If you are looking for a great pet snake, the corn snake is one of the most popular options, known for its docile nature. You will need a place to keep it safe. I did some research for the best cage or terrarium for the corn snake’s needs.
What is the recommended terrarium size for corn snakes? For small hatchlings, you could probably use a 10-gallon sized tank but as they get bigger, a 20-gallon to a 40-gallon terrarium is best. The most recommended style for the corn snake is the front-facing terrarium due to its easy to open the door and naturally more secure setup – corn snakes are little escape artists.
There are several different styles of enclosures that you should be aware of:
- Glass aquarium
- Front-facing terrarium
- Rack system
I will focus this article on the front-facing terrarium. However, the setup for the other styles will be similar to the front-opening terrarium.
Specifications for Terrarium Preparation
I went on Amazon and found what I think to be a great all-around terrarium for the price. The Exo Terra Short All-Glass Terrarium is a medium sized terrarium and can be found here. It has excellent reviews and was competitively priced. In addition to being more focused on length rather than height, I loved the desert landscape, true to a typical corn snake home (can be found in the USA and Mexico).
No matter what style you end up choosing, you will need the following setup in your terrarium:
- Heat Mat
- Hiding places
- Bedding and liter
Since snakes are cold-blooded, they depend on a heat source to keep their circulatory system functioning. Snakes prefer the ground to be warm where they spend most of their time. A heat mat that covers a third of the floor area will be perfect for your snake, preferably at one end of the tank so as to provide a heat gradient from warm to cooler.
Heat mats can reach temperatures of 250 degrees which can be deadly for snakes. We don’t want to burn the snake so it’s best you purchase a heat mat that is thermostatically controlled. We want the temperature of the tank to go from 75 to 85 degrees F (23 to 29 degrees C) with the warmer end by the heat mat.
Snakes are solitary creatures, especially the corn snake. Just like a comfort blanket can help a scared child sleep at night, hiding spots in your vivarium will help your snake feel secure and provide a place of retreat. This can be anything from store-bought hollow rocks to homemade logs. Just make sure whatever you decide to do is non-toxic and safe for the snake.
It’s best to place at least one hiding place over the warmest spot in the tank. Young snakes will need many hiding spaces and little open spaces. As they get older, they will gain confidence and begin to explore their home more and more, especially vertically. You may want to consider getting logs and branches to climb as they get restless in their adolescence.
Lastly, we want to cover the floor of your terrarium with some kind of material. This can be a variety of materials. The easiest to clean up and the cheapest is crumpled up pieces of newspaper. However, this may not be aesthetically pleasing to you and you may go with the traditional bark. You can use any type of wood except for cedar of which reptiles are allergic. Here, you can find an article we wrote that includes a buyers guide on bedding for corn snakes, including where you can purchase it.
How to Take Care of a Terrarium
Corn snakes need several things taken care of on top of the three previously mentioned:
- Adequate light
- A water bowl
- Food (weekly)
- Any droppings picked up (weekly)
Light is similar to the heat mat we mentioned above. The amount of light allowed into the enclosure will affect the temperature of the snake. It’s important if you decide to purchase an all-glass aquarium make sure 3 of the 4 sides are covered or blacked out.
Never place the enclosure in front of a window as this will raise the humidity and temperature level. In a word, you run the risk of “cooking” your snake.
Next is the water bowl. This will serve two purposes: both as a water source for the snake and a place the snake can soak its body in from time to time. Keep this in mind as you shop around for size, you don’t want to get a bowl that’s too shallow. Change the water at least twice a week. You can change the water daily if you’d like.
The temperature of the water is important as it can raise the humidity unsuspectingly. While it is okay to fill the bowl with warm water, I recommend using cooler water so the humidity level will stay around 50% and keep the temperature closer to what you place it on the heat mat. This will help keep your snake healthy and happy.
Corn snakes are pretty easy going when it comes to food. Feed it one pre-killed mouse per week. Depending on the size this can be anywhere from a pinkie mouse to an adult or even jumbo mouse.
Snake droppings are small and won’t bother the snake for a short period of time. Be sure to keep the enclosure clean and tidy by picking up and droppings at least once every three weeks. Of course, if it starts to smell and bother you before the three weeks are up, then go ahead and change it.
On top of regular maintenance, it helps to change up the scenery once every so often. Adjust the hiding places, the vertical pieces, and replace the flooring to keep your pet snake happy and healthy.
How to Keep the Enclosure Secure
I mentioned that corn snakes are slender and quite sneaky. Because they can escape enclosings easier than other types of snakes, it will be important to secure your snake habitat. For front-facing terrariums, a latch or lock will be enough. Tubs require a latch to the lid, and rack systems need to be flush with the top of the tub.
Glass aquariums are a little different. Depending on how big your aquarium is, you will want at least four clamps to hold down the lid.
You may be tempted to use tape to keep your snake inside its home but do not do so. If a snake gets in contact with tape it can be seriously injured.
This all may seem like a lot of work but if you keep to a loose schedule, it won’t feel bad at all.
Do corn snakes make good pets? Of all the popular species, corn snakes are one of the kindest snakes and have relatively low maintenance.
Can I put multiple snakes in the same terrarium? They are solitary creatures and when put together, some corn snakes will eat each other. Do not put multiple snakes in the same cage.
How often should I clean a corn snake’s tank? The water bowl should be changed out at least twice a week. Change substrate (flooring) once every two months or as needed.