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  • "How to" Guide for Emeralds

    Many of you boa lovers like me have been asking, "how do you take care of emeralds, etc.?"

    Well, this is what we did, and we by no means had any experience with them.

    Step 1-- Research their care requirements. There are specific rules for emeralds. For instance, never feed them more than twice or three times (we never go three times) without a bowel movement. Sometimes you need to exercise them to get them to take a dump. There are ways to do this. Next, feed conservatively, and I am talking about small prey items every two to three weeks. Lastly, get the humidity and temps right. More on that later.

    Step 2- Spend the $$$ for a nice captive bred animal. We bought ours from the guru and top emerald master, Tony Nicoli, who just happens to live in our area and we have become good friends. Check out boas.net for his website and put your depends on because you will crap your pants when you see his animals. Why do you want a top dollar CBB animal? Because WC or LTC are much, much more difficult to care for.

    Step 3- If you want one that you can handle, spend the extra money and buy a basin (the ones with the stripe). Hardly, if any of these, are imported any more so you most likely will be purchasing a CBB basin if you buy a baby. We went with Tony's "Blackhead" line. They are the most docile snakes I have ever seen and were x-mas gifts last year for my sons. Tony even delivered them to our house on x-mas morning in a Santa hat. Everyone crapped their pants when they saw the cool little orange animals. Basins start out orange. Northerns (the animals without the stripe start out red or red/greeen).

    Step 4- Make sure they are well-established. Getting ours to eat was a bitch. Some babies are known for this. Tony did not want to part with them until they were feeding better. Some have to be assist fed in the beginning. I wanted my boys to have the animals for x-mas and Tony was here locally to help so we made it happen even though he wanted to get them better established for us. They didn't eat for over a month despite his coaching. He came over and fed them twice for me and he did a special "emerald mouse dance", pinched their tails etc. and then I got the hang of it. After a while, at night, they became violent hunters. They are borderline savage at night now. Feeding is the most fun part of owning them because they practically launch out of their cage when you open the door. No more silly mouse dance once the "feed" mode is triggered. They hunt every night. Don't buy them unless you can give them an undisturbed 12 hour night cycle.

    Step 5- The set up. You can go to the "TheTreeBoaforum.com" for the best emerald specific tree boa forum out there with all the top gurus and the guy that runs the site builds the best emerald cages. You start with little polyboxes for the first two years and then nice acrylic cages for the sub-adults and adults. You can find everything you need there to buy the cages. The gentleman that sells them is very pleasant and they are the same type of cages you'll see at Tony's facility and on his boas.net website. "Noahsboas.com" is also a good emerald website, and he is good to deal with also although there is no need for me to buy an animal from him because Nicoli is the "Man" and lives two right turns away from my house. CraigC who is on this forum from time to time is also a great resource.

    Our set up. Let's just say that we haven't gone all fancy pants about this. We have our emeralds, which are now yearlings thriving in two exo-terra cages with side and top ventillation. You need ventillation. It is key. We have wet paper towels as our substrate with a heat pad underneath regulated by a dimmer switch and a water bowl to boost humidity. They need lots of humidity. We also have taped up some of the screem top so that we do not let too much air escape upwards. Some is uncovered for ventillation. Each cage is armed with ceramic heat lights on the screep top hooked up to a helix with a warm spot in the low to mid 80's. Just for kicks, we mist the animals about 5 mornings a week, gently, and they drink from their bodies and then the walls of the cages. If there is one thing we could do better, we would have an above ground perch with a water dish.

    Step 6--Handling--don't do it too much. These animals are crazy fun to observe and you'll get plenty of fun waiting about 7 days for them to digest their food and then handling them for a few 15-20 minute intervals over the next week or so before you feed them again. They are not lap boas. Take them outside and put them in the tree branches (weather permitting) to exercise them. You'll love it. They explore, and are on the move slowly. But, don't try this at night. Because, they are crazy nuts evil at night looking for food and they'll mistake you hand for food evey time.

    Step 7-- Thawing the prey--your f/t food item needs to be very warm if not hot to the touch for them to go after it with their heat pits. We thaw our food items in very hot water for about 30 minutes before feeding and turn off all the heat elements. We pull out the items, gently dry them with a paper towel and offer the food quickly before it loses its heat.

    Now, what Tony and other Emerald folks crack up about is how well our animals are doing in a bedroom shared by a 7 year and a 9 year old. These animals are more difficult to care for than common boas because they require more precision on your part, but once you get it, it is easy. And you do not need to drop big bucks on caging.

    Here are some crummy photos of our cheap-o set ups....

    Our perches are pvc pipes. You need to match the perches to the size of the animal and sand them, or torch them to prevent blister disease.

    Now, some photos of the baby color and color change..

    It starts at the head. The nose and then face turn green first.

    Also, notice that the stripe starts to come in during this process. Some are born with a small stripe, others have none at first. Emerald masters know the discoloration of the scales to tell how big the stripe will be the so they can grade the animals. I'm not there yet.

    Oooohhh, a few weeks later, and they are looking funky.

    Oh my, a stripe. A stripe! Yeah, Tony wasn't lying!

    Our male is a few weeks behind in the color change process, but he knows how to pose for a photo.


    Look at the female around the same time....She's green!

    Here they are a few weeks later. Female Green, almost completely. Male in between. But, look at the markings coming in on him. He's a real looker.

    A close up on the female to show the traces of orange still remaining

    And this is how they look now.

    Full stripes.

    Playmates. Can you guess which one is the male? Boy did his stripe and markings fill in nicely.

    Here's a clue, look at the thick stripe on his neck...

    And, man are these guys fun to photo. Look at the yellow belly. Reminds me of the Cold Play song.

    And the classic, "I'm going to nail your a$$ pose"

    But they don't. They are friendly as can be... Just ask anyone that has been to our house to see them in person. Heck, they are my kids pets.

    I hope this long, marathon of a post helps anyone interested in making the leap. Is a CBB basin inexpensive? Nope. Look to spend anywhere from $1,000 to Lord knows how much because very few are produced each year. We spent a little over $4,000 for our pair and they are "starter" level animals. Nice looks, but not $5,000 an animal looks. Shoot, we spent more than $4,000 on a pair of morphs. This is the real deal though. I hope this helps those flirting with the decision.