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Corn Snake (Elaphe guttata guttata) Care Sheet

Refer to the General Snake Care Sheet for more information on the basic keeping of Corn Snakes before reading this section!


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Adult Corn Snake Picture

| Introduction & Description | Fact Sheet | Corns As Pets | Costs | Bare Minimum For Keeping | Captive Care Environment | Handling | Behaviour | Important | Feeding | Reproduction | Colour & Pattern Morphs | Potential Health Problems | Books | Related Topics | References & Further Reading |
| Email This Page | Corn Snake Zoology |

Corn Snake Introduction & Description:

Corn snakes are beautiful colourful snakes and come in vast array of colours and patterns. They have a very docile temperament, do not become too large, are easy to feed, tolerate a vast variety of environmental conditions and are easy to keep and breed. All of these factors make Corns an excellent choice for beginners and advanced reptile hobbyists.

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Corn Snake Fact Sheet:

Common Name(s):

Corn Snake, American Corn Snake, Corn, Red Rat Snake, Red Rat, Okeetee Corn or "Rotslang" and "Koringslang" (Afrikaans). There are also various other names given to various genetic mutations produced in captivity.

Scientific Name: Elaphe guttata guttata
Birth Size: 22 - 31 cm / 9 - 12 "
Mature Size: 75 - 180 cm / 2.5 - 6 ft (mean = 90 - 120 cm / 3 - 4 ft)
Colour & Pattern Morphs:

A list of the most common morphs include the following: Albino Corn snakes, Albino Striped Corn snakes, Amber Corn snakes, Amelanistic Corn Snakes, Amelanistic OkeeteeCorn snakes, Anerythristic Corn snakes, Anerythristic Cube Corn snakes, Aztec Corn snakes, Blizzard Corn snakes, Blood Red Corn snakes, Bubblegum Snow Corn snakes, Butter Corn snakes, Butter Motley Corn snakes, Butter Striped Corn snakes, Candy Cane Corn snakes, Candy Cane Striped Corn snakes, Charcoal Corn snakes, Clear Snow Motley Corn snakes, Creamsicle Corn snakes, Crimson Corn snake, Fluorescent Orange Corn snakes, Ghost Corn snakes, Ghost Motley Corn snakes, Harvest Suncream Corn snakes, Hypomelanistic Corn snakes, Laventer Aztec Corn snakes, Motley Corn snakes, Pewter Corn snakes, Silves Corn snakes, Silver Queen Ghost Corn snakes, Snow Corn snakes, Sunglow Corn snakes and Wild or Normal Corn snakes.

Temperature: 25 - 30 C / 75 - 85 F during summer and a 13 - 16 C / 55 - 60 F winter cool down.
Brumation (hibernation):

Yes, especially recommended for breeding. Brumation should only be attempted on healthy snakes with a good body condition (see the Photoperiod & Brumation / Hibernation section). It has also been done with hatchlings that did not eat right away after hatching. Not all Corn snakes have to be brumated.

Danger To Man: Although they have teeth they Corns not poisonous.
Life Span:

average more than 10 years, occasionally around 20 years (record nearly 22 years) in captivity.

Captive Care Food: Rodents (pinkies up to small rats).
UV Requirements: None
Supplementation: No supplementation is necessary if prey is well fed.
Temperament: Docile, very rarely they might be snappy.
Similar Species:

Great Plains rat snake (Elaphe guttata emoryi), Intermontane rat snake (Elaphe guttata intermontana) and the Rosy rat snake (Elaphe guttata rosaceae).

Other: -

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Corn Snakes As Pets:

Corns are relatively cheap in comparison with other reptiles. As most other reptiles they are quiet, do not stink and you need little effort from your side to keep them happy. With the exception of hatchling Corns they normally feed only once a week. Baby corns might feed every three to five days. They are very hardy snakes and will almost adapt in any home. Corn snakes are relatively small in comparison with other snakes and have a very docile temperament. They can be handled easily.

Snakes are very shy creatures. Most snakes are happier when they are out of sight and Corns are no exception. Corns are also considered to be nocturnal, so they mostly come out between the hours of dusk and dawn. That means that snakes do not appreciate being exhibited in the open. When looking for a pet that one can keep in a cage and show off to everyone, rather keep away. Some Corns are known to have feeding problems.

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Corns are not very expensive snakes in South Africa. They are probably one of your cheapest and most available snakes around the world. A good price for a normal 0 to 3 month-old Corn snake can be anything between ZAR150 and ZAR250 (2002 - 2004). Prices might drop to around ZAR100 in 2005. Do not buy a new-born Corn that did not have at least one or two pinkies and did not shed at least once! They become more expensive with age and some colour and pattern variations are more expensive.

Always remember only to buy healthy animals from reputable pet shops and breeders. Make sure to buy animals that are captive bred in your own country and that it is not illegally imported or caught from the wild.

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The Bare Minimum For Keeping Corn Snakes:

The minimum requirements for keeping Corn snakes are listed below. Refer to the General Snake Care Sheet for more information on the basic keeping of snakes before reading this section:

  • Terrarium / snake cabinet
  • Correct size prey, live or frozen
  • Hiding
  • Water bowl
  • Something to climb on
  • Warmish room or heating equipment

Males can be kept together, separate or with one to three females in the same container.

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Corn Snake Captive Care Environment:

Environmental temperatures should be maintained between 25 and 30 C / 75 and 85 F. A small drop during the night should not do any harm. A heat gradient that exceeds both these temperatures by only a few degrees should be maintained for thermoregulation.

Corns can be housed in a variety of containers. Small snakes can be kept in small to medium lunch boxes or ice-cream boxes. Small holes for ventilation should be drilled in the sides or in the lid. Small acrylic containers specifically made for small pets, so called "Pal Pens" or "Desert Dens" are available from most pet shops. For bigger snakes anything large enough will be appropriate. Glass tanks or aquariums used for fish make good housing and can be cleaned easily. Make sure the lid is a tight fit and that there is appropriate ventilation. Snakes are masters of escape! A cabinet with glass-fronted doors that can slide open, or a terrarium is widely in use.

Corns are semi-aboreal (semi tree climbing). A thick branch, stump, rock or something similar can be used as decoration. Refer to the Suitable Substrates For Herptile section for more information on suitable substrates for Corn snakes

The rest of the environmental factors are discussed in the General Snake Care Sheet.

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Corn Snake Handling:

Corns do not wrap snugly around one's arm like pythons or kings. They tend to pick a direction and go for it. Although Corn snakes are relatively small in body mass, they are quite strong. Always support the body and give free rein to the head. If the head starts going somewhere it can be gently guided into another direction. Many snakes are nervous when introduced into a new situation with new people and should be given a couple of days to settle down before allowing them to be handled.

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Corn Snake Behaviour:

Corns are believed to be nocturnal (night dwelling). They are most active during the the hours between dusk and dawn. They are also semi-aboreal (semi tree climbing).

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Corn snake babies should only be ready to sell after their first self caught meal (not force fed). Shedding should take place about two to five days after hatching after which they start to take food. Some buyers insist on seeing the skin and feed records before purchase.

When buying a new Corn it should be noted whether it is male or female. If possible, get the date of birth and the shed and feed records. When buying a hatchling try to take a look at the parents of the snake, especially when buying certain colour & pattern morphs. This will give the buyer an indication of how the snake will look when mature. In short, get as much as possible information from the seller. The more info you get, the better you will be able to care for the snake (if that person did not talk rubbish). If not sure about the behavior of the snake, call him/her, ask, ask and ASK!

If the seller can not give most of the above info, he or she is not worth to be called a breeder or a seller for that matter. In this case it is maybe better not to buy from this person!

When selecting a Corn, look for a well fleshed body, no visible cuts or abrasions, clear, alert eyes, tongue flicking, no signs of mites or ticks and a clean vent.

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Corn Snake Feeding:

Hatchlings will need day old pinkies and large adults can eat up to a large mouse or a small rat. Mature Corns are good eaters. Hatchlings on the other hand tend to have problems taking their first food and sometimes food thereafter. One to two new-borns per batch of eggs can refuse to eat. Some oeple believe that there is a genetic link to these poor-doers and they should not be force-fed and sold as potential future breeding animals. It is VERY important to make sure a baby is a potential good eater!

Refer to the Reptile & Amphibian Feeding Problems section to see what to do if a Corn snake refuses to eat.

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Corn Snake Reproduction:

After sexual maturity (at the age of about two years), adult Corns breed in the spring and early summer. They are oviparous (egg-laying) and some strains lay small clutches of larger eggs where other might lay larger clutches with smaller eggs. Clutches may vary between 12 to 15 eggs but clutches as big as 44 eggs have been recorded. Double clutching is possible when the female has a good body condition and is in health. Females are able to produce infertile eggs even if they were mated by a fertile male.


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Corn Snake Colour & Pattern Morphs:

Corns are certainly the snake species with the most colour and pattern morphs. Commercially there are well over thirty different combinations available! This is possible due to strict breeding  and selection programs. Hatchling and juvenile Corns might look completely different from their parents, even if it is a true (homozygous) morph. Breeders will sometimes wait a few months before they sell certain morphs. It is always advisable for the buyer to see both parents before purchasing special morphs.

a Amelanistic Corn Snake Picture b Blizzard Corn Snake Picture c Butter Striped Corn Snake Picture d Crimson Corn Snake Picture e Silver Corn Snake Picture
f Silver Queen Ghost Corn Snake Picture

Figure 1  Different colour & pattern morphs of corn snakes. a Amelanistic corn snake; b Blizzard corn snake; c Butter Striped corn snake; d Crimson corn snake; e Silvercorn snake; f Silver Queen Ghost corn snake.

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Corn Snake Potential Health Problems:

Except for bites from mice, Corns rarely have any health problems. Some of the most common health related problems I have seen in Corn snakes was distocias, anecdysis / terained specticles and physical injuries.

Although not strictly a health problem, hatchlings can also have potential feeding problems. According to some literature some lines might prefer lizards over pinkies. At this stage my recommendation would be to exclude these individuals from breeding programs as the trait might have genetic origins.

Newly obtained Corn snakes should be quarantined for at least six months before they are introduced into an established snake collection. Refer to the General Animal Bio-security & Quarantine for more information on how and why to quarantine these snakes.

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Corn Snake Books:

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"If you did not understand something or thought that I left a few things out, read the General Snake Care Sheet. If you think I should add more information to this section or think that something is incorrect, contact me and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas or methods you might use that is different than ours."

Last updated 22 November 2008 by Renier Delport

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"Always remember only to buy healthy animals from reputable pet shops and breeders. Make sure to buy animals that are captive bred in your own country and that it is not illegally imported or caught from the wild."

"If you've read something funny, or heard something that sounds out of place, use your common sense before applying. It is extremely important to do research from more than one source (before buying or accepting a new animal). Browse other internet pages, read related magazines and talk to experienced people."

Related Topics:

General Snake Care Sheet
Corn Snake Zoology
Other Care Sheets
Photoperiod & Brumation / Hibernation
General Animal Bio-security & Quarantine
Feeding Problems
Accessories & Other Stuff For Herptiles
Suitable Substrates For Herptiles

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References & Further Reading:

Bartlett, R.D. The 25 Best Reptile And Amphibian Pets. Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Bartlett, R.D. & Bartlett, Patricia P., 2002 Designer Reptiles & Amphibians. Barron's Educational Series U.S.

Bartlett, Patricia P. & Griswold, Billy, 2001 Reptiles, Amphibians & Invertebrates - An Identification & Care Guide. Barron's Educational Series U.S.

Miller, Stephan A. & Harley, John B., 1999 Zoology, Fourth Edition, WCB McGraw-Hill.

Mattison, Chris, 1998 Keeping & Breeding Snakes, Second Edition. Blandford.

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| Introduction & Description | Fact Sheet | Corns As Pets | Costs | Bare Minimum For Keeping | Captive Care Environment | Handling | Behaviour | Important | Feeding | Reproduction | Colour & Pattern Morphs | Potential Health Problems | Books | Related Topics | References & Further Reading |
| Email This Page | Corn Snake Zoology |




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