Scientific Name: Pantherophis guttatus
Range: Southeastern North America. New Jersey is northernmost limit.
Habitat(s): Dry Forest, Meadowlands, Rocky Hillsides, Woodlands
Corn snakes are a medium sized, slender snake in the colubrid family. They are closely related to the rat snake and commonly referred to as red rat snakes. They are known to be one of the most popular snakes to keep because they are medium sized, generally easy going, easy to care for, and are quite hardy. These snakes are an all-around wonderful choice for everyone from the beginner to experienced reptile keeper.
The Corn snake is native to the Southeastern part of the United States but can be found as far north as southern New Jersey. In the wild the corn snake’s coloration typically includes a mix of yellows, oranges, and reds but a very wide variety of color morphs are available in the pet trade. In captivity a Corn snake can live up to 20 years, with the average being around 12-15 years. Just as any other pet, these snakes require certain living conditions and should be cared for at a certain standard to live a long, healthy life.
First and foremost, optimally corn snakes should have housing and décor that resemble their natural habitat. The enclosure for a juvenile should be at least a 20 gallon long and long enough to have plenty of room to stretch out. Once the snake is an adult the enclosure size should be upped to a minimum of 40 gallons. Make sure that there is a secure lid that clamps shut to keep the snake from escaping.
These snakes are diurnal, which means they are active during the day, but they do like to hide and will typically spend most of the daytime hours burrowing and hiding under objects. Because of this, it is best to provide the snake with different types of hiding areas such as bark pieces, log huts, or anything small that the snake can get under. These reptile enclosure accessories are perfect for your pet Corn snake. Corn snakes are also amazing climbers and will love to have some climbing areas in their enclosures as well.
Keep in mind that these snakes like to wrap around things and climb just as much as they love to hide. Including branches or other items in the enclosure will make sure they are able to do so.
Getting a snake housing kit can be the easiest way to gather all the items needed to get set up!
Heating and Lighting
Being cold-blooded animals, Corn snakes require a heating gradient so that they can regulate their body temperature. Placing a heat emitter on one end of the enclosure can help to provide a sufficient warm spot for the snake. The best way to monitor the temperatures in the enclosure is with a digital thermometer on each end to ensure they have the best gradient. You will want to keep the temperatures around 75-80 °F on the cool end and 85-90 °F on the warm end. Nighttime temps can drop down to 68-72 °F at night but should not drop any lower than that.
The Corn snake should be kept in 60-75% humidity with a dish of fresh water, replaced daily, that allows for drinking and soaking.
While UVB is not a necessity for the Corn snake to survive, UVA/UVB light has been shown to greatly improve the immune system, health, and wellness of all reptiles.
Feeding Corn Snakes
Corn snakes are constrictors, which means they use their strong bodies by wrapping around their pray and suffocating it. In the wild, corn snakes will typically prey on rodents, bird eggs, and small birds. As a pet, your snake should optimally be fed frozen thawed food items as these are safer for your animal and tends to be more humane for the prey.
As hatchlings, the snake should be fed pinky mice every 7-10 days.
Juvenile snakes should be feed appropriately sized food every 2 weeks.
Adult snakes should be fed appropriately size food every 2-3 weeks.
All appropriately sized prey items should be 10% of your snake’s weight and a maximum of 1.5x the widest part of the snake.
During the shedding process you should reduce the number of feedings. Once the shedding is complete, your snake will likely be quite hungry and will then go back to their normal feeding schedule.
On top of proper feeding, corn snakes should be given fresh water daily. There should be enough water in the bowl that the snake can soak if it desires, especially before the shedding period.
There will come a time that your snake tends to be eating less, their skin color may not be as bright, and their eyes might have a milky white/bluish appearance. When this occurs, do not be alarmed, it means that the snake is getting ready to shed its skin. This is a totally normal occurrence and
Corn snakes can sometimes have health issues brought on by certain conditions. Improper housing conditions, unclean water, improper temperatures, a lack of vitamin A, or a lack of UV light are known to be the root cause of most of these issues.
If you suspect that your snake is ill or having any type of adverse medical issue it is always best to take it to a veterinarian who is trained in reptiles to be checked out and treated.
Cleaning the Enclosure
Keeping a corn snake’s enclosure clean is fairly easy. Feces and urates should be removed daily. The substrate should be completely replaced once every 3 months.
To fully clean an enclosure, the steps are as follows:
- Remove the snake, the décor, and all the bedding
- Spray the entire enclosure and décor with reptile-friendly disinfectant
- Wipe and rinse it all completely clean leaving no chemical behind
- Dry all surfaces
- Replace old bedding with new, clean bedding
It may be a good idea to do these steps twice to ensure that everything is properly cleaned. Once that is done the décor and snake can be put back in the enclosure until time for the next cleaning.
Corn snakes can be one of the easiest pets to care for. They are generally laid-back snakes with tons of personality and with proper care will live a long, fulfilling life. Once the housing enclosure is set up and ready, the care such as feeding, and cleaning will become a breeze and a daily habit that you can quickly be accustomed to.