We have several rosy boas! Peach Taffy has an established bioactive setup, and Sisal's setup is complete as of summer 2022.
The Species: Rosy Boas - Lichanura sp. (trivirgata, orcutti)
Rosy boas were some of the first pet snakes I worked with, and I feel they are quite underrated! Especially for people new to snakes, they are a far better fit than some other common species - they stay quite small, are slow-moving, and are (along with sand boas) possibly the least intimidating looking little snakes. The reason we got our first, Peach Taffy, was as an ambassador and education animal to give people a chance to interact with a "non-scary" snake.
Rosy boas, like many other reptiles, have a range of colors and patterns that are distinct to the geographic area ("locale") they are native to. Many breeders try to maintain the integrity of those traits by breeding pure locales, though there can be concerns with the amount of inbreeding as well as the number of individuals being taken from the wild. Rosies are very easily bred in captivity, and any locale (or mix of locales) can make a great, healthy pet.
Some commonly recognized locales:
San Marcos Island
These days, the genus Lichanura and what we generally refer to as Rosy Boas are actually two species: The Coastal Rosy Boa and the Desert Rosy Boa. In the pet trade we usually label them L. trivirgata, but there are so many different locales. I'm not familiar with which would be accurately labeled L. orcutti vs L. trivirgata. Overall, the two species cover a broad range of Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico.
Wild rosy boas brumate during the winter, and are primarily nocturnal during the hottest parts of the summer. They are active both day and night when daytime temperatures aren't as high. When inactive, they retreat to rock crevices for security.
Our Husbandry Goals:
In order to support the welfare of our snake inhabitant, our goal is to provide an excellent setup that allows for:
Active exploration over, under, and around structures
Secure hiding areas meeting their preference for rocks
A variety of natural textures: sand, stone, wood, foliage, etc
Consistent access to water without elevating the overall humidity
Lighting and temperature control to mimic natural seasonality
Rosy Boa Natural Habitat:
Climate: Across their native range, generally summer (July/August) have the longest days, and highest temps. Coolest temps are in December/January. Rain is infrequent year round, and rainiest seasons vary by location (San Diego is February, Cabo San Lucas is September). Humidity varies a bit, but is almost always in the range of 60-80%. Much higher than some rosy keepers would admit!
Example Locations: *source: weather-and-climate.com
(by monthly average)
San Diego, USA
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Avg high temps
Avg low temps
Avg hours of daylight
Typical Vegetation: Lots of deserty, drought-tolerant plants. Cacti, agave, fig trees, flowers like poppies, brush, creosote, mesquite, jojoba. A huge variety of "weedy" or "brushy" plants.
Here are some habitat inspiration photos from a trip to AZ/CA in April, 2022:
We're using an Exo-Terra "Large Low" (36x18x12") front-opening vivarium.
Substrate & Drainage Layer
No drainage layer! Substrate is a dry, sandy blend. The 36x18" footprint used about 1/4 bag of rinsed play sand, 1/2 bag of clay-heavy topsoil, and by volume about 1/4 gallon calcined clay, and 3/4 gallon coco fiber. Mixed in, as well as on the surface, is a good helping of leaf litter.
Cleanup Crew (CUC)
While the setup does not need to be bone dry (nor should it be), dry/arid enclosures are a little more difficult for cleanup crew inverts to thrive in. Many commonly kept isopod species live in their range, and there are springtails that can tolerate lower moisture levels. My method for arid setups is to add several different species, and monitor over time to see what thrives. Key to keeping CUC alive is having one or more areas (normally around water dish/plants) where the substrate always retains moisture underneath. This could be as easy as overfilling the water dish so it stays damp. I take springtails from other established arid bioactives. Isopod options include A. vulgare, P. laevis, P. pruinosus, P. dilatatus (Giant Canyon), etc.
Adding appropriate "clutter" makes an enclosure more interesting to look at, and more enriching for the snake. In Taffy's setup we have a variety of rocks, branches and an old rusted metal tube that she loves going through and over. Sisal's build is in progress. Rosy boas are most comfortable when they can wedge themselves securely under/within rocks, so we always have a good rock "crevice" made with flagstone that is heavy and secure, but also easy to lift and check on them.
Taffy's setup was one of the first arid setups we tried. I've found ponytail palm to thrive with occasional watering and provides a good "grass" aesthetic. Small varieties of aloe and agave, with sufficient light, have done great. Earth stars are currently doing well. Other things we're trying or hoping to try: "Mangave" hybrids, poppies, common purslane, Indian rushpea, alkali weed, desert plantain, broad-leaf plantain, different grasses, clover.
This setup is in our house where ambient temps are typically between 65-75*F. Once lighting is added (across 3 lamps), we have a hotter corner that reaches about 95* during the day and opposite is about 75*. At night, temps come down to 65-70*. There are multiple areas of the enclosure to choose from for our snakes to determine the temperature, humidity, light intensity, and amount of visual coverage they want at a given time. We frequently find them spending time in areas of higher humidity and under UVB lighting.
We choose to feed our rosies in their enclosure by placing their thawed rodent meal in a different place each time. They will usually smell the mouse and start exploring to track it down.
Brumation & Seasonality
During fall/winter, we turn off the heat lamp, so overall temps reduce. We leave the plant/UV lights on year-round, even after removing snakes to a separate cool brumation area. Over the winter, we water the plants infrequently, as needed.
Photos of Taffy's setup below! These photos were taken about 3yr after setup.