Calabar Boas; formerly known as Calabar Pythons are one of three species of egg laying boas. They are a small, extremely friendly species of snake that take well to captivity. They feed readily on defrost rodents and are excellent beginner snakes. Calabar Boas are a burrowing species, and rarely come above ground during daylight hours. However, they can be highly active at night, and under a red night lamp can be a very interesting species to watch. Adults rarely exceed 90cm in length, although they are usually around 60cm.
When keeping any snake as a pet, you generally want to be able to view the snake from the outside of its enclosure, in the most natural surroundings you can offer. This will be more aesthetically pleasing and also aid in the general condition of the snake. If the snake likes its surroundings, it will have a better feeding response and generally grow quicker. A larger vivarium also offers more interest to the boa?s life, and by adding branches and other natural products you will enhance the quality of life the snake has, and stop it from becoming lethargic and overweight. Also, being stronger it should have more of a resistance to any viral infections or any other problems that it may encounter later in life.
For an adult Calabar Boa, a vivarium 60cm Length x 45cm Width x 45cm Height is ample. Although Calabar Boas do not need large enclosures, they rarely seem worried about excessive space. For that reason I would try and give them an enclosure as large as possible. They are predominantly a terrestrial, burrowing species; however, will venture out during the night and will readily climb around branches if they are provided.
Snake enclosures can be made from a number of materials. Most commonly used is a melamine coated wood which covers all sides except the front, which has glass sliding doors. Aquariums can too be used, although a specialist lid should be bought or made rather than the original aquarium lid. It is essential when thinking about what type of enclosure you use, you think about these 6 ?SSSHHH? factors:
1) Safety ? Can the snake or owner injure itself from the enclosure or any appliances held within?
2) Secure ? Can the snake escape through any small hole or cavity?
3) Size ? Will the enclosure be appropriately sized?
4) Heating ? Is the enclosure able to regulate the temperature enough?
5) Humidity ? Will the enclosure last well in humid conditions?
6) Hygienic ? Will the enclosure build up a lot of bacteria in small cavities? Is it easy to clean?
By following the steps above, you can have a suitable enclosure made from a variety of materials.
D?cor in your tank serves two purposes. First being extra cover for your snake, second making the vivarium more aesthetically pleasing. When choosing d?cor, think about the safety of the snake. Make sure that whatever you decide to use, it is securely fixed and that no rocks, wood or anything heavy can fall and possibly injure, or even kill the snake. You must also make sure that everything used is parasite free. If anything has been picked up from outside, or has originally come from outside, such as cork bark, you should either boil it, or place the item in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes. Freezing works for some parasites, however others have been known to survive months in freezing conditions. Some parasites found in English conditions last winters in minus temperatures, so it is not entirely effective.
Once all your d?cor is parasite free, it is then safe to place inside your enclosure. As a general rule, if you can put pressure on an item to knock it down, an adult Calabar Boa is also capable of doing this. When positioning rocks or heavy objects, make sure they are completely secure. If it is still uneasy, screw them or use superglue to fix them securely. If it is not possible, the rule is simple: Do not place the item in the vivarium!
If you decide to go for a large enclosure, you must provide plenty of cover and hiding areas. A hiding place can be anything from an ice cream tub with a hole cut out to a naturalistic piece of cork bark. There are many brands of fake plants and d?cor you can use which is both safe for the animal and pleasing to the eye. Cork bark is available from almost any reptile pet shop in the UK, and can be ordered in if they do not have it in stock. This is excellent cover for any reptile and is 100% natural. One thing you must consider when thinking about the size of the vivarium, is the bigger you go, the more hiding areas you must provide. I recommend at least one hiding place per foot in length of the enclosure.
NOTE: Never use sticky tape in an enclosure; this is an accident waiting to happen. Believe me; removing sticky tape from any snake is no easy task!
Calabar Boas require a thermal gradient, meaning they must be allowed to move around the enclosure to find their required temperature. The hot end of the enclosure should be 88-90?F while the cool end should be approximately 78-80?F. During the night, the temperature should drop to a more constant overall temperature of 78-80?
In my opinion, the ideal way of heating a Calabar Boa enclosure is to use a power plate. This is a small thin square plate, about 25mm thick which is screwed into the top of the vivarium. It does not need to be protected, as there is no way a snake can grip onto it. It is almost invisible to the eye as it simply sits on the ceiling of the vivarium. The only brand available in the UK is HabiStat Reptile Radiator; it is 75 Watts and is sufficient for any vivarium up to 4ft long and possibly larger. It produces no light and therefore in a vivarium you will need a form of lighting as well. A power plate should be used in conjunction with a HabiStat Pulse Proportional Thermostat, which will stop the power reaching the power plate as soon as the temperature goes above the setting, and turn back on as soon as it is too cool. This is one of the most accurate thermostats on the market today.
Ceramic heaters, spot bulbs and heat mats are also ways of heating a vivarium. These all have their advantages and disadvantages, but in my opinion, none quite weight out to be as good as a power plate.
Calabar Boas are primarily nocturnal, meaning they venture out in the dark of night. This is when their main predators are sleeping, and their prey is awake. This is not to say though, that they never see the sun, or any form of lighting for that matter.
Having artificial light in a vivarium is aesthetically pleasing to the owner, and is a good addition to any snake?s enclosure. They will use this as a photo-period, and their regular time clock will generally adjust to the settings on which you have your light set to.
They do not require any form of special lighting, such as a D3 Ultra-Violet light commonly used for diurnal species. An Arcadia Natural Sunlight Fluorescent Lamp is a good form of lighting. This comes in lengths of 12? up to 48? and I suggest you use the largest size able to fit inside your vivarium.
During night time hours, an infra-red bulb will make a good addition to a Calabar Boa?s environment. If a spot bulb is used, be sure the vivarium does not become too hot. It is recommended that spot bulbs are also encased in a mesh cage to prevent the snake from burning itself.
Calabar Boas are native to North Africa. The humidity is important for this species, but an overly high, constant humidity will cause problems. A 30-50% humidity should be offered, although perhaps raising it slightly when coming up to a slough will aid in shedding it?s skin properly. This can be achieved by slightly misting the enclosure.
Juvenile Calabar Boas are capable of feeding on pinky mice. As they grow, so should their food. I recommend using a food item the same size as the girth of the snake. The girth is the diameter of the widest part of the snake, which should be the middle part of the body. Hatchling Calabar Boas should be fed once a week on one or two appropriately sized food items. As they grow, their food should too increase in size, but not in quantity. As an adult, their food intake can slow down to once every two weeks, and a larger rat or mouse should be offered. Calabar Boas seem to take exceptionally well to rat pups, and may eat several at a time. It is common for this species to refuse food with hair on; therefore a hairless rat pup is a perfect food.