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Corn Snake

Corn Snake

Pantherophis guttatus

How to Care for Your Corn Snake

Corn Snakes are one of the most popular pet reptile species in the UK. This is because they have lovely natures, are easy to handle and very easy to keep. They are beautifully marked and are bred in many different colours and patterns.

Housing

Snakes can be housed in glass terrariums or wooden vivariums. Corn snakes can be housed in a vivarium of 90cm (3ft) or larger. 

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Heating

Reptiles cannot produce their own body heat, so it is important to keep them within a suitable temperature range to help the body function correctly.

Corn snakes require a temperature gradient of 25˚C to 30˚C (77˚F to 86˚F) during the day. This can be achieved by using a heat mat and a basking light mounted at one side of the vivarium to create a warmer end of the vivarium. These should both be controlled by thermostats. At night the temperature should drop to around 20˚C to 25˚C (68˚F to 77˚F).

It is very important to know what the temperature is, so check regularly with an accurate thermometer.

Lighting

Although it has always been assumed that snakes do not need UV lighting, it is always a good idea to provide it. Low output T5 UV tubes are now available that can mimic the levels of UV that they would be exposed to in the wild, and we have found that when it is provided they will definitely use it.

 Water

 It is important to provide your snake with fresh water every day.

Hides and Décor

 The snake will require plenty of hides in the vivarium so that it can feel secure. By having 3 or more (preferably more) in different areas or the vivarium, the snake will be able to choose the one at the best temperature. A humid hide is also recommended, these are hollow hides with a damp moss inside; snakes will often use these when they are shedding their skin.

Plastic plants are also good to use, as these look very attractive in the vivarium as well as offering privacy.

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Feeding

Feed your snake one defrosted mouse weekly. The mouse should be no bigger than the largest part of the snake. Corn snakes can eat mice their entire lives – starting off with pinkies as a hatchling and moving up in size as the animal grows.

Defrost the food in an a fridge overnight and allow to warm up to room temperature before feeding. Never defrost food in warm water as this can enable bacteria to grow.

As snakes do not use energy to warm their bodies (as mammals do) they need less energy to function. Resist the urge to feed your snake more often or oversized prey as this can lead to the snake growing too fast, which can result in the head of the snake not growing at the same speed as the rest of the body. Obesity can also be a problem. If a snake is overfed they have no reason to move around their vivarium and this is detrimental to their health.

The simplest feeding technique is to place the defrosted food in the vivarium near the snake and leave it to feed. The other way is to offer the food on some tongs or tweezers to the snake; they will often strike very quickly then constrict the mouse.

Snakes sometimes refuse to feed while shedding.

Maintenance

Spot-clean your snake’s enclosure as necessary, removing waste as soon as possible. Clean and disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Monthly or more frequently if necessary, change the substrate and completely disinfect the vivarium and décor using a safe reptile disinfectant. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing the cage decorations.

Shedding

Snakes regularly shed their skin as they grow, it normally comes off in one piece and no assistance is required.

The first stage in the process is when the eyes go opaque (cloudy) at this point the snake will not want to feed and will hide away, it is best to leave it to do so. After a few days the eyes will clear again but it won’t shed for another 7 to 10 days.

If the snake has trouble removing the skin it is best to put the snake in a tub with some damp moss to help soften the skin and help by gently rubbing.

Conclusion

Corn Snakes are great to keep, very interesting, fun to own and easy to care for. But one is never enough!

Animal Information

Common name: Corn Snake, Red Rat Snake

Scientific Name: Pantherophis guttatus

Location: South-eastern United States

Habitat (wild): Varied; deciduous and pine woodland, rocky slopes, meadows, farmland, urban areas

Captive environment: Terrestrial vivarium of 120CM (4’) and over in length, with plenty of hides and areas to explore and climb

Preferred temperature range: daytime hot spot of 32ºC under the basking light, background ambient of 30ºC, cool end of 25ºC. Temperature can drop to 20ºC at night.

Ferguson Zone: Zone 1

UVB Lighting: 5% or 7% UVB strip lamp

Substrate: Wood chip, aspen, lignocel, or soil based

Lifespan: 15 to 20 years, but can be more