Snake Care Sheet
Guttata Guttata (scientific name)
Elaphe Guttata Guttata
note regarding the scientific names - elaphe was not an accepted
name by many herpetologist and taxonomists, although some still
use it. Pantherophis is the new name and used by the rest.)
Looking for a snake that is relatively easy to care for and
won't inflict serious harm if you're bitten but will probably
rarely happen? Then a corn snake is definitely the perfect choice
for you! Corn snakes make great beginner snakes. Their husbandry
(general care) is not that complicated. They come in a huge
array of color and patterns (more than 50 different corn snake
morphs). They don't get very big (adults average about 3 feet,
rare specimens have reached lengths of five). Best of all, they
are certainly very affordable: $20 for a baby normal corn snake!
One fallback, though I don't consider it to be a downfall at
all, is their long lifespan. They live an average of 15-20 years;
the longest living corn snake died at 32 years and 3 months
old. So, if you plan to get a corn snake, you should definitely
be prepared for a long-term commitment. However, I believe the
rewards to be worth the trouble. Corns are very well tempered
snakes, it's not very likely one will bite you. You will certainly
enjoy your new long-term companion and I well tell you everything
you need to know to provide proper care.
Habitat: Corn snakes are commonly found in the southeastern
part of the United States. Their range begins in New Jersey
and goes as far south as the Keys in Florida; it then extends
as far west as Texas. They are found in forests from Sea level
to 6,000 feet. They are most commonly found in abandoned farmhouses,
where rats and mice are found corn snakes can be found.
requirements: It is easy and pretty affordable to provide
enclosures for corn snakes. Babies (8 to 10 inches) to juveniles
(10"-20") can be housed in Kritter Keepers or in 5½g
aquariums (16"x8"x10"). When herpetoculturists
start amassing large amounts of corn snakes they obtain racks
and keep their small corns in shoe-sized plastic containers.
I would always house them in their own cage; cannibalism, though
rare, does happen at times. It is also dangerous to feed multiple
snakes in the same cage.
are just as easy to house. The specimens from 20" to 36"
inches, or even the rare 4 feet some will get can be housed
in 10g aquariums (20"x10"x12"), individually
of course. The commercial keepers tend to use racks with adults
as well, just using larger sweaterboxes.
enclosure necessities: It is important that you provide
your corn snake with a place to hide, whether its cork-bark,
a half-log or even a cardboard box, because it likes places
to hide when it's stressed out or even to go to sleep. It's
a better idea to have two, one on the warm side of the cage
and the other on the cool side. You can also add plastic plants
and wooden branches. Not only will it add to the enclosure's
display, but will provide the snake with climbing and hiding
spots. The branches will also help your snake shed when it comes
time for it.
should also place a large water dish in the cage; a dog's dish
is a good size. It will add to the overall humidity, which will
help with the snake's day-to-day survival but will also help
the snake when it sheds. In addition, it provides the snake
with the water it needs to survive. Misting the cage occasionally,
about 3 times a week will add to overall humidity as well. You
should mist the cage once a day when your snake is getting ready
to shed which is pretty easy to tell. You will notice that when
a snake is getting ready to shed, its eyes will become bluish
Substrate is always a topic up for debate. No substrate is truly
the right one. If you're looking for cheap and easy, go with
newspapers or paper towels. If you're looking to setup a display
for your corn snakes, use some kind of wood chips. I use cypress
mulch for most of my reptiles but you can use repti-bark or
even wood shavings, so long as the wood shavings aren't fir,
pine or cedar. All of those wood shavings have chemicals that
are poisonous to animals. If you want to use wood shavings,
your safest bet is to go with aspen.
requirements: The optimal temperature, on the hot end of
the cage for corn snakes should be about 85°-88° Fahrenheit.
The cooler end of the cage should be 5-10° cooler. To reach
these temperatures, it is suggested to either use an under-tank
(hereafter referred to as a UTH), basking lights or even ceramic
heat emitters. If you use a UTH or a ceramic heat emitter it
is suggested that a thermostat or a rheostat regulate them.
It is always wise to have the temperatures in the cage gauged
by some kind of thermometer.
Corn snakes eat rodents, primarily rats and mice. The size of
the food item is dependent upon the girth of the snake; it is
not recommended you feed your corn snake anything bigger then
the thickest part of its body. The food item should live a noticable
lump in the snake; if there is no lump then the prey item was
too small. This is recommended for ALL snakes. If your snake
is a hatchling it should be fed every 5-6 days, but as it gets
older its not really needed to feed as much since their fat
stores have built up during the year. Every 10-12 days is good
feeding for an adult corn snake is what some herpetoculturists
do while others feed once a week.
live, or pre-killed? Everyone has their own way and their own
opinion on what state the prey item should be when it is offered
to the snake. Personally, I agree with a lot of other keepers:
frozen rodents that are thawed before being fed to the snake
is a better method. It is much easier and more cost effective,
you can purchase a bunch of rats or mice, store them in the
freezer and then you won't have to leave every week or so to
feed your snake. Most importantly, it is safer for the snake;
the frozen mouse isn't going to chew on your juvenile corn in
defense. Try for yourself and see what method works for you.
on getting your snake to eat: If your corn snake isn't taking
food, try looking at the temperatures of the enclosure; is his
tank too big, are there enough hides? Did you try different
colored mice? (If you were feeding white mice try feeding brown.)
What time of day where you feeding the corn snakes? Some corn
snakes only take food during the night, and then some don't
care. One last thing to consider if your snake is not eating:
if you are trying to feed frozen/thawed to a snake that has
only been eating live it usually won't take it the first time.
An important note -- I am not a veterinarian nor am I a medical
reptile expert. The following information is based upon my experience
and the experience of other reptile keepers. If your snake's
health is ever in question, it should be taken to a vet as soon
infestations: Mites are little (adults are the size of a
dot, eggs and young aren't visible to the naked eye) black insects
that get underneath snakes' scales and feed off of their blood.
Mites have to come from a host; they don't come from things
like dirty cages and squalid living conditions. You can usually
see adult mites underneath the scales and crawling over the
snakes. It's also easy to spot mites in their water dish; they
will be little black specks with legs.
a snake is found with mites there are several steps you need
to go through to get rid of them and prevent them from coming
back. It should be immediately quarantined to prevent the spread
of the infestation. If one snake has mites it can easily spread
throughout your entire collection.
snake should be soaked in lukewarm water that has some Reptile
Relief (a commercially produced product) or dish soap in the
water. Either of the two will kill the mites, don't be worried
if the snake drinks the water. I'm never seen negative ramifications
come of it. Soak the snake for about 30 minutes.
you've soaked the snake take a towel and allow the snake to
slither through the towel but wrap it tightly around the snake.
This will remove any mites that are leftover. The snake's enclosure
and all decorations should be cleaned thoroughly with a cleaning
product and bleach. I also advise the use of a mite preventative
such Provent-A-Mite or Reptile Relief. Provent-A-Mite is a lot
stronger; it should only be used away from animals with adequate
enough ventilation. After using the strong spray don't return
the snake to its home for another 30 minutes. Reptile Relief
is not nearly as strong, the snake can be returned shortly after
the application. Make sure that, whichever one is used, it is
sprayed evenly over the enclosure.
Snakes shed on average once every 1-2 months. If a snake
is injured physically, it will go into a shed cycle faster to
repair the damage done. You can tell when your snake is going
to shed from the dark and drab color of the scales and also
from the bluish tint that comes over the snake's eyes. After
the snake is in this stage, it should shed about 3-5 days afterward.
If the conditions are good and there is enough furniture in
the cage, your snake should have no problem shedding and should
shed in one piece.
your snake doesn't shed in one piece increase the amount of
humidity either by misting the cage with a spray bottle or providing
a larger water dish. If neither of those things work, try soaking
the snake in lukewarm water for 30 minutes. That should loosen
up any skin that hasn't come off.