Corn Snake Care
The corn snake is one of the best starter snakes for anyone
that is interested in the hobby of keeping and/or breeding
snakes. Corn Snakes belong to the Colubrid family of
snakes, and the full genetic family name is Pantherophis Guttatus
Guttatus. These snakes are native to the United States and
can be found in most of the mid eastern states, which
include North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey,
Maryland, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, and others in
this area. Now, they have become quite a commodity and
captive bred specimens can be purchased in all 50 states,
Canada, Europe, Asia, and most other places in the world.
They are probably one of the most interesting family of
snakes as there is a wide range of color variations in the
captive bred community (which will be discussed later on in
this care sheet).
Purchasing your first Corn Snake
The purchase of your first corn snake can be a large decision or can be as easy as
going to your nearest pet/reptile store. Most people
recommend that you purchase your corn directly from a
breeder so that you will have accurate information regarding
the history of the snake. This info will include genetics,
feedings, sheds, temperament, and any other information that
the breeder may have. Buying from the breeder will also
give you access to answers of questions you may have on the
care and keeping of your new corn snake.
Purchasing from a pet/reptile store may be cheaper, but you will be dealing
with an animal that wasn’t handled very often, may not have
been fed correctly, possibly exposed to illnesses carried by
other animals in the store, etc. Although, buying from a
pet/reptile store can be just as rewarding when you find the
rare morph that you have been looking for, or when you get a
very strong animal.
So, the decision is yours
as to where you purchase your new snake from.
Housing your Corn Snake
The housing of your corn
snake will depend on a number of things including the
following: Space, temperature, area traffic, area noise,
humidity, and many others. So, let’s take these all into
perspective and talk about each individually.
Space is a requirement as you will need to decide on
the type of housing based on the space that is available.
Space will also determine the type of enclosure that you
will use and the number of snakes you can keep.
Enclosures can be anything that is secure. Most
people use glass aquariums with a locking screen lid.
Others use Bins like Sterilite or Rubbermaid. While others
will spend time building a custom enclosure for their
The size of the enclosure that you need for each
snake is dependent on the size of the snake. A hatchling
corn up to about 6 months old, can live comfortably in a 10
gallon aquarium. 6 months to 2 years will most likely need
to be housed in a 20 gallon long aquarium. And, 3 years to
end of life may require something larger than a 20 gallon
long depending on the length of the snake. The rule of
thumb is that the snake should be able to stretch the length
of the enclosure.
The Ambient Temp of your house will dictate which room you will keep your snake in.
The normal temperature requirement for a corn snake
is to have a heat gradient in your enclosure. You will want
to warm side of between 83 and 87 degrees F and a cooler
side of between 78 and 82 degrees. You will also want a
hide of some sort on both sides, and the water bowl will be
placed on the cooler side.
3)Area Traffic and Noise
The more traffic and noise around your new snake
enclosure can cause a lot of stress on the poor little guy
or girl. Snakes are very secretive animals and do a lot of
hiding to keep away from predators. When there is a lot of
noise and traffic, then they may not feel hidden enough and
start to get stressed which can lead to aggression,
infrequent feeding, and other problems.
Most reptiles need to have a certain humidity level
to live comfortably. Corns, not being of the Tropical
family of snakes, can live on normal humid conditions. Too
high humidity can cause respiratory infections, and
scale/skin problems in corn snakes. A humidity of around 50
to 60 % will be sufficient to house your corns.
5)Space vs. Number of Snakes
As you can probably guess, housing single snakes in
aquariums can take up a lot of space. This is where the
Sterilite and Rubbermaid containers come in handy.
There are 2 main sizes to get to keep snakes in. from
hatchling to yearlings, you can keep your snake in a 12 qt
container, and 1 year and older can be kept in 24 qt
containers. Housing your snakes this way will allow
you to keep more animals in a smaller amount of space.
Heating your Corn Snake
Corn snakes need to have
proper heating because of the fact that they are cold
blooded animals. All cold blooded animals use their
environment to thermo-regulate (control their body temp).
This aids in the digestion of food, the speed of movement,
and the regular activity of the snake. As stated above,
your corn will require a heat gradient consisting of a warm
side of around 85*F and a cool side around 80*F. This will
allow the snake to find the correct temp for them to
regulate to for comfort.
The heat gradient can be
achieved in many different ways. And the choice that you
use will depend on the type of enclosure that you choose.
There are Under Tank Heaters (UTH), Heat Lamps, Heat Tape,
Heat Rope, and heat rocks.
NOTE: IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED TO
USE HEAT ROCKS AS A HEAT SOURCE FOR ANY REPTILES AS THEY CAN
OVER HEAT AND CAUSE NASTY BURNS. ALSO, THE HEAT IS
LOCALIZED AND NOT SPREAD THROUGH OUT THE ENCLOSURE.
But these can be used if controlled correctly.
1) Under Tank Heaters (UTH) are a pad that you place
under the tank (usually glass) that when plugged into a
power source, produce heat. UTH’s are not regulated and
therefore can attain very high temps. So, to avoid possible
burns to your snake, you should invest in a control for the
UTH, which can be a simple rheostat or a full blown
UTH’s provide Belly heat and also heat the substrate.
Heat Lamps are just what the name says. They are a
Spot Light Bulb that produces more heat than a normal
light. These lights will simulate the sun in that they are
high in the air and usually on for specific times during the
Heat Lamps provide ambient temp increases.
Heat tape and heat rope are exactly like the UTH
other than the fact that they are Stripes and can be used in
long lengths. Heat tape and heat rope are great for use
with a Rack system.
Just like a UTH, heat tape and heat rope require a control to keep them from attaining very high temps.
Heat Rocks are sold to be used for basking lizards.
A heat rock is basically a UTH that is made to look like a
rock. You set this item in the enclosure and plug it in and
it heats up. However, the rock only provides localized heat
and will attain temps suitable to burn and even kill your
snakes and lizards. It is highly recommended that you do
not use them for any kind of animal.
Substrates are the bedding
in which the snake will live. You will want at least an
inch of bedding on the bottom of the enclosure as corn
snakes like to borrow. There are a great many types of
substrates to choose from. You can get everything from sand
to recycled paper to mulch and even stuff that will resemble
the exact floor of the forest. Each substrate has its pros
and cons and I will talk about a few of them here.
Substrate of choice by breeders and most in the hobby
Very clean and most brands are completely dust free
Purchased in a squeeze pack so one bag will last a long time
Easy to spot clean and doesn’t need to be replacedvery often
Very easy to borrow in
In Dry climates, can possibly lead to drier enclosures
When wet, it need to be replaced
Because of borrowing, snakes are not always visible
Sometimes messy when dropped on the floor
Forest Bark and Forest Bedding
Bought in a hard brick that you moisten to break apart
Helps to retain humidity
Easy to borrow in
Simulates the natural environment the best
Can be baked, re-moistened and reused
Hard to spot clean
Can harbor insects
Can cause the humidity to be too high
Sand (Includes any kind of sand)
Easy to spot clean
Can be baked and reused
Dries out the animals
Gets stuck between scales
Clogs up the Vent of animals
Causes impaction in the intestines
Irritating (think of what sand in your shoes and clothes feels like)
ReptiBark (and Equivalents)
Helps with shedding
Stays relatively dry
Very dark and hard to spot clean
Insects have been found in packages bought new from stores
Will mold when wet
Pine and Cedar Shavings
The tar and scents are toxic to reptiles
May cause respiratory infections and even death
Feeding your snake
Feeding your snake can be a
very educational thing to watch. It is very interesting to
see how an animal with out hands and feet can eat something
that is bigger than they are most of the time.
All captive bred corn
snakes are sold eating on rodents, which will include mice,
rats, and sometimes day old chicks. In the wild, corns will
start of eating lizards, toads, birds, eggs, and pinky mice
right out of the egg, and moving on towards larger food
items as the snake grows. When you purchase your snake, you
will want to get some food items that are the appropriate
size for your snake. Hatchling snakes will want to eat
pinky mice (baby mice without fur) after 3 to 6 months, you
will want to move your snake up to eating fuzzies (larger
than pinks, and completely covered in fur), then after about
8 to 9 months, you will want to start feeding your snake
crawlers and hoppers (mice with eyes fully open, and moving
around), after about a year and a half to two years, you
will want to start feeding them full grown adult mice. The
rule of thumb for the size of the mouse to feed your snake
is that the food item must be no larger than 1 ˝ times
bigger than the largest girth point of the snake.
When feeding your snake,
you will want to place the snake into a separate container
with no substrate. Then place the food item in and leave
the snake alone. Some snakes will eat with an audience and
some won’t, so you will just have to figure out what your
To be safe you will need to feed your snake Frozen/Thawed
(F/T) mice. These are mass produced and frozen in bulk
quantities by a few companies in the US. Feeding this way
will save you from stressing your snake, and you will loose
the risk that an adult mouse or rat will attack your snake
and possibly kill it.
Water is very important to
a snake’s health. You will want a water dish that is large
enough for the snake to get his or her whole body in and
submerse themselves if need be. This will help out greatly
when the snake is shedding. Also, you will want to watch
the water for signs of stagnation. This is when you will
want to change it. Usually about ever 2 to 3 days you will
need to change your water. If your snake doesn’t defecate
in the water or add substrate to it, you can probably
stretch out the changing to once a week. But please watch
the water for signs of algae, mold and other bacteria.
Any Animal with scales for
skin will shed. Snakes are no exception. As your snake
grows, the outer layer of skin will get too tight. When the
skin gets tight enough, the snake will automatically shed
and newer brighter skin will be reveled. Most of the time,
snakes do not need any help with the shedding process. That
is, as long as the proper husbandry (housing) is practiced.
If your snake has a bad
shed (shed comes off in pieces) then you will need to look
at the way that you are keeping your snake and make sure
that everything is correct. Most of the time this is due to
a lack in humidity, which can be caused by using heat lamps,
the type of substrate you are using, and the ambient
humidity of your house. To raise the humidity, you can mist
the enclosure with a bottle mister or place a few damp paper
towels in one of the hides.
Caring for Hatchlings
Most of the time when you
buy a corn snake, you will end up with a snake that is under
a year old. This age is called Hatchling age. When a snake
is this small they are very shy and easily stressed. When
you first bring home a hatchling, you should have your
enclosure set up exactly how you want it, and introduce the
snake to his or her new home. Then, leave the snake alone
for at least 7 days to get accustom to the new
surroundings. During this time, the only thing that you
should be doing is changing the water in the water dish.
After the first week is up,
you can start handling your snake and getting to know him or
her. Start with short periods of handling so that you don’t
stress them out, and gradually move the amount of time up.
Also after the first week, you should offer your snake its
first meal. Remember that the meal needs to be the correct
size for the snake. If the snake eats, you need to leave
him or her along for at least 24 hours for proper digestion.
This care sheet is only
provided to get you started on your way to keeping a healthy
corn snake. In no way does this sheet cover everything that
you will need to know. Bill and Kathy Love have a book out
called “The Corn Snake Manual”, which can be purchased at your local pet shop, or
www.cornutopia.com, and this will provide
you with just about anything that you ever wanted to know
about keeping a corn snake. Don Solderburg also has a book out called "Corn Snakes in Captivity",
which can be purchased on his website: www.cornsnake.net.
Also, there is a online
resource that you can access called The Corn Snake Source,
which can be found at
www.cornsnakesource.com. Thanks for taking the time to read
this care sheet, and if you have any questions or concerns,
please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try and answer any
questions you might have. I hope that you enjoy your Corn
Snake and that he or she lives a long and healthy life with
Copyright (C) 2007-2008 PCar's