Rosy Boa

Rosy Boa

Lichanura trivirgata sp.

Natural History

Rosy boas inhabit the American southwest, adjacent Mexico, and Baja California. They are desert dwellers, often living on rocky mountain sides or scrub lands. This nocturnal species takes refuge underground during the day, and comes out at night to hunt for a variety of prey.

Rosy boas are one of North Americas most variable reptiles. Color and pattern variations occur geographically, and completely different appearing forms may occur from one mountain to the next. Although there are only a handful of recognized subspecies, there are literally dozens of rosy boa locales regularly available from breeders and dealers.

Size and Longevity

Rosy boas are small compared to their South American boa cousins. Adults range in size from 2 to 4 feet, with females being dramatically larger than males.

This species is one of the longest lived boas. Average life span is 20+ years, however, specimens living well into their 30's are not uncommon.


As a relatively small snake, rosy boas do well in standard glass terrariums ranging in size from 10 gallons for hatchlings to 20 or 30 gallons for large adults. This species is strictly terrestrial, some may go so far as to call them obligate burrowers, so cage height is not an issue. Instead aim for a well ventilated cage that will provide as much floor space as possible.

Heating and Lighting

As a desert species, rosy boas not only tolerate, but also enjoy high daytime temperatures. The use of under tank heating pads, heat bulbs, or ceramic heat emitters is recommended to maintain a basking spot of around 90 degrees within the enclosure. The cooler regions of the enclosure can be in the low 80s, and night time temps can safely drop into the mid 70s. If your home gets cooler than this at night, a nocturnal heat source is recommended.

Rosy boas do not require intense lighting. They are mostly active at night, and stay hidden in burrows during the day. However, some source of light is recommended to aid in establishing a healthy day/night cycle for your snake.

Substrate and Furnishings

Rosy boas are one of a small handful of common pet herps that can be safely kept on sand. While washed play sand will work, colored sands designed specifically for reptiles may be a better choice. They are 100% clean, and because they are of a finer grain, will clump easily when soiled, and are less likely to be abrasive to a reptiles skin.

However rosy boas are a highly adaptable species, and will thrive on a variety of other commonly available substrates. Sani-Chips (heat-treated aspen chips) is a personal favorite, while repti-bark and paper pulp products will work as well. Provide a layer of bedding deep enough for your snake to burrow and completely hide itself.

These snakes are secretive by nature, and require a variety of secure, dark hiding spots within their enclosure. Curved slabs of cork bark, half logs, and driftwood all make acceptable additions to a rosy boa terrarium.

Water and Humidity

This species does not require a large water bowl. Providing too large of a container may increase the humidity within the enclosure to an unhealthy level. Instead provide a small dish that can be easily filled and cleaned. Keeping the water dish on the cooler side of the enclosure will reduce the rate of evaporation.

Rosy boas do poorly if they are kept in conditions that are too humid. No special measures are required to maintain a low humidity level. Simply choose a well ventilated enclosure and avoid large water dishes.


Rosy boas are voracious feeders and will eagerly eat one appropriately sized meal every 5 to 7 days. Very large adults may be offered food slightly less often. The diet should consist of pinky or fuzzy mice for young snakes, and then gradually larger food items as the snake matures. A properly sized meal should leave a slight, but noticeable, bulge in the snakes mid section.


Good temperament and ease of handling are a large part of what makes rosy boas an excellent pet snake. They are rarely aggressive, and when they are it is usually food-related, and not the result of bad temperament.

When handling these slow moving boas, allow them to explore your hands and surroundings. Avoid holding them too tightly or overly restricting their motion. Keep handling sessions to a reasonable time and frequency, as even the most mild mannered animals can become stressed if pushed too far.

© LLLReptile & Supply, Inc 2006