Tyrannosaurus Pets

Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus) Care Sheet


Corn snakes are colourful snakes found throughout the US.  They are generally regarded as the ideal starter snake, as their small size, docile nature, and easy care make them a good choice for a first time reptile pet.  They are captive bred in large numbers and a wide range of weird and wonderful colours are now available.  


Housing Your Corn Snake


Baby snakes are best kept in small plastic enclosures such as the Exo-Terra large flat faunarium.  These tanks are designed for baby reptiles,  and are escape proof providing the lid has been secured correctly.  Don’t use the small door as the plastic lugs may snap.  The large door is very useful, and can be used for spot cleaning and changing the water.  This tank will last until the snake is between twelve, and eighteen months old.  It will then need to be moved into a 36” adult vivarium.


The easiest way to heat the small tank is to use a heat mat placed under the tank.  Unregulated heat mats can reach temperatures in excess of 40°c so it is essential that the heater is controlled by a thermostat.  Normally the sensor for a thermostat comes into the tank to monitor the temperature.  However with baby snakes any hole large enough to admit the sensor is a potential escape route.  To prevent this attach the sensor from the thermostat to the heat mat using a good quality tape such as duck tape.  The sensor needs to be attached to the black areas on the mat as these are the heat elements. 


Set the thermostat to 32°c, this is higher than the temperature that we require but there will be some heat loss through the base of the tank.  This estimate should get the temperatures in the tank close to the desired level.



Place a thin layer of substrate on the base of the tank, around 5mm is sufficient.  Put the thermometer on the floor of the tank above the heat mat.  The heat mat will only warm the base of the tank not the air, so the thermometer must be on the floor.


Leave the tank for two hours.  After this time the temperature on the thermometer should be 28 ◦c - 30◦c, this is in the orange section of the dial.  If the temperature on the floor of the tank is not in the desired range please adjust the thermostat.  Leave the tank for another two hours then recheck the temperature.  Keep checking and adjusting until the temperature is correct.  If the thermostat is set to maximum and the floor is still not reaching 28◦c, then you may need to raise the mat to touch the base of the tank.  Placing some insulating material such as polystyrene under the mat will also help to raise the temperature.


The snake needs to have two hides, one in the warm end over the heat mat, and the other at the cool end.  When the snake is young, one hide stretching from the warm end to the cool end helps them to settle as they can move from warm to cool without exposing themselves.


Keep the water dish at the cool end, this keeps it fresher for longer. 


Caring for your Corn Snake


The snake needs access to fresh water daily.  When changing the water have a look around the tank and remove any obvious mess.  If the spot cleaning is done regularly the tank only needs to be fully cleaned out once every four – six weeks, put the animal somewhere safe.  Remove the water dish and any décor.  Remove and throw away the old substrate.  Wipe the tank down with a clean wet cloth.  Dry the tank and put in fresh substrate.  Replace the water dish and décor.  The snake can then be returned to the tank.



Don’t use household detergents, and disinfectants as they can be toxic to reptiles.  If the tank needs to be cleaned properly then use a reptile safe pet disinfectant.


Baby snakes will shed their skin once every four – six weeks.  When the snake is in shed its colours will become muted, and the snake’s eyes will take on a blue grey sheen.  When the snake is like this they can feel vunerable so it is best to leave them alone.  They may not feed so leave them until next week.


After shedding, check the snake over to make sure that no skin is still stuck to them.  This will look like sellotape, or clingfilm wrapped around the animal.  With corn snakes it is normally the tip of the tail that causes the problem.


When you get your snake home, set up the tank as detailed above.  Put the snake in the tank.  The animal now needs time to settle in.  Leave them alone for one week, then feed them. Leave them another week then feed them again.  Once the snake has fed twice they have settled in and may be handled following the usual rules for handling.


The only time the snake can be handled in the first two weeks is if it sheds, when it will need to be checked over.


Feeding Your Corn Snake


All the commonly sold snakes at Tyrannosaurus Pets eat a variety of dead mice and rats.  These are available frozen and must be defrosted before feeding to your snake.  The food must be defrosted steadily to room temperature.  Do not microwave the food, or put it into either hot or cold water.  It is easiest to simply wrap the food in some newspaper or kitchen towel and leave out to thaw.  Pinkies will defrost in around 45 minutes.  Larger prey items take longer.  Ensure that all food has thoroughly defrosted before use.


Always an appropriate size pair of feeding tongs to feed your snake, this will stop the snake from accidentally biting you instead of the food.  Hold the mouse in the tongs and wave it in front of the snake.  This should entice the snake to strike for the food.  If the snake has shown no interest in the food after 30 seconds, place the mouse on top of a hide and leave it in the tank over night.  If the snake does not eat in the dark, throw the food away and try again after a week.  Missing one or two weeks is not a problem for a snake, even as a baby, but any longer period may indicate that the animal is either unwell, or not happy with the tank set up.  It is a good idea to fill in a feeding record so you can see how well the snake is eating.


Most baby snakes start out eating one pinkie per week.  As your snake grows it needs to be fed larger meals.  If after its finished eating it spends twenty minutes roaming the tank and is active after twelve or twenty four hours, then it is ready to move on to the next stage.  Each stage of food size lasts for around eight weeks.  A much better guide is the snake’s behaviour as detailed above.  The stages are listed below:



  • Stage 1 – 1 pinkie

  • Stage 2 – 2 pinkies

  • Stage 3 – 3 pinkies

  • Stage 4 – 1 fuzzy

  • Stage 5 – 2 fuzzies

  • Stage 6 – 3 fuzzies

  • Stage 7 – 1 small mouse

  • Stage 8 – 2 small mice

  • Stage 9 – 1 adult mouse 


Corn snake morphs


Corn snakes are available in a wide range of different varities, or colour morphs.  We have listed some of the more common ones here


Carolina


Carolina Corn SnakeThe carolina is a wildtype morph.  This is the most common of the wild types in the UK.  They have a deep orange base colour with red saddles.  The saddles are ringed in black.




Miami


Another wildtype this snake has silver or grey as a background colour, with deep red or maroon saddles.


Amelanistic


Amelanistic Corn SnakeThe amelanistic or amel is also known as the red albino corn snake.  They lack any black pigment so are brightly marked white, red, orange, and yellow.


 


 


 


Anerythristic


Anerytheristic Corn SnakeThe anerythristic or anery corn snakes are the opposite of the amel morph, as they have no red pigment.  This produces a snake with black and grey markings.  They often develop a yellow stipe along the side of the neck which will be about 15cm long in an adult snake.


 


 


Hypomelanistic


Hypomelanistic corn snakeThe Hypomelanistic or hypo corn snake has reduced black pigment.  This results in a brighter than normal snake.  Black saddle rings are still present but they are narrower than usual, and may not run completely around the saddle.


 


 


Caramel


Caramel Corn SnakeThe caramel gene produces more yellow than normal.  In a normal caramel corn snake this results in a very attractive animal with ochre and almost olive green colours.


 


 


Ghost


Ghost Corn SnakeThe ghost corn snake carries a combination of both the anery and hypo genes.  This results in a grey base colour with darker grey markings.  As the snake grows the base colour may change, often ending up with a pastel tint of either pink or blue.


 


 


Snow


Snow Corn SnakeThe snow corn snake is a combination of both the amel, and anery genes.  This produces a snake without either red or black pigment.  When young they appear to be a pink snake with white saddles.  As the snake grows the pink fades to white, though a tint of pink may remain.


 


 


Amber


Amber corn snakes combine the hypo, and the caramel gene.  The hypo takes away some of the black pigment in the caramel producing a lighter coloured snake.  This attractive morph has a creamy tan with light ochre saddles.


Butter


Butter Corn SnakeButter corn snakes have both the caramel and amel genes. This produces a yellow snake.  As babies they appear very similar to the snow, the yellow pigment develops over time until an adult.  Adult butters are quite varied.  They can range from a pale yellow background with light orange saddles, to deep yellow saddles on a slightly paler base colour.


 


Lavender


Lavender Corn SnakesLavender corn snakes have a similar appearance to the ghost corn snakes with a blue or lavender tint, however it is a colour morph in its own right and can be combined with other genes.


 


 


 


 



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