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Corn Snake

Corn Snake Care Sheet

Pantherophis guttatus
Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Corn snakes are a type of rat snake and are named for the pattern of their belly scales that resembles maize, an ancestor of modern-day corn. They are known to be good climbers and escape artists and are popular pets due to their variety of colors and patterns and their generally even temperament. With regular handling, they can be docile, gentle pets.

Table of Contents

Characteristics

Care Difficulty Good for beginner snake hobbyists
Average Life Span Up to 20+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size 4 to 6 feet long
Diet Carnivore
Thawed frozen rodents of appropriate size is recommended
Minimum Habitat Size 10-20 gallons for juvenile corn snakes.
20-40 gallons for adult corn snakes.
Corn snakes reach adult size in 2-3 years. You will need to increase the size of your corn snake’s habitat as they grow.

Habitat 

Habitat size

A young snake may live in a 10-gallon tank (or larger if possible) for the first few months as it is an appropriately sized and shaped habitat for a baby colubrid to accommodate normal behavior and exercise. Corn snakes reach adult size in 2-3 years. You will need to increase the size of your corn snake’s habitat as they grow. 

Adults require a tank with a secure, locking lid to prevent escape. Since habitats should be large enough for an adult corn snake to stretch out fully, a 40-gallon breeder or larger tank is recommended.

Building your habitat

  • Substrate - Paper-based bedding, reptile carpet and Aspen shavings can be used as bedding. If Aspen is used, it must be changed weekly or more often as needed to prevent it from becoming excessively wet or soiled. Pine and cedar should not be used as bedding, as they contain oils that can irritate corn snakes’ skin
  • Décor - Provide a hiding area and a place where your corn snake can regulate their body temperature by retreating from a direct basking area. A synthetic or natural wood hide log large enough for your snake to fit inside is appropriate. Although terrestrial, a climbing branch can provide a way for your corn snake to exercise. Plants and a background can also be added to complement the aesthetics of your habitat
  • Temperature - Temperature gradient (85°F for the warm end; low 70s°F in the cool end). Radiant heat is recommended with an over-the-tank basking heat bulb and/or under-tank heater. Temperatures in the tank should be monitored daily with at least two thermometers (one in the cool zone and one in the basking zone) or with a point-and-shoot thermometer
  • Humidity - Maintain 40-60% humidity; higher (70%) during shedding. A shallow open bowl of water, or a piece of moist paper towel or sphagnum moss, and daily misting with warm water can aid in shedding
  • Lighting - Provide 8-12 hours of light daily. All snakes benefit from exposure to UVA/UVB light during the day to help improve immune system function and to promote normal health and behavior. Don't leave white light on at all times; a nocturnal or infrared light should be used at night

Cleaning your corn snake’s habitat

Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week: 

  • Place snake in a secure habitat
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Allow the bleach solution to remain in the tank for 10 minutes before rinsing to ensure adequate disinfection; follow the habitat cleaner manufacturer's instructions
  • Rinse thoroughly with water, removing all traces of bleach smell
  • Dry the tank and furnishings completely and add clean substrate before returning décor and corn snake to tank

Feeding

What to feed your corn snake

A well-balanced corn snake diet consists of:

  • Snakes should be fed prey that is approximately the size of the snakes’ width at mid-body
  • Appropriately sized frozen rodents, thawed or warmed to above room temperature
    • Start with pinkies for juvenile snakes and increase in size to larger mice and rats for adult corn snakes
  • Live prey should not be fed, as rodents commonly bite snakes and the wounds can lead to life-threatening infections
    • If feeding your snake live rodents, do not leave them unattended. Live rodents can injure the snake, sometimes fatally

Things to remember when feeding your corn snake:

  • Fresh, clean, water should be available at all times in a large enough bowl for your corn snake to soak in
  • Feed juveniles once a week, adults every 1-2 weeks
  • Corn snakes are primarily diurnal and are most active during the day. Ideally, they should be offered meals during the daytime
  • Feed in a separate enclosure so your corn snake doesn't associate your hand or their habitat being opened with feeding
  • Do not use a microwave to defrost frozen rodents and do not prepare them in the same area that you prepare food. If it is unavoidable, be sure to thoroughly disinfect the area. See the Feeding Frozen/Thawed Foods Care Sheet for more information

Corn snake care

  • Snakes will regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at an appropriate level (70% while shedding) to allow your corn snake to shed properly. Normally, snakes should shed their skin all in one piece 
  • Never try to remove eye caps (called spectacles) by yourself. Seek veterinary care
  • Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease
  • Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile

Where to buy a corn snake

Corn snakes are available at Petco Pet Care Centers. Call ahead to check availability.

Tank mates

While corn snakes can be very docile with pet parents once they are socialized, they prefer to be housed alone. If housing more than one corn snake together, they must be fed in individual enclosures.

Health

Signs of a healthy corn snake

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes (except when shedding)
  • Eats regularly
  • Good body composition
  • Healthy, supple, smooth skin
  • Regularly sheds skin in one complete piece
  • Free of mites and ticks

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.)

  • Unusually frequent or infrequent shedding
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargic or reluctant to eat
  • Abnormal feces
  • Bumps or spots on skin
  • Red/pink color to skin possibly indicating systemic infection
  • Labored breathing
  • Bubbles from mouth and nose
  • Difficulty shedding or shedding skin in pieces
  • White, cheesy substance in mouth

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Dermatitis Symptoms or Causes Blisters or crusty scabs may be caused by burns from heat bulbs or hot rocks. Rapid or lack of shedding, or shedding in pieces, may be caused by an unclean habitat or one that is too cool or damp and suppresses the immune system and leads to secondary bacterial, viral or parasitic infections of the skin. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian, clean the habitat and lower humidity.
Health Issue Respiratory disease Symptoms or CausesLabored breathing; mucus in mouth or nostrils; or bubbles from mouth/nose/eyes. Can be caused by a habitat that is too cold or damp, which can suppress the immune system and lead to secondary bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and keep the snake warm and dry.
Health Issue Stomatitis Symptoms or Causes White, cheesy substance in the mouth or scabs inside mouth; loss of teeth and appetite. Can be secondary to improper temperature, humidity or dirty habitat. If untreated, can be fatal. Suggested Action Immediately consult your veterinarian.
Health Issue Ticks and mites Symptoms or Causes Parasites on skin can cause dermatitis and transmit disease. Can remain in environment if not eradicated and cleaned properly. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian.
Health Issue Lumps or bumps in skin Symptoms or Causes From infections or tumors. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian.

FAQs 

  • What do corn snakes eat? Corn snakes eat whole, thawed frozen rodents of appropriate size. 
  • How big do corn snakes get? Corn snakes can grow up to 4-6 feet long.
  • How long do corn snakes live? Corn snakes can live up to 20+ years with proper care.
  • Are corn snakes poisonous? No, corn snakes are not poisonous.
  • What does a corn snake look like? Corn snakes come in a variety of morphs, showcasing unique patterns and colors including orange, red, brown, white, black and yellow. 
  • How often should I feed my corn snake? Juvenile corn snakes should be fed once a week and adults should be fed every 10-14 days.
  • How long can corn snakes go without eating? A corn snake might go weeks to months without eating since their metabolism is slow, but they often become ill when they go this long without food. If your pet has skipped feedings, seek veterinary care.
  • How often do corn snakes shed? Young corn snakes may shed once a month as they grow. Fully grown adults typically shed a few times per year.
  • Where do corn snakes live? Corn snakes are native to the Eastern United States but are popular pets due to their even temperament and ability to be handled.

Additional Care Sheets

Notes and sources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens,and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about reptiles and disease.

Note: The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information contact your veterinarian.