Corn Snake Pantherophis guttatus
Longevity: 20-25 years
Temperature in basking area: 90f (32c)
Humidity: 40-50% (a humid hide must always be available)
Cleaning: Spot clean daily, full clean approx. every 6 weeks (unless living in an established bioactive enclosure)
The Corn Snake is a species of non-venomous colubrid rat snake, which originates from the South-eastern States from Virginia to Maryland, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
There are also a few isolated populations found in Kentucky. It can be found inhabiting a wide variety of landscapes in the wild including overgrown fields, barns, disused farm building, woodland and meadows. They are crepuscular, meaning that they are most
active during the dusk and dawn hours, but can be found basking during the day and are
often active overnight. Corn Snakes are often found camouflaged amongst the leaves and terrain on the ground and will hunt their primary prey of mice and other small rodents.
Being an opportunistic feeder, they will also take other snakes, small birds, eggs, lizards and amphibians.
Corn Snakes are usually around 8-12inches as hatchlings, then attain adult lengths of around 4-5ft at approx. 3 years of age. They live for approx. 20-25 years in captivity with proper care, but in the wild they only tend to live for 10-15 years.
Their breeding season in the wild usually occurs in March after their winter brumation, with the females laying clutches of approximately 20 eggs… smaller females tend to lay slightly less and larger females may sometimes lay up to 30. Female snakes can lay clutches of infertile eggs once they reach maturity without mating.
Corn snakes are undoubtedly the best species of snake for beginner reptile keepers. With their docile temperament, good feeding and ease of care, they tick all the boxes for anyone looking to venture into the world of snake keeping. Hatchlings may be a little skittish to begin with, but frequent, gentle handling will usually soon tame them.
Hatchling snakes are best kept in small, simplistic enclosures such as a 3ltr Braplast tub or small Faunarium. Once they have outgrown this, they can be moved up to a larger Faunarium or small vivarium (approx. 2ft long) until they are ready for their adult
enclosure. Corn Snakes are escape artists so whatever enclosure you choose for your
pet, will need to have very small ventilation holes etc and shut firmly to prevent escapes. For an adult corn snake, a vivarium of 4ft x 2ft x 2ft is ideal to provide enough space to allow for natural behaviours to be displayed.
Glass or wooden vivariums can be used successfully, providing that they have adequate ventilation and the correct heat sources are used to maintain the correct temperatures.
Correct temperature gradients within the vivarium are to be maintained using the appropriate, guarded heat sources, thermometers and thermostats. Two hides within the
vivarium (one in the hot side and one in the cool side) ensures your corn snake will feel comfortable and safe within his/her environment. Plenty of different sized branches
should be provided as they do like to climb. You can use either artificial or live plants, however a live, bioactive set up will need more planning and preparation than its artificial counterpart.
A hot spot aka basking area of 90f (32c) should be provided in one side of the vivarium, with cooler temperatures being maintained at the other end of around 70f (21c) during the
day. Night-time temperatures should be allowed to drop to around 68f (20c) in the hot end. Having these hot and cold areas within the vivarium will allow your pet to
'thermoregulate', choosing to move freely in and out of the heat. Allowing the temperatures to drop at night will also provide your pet with a clear day and night cycle, encouraging their natural behaviours. Heat bulbs and heat mats can be used to achieve
the necessary temperatures, however they must be guarded and used in conjunction with a suitable thermostat. Thermostats ensure that heat sources reach and maintain the recommended temperatures within the hot and cold areas, thus allowing your pet to
metabolise correctly. Guarding of the heat sources is an essentially important (and often overlooked) aspect of a vivarium set up providing safety for your pet. Unguarded heat
sources and ones which are not thermostatically controlled when your reptile will be in close contact with them, lead to many vets seeing and treating pets with burns which
could have easily been prevented. Rocks or large pieces of slate situated safely and firmly within the vivarium are a great way of providing a natural heat source overnight, as they hold the heat and it slowly dissipates overnight.
With this species of snake being crepuscular, they are naturally subjected to lower levels of UVB at dusk and dawn. A 2.0 or ‘zone 1’ strip bulb can be used with a reflector inside
the vivarium, to ensure that your pet can benefit from the same levels of UVB they would naturally be subjected to in the wild. Many wild animals see very differently to humans,
many using UVB to aid their vision and hunting of prey. Studies have found snakes to be dichromatic, meaning they can see two primary colours, blue and green. In addition to
their colour vision, many snakes have developed a sensitivity to UV light, allowing them to see in low light conditions. Providing your snake with UVB will undoubtedly benefit
his/her general wellbeing in captivity. Of course, it is strongly recommended to use the best UVB on the market at the current time, as per your reptile specialists advise.
Depending on the type of bulb you choose to use, it will need changing regularly every 6-12 months as it will stop emitting UVB after a certain time scale even if it still produces visible light.
Impaction is a fairly common problem seen within captive reptiles. An impaction is caused when an animal swallows something which becomes stuck in the gut, causing an obstruction. The most common culprit for causing this often, lethal problem in reptiles
are the pale coloured beech chips. It is recommended in order to significantly decrease
the risk of impaction with this species, to avoid using particulate substrates altogether whilst your pet is young, then when they’ve gained size you can opt for an aspen or
lignocel substrate. Chunky orchid bark chips can be used if you want to go for a dark
coloured substrate to match your décor. Paper towel or newspaper can be quickly and
easily changed and is undoubtedly the most hygienic way in which to keep a hatchling or
juvenile reptile. Newspaper and paper towel are also the best choice of substrate should
you ever have a convalescing or quarantined reptile, as everything is disposed of and replaced. It is also easy when using these types of substrates to keep an eye out for things such as mites.
Corn Snakes require a humidity of around 40-50% which is usually normal room humidity in the UK. They do however need a humid hide. There are different types of moulded resin humid hides available on the market but you can easily make one if you wish using an old plastic margarine or ice cream tub with a hole cut in the front. An opaque container will
be best so your snake can’t be seen when it’s hiding and ensure the hole is larger than your snake at the fattest part of its body. The moulded resin hides are much more aesthetic when creating a more naturalistic themed environment for your pet.
Regular cleaning or the enclosure is of course a very important aspect which will ensure your pets health. Daily ‘spot cleaning’ of the enclosure will be necessary to remove any faeces etc. Full cleaning of the enclosure where the substrate is removed,
and the decoration is thoroughly cleaned, should also happen on a regular basis, unless you choose to set up a bioactive enclosure. When cleaning the décor or glass, use a
reptile suitable disinfectant such as F10 which contains no dyes or perfumes. Ensure fresh clean water is always available to your pet. Food bowls and water dishes should be disinfected and wiped daily.
Hatchling corn snakes can be fed every 5-7 days whilst adults should ideally be fed every
7-10 days. The general rule is to offer a food item around the same size as your snake at
the fattest part of its body. As your snake grows its girth will naturally increase and you’ll have a good idea when to upgrade the food size, however, if unsure as to the correct size of food to feed your snake as they grow, don’t hesitate to get in touch for advice.
Supplements are not needed as your snake consumes a whole food prey item and they get all the nutrition they need in that one feed. Frozen snake food can either be placed in a plastic bag and then put in warm/hot (not boiling) water to defrost, or placed in a
container at room temperature until it is thoroughly thawed. By putting the food in a
plastic bag if defrosting in warm water, you keep the food dry and do not wash off any of its scent with water, making it more naturally appealing for your snake. Long feeding
tongs are recommended for feeding the defrosted food to your snake. Keeping a log of your snakes feeding, shedding and weight is good practise to not only help you notice patterns in your pets feeding habits, but to also help your vet should you ever need to take your pet with suspected illness.
A source of fresh, clean drinking water should always be provided and bowls should be disinfected and refreshed daily. Tap water, filtered water and spring water can be offered.
Providing your snake with a bowl big enough so that it can fully submerge is a good idea, as snakes sometimes like to soak in their water bowl. The humid hide you provide also aids with hydration, as your snake will absorb water through the soft skin between each scale.
As previously mentioned, supplements are not need for corn snakes.
When you first get your pet home it is important to leave them to settle in with no handling for the first week, or at least until after their first feed. Once your pet has eaten, you will need to leave him/her do digest that feed for approx. 48 hours, as handling a
snake with undigested food in their stomach and a drop in body temperature can lead to regurgitation. When you are ready to handle your pet be confident and gently pick them up from around two thirds the way down their body and then once raised, support the
front end of their body. Ensure you hold your hands loosely around your snake as they do
not like to feel restricted and tend to try to get away if gripped too tightly. They will enjoy gripping hold of and wrapping themselves around your fingers when young, then will
explore and climb and wrap around your arms once older. They are usually a gentle and docile species, only biting if scared or of they accidently mis-strike during feeding.
An annual vet check is recommended so that a qualified, reptile specialist vet can give your pet a thorough examination. A weekly health check should be done at home to
ensure that none of the following are observed:
Dull, sunken eyes
Discharge or bubbles from the nostrils
Redness, swelling, scabs or discharge from in or around the mouth
Inability to close their mouth properly or holding their mouth unusually
Gasping, popping or wheezing when breathing
Redness, swelling, lumps or open wounds anywhere on the body
Dirt or discharge around the vent
If any of the above are noticed, either contact us here at Riverview Reptiles for advise or contact a reptile specialist veterinarian for a consultation.
We encourage all pet keepers to practise the responsible pet ownership obligations as per the Animal Welfare Act 2006
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch!