Corn Snake Care Sheet (New Owner Guide)

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Corn snakes are hugely popular, without question one of the most popular pet snakes in the world. They’re bred into a variety of color morphs that are all strikingly beautiful. They can grow up to a manageable six feet long, which makes them quite impressive looking. While corn snakes are fairly low maintenance when it comes to pet snakes, there are a few things to know before becoming an owner of one. Here’s a corn snake care sheet to help you get started on your journey.

Corn Snake care sheet

Common name: Corn Snake
Scientific name: Pantherophis guttatus
Range: Central and Southeastern United States
Lifespan: 23+ years
Adult size: up to 6 feet long
Temperament: very docile, responds well to handling

Housing

Because these are fairly large snakes, they need a big home. Adults need at least a 20 gallon terrarium, and 40 is even better. They always be kept solitary- snakes don’t do well with housemates. You also need to make sure the terrarium is escape-proof, since all snakes are expert escape artists.

You should definitely include a couple of dark places for your snake to hide, and some places for them to climb. A water dish big enough for them to curl up and soak in, a spot for them to bask are all necessary.


Recommendations

Terrarium– This snake terrarium from ReptiZoo will give your corn snake plenty of space. Contrary to what some “experts” say, as long as you include some hides and climbing spots there’s no such thing as too much space for a corn snake. This is also a well-built, extremely secure terrarium they can’t escape from.

Hides– The best hides for snakes provide plenty of space for them to curl up and stay hidden, and have room on top for them to bask during the day. This hide has plenty of room for a corn snake.

Water Dish– You need a big water dish. It’s got to hold plenty of water for your snake to drink, but also be big enough for them to soak in from time to time. This one is plenty big for a corn snake.

Climbing Spot– Snakes like to climb, even species like corn snakes that spend most of their time on the ground. A couple of branches like these placed inside the terrarium give them some good climbing spot. You may also want to consider finding driftwood at your local creek or river. Just be sure to properly sanitize anything you put into the enclosure from outside.


Temperature and lighting

Snakes need a temperature gradient, meaning that one side of the terrarium should always be a bit cooler than the other side. Usually, this means that you’ll place a substrate heater under one end, usually the side with the rock hide on it, and leave the water dish on the other side to make it easy for them to cool off.

They also need a basking spot that’s significantly warmer than the rest of the tank. During the day, the temperature gradient of the tank should be about 75-79 degrees F, with a basking spot that’s between 85-88 degrees F. At night the temperature should be lowered to 72-75 degrees F.

Recommendations

Substrate heater– The best way to maintain consistent temperatures within the terrarium is with a substrate heater like this one. It provides gentle heat that warms the whole tank while still creating a temperature gradient. Place it under one side of the terrarium, not right in the middle.

Basking Lamp– The basking spot should be hotter than the rest of the terrarium. It provides your snake a place to quickly bring it’s body temperature up when it gets too low, and it’s especially important for their digestion to keep their temperature up.

This lamp will work if you want to give your snake a basking spot, though corn snakes do not require special heat lamps.

Thermometer– You need to monitor the temperature inside the terrarium to ensure it’s neither to hot nor too cold. A thermometer like this one will help you keep your snakes environment perfect.


Diet and feeding

Corn snakes love rodents. In fact, they get their name from their habit of hanging around grain silos where large numbers of mice and rats can be found. Feeding mice and rats will provide your snake will all the nutrients they need, and supplements are not necessary.

Always feed frozen, thawed rodents to your snake. Live animals will defend themselves and may cause serious injury to your corn snake. Feeding once a week is usually sufficient; hatchlings should be fed one pinkie mouse per week, juveniles should be fed one hopper or adult mouse per week, and adults should be fed one rat or two adult mice per week.

Recommendations

Frozen Mice/Rats– Frozen is best. It protects your snake from injury and may also provide some protection from disease. This brand is great and very affordable- 50 mice or rats will last you almost a full year.


Substrate

Choosing the right substrate is hugely important. Coconut based substrates aren’t always as good for snakes as they are for other reptiles and amphibians. In fact, some snakes actually show a distinct preference for Aspen bedding over coconut fiber. It holds its shape better when the snake burrows through it, and it’s also quite absorbent which helps keep the tank clean.

Be sure to put down at least 2-3 inches of substrate.

Recommendations

Aspen beddingThis aspen bedding is essentially the industry standard for snake bedding, and it’s highly recommended.


Maintenance

You’ll want to clean the tank once a week or so. This requires taking your snake out and putting into a secure enclosure, removing and cleaning the hides, climbing branches, and water dish, and removing and replacing all the substrate. You’ll also want to scrub and wipe down the interior of the terrarium with hot water.

As long as you use plenty of substrate and clean regularly, you likely won’t need to use soap or disinfectant to clean the terrarium. If you do, though, it’s best to use products made specially for terrarium cleaning.

Recommendations

Terrarium cleaner- This cleaning product is designed specifically for cleaning the glass on terrariums. It will keep the glass crystal clear while removing odors, and it’s safe and non-toxic.


Handling

Corn snakes tolerate handling very well, which is a major reason why they’re so popular as pets. There’s really no limit to how much you can handle them, except that you should handle them right after feeding or when they’re getting ready to shed their skin.

Right after feeding they need to rest and bask to digest their meal, and when they’re getting ready to shed their vision is obscured and they’re more nervous than usual, so they’re more likely to bite.

Handling Tips

  • Hatchlings are more nervous and bite more readily than adults
  • Be gentle when handling your snake
  • Move slowly when reaching in the terrarium to pick up the snake
  • If the snake is hiding, leave it alone.

Corn Snakes as pets

Corn snakes are the second most popular pet snake in the world, behind the ball python. Like ball pythons, they’re gentle, tolerate handling well, and are easy to care for.

These are ideal snakes for beginners because of their ease of care, variety of color morphs, and large-but-not-too-large size.

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