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Looking to adopt your first corn snake? Well, there are plenty of things that you should know about to ensure the health and safety of your new pet.
If you already have some experience with snakes, then you will find many familiar things in the guide below. But even if you are a newbie, you will learn everything that you need to know about general corn snake care!
Let’s get started!
General Corn Snake Information
First of all, a couple of general facts about corn snakes.
- They are are not venomous.
- They are short snakes and usually grow up to 3-4 feet long.
- They are usually colored orange or dark yellow. Their belly is covered with black and white markings, while the back and sides are covered with red blotches or stripes.
- They hibernate during the cold seasons.
- They do not take care of their offspring. Hatchlings have to fend for themselves immediately after birth.
- They live up 20-25 years in captivity and 5-8 years in the wild.
Choosing An Enclosure
You first need a place for your snake to live in, right? Well, below, let’s overview what matters the most in their tanks!
First comes enclosure material, and there’s nothing too special to keep in mind with corn snakes. Like with many other snake enclosure types, corn snake enclosures can be made of glass, plastic, or wood.
Below, let’s briefly overview the pros and cons of each of these materials.
Glass is the preferred enclosure material choice since it allows you to watch the snake easily. Glass enclosures also look the best, which may be important for some. Besides, heating pads, under-tank heaters, and other heating accessories for snake enclosures are mostly made with glass in mind.
This is quite important since glass lets heat in rather easily, so you don’t need too much heat to warm a snake enclosure up. But the heat goes out as easy as it comes in, so you may want to use screens on top of the enclosure.
While glass is often the best choice for a snake enclosure, it has a few downsides to keep in mind.
Glass enclosures typically cost more than other enclosure types, though glass does deliver some benefits unavailable for other materials.
The bigger problem, however, is that glass is easy to break. If you do opt for a glass enclosure, then you’ll need to be a little careful with it yourself, and you will also need to ensure that the snake cannot knock something over inside the enclosure and accidentally break the glass.
Glass also doesn’t retain humidity as well as plastic and wood do. This isn’t that big of an issue though since you can counter this by upping your humidifying methods.
Plastic is cheaper than glass, doesn’t break as easily, and also keeps heat and humidity inside for a longer time.
Well, so far, plastic seems like great material for a snake enclosure, doesn’t it?
When you start looking into its downsides though, things don’t seem as great.
Plastic enclosures can be quite ugly, and it’s not as easy to see through plastic as through glass. Aside from that, plastic doesn’t let in heat too easily, meaning that regular heating pads designed for glass enclosures won’t work with them.
You’ll need something more powerful, and another problem here is that it isn’t easy to find heating accessories for plastic enclosures. Plus, plastic enclosures may even melt if you place the heater too close. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that glass is far more superior as a material for an enclosure.
Finally, you have wood, which frankly isn’t the best material for snakes. Thanks to its opacity, wood provides great shelter for shy snakes such as ball pythons, but corn snakes aren’t too shy, so you don’t really need a wood enclosure.
Wood also doesn’t pass heat through easily, not to mention that too high temperatures may just ignite it.
On the upside, wood is cheap, and if you have plenty of it, you could very easily DIY a snake enclosure. But unless you have a very specific reason to opt for wood, we would suggest that you choose a glass enclosure for your new snake.
It’s usually recommended to keep juvenile corn snakes in 10-20-gallon enclosures, while adults should be provided with at least 40 gallons. This is pretty close to other similarly-sized snake species like the ball python.
Corn snakes don’t really need much space, and an enclosure as small as 10 gallons is sufficient for a juvenile. But since it will take just a few months for juveniles to outgrow such small tanks, you should go for at least 20 gallons. This isn’t too big, and it may even be just perfect for some adults.
Corn snakes seem not to be very space-demanding, but getting an oversized snake enclosure is better than getting an undersized one.
You could and perhaps should go for a large snake enclosure from the get-go, but a large tank poses some challenges, including more difficult cleanup, larger footprint, and the challenge of finding a tiny juvenile snake in a huge space.
For the first few months, you may opt for a 10-20-gallon enclosure. Then, if you feel that the tank is too small for your snake, you may switch to a larger enclosure, preferably a 40-gallon one. But if you are planning to give your snake away once it reaches adulthood, you won’t need to buy a larger tank.
A good enclosure is just half the deal – to ensure a safe and healthy environment for your snake, you will need to take care of a few environmental variables:
Now, let’s try to understand what kind of environment your snake should be in.
Like with any snake enclosure, you should ensure that the enclosure is warm on one end and a little colder on the other. Achieving this is simple – you just need to shift your heat source towards the enclosure end that you want to be hotter.
This is necessary for thermoregulation. When feeling hot, your snake will be able to move towards the cooler side of the tank, and the other way around.
Now, how warm should the enclosure be?
On the warm side, the air inside the enclosure should be 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit (26.67-29.44 degrees Celsius). And on the cool side, the temperature should be about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.89 degrees Celsius).
How to maintain enclosure temperature?
Since the enclosure temperatures required for snakes are a little bit higher than room temperature, it’s not a good option to ensure the temperatures by raising the room temperature to 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit – this will be too hot for you. Besides, remember that you need to ensure a 75-85-degree gradient from the cool side to the warm side.
With this in mind, the best option is to use heating accessories available for snake enclosures, including heating mats, under-tank heaters, heat bulbs, etc. Do not use heating rocks, logs, or other items that your snake can come in contact with – your corn snake will probably get severely burn from heating accessories like these.
As mentioned above, to ensure the temperature gradient, you need to offset the heat source from the center. You need to move it a little closer toward the end that you want to heat.
To determine whether the temperatures are right, use a thermometer. In fact, we recommend that you mount two thermometers inside the enclosure – one on the cool side and the other on the warm. This will allow you to keep an eye on your corn snake’s enclosure temperatures.
It would also be great if the heating accessories were equipped with thermostats. This would allow you to save energy, as well as ensure that the temperatures inside the enclosure are maintained.
One crucial thing to keep in mind is that the room where you will be placing your corn snake’s tank in should be at room temperature. This way, it will be easiest for you to ensure proper temperatures. If it’s too hot, you will need to think about cooling instead of heating.
Humidity is also key in your snake’s enclosure. The tank shouldn’t be dry as a desert, but it doesn’t need to be too humid either.
Your snake will get dehydrated if it’s too dry in the enclosure. And if it’s too humid, your snake may develop scale rot, respiratory issues, and other nasty stuff.
The ideal humidity level for snakes is about 30%-50%. During shed, you may increase humidity to 60% to assist your corn snake, but you may not need to do so if your snake has no trouble with shedding.
How to maintain enclosure humidity?
There are plenty of ways to manage the humidity inside your snake’s enclosure:
- Placing aquarium air stones into your snake’s water bowl.
- Choosing the right substrate (we’ll cover it next).
- Partially covering or opening the tank’s top.
- Misting the cage.
- Proper heating to assist with evaporation.
You can keep track of the humidity levels inside the enclosure with a hygrometer. If the humidity is too low, then make use of the methods listed above.
Keep in mind that the humidity of the air in the room where your snake’s tank will be in is important as well. If it gets too humid in the room, you may need to use a dehumidifier to reduce the air humidity. Use your hygrometer to determine whether it’s necessary to take measures to dehumidify the room.
Most breeders use aspen shavings as corn snake beddings because aspen shavings are soft, absorbent, and hold their shape well when snakes try to burrow into it. With that said, keep in mind that aspen shavings pose a risk of ingestion, and they may also dehumidify the enclosure by absorbing moisture.
This should not be a problem with snakes since they don’t require high humidity. But do make sure to keep an eye on how humid the air inside the enclosure is.
Some breeders also use newspaper or paper towels as substrate. These are cheap, easy to replace when dirty, and they also don’t pose an ingestion hazard. However, they don’t look the best, not to mention that corn snakes can easily burrow into them.
Avoid pine, cedar, or any other aromatic woods since the fumes emitted by them can be toxic in closed environments. Avoid sand as well since it can cause health issues if ingested.
Corn snakes are most often active at dawn and dusk. With this in mind, you will need to ensure a proper day/night cycle for your snake. Day/night cycles are very important for any reptiles, and you should make sure that your snake can tell day apart from night.
Depending on the positioning of your snake’s tank, you may not need to use any artificial lighting. If you place the enclosure closer to a window (but not under direct light since it will heat up the tank), your snake will be able to determine day and night just fine.
If the enclosure is away from windows, you may need to use artificial lighting like LED strips or bulbs.
At night, we suggest that you don’t use any kind of red lights to view the snake. This may throw off the daily cycle of your corn snake. If you want to be able to view your snake, then you may try to simulate moonlight with very dim light.
Reptiles also need UV light to synthesize vitamin D3, but since snakes are dawn/dusk creatures, they aren’t getting too much UV in the first place. Besides, your snake will get vitamin D3 from the rodents you will give it as food.
With that said, you may mount a UV bulb in your snake’s enclosure – some people think that it makes them feel better. But again, you don’t need to do this. And if you have an albino snake, then the UV bulb may do more harm than benefit.
Finally, corn snakes need privacy like many other reptiles.
You should provide your snake with at least two hiding spots – one at each end of the enclosure. When feeling cold, your snake will go to the hide on the warmer side, and vice versa.
You may buy a ready-made snake hide, or you may make one yourself. It’s pretty easy to make a snake hide – you could build one even from Lego pieces. But if you like ready-made snake hides sold out there more, then go for them instead.
Design and place your hide so that you could easily remove the snake from it should it be necessary.
You should also think about enclosure décor for your snake. Décor achieves a few goals:
- It makes the enclosure look nicer to you.
- It may make your snake feel more secure and relaxed.
- Your snake may rub against items of décor to assist with shedding.
- Your snake will have some exercise opportunities via climbing.
You could use anything as décor for your snake’s enclosure, e.g.:
- Terrarium backgrounds.
- Artificial foliage.
You may use anything else as long as it is safe for your snake.
Be sure to arrange and position the décor items carefully, especially if you are using a glass enclosure. The décor items should be securely fixed in place so that your snake can’t knock them over and break the enclosure glass.
There’s nothing too special about feeding corn snakes. You serve them the same kind of food you would do with any other snake – live or frozen-thawed rodents, mostly mice.
What’s even better is that corn snakes aren’t too picky eaters and almost never refuse a meal. It’s very unlikely that a corn snake will refuse to eat for a few weeks or even months, like ball pythons do, for example.
Below, let’s overview the feeding options for snakes.
When it comes to food, you have two options – live or frozen-thawed rodents, as mentioned above. The best option is mice – they are easy to get, and snakes readily consume them. And unlike bigger snake species, snakes rarely outgrow mice, meaning that you probably won’t need to think about switching to rats.
No matter what your snake eats, it needs to be sized about the same as your snake’s widest part. And in terms of feeding frequency, snakes are generally fed once a week, though juvenile snakes should be fed a little more often, maybe once every 5-7 days.
It’s best to serve food to your corn snake with tongs. This will allow you to avoid getting bitten.
It’s okay if you give your snake mice that are larger or smaller than your snake’s body – you will just need to adjust the feeding frequency accordingly. That is, you will need to feed your corn snake more frequently if serving smaller rodents or more rarely if serving larger rodents.
Now, which kind of food should your snake consume – live mice or frozen-thawed mice? Well, there are pros & cons to each approach, so let’s have a look at them.
Live mice are arguably the best option since it allows your snake to make use of its predatory instincts. Not only that, but feeding juvenile corn snakes live food earlier on will make them used to it much easier. If you try to feed live mice to an adult corn snake that has never seen live mice before, you may have a problem.
Making your snake used to live food thus might be good for variety – if you need for some reason to switch from frozen-thawed mice to live mice, your snake shouldn’t have problems with it since live mice won’t be a new thing for them.
With that said, there are plenty of issues with live mice that you should keep in mind:
- Live rodents will fight for their life, and they may even severely harm or even kill your snake. Due to this, you should supervise your snake until it has consumed the mouse.
- If you are breeding live rodents yourself, then you will have to maintain them just as you maintain your corn snake.
- There’s also an ethical side to live mice. Predation is natural, but it’s associated with pain and suffering for the prey – in our case, mice. Breeding for food is unnatural though, so if you are not okay with this, then you may want to consider frozen-thawed rodents instead.
Frozen-thawed rodents have plenty of advantages over live rodents, including:
- Frozen mice are usually painlessly euthanized, so there is no pain and suffering involved with their use.
- Storage of frozen rodents is very easy – as long as you maintain proper storage conditions, you could store frozen rodents for a long time.
- It’s much easier to find frozen rodents out there, partly because they are easy to store and transport for sellers.
- Frozen rodents do not pose any health and life risks for your corn snake, unless stored improperly.
Needless to say, you need to thaw frozen mice before giving them to your corn snake. Don’t thaw frozen mice in a microwave – instead, leave them out for a few hours before the meal, or alternatively put them in a plastic bag and place the bag in warm water.
When it comes to water, you should provide your snake with fresh, dechlorinated water. Pour the water into a large water bowl and place it in an easily accessible location in your corn snake’s enclosure.
If the tap water in your area isn’t drinkable, then you may use bottled spring water. Don’t use distilled water – it may lack minerals necessary for your corn snake.
You should replace the water regularly – ideally, once a day since your snake will often be soaking in the water to cool down or wash itself. If your snake defecates into the water, wash the water bowl immediately and replace the water.
As mentioned earlier, corn snakes very rarely refuse to eat, so lack of appetite isn’t a big issue with them.
With that said, there are a few feeding complications that you should keep in mind. Particularly, we want to talk about underfeeding/overfeeding and regurgitation.
Before moving onto these two feeding problems, we want to note that if your corn snake refuses to eat for a week or two, then you may want to take it to a vet. Corn snakes can go without food for a few weeks with no health deterioration, but given that snakes rarely lack appetite, it’s not quite normal when a corn snake refuses to eat. Lack of appetite may be a symptom of an underlying health issue or perhaps improper enclosure conditions.
Underfeeding and overfeeding
The first feeding issue that you may encounter with snakes is overfeeding and underfeeding.
Since corn snakes can go without food for a long time just fine, it’s easier to overfeed than underfeed them. However, both conditions are possible, and you should be able to recognize and treat them.
It’s fairly easy to spot under- or overfeeding – if your corn snake looks too skinny, then it’s underfed, and if it looks too chubby, then it’s overfed. Depending on the condition, you need to adjust your snake’s food intake and see how it changes things.
There’s no way to precisely measure how much food your corn snake should consume. But the general rule of thumb we’ve mentioned above – feed rodents sized the same as your snake’s widest part – works well with corn snakes.
Regurgitation is a fairly serious problem for any snake. It’s demanding on your snake, not to mention that it’s a waste of food.
Your corn snake may regurgitate if you handle it too soon after the meal. You should wait for at least one day after the meal before handling your snake. Some corn snakes may digest the food quicker or slower though.
If your snake has regurgitated, then wait for a few days before giving it food again. You may also feed your snake in smaller and more frequent portions to allow for easier food consumption.
If you haven’t handled your snake after the meal but it has nonetheless regurgitated, then there may be something wrong with either the food or your snake’s health. In this case, it’s a good idea to take your corn snake to a vet.
Handling your snake regularly – at least once a week – is important so that your snake gets used to human touch.
Generally, snakes are one of the easier snakes to handle, and they are relatively easy to tame. But hatchlings are nervous and defensive, and it will take some time before your snake gets used to you.
Give your snake a few weeks to settle in its new home and its regular feeding routine. After your snake has had three-four successful meals, you may try to handle it for a few minutes at a time.
It’s best to handle juvenile snakes when they are full because they are less likely to mistake your fingers for food. With that said, be sure that you’ve waited for a day or two after your snake’s last meal to avoid regurgitation.
Approach your snake from the side rather than from the top and rear, or your snake may mistake you for a predator. At first, your snake will avoid you and will try to hide from you, but this will go away as it gets increasingly used to you.
Lift your snake out of the enclosure with confidence but gently, supporting its body with your hands at 1/3 and 2/3 of its length. If you hesitate, your snake may get nervous and bite you.
Once out, allow your snake to slither from hand to hand and between your fingers. Be careful since the snake may try to get under your shirt, attracted by cover and darkness. Your snake probably won’t bite you, but you shouldn’t allow it to get under your shirt since you’ll have trouble getting it out.
After handling your snake for a couple of minutes, gently place it back into the enclosure. As your snake gets more and more used to you, you may extend the handling sessions to 15 minutes or so, but not longer.
As they grow, corn snakes – and any snake, for that matter – shed their skin. Snakes shed their skin because it isn’t as stretchy as ours, and they need to throw off the old layer of skin to grow freely.
The older and larger corn snakes grow, the less often they will shed their skin. A hatchling corn snake will shed for the first time after seven days, while adult corn snakes may shed only once every few weeks.
The two most common symptoms of an upcoming shed are blue, cloudy eyes and dull skin. This will last about four days and then return to normal. Your snake isn’t done just yet though – a couple of days later, your corn snake will start shedding.
During this period, your corn snake will be more active as it tries to get rid of the old layer of its skin. It will try to assist itself by rubbing against abrasive surfaces, and here’s where logs, rocks, and other pieces of vivarium décor may really come in handy.
It will take about a week until your snake completes the shed, including the initial blue-eye phase.
Corn snake shedding issues
If the humidity in the enclosure is sufficient, then your corn snake should not require any input from you to complete the shed. However, problems with shedding do sometimes arise.
Among the symptoms of problematic shedding are:
- Fragmentary shedding. If your snake’s skin comes off in patches, then the enclosure is probably too dry.
- Patches of skin or your snake’s eye caps may not come off. Eye caps aren’t a big problem, and you shouldn’t try to remove them yourself – if necessary, address a professional. It’s much more dangerous when there are big patches of skin left on your snake’s body, e.g. the tail. The leftover skin won’t grow with your snake, which may cause blood flow restrictions.
If your corn snake is having trouble with shedding, then you could make use of the following tricks:
- Increase the humidity of the enclosure to around 60%.
- If increasing the humidity doesn’t help, you may place your snake in a bowl with lukewarm water. This will either allow the snake to complete the shed or soften the skin enough for you to help with it. You may want to wear gloves if assisting your snake manually.
- Alternatively, hold a damp towel in your hands and let your corn snake slither through it as you hold onto the snake’s skin.
After the shed, inspect your snake carefully to determine whether it has shed completely. If not, then you may need to make use of the methods listed above. In severe cases where your snake cannot shed even with assistance, take your pet to a vet.
You don’t really need to do anything to clean your corn snake – your snake will clean itself by occasionally soaking in the provided water dish. And since you can’t really know when your corn snake has last soaked in the water, you should refresh the water every day.
You may also clean your snake manually, but you will only need to do so if your snake isn’t bathing itself. Just put your corn snake into a sufficiently large water bowl with lukewarm water for 10 minutes.
While you generally won’t need to manually bathe your snake, you will need to clean the enclosure yourself.
Corn snakes typically defecate only one-two times per week, and you need to do spot minor cleaning every time your snake does so. Besides, remove any dead skin or wet substrate every day.
You should also clean your corn snake’s enclosure once every few weeks with a 5% bleach solution. This is how to do it:
- Take everything out of the enclosure.
- Clean the inside of the enclosure with the bleach solution.
- Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
- Thoroughly rinse the enclosure.
- Allow the enclosure to dry completely.
- Put everything back.
What types of corns snakes are available out there?
Among the more common corn snake breeds are:
These snake morphs differ from each other mainly in appearance. When it comes to care, there are no major differences between them.
How much do snakes cost and where can you get one?
Expect to pay about $50-$75 for common breeds. Rare or new breeds may cost you a little more – for example, albino snakes may cost closer to $100.
You can find snakes at a local breeder’s shop. Just look up snake shops online to find a few locations.
Can you keep two or more corn snakes together?
Snakes generally are asocial creatures, and you shouldn’t keep two snakes in the same vivarium. While you may successfully cohabit two snakes, there are plenty of issues that come with it, including food stealing, stress, lack of space, early or unexpected breeding, etc.