9 Reasons Why You Should Get a Corn Snake as Your Pet
Want a pet snake but you’re worried that it poses too many risks? Maybe you’ve read that pet snakes are too dangerous or overly complicated to take care of? Whatever your worry is, getting a corn snake is the easiest way to alleviate your fear!
What are the key characteristics that make corn snakes special?
Small, docile, stunningly beautiful, smart, and easy to take care of, corn snakes are the best species for most rookie reptile owners. Like all other reptiles, they need a bit of research and know-how as well as some investment in the right terrarium and tools at first. Once you start getting the hang of it, however, your first corn snake is likely to become your all-time favorite pet.
The 9 things you should know before getting a corn snake
1. Most corn snakes are very docile and harmless – perfect for beginners
If you’re not a reptile expert you definitely don’t want a temperamental snake. This is a big reason why we’d recommend corn snakes to rookies – they are almost always calm, docile, and friendly.
Proper snake socialization is of course still required but if you do that right you should have no trouble with a corn snake. As an added benefit, even if you mess up and your snake bites you, corn snakes are nonvenomous and their bites don’t hurt too much.
2. Never buy a wild-caught corn snake
Speaking of temperamental snakes – never buy a wild-caught snake of any species or variety. These are much more self-minded and aggressive and are definitely not recommended for beginners. Unfortunately, many breeders and pet stores sell wild-caught corn snakes so you should ask ahead of time what you’re getting.
3. Ask the vendor you’re getting the reptile from a few questions and inspect the snake itself
There are many questions you should ask before adopting or buying a snake, regardless of whether it’s from a pet store, online, or a fair. For example:
- Where was the snake bred?
- What is her temperament?
- Is she healthy?
- How often is she being fed?
- What are the genetics of the snake?
- When is the last time the snake has been to a vet?
And so on. You should also always ask to see the snake personally and look for yourself whether the snake is healthy. Inspect the head and eyes for parasites, the length of her body for bloating, her scales for shedding problems, and other visible symptoms of bad health.
4. Corn snakes are easy to handle but some care and training are still required
Small and lightweight, corn snakes are fun to pick up and handle. You should really learn the basics of hook and tap training before you start regularly handling your snake, however. Here’s a nice instructional video by Dbcb Exotics
5. These snakes are not arboreal, but they do like to climb
Corn snakes are generally terrestrial, but they do like to climb from time to time. They are active explorers and like to get the extra exercise so do your snake a favor and put some extra stuff such as tall branches in her tank. We’ll talk about the exact dimensions of a corn snake’s ideal tank below.
6. Corn snakes are expert escape artists
Due to their small size – 60-180 cm (24-70 inches), corn snakes are surprisingly good escape artists. They can squeeze through unimaginably small holes, so you’ll need to escape-proof your snake’s tank before dropping her in it.
7. There are hundreds of corn snake morphs to choose from
One of the best things about corn snakes is that there are literally hundreds of color and morph varieties to choose from. So, if you’re thinking of getting one, it pays to spend some extra time looking around for a truly unique morph.
8. Corn snakes’ feeding habits are quite simple
Corn snakes can go their whole lives eating nothing but mice which is a very easy diet to maintain from the owner’s point of view. A juvenile snake should eat one pinkie (baby) mouse every 5-7 days, a growing snake should be fed one juvenile mouse every 7 days, and a full-grown snake can be given one large mouse every 7-10 days.
If you’re having problems judging the size of the meal, the rule of thumb is that the mouse shouldn’t be more than 1.5 times larger than the width of the snake’s body in its mid section.
Overfeeding a corn snake is a possibility so don’t feed your pet twice a week too often – only if you’re about to travel, and you’ll need to leave her alone for a while.
As for fasting, corn snakes can hibernate for a couple of months in low temperatures and don’t need to eat in that period. The process of “making” your snake hibernate is called brumation – here’s a good instructional video by Port City Pythons Podcast.
Another important point is to never feed your snake by hand – always use a tool instead so the snake doesn’t learn to expect food when she sees your hand. Doing some target training is also a good idea as shown in this instructional video by Reptiles and Research
9. These snakes don’t live as long as other species
Even when well taken care of, a corn snake will rarely live longer than 6 to 8 years. This is a much shorter period of time compared to other beginner-friendly snakes like the ball python who live around 30 years and can even go over 40.
The flip side, however, is that 8 years is much less of a commitment. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to look after a pet for more than 10 years, a corn snake is a great alternative.
How to prepare for getting a corn snake?
The fact that corn snakes are easy to take care of is only true compared to other snake species. If this is your first snake, however, you’ll likely still be surprised by all the effort and preparation that goes into looking after a snake. We’ll list the basic items you’ll need to secure before you get your snake below:
The size of your corn snake’s tank should be at least 20 gallons but ideally, it should be up to 30-40 gallons. If you get your corn snake when it’s still young, a 40-gallon tank can feel a bit too large, but the snake will adapt. At any rate, it’s easier to get a large tank right away than to switch between several tanks unless you’re an experienced snake owner, and you have multiple tanks already. The basic rule of thumb is that a snake’s tank should be as wide as the snake is long and twice as long itself. It should also be large enough so that you can create two distinct temperature and humidity zones in it.
You will need one, or a couple of good thermometers to help you maintain the right environment for your corn snake. You should aim to maintain two separate temperature zones in your corn snake’s tank. The warm side should be around 27-29°C (80-85°F) and the cold side shouldn’t go above 24-27°C (75-80°F)
To achieve said temperature levels you’ll need the help of a basking heat light. A standard mercury vapor bulb should do the trick – it should offer a direct basking heat of around 31-33oC (88-92°F).
Your corn snake would also benefit from a UVA/UVB light in her tank. This isn’t as much of a must-have as it is for other snakes but it will still greatly improve your snake’s general health and immune system. A descent fluorescent UVB bulb can be very beneficial – just place it in the warm side of the tank where it can work together with the basking light and the heating pad.
A heating pad or a ceramic heat emitter is another smart addition for the warm side of your corn snake’s tank. This will give your snake another option for body temperature regulation and will ensure that your snake is always healthy, calm, and happy.
Get a decent hygrometer together with the thermometers for the tank. This tool will help you monitor the tank’s humidity which is as important for your corn snake as its temperature. For a corn snake, you should maintain relative humidity in the 40-50% range. Anything above or below that can be detrimental to the reptile’s wellbeing.
Another vital tool for giving your snake the humidity it needs is a humidity box, or a humidity hide. This is crucial for keeping your corn snake from drying up as even with good 50% humidity levels, the corn snake will still need a more high-humidity change of scenery from time to time. The best part about this is that you can make a humidity box yourself and you don’t need to buy it. Snake Discovery have a very good video on what makes a good snake humidity box.
You’ll need a good substrate for the floor of your corn snake’s tank too. Aspen bedding is the most popular choice for corn snakes because it allows the snake to burrow whenever it wants. For a young snake, you’ll just need a couple of inches of this bedding but for an older snake you’d do well to add a bit of extra – at least 3-4 inches or more.
Don’t underestimate your snake’s water bowl. Snakes “drink” water by dunking their entire bodies in it, so you’ll have to get a large and durable water bowl – I recommend ceramic. The bowl should be large enough to contain your whole snake, and you should also clear and refill it daily as the snake will introduce a lot of dirt into the water. It’s also common for corn snakes to defecate in their water bowls so keep that in mind.