Amazon Tree Boa
Erica Mede, CVT
and edited by Susan Horton, DVM
Amazon tree boas, also known as common tree boas, garden
tree boas, and Ammies are found throughout
in the rainforests. This
species is highly arboreal preferring to drape on branches and
exercise between tree limbs. Despite
their preference for arboreal living amongst the thick and lush
foliage of the rainforest, they are quite common in the fruit
orchards caused by deforestation.
The majority of Amazons are imported from areas surrounding
Amazons are a medium size nocturnal snake generally
reaching 5-7 feet in length but with a rather thin sleek body.
Despite their length and large heads, these snakes only
weigh between 400 and 800 grams and are slow growers.
One thing to consider with these boas is their long reach
and defensive striking habit and continue to do so for the 20 plus
years of their lifespan. These
snakes are meant to eat avian prey with their large triangular
heads, long teeth, and bulging eyes.
Amazon tree boas are not quite as diverse in the color
region as some species of snakes such as ball pythons but they
still have a natural ranges of color that are beautiful.
There are two color phases the garden phase (black, browns,
and greys) and the colored phase (reds, oranges, and yellows).
Each phase can be pattern less, speckled, banded, or
saddled in appearance making this snake naturally diverse looking.
There are morphs available in the pet trade including candy
canes, tigers, leopards, Halloweens, and paradoxs.
Neonates are fed mouse pinkies and fuzzies every week until
they reach one to two years old.
Amazons should be upgraded to fuzzies as soon as possible
due to the better nutrition offered.
Once they are one year old they are upgraded to small mice
if they can handle the size once every one to two weeks.
As adults, Amazons can be maintained on medium to large
mice every two weeks as well.
Imported Amazons can be incredibly finicky in their eating
habits. The same
feeding schedule can be utilized but the prey changes.
Imported snakes have a primary diet of avian prey when they
are adults and frogs and lizards when they are young.
Converting younger snakes to frozen thawed rodents is
easier than converting adults generally.
Young snakes can be tempted into eating rodents by rubbing
the body of the rodent on a frog that has been frozen and
defrosted for such an occasion.
Adults can be introduced to mammalian prey by wetting the
mice and rolling them in natural feathers (not the dyed ones from
craft stores). Feathers
can be obtained from a local butcher usually.
All prey should be offered during the evening hours due to
nocturnal hunting. The
size of the prey should be no larger than the width of their head.
It is recommended that adult rodents be used to feed
whenever possible as they are the most nutritionally complete.
Avoid feeding obese animals as this can cause obesity in
snakes that do not receive enough exercise due to sparse caging or
lack of interest in excercising.
A good rule of thumb for snakes (although there are always
exceptions to the rules such as emerald tree boas) is it is okay
to feed again once they have defecated.
For this reason it is recommended to soak Amazons a few
days after being fed once the “lump” from the food disappears.
Neonates can be kept in an enclosure the size of a
10-gallon aquarium. Neonates
alternatively can be housed in a Rubbermaid container which will
hold the humidity around the higher end of humidity spectrum for
the first year. This
allows these young babies to feel secure and safe.
Adults are best kept in an enclosure roughly the size of a
30-gallon to 50-gallon aquarium.
Aquariums are not the best housing for these snakes however
but work well for temporary housing.
Amazons are best kept in specialty arboreal cages such as
Neodesha Vision cages. These
cages can be a bit pricey but they are an excellent investment.
Keepers looking to create or purchase specialty cages
should consider a cage at least 32” long, 32” high, and 24”
deep. The higher the
cage the better it is for exercise and temperature gradients.
These size enclosures are not always feasible but the more
room they have the better the snake will do.
The general rule for the height of Amazon cages is that the
height be at least 2/3 of the snakes body length.
Despite their nocturnal habits a regular light cycle is
required of 12 hours of daylight to 12 hours of night.
Although most keepers and breeders do not utilize UVB
lights for their snakes it does not hurt to have a ReptiSun 2.0
UVB on during the twelve hours of daylight.
These lights do not provide heat but mimic natural daylight
which promotes natural behaviors.
A 15-watt incandescent bulb can be used during day light
Newspaper is effective, inexpensive, and easy to clean.
It also allows direct visualization of feces.
Newspaper however is not very exciting to look at and does
not hold humidity well. Paper
towels are another option that is inexpensive and more
aesthetically pleasing as well as easy to clean.
Paper towel starts to break apart when saturated and should
be changed daily.
is an excellent snake bedding as it holds in humidity well, is
pleasant to look at in the cage, and does not cause respiratory
tract irritation like pine and cedar does.
Daily spot cleaning is required to remove soiled and wet
bedding and weekly full substrate changes are required.
Watch the substrate for mold especially under the water
dish. The use of
particulate bedding such as aspen can be ingested during feeding.
Although this is not so much a problem with Amazons since
they eat upside down from the branch it is still recommended to
exercise caution and perhaps utilize a small feeding cage without
substrate or remove substrate from the main cage prior to feeding.
Again, the ingestion of bedding is not common in this
species but still should be considered.
Amazons fare best when the ambient temperature in the cage
between 75 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit with the preferred zone being
between 80 and 82 degrees for most individuals in the middle of
the enclosure. The
lower level of the enclosure should be around the high to mid
70’s. This species
rarely basks but gravid females have been documented basking under
heat bulbs bringing the temperature up to 90—92 degrees.
Since this species is nocturnal it is a good idea to use a
ceramic heat emitter or moonlight bulb for.
At night the temperatures should drop between 75 and 77
alternative for heating is to utilize radiant heat panels.
Care must be used that the snake cannot make direct contact
Daily misting is required to keep humidity levels between
60 and 80% or the use of a humidifier or reptile fogger is
effective also. The
higher end of the range should be used during shedding.
A hygrometer is required for proper monitoring of relative
cage humidity. A
fogger system attached to a hygrometer is the best option.
Misting allows the snake to drink droplets off its body
which is ideal for imported individuals who may be reluctant to
explore their cage for the water dish.
Horizontal perches of varying widths are a must!
The smallest branch should be as thick as the snake.
Amazons prefer to sit in “V” shaped branches rather
than drape over a single branch like the emerald tree boa.
This allows for proper perching.
Some perches should be placed at slight angles to
facilitate exercise along with true horizontal perches.
Branches should be made of various woods avoiding pine and
cedar which can have aromatic oils that irritate the respiratory
tract of the snake.
board is an excellent shelf as it is extremely resistant to mold
Hiding spots, referred to as hides, are required for the
well being of this species. Amazons
will still seek out ground hides created from half of a flower
pot, simple wooden box with an access hole, or other customizable
objects such as large cat litter boxes turned upside with an entry
hole. An arboreal hide
should be offered to Amazons as well.
Again, wooden boxes with an entry hole are excellent as
well as a corner shelf large enough for the snake to lay on with
heavy foliage covering it.
Plants can be
either fake or real but fake plants are easier to clean and
maintain. Fake plants
can be bought from pet stores, craft stores, and even the local
dollar store. The
creative options for a vivarium utilizing fake plants is endless!
An excellent idea to utilize both a hide spot and plants is to use
a plastic coated mesh basket and place moss in it with leaves all
Probing is the only definitive way to sex Amazon tree boas.
This procedure should be performed by an experienced
breeder or a veterinary professional.
There is another method of sexing that is employed by some
keepers and breeders called “popping”.
This is the practice of everting the hemipenes but it is
potentially dangerous to the snake and complications have
frequently been reported especially in adults.
Breeding generally takes place between December and March
with the male and female entwining themselves together.
Amazons bear live young and their gestation is 7-10 months
long because of it. 4-10
young (occasionally 14) are born between September and November.
The young will shed around 2-3 weeks old and then are ready
to accept food generally. Gravid
females may not accept food especially late in the gestation
period but food should still be offered every two weeks.
This species of snake is renowned for its aggression
towards keepers. Some
are docile but most fall into the aggressive to very aggressive
category. These snakes
have a long striking range and most will bite readily.
Daily handling from a young age helps prevent some of this
from the wild are more prone to very aggressive behavior.
Snake hooks and pair of leather gloves are recommended to
prevent minor injuries. Hooks
allow the keeper to maneuver the snake appropriately from a
distance without placing extremities in the striking distance.
A word of caution, these snakes tend to strike at the face.
Imported snakes are generally stressed, irritable, and have
a hard time settling into their new enclosures.
These Amazons generally need a few weeks before handling is
bred Amazons should also be allowed an acclimation period prior to
handling of around a week.
Properly hooking the snake requires a bit of skill but most
snakes will balance themselves on the end of the snake hook.
It is recommended to have an experienced snake keeper
demonstrate how to properly hook a snake or ask one of the
for instruction. For
overly aggressive individuals it is recommended to utilize snake
tongs which can also be demonstrated by an experienced keeper or
staff member. Amazons
are more visualization snakes than tactile snakes for the comfort
of the animal and the safety of the keeper.
The Guide to Owning Tree Boas and Tree
Tree Boas: The Genus Corallus of Tropical America
J. Stafford and Robert W. Henderson
Treeboas: Natural History of the Corallus hortulanus Complex
Snakes of the World in Color
of the World -
Areste and Rafael Cebrian
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