Corn Snake (Red Rat Snake)

By Snaketracks / June 26, 2019
Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)

Corn Snake Care Sheet

The corn snake is one of the easiest snakes to care for. They are hardy, docile, attractive, and reluctant to bite, characteristics that make them an excellent choice for the novice and the experienced alike. They are endemic to North America and are quite easy to find. They breed readily in captivity and can be found in most pet shops that sell snakes and other reptiles.

Quick Reference

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Scientific Name: Pantherophis guttatus
  • Risk Factor: Nonvenomous, constrictor
  • Average Adult Size: 2 – 6 feet (0.6 m – 1.8 m)
  • Lifespan: 23 years
  • Clutch Size: 12–24 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 60-65 days
  • Food: Thawed feeder mice
  • Average Temperature: 75° H/85° L
  • Humidity: 40 – 60%
  • UVB Lighting: Optional
  • Average Price Range: $20 to $70
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern on the IUCN Redlist

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Corn Snake Facts and Information

Corn Snakes

Scientifically, the corn snake is known as Pantherophis guttatus and belongs to the family Colubridae. The Pantherophis guttatus is a rat snake and rely on asphyxiation to kill its prey – mostly rodents such as rats.

How big do Corn Snakes Get?

This species grows up to 2 to 6 feet in length. They are usually orange or brownish yellow in color and have red blotches with black edges on their back. Their belly is checkered with alternating rows of black and white. The young are not as bright as the adults are.

In addition, a lot of variation exists in the pattern and coloration of corn snakes according to their locality and age. This color pattern resembles that of the venomous copperhead. Unlike copperheads, corn snakes are brighter, slenderer and lack heat-sensing pits.

How fast do Corn Snakes Grow?

As mentioned above corn snakes range in length from 2 to 6 feet with males being on the larger side. At birth they are usually around 8 to 14 inches. To reach their full size and sexual maturity it can take up to around two years growing at a rough rate of +/- 3 feet per year.

How often do Corn Snakes shed?

Younger corn snakes will shed around every two weeks, whereas adults typically shed on a monthly basis.

Corn Snake Habitat

Amel Motley Corn Snake

In the wild, these snakes prefer to live in meadows, wooded grows, woodlots, rocky hillsides, abandoned buildings, and even barns. They are endemic to North America specifically southern New Jersey, Florida (where they are most common), Louisiana and Kentucky.

Enclosure

Keep the baby corn snakes in small tanks such as a Faunarium. When they eventually outgrow the small enclosure, move them to a large enclosure, something with a capacity of 40 to 60 gallons. Nevertheless, the size of the enclosure depends on the size of the snake.

Even a 20-gallon vivarium is good enough for small adult corn snakes. In addition, it is best to use a vivarium rather than an all-glass tank as glass tanks accumulate heat easily.

Make sure to provide hiding spots for the snake. Hiding in a small dark enclosure helps keep the snake comfortable. The Exo Terra Reptile Cave is an outstanding choice.

Substrate

There are many different suitable substrates available. For a cheap and quick alternative, you can use newspapers and paper towels. However, corn snakes like to burrow, so it is best to use a material they can burrow in such as Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding or coconut fiber bedding such as Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding.   You can also use bark mix or cypress mulch.

Never use cedar or pine substrate, because it is toxic to snakes. Gravels, rocks, and sand shouldn’t be used as they are abrasive and can harm the snakes.

Temperature

With the help of a ceramic heating lamp such as the 60W Ceramic Heat Emitter or a mercury vapor lamp, create a temperature gradient. The warm end of the enclosure must be 85 F, while the cool side is about 70 F (room temperature). To ensure the temperature is always right, have thermometers at both ends of the enclosure.

You can also use a heat pad taped to the underside of the tank and a thermostat to create the temperature gradient. An excellent combo is the iPower Reptile Heat Pad and the Century Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller. The heat pad should cover only a third of the enclosure.

Humidity

It is important the humidity level in the tank is not less than 40% and not greater than 65%. Ideally, it should be between 60% and 40%. The accepted humidity level is the same as the humidity in most rooms. Water spillage can really affect humidity levels. Misting the snake to help it shed can also increase humidity levels

Foe snakes that require very high humidity levels, you can place the water bowl over the heat pad or under the heat lamp. However, corn snakes do not require high humidity so do not place the water bowl at the warm end, it should always be at the cool end of the temperature gradient.

Lighting

This snake does not need special UV lights as they get all the needed nutrients from the rats you feed them. However, it is important to maintain a day-night cycle. This ensures the snake is comfortable and stress-free. Use a normal fluorescent light.

This light should be on for 12 hours every day and off for 12 hours every night. Natural light helps the snake adjust to seasonal cycles, so if you can place the snake nearby windows it is a good as far as the enclosure doesn’t receive direct sunlight.

What do Corn Snakes eat?

Sunkissed Corn Snake close up eye and detail scales

Adult corn snakes prey on mice, bats, birds, and rats, while hatchlings and juveniles feed on lizards and tree frogs. They are not venomous and suffocate their preys by coiling tightly around them before eating. They swallow their food whole.

Feed your snake with thawed mice. The mouse must be the right size for the snake. Snakes weighing

  • 4 to 15 grams should be fed one pinkie mouse;
  • 16 to 30 grams should be fed two pinkie mouse;
  • 30 to 50 grams should be fed one fuzzy mouse;
  • 51 to 90 grams should be fed one small hopper;
  • 90 to 170 grams should be fed one medium mouse;
  • 170 to 400 grams should be fed one adult mouse;
  • Over 400 grams should be fed one jumbo adult mouse.

How often do Corn Snakes eat?

Feed snakes hatchlings and juveniles every week. Feed adult snakes every 10 to 14 days. Use a pair of tweezers or tongs to wiggle the food in front of the snake. The snake will strike the food and may constrict it before eating.

Do not move the snake to another tank to feed it as this can stress the snake. Also, moving the snake back after feeding can cause it to regurgitate its meal. After feeding the snake, leave it alone for 2 days (48 hours).

Corn Snake’s Temperament

Opale Corn Snake

Corn snakes are known for their gentle and docile nature. However, they don’t start out as such. Hatchlings are defensive and nervous. They will hide and strike when approached. However, this is of no harm to pet owners. Give a new snake about 5 days to settle into its new environment before feeding it. Also, give it a few more weeks before handling it.

When handling the corn snake, do so with care. Lift the snake up by the middle of the body and use both hands to provide support. Don’t hold the snake close to your face.

Also, if you want to pet the snake, don’t pet against the scales. Rather pet long the scales. After several handling sessions, the snake will realize that you don’t mean to harm it and it will be docile when handled. It is easy to tame the corn snake.

How long do Corn Snakes live?

Albinos mothley Corn Snake
(Red Rat Snake)

Corn snakes usually live long lives for a snake. In captivity, this species has an average lifespan of 23 years with some specimens growing to be over 30 years. The oldest corn snake recorded lived to be 32 years.

Breeding Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are easy to breed. They are bred abundantly in captivity; as such there is no reason to acquire wild corn snakes. In North America, the breeding season of these snakes starts in March and end in May.

After mating, gravid females lay 10 to 30 eggs in late May to July. It takes about 60 to 65 days for the eggs to hatch. The adult females don’t care for the eggs. Newly hatched corn snakes can fend for themselves. They reach adulthood within a year and a half to 3 years.

Over the years, selective breeding by snake keepers has resulted in many different morphs and colorations. Popular Corn Snake morphs include lavender, black, snow, anerythristic, albino, and Okeetee.

Health Issues

Black and white corn snake

Corn snakes are low maintenance and require little to no medical attention throughout their lifetime. This is especially true when you acquire a captive bred snake which has been well taken care of. Ensure that the snake always has a bowl of clean water, the bedding is clean and the tank is clean every 3 to 6 months.             

Common health issues include

  • Constipation – This may be as a result of a blockage in the digestive system. Bath the snake about 15 minutes a day in warm water to stimulate the snake to excrete. If there is swelling in the tail end of the snake, take it to a herp vet.
  • Mites – These are tiny parasites that feed on the blood of snakes. When spotted, remove the snake from its tank, clean the entire tank with 10 percent bleach solution, disinfect the tank with insecticide which is safe for snakes (and rinse the tank thoroughly with clean water), and change the substrate. Finally, bathe the snake with warm water to get rid of the mites.
  • Stomatitis – Common symptoms of stomatitis include the swelling and the change of coloration of the mouth, white discharge from the mouth, and loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting – This is usually as a result of internal parasites or stress. Avoid handling the snake after it has eaten. If the snake throws up after 3 consecutive feedings, take it to a herp vet.

Other signs of health issues include lethargy, loss of appetite, swellings, discharge from eyes and nose, and bloody excrement. If you notice any of these signs, take the snake to the vet.

Pricing and Availability

Scaleless Corn Snake

How much do Corn Snakes cost?

Because they are readily available in the United States, these snakes are not usually costly. Rare morphs are more expensive though. Normal corn snakes generally cost between $20 and $50. However, morphs can cost over $200.

You can acquire them online if you want. Here are some great sites to do so – Snakes at Sunset, Backwater Reptiles, Underground Reptiles, and Morph Market.

Conservation/Threats

On the IUCN Redlist, P. guttatus is listed as of least concern. This is because the corn snake wild population is stable. While members of the wild populations are sometimes taken as pets, this is not a serious threat as many corn snake keepers acquire captive bred ones. The species P. guttatus is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Florida because of habitat loss.

Conclusion

Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet choices for beginners because of their docile nature, hardiness and attractive coloration & patterns. It is important to remember that they are long-lived and as such require a long-term commitment.

In addition, it is always advisable to acquire pet corn snakes from reputable reptile breeders and not from the wild. If you have any information, comments or questions on the corn snake, kindly leave your comments below, we would love to hear them.

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