Pantherophis guttatus, Corn Snake Care

Pantherophis guttatus, Corn Snake Care

Pantherophis guttatus, Corn Snake Care

  • 20+ years
  • Up to 6ft
  • Low 65-74 High 88-96'
  • Deep substrate, humid hide, large water dish, climbing branches, basking rock pile
  • Arcadia Shade dweller Max UVB, or 6%
  • Minimum enclosure 36x18x12 or large enough for the snake to stretch out. Bigger is better!

By The Bug Guys, Adapted from Arcadia Reptile and Reptile Magazine

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Bug Guys at Lake Country Pet 250-766-4646 

LifeSpan and Size

Corn snakes can live up to 20 years, the record being an individual at 32 years old. They can grow to a slender length of almost 6 ft, 180cm.


A 36-inch by 18-inch by 12-inch enclosure will comfortably house an adult, but as large as possible is always encouraged.

Substrate should be thick enough to hold humidity and allow digging, use coconut choir, chunks, jungle earth and reptile soil and moss combinations. Include sticks, rocks, cork bark, and a humid hide. Corn snakes are primarily terrestrial snakes that appreciate and utilize hide spots but do enjoy climbing and exploring branches. Provide at least one hide on each end of your snake’s enclosure so that it doesn’t have to choose between temperature and security. 

Spot-clean your snake’s enclosure as necessary. Remove feces and urates as soon as possible. Do a complete tear-down every 30 days by removing all substrate and reptile accessories and completely disinfecting with a 5 percent bleach solution. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly with water, and allow it to dry completely before replacing cage accessories, substrates, and your snake.

Researching Bioactive Vivarium can be another method, which includes creating a natural living space with plants, substrate and living microfauna (isopods and springtails) that act like a cleanup crew and micro environment in the enclosure.

Heating & Lighting

Enclosures must allow for a proper thermal gradient that the snake can utilize, with a hotspot on one end of the enclosure and a cool spot on the other. Provide your snake with a basking spot temperature of 88 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit and an ambient temperature of 75 to 80 degrees. The ambient temperature should not fall below 75 degrees (cool spot and night time excluded). Monitor temperatures by using a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe or temperature gun. 

Use a basking bulb as your primary heat source, with ambient heat sources such as ceramic heat emitters, deep heat projectors and side mounted heat mats/tape as supplementary heat. Do not use hot rocks with snakes as they can heat unevenly over too small of a surface area and can cause serious burns. With focused heat sources it is crucial to keep an eye on the humidity within the enclosure, especially if combined with a screen top, as both will dry the air quickly. Use thermostats and/or timers to control your heat source.

Light sources should be kept on a 12/12 cycle, meaning 12 hours on (day) and 12 hours off (complete darkness, NO light emitting heat bulbs at night!). 

UVB lighting is beneficial to all animals. Depending on the size of the enclosure, interference and mounting configuration, use the chart below to determine the best UVB intensity. The 2.4% Arcadia Shade dweller Max is typically recommended for most snakes. Mount UVB Lighting adjacent to the heat source so the snake benefits from the UVB while basking. 

Corn snakes prefer ambient humidity levels of 60 to 75 percent. Maintaining proper humidity and hydration will allow your snake to shed properly. Keep the humid hide moist and always provide clean drinking water in a dish large enough to soak in. Deep substrate allows for a humidity gradient as well, and live plants aid this further. If using a screen lid, consider attaching plexi-glass or coroplast plastic on a portion of the lid, away from the heat and uvb light sources, to help hold in moisture.


Corn snakes will feed on pinky mice when young and work up to 1-2 adult mice as they mature (try a varied diet with ASFs, chicks, quail, small fish and small raw whole or portions of boiled eggs). Do not handle your snake for at least 2-3 days after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation. Most snakes can be fed frozen/thawed or pre-killed rodents, but some prefer live and may never transition. Never leave a live prey unattended with any snake, as they can injure or kill the snake.

Feed juvenile snakes every 5-7 days and adults every 1-2  weeks. Snakes generally do not eat while they are in the shed cycle. Overfeeding a reptile is not recommended as obesity can result in an early death. Ask your exotic vet or experienced keeper about body condition scoring.

Handling and Temperament

Corn snakes are typically very tolerant of handling. Some snakes may not eat for several hours or longer after being handled, so avoid handling if you plan to feed. Do not handle a snake for 3-5 days after feeding to allow proper digestion. Avoid putting your snake’s cage in a heavy traffic area, excessive movement, and other pets should be avoided.

Always support your snake’s body and avoid fast movements. Once they realize they are not in danger, they often will relax and explore. Some snakes may try to hide when handled and occasionally may even bite due to excessive fear. Relax when holding your animal; sit down and give the animal a chance to settle.

A corn snake bite is a superficial wound. If a snake looks like it is going to strike (Hissing and/or in a “S” configured strike pose), it is best to not handle it.


What to do when “Tagged”

Typically snakes will only strike when aggravated or in confusion over prey. A Tag will be a quick strike and release, with small puncture wounds. Rinse the area and pat dry until the bleeding stops. 

If a snake strikes and coils this is a misplaced feeding response. Stay calm and do not attempt to tear the snake off as their teeth and jaws are delicate. Grasp their head firmly behind the jaw and move them forward to unhook the teeth. Another method is to try introducing a small drop of ethanol alcohol or gently submerging the snake in cool water temporarily. 

Shedding Issues: If your snake has stuck shed, first make sure that your humidity is high enough (without being swampy) in their enclosure and they are well hydrated (sometimes soaking prey items helps). If necessary, soak your snake in about an inch of luke warm water or on damp paper towel for 30 minutes under supervision in a tub with a lid and ventilation. This should allow the snake to finish shedding the loose skin. If you notice that you are unable to remove an eye cap or a piece of shed that looks restricting, please go to a local exotic vet (Trilake Animal Hospital/ Rutland Pet Hospital) to have it professionally assessed and removed. 

Other health Issues: Seeking veterinary assistance is highly recommended but early treatment consists of doing a sterile “nursery enclosure” with paper towel as a substrate. Scale Rot: Snake will appear have a rash, blisters or dark discoloured belly or mouth scales. Scale rot is typically due to the humidity being too high. Antibiotics and husbandry adjustments are often prescribed.

Burns: These will appear as unnaturally pink or red belly scales or misformed and peeling patches along the sides and back of the animal. Flamazine ointment and betadine soaks along with immediate heat source and husbandry adjustments.

Respiratory Infections (R.Is): If your snake has signs of Respiratory infection, please visit a vet to diagnose your snake and receive antibiotics to treat the infection. For minor RI, there is some success with using F10 veterinary disinfectant to nebulize your snakes with. 

Mite Prevention: Anytime you bring a reptile in your home or collection, make sure that you quarantine them away from other reptiles. 

Mite Symptoms: Snake is continually soaking in their water dish and you see black specks floating around in the water, along with raised scales with mites underneath, especially on the belly and around the mouth. 

Mite Treatment: If you find that your snake has mites, make sure to bathe them in warm water about an inch deep with a mite treatment. Completely disinfect their enclosure. Repeat every week until resolved or seek professional assistance if the infestation persists for over a month.