Amazon tree boas (Corallus hortulanus) are 5’ long, arboreal snakes native to the South American neotropics, including the Amazon rainforest. They generally prefer a rainforest habitat, but are also known to inhabit savannah and dry forest. Wherever they are, you can usually find them in a tree.
Amazon tree boas have slim bodies and a relatively large head. They are best known for their stunning and unpredictable variety of colors. Some are patterned, some are not, and they can be any combination of brown, gray, yellow, orange, and/or red.
Although stunning, Amazon tree boas are not particularly common pets due to their notoriously nervous temperament, which makes them very hard to tame. However, they make great display animals for those willing to put in the work. With good care, Amazon tree boas can live up to 20 years.
Minimum terrarium size for Amazon tree boas
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single Amazon tree boa is 48”L x 24”W x 48”H. Of course, larger is always better! Amazon tree boas may look small due to their slender bodies, but the fact is that they still need enough room to stretch out fully, explore, and climb.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple Amazon tree boas in one enclosure) is not recommended, as keeping them together is likely to cause stress.
Do Amazon tree boas need UVB?
Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for Amazon tree boas. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and provides other benefits. Plus, it’s quite likely that they are regularly exposed to sunlight in the wild, as Amazon tree boas are known to be active during both day and night.
The best UVB bulbs for Amazon tree boas housed in a 48” x 24” x 48” terrarium are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 34”
- Arcadia Forest 6%, 34”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture such as Vivarium Electronics or the Arcadia ProT5. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 11-13” above the basking branch if over mesh, and 14-16” above the basking branch if not.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Best temperature for Amazon tree boas
Like other reptiles, Amazon tree boas are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively.
Specifically speaking, Amazon tree boas should have a basking air temperature between 89-92°F. On the other side of the enclosure, the temperature should be around 75°F. Make sure you’re maintaining an appropriate temperature gradient with digital probe thermometers.
Provide heat for your snake with at least two heat bulbs, placed close together over the basking area (ex: a piece of flagstone or stone paver) to evenly heat the snake’s entire body. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. If the bubs are a little too hot, use a plug-in lamp dimmer to reduce output. If the bulbs are not hot enough, you will need a higher wattage.
Best humidity levels for Amazon tree boas
Amazon tree boas are a tropical species that requires an average humidity of 60-80%. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Increase humidity by misting your snake’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. A cool mist humidifier connected to a hygrostat can also help. We also recommend installing a humid hide for your snake, lined with moistened sphagnum moss, in the upper levels of the enclosure.
Best substrate for Amazon tree boas
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for Amazon tree boas:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a Amazon tree boa terrarium
An empty terrarium makes for a bored snake, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Since Amazon tree boas are arboreal, it is extremely important to provide branches for it to climb and perch on. Branches should be roughly the same width as the thickest point of the snake’s body, and should preferably have multiple forks.
Here are some other ideas to consider:
- cork tubes
- live or artificial plants
Aside from branches, make sure that your snake also has covered areas to retreat to when it wants privacy.
What to feed to an Amazon tree boa
Amazon tree boas are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Here is a basic feeding schedule based on snake age:
- Hatchlings and juveniles (<2 years old) should be fed once every 7-10 days.
- Subadult and adults (>2 years old) should be fed once every 14 days.
Prey items should be around 10% of the snake’s weight and no more than 1.5x its width at its widest point. For young Amazon tree boas, that’s usually pinky and fuzzy mice. As they get older, they can be transitioned to hopper mice, adult mice, young rats, and chicken/quail chicks.
Although live prey can be offered, it’s best to use frozen whenever possible. Prey should be thawed in a BPA-free plastic bag in warm water until it reaches ~100°F, then use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake.
Snakes can survive without dietary supplements, but using them every once in a while can help prevent your pet from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on the prey item before offering.
Amazon tree boas tend to like to soak after a meal, so make sure to provide a large tub of water big enough to accommodate the snake’s entire body. Keep the water clean and free of debris, and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your Amazon tree boa
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, and Amazon tree boas definitely prefer to be left alone rather than handled.
These snakes are very nervous around humans and other potential “threats,” so they strike at anything that comes near, especially when they’re young. If you need to work in your boa’s enclosure, use a snake hook or paper towel to keep it occupied. If you’re worried about getting bitten, wear a pair of welding gloves and a face shield.
The good news is that Amazon tree boas tend to get more relaxed around humans as they age.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay