Corn snakes originate from North America and live in a variety of habitats from forests to rocky regions. They are commonly found in human-inhabited areas near homes or in barns, and it was their presence in cornfields in America that gave them their name.

Corn snakes live terrestrially (on the ground,) although they are able to climb through lower vegetation and branches. In nature they spend their days travelling through leaf litter and undergrowth, seeking basking opportunity, mates or prey items. Corns are diurnal in their activity so will mainly travel during the day, especially when the sun is at its warmest.

An inquisitive, active species, it’s recommended that a variety of vivarium decoration is used like branches, plants and ornaments. It’s also beneficial to change the position of the décor occasionally to re-stimulate your snake’s curiosity. 

Hides should be provided to allow cover for your snake both in the hot and cool areas in the vivarium. Substrate can also encourage the natural behaviours of burrowing so it is recommended that a loose substrate such as orchid bark is used as well as additional leaf litter. Ensure that your substrate isn't too dusty as some feel this could contribute towards respiratory infection. 

Heat and humidity

Humidity in the vivarium should be 40 - 50%. Avoid moisture-holding substrates which further raise humidity.

Reptiles cannot regulate their own body temperature without external sources so a good heating system needs to be provided to enable them to digest, metabolise and move around effectively. #

It’s also necessary that Corn snakes can escape from the heat to a cool area in the vivarium. Snakes bask in the sun in nature, so to imitate these conditions heat using an overhead lamp.

The basking area should be 30-32°C, with the cool area being 22– 25°C during the day. At night, these temperatures can fall as low as 15°C, imitating the natural night drop in temperature in the wild.


Corns are naturally exposed to UVB/A and although it’s generally suggested they don’t require such lighting in captivity, it is beneficial in terms of health, so is recommended here at Swell. This can be provided in a bulb, with a tube light being best. A light/heat gradient and areas of escape are also essential.

Lighting should be on for a 12 hour period every day. Alternative light sources like LED should also be used in the same 12-hour routine. All UVB bulbs have a lifespan between 6-12 months. Exceeding this will mean the bulb is no longer effectively emitting the right, beneficial UV.


Your snake will shed their skin throughout their life including the layer over the eye which will turn a milky colour, and the body becomes dull.

During shedding, avoid handling your snake as it will cause unnecessary stress and may damage the skin, making it more difficult to shed. Raising humidity, providing a moss hide and adding abrasive surfaces are good ways to make this process easier.

Fresh tap water should be available for your snake at all times and should be changed every 1-2 days. Providing a large water dish will enable the snake to submerge their body as well as drinking from it, again aiding shedding.

Corn snakes are constrictors and wrap and suffocate their prey. Although in captivity prey items are pre-killed you may still see this behaviour when feeding them.

Providing one suitably sized mouse a week will provide sufficient nutrition for your snake. Bear in mind that other prey items have different nutritional values (i.e additional fat or protein) so always check before feeding to avoid excessive weight gain.

Handling should be avoided on the day of feeding, and 48 hours after, as stress can cause regurgitation.

Shopping list

  • Vivarium
  • Heat source
  • Guard/Protector
  • Thermostat
  • UVB/LED Lighting
  • Thermometer
  • Hygrometer
  • Water bowl
  • Substrate
  • Hides
  • Door lock/ wedge
  • Decoration
  • Cleaning Equipment
  • Tweezers

Buy a complete starter set here

Species fact file

Name: Corn snake

Scientific name: Pantherophis guttatus 

Lifespan: 15-20 years

Length: 4.5 - 5.5ft 

Temperament: Docile, easily tamed

Origin: North America

Vivarium size: 4ft x 2ft x 2ft

Temperature gradient: 22 - 32°c

Humidity: 40 - 50%

Lighting: Mid UVB / LED

Feeding: Defrosted mammals

If you would like to learn more about exotic animals you can check out our helpful care guides, such as our Western hognose snake care guide.