Brazilian Rainbow Boa

Epicrates cenchria cenchria

Brazilian Rainbow Boa Care


The most colourful of all the rainbow boas, the Brazilian hails from the Amazon basin and surrounding areas. As might be expected from a rainforest species, they like it warm and humid; however, as they are a mostly terrestrial species, they can be sensitive to overheating.

As adults they are not a huge constrictor, reaching a maximum size of 152 to 182cm (60 to 72”, or 5 to 6 feet) with the males tending to be slightly smaller and slimmer. They have a background colour that ranges from tan to bright orange, with circular markings along the spine and down the flanks outlined in black. The blotches on the side are often marked with a bright orange flash, although these markings do vary from snake to snake. The one thing that doesn’t change, however, is the rainbow iridescence that gives the species group their common names.

This phenomenon is caused by structural colouration, often seen on bird’s feathers, and is due to microscopic ridges on the surface of the scale refracting light, like a prism. Most snakes have this iridescence to a greater or lesser degree, but it is especially well developed in the rainbow boas.

Although they will climb if given the opportunity, generally the Brazilian rainbow is a terrestrial snake. Their vivarium should provide plenty of space for climbing branches whilst still having a large floor area to permit normal activity. A wooden vivarium of at least 120 x 60 x 60cm (48 x 24 x 24”) is sufficient, but a bigger home might be necessary for a particularly large or active individual. 

For a tropical species they are remarkably temperature sensitive; temperatures above 32ºC (86ºF) can be uncomfortable for them, and over 35ºC (95ºF) can be fatal. A daytime ambient temperature of between 25 and 32ºC suits them fine, with a temperature drop at night. This can be provided with a deep heat projector mounted at one end of the vivarium connected to a suitable thermostat, and remember to always check your temperatures with a good quality digital thermometer. They do appreciate a very high humidity, which can be difficult to maintain in a wooden vivarium; if the overall humidity is low, it is important to provide at least one wet hide filled with very damp moss where the snake can rest in a high humidity environment.

Snakes benefit greatly from UVB lighting. The Brazilian Rainbow Boa is a Ferguson Zone 2 species (occasional basker, thermoregulator), and in the wild will use dappled shade to control their temperature and UV exposure. Using a low output T5 strip light will help to recreate these conditions within the vivarium, and should be considered essential for this species.

Feeding is uncomplicated, with hatchling snakes usually happy to take mouse fuzzies weekly; the prey size should be increased as the snake grows, until a large adult should be taking medium or large rats. Varying the diet is not essential, but it does add enrichment and should be done if possible.

Brazilian rainbows, like most boas, are livebearers. They don’t lay eggs but give birth to live young; if you do decide to breed your boas, make sure to provide the female with a large, comfortable moss box to give birth in. They are also one of the very few species of snake to have been proved to reproduce parthenogenetically!

Although they can be delicate, it’s certainly possible to care for this species well; they can make beautiful, docile pets, and make an excellent second snake.

Animal Information

  • Common Name: Brazilian rainbow boa
  • Scientific Name: Epicrates cenchria cenchria
  • Location: Amazon basin
  • Habitat (wild): Woodland/forest floor
  • Captive environment: Tropical forest vivarium, with deep substrate for burrowing
  • Temperature range: Daytime hot spot of 32ºC under the basking light, background ambient of 30 to 25ºC. Temperature can drop to 22ºC at night.
  • UVB Lighting: 5% or 7% UVB strip lamp
  • Ferguson Zone: Zone 2
  • Substrate: Soil/coir based
  • Lifespan: 20 years +