How Long Do Corn Snakes Live in Captivity?

People can be pretty attached to their snakes. I know I get that way. Just knowing how long we can expect to have our pets with us is something of a comfort. Knowing how long to expect your corn snake to live isn’t only a comfort, but it also helps you to know what you can do to help your snake achieve its longest and happiest life while it lives with you.

Corn snakes can live up to 20 years in captivity, but more commonly will live only to about 15 years old. In the wild, corn snakes generally have a shorter life of only 6-8 years. They are usually reproductive into their teens.

So corn snakes can actually live a pretty long time. But if you really want to enjoy a solid decade or two with your snake, giving it the proper care is top priority. Treat your corn snake to the right home and food, and track its health so you will have a happy and healthy serpent in your care.

Corn Snake Lifespan

Corn snakes are capable of a long life. Most of these snakes live at least 10 years, many make it to their teens, and there are records of these snakes living for over 20 years. While those living in the wild may not be able to have such long lives, corn snakes in captivity are treated well enough and protected carefully enough to ensure long lives.

Some essential needs of corn snakes include giving them the right kind of enclosure and habitat, feeding them the right diet, and keeping an eye out for any possible sickness or injury. I’ll go into detail about each of these topics later in the article, but here are some basics about their needs:

  • Habitat – Corn snakes are best kept in an aquarium, but that doesn’t mean you fill it with water. Snakes generally need only a shallow pool of water to soak in and drink from. Add some substrate to the bottom and make sure the enclosure is warm and humid. 
  • Diet – Corn snakes are carnivores, so a common food for them is mice. They don’t need to eat every day; in fact, adults only need to eat every couple of weeks or so. 
  • Health problems – Corn snakes can get sick like any other animal. They are susceptible to various types of infections, so keeping their environment clean is important for their health.
  • Absense of predators – Obviously, the biggest benefit to a corn snake living in captivity is that there are no predators coming after it, and it is protected from the elements.

Now I’ll explain some of the specifics of corn snake care.

Enclosure and Habitat Can Impact Life Expectancy

When a corn snake is an infant, it can be kept in a small plastic vivarium. However, this arrangement can only last for a few months, and if your corn snake is an adult, it will need a lot more space and a much stronger container.

Adult corn snakes range from 4-6 feet in length, so you will want at least a 20-gallon aquarium, if not bigger, for your snake. Even if all the snakes you saw at the zoo were sleeping, remember that they are living creatures that need and want to move around. For a snake this big, that requires a lot of space. The aquarium will need to be cleaned regularly for the health of the snake. Removing urine and feces is especially important. 

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With proper habitat that is at least 2/3 the length of the snake in size, a corn snake will live longer. Click here to read an article we wrote just about the recommended terrarium size for corn snakes, along with how to take care of your terrarium and how to secure it successfully.

Snakes are cold-blooded, so they need their enclosures to be warm and humid. Keep the aquarium around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can go a bit lower but don’t go lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity should stay around 60% for optimal comfort. 

Snakes, in general, like to have branches to climb, so make sure to have a couple in the enclosure. Corn snakes are not social creatures, so they like to have places to hide. Giving them tree bark or boxes to hide in is good. Make sure to also include substrate of some sort, like moss, on the bottom of the enclosure so that the corn snake can burrow and hide in it. 

Because corn snakes are not social creatures, they are best if they are alone in the enclosure. It might seem like a good idea to give your snake a friend but don’t. If one of the snakes is bigger than the other, it might just eat its smaller companion. The only time corn snakes should spend much time around each other is when they are mating, so the male and female are introduced to each other. After mating, make sure the snakes are separated again.

This link has some great specifics about corn snake enclosures.

Diet Impacts Life Expectancy of Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are carnivores. That means crickets and other insects are the wrong foods for them. Mostly, corn snakes should be fed on pre-killed mice every 10-14 days. Really large corn snakes can be fed rats, but most corn snakes shouldn’t be fed anything bigger than a mouse.

Without a proper diet, a corn snake’s life expectancy can be much shorter. Note as mentioned, the life expectancy of a wild snake is much shorter than in captivity, and diet is one major reason why.

Young corn snakes will also eat mice, but they need to be fed pinkie or baby mice. Adults can handle adult mice, and if rats are used for feeding, they should probably be small rats. The general rule for the size of the food is that it shouldn’t be wider than the snake’s head. If it is wider, the snake will not be able to eat it. 

In the wild, corn snakes hunt their food, but in captivity, their food is already dead. Some snakes may have trouble adjusting to this, so if they are really stressed in their environment, you may need to give them a live mouse once in a while. For the most part, they should be easily trained to eat the dead, thawed mice. 

The snake will also need clean water to drink, so change it at least every few days if not more. It is common to find feces or urine in the water, so keep a close eye on it. If the water is dirty, it needs to be cleaned and replaced as quickly as possible so the snake doesn’t ingest its own waste. The cleaner the water and the cage, the healthier the snake. 

Health Problems to Watch For in Aging Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are susceptible to several kinds of infections, such as respiratory or fungal infections. They can also get a bacterial infection nicknamed ‘mouth rot,’ which causes inflammation in the mouth and can lead to bone infections. If the snake develops a bone infection, it may lose its teeth. 

Another condition to watch for is dermatitis, which causes blistering and peeling on the skin. This is caused by a dirty or overly humid environment. Snakes do need humidity, but too much is never a good thing for their health.

All of these sicknesses will require medical attention, so take your corn snake to a reptile veterinarian if you notice the snake has trouble breathing, bumps on the skin, irregular shedding, or a thick, white substance in the mouth. These are all signs of infection and need careful attention.

Caring for your snake can be a lot of work and it requires constantly tracking the living conditions of your snake. Snakes may not need to be taken on walks or petted, but their care is just as crucial as that of any other animal.

Related Questions

How long can corn snakes lay eggs? Female corn snakes are fertile and can lay eggs until around age 12. They are able to lay a few eggs within their first year and are able to lay a lot more eggs as they get older.

Can you overfeed a corn snake? Yes, you can overfeed your corn snake. Snakes don’t digest food the same way humans do, so only feed your snake once every 10-14 days. If you feed it too much it will get fat and unhealthy.