Congratulations! By reading this, you have proven that you’re doing the responsible thing and looking up information on how to care for your snake. Corn snakes are hardy and beautiful snakes that are simple to take care of, but require that care over a long period of time (15-30 years!). If you understand this responsibility, then read on and learn how to keep your corn snake happy and healthy.
Temperature, Humidity and Lighting
Corn snakes need a temperature gradient with the warm end at 85 degrees and the cool end at 68–72 degrees. The best way to heat the warm side is with a heating pad and thermostat with a probe. Attach the heating pad under the tank on the far end—it should cover no more than 1/3 of the tank, and be large enough to fit a hide over. The probe should be attached to the glass on the center of the heating pad. NEVER use tape in any animal cage! I guarantee the snake will find a way to fit itself under the tape and rip off it’s scales. The thermostat is absolutely necessary, or else the heating pad will burn the snake.
Normal household humidity will be fine for a corn snake. Supply a water bowl large enough for the snake to curl up in. This serves two purposes: so the snake can soak, and to increase humidity in the tank.
Special lighting is not necessary for a corn snake. They are nocturnal, meaning they slither around during the night and hide constantly during the day. Some natural light is important during the day to help it retain it’s day and night cycles.
Despite reaching maximum lengths of anywhere between 4–6 feet, corn snakes are considered to be one of the smaller species. A screen top glass tank at least 2/3 the size of the snake is necessary so the snake can stretch out and breathe. There must be at least two hides- one on the warm end, and one on the cool end. Snakes are the opposite of claustrophobic, they love cramming themselves in tight, warm, and dark places. If the snake can hardly fit in the hide, that means it’s a great hide!
Since corn snakes don’t have particular humidity requirements, there’s a wide variety of substrates that can be used. What’s more important is what cannot be used. Pine and cedar are both toxic to most animals and entirely unsuitable for corn snakes. Sand, despite being one of the most common reptile substrates is dangerous as it can be ingested causing severe impactions which could easily result in death. The most popular and one of the most suitable substrates is aspen shavings as it’s soft, absorbs nasty stuff and holds a tunnel well for the burrowing corn snake. Other options include cypress mulch, coconut husk and carefresh bedding. The simplest option is shredded newspaper, being cheap and available.
Corn snakes in the wild live mostly on rodents, particularly mice. Mice represent complete nutrition and a corn snake should live on them from hatchling to adult and beyond. An appropriately sized frozen/thawed mouse should be fed once every 7–12 days. Live mice are dangerous to feed as a decisive bite from a mouse in to the skull of your snake could very well end it’s life.
Avoid handling the mouse with your fingers during feeding time. During this time, the snake can very easily mistake your hand for food. Use long tongs to dangle the mouse in front of the snake. Avoid violently dangling the mouse right in front of the snakes head as it may scare the snake, which will cause it to go off feed and you’ll have to dispose of the thawed mouse.
Corn snakes are active snakes with a fairly slender body- first time snake owners may have a hard time keeping a grasp on these slippery fellows! They’ll absolutely never sit still, and can be very interesting snakes to keep if you don’t expect to have a relaxing time watching TV together. Despite being so active, they have a very gentle disposition and I have never been bit by one.
Handle your snake as much as you want, but there are a few times where it’s a very poor idea to do so. After being fed a big mouse, they need 2–3 days to digest that prey or else they may vomit up that mouse while being handled. If this happens they’ll lose a large portion of critically important stomach flora, so wait another week before attempting to feed. While a snake is in the process of shedding, or “in shed”, it’s advisable to avoid handling, especially while their eyes are blue. The snake is blind during this period as natural oils meant to aid in shedding flood between the eye and the eye’s skin, which makes handling very scary for them and may scare them to the point of having a bad shed.
Corn snakes are a big commitment, and suitable for those of all skills: beginners for their easy care, and advanced hobbyists for their beautiful as well as collectible morphs. Enjoy your snake, and make sure to use other care sheets besides this one as an information source.