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Keeping Corn Snakes as Pets

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 19 Aug 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Corn Snakes Pet Snakes Corn Snakes As

It’s not hard to see why corn snakes are considered the best beginner pet snake to own. Not only are they docile and enjoy being handled but they are also extremely hardy and therefore easy to care for. In addition, they come in a beautiful variety of colours and patterns.

Choosing Your Corn Snake

It is always best to start with a captive-bred specimen and corn snakes (Elaphe guttata guttata) are easily available as they breed readily in captivity and large numbers are produced annually.

Choose one that has clear eyes and is alert and flicking its tongue. Its body should be well-fleshed with no cuts or scrapes. Check also for signs of ticks and mites and also for a clean vent. Most corn snakes live for about 20 years and grow to a length of 3-5 feet, which is ideal for a pet. Captive-bred corn snakes are usually docile to handle and in any case, their bite is not venomous to human beings.

Housing Your Corn Snake

While corn snakes will tolerate a variety of environmental conditions, it is still important to provide the optimum living environment in order to preserve your snake’s health and condition. As they are relatively small, corn snakes do not need enormous enclosures and in fact, many people keep baby corn snakes in plastic shoeboxes with holes punched for ventilation. Otherwise, a ten gallon terrarium or vivarium or similar size enclosure would be a suitable choice for a young corn snake, graduating to a standard twenty-gallon long aquarium upon reaching maturity and full adult size at about 3 or 4 years. Even larger aquariums, such as the thirty-gallon breeder tank or the fifty-five gallon tank would also be appropriate. One thing to remember is that corn snakes are excellent escape artists therefore considerable thought must be given to escape-proofing the enclosure, such as a secure-fitting lid that can be clamped down.

The substrate on the floor of your terrarium is extremely important. Cedar shavings and pine shavings are believed to cause respiratory problems in snakes and therefore best avoided, as is corn cob bedding, often used with birds, as this can cause intestinal blockage if swallowed by the snake and may also cause excessive drying of the dermal tissues.

Preferred substrates include reptile bark, which can be bought from most pet stores, and newspaper or paper towels which can be easily removed when soiled and thus help to keep the terrarium clean, although they can look very unattractive. Another option is Astroturf - however, this does have a tendency to rot when wet so it is best to operate with 2 cut pieces which can be rotated so the soiled piece can be cleaned.

One important aspect that is often overlooked is the provision of hiding areas. This is essential in providing the snake with a feeling a security and can be as simple as a cardboard box, although many pet stores now offer sophisticated commercially-manufactured “hiding spots”. Whatever you choose, it must be large enough for the snake to curl up in and be out of sight but not so large that the snake will feel insecure. Pieces of bark half buried in the substrate can also be ideal as the snake can burrow under them. It is important to provide hiding places in both the warm and cool areas of its enclosure so that it can feel secure in any area; it is also good to provide a branch for climbing.

Heating Your Corn Snake

One of the key aspects of keeping reptiles is thermoregulation. As corn snakes, like all reptiles, cannot manufacture their own body heat, they have to rely on ambient temperature to raise or lower their internal core temperature. Proper thermoregulation is essential for health and for specific processes such as digestion and immune function. This means that your snake must have access to at least one area where it can warm itself and ideally, there should be a gradient of 70-85 F (21-29 C) within the terrarium.

To achieve this, there are several methods: you can install an overhead heat lamp (with a metal reflector) above one side of the terrarium to create a basking area; alternatively you can use undertank heating pads to provide a gradient of temperature across the floor of the terrarium. Hot rocks are best avoided as they provide a very localised heat source that is often too intense, with the result that a snake will often burn itself as it tries to curl tightly around the rock. If buried underneath some substrate, it can provide a more dispersed form of heat but in general, it is best to avoid any form of heating that the reptile may have direct contact with. Note that corn snakes are not from temperate areas and as such do not need tropical temperatures.

Feeding Your Corn Snake

Like all snakes, corn snakes are carnivores needing live or freshly-killed prey. Young corn snakes are usually fed ‘pinkling mice’, with the size of the prey increasing to adult mice as the snake grows. As long as they have appropriate heating in the enclosure, corn snakes are not picky eaters and most will thrive on a regime of once- or twice-weekly feeds. Adults may only need feeding once every 10 days. Remember that appetite will diminish around the time of a shed so feeding frequency should be reduced accordingly. Remember also that if there are not enough appropriate hiding areas, corn snakes may become stressed and refuse to eat.

Water is also important and a dish of clean water should be available at all times as corn snakes drink frequently. Unfortunately, corn snakes will often defecate in their water so this must be noted and replaced immediately. Corn snakes will also bathe in the water dish just before a shed.

A Perfect Pet…

With their easy care and handling, corn snakes are justifiably one of the most popular snakes kept as pets. Their availability in a dazzling array of colours and patterns means that they are a favourite with experienced enthusiasts as well as hobby beginners.

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[Add a Comment]
Hello I have a 15 month old corn snake his always been regular with his shedding ( once a month) and always eats his food ( once a week) and he has always been quiet timid. But for the last two weeks he has missed his shed and he has missed two feeds he has also become really active and constant looking like him wants to escape his viv. All his temperatures are correct and I handle him once aday... What could be wrong please help ...
Jo - 19-Aug-16 @ 6:53 PM
pw - Your Question:
Hi, I have a 5 year old corn snake,who is very healthy etc, eating fine, but I'm concerned about the number of times he keeps shedding. Sometimes he will shed,then 3 weeks later will shed again.any advice would be helpful.paul

Our Response:
This is quite normal and they will shed their skin every few weeks when they are small with the time between sheds increasing the more they mature as they get older and an adult snake may shed every few months. Your corn snake is obviously still growing, but age-wise is considered an adult, so therefore other factors may be contributory such as; environmental, frequency of feeding or other health problems. If you are concerned you should seek professional advice.
ReptileExpert - 27-May-16 @ 2:20 PM
Hi, I have a 5 year old corn snake,who is very healthy etc, eating fine, but I'm concerned about the number of times he keeps shedding. Sometimes he will shed,then 3 weeks later will shed again.any advice would be helpful. .paul
pw - 26-May-16 @ 4:20 PM
Hi, My cornsnake is 10 years old this summer and I've had her for 5 years. She's been the perfect let up until recently where she's refusing to eat, we've tried putting her in a shoebox with holes and the Frozen mouse and she's just not interested. She's not eaten in 8 weeks (as of May 21st 2016). The viv she's in is 4ft long, 2ft high and 2ft deep. I've been told by local reptile shops that the viv is big enough for a 5ft cornsnake. She's got plenty of hiding areas and things to climb over in here too :( water bowl is cleaned and replaced very quickly. Temperature is perfect as we've got a new thermostat to help ensure its warm enough on one end and cooler down the other! PLEASE HELP!
Victoria - 21-May-16 @ 8:18 AM
Erk - Your Question:
Hello Reptile Expert, I'm looking for a second opinion. I have a 15 year old 5ft corn snake in a big vivarium (100x40x40cm) with plenty of space and things to do. I've had him for a few years now, but I'm not a confident handler. The snake seems to want to escape a lot, but I've been told they are absolutely fine staying in a vivarium and not being handled. I feel guilty that I don't let him / her out that often and handle them even more rarely. Is that bad? Or is it ok? Many thanks.

Our Response:
It sounds like your tank is too small for a 5ft snake. The length of you vivarium should be the same length or longer than your snake, and the width about 45-50 cm for a 5ft snake. The tanks itself should not have direct sunlight as your snake may wish to escape from this. The essentials are proper temperatures, clean water, good substrate and and at a selection of good hiding places will help your snake feel more comfortable. On another note, unfortunately many owner do not think about their snakes’ psychological and physiological issues as in the wild they would be out hunting and travelling for days and looking for females to mate with etc. Therefore the larger the vivarium, the more hiding areas and decor will allow more interest and the opportunity for more exercise and exploration. This will make up for you not handling your pet, as handling your snake on a regular basis is really necessary to stop it from getting bored. While corn snakes are quite comfortable in large enclosures - 15 years is a long time to be cooped up in the same environment on its own.
ReptileExpert - 20-May-16 @ 12:19 PM
Hello Reptile Expert, I'm looking for a second opinion. I have a 15 year old 5ft corn snake in a big vivarium (100x40x40cm) with plenty of space and things to do. I've had him for a few years now, but I'm not a confident handler. The snake seems to want to escape a lot, but I've been told they are absolutely fine staying in a vivarium and not being handled. I feel guilty that I don't let him / her out that often and handle them even more rarely. Is that bad? Or is it ok? Many thanks.
Erk - 19-May-16 @ 4:25 PM
I fed my corn snake last week she has gone pale so I know she is due to she'd should i still be handling her and should i feed her again once she has shed ? Any help please.
ClaireLou - 16-May-16 @ 10:39 AM
Hi, I have a 2 and a half year old corn snake. Around 3.5ft. Early this March she has become extremely active and trying to escape all the time. I'm worried she will hurt herself rubbing against the glass or air vent. I think she's a she but not had her sexed. She's not off her food and has a large 4.4ft vivarium. i take her out and handle as much as I can but any tips on keeping her safe? Thanks
Flicker - 26-Mar-16 @ 1:08 PM
My snake is 21 years old.Is it ok to put it in a new variorum or would that cause him too much stress given his age?
kellogthecornsnake - 9-Feb-16 @ 5:01 PM
What is the average temperature for a 5ft corn snake at the night and in the day
jorden - 2-Feb-16 @ 11:53 PM
Hello, I'm trying to convince my mom and step dad to let me get a pet corn snake. They both dislike snakes and are very afraid if the snake ever escapes. Is there a more efficient way to convince them to let me get my first corn snake?
Izzy - 17-Jan-16 @ 3:40 PM
jane - Your Question:
I have a corn snake that is about 18 months old. She's about 36". She feeds every 7 days a frozen thawed large mouse. She has been shedding once a month. I was just wanting to know when they are considered adults? Will she slow down and feed less often as well as she'd less often? She just seems hungry about 4 days after I feed her. Should I be feeding her 2 large mice at a time? I had a male corn for 10 years but he was never as voracious.

Our Response:
Your snake can be considered an adult at three plus years. You can find out more information on feeding via the link here. I hope this helps.
ReptileExpert - 11-Jan-16 @ 11:55 AM
I have a corn snake that is about 18 months old. She's about 36". She feeds every 7 days a frozen thawed large mouse. She has been shedding once a month. I was just wanting to know when they are considered adults? Will she slow down and feed less often as well as she'd less often? She just seems hungry about 4 days after I feed her. Should I be feeding her 2 large mice at a time?I had a male corn for 10 years but he was never as voracious.
jane - 10-Jan-16 @ 4:03 AM
Gemgem- Your Question:
My adult corn snake shed about 2weeks ago but still won't eat should I be worried I have tried him twice how long can they go without food

Our Response:
You can find out more about the shedding and feeding process via the link here which should explain more about the process.
ReptileExpert - 6-Jan-16 @ 2:26 PM
My adult corn snake shed about 2weeks ago but still won't eat should I be worried I have tried him twice how long can they go without food
Gemgem - 5-Jan-16 @ 9:59 PM
Jo - Your Question:
My 2month old corn snake still hasn't pooped and it's been a week and two days what should I do?

Our Response:
Snakes all have different frequencies and can be two days to a few weeks. As long as it looks healthy, then it should be fine. Please see link herefor more information on the keeping of your pet.
ReptileExpert - 9-Dec-15 @ 2:03 PM
My 2month old corn snake still hasn't pooped and it's been a week and two days what should I do?
Jo - 8-Dec-15 @ 4:43 PM
Jo - Your Question:
I fed my one month old corn snake a pinkie today and left it to defrost in like warm water for about 45 mins the pinki felt defrosted I just wanted to check if that Was long enough to leave it for?

Our Response:
Place the mouse in a plastic bag and in a bowl or cup of warm water. Make sure the mouse is totally submerged and leave for two hours to ensure it is totally defrosted. Feeding your snake partially thawed food may make your snake ill. Do not microwave either (unless on a defrost setting) as it will begin to cook the food and this too will make your snake ill.
ReptileExpert - 8-Dec-15 @ 10:31 AM
I fed my one month old corn snake a pinkie today and left it to defrost in like warm water for about 45 mins the pinki felt defrosted I just wanted to check if that Was long enough to leave it for?
Jo - 6-Dec-15 @ 2:01 PM
Jo - Your Question:
Hello I have had my corn snake since Sunday I fed him a pinkie Sunday night as suggested by the pet store he eat the pinkie.he is 3months old. It is now the third day since feeding and he hasn't pooed. Is this normal I'm quite worried. Please help asap thank you

Our Response:
I would not worry, your snake may wait a week before he decides to go - there is quite a bit to digest.
ReptileExpert - 2-Dec-15 @ 2:45 PM
Hello I have had my corn snake since Sunday I fed him a pinkie Sunday night as suggested by the pet store he eat the pinkie .he is 3months old . It is now the third day since feeding and he hasn't pooed ... Is this normal I'm quite worried . Please help asap thank you
Jo - 2-Dec-15 @ 8:41 AM
Hi, three of my corn snake hatchlings have died since I had them off a breeder, they never ate once and they toward the end were very slow and sluggish and would twist their selves as if they were having a fit. I don't know what to do as only two are left.
Zacary - 12-Oct-15 @ 12:46 PM
Hi I have 2 adult corn snakes my female is doing all she shouldbut my male is not eating he hasnt eaten in about a month but still sheding he is in shed now he has lost weight in not sure what to do they are due to be feed next week
viper - 16-Aug-15 @ 9:41 PM
Hi i have a 6 year old male corn snake. Ive had him since april (it is now june) and so he has took abit of time to settle in to his new environment as he wouldnt eat at first although he has now eaten a small rat 2 weeks ago. My question is that since i have had him he has already shed twice and is now in the blue phase again. Is this ok for him to shed so much? He isnt contipatedand i cant see any injuries. When he isnt shedding he is usually lively and friendly.
netty - 12-Jun-15 @ 10:26 PM
I'm really worried about my 1yr old male miami phase he's become very inactive and always been on the cold side of his vivarium he also hasn't been to the toilet in 2 weeks i feed him one fuzzie a week please help me
fallen-angel27 - 29-May-15 @ 10:45 PM
I've been keeping corn snakes for 2 years now and got 6 in total now. I took on the latest 1 back in November as the person who had it wasn't up to the job. It was born in September but has refused to eat and I'm having to force feed every time. Cutting the pinky up but it still brings it back up, I'm squeezing it down throat with a plastic syringe. Only thing I can get down other than that is mice tails but surely that isn't giving the snake the nutrition it needs. Tried a few ideas but no joy and becoming frustrated. Looked online at a few sites and they say probably will never ever feed and best thing to do is put in a tub and freeze snake. I'm not giving up that easily and definitely not doing that to the snake as feel totally cruel. Do you have any ideas on how to get this little guy to take the food without a struggle.
Daz - 11-Apr-15 @ 1:44 PM
@tyson - Skin shedding usually happens every few weeks when your snake is small. Before it sheds it goes into its blue phase where its colours darken and its eyes cloud over. Its eyes should clear and it's scales go back to normal. The thing is to do as much online research as you can if you are new at this, in order to make and informed decision as to whether it is well or unwell and whether your little fellow may need a trip to the vet.
ReptileExpert - 8-Apr-15 @ 1:49 PM
I have a corn snake he is 3 years old i have noticed that his eyes have gone very dull white he has been doing this for a while now his eyes you can not see them at all he is not the same snake as when i first got him he shed the last time about 10-12 weeks maybe a bit more i am so worried i have only had him for 5 weeks so pretty new at everything he is a snow corn please can someone help thankyou
tyson - 6-Apr-15 @ 9:20 AM
I got a pet corn snake for my birthday in June and he is absolutely lovely and really friendly. He has shed his skin no problem. But he hasn't eaten once in the time that I have had him. So can Ihave some advise. Please help
WinnieFreddy - 5-Oct-14 @ 10:02 AM
hi I have a 4 month corn snake ive had it almost 4 weeks now its turning pail in colour and its eyes are going a light blue colour I know this is what is called shedding its skin its still very friendly and is enjoying its new enviorment can you give me some tips how to look after it properly during this process thanks
cozzieboi - 27-Mar-13 @ 5:24 PM
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