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Caring for Corn Snakes

Corn Snakes are widely available and make great pets.

IntroductionCorn Snakes are commonly available as healthy, captive bred animals from a variety of sources. Pet stores, reptile shows, and private breeders are all great places to purchase a corn snake as a pet. Trade Name(s)Corn snake. Sometimes called a Red Rat Snake. Family & Scientific Name Colubridae; Pantherophis guttatus guttatus (formerly known as Elaphe guttata) Range & OriginSoutheastern and Central United States Adult SizeA large adult female corn snake may be up to 6 feet in length. Typically, a male is a good 1-1.5 feet shorter than a female. Life SpanCaptive life span of corn snakes is typically approximately 10-15 years, although records exist of corn snakes surviving in captivity for over 20 years. EnclosureWhen it comes to selecting an enclosure, corn snakes are not too picky. Basically, you want an enclosure that retains heat well, does not hold in humidity, and allows for easy viewing of and access to your pet corn snake. Most importantly, you want the enclosure to be secure, as snakes are excellent escape artists. Standard glass aquariums or  Exo Terra Glass Terrariums work well for young corn snakes. If a standard aquarium is used, make sure to use an appropriately sized  screen top. A standard 20L glass aquarium (30”x12”) will work well for a young corn snake, up to about 36"". After your pet corn snake is longer than that, a 40B (36”x18”) aquarium would work well. Josh's Frogs carries many Corn Snake Kits that makes setting up a home for your new pet simple and inexpensive.

Exo Terra Glass Terrariums are suitable for smaller corn snakes.

SubstrateOpinions about corn snake substrates vary widely. Acceptable substrates run the gamut from reptile bark to  reptile carpet. Personally, I prefer to keep corn snakes on aspen bedding or a recycled paper bedding. Some keepers even prefer to use newspaper. Spot clean your chosen reptile substrate every day, and replace it every 1-2 months or more often if necessary.

Aspen Bedding is a good substrate choice for corn snakes.

TemperatureTemperatures for corn snakes are quite easy to maintain with a heating pad. Aim for a basking spot of approximately 85-90F, and a cool end in the high 70s/low 80s. There are several varieties of heating pads available for corn snakes - I find Exo Terra's Heat Mat provides the ideal temperature for your pet corn snake. Heating equipment should always be used in conjunction with a thermostat. Not only will the thermostat make sure your critter is getting warm enough - it'll ensure it doesn't get too hot in case of an equipment malfunction.At night, the temperature can drop into the high 60s without issue. If the temperature is too low,  a  night time heat bulb can be use to raise the temperature.All temperatures should be routinely monitored to insure your pet corn snake is getting the heat it needs. Many such products exist on the market for this purpose, including  temp guns and digital thermometers.

Temperatures should be carefully monitored in your pet corn snake's enclosure.


Corn snakes typically are not very active during the day, and are mostly nocturnal. Therefore, lighting is often not needed for your pet corn snake. Corn snakes do require a regular day/night cycle. If your pet corn snake is not getting this via ambient room lighting or lighting from a window, consider adding a light on a timer.

Social Structure

Generally, corn snakes are best housed alone. Corn snakes may actually attempt to eat a cage mate that is smaller than they are. Many keepers opt to house their corn snakes individually, only introducing them together for mating. DietCorn snakes are primarily kept on a diet of rodents in captivity. When possible, attempt to feed frozen/thawed mice or rats over live - not only is this more convenient for you, but eliminates the chance a prey animal may harm your pet corn snake.Corn snakes should be provided with a  water dish that is large enough for the snake to soak in. This will give plenty of water for the corn snake to drink, help raise ambient humidity, and aid in shedding.  All tap water used should be treated with a  water dechlorinator. Change the water once a day.

CleaningCorn snake enclosures should be cleaned frequently with a 5% bleach solution, then be allowed to air dry. Corn snakes typically go to the bathroom only 1-2 times a week, so spot cleaning frequently is easy. Change the substrate completely every 1-2 months, or more often if needed.

HandlingCorn snakes are generally very easy to handle. After you have brought a new snake home, allow it to eat successfully several times before regularly handling it. don't handle young snakes more than once a week or so. Make sure to wait several days after feeding your snake before handing it - this allows the snake to digest the prey item.

Additional Reading

This care sheet is by no means intended to be the sole source of information concerning corn snakes. Josh’s Frogs greatly recommended additional research via literature and online forums. Some great books for information are available on the Josh's Frogs website.

It’s always a good idea to do as much research as you can, prior to bringing your new pet home.

ConclusionCorn snakes make great reptile pets for beginner, intermediate, or advanced hobbyists. Already desirable for their easy manner and simple care, corn snakes are now available in a wide variety of color morphs, making them even more desirable.