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How to Keep Corn Snakes

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
How To Keep Corn Snakes

When it comes to keeping snakes as pets, nothing rivals the corn snake. Strikingly patterned and available in a large number of colour “morphs”, this handsome, docile reptile is hardy, easy to care for, enjoys being handled and can live for 15 years or more.

One of the most popular of all pet snakes, corn snakes are rightly regarded as the ideal first species for anyone new to snake-keeping – and no matter how many other varieties you go on to keep, you’ll always have a great deal of affection for corn snakes.

The Corn Snake

The Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus – formerly known as Elaphe guttata ) is one of the smaller members of the rat snake family, growing to around three-and-a-half to five feet (105–150cm) in length. It has the long and slender body typical of the rat snakes, with a well-defined head.

Pantherophis guttatus guttatus has attractive reddish markings on a cream or grey background, while the other recognised wild subspecies, P. g. meahllmorum has slightly different markings. The exotic pet trade however, routinely offers many different colour forms, including albino, black and “candy-cane.”

Housing Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are not difficult pets to house – a tank around 40 x 20 x 20 inches (100x50x50cm) will accommodate a pair of adults, with smaller containers being appropriate for juveniles and hatchlings – though like all snakes, they are excellent escape artists, so a secure lid is essential.

The flooring material is important, with shop-bought bark chippings or reptile carpeting being the most aesthetically pleasing option – or newspaper if the look of the tank is less important, since it has the advantage of being easily removed when soiled.

Corn snakes climb well – so provide your pets with a stout and securely attached branch, making sure that this won’t enable them to get too close to any heaters or lamps. They will also appreciate a few hiding places around their tank; snakes like to feel secure and giving them somewhere they can retreat to if they feel the need will do wonders for their general wellbeing. They’ll also need a water dish – one large enough to allow your pets to submerge themselves is ideal; they drink often and typically enjoy the chance of a good soak as they prepare to slough their skins. However, they will often defecate in their swimming pool, so the water will need to be changed on a regular basis.

Heating And Lighting

Heating and lighting the tank are best achieved using separately controlled systems, so that you can change the temperature and the day-length independently of each other. Aim for a general temperature of around 25-30 degrees C (77-86F) with a hotter basking spot and cooler areas too, to allow your pets to thermo-regulate naturally. A temperature drop of a few degrees at night mimics their natural environment and may also help if you’re hoping to breed – something which corn snakes do well in captivity.

The best way of achieving the extra warmth is probably to use a combination of heat mats under part of the tank base, coupled with heat lamps or ceramic heaters – making sure to fit strongly secured guards to any heat sources inside the container to stop the snake burning itself. As always, fitting a good quality thermostat is a must.

Food And Feeding

Feeding corn snakes is not usually a problem, although some youngsters can sometimes prove a little difficult to get going. Although their wild diet would include a range of frogs, lizards and probably even some large insects, rodents of one form or another are the most usual food in captivity.

Depending on the size of the snake, “pinkies”, small mice, larger mice and rats – along with the occasional day old chick – will be happily consumed, but it’s important not to overdo things as Corn Snakes seem prone to obesity. As a general rule, hatchlings will need a baby pinkie every three or four days, while adults may only feed once a week – and don’t worry if your snakes stop eating around shedding-time.

It’s often a very good idea to keep a record of what your pets eat and when; not only does it help you judge their feeding needs, but it can be invaluable if an animal becomes ill, since a depressed appetite can often be one of the first signs that something is amiss.

Undemanding in their needs, providing their few basic requirements are met, Corn Snakes make very rewarding pets. As snakes go, there’s simply nothing to beat them; it’s small wonder they have so many fans the world over.

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I found the artical,very interesting.Thank you.I was wondering if you can give me some advice on my corn snake,he is a male of 5 years,he was eating very well up till about 5 months ago,he got out of his cage and was gone for a month I could not find him and thought he was lost for ever and about 3 months ago i found him in a box,nearly dead,of cold,but not ,i put him in his cage and warmed him up,3 weeks later i offerd him a live mouse,which he always took and he wasn't interested and since then i have tried everything from thawed mice to pienky's to cut up mice he refuses to eat,and is very restless in his cage,I have had him at the vet and he said he is fine,all in al he has eaten 7 months ago,i am very concerned that he may die,thank you for the help.
stargazer - 16-Oct-12 @ 11:07 PM
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