The corn snake (pantherophis guttatus) is native to the southeastern region of the United States. They’re mainly land-dwelling reptiles, but they’re not averse to basking in warm water. Like most snakes, corns live for significantly longer in captivity than they do in the wild.
The corn snake is vibrantly-colored, non-venomous, easy to handle, and docile. It is a good pet snake for novice and experienced owners alike.
This corn snake pet care guide will explain everything that you need about how to take care of corn snakes, from egg care and habitat setups to diet and common illnesses that affect them.
How Big Do Corn Snakes Grow?
Corn snakes range from two feet to five feet in length. The females are often much shorter, while the males typically measure four feet and up. Your baby snake will get bigger, so bear that in mind when investing in a vivarium.
When a corn snake first hatches, they are 6 to 14 inches in length. It takes approximately two years for them to reach maturity and their full adult length.
How Long Do Corn Snakes Live in Captivity
- Captivity. Corn snakes can comfortably live for 15 to 20 years.
- In the wild. They have to compete for food sources while also hiding from predators. Because of this, corns have a significantly shorter lifespan of 5 to 8 years.
Corn Snake Morphs
There are many unique and beautiful corn snake color combinations. Morphs are accomplished through selective breeding, and their scarcity determines how much a snake cost.
Here’s our list of some of the most popular corn snake morphs:
|Corn Snake Morph||Features and Characteristics|
|Classic:||This is the standard color and pattern that you would see in nature. They are brownish-yellow or orange and feature red blotches down their back.|
|Blood Red:||A deep, vivid red that has darker patches of red along the snake’s back.|
|Okeetee:||Okeetees have light and dark shades of orange, yellow, and red, with bold black patches on the snake’s back.|
|Anerythristic:||A combination of gray, black, and white, with brown accents. No red hues.|
|Hypomelanistic:||Lacks any black or dark pigment, presenting you with bold, bright colors.|
|Albino:||All albino animals lack melanin, the pigment that produces color. Most albino corn snakes are pure white with pink eyes.|
Do Corn Snakes Bite?
Avoid holding your corn snake for 48 hours after they’ve been fed.
Handling your snake during this time can cause regurgitation or kill your snake. There’s no significant temperament difference between male and female corn snakes.
You should also avoid handling your snake if they’re about to shed. The corn snake will have bluish-looking cloudy eyes when they’re ready to shed. Because of this, they will not be able to see which will make them defensive and extra sensitive to your touch and sudden movements.
All snakes bite if they’re provoked or afraid. Juveniles and hatchlings are defensive and very nervous during this stage of their life and can be extremely unpredictable. Fortunately, at this age, their bites do not hurt. Even a bite from an adult is not particularly painful.
If your snake strikes and doesn’t release, resist the urge to remove it quickly since doing so can remove its teeth. Yes, snakes do have teeth. Instead, have some cold water ready and pour it over the snake’s head. This will cause them to release you immediately without any harm.
Corn Snake Diet
The diet of a corn snake consists mainly of rodents, although they will also occasionally indulge in frogs, eggs, and lizards.
The hatchling will eat pinkie mice, while the adult will eat jumbo mice. Most snake breeders recommend that captive snakes be given frozen/thawed mice, but with the hatchling, you may have to train them to eat a frozen mouse.
This means you must be prepared to feed your new snake a live newborn mouse. The hatchling corn snake can become stressed easily and may not find thawed pinkie mice appealing.
To train the hatchling to eat thawed pinkies, you must put the hatchling and the thawed mouse in an empty plastic container with a lid. The lid should have air holes punched in it.
To make the pinkie more appetizing to the hatchling, make sure you first thaw it out and then warm it up in hot water, to get the pinkie up to room temperature. This will make the prey’s scent much more intriguing to corn snakes.
To promote faster digestion for the hatchling, you can also slice the skin of the pinkie. This, in turn, will also increase the prey’s scent.
The hatching will eat every five days while the adult will eat once every ten days. They will rarely refuse food, but corn snakes can survive for weeks without food.
A captive corn snake should be fed a diet that consists of captive-bred prey. Rodents, birds, and lizards can all carry parasites, transferring them to your snake as they digest.
You should only feed your snake prey that has been frozen and thawed. Freezing will kill any parasites as well as safeguarding your snake against harmful toxins.
Some pathogens and diseases can still be transmitted from the wild to your snake, despite freezing before feeding, which is why captive-bred prey is strongly recommended.
What Size of Prey Should Be Fed to a Corn Snake?
You must feed them prey that’s under twice the diameter of their mid-body girth. The first time you feed your snake, you should make sure that the prey is even smaller. The prey should be half the size of their usual prey.
Since the snake is stressed by its environment, along with being handled by a new person, giving your corn prey that’s much smaller will help to prevent it from regurgitating its meal.
Meal Regurgitation Prevention
In the event your snake does regurgitate its dinner, you will need to feed them smaller-sized rodents for the next one to two feedings.
After regurgitation, feed the snake a post-regurgitation meal seven days later. It can take the corn a long time to replenish any stomach acid that’s been lost due to vomiting and regurgitation. You’ll want to give them smaller prey for their post-regurgitation meal.
If you re-feed too soon, it can lead to a severe illness or death due to a lack of stomach acid.
How Long Does It Take a Corn Snake to Digest Food?
If your snake is living in an ideal setup with the optimal temperature and humidity level, digestion should be complete in 48 to 72 hours. Here’s some advice on digestive issues in corn snakes.
Live Prey vs. Frozen Food
Most experienced snake owners will feed their snake live prey, but doing so comes with many risks. If you’re a beginner, you should feed your snake pre-killed mice. Since pinkies don’t have teeth and their claws are soft, live pinkies do not pose a risk to hatchlings.
Corn Snake Drinking Water
While it’s true that snakes get much of their water from their prey, they also drink water, although seeing your snake drink the water will be a rarity.
The snake’s water bowl will also work to add humidity to their environment. Always provide a large shallow bowl of fresh water in your snake’s vivarium, changing it out every day.
Enclosure Types and Size
A twenty-gallon vivarium is ideal for a corn snake. The vivarium can be made from wood, glass or plastic. Plastic vivariums are cheaper and easier to clean but aren’t as visually appealing. Wooden vivariums are recommended, but glass is the most popular choice.
Since the corn snake is an escape artist, make sure you use a locking mesh lid. At night, when the snake is the most active, you’ll often catch them pressing on the vivarium’s lid using their nose to check for any weaknesses in the structure.
Not recommended, but you can put two female corn snakes (that are about the same size) in the enclosure. However, you should never put two male corn snakes in the same tank. And you should avoid putting a male and female corn snake together as they’ll breed.
Inside the vivarium, it’s crucial that you provide your snake with hiding places. You can use small logs or a container to create multiple hide boxes.
The boxes should be only big enough to allow your snake to curl up in it. You should place a hide box for the snake on the cold side of the tank and the warmer side.
You can buy hides and decorations at all pet stores.
Most snakes will benefit from a UV light in the tank, but it’s not a must for the corn snake since they are nocturnal by nature and do not need sunlight to survive.
However, placing the snake’s vivarium in indirect light can help the snake determine night from day. Never place the snake’s vivarium next to a window or door, as this can negatively impact on the temperature and make it more difficult to keep under control.
Corn Snake Temperature Range
Since the corn snake is cold-blooded, it must rely on its environment to regulate body temperature. It is not able to control body temperature like a mammal can.
If there is no external heat source, the snake will not survive. In a tank that’s too cold, the corn snake will not move, eat or drink. Instead, it will remain curled up in the same spot, which is probably going to be the warmest spot in the tank.
The temperature for a corn snake’s tank should range from 70 to 85 degrees. Heating options include heat pads, heat tiles, heat panels, heat tape, and heat lamps. You should install a thermometer to measure the temperature.
You don’t have to maintain tropical temperatures since the corn snake is from a significantly milder climate. However, you must keep a close eye on the tank’s temperature since a tank that’s too hot can harm your corn’s health.
Heat lamps are often preferred because they come equipped with a timer and are adjustable. They allow for precise temperature adjustments.
The bulb of the lamp must be placed on the inside of the tank, so you will need to purchase a bulb cage to prevent the snake from coming into direct contact with the hot bulb.
Do Corn Snakes Need Heat at Night?
The temperature in the home can drop to sixty degrees without causing any problems. If the temperature in your house drops below sixty degrees during the winter months, then you would need to switch on the heat lamp to maintain the right temperature.
Routinely monitor the temperature in the home to ensure that your snake is getting the heat it needs. If you don’t have digital thermometers installed in the tank, use a temperature gun.
Corn Snake Humidity
All snakes need some humidity to stay hydrated and promote a healthy shed.
During the shedding phase of a corn snake, a higher humidity level is required to remove their old skin. If after a shed your snake’s old skin is still stuck to portions of their eyes and body, this tells you that a higher level of humidity is required.
Corn snakes don’t adapt well to conditions that are outside their natural environments and should be kept in a vivarium that closely mimics the conditions they’re used to in the wild.
Humidity and Shedding
A higher humidity level is required for a corn snake to remove its old skin.
The corn snake doesn’t require a high level of humidity like some snakes that live in a tropical environment do. Instead, they need an average of forty to fifty percent humidity at all times.
During the pre-shed and shedding phase, you’ll need to adjust the humidity level to fifty percent. During the first shed, monitor your snake’s response to the humidity level and increase or decrease it based on the results of the shed.
When it comes to adjusting the humidity level, heat and wind can both cause evaporation of moisture, making it difficult to achieve the optimal humidity level.
If your snake is housed in a glass vivarium, it can be challenging to maintain a consistent humidity level. To keep the humidity levels at forty percent, you should try covering part of the mesh lid with plastic wrap and use a quality substrate.
The right substrate will increase humidity levels. Adjust the heat lamp’s timer, and keep a large water dish in their tank at all times. Make sure that the tank is out of direct sunlight.
Substrate for Corn Snakes
When it comes to the bedding for a corn snake, you should choose a type that works well based on your snake’s humidity and maintenance needs.
With specific substrates, you won’t have to do more than scoop out the feces regularly, while with others you’ll need to change out the vivarium once a week.
Use cypress mulch or aspen shavings. Both options cost more but allow you to control humidity levels more precisely, look attractive, and are easier to clean. They also allow your snake to burrow and are more attuned with your snake’s natural living environment.
Newspaper is often preferred for the corn snake since it’s easy to replace and it’s virtually free. It’s not the most aesthetic choice, and there are better options available to you.
Pine shavings are a bad choice of substrate. These wood shavings contain high levels of wood dust, which your snake will be forced to breathe in day and night. This will lead to frequent and ongoing respiratory issues. This type of substrate also doesn’t boost humidity or absorb odors.
Body Language of a Corn Snake
When you see your snake flicking their tongue, they are smelling the air. This is a sign that the snake smells you or prey nearby.
If the snake’s neck is coiled into an S shape, this means they feel threatened and are getting ready to defend themselves. Hissing is another sign that your snake does not want to be held.
You may notice that your corn snake rattles its tail in the same way that a rattlesnake would. If the corn snake is shaking its tail, it is trying to scare you away because it feels threatened. Defecating during handling means that the snake perceives you as a predator and is using its feces to scare you away.
It’s crucial that you pay attention to your snake’s behavior and body language and respect how they’re feeling. If you notice any of these signs, leave the snake alone and wait two or three days before you attempt to hold it again.
How to Handle a Corn Snake
Corn snakes are one of the easiest snakes to handle, which is what makes them such great pets for beginners. These snakes are patient and sturdy enough to endure regular handling, unlike other species of snakes that would typically become easily stressed if handled too much.
When you first bring home a corn snake, you should wait for two weeks before you attempt to handle it regularly. After these two weeks, you should take it slowly and handle your snake only for a few minutes at a time, two to three times a week.
When you first handle a corn snake, make sure you don’t put the snake back in their vivarium until it has had a chance to calm down. Doing so will teach the snake how you want it to behave.
Once your snake calms down sooner after handling, you can increase the amount of time you hold it. Slowly increase the amount of time you hold the snake, but never exceed an hour or the snake will become too cold.
The corn snake can be held a few times a week, but you should only handle it one time. Don’t take your snake out of their vivarium for five to ten minutes several times a day.
While frequent handling is great for socialization and their mental health, too much handling can stress any snake out.
Before you take your snake out of their vivarium, you should make sure it’s wide awake. This can be done by tapping on their tank lightly.
When you do this regularly before you handle them, this will teach the snake that it’s not dinner time, but handling time.
When you pick up the snake, you should always approach from the side. Since a predator usually approaches the snake from above, doing so can easily frighten them and send them into defense mode.
As you lift the snake, you should make sure you hold on to as much of the snake’s body and avoid grabbing the snake by the head.
The snake should be held close to your body. These snakes love to explore, so you can expect them to start climbing up your arms instantly. During this time, use your hands to guide the snake where you want it to go.
Breeding the Corn Snake in Captivity
The corn snake can begin breeding at 18 to 24 months of age if they’re healthy and well-fed. In captivity, the corn snake can breed any time of the year. However, by manipulating their environment, you’ll find that their breeding cycle is much more predictable.
With corn snakes, the adult male and female snakes should be cooled off over the winter, or for a period of three to four months. The snakes must not be housed together and should be cooled down separately. Food will be reduced to avoid undigested food remaining in the gut.
After the cooling period, the snake must be returned to optimal temperatures. This should be done gradually to avoid shocking the snake’s system. Once the right spring temperatures have been reached, the snake’s appetite will spike as a way for their body to prepare for breeding. After both snakes have been well-fed, they are then introduced to each other.
Most breeders will leave their snakes together for a period of five to seven days. After a week, the male snake will be removed, and the female should be given a box that contains a damp substrate. This is the perfect spot for the snake to lay her eggs, a process which will occur approximately five to six weeks later.
The gestation of corn snake eggs is 60 to 65 days.
How to Care for Corn Snake Eggs
The female will lay between 10 and 30 eggs. Once the female has laid her eggs, they should be removed and incubated separately. You will need to use damp vermiculite, partially burying each egg.
During this time, proper ventilation is essential to prevent mold from growing on the eggs. The temperature should be kept no higher than ninety degrees. However, many breeders recommend staying at around 80 to 85 degrees.
Several days before the eggs are ready to hatch, they will start to dent inward. If they dent much earlier, this can indicate that the conditions are too dry. If you allow mold to grow, the environment will be too moist and will need to be aired out.
Avoid turning or rotating the eggs during this time, as doing so can easily damage the embryos, killing them or causing congenital disabilities.
Once hatched, the hatchlings should be separated and stored in their tank to avoid cannibalism, fights, and death. These are rare, but it can happen with feisty hatchlings.
Common Types of Health Problems for Corn Snakes
Here are the most common health issues that affect the corn snake:
|Corn Snake Health Issue||Prevention and Treatment Options|
|Dermatitis:||Rapid shedding, wrinkled or blistered skin. It is caused by improper tank conditions, such as too much humidity or a tank that’s too cold. This condition can be avoided by frequently cleaning the tank, lowering the humidity level and increasing heat lamp use.|
|Respiratory issues:||This can be caused by using the wrong type of substrate, and a habitat that’s too damp and cold. Monitor temperature and humidity levels. If your snake has respiratory problems, increase the temperature and use a different type of substrate, one that won’t hold onto moisture. Symptoms of respiratory illness include mouth breathing and mucus around the nose and mouth. The snake should be kept dry and warm until they’re able to see a vet.|
|Mouth Rot:||Loss of teeth, a decrease in appetite and a cheesy white discharge in the mouth are all common signs of mouth rot. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal.|
|External Parasites:||Ticks are obvious, but mites can be more challenging to spot. However, both cases can be efficiently dealt with at home if you’re persistent with care. In the event of ticks, wipe a thick layer of Vaseline over the ticks. This will quickly smother them and cause them to fall off. To remove mites, place your snake is a large shallow basin of warm water, soaking the snake for thirty to sixty minutes until all of the mites have drowned. While your snake is soaking, clean out their tank thoroughly and bleach all of the surfaces in the tank. Make sure the tank is completely dry before adding a new substrate and returning your snake to their tank.|
|Internal Parasites:||These are much more common among wild-caught corn snakes, but a captive bred corn snake can also get them if they weren’t purchased from a reputable breeder and were kept in poor living conditions.|
Do Corn Snakes Make Good Pets?
Every snake is unique. Some snakes don’t mind being handled; others are more prone to biting due to their temperament or being handled too much. Of course, other captive snakes are just meant to be admired from afar. Certain species of snakes make better pets than others.
The corn snake is a good reptile if you want to get a new pet snake. These snakes have seen an increase in popularity over the years because they are low maintenance and docile by nature. They aren’t venomous, so you aren’t in danger if you were to get bitten.
It’s vital to learn all you can about the corn snake before you decide to get one. They need an ample-sized vivarium or cage, a heat source, and places they can hide to feel secure. You also need to be comfortable with feeding corn snakes’ frozen mice and rats.