size

Adults are normally six to eight feet long. Some very large species can grow over 10 feet.

This size will vary depending on their feeding schedule and sex.

Some Boas are uniform in diameter and others are very thick and stocky.

Females grow larger than males. You can expect males to reach around six feet and females around eight feet.

Boas give live birth to 18-24 inch babies that weigh just a few ounces.

How Fast Does A Red Tail Boa Grow?

Most of their growth occurs before they are six years old.

These snakes increase in length by three to five times before they are six.

Healthy adults will be very girthy and heavy (around 30 pounds). A six foot Boa is significantly heavier than a six foot Colubrid like a rat snake.

Red Tail Boa Care Sheet

Red Tail Boa

Signs They Are Healthy

  • Well-defined muscle.
  • Smooth and shiny skin.
  • Bright eyes and alert.
  • Uses all of its cage.

Sickness Symptoms

  • Ribs are visible.
  • Skin has stuck shed.
  • Dull eyes or eye caps.
  • Spends time on one side of the cage.

Boas are ambush hunters. They sit and wait for their prey. After striking they capture and constrict their prey with muscular coils.

In the wild Boa constrictors eat small mammals, juvenile birds and sometimes lizards.

Boas being kept as pets (and not for breeding) do not need as much body mass. They mostly eat rodents and should be fed using the schedule below:

  • Two mice weekly until they reach three feet.
  • One rat each week when your Boa is larger than three feet.
  • One or two rabbits once a fortnight for adults over six feet.

The size of the prey will depend on the size of your snake.

You should start by feeding weekly but this can reduce to once every two weeks.

As your snake grows they can be fed less-frequently. This will depend on their age and size and if they are maintaining a healthy weight.

Boas can be underweight or overweight so you should pay attention to your snake’s body mass.

Keeping track of their growth and weight is never a bad idea.

Red Tail Boa Enclosure

Red-tailed Boa

The Colombian Red Tail Boa lives across a large range in South America.

Their natural habitat has a high humidity that should be replicated in their cage.

Humidity around 60 to 80% is best. Placing a light bulb above their water bowl will help keep humidity high. If your cage has a screen lid you will need to use a pegboard with lots of little holes.

Humidity gauges should be used to monitor the humidity.

When the cage is first set up, watch the humidity rise and fall; you will get a good idea of how to regulate it.

  • Tank Type: custom made or plastic tub.
  • Tank Size: 6′ x 2′ x 2′ feet.
  • Lighting: UVA basking bulb.
  • Substrate: cypress mulch.

There are varying opinions on what size terrarium is appropriate for an adult Boa.

You must make sure you have enough space for your snake when it reaches adult size.

We recommend an enclosure that is at least as long as your snake. They will need an enclosure that measures 6’ x 2’ x 2’. Finding enclosures this large can be difficult and they are often custom made.

Baby Boas can be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium. Most species quickly outgrow this so it is best to start with a 20-gallon long terrarium.

Once they reach four feet in length they should be transferred to an adult tank.

The cage size can be supplemented by taking your snake out to allow for enrichment.

Appropriately sized plastic tubs can be used as they retain humidity better than screen-top terrariums.

Cage Set Up

It is important that their cage has a temperature gradient.

Ambient temperatures (and the cold side of the enclosure) should be 80 to 85°F.

The hot side of the tank should be 95 to 100°F. You can use a UVA heat-emitting bulb for a basking spot.

Your snake will want a place to hide in their cage. Ideally, you should place a hide on each side of the cage so that they can feel secure in warm and cool areas.

Substrate is another important decision for a Boa’s cage.

Aspen bedding is commonly used but cypress mulch is better.

Do not use cedar or aspen shavings. These substrates contain oils that are toxic to reptiles.

Finally, your snake will need to have constant access to water. They should have access to a water bowl large enough for them to soak in.

This water needs to be monitored and kept clean.

Does A Red Tail Boa Bite Hurt?

Colombian Red Tail Boa

A bite from a Red Tail Boa is a very painful but not fatal experience.

Luckily Boas are not known for being extremely aggressive and there are ways to prevent bites from occurring.

First is knowing how to handle and hold a snake – especially large ones.

When holding a snake you must:

  • Support their body weight.
  • Make sure it is awake and is of you when taking it out of its enclosure.
  • Avoid tapping or grabbing its head as some snakes are head shy.

Remember handling and temperament varies from snake to snake.

Boas will shed their skin multiple times each year. Juveniles shed more often than adults.

When your Boa is in shed you should not try and handle them. This is because they may not be able to see well and may be more nervous when being handled.

Instead, provide them with a moist hide and make sure their cage humidity is high; placing moist paper towels in their hide to help them get their skin off easier.

Finally do not hold your Boa after feeding.

Baby Red Tail Boa: Buyer’s Guide

This species of Boa is very common in the pet trade. Because of this there are many breeders to choose from.

First you need to know what type of Red Tail you are looking for:

  • Do you want a baby or a juvenile that has already grown?
  • Do you want natural coloration or a color morph?
  • Do you want to buy in-person or are you happy with mail order?

Your first priority is to make sure you are purchasing a captive-bred species. You will then need to make sure that your snake is a healthy weight and does not have any stuck shed.

Look for a snake that is aware of its surroundings.

It should be active and alert.

Extreme aggression can be a sign of stress, but it is not uncommon for babies to be aggressive and head shy.

Before bringing your pet reptile home make sure their cage is properly setup and the humidity levels are under control.

Leaving your snake alone for the first week will help them to get used to their new environment.

How Much Is A Red Tail Boa?

Purchasing and keeping a Red-Tailed Boa is not cheap.

Common red tail babies can be purchased for $200. Unique color morphs such as the albino can cost over $1,000.

In addition a large enclosure will cost upwards of $500 – this is similar for most reptiles. Plastics tubs are much cheaper but require extra care to turn them into adequate enclosures.

You will also need to purchase lighting, heating, substrate, water bowls, hides and decorations.

They are large snakes and can be expensive to keep.

What Is It Like To Keep This Boa?

Red Tail Boa Constrictor

Before purchasing a snake you must do thorough research and know what living with one is like.

Red Tail Boa Constrictors live longer than most animals and are not a temporary pet.

You will need to make sure you:

  • Have room for your Boa when it reaches its full size. Their cage will need to be at least six feet long.
  • Can stick to a regular feeding schedule. This species eats rodents on a regular schedule – especially as babies and juveniles.
  • Handle your snake regularly to allow them to become used to it. An aggressive juvenile is easier to manage than an aggressive 8-foot adult.
  • Spot clean the cage daily and deep clean the bedding twice a month.
  • Your snake always has access to clean water for drinking, soaking, and regulating humidity.

You should always follow proper care guidelines and have common sense when handling, feeding and caring for your snake.

Species Facts

Common Name RTB, Boa Constrictor
Scientific Name Boa constrictor constrictor
Price ~$200
Size 6 to 8 feet long
Lifespan 20 to 30 years
Diet Rodents (larger adults can eat rabbits)
Tank Size 6 x 2 x 2 feet
Humidity & Temperature Temperature: 80 to 85°F
Basking: 95 to 100°F
Humidity: 60 to 80%
Popular Alternatives Carpet Python, Ball Python, Rosy Boa or Sand Boa

Summary

Red Tail Boas are one of four subspecies of Boa constrictor and thrive in captivity.

This species is native to Central and South America. They need tropical conditions in captivity.

Their cage should have an ambient temperature of around 80 to 85°F and a basking spot of 95 to 100°F. Humidity should be high at 60 to 80%.

They are famous for their vivid red tail markings. However, they are also available in many color morphs. The most famous morph is the Albino that has a white base color with striking orange patterns.

Common individuals cost $200 and will need to be housed in a large custom enclosure that measures 6 x 2 x 2 feet.

Have you recently adopted a baby Red Tail? Let us know.

Johnathan David Author Bio Picture
Johnathan David leads the editorial team at Everything Reptiles as our Editor in Chief. He brings decades worth of publishing experience. A reptile hobbyist since childhood, he has years' of experience in herpetoculture and has cared for Geckos, Skinks and a Poison Dart Frog.

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