How to Care for a Pet Corn Snake

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Corn snake on log looking up.
Corn snakes make great pets.

Getty Images/David A. Northcott

The corn snake is a common species of rat snake and makes a great pet snake for both beginner and experienced reptile enthusiasts. Corn snakes come in many different color morphs and patterns but no matter what your corn snake of choice looks like, it will need proper care to stay safe and healthy. Find out more about this type of snake and what kind of care you should provide for them.

Species Overview

Common Name(s): Corn snake

Scientific Name: Pantherophis guttatus

Adult Size: 3-6 feet long

Lifespan: Over 20 years in captivity, on average 12-15 years, 6-8 in the wild

Corn Snake Behavior and Temperament

Corn snakes are not an aggressive species of snake and are typically calm and easy to handle. These qualities, along with their manageable size, are reasons why they are popular choices for children and adults alike. Corn snakes can of course be startled or get so hungry that they will strike at your hand, but these behaviors are not commonplace. Like many snakes, corn snakes will vibrate their tail when they are being defensive so watch for this behavior to know if your snake is feeling threatened.

Size Information

Corn snakes are not very thick bodied but they can grow to be up to six feet long. This is the same length as the popular ball python, but they have much more slender bodies than their popular python cousins. Most corn snakes only grow to be around three to four feet long though and males are typically larger than females.


Corn snakes do not require very large enclosures, but they do need adequate space to explore and sleep. A minimum terrarium size should be the equivalent of a 20-gallon aquarium or 12 inches x 30 inches x 12 inches, but large corn snakes will require larger spaces. Another rule of thumb is the enclosure should be 2/3 of the snake's length if not larger, which is always recommended. Be sure your corn snake's home also has a secure lid and a heat light. Daily temperatures on the warm side should range from 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit while the basking area can go up to 88-90F.

Specific Substrate Needs

Your corn snake will need bedding on the bottom of their enclosure. Aspen wood shavings and recycled paper materials are good choices. Avoid using cedar and pine shavings since these types of wood beddings can give off toxic odors and oils.

What Do Corn Snakes Eat & Drink?

Corn snakes are carnivores so they eat pinkie mice when they are small and adult mice when they are full grown. Both pinkie and adult mice can be purchased frozen but they should always be thawed before being fed to your corn snake. Large adult corn snakes may even be able to eat small adult rats but limit meals to once every week or two to avoid overfeeding and have a small bowl of fresh water available at all times.

Common Health Problems

Snakes can develop a variety of health problems but most of them are directly related to the environment they live in or the food they eat. Shedding issues, skin infections, respiratory issues, parasites, and injuries from the enclosure or live prey are the most common issues.


Corn snakes don't need a lot of physical exercise but they do require enclosures that allow them to stretch out and move around. You can also provide mental exercise or enrichment by giving them things to crawl into, hiding their food inside used toilet paper tubes or tissue boxes, and offering various surfaces to slither on.


While snakes don't have fur, they do have skin that sheds. Adult corn snakes will completely shed their skin two to three times a year. The skin should come off in a large piece or pieces so if it is coming off in many small pieces or your snake has retained skin, this indicates there is an issue with the environment, like humidity and or temperatures, or your snake's health.

Upkeep Costs

Corn snakes are pretty inexpensive to care for. After the initial investment of the enclosure, accessories, and lighting, meals of mice are only a few dollars every week or two. Bedding will need to be changed on a regular basis and heat lights will need to be replaced when they burn out. Expect to spend an average of about $30 a month on food, bedding, and heat lights.

Pros & Cons of Keeping a Corn Snake as a Pet

 Corn snakes are docile, easy to handle, and readily available to purchase. They are also quiet and their enclosures don't take up too much space. They do, however, require being fed small rodents and can live to be over 20 years of age, so they are no short term commitment.

Similar Snakes to the Corn Snake

If you’re interested in pet corn snakes, check out:

Otherwise, check out other reptiles that can be your new pet!

Purchasing or Adopting Your Corn Snake

Corn snakes are often sold in pet stores as well as online but you can also purchase one at a reptile show or expo as well as direct from a breeder. Reptile rescue groups may be another option if you are looking to adopt an older corn snake, but if you are looking for a young snake or a specific color morph or pattern, you will likely need to purchase one from a breeder. Expect to pay around $40 for a standard morph corn snake and up to $150 for a rare color morph.


It is not difficult to breed corn snakes, but you will want to ensure your enclosure is set up appropriately for the clutch to have the best chance of survival. You will of course need both a male and female snake in order to breed them and it is more likely that they will mate after winter begins. This means you will need to allow your enclosure to get a bit cooler than normal, usually around 65 degrees.

Typically corn snakes that are at least three feet in length are sexually mature, or they become sexually mature around 18-24 months of age, and if the mating was successful, 10-30 eggs will be laid about a month or so later. Moist moss or vermiculate should be ready for those eggs as well as enclosure temperatures that are around 85 degrees to properly incubate those eggs.

  • Does a corn snake make a good pet for kids?

    Yes! Corn snakes are lightweight and a good size for kids to handle. They are also not aggressive.

  • Does a corn snake like to be held?

    Most corn snakes are very adept to being handled. If they aren't initially though, they are very smart so they will quickly learn that it's nothing to be afraid of.

  • Are corn snakes smart?

    Yes! Corn snakes have shown that they are very intelligent. One study even demonstrated that corn snakes are as smart as birds and rodents.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pollock C. Basic information sheet: Corn snakes. July 12, 2012. LafeberVet Web site. Available at

  2. University Of Rochester (February 8, 1999). "A Real Smart Asp: Snakes Show Surprising Ability To Learn"ScienceDaily. Retrieved 7 August 2021.