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Corn Snake care

Corn snakes come from areas around the United States. They can be between 20 cm (8 inches) in length as juveniles but reach around 60 cm (2 feet) within the first 12 months of growth with an eventual size up to 150 cm (5 feet) in length. This is usually within 5 years. They can live for up to 20 years in captivity.

Accommodation

As large a vivarium as possible should be provided to enable room for exercise, and a thermal gradient to be created along the length of the tank (hot to cold). Wooden or fibreglass vivaria are ideal as this provides the snake with some visual security and ventilation can be provided at snake level.

Good ventilation is required and additional ventilation holes may need to be created.

Hides are required to provide some security. Artificial plants, cardboard boxes, plant pots, logs or commercially available hides can be used. They should be placed both at the warm and cooler ends of the tank.

Substrates suitable for housing snakes include newspaper, Astroturf and some of the commercially available substrates. It is important that the substrates either cannot be eaten, or if they are, do not cause blockages as this can prove fatal. Wood chip based substrates should never be used for this reason.

The vivarium should be cleaned out at least once a week with a suitable disinfectant and spot cleaned daily to help prevent disease.

Temperatures and humidity

Reptiles are ectothermic so a heat source is required.

Typically a spot area is created using a spot bulb, providing a basking temperature of 320 C. This should be kept on all day. Temperatures must be measured to ensure the tank is not overheating especially in a small vivarium. The cool end should be maintained at 250 C.

Background heat can be provided with a heat mat (on the back wall) a tubular heater, a heat plate or a ceramic bulb. This should be set on a thermostat so that the overnight temperature does not drop below 200 C.  Temperatures should be measured with a maximum/minimum thermometer. During the cold winter months careful checking is required to ensure the heat sources are keeping the tank sufficiently warm. Heat sources should be guarded to prevent thermal burns.

Humidity should be checked with a hygrometer and kept low.

Lighting

Despite being crepuscular species (active at dawn and dusk), corn snakes appear to benefit from UV-b light.

A low percentage UV light is recommended. This will need to be on all day for 12 hours and at an appropriate distance from the snake as recommended by the manufacturer. A small branch or rock can be placed below the basking site (please ask for further information on UV light in reptiles).

All UV-b bulbs should be checked regularly for their UV output and should be changed at least as frequently as manufacturer’s instructions.

Companions

In general the happiest snake is the solitary snake.

What to feed

Corn snakes are carnivores and their main diet consists of pink mice and fuzzies from hatchlings. As the snake grows, so will the frequency & amount of food given and an increase in prey size, from pinkie mice to large rats when fully grown. As a general guide one mouse per week is sufficient for a 500 gram snake. Food should be defrosted and warmed to blood temperature 370 C prior to feeding. Handling should be avoided to stop contamination with human scent. Ideally brown or black rodents should be fed in preference to white rodents.

Water should always be available and a container is required which will allow the snake to submerge completely. This should be changed daily.

Salmonella

All reptiles can potentially carry Salmonella.

However it is rarely a cause of illness in reptiles and treatment is not required.

It can be transmitted to people (especially young children or those who are immunocompromised) so good hygiene after handing the reptile is important. Generally washing your hands in soap is sufficient. There are commercially available disinfectants that can be used as an alternative.

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