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Corn Snake - Elaphe guttata

Corn snakes are native to the US. They are one of the most common snakes found in captivity due to the fact they are easy to care for and tend to be tame. Corn snakes are easy to find at pet shops and herp shows. Because of the amount of time they have been in the pet trade, their good nature and the demand from pet owners, they have been bred into many color variants. All of these factors combined make the corn snake an excellent choice for both the beginner


Life Span - Corn snakes can live up to 20 years with proper care

Size - Corn snakes can grow up to 5 feet long.

Diet - Mice, small rats and other rodents of similar size

Feeding - Hatchling corn snakes should be offered pinky mice. As they mature transition to fuzzy mice and then as adults begin them on mice and small rats. Feed most adult snakes every two weeks, or as needed; feed juveniles once or twice a week. If you feed live rodents, do not leave them unattended. Live rodents can injure the snake, sometimes fatally.

Housing Size - A newly hatched corn snake can be kept in a ten gallon aquarium or enclosure of similar size. Upon reaching full adult size (about three to four years), you should have an enclosure that has the minimum dimensions of a standard thirty gallon long aquarium. 

Substrate - Cedar shavings are unacceptable as they cause respiratory problems in snakes. There are plenty of acceptable snake substrates on the market today. Check with your pet shop for what they recommend. One of the easiest substrates is paper towels or other soft papers - make sure they do not have ink or other print type.  Coconut fiber is acceptable. Astroturf can also be used. If you choose astroturf, cut it in sections - it will make cleaning and replacing easy and less expensive. 

Habitat - Provide a hiding area just large enough for your snake to fit inside and a branch or shelf to climb; maintain humidity of 40 to 60%

Temperature -Temperature gradient (85 degrees F. for the warm end and 70 degrees F. for the cool end); recommend radiant heat; use an incandescent light or ceramic heater as primary heat source, use undertank heat as secondary source

Lighting -Snakes need a photoperiod light cycle; provide 8-12 hours of light daily - snakes need periods of dark so do not leave lights on at all times. Corn snakes are diurnal so a full spectrum reptile light should be provided. Exposure to UVA/UVB is necessary for proper calcium metabolism, and also appears to have other benefits to overall health such as improving appetite.

Water - Provide a bowl of chlorine-free water large enough for the snake to soak in and drink. The water should be changed daily since active snakes could defecate into the water making it unusable and potentially harmful.

Recommended Supplies:

  • Habitat with secure lid
  • Substrate
  • Thermometer
  • Hide box or driftwood
  • Misting bottle
  • Water dish
  • Humidity gauge
  • Undertank heat source
  • Book about corn snakes
  • Incandescent basking light or ceramic heater
Normal  Behavior and Interaction As your corn snake gets ready to shed, its eyes will turn a milky blue over the course of a few days and body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen. Appetite may diminish during winter months if temperature or light periods change

Habitat Maintenance Change water daily, clean droppings daily. Thoroughly clean the tank at least once each week: place your snake in a secure habitat - a snake bag is good and it is inexpensiveand easy to clean; scrub the tank and plastic furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, remove all smell of bleach; dry the tank and furnishings; and add clean substrate.

Grooming and Hygiene Like all snakes, corn snakes will regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow your snake to shed properly. To facilitate shedding, bathe snake in a large container that allows snake to immerse its entire body.

Always wash your hands before and after touching your snake or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases
Signs of a Healthy Pet:

  • Clear eyes (except when shedding)
  • Clear nose and mouth
  • Body is rounded and full
  • Active and alert
  • Eats regularly
  • Healthy skin
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:

  • Wrinkled or rubbed skin
  • Vomiting
  • Discharge in nose or mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal feces or urine
  • Decreased appetite
If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area.

Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:29 EST
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