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Corn Snake General Reptile Care Guide | ReptiFiles

Corn Snake General Reptile Care Guide | ReptiFiles

Corn Snake General Reptile Care Guide - Courtesy of ReptiFiles

 (Pantherophis guttas) Difficulty: Easy

Corn snakes are a semi-arboreal species of snake native to the southeastern United States, parts of Mexico, and the Cayman Islands. They are most often found in tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. They spend a good amount of time on the ground, but they are also proficient climbers.

Corn snakes range from 3’ to 5’ long, with males tending to be smaller than females. Corn snakes typically have a lithe, slender body, with an orange and red pattern and a black-and-white belly. However, due to enthusiastic “morph” breeding in the reptile hobby, captive-bred corn snakes are now available in a diverse array of alternative colors and patterns.

Corn snakes are some of the most popular pet snakes in the United States. They’re manageably sized, are fairly tolerant of being housed in sub-ideal conditions, and generally tolerate human interaction well. Corn snakes are known to live up to 25 years with good care.

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Terrarium Size

Corn snakes are active snakes that love to climb and explore, so although they may seem small, experts recommend keeping them in no smaller than a 4'x2'x2' Reptile Enclosure. This is based on the formula for calculating a snake’s minimum space needs:

snake length x half snake length x half snake length = length x width x height

At ReptiFiles, using a larger enclosure than the minimum is always strongly recommended. Bigger is always better!

Can multiple kingsnakes be housed together in the same enclosure?

No. Corn snakes are not social animals, and there is no significant benefit to the animal that would justify keeping two or more in the same enclosure. In fact, keeping multiple snakes together can cause competition for food, warmth, hiding places, and other resources, which is likely to prevent the snakes from thriving. So, it’s best to keep only one per enclosure.

Lighting, Temperatures & Humidity

Corn snakes are crepuscular, which means that they are most active at night, particularly around sunset. Many people attempt to use this fact to argue that corn snakes do not benefit from, and are even stressed by, the presence of light in their environment. However, providing a light source is important to helping regulate their day/night cycle and associated hormonal rhythms. UVB lighting has also been proven to be beneficial to corn snakes’ health. So, although corn snakes can technically survive without UVB light, we strongly recommend providing it in order to promote optimum welfare in captivity.


UVB lighting can be tricky because, to get the right strength of UVB (UV Index, or UVI), distance and potential mesh obstruction must be considered. To provide appropriate UVB for a corn snake, you will need a T5 5.0 or 6% bulb, long enough to span half of the enclosure and placed on the warm side of the enclosure, preferably not obstructed by mesh.

The basking branch or platform should be placed according to the following, with the distance being measured between the UVB lamp and the height of the snake when on the basking surface.

    With mesh obstruction: 7-10”

    Without mesh obstruction: 11-16”


Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Corn snakes, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature. Corn snakes warm up by sleeping in warm patches of sunlight or warm burrows. In captivity, using a halogen flood heat bulb is the best way to replicate the type of warmth provided by sunlight.

    Basking surface: 90°F (32°C)

    Cool side: 75°F (23-24°C)

Temperatures can safely fall to 68°F/20°C at night.

Generally speaking, 90w halogen flood bulbs should be plenty to achieve your target basking surface temperature. The basking rock should be placed on top of the black plastic hide box, which will act as your warm hide. If you notice that they’re getting too hot, dial it down with a plug-in lamp dimmer. If your basking surface is too cool, you need higher wattage bulbs.

You will need multiple heat bulbs to create a large enough basking area to evenly heat your corn snake’s coiled body. Two bulbs should be enough for an average corn snake. Create a warm hiding place for the snake using a Zen Cave or Zen Corner Cave.

To measure the basking surface temperature, use an infrared thermometer (a.k.a. temperature gun). To measure the temperature of the warm hide, use a digital probe thermometer. The Etekcity 774 is a good infrared thermometer, and most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.


Corn snakes generally need an average humidity of 65-75%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure. Humidity levels that are consistently higher or lower than this range can make your pet unwell, although it is normal for humidity to be higher on the cool end and lower on the warm end, as well as higher at night. Specific optimal humidity levels may vary by which subspecies you’re keeping.

To raise the humidity in your snake’s enclosure, you can use a pressure sprayer to mist the habitat as needed. It’s also a good idea to place moistened sphagnum moss inside the cool hide to create a humid retreat. Check and change this moss regularly to prevent mold growth. Placing a layer of leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help maintain humidity.

Substrate (Bedding)

Corn snakes are healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a substrate (a.k.a. “bedding”) that imitates the conditions of their natural habitat and facilitates moderate humidity levels. Soil is generally best for meeting this need.

You  can use a DIY mix of 40% organic, additive-free topsoil + 40% Zoo Med Reptisoil + 20% play sand (this option tends to be the most affordable as well).

Provide a substrate layer that is around 3-4” deep. For a 4x2x2 enclosure, that will take at least 80 quarts of substrate. I also recommend laying down a generous layer of clean leaf litter on top to help retain humidity and give your snake something to explore.

Feces and urates should be removed daily, and the contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. The substrate should be completely replaced once every 3-4 months.

Decorating the Terrarium

Decorations play an important role in your corn snake’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your snake’s natural instincts, and help promote overall wellbeing. And, of course, they make the enclosure look nice!

Cork rounds, cork flats, grape wood, ghost wood, magnetic ledges, and live or artificial plants work well as décor in a kingsnake terrarium. The more hiding places your snake has access to, the more likely it will be comfortable hanging out in the open where you can see it. Hides should be small enough to provide a tight fit for the snake when coiled.

Feeding Your Corn Snake

Corn snakes are carnivores, which means that they need a diet of whole animal prey to get the nutrition that their bodies need.

The size of your snake’s prey should be no more than 1.5x the width of your kingsnake at its widest point or roughly 10% of its body weight. If the snake seems to be getting fat, reduce the frequency of feedings or the size of the feeders.

Although mice are the most common feeders, snakes need to eat more than just rats and mice to truly thrive. The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet snake is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier, less picky pet! Prey ideas for corn snakes are:

  • Mice
  • Young rats
  • Young quail
  • Quail eggs
  • Chicks
  • Green anoles

How often corn snakes need to eat depends on age:

  • Hatchlings — every 7-10 days
  • Juveniles — every 7-14 days
  • Adults — every 14-21 days

It’s best to offer frozen-thawed prey rather than live to your pet snake. This is safer for the snake and generally considered to be more humane as well. Use soft-tipped feeding tweezers to reduce the risk of getting accidentally bitten when the snake strikes.


Snakes can survive without vitamin or mineral supplements but using them occasionally is a good way to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Every once in a while, lightly dust the prey item with a 50/50 mix of calcium and multivitamin before thawing.

Handling Tips

You will need to wait a little while after bringing your new pet home to let it settle in. This usually takes about 2 weeks, but you shouldn’t start handling it until it’s eating regularly.

Once your corn snake is ready for handling, take it slow at first — just like any relationship. Start with brief handling sessions (no longer than 5 minutes), and don’t return the snake until it is calm. This teaches your pet how to behave during handling by using rudimentary positive reinforcement. Once this has been accomplished, you can work up to longer sessions. Handling should occur at least weekly, but no more than once daily.

While handling your snake, be gentle. Rather than grabbing it, let it crawl onto your hand. Lift it from below rather than above, and support as much of its body as possible. Use slow movements and don’t walk around too much. Kingsnakes usually tolerate handling well.

Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles.

Need to rehome your pet?

Don't let it loose! Remember - it is NEVER okay to release animals. Many pets released into the wild are unable to survive. If your pet does survive, it can become an invasive species that can be harmful to native wildlife, the environment, and the economy. If you are no longer able to care for your pet, you can reach out to friends, retirement communities, local shelters, or visit to find a rehoming partner near you.

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