Common Name: Corn Snake, Red Rat Snake
Latin name: Elaphe guttata guttata
Locality: Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States (from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to the upper Keys of Florida).
Size: Hatchling corn snakes range in size from 9 - 14 inches in length. Adult corn snakes reach anywhere from 2 to 5 feet.
Life span: Usually 12 - 15 years, though they can live as long as 20 years.
Corn snakes, also known as red rat snakes are one of the most available snakes in the pet trade today. Vast numbers of corn snakes are captive bred annually, and are understandably one of the most popular pet snakes of all time. Corn snakes come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. They are relatively small, rarely exceeding five feet in length, active feeders, tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions and are very easy to breed. All of these factors combined make the corn snake an excellent choice for both the beginning and advanced reptile hobbyist.
Corn snakes are relatively small, and as such, they do not require large enclosures. A baby corn snake can happily live in a ten gallon aquarium or enclosure of similar size. We keep baby corn snakes in plastic shoeboxes with holes punched in the side for ventilation. For adult corn snakes, we recommend a twenty gallon long aquarium with locking lid or a plastic sweater box. You need to remember that one of the most important things in choosing a home for your snake is that they are escape artists and good climbers, and you must choose a cage with a secure lid.
For heating, we recommend under tank heaters. These can be found at most pet stores and provide plenty of heat for a corn snake. If you have a cage with a screen lid, you can also use an incandescent light as a source of heat. The enclosure should be kept at a temperature of around 80-85 degrees during the day and 70-75 at night. Unlike lizards, corn snakes do not require any special lighting. You may use lighting to make the enclosure more attractive, but keep in mind that the snakes can be bothered by the light and may hide if you use a bright light on their cage.
For substrate, we recommend aspen bedding. Pine bedding is also acceptable, but you must NEVER use cedar bedding, as this will cause respiratory disease and even death in reptiles. Some people may prefer to use paper towels or newspaper. While not as attractive, these substrates make cage cleaning easier.
You also need to include a water bowl full of fresh water. The snakes like to soak in their water when they are shedding, so you should use a water bowl large enough for them to climb into. Corn snakes also need a place to hide in order to feel secure. This can be anything from a toilet paper or paper towel tube to an empty macaroni box, or you can buy more decorative hides from a pet store.
Cage cleaning is important to the health of your snake. You should spot clean soiled bedding regularly. Change the bedding when it needs it. Let your eyes and nose be the judge. The bedding should be changed at least once a month to avoid buildup of bacteria.
Corn snakes are rarely picky eaters if they have the proper heat and enclosure. Hatchling corn snakes begin eating pinky mice, and progress up to fuzzy mice, hoppers, and eventually adult mice. A good rule of thumb is to feed the snake a food item that is about one and a half times the width of its head.
When you purchase your snake, you should always ask if the snake is eating live or frozen, thawed mice. Which one you choose to feed your snake depends on your personal preference as well as the preference of your snake. If you feed your snake live food, be sure to watch and make sure that the mouse does not bite the snake. Never feed captive snakes food captured from the wild. Wild animals possess potentially harmful internal parasites which can potentially kill your snake or at least cause it great harm.
Corn snakes can be fed two times a week, but once is usually enough. How often you feed them depends on how fast you want them to grow. The more you feed them, the faster they will grow. However, if you feed them too much, they may overeat and regurgitate their food. Make sure that the snake always has fresh water available, as corn snakes drink frequently and can dehydrate easily. Also remember that your snake might regurgitate if it does not have a warm enough cage or if it is handled too soon after it eats. We recommend waiting 2 days after the snake eats before you handle it to allow for proper digestion.
One of the most commonly encountered problems is regurgitation. There are a number of causes for this. One cause is that the cage is not warm enough. The food item can rot in the stomach of the snake, and this causes the snake to regurgitate. Another common cause is that the food was too big. Corn snakes sometimes have appetites that are bigger than their stomachs. The solutions to these problems are to turn up the heat and feed smaller mice.
Another commonly encountered problem is that the corn refuses to eat. Once again this can be caused by food that is too large or a cage that is not warm enough. Often snakes will not eat while they are shedding. Another reason for a corn not eating is that it is either in a mating cycle or a brumation cycle. Male corns especially will stop eating after coming out of brumation. Females will stop eating if they are gravid. Both males and females may stop feeding if there has been a steady drop in the average temperature in their cage, or if there has been a progressive decline in day length. This is especially true for wild caught corn snakes. Also remember that it is not unusual for a snake to refuse food while it is adjusting to a new home. One suggestion I have is to isolate the problem feeder in a small paper bag with a mouse. Often the privacy and isolation will make the snake comfortable enough to eat. If it still does not eat, you can slice the head of a pinky open, exposing the brain. The scent of the brain matter will sometimes cause the snake to eat as well. If the snake appears otherwise healthy, I would not worry about a snake that has not eaten for a month. I would probably not start worrying until about two months. If the snake is still not eating or is beginning to show other signs of poor health, consult a veterinarian that is experienced in the care of reptiles.
Baby Corn Snakes tame down VERY quickly. All it takes is daily handling for about a week and they become very "friendly". An adult that hasn't been handled much will usually tame down also although maybe not as fast. If you only open the cage to feed the snake, he will learn to associate the opening of his cage with feeding, and when you try to pick him up, he may think you are food and bite you. However, regular handling of your snake between meals will prevent the development of this feeding response. When picking up a Corn Snake you want to be gentle but firm. A small snake or a baby can be picked up with one hand. A larger one should be supported with both hands. Don't just pick up an adult by one end while letting the other end dangle. If the snake feels unsupported it might thrash around and injure itself. Let your snake slither through your fingers, back and forth between your hands. Just keep letting him crawl around. He may be fast at first but once he figures out that you don't want to hurt him or eat him he will calm down. Take good care of your snake and you will have a wonderful pet to enjoy for many years.
More Cornsnake Pictures