Emerald Tree Boa
Emerald Tree Boa
Erica Mede, CVT
Pictures and Editing By Susan Horton, DVM
Emerald Tree boas are also called Emeralds, Emerald boas,
or Green Tree boas (not to be confused with Green Tree pythons).
This species of nocturnal, arboreal constrictors reaches
lengths of around 5-6.5 feet typically although they are very slow
growers. As implied by
their latin name, C. caninus, this snake has highly
developed front teeth (the alleged canines) that are very large
and can inflict a nasty bite.
Emeralds also have a prehensile tail which helps them to
anchor themselves to tree branches.
Their vertical pupils are an indication of their nocturnal
habits. Along their
upper jaw (or “lip”) this species of snake has deep pits used
for heat detection. Both
genders will have spurs on either side of their cloaca as well.
The Emeralds have a background color of green with
irregular white stripes that sometimes resemble lightning bolts.
Their belly is a plain yellow color.
Juveniles, however, are typically an orange or brick red
coloration but they are never yellow!
Yellow juveniles are Green Tree pythons, a different
species all together but still stunning.
The adult colors will overtake the juvenile coloration at 9
months to a year old.
Emeralds are found primarily in the rainforests of
specimens are slightly gentler (allegedly) and a slightly darker
green than their
specimens are the most common found in the pet trade.
The enclosure for Emerald Tree boas should be completely
arboreal, these snakes even eat with their heads hanging down from
the branches! Most of
their time will be spent coiled over a branch with their head
resting in the middle (during the day) or draped down during the
night when the snake is most likely to be active.
Aquariums can be utilized but a custom enclosure or
enclosure specially created for arboreal use is highly
A 20-30 gallon aquarium can be used for young snakes but
larger enclosures are preferred especially with the focus being
primarily on vertical spacing.
A partial or full screen enclosure is an excellent habitat
although keeping high humidity is difficult and requires diligence
and some creative solutions. The
draw to a partial or full screen cage is the ventilation although
a ceiling fan or small computer fan can be rigged to keep the air
circulating as long as the humidity is monitored closely.
Boaphile makes an excellent arboreal caging system that can
be modified and customized. There
are other excellent arboreal enclosure systems that are readily
available as well. Any
custom cage created should be waterproof and well ventilated!
This species is primarily nocturnal but still benefit from
the use of UVB bulbs during the day light portion of their light
cycle. Ultraviolet B
radiation is not necessarily required for calcium absorption in
snakes as they are able to use the calcium from their whole prey
however, the UVB lights still offer health and psychological
benefits. A 2.0
ReptiSun bulb is an excellent addition to any enclosure,
especially for growing hatchlings, wild caught individuals, and
The ambient (air) temperature should be kept around 80-82F°
with the basking spot at 85F°.
Higher temperatures can cause regurgitation especially in
wild caught individuals. Temperatures
at night can go as low as 75F° without ill
temperature in the cage should be controlled with a thermostat and
monitored with two different thermometers, preferably three.
One thermometer should be placed at the height of the
basking spot, one midway in the cage, and another preferably on
the floor of the cage. Under
tank heaters, heat cable (used on the outside of the cage only!),
heat tape, and heat bulbs can all be utilized for heating the
panels are another wonderful way to heat a large enclosure
although these can be expensive.
Ceramic heat emitters can also be used especially at night
as they do not emit any light to throw off the light cycle of the
The humidity in the cage is vitally important and needs
remain between 80 and 90% to mimic its rainforest habitat.
The humidity, depending on the cage size, can be maintained
using live vegetation, mister systems, fogger systems, large water
dishes, or room humidifiers. Spraying
the cage can be utilized for small enclosures as well.
Hygrometers must be used to monitor humidity levels.
With such a high level of humidity in the enclosure, it is
important to monitor and change the substrate frequently to
prevent mold. Some
owners keep their pets in natural vivariums with live plants and
natural drainage systems. These
enclosures do require some degree of diligence and maintenance.
Newspaper replaced daily or reptile carpet can be used as
it does not mold quickly. Wood
shavings (not cedar or pine) such as orchid bark can be utilized
but must be agitated daily and changed weekly.
Caging accessories should include heavy vegetation to
provide some hide areas, especially for young snakes.
Vertically inclined branches should be offered for
enrichment and exercise but a few branches should be completely
horizontal and thick enough for the snake to drape over them and
be supported. Branches
or perches can be natural wood or PVC piping.
Other creative versions of perches have been created such
as wrapping fake vines over PVC piping.
Waterfalls can be added to the enclosure as well as other
Males are sexually mature around 3-4 years old and females
are mature around 4-5 years old.
Once these snakes are successfully mated, they will produce
6-14 young in 6-7 months.
This species is a slow growing species with a peculiar
feeding habit of hanging downward with its prey from a coiled
position on a tree branch. This
species does have a problem with regurgitation in high
most Emeralds will not defecate after every meal but after every
second or third meal. In
the wild, these snakes consume small mammals, small birds,
lizards, and frogs. However,
in captivity, most are offered mice, rats, and pheasant chicks.
All prey is recommended to be pre-killed as live prey can
cause severe injuries to snakes.
Frozen prey that has been properly thawed is highly
recommended by Chicago Exotics.
Ideally, hatchlings and juveniles should be fed every 10-12
days while adults are fed 1-2 times a month.
Sources and Recommended
The Green Tree Python and Emerald Tree Boa
Ron Kivit, Stephen Wiseman, and
The Art of Keeping Snakes
Phillippe De Vosjoli
Living Snakes of the World
John H. Mertens
The New Encyclopedia of Snakes
Give us a call if you need to make an
appointment! (847) 329-8709.
An educational handout concerning reptiles
and Salmonella is available through the Association of Reptilian
and Amphibian Veterinarians. Please
ask your veterinarian for a copy.
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