Knowing that corn snakes are natives of the southeastern areas of the U.S. and that they’re known to brumate in cold weather makes you wonder if they need a heat lamp in captivity.
So, do corn snakes need a heat lamp? Is it better if you provide them with a warmer enclosure?
This article answers these questions in depth, so let’s get to it!
As the case is with any reptile, a corn snake needs supplemental heat to provide it with an environment that resembles its favored natural habitat. A heat lamp would be an excellent option, though it’s not the only one.
These ectothermic reptiles need an external source of temperature to be able to regulate their own body temperatures. It doesn’t matter what source that is, but a heat lamp is probably your best choice.
So, let’s look at what you can use to provide proper temperatures for your corn snake:
In the wild, a corn snake experiences warmth from up above (the sun) and not below. This is why mimicking what it’s used to in nature will make it feel comfortable.
Even if your corn snake has been in captivity ever since it was born, it’s still in its biology to get heat from above.
There are different types of lamps that you can use, which are as follows:
|Heat Source (Lamp)||Type of Emission|
|Halogen||Primarily IR-A and IR-B|
|Incandescent||Primarily IR-A and IR-B|
|Carbon-filament bulbs||Primarily IR-B and IR-C|
|Deep heat projectors||Primarily IR-B and IR-C|
|Ceramic heat emitters||Primarily IR-C|
Our sun sends us UVA rays and UVB rays, translated into IR-A and IR-B heat emissions. Consequently, the best options to use as heat sources for your corn snake would be halogen or incandescent light bulbs.
You can find plenty of options on the market, some of which are commonplace bulbs you can find at a local store, and some are reptile-specific.
However, the latter can be rather short-lived, so you might want to look further into the options to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
You could go for a dual setup by getting two bulbs and attaching them to two 5.5” dome lamps. This ensures an even heat distribution, especially if your corn snake is an adult whose body can span two to almost six feet in length.
Make sure that the sockets are ceramic and not plastic, given how much heat the socket would be subjected to.
Ideally, the lamp should be above the basking area. Also, adding a branch to imitate nature would help in a twofold sense.
Firstly, it’ll make your snake feel like it’s at home in a forest.
Secondly, it’ll absorb the heat produced by the lamps, providing warmth for your snake’s belly when it wraps itself around it.
For even better heat and light regulation, you should opt for lamp dimmers that you can use if the bulbs get too hot.
You can also find automatic dimmers that you can program to do this kind of monitoring for you instead.
Heating pads or mats are your second-best option, and they’re quite commonly used in vivariums. However, they’re not very optimal, as they only produce IR-C emissions.
The latter is weak in comparison to IR-A and IR-B. So, the final result is inefficient heating and basking.
This is because pads, unlike lamps, only heat the surface that the snake lies on, but not the air around it. Moreover, your snake would have to sit on the heat mat for a longer time in order to meet its heat requirements.
Despite not being the best option for heat provision, heat mats are an excellent secondary heat source option. They can provide a similar feeling to the burrows heated by the sun in the wild.
However, you should use a thermostat to ensure that the temperature doesn’t get too hot with both a primary and secondary heat source.
As a matter of fact, a thermostat is a necessity in all cases to regulate the mat’s heat. Even if the heat mat you get is advertised not to surpass a certain heat level, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
An ideal mat is about the same size as your corn snake’s warm hide.
Place it beneath the hide and cover it with around two inches of substrate. After that, plug it into a thermostat whose probe is inside the hide and on top of the substrate.
Finally, make sure that the thermostat is rated appropriately to match your mat’s wattage.
Your corn snake’s enclosure should have a range of temperatures as well as a cool side and a warm side. The former’s temperature range should be between 71°F to 82°F, while the latter’s should be between 80°F to 85°F.
It’s also a huge bonus if you could provide a basking area for your snake to enjoy the light, which should range between 88°F to 92°F.
The maximum temperature should be the basking area’s, which goes no higher than 92°F.
If the temperature gets too high, and unless you provide it with an abundance of food, your corn snake might suffer diverse negative effects, which puts it at risk of death.
The temperature in the enclosure shouldn’t go lower than 75°F. Otherwise, your corn snake’s body will start to shut down in two days as this is not its preferred temperature.
See, prolonged exposure to cold can cause your corn snake to develop respiratory infections. Moreover, it slows down its bodily functions, which causes it to constantly vomit its meals.
Eventually, it might suffer from hypothermia and stop eating altogether.
Finally, it can become lethargic and die if not given the proper medical care it needs.
Much like adult corn snakes, baby snakes need a temperature range of no more than 90°F and no less than 75°F.
It’s highly recommended that you start your trial and error process one week ahead of welcoming your corn snake to its new home.
You might need some tinkering with the heat lamps or combinations of heat and light sources to make sure the thermostat always has an appropriate reading.
Keep in mind that there are factors that affect this, including:
- The bulb’s wattage
- The size of the enclosure
- The temperature of the room in which the enclosure is set up
So, it goes without saying that you’ll need some time to tweak these factors until you end up with desired results. Once you do, it’ll be time to bring your baby corn snake home!
Heat rocks to corn snakes are electric blankets to humans.
However, unlike humans, corn snakes don’t know how to control the operation of heat rocks. That’s why they can be quite a dangerous heating option.
Unless you’re monitoring the heat 24/7, your corn snake could be at risk of burns. Not to mention, heat rocks (also known as rock heaters or hot rocks) aren’t efficient as they only heat their own surface and not the surrounding air in the enclosure.
Generally speaking, they’re not the best option for providing heat for your corn snake.
So, by now, you should know that the answer to “Do corn snakes need a heat lamp?” is that it’s the best heating option you can provide.
It’s the closest thing to the natural light and heat provided by the sun. In addition, it makes mimicking the day and night cycle a lot easier.
This, in turn, helps your corn snake to carry out its natural bodily functions as efficiently as it would in nature.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.