Corn Snake Care Sheet provided by Reptifiles
Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
Skill Level: Easy
Corn snakes are a nonvenomous, terrestrial species of constricting snake native to the southeastern United States, parts of Mexico, and the Cayman Islands. Early European settlers encountered this species in their corn fields and corn cribs, concluding that it was eating their corn. The truth is that the snakes were actually doing those farmers a favor by eating the rodents that would otherwise be feasting on the corn, but the name “corn snake” stuck.
Corn snakes are crepuscular, which means that although they are active at night, their peak hours are around dawn and dusk. In the wild, these hours are spent hunting prey like small mammals, frogs, fish, and even birds on occasion.
When newly hatched, corn snakes measure between 8-12”, but they grow to be about 3-5’ as adults. 5’ may sound like a big snake, but their slender build keeps them perfectly manageable. As an additional note, males tend to be smaller than females.
Corn snakes reach adulthood around 3-4 years old, and tend to live long lives — at least 15-20 years!
Because of their simple care requirements, docile but active personality, and exceptional hardiness, they make perfect first-time snakes.
- 4’x2’x2’ Zen Habitats Reptile Enclosure with PVC Panels
- 100w PAR38 halogen flood bulb, white light
- Domed heat lamp with a ceramic socket
- plug-in lamp dimmer
- digital thermometer + hygrometer
- temp gun
- 22” 5.0 T5 HO fluorescent UVB lighting + fixture
- light timer
- substrate (bedding)
- 2+ hides/caves
- decorations: branches, plants, cork logs, rocks, etc.
- large water bowl
- 12” soft-tipped feeding tweezers
Keep reading for specifics on the supplies that you will need!
Corn snakes are a more active snake species, so their enclosure must be sufficiently large to meet this need. And because they are terrestrial, floor space is more important than vertical space. However, they still enjoy climbing, so some vertical space should be provided to accommodate this. The Zen Habitats 4’x2’x2’ Reptile Enclosure is perfect for meeting a corn snake’s space needs.
Front-opening terrariums are the most popular for housing snakes because they make terrarium access easy, hold heat and humidity well, and tend to be more attractive. Furthermore, front-opening enclosures tend to be more secure (read: escape-proof) than their top-opening counterparts.
Some people advise housing young corn snakes in smaller enclosures than adults, but as long as your corn snake is not very young (near hatchling size), and they have enough places to hide, they should be able to be housed in an adult-sized enclosures without problems.
Multiple corn snakes should not be housed in the same enclosure.
Using the right substrate in your corn snake’s terrarium helps regulate humidity and promotes good health. Using the wrong substrate can be unhygienic and can even kill your snake in severe cases.
- Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding
- DIY Naturalistic Mix: 60% organic topsoil + 20% peat moss + 20% play sand
If you choose a loose substrate, take care to layer it about 2-3” thick for best results. Spot clean regularly to remove poo and urine as necessary, replacing any substrate that you remove. Substrate should be totally replaced every 3-6 months, depending on terrarium size and your snake’s habits.
Lighting, Temps & Humidity
Corn snakes are crepuscular, which means that they are most active around dawn and dusk. Having a light in the enclosure helps them regulate their day/night rhythm. There is a common myth that snakes don’t “need” UVB and therefore shouldn’t have access to it, for fear of stressing them out or even hurting their eyes. Again, this is false. There is mounting scientific evidence that UVB is, in fact, beneficial for snakes, and therefore should be provided. For this reason we recommend using the Zoo Med T5 HO ReptiSun 5.0 or Arcadia Forest 6%, long enough to cover about 1/2 of the enclosure.
Lights should be left on for 12 hours/day. Nighttime lighting/heat and colored bulbs are not necessary.
Corn snakes are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on their environment to determine their body temperature. They can’t control their own body temperature like humans can. So they need to have a range of temperatures from one side to the other which enables to the snake to regulate its temperature as needed.
- Basking surface: 90-95°F
- Cool side: 75-80°F
Many corn snake keepers recommend using heat pads, but this is an outdated practice and not recommended by ReptiFiles. White light heat lamps mimic the effect of the sun in a corn snake’s natural habitat. So we recommend using a white heat bulb like the Philips 100w PAR38 Halogen Flood Heat Bulb in a dome heat lamp for best results. Plug the lamp into a lamp dimmer so you can dial it down if it gets too hot.
This lamp should be placed on the extreme left or right of the enclosure to create the desired gradient. This gradient can be easily measured by using a temperature gun like the Zoo Med ReptiTemp.
Corn snakes thrive between 40-50% humidity. Correct humidity levels help maintain respiratory health as well as facilitate proper shedding.
Most corn snake keepers should be able maintain correct humidity with good substrate, a large water bowl, and little other effort. However, those who live in particularly dry climates may need to supplement this by placing the water bowl on the warm side of the terrarium (as opposed to the cool side) and misting as needed with a spray bottle and some distilled water.
Keep track of humidity levels with a hygrometer. We recommend the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer and Humidity Gauge. Note that although this also measures temperature, it only measures air temperature, not surface temperature, so both devices are needed.
Feeding Your Corn Snake
Corn snakes are carnivores, which means that they must eat whole animals in order to get the nutrition their bodies need. Here is a rough chart of how much and how often you should be feeding your corn snake, based on age. However not all corn snakes grow at the same rate, so when in doubt, offer prey items only a little larger than the snake is at its widest point.
- Hatchling to 2 months —1 pinkie mouse
- 4 months — 2 pinkie mice
- 6 months — 3 pinkie mice
- 8 months — 1 fuzzy mouse
- 10 months — 2 fuzzy mice
- 12 months — 3 fuzzy mice
- 14 months — 1 small mouse
- 16 months — 2 small mice
- 18 months — 1 or 2 adult mice
Young corn snakes should be fed once every 7-10 days. Adults (18 months and older) should be fed once every 10-14 days.
If you have a juvenile but are not sure of its exact age, choose a feeder no larger than 1.5x the width of your snake’s body at its widest point. Offer feeders until it refuses, and repeat 7-10 days later.
Keep a large bowl of water in the enclosure at all times, changing the water at least twice weekly. If it gets soiled before then, scrub with an animal-safe disinfectant, rinse, and replace.
You will need to wait a little while after bringing your new pet home to let it settle in. This usually takes about 2 weeks, but you shouldn’t start handling until it’s eating regularly.
Once your corn snake is ready for handling, take it slow at first. Start with brief handling sessions (no longer than 5 minutes), and don’t return the snake until it is calm. This teaches your pet how to behave during handling by using basic positive reinforcement. Once this has been accomplished, you can work up to 10 minutes, and then gradually up to no more than half an hour.
Handle your corn snake at least 1-2x weekly, but no more than once daily. Snakes do not require social interaction, but handling helps the snake stay tame and is a good opportunity for exercise as well.
Do not handle your corn snake within 48 hours of a meal, as this can stress them out and leads to regurgitation, which is a traumatic experience that can lead to death. Also do not handle if the snake’s eyes have turned opaque or cloudy. This means that your snake is preparing to shed its skin and can’t see well, making them jumpy and possibly more likely to bite.
Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles. Visit ReptiFiles.com to view the full version of this care guide.