There are 4 main factors you need to consider when keeping a corn snake as a pet. These are its housing and enclosure requirements, its humidity, heating and lighting. In this article we will answer the question, “how to keep a corn snake?”
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Table of Contents
You should always have your enclosure ready and fully set up before you place your new corn snake into its new home. Some people like to incorporate into the enclosure the sack or cup in which the snake arrives in, so they already have a familiar smell when in its new enclosure.
As a minimum, an adult corn snake should have an enclosure of 20 gallons (30 x 12 x 12).
When first placed in their new cage. It’s recommended not to feed them for the first 3 days, as their nervousness and stress could force them to regurgitate their food, which is not what you want.
Make sure that the enclosure has no escape routes. Corn snakes are notorious escape artists, so make sure your enclosure is secure, otherwise you’ll be hunting the found for your lost snake. Corn snakes are slim and slender. This enables them to squeeze through the tiniest of gaps. Specially baby hatchlings. If there’s a means to escape, then they will. So remember to keep your enclosure secure at all times.
If this does happen then keep in mind your snake has most likely found a nice warm spot, close to radiators, boilers, under floorboards, they could literally get anywhere.
Key Features for a suitable Vivarium/Enclosure
Having easy access into the vivarium, via a sliding door at the front, will help massively with the routine maintenance and cleaning process. You’re also less likely to startle your corn snake from an aerial prospective.
Making sure the vivarium is completely water tight will allow for a much longer lasting enclosure. Specially with wooden enclosures. Spilled water, or urine, may soak into the wood, causing it to smell and eventually rot. If you choose to waterproof the vivarium yourself, then please seek a silicone designed specifically for vivariums, as they contain no harmful toxins.
This is one of the most important features to a vivarium for corn snakes. Ventilation is usually achieved by adding two mesh grids, at opposite sides of the vivarium, and also at different heights. This allows for fresh air to pass through the vivarium, circulating the air inside. This also helps to control the humidity. Hot air rises, and exits through the higher mesh grids. Whilst the caller fresh air is drawn in through the lower mesh grid.
A thermostat will need to be included within the vivarium, so you can tell whether or not it is too hot or too cold for your corn snake.
Humidity is a hard one to tackle and will take some time too perfect. A couple of easy rule to follow are; if your corn snake is having trouble shedding its skin, then it is most likely too dry in the enclosure. On the flip side, if the enclosure had a lot of condensation and droplets of water running down the inside of the enclosure, then it is most likely too wet for them. So it’s crucial that you keep a close eye on these and try to perfect the level as much as possible. Ideally, humidity should stay around 60%.
Having a suitable sized water bowl, or bathing bowl will be more than enough to humidify your enclosure, if at the right temperature. Obviously if when you refill the water every day, and the bowl is empty, then your enclosure is clearly too warm for the corn snake as its evaporating a lot of water, in a quick period of time.
Corn snakes enjoy a very moderately warm temperatures. This can be anywhere between 75 – 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Snakes can’t regulate their body temperatures, therefore your enclosure will need a warm side, and a cooler side. Different temperature will allow for different bodily function to occur, such as digestion, development and infection control. All these functions happen at different temperatures, so a corn snake will need to be able to adjust its body temperature accordingly.
Corn snakes do have a preferred body temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit. (Or 28 degrees centigrade). Exposing your corn snake to suboptimal temperatures for too long will leave them vulnerable to infections such as Pneumonia and Abscesses. Night time cooling is absolutely fine, as this replicates natural temperatures in the wild.
The most popular methods for offering a corn snake heat is a heating mat, at either end of the enclosure (not the middle), or a tungsten bulb. A wild corn snake would usually bask in the sun to warm up, on a rock or a road. Being in an enclosure, it’s unable to do this. So replicating this as closely as possible would massively improve their happiness and health.
Most corn snake owner prefer the tungsten bulb, as this offer heat from above. This means, just like in the wild, your corn snake will be able to bask underneath the heat. A heat mat doesn’t offer this ability. However it is still commonly used, as some corn snake owners like to keep the vivarium in low lighting. Which the bulb doesn’t offer.
If you do opt for the heating mat, make sure to place it underneath the actually vivarium. On the outside. So your snake can not directly come in contact with the heat supply as burns can occur. Corn snakes will commonly be cautious about a bulb, so won’t venture too near. However it is advised to place a mesh cage around the bulb just in case. Where as with a mat, they may just burrow too low and accidentally come into contact with it, which won’t be good news for your snake.
Corn snakes are considered mainly nocturnal, as they are most active in the twilight hours of the day. Dawn and Dusk. Although in captivity, they do become active through the day also. Corn snakes can actually survive and be relatively healthy, without the full spectrum of lighting (Containing UVB).
Although not commonly exposed to a large amount of UV in the wild. Corn snakes have shown that they can actually utilise UVB for vitamin D production.
To give your corn snake a sense of a natural light cycle, you should either provide the vivarium with a light (On a timer), or located the vivarium in a room with sufficient natural lighting throughout the day. The lights should be on for roughly 12 hours a day, but reduced through the Brumation period.
If you do opt for a UVB florescent light. Please purchase from a reptile store, as these have been tweaked specifically for reptiles. They produce a different wavelength than a common UV light, which is important to snakes. It also helps to render a natural colour to your corn snakes skin.
Make sure you place the lighting above the snake. Hanging from the top of the enclosure if possible. This is because corn snakes have evolved eyebrow ridges over time. These eyebrow ridges are designed to keep the eyes shaded from the light above. Low lighting can cause some lasting damage to a corn snake as they don’t have eyelids to protect themselves from harmful rays.
Lighting should extend throughout the whole of the vivarium. so if you have a larger enclosure, it’s recommended that you have two lighting tubes installed. Making sure the light extends the whole way throughout the enclosure.
How long do corn snakes live in captivity?
Corn snakes have been known to live up to 20 yers old in captivity. However the average life span of a corn snake in captive is more like 15 years. But of course this all comes down to the lifestyle of the corn snake, its diet and how well it’s being looked after. This is much longer than a wild corn snake which life expectably is between 6-8, dues to predators and human activity.
For a corn snake in captivity to live its longest life, there are some essentials that you will need to consider. These are the right kind of habitat which they actually enjoy. Feeding them the right kind of diet. A balanced diet as well, change their food up from time to time. And finally keeping track of their health. Making sure you spot any illnesses early and seek the best help and advise to recover from it as soon as possible.
What do corn snakes need in the enclosure?
In the wild corn snakes originate from southern united states, in their pine forest and flat woods. They enjoy a wide range of habitats depending mainly on the weather, and temperature. In the colder months corn snakes like to shelter in burrow holes, broken tree stump and other refuses from its surroundings. Where as during the warmer months corn snakes like to stay cool out of the sun in abandoned buildings and deep burrows, and sometimes climb trees to bask, or even to find their next meal in a birds nest. So these are aspects that you need to consider when creating the perfect home for your corn snake.
5 components you need to think about
Size of enclosure – Does your snake have enough room to move freely, climb and burrowed holes.
Substrate – The material you out in the Botton of the cage. Newspaper, aspen shavings and cypress mulch is most recommended.
Heating – Your corn snakes enclosure needs some form of heating, Ideally a warm and cool side to the enclosure. Heating mats are the best recommenced for this, placed only one side of the enclosure. 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal heating level.
Lighting – In the wild, corn snakes obviously have a natural cycle of day/night lighting. So this should be replicated in your enclosure too. You can provide light by positioning your enclosure near to a window, or a UVB light placed on the cage with a timer.
Furniture – These are the aspects that corn snakes need in its enclosure to make it feel like home. These are, a water bowl large enough for your snake can bathe in. Hiding areas and burrows are needed to make your snake feel safe. If not shelter then it can cause a lot of stress for a snake, they need to feel secure. Rocks and branches for your snake to climb over or onto. This replicates exactly the kind of obstacles they would encounter in the wild. So these are must haves.
Things to avoid putting into their enclosure include, cedar shavings, pine shavings and aquarium gravel as these all have oils found in them that actually cause health issues for corn snakes. Also any rocks or branches with sharp edges should be avoided also, a snakes skin is very sensitive, and sharp edges will irritate their skin, causing unwanted stress.
Can corn snakes live together?
Ideally no. Corn snakes like to be by themselves (as do most snakes). They don’t usually live together nor do they hunt together. They’re pretty antisocial really, when it come to other snakes. They really don’t need any company at all.
There are loads of problems you may have if housed together. Corn snakes would have to house with the same sex. Either two males or two females. This is because two different sex corn snakes would likely end up fighting a lot. Corn snakes would also need to be housed with another snake which is similar sized and age, or at very least of the age old enough to breed.
You would most likely always have a more dominant snake, so they would need to be fed separately, to make sure the dominant snake does not steal the other ones food. Snakes can actually be known for cannibalism. So if left un fed for too long, the dominant corn snake would eventually attempt to eat your other snake, whether or not it would succeed.
Another problem that may occur could be the early or unexpected breeding for young corn snakes. As this can be fatal for younger corn snakes, which haven’t been given the time to fully mature. This will add a lot of stress to the young corn snake, and could affect their eating habits and sociability.
You would need to at least double the size of the enclosure, and this is a very minimum. Corn snakes like their own space, so having enough hiding spots is crucial, so the dominant snake does not occupy all of the hides. Both snakes need to feel safe in their enclosures, so putting two together will no doubt increase the stress and anxiety of the less dominant corn snake.
Most Recommended For Corn Snakes
Bathing Water Bowl – Click Here
Heat Lamp and Guard – Click Here
Reliable Thermometer – Click Here
Vivarium/Enclosure – Click Here
Climbing Branches – Click Here
Hydrometer – Click Here