There is a debate in the reptile keeper world on whether or not boa constrictors need UVB lighting in their enclosure. The better question however is whether or not UVB lighting will help enhance the health and possible lifespan of your pet boa constrictor.
Boa constrictors do not require UVB lighting. However, providing a UVB light for your boa constrictor can boost their immune system and vitamin D3 and calcium production.
When combining optimal UVB light with the proper heating conditions, you can enhance your boa’s health and make them even happier and at home in their enclosure.
You’re not required to provide your boa with UVB light to keep them healthy. There are other alternatives to supply them with essential vitamins and minerals that don’t require the maintenance that lighting does.
Nonetheless, there are a few key benefits to consider before writing this option off entirely – and risks to be aware of, too.
Why Boa Constrictors Don’t Require UVB Light
UVB (type B ultraviolet light) refers to wavelengths of light ranging from 280 nanometers (nm) to 315nm. Although some UVB light can be beneficial to your reptile, not all of it is good.
UVB light that falls on the short end of the spectrum can harm your reptile’s skin, so it’s best to use UVB light on the longer end of the UVB wavelength spectrum if you’re going to use it. (290-295nm is the wavelength naturally produced by the sun.) (Source: World Health Organization)
However, even good UVB isn’t exactly a necessity for boas. Although they can certainly benefit from occasional exposure, the advantage derived from UVB basking can be provided by their diet.
UVB Light Is Not The Only Vitamin and Mineral Source For Your Boa
Many reptiles, including boa constrictors, can absorb essential vitamins like vitamin D from their prey. You can also support this facet of your snake’s health with supplements, should they need the extra boost.
Further, vitamin D is essential to producing calcium, which your snake gets from consuming other vertebrates. If more is needed, a simple calcium supplement will do.
Benefits Of UVB Light For Boa Constrictors
Your red-tailed boa needs ultraviolet (UV) light because they need to absorb infrared radiation into its skin when basking. This provides their body with the necessary energy to function safely and normally.
Different bulbs vary in the types of light that they project. For instance, incandescent bulbs produce infrared and visible light, whereas black light bulbs emit only UV light.
Though your boa doesn’t specifically require UVB light I would recommend it as a best practice.
UVB wavelengths offer specific benefits that cannot be derived from others:
- Basking in UVB light can help to improve your boa’s immune health.
- Healthy UVB exposure can encourage Vitamin D3 production. (Source: Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Georgia)
- The increased levels of Vitamin D3 will then contribute to the improved efficiency of calcium absorption in your snake’s body. This helps to strengthen their bones, support their metabolism, and improve related physiological processes. Vitamin D3 which is naturally synthesized by your boa is much more effective in supporting bone health.
- Snakes that bask in as little as 2% UVB light will experience enhanced energy levels and behavioral health.
Adding a UVB light to your boa’s enclosure can also be advantageous since it more accurately replicates their natural habitat in the wild.
Keep in mind that there are risks to excessive UVB exposure, especially to relatively short wavelengths. Under this type of light, your red-tailed boa has a high risk of suffering from skin damage.
Be careful when choosing a UVB light to protect your snake from such ailments.
What is the Best UVB Light for Boa Constrictors?
When preparing to provide your red-tailed boa with UVB lighting, keep the following warnings in mind:
- If you plan to position the UVB light outside the tank, make sure no glass or plastic is separating the light from your snake. If either of these materials is in the way, the UVB will be filtered out and will not provide your snake with any health benefits.
- The UVB can degrade over time and eventually disappear. The longer you keep the light on, the more the UVB wears away. This can be hard to notice since the bulb may still power on, whether it has UVB qualities or not. Prevent this issue by replacing the bulb every six months.
- UV lights sold for aquariums are not the same as those intended for terrarium use. Read the packaging of the light carefully to verify that it can be used in reptile enclosures.
Ideally, your boa’s enclosure should be illuminated by any of the following light bulb styles:
- Linear or compact fluorescent tube: No matter the length you choose, UVB light is emitted from every inch of the linear tube. On the other hand, compact bulbs produce UVB light in a concentrated area around themselves, so your snake will need to be quite close to experience its benefits.
- Note: Pay close attention to the intensity you choose. Levels 5 and 10 are ideal for basking reptiles; however, you’ll need to be careful not to overdo it if you opt for 10.
- Mercury vapor bulb: This is a double-duty bulb that emits both UVB and heat, giving your boa the ultimate basking experience. When selecting a mercury vapor option, ensure that the light can automatically power itself off to prevent overheating. Be mindful of the temperature range it provides as well.
Heating Requirements for Boa Constrictors
Just like all reptiles, your red-tailed boa is “ectothermic.” Many people have referred to this as “cold-blooded” for decades; however, that’s not quite accurate.
Boas simply use heat from the environment to warm their bodies since they are incapable of producing that heat themselves. For this reason, you must only use the most reliable, effective heat lamp available. Without it, your snake’s health is likely to suffer.
The ideal temperature range for your red-tailed boa’s enclosure changes depending on which part of its home you’re referring to.
The guidelines for warming specific areas in your snake’s tank are as follows
- Your snake will need somewhere to cool off during the day – after all, they can’t bask forever. The cooler side of the tank should be maintained at approximately 80֯F.
- To give your boa some options as its body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, you’ll need to provide a warmer spot, too (separate from the basking spot). For this, you’ll want to keep one end of the tank around 88-90֯F.
- Lastly, your red-tailed boa should always have access to a basking spot. This is critical to their health, as basking not only raises the snake’s body temperature but also serves as a method of gathering essential vitamins and minerals. An optimal basking area should be between 90-95֯F.
You will need to keep a close eye on the temperature of your snake’s enclosure. You never want to allow the habitat conditions to fluctuate too dramatically, as this can cause your boa to become sick.
Snakes with unhealthy body temperatures are more vulnerable to disease and infection, especially when they become hypothermic.
So Would I Recommend UVB Lighting For Pet Boa Constrictors?
Your boa does not require UVB light to lead a healthy life. They can naturally gather their essential vitamins and minerals from their regular diet and occasional supplements.
However, if you believe your snake needs more vitamin D3 and calcium, a UVB light can help. At the end of the day, I would recommend getting a UVB light but you don’t need it to keep a healthy boa.
The best UVB lights you can get for your snake include linear or compact fluorescent tube lights and mercury vapor lights.
Be mindful of the diameter and intensity you choose, as this will directly influence the necessary positioning of the bulb relative to the snake’s enclosure.
Lastly, remember that lighting and heating are two different aspects of housing a boa. While they may not require a UVB light, you must provide them with a cool and warm side of the enclosure along with a basking spot.