I have two corn snakes, as I’m sure you know already. IMO, corns are the easiest snakes to take care of, which is probably why they’re recommended to first-time snake owners as a good pet. However, they still have some specific requirements and important things to remember in order to look after them properly, so I’ve created this guide in three parts (husbandry, feeding, behaviour & problems) for caring for corns in case anyone is thinking of getting one. Or two. Or several! They are very addictive…
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I have, however, done a tonne of research and I own two very healthy and happy corns! I’m also a member of a couple of forums and groups that focus on owning corns which is where I get so much of my information from, from fellow owners and breeders.
Husbandry – this part will be all about how to house your snake, including how to regulate their temperature and cleaning.
Corns live on their own; they should not be kept with other snakes as they can fight and even turn to cannibalism if hungry enough. They won’t get lonely – they live alone in the wild and are solitary animals. When kept as pets, they can either be kept in a plastic tub or a wooden vivarium. Some people make their own vivariums out of various cupboards or bookcases – check out pinterest for inspiration! Plastic tubs (especially Really Useful Boxes as they are, erm, really useful) are better for small snakes, especially because hatchlings might get scared of a big vivarium with open spaces. So, if you’re putting a tiny snake in a big vivarium, make sure it has lots of places to hide and lots of cover like caves, fake plants and branches.
Size-wise, corns can grow to over 5 foot, so you will (possibly) need a 4 foot vivarium eventually. Whilst they’re still growing, I go by the rule that once a snake measures the length of one side and one width of their vivarium/tub they need to move up to a bigger one. For example, a 2 foot by 1 foot viv could house a snake that’s up to 3 foot long. Make sure the vivarium you choose has air holes or a mesh section for air circulation. With tubs, you will probably have to drill some holes at the side and top.
As I said before, snakes need lots of places to hide. They need at least two hides (one at either end) but they like to explore so more is definitely best! You can incorporate things for them to climb, like suspended tubes and branches or even soft hammocks designed for rats or ferrets, but don’t worry about spending loads. Corns will be very happy with a toilet roll tube and a cardboard box with a ‘door’ cut out!
Aspen bedding seems to be the most popular bedding for corns, but there are alternatives, like paper towels, fake grass and even snake-friendly sand. What you use depends on what your set-up is like, what you prefer and what your snake seems to like. Fill your tub or vivarium with one or two inches of bedding.
You’ll need to clean the vivarium or tub monthly with either a normal disinfectant or a reptile-specific one. Just spray the cleaner, wipe with a damp cloth and then dry with a kitchen towel. Bin the old bedding and put in some more so it’s nice and fresh. You can put your snake in a small tub with water and a hide whilst you do this, or have someone else hold onto them. Other than that, you just need to check for poop and remove when you see it!
Temperature & lighting
Corns are cold-blooded, which means they need to thermoregulate to keep their temperature in check. In your viv, a heat mat or heat lamp needs to be used to create a warm side and a cool side. The heat source should always be controlled via thermostat (with a probe directly on it) to make sure the temperature doesn’t rise too high or drop too low. A heat lamp should have a guard to protect the snake against burns. A digital thermometer should also be used inside the vivarium or tub (Digital thermometers are best for measuring temperatures as dial thermometers or ‘human’ ones with a bar are inaccurate and cannot measure the temperature of the aspen or the bottom of the vivarium), with the probe touching the bottom of the viv if using a heat mat, or on the surface of the bedding if using a lamp. If you have branches or a platform that means your snake can sit closer to the lamp you might want to consider getting a second thermometer there, too. The warm area should be about one third of the vivarium and the thermostat should be set between 27-28 degrees celsius, or between 80-84 degrees fahrenheit.
If using a heat mat on a plastic tub, place it under the tub and put the thermostat probe between the mat and the tub. If using a heat mat in a viv, place it within the viv and place a glass or ceramic plate over the top. Put the thermostat probe between the mat and floor of the viv. Place aspen (or whatever bedding you choose) over the top. If using a heat lamp (these can only really be used in a vivarium) make sure it is secured and the thermostat is set up correctly according to the instructions at the same temperatures (27-29C).
Unless you live somewhere where it reaches over 27 C/80 F inside without a heat mat or lamp, the heat source should be on 24/7. Some owners turn the thermostat down by a few degrees at night to imitate the cooler night time temperatures in the wild, but it isn’t necessary. It is recommended that you use a natural light cycle if possible, by placing the vivariums in a room that isn’t used often in the evenings (so therefore won’t have lights on) and/or placing them in a room with a window and no blinds or curtains.
If your heat mat or lamp stops working or you have a powercut don’t worry too much about your snakes heat. It’ll stay warm for a while anyway, and corns are fairly hardy and can survive just fine without heat for a while. If they’re digesting food, however, you may need to place them in a warmer area or use a different heat source as a temporary measure. If temperatures get too warm, ice or bags of frozen peas works well to cool a tub or viv down.
That’s it for this part! Make sure you check out part two: feeding in a few day’s time! Do any of you have corn snakes? Let me know in the comments!