To set up a habitat for a red tail boa (Boa constrictor constrictor), begin with a suitable enclosure and add a suitable substrate, hiding places, climbing branches and a water dish. Provide heating equipment to ensure that the habitat remains in the appropriate temperature range.
Many types of enclosures are suitable for boa constrictors, including commercial cages, aquariums fitted with screened lids, and customized plastic storage boxes. Each type of enclosure offers unique benefits and presents some challenges, but commercially built snake cages are usually the best choice. Plastic cages are the most common on the market, but wood cages are also acceptable, provided that the wood is covered with a nontoxic water sealant.
Boa constrictors are not terribly active snakes, but they do require large cages. As a rule of thumb, try to provide an enclosure with a perimeter that is equal to twice the snake’s length. In other words, a 4-foot-long snake requires a cage about 3 feet long and 1 foot wide, while an 8-foot-snake requires a cage about 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. Because boas climb from time to time, it is wise to offer them cages with 18 to 24 inches of height.
Substrate and Furniture
A variety of substrates can serve to keep your boa constrictor comfortable, including cypress mulch, orchid bark, recycled paper pulp products and newspaper. Wood products are the most aesthetically pleasing option, but newspaper is easier to maintain and is essentially free.
Add at least one hiding space for your snake, so he feels comfortable and secure in the habitat. The hiding place should fit your snake snugly, be lightweight and easy to clean. An inverted plastic plant saucer with a hole cut in the side makes an excellent hiding spot. Alternatively, use cork tube hollows, which have the bonus of being attractive.
Add a few wooden climbing branches to the habitat, being sure to fix them securely in place. You can affix the branches with screws or other hardware: For example, closet rod holders installed on both sides of the cage will support a branch of modest weight. Strong adhesives are another option, although these preclude you from removing the branch for cleaning and maintenance.
Hailing from tropical latitudes, boa constrictors require a relatively warm habitat to thrive. Place a heat lamp at one end of the enclosure, which will provide a range of temperatures inside the cage. This will allow your pet to move about the cage as necessary to maintain a constant body temperature. Directly under the heat lamp, the temperature should be about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The far end of the cage should be between 75 and 80 degrees.
Turn the light off at night to provide your pet a suitable photoperiod. If nighttime temperatures in the cage drop below 65 degrees, you must employ a heat source that does not emit light, such as a heating pad or ceramic heat emitter.
Provide your boa a wide, sturdy water dish. Although it need not be large enough to contain the snake, your pet will likely appreciate a large water container, as boas often enjoy soaking in their water dish. Keep the water dish full of fresh, clean water at all times.