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Guide to Keeping a Corn Snake
RESOURCE ARTICLE

Guide to Keeping a Corn Snake

Introduction

Buying any pet is a big decision but there are several things you may want to consider first to make sure that a Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus) is the pet for you:

  • Are all of the people in your household happy with a snake coming to live there?
  • Can you guarantee that you will have a regular supply of frozen food items to feed to your snake?
  • Are you happy to keep frozen mice in your freezer at home?
  • Are you prepared to look after an animal that could live up to 20 years?
  • Is there someone that you can ask to look after your pet if you are away?
  • Corn Snakes are nocturnal animals so will sleep in the day and be awake at night.

Types of Animal

Corn Snakes are the perfect first snake and with hundreds of different colour variations ranging from pure white through to red, orange and black there are plenty to choose from.

Here are some of the most popular:

Buying a Corn Snake

We recommend buying a Corn Snake from a reputable pet shop. The shop will also be able to help you with a supply of good quality frozen food items to feed to your snake.

Check before purchasing:

The Snake is feeding well.
Any reputable pet shop will be able to show you a feeding record for the snake that you intend to purchase; this record may be in the form of a feeding card which should be available to view on request.
The Snake is healthy.
5 point animal health check:
  • Make sure that the animal is alert and responsive
  • The mouth should be clear of any thick mucus and should not smell bad
  • The underside of the snake should be clean, free from sores or raw skin and have a clean vent
  • The snake should be able to support itself when handled
  • The snake should be a regular feeder

Caring For Your Corn Snake

Overview

  • Ease of Care:Beginner
  • Size:120-185cm+ (48-72")
  • Life Span:Up to 20 years
  • Diet:Rodents
  • Temperament:Friendly
  • Background Temp:23.3-31⁰C (74-88⁰F)
  • HOT Spot:30-31⁰C (86-88⁰F)

Equipment Needed

Top Tips

  • After feeding let your snake digest its meal for 2 days before handling him.
  • If your snake refuses to feed try offering a smaller or larger food item.
  • A Corn Snake will normally refuse its food when it is about to shed so wait until the snake has fully shed before offering food.
  • A bad shed is normally a sign of something wrong in the snake’s environment.
  • If your snake has a bad shed try soaking it in luke warm water and removing any left-over skin.

Environment

Heating

Corn Snakes are an ectothermic (cold-blooded) animal and take all of their heat requirements from external sources. Different heat sources are required depending on the type of housing selected.

Heating a Terrainium

To replicate these conditions in a terrainium, we recommend using a heat mat that is thermostatically controlled as a heat source. The heat mat should be inserted into the glass holder located in the base of the Terrainium to ensure that the Corn Snake does not come directly into contact with it.

Heat mat thermostats are designed to regulate temperatures using a thermostat probe (also known as a sensor). Correct placement of the probe is critical to avoid overheating and injury to the snake. Insert the probe through the back of the terrainium via the rubber grommet and tape directly onto the glass panel above the heat mat. The probe cable should be taped 2-5cm (1-2”) back from the actual probe sensor to allow for a correct temperature reading and avoid it becoming dislodged. Carefully place the substrate on top.

Heating a Vivarium

To provide an appropriate heat source in a Vivarium we recommend using a ceramic heat bulb that is thermostatically controlled. The ceramic heat bulb should be set up using a ceramic bulb holder, which can be hung from the roof of the vivarium, approximately 15-20cms from one side.

The ceramic heat bulb should be used in conjunction with a pulse thermostat.

Pulse thermostats are designed to regulate temperatures using a thermostat probe (also known as a sensor). Correct placement of the probe is critical to avoid overheating and injury to the snake. The probe should be positioned on the floor in the basking area and the probe cable should be taped to the floor 2-8cm (1-3”) back from the actual probe sensor. This will ensure an accurate temperature reading and prevent the probe becoming dislodged. Carefully place the substrate on top of the probe cable leaving just the probe above the surface.

A Spotlight Guard should be used to surround the ceramic heat bulb to prevent the animal coming into direct contact with the heat source.

Temperature and Monitoring

As a rough guide, daytime temperatures should be between 23.3-31⁰C (74-88⁰F) with the hot end up to 30-31⁰C (86-88⁰F) going down to 23.3⁰C (74⁰F) at the cooler end of the enclosure. Night-time temperatures should be 23.3-30⁰C (74-86⁰F).

Make sure temperatures are checked regularly to ensure that there are no extreme fluctuations.

Lighting

A UV light can be provided but it is not essential to the Corn Snakes wellbeing. If a UV light is used, ensure that it is fitted correctly and securely to avoid any injuries to the snake. LED lighting can also be used to provide a day/night light cycle for the Corn Snake.

Substrates and Decoration

Personal choice will dictate how you decorate your terrainium or vivarium but we recommend the following as a guide:

  • Substrates: A dry and non-dusty substrate such as Aspen, Beech Chip or Natracel that is easy to spot clean.
  • Wood for hiding under, crawling on and to help with shedding.
  • Artificial or live plants for decoration and to provide darker areas for the Corn Snake to hide away.
  • Hide to allow the snake to hide away if it chooses to and give it an area to feel safe and secure

Diet and Water

Hatchlings through to Adults should be offered appropriately sized defrosted mice. As a general rule, the feed size offered to your snake should be no larger in diameter than 1-1.5 times the width of the snake at its widest point. Fresh clean water must be accessible at all times. The water source should be positioned at the cool end of the environment to prevent the water from evaporating quickly and causing an unwanted humidity increase.

Supplementation

Corn Snakes do not require any form of supplementation as long as your frozen food is purchased from a reputable supplier.

Health & Hygiene

Always wash your hands, surfaces and equipment with warm water and disinfectant immediately before and after handling or feeding your snake, their food, enclosure and any other equipment.

Additional Information

A Corn Snake will shed its skin every so often, depending on how big the snake is and how quickly it is growing. As a general rule, a young snake will shed every 3 to 6 weeks and an older snake every 2 to 6 months.

The best way to tell that your Corn Snake is going to shed its skin is to look at its general colour and eyes. The Corn Snake will appear duller than normal and may have a washed out look. This will become more obvious as the Corn Snake nears shedding its skin. The snake’s eyes will appear clouded at first and will eventually turn a bluey/grey colour. Normal colouration will return once the Corn Snake has shed its skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How big will my Corn Snake grow?

    Approximately 120-185cm (48-72") long.

  • What is the best way to feed my Corn Snake?

    We recommend using feeding tweezers to offer food to your snake.

  • How do I know what size of frozen rodent to offer my Corn Snake?

    As a general rule, the feed size offered to your snake should be no larger in diameter that 1-1.5 times the width of the snake at its widest point.

  • How long will my Corn Snake live for?

    A Corn Snake may live for up to 20 years in captivity, if cared for correctly.

  • How can I tell what sex my Corn Snake is?

    We have put together a video to demonstrate how to sex a snake. Click on the video link below

  • My Corn Snake seems to have mites, what do you recommend?

    We stock several mite removers. Choose from either a chemical based treatment or a natural alternative. Mites are pinhead sized black and sometimes red creatures which can usually be seen on the soft parts of your snake: - Around the eyes and nostrils - In-between and under the scales If your snake appears to be spending a lot of time in the water bowl this is often a sign that it may have mites as it is trying to drown the mites.

  • What other types of beginner snake are there?

    Milk Snake and Royal Python