Corn Snake Care Sheet

Corn Snake Care Sheet



Corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are 3-5’ long, crepuscular, semi-arboreal snakes native to the southeastern United States, parts of Mexico, and the Cayman Islands. They prefer forested areas or woodlots for habitat but also are found in meadows and barns.

Corn snakes have slender, muscular bodies and oval heads covered in smooth scales. Wild-type (“normal”) corn snakes have an orange or brownish-yellow base color with large, black-edged red or brown blotches down the back and a black and white checkered pattern on the belly. However, corn snakes are now available in many other colors and patterns thanks to captive breeding efforts.

Corn snakes are among the most common pet snakes in the US due to their hardiness, manageable size, docile nature, and ease of captive breeding. With good care, they can live 15-25 years or more.


Many people opt for 40 or 75-gallon tanks for corn snakes. However, based on our experience, we suggest a 48”L x 24”W x 24”H enclosure for these snakes, or larger if you’re able. We find that corn snakes are very active and prefer plenty of space to explore and climb. Ultimately, the best living conditions for corn snakes will depend on various factors, including their needs and preferences.

Can corn snakes be kept together?

Cohabitation (keeping multiple corn snakes in one enclosure) is not recommended, as corn snakes are not a social species, and keeping them together can cause unnecessary stress. It can also cause accidents at feeding time.

How to quarantine a corn snake

When you bring home a new pet reptile, it’s best practice to quarantine it first, especially if you own other reptiles. 

Quarantine is the practice of isolating animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease. 

Even if you don’t have other reptiles, quarantine is still important because it allows you to closely monitor your snake for signs of illness and administer treatment. You can use your corn snake’s long-term enclosure for quarantine or a large plastic tub. Tubs are inexpensive and easy to clean, making them the go-to option for quarantine. 

Here are some general rules for quarantining your corn snake:

  • Keep the snake in a different room from other reptiles, if possible.
  • We suggest using different equipment for your new corn snake and washing your hands thoroughly between handling other animals.
  • Thoroughly disinfect the enclosure often; we suggest doing this about one time per week.
  • If needed, get the corn snake checked by an experienced reptile veterinarian and treated for parasites.
  • Monitor your new pet closely and watch for any symptoms of illness or disease.
  • Check your snake and its water bowl closely for mites, especially if the snake is soaking. If you do find mites, treat them accordingly.


Do corn snakes need UVB?

While corn snakes can survive without UVB lighting, we recommend providing it, if possible. UVB lighting helps give a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.

The best UVB bulbs for corn snakes housed in a 48” x 24” x 24” terrarium are:

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 9-11” above the basking area if over the mesh and 12-14” above the basking area if not. 

UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — and it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

We suggest leaving lights on for about 8-12 hours daily to follow a natural day-to-night cycle. You may wish to adjust this for seasonal changes, such as running the lights longer during the summer. All lights should be off at night.


Best temperature for corn snakes

Like other reptiles, corn snakes are cold-blooded, which means they rely on external temperatures to manage their body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively. To ensure your corn snake is healthy and comfortable, provide them with an enclosure that offers a range of temperatures for effective thermoregulation.

Corn snakes should generally have a basking/hot spot temperature of 85-90°F, an average ambient temperature of 78-82°F, and a cool side temperature between 75-78°F. Each reptile may have different preferences and needs, so you may need to adjust these ranges up or down slightly to accommodate your pet better. It is good practice to monitor your animal and make adjustments as needed.

Overhead heating methods, such as halogen bulbs, are recommended to achieve and maintain these temperatures. However,  some may opt for alternative methods such as radiant heat panels.

It is essential to regulate and monitor the temperature of the heating method chosen. To do this, we suggest using a thermostat, dimmer switch, or rheostat to control the heat output. We recommend using an infrared temperature gun to monitor basking/surface temperatures and a digital thermometer to monitor ambient enclosure temperatures.

Providing your corn snake with the appropriate temperature range will ensure your pet is healthy, comfortable, and able to effectively carry out necessary biological processes.


Best humidity levels for corn snakes

Maintaining appropriate humidity levels is crucial for the health and well-being of corn snakes. Maintaining an average humidity level between 40-60% is recommended, with levels fluctuating slightly lower during the day and higher at night.

To ensure that your corn snake has access to sufficient humidity, it is a good idea to provide a separate humid hide lined with moistened sphagnum moss; this will allow your snake to regulate its humidity levels as necessary.

We recommend using a digital hygrometer to accurately monitor the humidity level and make adjustments to ensure your corn snake is in a comfortable and healthy environment.

One effective method to increase humidity levels in your corn snake's enclosure is misting the enclosure with a spray bottle once or twice a day. Misting the enclosure first thing in the morning and again at night if necessary is recommended. Another way to maintain humidity levels is by mixing water directly into the substrate on one side. This will help retain moisture and prevent the enclosure from becoming too dry.

How to create a humid hide for your corn snake

We suggest adding a third humid hide in addition to the warm and cool hides, which should be placed towards the middle to cool end of the enclosure. Providing your corn snake with access to a humid hide is a great way to ensure your corn snake will be able to stay well-hydrated and shed more easily. This hide should function as a humid burrow to which your corn snake can retreat whenever it needs a bit of extra moisture.

There are various options for purchasing a humid hide, such as the Zilla Rock Lair or the Exo Terra Snake Cave. These products are fully-enclosed and easy to clean. Alternatively, you can make a humid hide using a Tupperware container with a hole cut out for an entrance. Whether you purchase or create a humid hide, line these with a moistened paper towel or sphagnum moss.

Replace paper towels every 1-3 days or when they are soiled. Replace sphagnum moss every 2-4 weeks. Providing your corn snake with a humid hide and regularly maintaining it can help ensure your pet stays healthy and comfortable.


Naturalistic Options

Choosing a suitable substrate is essential when creating a comfortable and healthy habitat for your corn snake. A great option is to provide a thick layer of natural substrate (bedding), which can cushion and help maintain humidity levels while enhancing the enclosure's overall appearance. We recommend the following substrates for corn snakes:

Substrate mixes are also a great option. You can mix several commercial substrates or create a mixture using a combination of organic topsoil and play sand. Other self-made mixture options are possible, and you should research the subject and ratios thoroughly before starting your custom mix.

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on the substrate can also help with humidity.

Ideally, the substrate should be about 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with any contaminated substrate.

Paper Towels

While various substrate options are available for corn snake enclosures, some keepers prefer to use simpler substrates such as paper towels. These can be an effective and easy-to-maintain option for keeping your snake's enclosure clean and is especially significant when your snake is still in quarantine.

However, it is essential to remember that using paper towels as a substrate requires more frequent replacement than other options. Paper towels can quickly become soiled and develop mold if left unchanged for too long. Therefore, regularly replacing the paper towel substrate is recommended to keep your corn snake's enclosure clean and prevent mold growth.

Ultimately, the choice of substrate for your corn snake's enclosure will depend on your personal preferences and your pet's needs. Regardless of which substrate you choose, it is important to maintain it properly to ensure your corn snake stays healthy and comfortable.

What to know about cleaning a corn snake enclosure

Replacing your corn snake’s substrate is a good time to give the entire enclosure a good cleanout. Here are some general steps to follow: 

  • Remove your snake from the enclosure and put it inside a temporary, escape-proof holding container. This container should offer a hide, a small water bowl, and a thin layer of the old substrate from the enclosure for the snake’s comfort.
  • Remove all substrate and decor.
  • Vacuum and wipe down the enclosure to remove leftover particles.
  • Apply a reptile-safe disinfectant to the floor and walls of the enclosure and let it sit for the disinfectant’s recommended contact time.
  • Meanwhile, soak branches, rocks, hides, and other decor items in a disinfectant rated for porous materials for the recommended contact time.
  • If required, rinse the enclosure and the accessories with clean water to remove disinfectant residue. Allow everything to dry.
  • Pour new substrate into the enclosure. Mix in water until uniformly moistened but not wet.
  • Arrange décor. If your corn snake is easily stressed by change, put everything back where it was before.
  • Reintroduce your snake to the clean setup.

Several veterinary-grade disinfectant options are available that are effective for both porous and nonporous materials, such as Chlorhexidine, F10SC, and CleanBreak. It is essential to carefully follow the instructions on the packaging to ensure safe and proper use. Alternatively, you can disinfect enclosures by using a diluted bleach solution. For porous materials, a 1:10 dilution is recommended, while for nonporous materials, a 1:50 dilution should be used.

Can bioactive work for corn snakes?

Bioactive vivariums can be a good choice of housing for corn snakes because they are conducive to higher humidity levels and provide plenty of foliage in the higher levels of the enclosure. Bioactive vivariums have the additional benefit of eliminating the need for total cleanouts, and a healthy vivarium always has a fresh, earthy aroma.

Some downsides of bioactive are that they usually need about one month to get established before the snake is introduced, the plants you use need to be sturdy enough not to get crushed, and bioactive is usually more expensive to set up in the short term. CUC (Clean Up Crew) organisms may occasionally escape, and maintenance in the form of plant care and occasional partial soil replacements are still necessary.

If you want to put together a bioactive setup for your corn snake, you will need all of the supplies recommended in this article, plus a few more things:

  • bioactive-ready temperate substrate mix
  • clean leaf litter
  • sturdy live tropical plants that can withstand occasional snake traffic
  • 6500K LED or fluorescent grow lamp, spanning most of the enclosure’s length
  • temperate/tropical CUC organisms to maintain the soil

While it’s possible to mix a temperate bioactive substrate, if this is your first attempt at bioactive, you’re most likely to have success if you use a pre-mixed bioactive substrate available commercially through other vendors.

Good options for CUC for a bioactive corn snake vivarium include dwarf white isopods, powder orange/blue isopods, and springtails


How to decorate a corn snake terrarium

We have found that providing environmental enrichment for your corn snake can significantly improve its quality of life by keeping it stimulated and engaged. Adding carefully selected décor items can encourage natural behaviors and exercise, leading to a happy and healthy pet.

As previously mentioned, providing multiple hides is recommended, with one placed on the warm side and one on the cool side of the enclosure, along with a humid hide, if possible. Corn snakes will gladly use branches to climb on, and adding other items, such as fake plants or cork bark, can create a more naturalistic and stimulating environment. Be sure to avoid items with sharp edges. Some great options to include in your enclosure are: 

Live plant options for corn snakes

Corn snakes may not be particularly large or heavy, but they can still trample their live plants if you don’t take the proper precautions. You should be careful in selecting plants most likely to resist occasional trampling and climbing. Here are some plants that are robust and do well in a moderately humid, moderately-lit environment:

  • Dracaena 
  • Ficus
  • Peperomia
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Schefflera
  • Spider plant

Larger, older plants are more expensive but sturdier and more likely to survive your snake.


What to feed to a corn snake

Corn snakes are carnivorous, meaning they must eat whole animal prey for proper nutrition. Here is a basic feeding schedule based on snake size:

  • Hatchlings (<18″ long) should be fed once every 5-7 days.
  • Juveniles (18-36″ long) should be provided once every 7-10 days.
  • Adults (>36″ long) should be fed once every 10-14 days.

Prey items should be around 10% of the snake’s weight and no more than 1.5x its width at its widest point. You can choose to feed live or frozen prey. We recommend using frozen/thawed rodents when possible, as they are easier to find and store while eliminating the risk of the prey injuring your snake. If you choose to feed live prey, we strongly recommend monitoring your snake during feeding so that you can quickly remove the rodent if needed. Frozen prey should be thawed in a BPA-free plastic bag in warm water until it reaches ~100°F. Use a pair of soft-tipped feeding tweezers to offer it to your snake.

One of the keys to great nutrition is variety, so aside from offering mice and rats, quail, chicks, and quail eggs can also add diversity to your snake’s diet.

Where to get feeders for your snake

Most pet stores sell frozen mice and rats in various sizes to feed snakes. This option is convenient because you can buy prey one at a time. However, the variety is most likely limited, and the price per rodent is typically relatively high.

You can purchase feeders from an online breeder for your corn snake if you prefer a more convenient option. With the help of the internet, you can access a wide range of prey options. However, it's worth noting that these breeders typically require bulk purchases, resulting in a lower cost per rodent but higher upfront expenses. Moreover, shipping costs can be expensive due to the perishable nature of the feeders. We suggest buying several months' worth of supply at once to avoid paying too much on shipping fees.

By utilizing social media, you can often find a local feeder breeder to supply your rodents, and many can offer both live and frozen/thawed. Some keepers choose to breed their rodents. While this is an option, it is work-intensive as you will have rodent enclosures that need regular cleanings. 

Providing drinking water for corn snakes

Of course, don’t forget a large water bowl for your snake to drink from and soak in! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly or whenever it becomes soiled.


How to handle your corn snake

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, corn snakes generally tolerate human interaction pretty well! Be gentle when picking up your snake. It is best practice to pick it up from the side or below versus above. Support as much of its body as possible, and NEVER pick it up by its tail, as this can damage its spine!

Taming tips for corn snakes

Corn snakes are known for being very energetic and fast-moving, especially when they are young. They still have a reputation for being relatively easy to tame, but it still takes some work on your part. If you don’t gain their trust, they can become defensive and skittish, so most of the work on your end will be establishing clear communication and creating a positive association with yourself in their mind. It’s best to encourage the snake to come out of the enclosure and climb onto you on their own rather than simply grabbing them whenever you’re in the mood for handling. We do not suggest directly grabbing your pet from its hiding place, as this may make it feel unsafe.

Are you worried about getting bitten? While a corn snake bite is extremely minor, it helps to teach your pet to tell the difference between food time and handling time. One way to do this is by tapping on the front of the enclosure with your fingernails before offering food so the snake associates tapping with food. When it’s handling time, don’t tap. Of course, if the snake still looks coiled and interested, you can use a paper towel roll to gently tap the snake on the head and distract it from thinking about food.

Additional training is very worthwhile for building a trusting relationship with your pet. 

How to provide enrichment for a corn snake

Enrichment strategically provides items and activities to encourage a captive animal to exercise natural behaviors. It also helps increase activity, reduce stress, and increase the animal’s overall welfare. 

Here are some ways to provide enrichment for corn snakes:

  • Rearrange the enclosure. If total overhauls are too stressful, move one thing occasionally at your snake’s pace. For some individuals, that may be once a month; others might like once a week.
  • Puzzle feeders. This can be as simple as placing the snake’s prey in an open box or plastic cup.
  • Simulated nest raids. Instead of offering one prey item, place a cluster of much smaller prey (ex: pinky mice or pinky rats) somewhere in the enclosure for the snake to find.
  • Supervised exploration time outside of the enclosure. Make sure to keep them away from situations that you can’t get the snake out of.
  • “Box of things.” Introduce your snake to a box or bin full of different items of different sizes and textures: branches, pipes, easily-washable plushies, etc.!


When should you take a corn snake to the vet?

Dogs and cats aren’t the only pets who need veterinary care — snakes get sick and need professional help like any other pet. If you notice that your snake has any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with an experienced reptile vet right away:

  • Noisy breathing
  • Mucus discharge from the mouth/nose
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Large patches of missing scales
  • Discolored belly scales
  • Swelling or bumps anywhere on the body
  • Sudden, unusually aggressive behavior


This care sheet contains only basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!

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