Erica Mede, CVT
This docile, slow moving, stout bodied snake reaches
lengths of 2-3 feet and live for 15-20 years in captivity although
longer has been documented. Sand
boas are rarely bite, preferring to ball up or escape rather than
attack. With a stout
body and blunt tail this snake makes a great pet and is popular in
the pet trade due to the morphs (colors and patterns) that can be
created through selective breeding.
There are 15 different species of Sand boa with several
being well represented in the pet industry.
These snakes have small eyes and heads that are ill defined
against their body. By
two years of age, females of the species will be significantly
larger than males.
Sand boas are found throughout south and south east
, central and southwestern
depending on the species. These
snakes are exceptional at burrowing and in captivity can be found
with just their heads sticking out of the substrate.
These nocturnal snakes are found in dry areas with only
partially sandy soil not sand alone.
Females are generally longer than the males by two years of
age. Probing is an
excellent way to determine gender but should be done by a
confident snake keeper or veterinarian as damage to the snake can
There are many different ways to keep Sand boas, as with
any snake. A 10-20
gallon tank is a good size to keep this snake in.
The larger the enclosure the better.
Custom enclosures can be made and sweater boxes can be
utilized as well and seem to work exceptionally well in this
species as the opacity of the walls offers a more secure feeling.
Floor space is much more important than vertical space in
this species, strive to offer the most.
Ventilation is important.
Plastic enclosures such as sweater boxes can have
ventilation holes created using a soldering iron or a drill.
Vision cages are an excellent option but the substrate
depth is rather limited due to front sliding doors.
Sand boas prefer to burrow in their substrate, especially
during the day light hours. If
newspaper, paper towel, or reptile carpet is being used it is
recommended to shred newspaper on top to promote burrowing
behavior and to prevent undue stress on the animal.
can also be used as long as the aspen is agitated daily and
bedding is changed weekly. The
aspen must be kept around 2-4 inches deep to offer the appropriate
burrowing behavior. Never
use pine or cedar shavings as the aromatic oils are irritating to
snakes. Although these
snakes are called “sand” boas, they are not native to all sand
terrains. Sand boas
will burrow in sand but the risks are greater than the advantages
including impaction from ingestion and abrasions from
inappropriately sized sand particles.
If a naturalistic set-up is to be created, a 60-70% top
soil to 40-30% play sand mixture should be utilized and monitored
Temperature and Humidity
The enclosure, regardless of type, should have a gradient
of 75-85F° with the warmest spot no more
These temperatures should be maintained with a thermostat
and monitored with two thermometers ideally.
One thermometer should be placed on the warm end an inch
above the substrate and the other an inch above the substrate on
the cool end of the enclosure.
Under tank heaters, heat cable (outside the enclosure not
in the enclosure), heat tape are the most appropriate to warm the
Humidity should be maintained under 50% to keep this
species healthy as they do poorly in high humidity.
No special techniques are needed to keep the humidity low,
just proper ventilation and placement of the water bowl on the
cool side of the enclosure.
Cage accessories should consist of two hide boxes with one
on the warm side and one on the cooler side of the enclosure if
burrowing substrate is not provided.
Hides can be as simple as a half a flower pot, half log, or
as complicated as a rock structure (make sure it’s well
anchored). Rocks added
into the enclosure offers enrichment and some variation in the
Sand boas are nocturnal by nature and do not require
intense lighting despite their desert habitats.
However, it is recommended that a 2.0 ReptiSun UVB bulb be
offered during the day light portion of the light cycle.
All snakes can absorb the calcium from their whole prey for
their own use but a UVB bulb still offers some health benefits as
well as promotion of natural behaviors from the UVA being emitted.
In the wild, these snakes feed primarily on rodents,
lizards, and small birds that pass by.
In captivity however, most are fed mice with a penchant for
smaller rodent prey than what their size could ingest.
These snakes seem to relish nestling mice the most and feed
well after dusk! It is
highly recommended to feed only pre-killed prey as live prey can
severely injure or kill a snake.
Chicago Exotics recommends feeding properly thawed frozen
These snakes are aggressive feeders despite their slow
moving nature. Hatchlings
are typically fed pinkies or in the cases of the smaller species,
pinky mice parts. Adults
can eat small mice but tend to prefer hopper mice.
Hatchlings should be fed every 5-7 days and adults fed
every 7-10 days small meals.
Sources and Recommended
Boas: Rosy and Ground
The Art of Keeping Snakes
Philippe De Vosjoli
The New Encyclopedia of Snakes
Living Snakes of the World
John M. Merirtens
Rosy, Rubber, and Sand Boas
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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