Corn snake vivariums are expensive. Keeping two corn snakes in one cage or container is one of the first money-saving ideas that spring to most pet owners’ minds. It may not be a good idea, though.
We’ll begin by explaining why corn snakes shouldn’t be kept together. After, we’ll take a look at which types of snakes can live in the same container and whether you can keep two female corn snakes in the same tank. As a general rule, it’s best to house your snakes apart, no matter what.
Can Corn Snakes be Kept Together?
Corns are naturally solitary reptiles. They don’t live in packs, hunt together, sleep together or eat together. They don’t need company, and they don’t need friends in the same way that we do.
Imagine if you suddenly had to share your room with a total stranger. That’s how your corn snake would feel living with another snake in the same vivarium. This is the case for corn snakes, all snakes, and reptiles as a general rule.
It’s not just a question of what they prefer. It’s a question of what will happen if you put two corn snakes in one cage.
Let’s take a look at why it’s a bad idea to group corn snakes together.
1) Are Corn Snakes Cannibalistic?
Our first point is easily the most important, even if it isn’t always going to be a problem. Corn snakes are naturally cannibalistic, like many other snakes. You can find out more about the diet of corn snakes in this in-depth guide.
This behavior has many causes. One is that female snakes need to recover after pregnancy and can recover their lost energy by eating eggs and dead offspring after birth. Research in Science Daily explored the issue as it related to rattlesnakes, but it also applies to all other snakes.
Other snakes, including king snakes and milk snakes, are cannibalistic as a part of their everyday diet. They hunt and kill other smaller snakes as a regular occurrence.
Corn snakes don’t fit into this mold, but they’re opportunistic cannibals. If they need to feed, and they’re in a cage with another smaller snake, then they may eat them.
The key is that the snake they attack is invariably smaller than they are. That’s at the heart of opportunistic cannibalism: the fact that they can attack the other snake with hardly any risk of getting hurt themselves.
The only time you’ll ever have success with two corn snakes in one vivarium is if they’re the same size and if they’ve known each other for a long time. Even then, there’s always a chance of something going badly wrong.
2) Aggressive Corn Snake Behavior
You should also know that corn snakes can become aggressive in certain circumstances. On its own, a corn snake is naturally a shy snake. It is much less likely to be annoyed or frustrated when you handle it, for example. But if you put two together, you know what happens with any animal. They become competitive and can fight.
This is most likely to occur if you feed the two snakes together. Both of them have a natural response to seeing or smelling prey – they both want it, and they’ll both try to get it.
According to a video about a two-headed copperhead on the BBC News website, two-headed snakes don’t often survive. That’s at least partly because the two heads start fighting over food, and attack one another. If a two-headed snake will attack itself, would you think that two separate snakes wouldn’t attack each other?
If you must keep two corn snakes in the same vivarium, whatever you do, separate them before you feed them. Many instances of cannibalism could be explained by fights over food.
One corn snake begins its eating procedure by dislocating their jaw and getting ready to strike. If they get confused with regards to where the smell of prey is coming from—which happens—then they might strike at another corn snake’s tail, and begin to squeeze it (corn snakes are constrictors). Once they get to that point, they don’t stop.
3) Corn Snake Mating
Corn snakes, like all animals, mate. But that instinct may kick in, regardless of age, during the breeding season. Their natural mating season is roughly between March and May, but in vivarium conditions, they may mate outside of this season too.
Most corn snakes reach maturity between 18 and 24 months, at which point they will be adult size, although the rule of thumb is three years. The problem with unexpected mating is that it can be fatal for young corn snakes when they’re not quite ready to breed.
If the female snake is too young or too small to breed, then having eggs will result in egg binding. This is where an egg takes too long to pass out of the reproductive tract.
This is quickly fatal if left untreated. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject, here’s some additional information about how snakes reproduce.
4) Corn Snake Diseases
Corn snakes get viruses and diseases, just like we do. Both viral and bacterial infection can cause problems for a snake. One such issue is IBD or Inclusion Body Disease, which affects constrictors. A paper in the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine examined IBD to find out what caused it (because until relatively recently, nobody knew).
IBD causes a range of unpleasant symptoms: staring upwards, breathing problems and paralysis among them. As it turns out, IBD is caused by a virus in the arenavirus family, which causes infections in humans too (hemorrhagic fever, to be precise).
If any snake has IBD, it’s advised to keep them quarantined. It’s highly contagious, and will easily pass from one snake to another in the same vivarium.
Another interesting point is that there is another virus which causes almost identical symptoms, but which comes from an entirely different virus family.
These are paramyxoviruses, which act even quicker than arenaviruses, and can kill your pet or pets within a week. Anything that lessens the chances of that happening is a good thing.
What Snakes Can Live Together?
You can house rat snakes together, so long as they’re the same size. It’s also best if they’re different sexes (see the section below). But, there aren’t any snakes that should live together.
There isn’t such a thing as a ‘social’ snake. No snake benefits from being in a vivarium with other snakes, and you leave yourself open to all the problems we described above.
It’s an age-old debate in herpetology because some people have kept snakes together for years with no problems, whereas others have nightmare stories about their pets eating each other.
Don’t house them together if you’re new to caring for corn snakes. There’s no upside to it and so many downsides that it’s not worth considering.
Can Two Female Corn Snakes Live Together?
So, as we’ve discussed, corn snakes of opposite sexes might try to mate. And males of the species are more likely to fight over food than females. But, can two female snakes live together?
Yes, although you have to make sure that the two snakes are the same size and act comfortably around one another. Everything we’ve said still applies. Snakes are by nature asocial and don’t need a companion. And both males and females will fight over food.
If you are going to house two corns together, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure that the two snakes are the same size. This a) prevents cannibalism, and b) prevents the bigger snake from bullying and dominating the smaller one. Smaller snakes might not eat because of stress, and might not even get the chance because the bigger one eats all their food.
- Make sure that the vivarium is large enough to house both snakes. There should be sufficient room that they have their own ‘personal space,’ i.e., a place for them to hide. They all snakes like hiding places that are big enough for them to curl up in.
- As always, make sure that the vivarium has the correct temperature and humidity. There should also be ample room for them to climb, e.g., on branches, rocks, and stones.
Even so, it would be wiser to keep corn snakes separate and to bathe corn snakes separately. There’s no reason to keep them together but adhere to these rules if you must. And that’s all you need to know.