Corn Snake Care Sheet

Common name

Corn Snake

Scientific Name

Elaphe guttata guttata

The Corn Snake is a North American species of Rat Snake. They come in a range of morphs and colours but most commonly are a bright colour of red or orange with black markings. They are popular as pets due to their docile nature and their relatively small size, growing up to 1.5 metres long. They are crepuscular meaning that they are most active at dusk and at night. They are primarily terrestrial animals so spend most of their time on the ground but will also enjoy climbing if given the opportunity. They require a long term commitment as Corn Snakes can live up to 20 years in captivity.


Corn Snakes are not highly active so do not require a huge amount of space but they should be housed in at least a 4ft vivarium. The lid of the tank should be secured as Corn Snakes are strong and some will push against the lid of a tank in an attempt to find a way out.

A hiding place is required in the tank to help your Corn Snake feel secure as without this they can become stressed. Specialist hides can be purchased but it can be something as simple as a cardboard box. There should be a hide at both the cool end and the heated end of the tank and they should be big enough for the snake to comfortably curl up inside.

If given the opportunity, a Corn Snake will climb, so a rock or branch should be provided for this purpose. Any objects collected from outside should be thoroughly disinfected, rinsed with clean water and left in the sun to dry out before being placed in the tank.


Corn Snakes do not require any special form of light and most vivariums don’t use any form of additional lighting. In the wild, Corn Snakes do use the UV from sunlight to synthesise Vitamin D3, but in captivity, they receive suitable vitamins from their diet of mice. Lights can be used to create a better view, without harming the snake, provided they don’t increase the ambient temperature of the tank.


Corn Snakes are cold-blooded and control their body temperatures by moving between warm and cool areas. To heat your tank or vivarium, a heat mat should be placed under no more than one half of the tank allowing space for the Corn Snake to thermo-regulate. The temperature should be set between 24°C-30°C and controlled with a thermostat. Without a thermostat or adequate monitoring, there is a risk of overheating which can be potentially fatal for a snake. Heat lamps are unsuitable for Corn Snakes as they are nocturnal and use heat from the ground. Hot rocks should never be used as this localised source of heat poses a danger of burning should the snake curl around it.


Aspen wood shavings, cage carpet or pine bark options for a corn snake, as for the best substrate for corn snakes, well that’s really up to opinion. Any soiled substrate should be removed straight away to prevent any build-up of bacteria or fungus. If using carpet then have two pieces to rotate as this will need to be cleaned and dried thoroughly before being returned to the tank.


The enclosure should be spot cleaned daily and waste removed at the first opportunity. The water bowl should be cleaned and disinfected at least once a week. The substrate should be changed at least once a month and the tank should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at this time.


you may be asking “how often do corn snakes shed?”, well, it depends, but what I can say is that Corn Snakes shed their skin regularly as they grow. As a snake gets older, the time between sheds will increase. A week to ten days before the snake sheds its skin, the eyes will become milky. They will then become clear again and the shed will begin a couple of days later. The snake will rub against a solid object to help the process and the peel will begin from the nose end. The snake may wish to bathe at this time and it is recommended that the water bowl is big enough to accommodate this. The snake should not be handled during the shedding process.


Corn Snakes are strictly carnivorous and should be fed prey items appropriate to the size of their mouths. Rats, hamsters, and chicks are available as food items although generally, mice will suffice. Baby corn snake diet (hatchlings) should be fed pinkie mice once a week before moving onto a large mouse once every 7-10 days. Corn Snakes will generally settle on the warm part of the tank in order as this gives them more energy to digest food. If they don’t settle in the warm spot and continue searching the tank, this suggests they are still hungry and they may require larger or multiple prey items. Corn Snakes should not be handled for 48 hours after feeding as this may result in them regurgitating their meal. Live prey items should not be offered as they will try to defend themselves and potentially injure the snake

Snakes with a loose substrate in their tank such as bark should be fed outside of the tank in order to avoid the risk of swallowing these items.

A large bowl of fresh water should be provided at all times as Corn Snakes drink every day. Sometimes Corn Snakes bathe in order to help with the shedding process. Should your snake defecate in the water, it should be replaced straight away.

While shedding, some Corn Snakes may refuse to eat.


There are literally hundreds of corn snake morphs, from albino to blood reds and lavenders. There is pretty much in-between, morphs are available from any pet shop and range in price from £30 – £500.

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