Corn snake owners are often concerned about their reptiles’ eating habits. Why aren’t they eating? Are they shedding? Hibernating? Sick?
This leads us to the question: how long can a corn snake go without eating? The quick answer is up to three weeks at most.
Below, we rounded up all the information you need to determine how to care for your corn snakes and their eating habits.
Let’s get started.
How Long Can Corn Snakes Go Without Eating?
There are various reasons why your corn snake may not be eating as it should.
For starters, being cold-blooded animals, snakes are naturally inclined to have a low metabolism because they don’t need as much energy to move and run about as their warm-blooded mammal friends.
Hence, they can survive much longer without eating. Furthermore, they can also reduce their metabolism to save energy when they can’t or don’t want to eat.
Also, snakes don’t chew their food; they just gulp it down whole. Therefore, their digestive system works much slower than most other animals because food takes a long time until it fully breaks down and dissolves.
Adult Corn Snakes
Numerous studies have been carried out about how long adult corn snakes can go without food. They all concluded that corn snakes, similar to other members of the colubrid family, can go without eating for up to 2–3 months!
This period of reduced consumption is how these snakes remove waste from their bodies to free up space for a new meal.
During this time, snakes tend to utilize their internal resources, mainly their supply of stored fat. Once that fat supply is depleted, their bodies will start to break down proteins for energy.
This ability to survive long-term without consuming live prey enables corn snakes to adapt to their environments when food is scarce.
Baby Corn Snakes
Even though adult corn snakes can survive for up to three months without food, baby snakes are a bit less resilient.
They need more nutrition to develop and reach an ideal size, so the most they can go without eating is one week. If they go longer than seven days without food, they’re likely to suffer from health and developmental complications.
According to experts, to keep your baby corn snakes growing and developing, you need to feed them twice a week or about every 3–4 days.
When your baby corn snake is one year old and has reached three feet long, it’s considered a fully grown adult.
Why Isn’t My Corn Snake Eating?
Usually, if your corn snake refuses to eat, it means it doesn’t need to eat yet.
If your snake isn’t suffering from any health issues, shedding, or other conditions, then the standard amount of time a corn snake can go without food is between seven and 10 days.
So, wait about a week before trying again. In the meantime, here are other possible explanations you should watch out for.
Snakes shed their skin in one continuous piece about 4–12 times a year.
This process, known as ecdysis, provides the growing snake with a larger-sized layer of skin with more room to help them move around with ease.
It also helps remove harmful parasites that may have accumulated on their old skin.
The Cage is too Cold
Since snakes can’t regulate their body temperatures, they rely on the temperature of their habitat.
If the cage is too cold for the snake’s liking, it can’t properly digest its meal. It may even vomit anything already in its digestive tract.
On the same note, your corn snake won’t eat anything new as long as temperatures in the cage aren’t warm enough to help it digest its food.
Brumation to snakes is like hibernating to mammals and other animals. During this time, your pet snake will likely stop eating and go into hiding somewhere safe and warm.
It’ll also stop eating but will continue to drink. So, make sure they always have clean water.
If you serve big chunks of food, it’s likely that your snake won’t want to eat it. It instinctively knows that if it eats something too large, it may get stuck in its mouth.
Large pieces of food can also stay in their digestive system too long, especially if temperatures are colder than the snake’s preferred temperature range. If the food stays undigested for longer than five days, it can be endanger the snake’s health.
Make sure you cut up the food into small pieces about the size of the diameter of the snake’s mid-body.
If you notice any of these signs on your snake, then take it immediately to the vet:
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Lumps or swelling
- Wrinkled skin
- Abnormal droppings
How Long Can a Corn Snake Go Without Water?
Adult corn snakes can usually last for a maximum of 12 days without water. Yet, their need for water greatly exceeds their need for food.
Thus, a general rule of thumb is to provide your pet corn snake with a bowl of clean, fresh water every other day.
Bear in mind that corn snakes can die if their body temperatures remain elevated. That being the case, the quickest way these reptiles can lower their temperatures is by regularly drinking water.
Choose a heavy bowl that won’t tip easily. Then, place it in one corner of the cage.
At night, you’ll notice that your snake will seek out the edges of its cage, as is the habit of almost all snake species. So, when it heads to bed near the corner, it’ll find its fresh bowl of water all set up and waiting.
It’s also worth mentioning that you pay attention to the type of water you’re offering your snake. If the tap water is hard, it might not be suitable drinking water for corn snakes.
This is because hard water contains minerals and impurities that may put the reptile’s health in jeopardy.
How Long Can a Corn Snake Go Without Heat?
Corn snakes are resilient animals that can live for about 2–3 weeks without heat. Yet, this is only if certain conditions are met, such as living in a warm area with no drafts or currents of air blasting through their cage.
As mentioned above, snakes are part of the cold-blooded family of animals, also known as ectotherms. In other words, they can’t produce body heat.
Thus, they depend on artificial heat sources, such as a heat lamp, to survive. Yet, this may only be necessary if the room temperature is below 71℉.
However, if the room temperature ranges between 71℉ and 82℉, your snake should be fine.
This only applies to snakes who have been eating normally. Having said that, if your snake hasn’t eaten for a few weeks, it’ll require a source of heat regardless of how warm the room is.
Otherwise, its immune system will weaken, making your corn snake vulnerable to illnesses.
The funny thing about snakes is that they thrive in both warm and cool conditions. So, how can you tell which one they need?
The easiest way is to keep an eye on their behavior.
Does your snake appear to be searching for warm spots like a rock or near one of the cage edges? Then, that means it’s seeking heat.
On the flip side, your snake may spend most of its time lying low in their caves, burrowing under a rock, or slithering into a hole in the sand. This means it’s searching for a cool place to escape the heat.
How To Feed Your Corn Snake While On Vacation
You’ve probably noticed that your corn snake is a voracious eater. Yet, there are times when they suddenly stop eating for days on end.
During that time, they go through a period of fasting where they don’t consume any food.
They’re able to do this by slowing down their metabolic rate by 70%. This allows them to conserve energy for an extended period while still growing.
So, if they can do this when they’re shedding, ill, or cold, they can certainly do it while you’re on vacation. You just have to set up the proper preparations beforehand, and they’ll be fine on their own until you return.
So, how long can a corn snake go without food? That depends on the age of these cold-blooded reptiles. You also have to factor in if they’re going through any type of physical or seasonal change.
On average, adult corn snakes can refrain from eating for about 2–3 weeks at most. This is usually in severe cases when they’re shedding or in brumation.
The standard duration is more like 7–10 days.
Baby corn snakes, however, are more vulnerable and need to eat more. So, they should eat every 3–4 to ensure optimal growth and development.
The important thing is to keep an eye on your pet reptile. If they’re not eating, but are otherwise healthy in all other aspects, then your snake is just busy doing its thing!
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.