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Corn Snake Complete Lighting and Heating Guide

Corn Snake Complete Lighting and Heating Guide

What’s The Proper Lighting and Heating Setup For A Corn Snake?

Proper lighting is essential to any reptile habitat. Our Complete Corn Snake Lighting And Heating Guide will help you prepare your setup for your reptile’s home. We highly recommend setting up your entire enclosure before bringing home your new pet and adding them to their habitat. All heating elements should be allowed to warm up for several hours and measured using a thermostat and infrared probe thermometer before adding your pet to their habitat to ensure they will not reach dangerous levels. 

Corn Snakes are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn/dusk. Some may say that this means that Corn Snakes do not require additional lighting, but we would recommend offering a 12 hour on, 12 hours off light cycle to mimic the Corn Snake’s natural environment.

Lighting Setup For A Corn Snake

Corn Snakes do not require UVB to survive, however, wild Corn Snakes would be able to choose whether to come out and bask or cryptic bask; expose a small part of their body to the sunlight in order to absorb light and benefit from the sun’s rays. Not only does UVB light aid in synthesizing vitamin D3 for reptiles, it also allows them to have a more natural environment, since reptiles can see UV rays. Corn Snakes are often seen out sunning themselves in natural sunlight, so providing them with UV light in captivity is recommended.

To provide UVB for Corn Snakes in a 4x2x2 enclosure, use a 22′′ long, low-intensity 6% T5 HO fluorescent tube. Your Corn Snake should receive maximum UVI of 2.0-3.0 in the basking area, which can be measured using a solarmeter. Too high of UV percentage or too close to the animal can lead to UV burns and eye damage. Coil UVB bulbs are not recommended since they do not give off UVB efficiently. Arcadia and ZooMed are reliable, tried and true lighting brands that are highly recommended. To most closely resemble daylight, adding an LED with bright white light with a color temperature of 6000-7000K is suggested. 

Animal Care Manager Kasey building a corn snake enclosure, Zen Habitats advanced care guides for corn snakes

The following recommendations are based on data collected by Chris Phillips using the following bulbs in a Vivarium Electronics T5 HO / Arcadia ProT5 fixture:

Lamp mounted above mesh (recommended for safety):

  • Arcadia ShadeDweller Max— 8-10′′ / 20-25c
  • Arcadia 6% / ZooMed Reptisun 0 T5 HO — 11-13′′ / 28-33cm
  • Arcadia 12% / ZooMed Reptisun 0 T5 HO — 17-19′′ / 43-48cm

Without mesh obstruction:

  • Arcadia ShadeDweller Max— 10-12′′ / 25-31cm
  • Arcadia 6% / ZooMed 0 Reptisun T5 HO — 14-16′′ / 36-41cm
  • Arcadia 12% / ZooMed Reptisun 10% — 20-22′′ / 51-56cm

To maintain maximum effectiveness, UVB bulbs should be changed every 6-12 months. The light may not burn out entirely, but UV output will reduce overtime.

It is important to note that UVB cannot travel through glass or plastic. Ensure that your UVB light does not come with a protective plastic film over the bulb, and always make sure that the light is not sitting over top glass or plastic, which would render the UV light rays useless.

To offer your Corn Snake full spectrum lighting, you can add a LED grow light such as the Arcadia Jungle Dawn, or other grow light with high lumens and a color temperature of 6000k+. If you are housing your Corn Snake in a bioactive terrarium, a full spectrum LED is essential to sustain plant life. Full-spectrum lighting is not the same as reptile UVB lighting, so you will need two separate lamps for plant growth and UV output.

Corn Snake Lighting Schedule

Corn Snakes are a crepuscular species and are most active at dawn and dusk. It is recommended to provide a 12 hour on, 12 hours off lighting schedule to mimic their natural habitat. If you would like to resemble their seasonal lighting cycle more closely, you can offer 13 hours on and 11 hours off during the warmer summer months.

Do Corn Snakes Need Light/Heat At Night?

Black/blue/red light bulbs for night viewing or supplemental heat are not needed for Corn Snakes and can actually mess with their day/night rhythm. A nightly drop in temperature is natural and healthy for Corn Snakes. They are very tolerant of cool temperatures and do not need supplemental heat overnight.

Are Red Lights Bad For Corn Snakes?

Contrary to popular belief, reptiles can see red lights. When a red bulb is used, it washes a red hue over everything in the enclosure making it difficult to perceive depth, this can lead to mental distress.

What’s The Proper Temperature And Humidity Levels For A Corn Snake Setup?

Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Ball pythons, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature. Corn Snakes will move to warmer places in order to achieve a body temperature that is ideal for digesting their food.

  • Basking surface: 90°F (32°C)
  • Ambient (air temp): 78-82°F (25-27°C)
  • Cool zone: 75°F (23-24°C)

Corn Snakes are much more tolerant of cooler temperatures than warm temperatures, and their habitat air temperature should not rise over mid-80’s without an area to escape the heat.

Lighting and heating setup for a corn snake, 4x2x2 Meridian Zen Habitats reptile enclosure, Zen Habitats advanced care guides for corn snakes

Ambient air temperature should be measured using digital probe thermometers, and any heat source should be hooked to a thermostat to avoid overheating and ensure the safety of your animal. There is no set wattage or strength of heating element that is one size fits all. The strength and size of your heating elements will depend on the size and type of your enclosure, distance to basking spot, and ambient room temperatures.

Providing accessories that hold on to heat, like the Zen Cave and Zen Corner Cave make excellent basking platforms. These products have a slate top, which absorbs overhead heating to provide an ideal basking platform for belly heat and distributes heat from overhead into the hide below. Underbelly heat has been shown to help aid in digestion. Other options for basking include rocks, branches, ledges, etc.

Using overhead heating, such as a halogen bulb, provides the most natural, deep penetrating infrared rays to your animal. Many keepers opt to use under tank heating such as a heat mat or heat tape which are also suitable but less natural for the animal. In the wild, animals would burrow down to get cooler and come closer to the sun to get warmer. Providing overhead heat is the most natural way to heat your animal. You can also opt to use under tank heating below a warm hide in tandem with overhead heating to provide a 24/7 warm hide for your animal. Never use a heat rock; they are unable to be properly regulated and are extremely unsafe heating elements that often lead to severe burns on reptiles!

Humidity Levels For A Corn Snake

Corn Snakes should have a humidity range of 60-75%. Their humidity range can fluctuate between lower and higher amounts but should average 60-75% for optimal shedding and health. You can create microclimates, areas of different temperature and humidity, throughout your snake's enclosure so they can seek out what they need. Humidity can be monitored using a digital probe hygrometer. Humidity fluctuations outside of the recommended range are fine as long as the typical humidity in your habitat is within the suggested range.

 About the author: Maddie Smith Maddie has been keeping reptiles as pets for more than a decade. She has a passion for educating others about animals, and currently works with over 50 different species including reptiles, amphibians, and birds!

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