How to Care for a Corn Snake
Corn Snakes are one of the top snakes in the pet trade. They make fantastic beginner snakes, especially once you get their easily maintained environment perfected. These are the basics you need for your pet. A tank, bedding, decor, heating, and food. The rest of this article will describe in detail all of the things you need to know so that you will be as prepared to bring your pet home!
Corn Snake Tank Size
When choosing your tank for your Corn Snake you have several things to consider. Can your snake escape, what heating element you will use, aesthetic, and the size that your snake is.
When keeping an adult Corn you will want to have at least a 40 gallon glass tank. It is suggested that a snake needs to be able to stretch out from nose to tail and not touch glass on either end.
A tank that is too large for your baby snake will make it harder for them to thermoregulate, or maintain a correct temperature for them to survive. The ideal size of tank for a baby Corn is a ten gallon tank.
You will want to make sure that you have a locking lid on your tank or use a tank with the doors that open and latch. I feel like the front opening tanks are prettier and can be used as a room decor item.
Many breeders use plastic totes and heated racks to keep their snakes in as they don’t have room for dozens of tanks. Totes are not heat tolerant and can melt if you place a heat mat or light on them.
Best Substrate for Corn Snakes
There are varying opinions on what type of bedding is the best for your pet. I’ll touch on a few that I have used and the pros and cons of them in this next section.
- Paper Towels- Paper towels are used for several reasons. The first is you are dealing with some kind of sickness or ailment. If your snake has mites, it is much easier to see the mites on paper towels than it is to see them on a natural type of bedding. Paper towels are deemed more sanitary, as you are changing the entire cage instead of spot cleaning. But paper towels are only absorbent to a certain point. They are also harder to keep moist and hold proper humidity for your pet. Many large scale breeders use them or newspapers as they are quick and easy to clean.
- Aspen/Pine Bedding- Tree wood chips is a very common type of substrate for ball pythons. It’s cheaper, and you can spot clean, which makes your bedding go even farther. One of the biggest issues with Aspen or Pine wood chips is that it does not retain moisture well and can become moldy. It is difficult to keep a higher humidity snake, like the ball python, in wood chips without shedding issues. If you provide a humidity hide it can be done though! Wood chips hide pests, like mites, and also can come with their own wood mites. Wood mites aren’t harmful to your snake, but I would imagine having lots of little bugs crawling on you would be quite annoying! Wood chip bedding is one of the easiest to find in pet stores or farm stores. If you are going to use wood chips, NEVER use Cedar. Cedar has oils in it that can be toxic to your snakes.
- Coconut Husk- There are different variations in the texture of coconut husk bedding. There are bricks of compressed husk, which are very fine and have almost the texture of dirt. Then there’s shredded, which is closer to the texture you would find in the wood chips. Last is large chips of husk, which will look like bark. Coconut husk is a great option for your ball python! It holds the humidity well, you can spot clean it and it looks more natural. Downfalls of coconut husk are that it can mold, but not as much as the wood chips, and it will hide pests very well as it is a dark substrate. It can be more on the expensive side but lasts the longest in my opinion. It can be harder to find depending on where you live.
- Bioactive- A bioactive substrate can be a really cool addition to your snake’s terrarium. Bioactive usually has several different layers of substrates, from rocks to coco husk and plain topsoil, and usually a carbon layer that helps filter the water. Bioactive terrariums also have live plants and organisms that help break down your snake’s waste. This is one of the most expensive setups but I think it’s the most fun! You get to add isopods and springtails that will eat your snake’s poop, though you should spot clean it as well, and you can have live plants with water features for your snake to drink from.
Corn Snake Tank Decorations
Corn Snakes are native to the central and southeastern United States in fields and forest edges hunting for rodents.
Corn Snakes do like to sleep in hides, but will also lay out on rocks and thick tree branches. Hides can be naturalistic, like rock platforms or large logs. There are also hides at pet stores that look like rocks but are made from concrete. If you want to go for a fantasy look there are hides that are shaped like castles and rocket ships. The options are endless!
While snakes are flexible and can smush themselves into small holes, they can get wedged into things and need to be helped out of them. The thing about tank decor is making sure that your pet can’t get stuck in them. When choosing a hide look at all of the holes and compare them against the largest part of your snake. Checking periodically that your snake hasn’t gotten too big for their tank decor is very important.
Another decor item to consider is plants. You can either use live or silk/plastic plants. Live plants help hold the moisture but are more delicate. They also require watering and pruning, while plastic plants just need to be washed on occasion. It really depends on what you want the aesthetic of your tank to be and also how much time you have to maintain your enclosure.
Best Temperature for a Corn Snake
Corn snakes live in a part of the United States that does get cold, which forces them to brumate. Brumating is much like hibernation in mammals.
Many people unplug their heat pads and lamps during brumation, some even put their snakes in the fridge! But it is very important to learn how to properly brumate your snake because if you do it when your snake has a full belly you can kill them as the food will rot inside them. Unless you are breeding your snakes it is not necessary to brumate them and it is not recommended.
- Basking surface: 90°F (32°C)
- Ambient (air temp): 78-82°F (25-27°C)
- Cool zone: 75°F (23-24°C)
Absolutely do not use heat rocks. Heat rocks are very dangerous for your pet. If you place your hand on a hot stove, you would instantly pull it back. Corn Snakes do not have the ability to sense heat that quickly. So if your snake gets too hot on a heat rock, it will end up getting a really bad burn before they even realize that they have touched something too hot. This is why it is important to use a thermostat when you have a heat pad on your enclosure as well.
Ambient temp means the temperature that the air is. This is usually created with the heat lamp, regular air temperature of your room, and the heating pads. The basking temps should be created by placing a heat lamp or a ceramic heat emitter on one side of the tank. You will want to provide a raised platform that is closer to the heat. This can be made by a large log, a hide or a rock. Make sure that the tank is large enough that the basking area is only ¼-⅓ of the area so that your snake can go to the other side of the tank to cool down. If your snake is constantly overheated you may find them in their water bowl trying to cool down. Night temps are easier to obtain as you can just turn off the basking light and it will lower the overall temps.
Snakes will bask in the sunlight to get warm, but they also are absorbing the UVB lighting from the sun. UVB helps snakes utilize calcium and synthesize vitamin D3. It was believed for many years that snakes do not need UVB lighting. And while snakes will survive without it, there are starting to be many studies that are proving that snakes need UVB in their environment. They are showing that even though snakes will not get the classic symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease like lizards will, they do suffer from it in less obvious ways like broken ribs or arthritis. We found this thread very interesting and provided many studies and papers written on this subject.
We suggest that you provide UVB light for your snakes, which you can turn on with your basking light on a cycle.
The Corn Snake’s natural environment is fairly humid, around 65-75%. It is very easy to track humidity with a hygrometer from the pet store. Humidity is important when your snake is shedding.If your snake sheds improperly you may find a stuck shed on their face, eyes, and parts of the body. If a shed is left it can constrict your snake’s blood flow and if it is left on the eyes it can blind them. Humidity can be maintained in a few ways.
- Mister- Misters can be a spray bottle that you squeeze by hand, a pump sprayer that is usually used for spraying pesticides (make sure to buy a new one) or commercial made reptile misters.
- Humidity Hide- Humidity hides are simple to make. Wet down sphagnum moss and place it in a warm, dark hide or box. When your snake is needing more humidity, they will go into the hide.
Corn Snake Diet
Corn Snake’s eat only meat, making them carnivorous. In the wild a Corn Snake will go into a mouse den, eat all of the babies in the den, and then leave. The diet for Corn Snakes in captivity are mice and smaller rats. I joke that corn snakes are garbage disposals and usually will eat anything and everything you give to them.
When feeding your snake remember that they can eat a prey item that is 2.5 sizes bigger than the largest part of their body. But just because they can eat something this big, doesn’t mean that they should on a consistent basis.
Corn Snakes are opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat when they can because they may not for a while in the wild. Corn Snakes are very prone to becoming obese. You will mainly see it in the tail, but if the scales are separated on the body you may need to make the food smaller or give your snake a meal less often. If you are worried about your snake’s weight you can take them to an exotic vet and discuss a proper feeding schedule for your pet.
You must always provide water for your Corn Snake. Your snake won’t just drink it, they use it to help them shed, take a bath, or remove pesky insects that are bothering them.
Tips for Owning A Corn Snake As A Pet
Corn Snakes have a very basic habitat to maintain, and once you have that mastered you will have a pet for a good long while! They can live between 15 and 20 years.
Handle your Corn Snake often. They can get food driven, and if you only open your cage when it’s feeding time, you are more likely to get bit if you do try to handle them. Snakes are habitual animals and are used to a routine. It is good to handle them between feedings so that they are less food aggressive.
Baby Corns are the size of a shoelace and you have to be really careful with your caging and making sure they don’t escape. The escaped Corns I hear about the most is when they are in the first year.
Corn Snake Care FAQ
Nope! Corn Snakes are constrictors. That means they bite their prey and then squeeze them.
Corn Snake’s can be wonderful pets for children. They are a more active snake and don’t normally like to sit and chill with you. They are better for older children, especially when they are babies as they are very small and delicate.
Corn Snakes can reach up to 5 feet long and a little less than 2 lbs.
The most common are mites, scale rot/mouth rot, and burns. All of these can be very serious and need medical attention.
It is not suggested that you keep more than one snake together. Snakes do not need friends and will compete for resources when kept together.