Pantherophis Guttatus (formally known as Elaphe Guttata)
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Average size: Depending on genetics and Locality (where their ancestors originally were located) 3-6ft (36-72 inches)
Note: 6ft is a rarity and hardly ever attainted, but you should of course be prepared for a snake this large.
Natural Range: As far North as the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, South to Florida and East to Arkansas.
Temperature Requirements: 70-75* Cool Side/ 80-85* Warm Side
Corn snakes are considered to be the go to " first snake"; they're easy to handle, great eaters, rarely bite, they don't get too large, and of course they're available almost anywhere and in cool designer colors
Beginners Shopping List
- 10 gallon tank/ 20Long
Floor space is more important than height
- A secure fitting lid
Corns are EXCELLENT escape artists, have no holes or openings more thant 1/8th especially with hatchlings.
-Screen Clips or a locking lid
-Minimum 2 snake size appropriate hides
Eco Earth (wrung quite dry)
Under Tank Heater (Preferred)
-Thermostat or Rheostat
For controlling tempature
-Digital Thermometer (2)
NOT stick on
Heavy enough not to be tipped over
As discussed above I've give you the minimum for what you should expect for your snake. 10 Gallons is perfectly fine for a hatchling and will comfortably house a snake for the first 2 years of life. After that the bare minimum for an adult corn is 20 Gallons Long. More is always better, depending on your snake's size and activity level bigger will be necessary. Make sure you get a secure lid with something to hold it down with, books and rocks shouldn't be used as the snake can still lift up other sides not being held down firmly, do not underestimate your snake.
Place your heating unit on one side only of the tank. As snakes need to regulate their temperature to digest we need to give them a range of temperatures (see basic stats above). Under tank heaters are preferred as snakes will be using whatever belly heat they get to digest their meals. It should only cover 1/3-1/2 the bottom of the tank so make sure you purchase one appropriate for your tank. If you choose to use a lamp use caution do not let the lamp have contact with the screen as the snake can and will be very likely to rub itself across the top of the screen at some point. And since youíll be heating to make the floor warm, the bulb itself will be hot enough to harm the snake. Lighting itself is not necessary, and if youíre using heat lamp as your only source you will need a red bulb, so as to not disturb your snake at night. With either of these options it is of the utmost importance to regulate your temperatures. Stick on thermometers are not accurate enough and should not even be considered. One should be placed on each end of the tank with the probe touching the bottom of the tank (under the substrate) as the snake can always burrow itself there and you do not want it getting burnt by too hot temperatures. To regulate the heating device you should pick up either a thermostat or a rheostat, a thermostat actually regulates the temperatures and turns it on and off to whatever temperature you set it too. A rheostat is basically a fancy light dimmer which keeps the heating device going at a constant rate; as such it is necessary to adjust it at a more frequent rate, because whenever your ambient (room) temperature goes up so will the heating device as a Rheostat is not made to turn off the heating device if it gets too hot.
One of your hides should be placed on each side of the tank one on the cool side and one on the hot side. Any more is completely up to you, especially if you have a shy snake (or a large tank) the more hides the better.
Water dish should be placed on the cool side of the tank as placing it on the hot side will make the tank very humid and your water will constantly be evaporating. Having a dish big enough for the snake to soak in is not necessary but they will occasionally do it so the option is nice. Of course make sure it can not be tipped over by purchasing a heavy/weighted dish. Change the water (don't just top it off) every few days or whenever you see anything that shouldn't be in the water (substrate, poop, etc.) as bacteria in the water is hazardous to your snake. The argument of Tap vs. Treated water is still out but again of my personal opinion unless you know that there is something nasty with your water you should feel confident offering it to your pets if you'll drink it yourself. Otherwise pick yourself up some dechlorinator or let the water sit out over night first.
The preferred substrate of choice is Aspen, Cedar is Toxic to Snakes the jury is still out on Pine, personally I do not use it either. Aspen does not give off any harmful oils, isnít very dusty, encourages natural burrowing behaviors and is very easy to spot clean leading to only needing to be completely changed once every few months. Eco Earth is also an option for a more naturalistic looking substrate, but it is very messy and you need to pay special attention to not getting it to moist and harboring mold. For great indepth instructions on setting up using naturalistic substrates check out Philippe De Vosjoli, a great Author. Many breeders and those with lots of snakes use paper towels and/or paper towels (non treated). Of course this isnít as nice to look at, needs to be changed as soon as it has been soiled and does not give the snake something to burrow in. Much the same goes with Reptile carpet except it's nicer to look at. If you do go with Reptile Carpet, buy two so that when you take one out to clean it thoroughly you can put a fresh one in.
Corn Snakes are in the family of rat snakes, there fore they eat; you guessed it, Rodents. Mice are the preferred prey item as rats tend to be fatty. Since our snakes are not in the wild they are getting fed more often and getting less exercise. There fore rats should only be fed as a treat or if the snake needs a little bit of bulking up. Other choices for occasional prey to switch up are eggs, baby quails or baby chickens. I’ve not had personal experience with this but I have been told that the resulting bowel movement is the worst smell in the entire world so I have not tried it. Again these are only “sometime snacks” and should not be the main diet.
Supplementation is not necessary as feeder mice (if fed on good quality food) are nutrionally complete for the snake. But if you feel the need to supplement despite this, it should only be done a couple of times a year, make sure you use a high quality reptile calcium supplement with out phosphorus. Reptical is a good brand.
It is highly discouraged to feed live prey. You may say “But it’s a Snake! No one hands them their pre-killed food in the wild” Well this isn’t the wild, and feeding live is a potentially life threatening situation for your snake, as a responsible pet owner you should do all in your power to keep your snake perfectly healthy. If for some reason you do choose to go with live PLEASE know the risks and never EVER leave your snake alone with the mouse, if your snake is disinterested DO NOT leave your snake with the mouse for extended period of time as this greatly increases the chance of injury to your snake, you can always try again if they don’t want to eat.
All that aside frozen/thawed or freshly killed are the preferred choices for feeding your snake. Frozen consists of feeders being raised on health lab block diets, humanly euthanized then frozen/flash frozen, packed and then shipped to your local pet store or you! If you feed frozen take every care to make sure your mouse is completely thawed out before giving it to your snake. DO NOT microwave it, exploding mouse=eww The quickest way to do it is to warm up water (100*-120* is good) and place your mousicle in it. Within a half hour you have a “fresh” mouse to feed. I don’t plan on telling you how to euthanize your mouse if you go with freshly killed as I don’t have the heart to do it myself, but I’m sure there are plenty of ways to knock off the mouse. The only method I know is a swift flick to the back of the head dislodging the spinal cord.
When feeding your snake you should remove it into another container, as your snake can eventually associate your hand in the cage with feeding time. Feeding within your cage also risks part of your substrate sticking to the mouse and your snake swallowing it causing impaction.
Whatever you choose to feed make sure the prey item is no larger than 1.5x the widest part of your snake. If the lump of food disappears after one day it is time to bump it up to the next size. Hatchlings can be fed pinkies every 4-5 days, once on fuzzies every 5-6 days, hoppers every 6-7, and adult mice every 7-10 days. Adult females should be fed more often at 7 days, and males more towards the 10 day mark.
Do not handle your snake for at least 48-72 hours after feeding, transporting the snake from the feeding container to the tank will not harm the snake so don’t worry
Corn snakes are great feeders, but if for some reason your snake does not eat, try leaving your snake with the prey item over night (only if it’s not live). Don’t watch your snake eat, and cover up the feeding container so the snake doesn’t feel exposed. During breeding season sexes are known for going on hungry strikes, don’t fret and just wait it out. If for any reason your snake does not eat its food do not reuse it, and do not try again the next day. Wait until the next scheduled feeding to try again, constant feeding attempts can stress your snake out, the more you wait the more likely it is that your snake will realize how hungry it is and go off its strike.
Misc. Care and Husbandry Practices
Concerning shedding, all snakes need to periodically slough off all of their skin. During this time corns are very sensitive, they may not want to be touched and they may not want to eat. Their skin will get opaque and their eyes will get blue, and the entire phase normally lasts 10-14 days, right before shedding the snake’s eyes will go clear again. Try feeding the first time when feeding coincides with shedding, if the snake refuses, pass on any further feeding attempts while your snake is shedding. Most houses have high enough humidity to not have to worry about the shed sticking to the snake but sometimes it does. If the entire skin does not come off on it’s own (including the eye caps and the very tip of the tail) try some of these methods.
Spraying your snake’s enclosure every time it is in the shedding cycle, or make a humid hide for your snake. Using any sort of container that the snake can fit in, use damp sphagnum or peat moss and place it in this container for the duration of the shedding period. I don’t like to leave this container in the snake’s cage constantly because I worry that the increased wetness can lead to increased chances of a respiratory infection.
If you have any other health concerns for your snake please do not hesitate to contact your local vet that specifies in exotics and reptiles. Normally by the time you realize there is something wrong with the snake it has gone beyond simple home remedies.
If for some reason your snake does bite you, try as hard as possible not to react, so that your snake does not learn that being aggressive gets you to leave them alone. More importantly you could accidentally pull out the snake’s teeth by pulling erratically. A corn will never bite you harder than a rodent will, so don’t be paranoid about handling. Be swift and be confident with your snake, and more than likely whatever caused the snake to bite you was something completely preventable. Figure out what this action was, and never do it again ;)
It is also generally frowned upon to cohabitate corn snakes. Other than saving space for the owner there have yet to be a convincing arguments as to how it benefits the snakes. Corn snakes only use the company of others for breeding, and if for any time they are found “cuddling” together under the same hide it is only due to desire for the best hiding spot.
Thank you very much for using my care sheet for any informative purposes, by no means am I an expert, just an informed keeper with a memory like a sponge.
For further reading pick up Kathy and Bill Love’s Comprehensive Corn Snake Manual, or Don Soderberg’s Corn Snakes in Captivity Or visit www.cornsnakes.com where I learnt much of the knowledge to use in real life.
If there is anything you would like to see me add please let me know.
Edited by Lucky_and_Comet, 23 August 2007 - 09:04 AM.