If you’re planning on getting a corn snake, you should know that caring for it is a little challenging.
It’s not difficult, especially when you wrap your head around all the basics, but it’s not intuitive.
With that in mind, here’s everything about what to know before getting a corn snake in a nutshell.
To make it easier to understand what you need to take into account, we’ve broken the care requirements for a corn snake down, and they are as follows:
Corn snakes are found around Utah and northeastern Mexico and go all the way to New Jersey and Florida.
People started calling them “corn” snakes because they typically hung around corn barns. This is where they could enjoy the cozy shelter. It’s also where they feed on the rats that are attracted to the stored corn.
From there, they were captured, captivated, and bred. This led to the myriad of color morphs that we know domestic corn snakes to have.
When you’re handling your corn snake, you should support the body to give it a sense of security. Once your snake feels safe, it’ll start to enjoy it when you hold it. Avoid touching its head, as this is a sensitive area for a corn snake and would cause it to jerk back.
When you bring your corn snake to its new home, make sure to give it enough time to settle in. So, it might be better not to handle it before it spends a day or two in its new enclosure.
Speaking of new enclosures, you should buy one that suits the size of your corn snake. A good way to calculate the needed size is the following:
Tank length: The length of the corn snake.
Tank width and height: Half the length of the corn snake.
Given that fully grown corn snakes range between two to six feet long, you’ll need a minimum size of 24” L x 12” W x 12” H and a maximum of 72” L x 36” W x 36” H. A general average would be 48” L x 24” W x 24” H.
These numbers translate to roughly 260 gallons, 25 gallons, and 56 gallons, respectively. Keep in mind that female corn snakes grow to a smaller size than males do. So, that’s one factor that can help you choose the optimum size in gallons.
It’s worth mentioning that bigger is always better when it comes to corn snakes. This means that your corn snake will have more room in each of the areas in its tank. Also, if the size translates into height, they’ll have room to climb, which is something corn snakes are fond of.
Speaking of areas in a tank, let’s look at the best environment you can provide for your corn snake in its vivarium.
To provide your corn snake with a vivarium experience that’s true to nature, you should add a source of lighting that shines from above.
This light helps your corn snake maintain its circadian rhythm, especially if you use it to mimic its day and night cycles. So, make sure the lights are on for 12 hours each day to indicate daytime for your snake.
In nature, the sun emits UVA and UVB rays, which translate to IR-A and IR-B heat emissions. To provide your corn snake with those, you should use a halogen or incandescent bulb.
Deep heat projectors and carbon-filament bulbs would give your corn snake IR-B, which helps in healing and provides your snake with energy. However, IR-A does that more efficiently.
A corn snake needs three areas in its vivarium. One is a warm side, whose temperature ranges between 80°F to 85°F. The second is a basking area, which should range between 88°F to 92°F. Finally, the third is a cold area, whose temperature should range between 71°F and 82°F.
When you maintain the temperature of your snake’s enclosure —and therefore its body’s temperature— you help this ectotherm to regulate its bodily functions.
This is especially true for digestion, as corn snakes can face serious health issues if they don’t get enough warmth to help their metabolism.
It’s also why corn snakes that don’t get enough heat are prone to diseases, have lower energy levels, and may not recover as quickly from illnesses and injuries.
The humidity levels in your snake’s enclosure should be between 40% to 50%. The tank should be well-ventilated, but not too much to the extent that all humidity escapes.
You can tell that your corn snake’s vivarium is lacking in humidity if it has trouble shedding, so look out for the signs.
It would be a huge plus to decorate your corn snake’s enclosure with climbing materials to provide a means for them to be active. These can be fake plants or fake branches, or even real ones.
This also helps make the snake feel like it’s in its natural habitat. Also, the type of substrate will contribute to that. For example, you can use aspen, coconut fiber, cypress mulch, lignocel, or newspapers.
Steer clear of cedar and pine shavings, though. These materials have oils that can harm your corn snake in the long run.
Once your baby corn snake sheds its first skin, it’s ready to receive food. You can start with one pinkie (newborn mouse). This would be a suitable meal as long as your snake is 12 inches or shorter.
Make sure to drop the mouse around the snake’s hiding, but don’t bother the snake while doing so. After it’s had its meal, your corn snake will excrete in three to five days. Since baby corn snakes feed twice a week, they’ll also produce their droppings twice.
When your snake becomes a juvenile, you can start feeding it a mouse per week. Then, moving on to a rat or two adult mice per week for fully grown corn snakes.
It’s worth mentioning that eggs are also great meals for your corn snake. However, because chicken eggs can be too big for them, you can give them quail or finch eggs.
In the wild, corn snakes help balance their ecological system by feeding —and thereby controlling— the populations of rodents. After all, they’re also known as “rat snakes.”
This is because they typically hang around corn barns and devour the rats or mice that are drawn in by the corn’s smell.
While some corn snakes can grow to be six feet, most are within the four to five feet range and aren’t large snakes.
Although they have a striking range of biting, which goes to a third or half their body length, they’re not venomous.
Also, they don’t possess enough strength to harm us, especially not through strangulation, as they would to small mice and rodents.
After reading this guide, we hope you understand what to know before getting a corn snake.
Make sure you know what’s expected of you when raising a corn snake, as they’re not your usual pet.
Caring for them is easy, especially after doing it for a while. Still, knowing everything might take a little while, so don’t worry about a little trial and error.
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.