Emerald Tree Boas
Gary Ruplinger

An emerald tree boa is a stunning sight. There are two varieties, the Suriname and the Amazon. Both are yellow-green with white spots. The skin looks something like fresh leaves spotted with bird droppings. Occasionally, there are yellow spots, too. The Amazon tends to have a gentler disposition than the Suriname, but either is capable of giving their owner a good bite now and then. The Amazon also tends to be a darker green in color. Both types of the emerald tree boas are entirely arboreal snakes, which mean they live in trees. Both originate in South America. While the two are really quite distinct, for our purposes we'll treat them as one, since they both require similar care. Just remember, if you're getting one as a pet, get a captive born Amazon, since they have a tendency to be tamer (and I think they're prettier than their Suriname counterpart, anyway).

The emerald tree boa has a reputation for being a hard snake to keep in captivity. It has a real problem with regurgitation (vomiting up its food), and as stated before, has been known to have a poor temper. While they are not a snake for beginners, many people enjoy owning one. The regurgitation can be a serious problem because once an emerald tree boa starts throwing up its food; it tends to keep throwing it up.

Since they are arboreal, they need a tall enclosure that is equipped with limbs to climb on. Like all snakes, they need tight fitting doors and lids if they are to be kept confined. Having the enclosure made partly of screen is a good idea, because they are used to the fresh air up high in a tree. They do not appreciate stale air. A ceiling fan can be used for gentle circulation in a room with emerald tree boas. The important thing to remember is that too much breeze on the cage can dry the air, and they need the humidity.

Newspaper makes an OK substrate, or cage floor covering, for an emerald tree boa cage, but some keepers have better luck with substrates that retain moisture. This would include the litter type substrates.

The emerald tree boa can grow to a length of 6 or 7 feet, depending on the variety, so it is important to have an enclosure that is big enough for them. If you are building a cage for one, you can use PVC pipe for the climbing branches. The cage you use must be completely waterproofed because you will be attempting to maintain a high level of humidity.

They need a water dish and possibly even a humidifier to keep the cage at a relative humidity of 80 to 90%. Misting in the morning and evening is a good idea if you live in a dry climate. Letting the humidity fall to 65% at night will further approximate their natural living conditions.

Emerald tree boas have a slow metabolism, so they don't need to be fed very often. Once every ten days is plenty for babies, and some adults get by well on only one meal a month. It is suggested that females be fed a bit more often than males. Young snakes that exercise and defecate regularly can sometimes have a little more food. The proper size of meal should leave only a small lump in the snake, if any. These snakes grow slowly, too.

Some people think arboreal snakes eat birds, but this is rarely the case. In reality, the same trees that the tree boas live in house lizards and small rodents. These form the bulk of the diet. In captivity, mice are the food of choice. Buy them frozen and thaw completely before feeding the snake. The size of the mouse fed should be about the same diameter as the snake, or less. If the snake is about three feet long, an adult mouse makes a suitable meal. Even a large seven-foot snake only needs a medium rat when it eats. Jumbo rats should never be fed to emerald tree boas. They are simply too big.

Emerald tree boas don't defecate real often. In fact, they are going enough if they go every third meal. Humidity helps, and so does exercise. The best way for your emerald tree boa to get enough exercise is to provide it with a large enclosure with a variety of branches for climbing. They do their moving after dark. Making sure they defecate at least after every three meals is helpful for keeping them from regurgitating.

If a snake can't seem to go, you can try soaking it in water. This often helps, but it shouldn't have to be done very often if the snake is healthy. It only needs an inch of water, and it should be a few degrees warmer than the air in the cage.

One critical factor to success in keeping emerald tree boas is keeping the temperature in the right range. Since they live in trees, they are used to breezy fresh air that is quite a bit cooler than what would be experienced on the ground in the rain forest. The temperature in the cage should range from 75 at night to 82 in the daytime. Higher temperatures can result in regurgitations. The temperature can be raised by turning on a light in the morning and then off in the late afternoon.

Emeralds also do better if their daylight and darkness cycle equals about 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. They come from near the equator, where day and night are equal lengths year round. They do better with live plants in the cage as well. These help provide humidity and give them a place to hide.

A happy emerald tree boa will coil up on a branch tightly. When it becomes less comfortable, it will begin to loosen its coils. Paying attention to the tightness of its coils can give you an indication of a problem.

The emerald tree boa is a live bearer. The babies are red and turn green as they mature. It is possible to breed these snakes in captivity, but it takes careful attention to all their living requirements. The cages can be allowed to be a little cooler when breeding is going on, and the humidity can be very high. In the wild they would be breeding during the time when the rains were coming daily and the Amazon overflowing its banks.

All in all, emerald tree boas are a real favorite of many snake fans, but they are challenging. However, because of their great beauty, many people think they are worth the effort.

General Information
General Snake Care
Breeding Snakes
Setting Up a Habitat
Buying a Snake
Sick Snake Care
Feeding Your Snake
Choosing The Right Kind Of Snake
What To Do If Your Snake Won't Eat
Keeping A Healthy Snake
How To Hibernate Your Snake


Snake Specific Advice
Ball Pythons
Boa Constrictors
Bull Snakes
Burmese Pythons
Corn Snakes
Emerald Tree Boas
Green Tree Pythons
King Snakes
Milk Snakes
Brazilian Rainbow Boas
Rat Snakes
Red Tailed Boas
Reticulated Pythons
Rock Pythons
Rosy Boas
Rubber Boas
Rubber Boas
Sand Boas
Water Snakes