Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet snakes due to their docile nature, ease of care and low cost of purchase.
Like all snakes, however, the key to a long and healthy life for your pet is in the provision of a suitable enclosure.
A corn snake enclosure should meet all of the following requirements:
Security / Escape-Proof – Corn snakes are natural escape artists, and are capable of squeezing through the tiniest of gaps. A suitable corn snake enclosure should therefore address this situation, ensuring that there is no way that your pet can escape. This is particularly important as corn snakes tend to be nocturnal, so they are likely to be most active (and therefore to escape) while you’re tucked up in bed. By the following morning trying to track them down can be a frustrating experience.
Just as important as preventing your corn snake from escaping, however, is preventing unauthorized access to your snake from outside. This doesn’t just apply to other people in your home, but also other domestic pets. Cats can be a particular nuisance, so ensure there is no way for your cat to open the cage door or to sneak a paw into the enclosure.
Suitable Environmental Conditions – One of the key differences between keeping exotic pets like corn snakes and other more traditional pets is that they are far more affected by their environment. Temperature and light levels should be suitably controlled to ensure maximum comfort. At the same time, your corn snake should have continual access to fresh water, somewhere snug to hide away from prying eyes, and should enough space to move around.
Cleanliness and Hygiene – Corn snakes are surprisingly clean animals. While they may eat dead rodents and birds, these are normally swallowed whole, leaving little or no residue in their cage. Eating only occasionally, snakes also tend to defecate only irregularly, and this often dried quite quickly in the confines of a warm cage.
Cleaning tends to be a reasonably simple affair as a result, but is important all the same. Drinking water should of course be changed daily, the cage should be spot-cleaned as necessary and the whole thing emptied, scrubbed with reptile-safe disinfectant and set up again on a regular basis.
Visibility – Lastly, of course, you should be able to see and enjoy your pet from afar. A corn snake enclosure with a clear plastic or glass front ensures that you can get the most from owning a snake, and can observe your snake’s everyday activities without interfering unnecessarily.
Corn Snake Cage Size
Unlike more timid snakes such as ball pythons, corn snakes can be surprisingly active, especially around dawn and dusk. They willingly explore their cage, looking for suitable prey (and, some people might argue, opportunities for escape!). Growing to an adult length of around 120cm (4’) corn snakes therefore appreciate a reasonable amount of space.
Cage Sizes for Adult Corn Snakes
Opinions vary as to the optimum but a good rule of thumb for adult corn snakes is a cage measuring no less than 90cm (3’) in length with a depth of 40cm (15”). Of course, as with other active snakes, if you’re able to provide a larger cage then all the better. A corn snake kept in a four foot long (120cm) cage with a depth of eighteen inches (45cm) will all the happier.
Cage Sizes for Hatchling Corn Snakes
Of course, a pencil-sized baby corn snake would soon get lost in a large enclosure, which would also make maintaining your snake rather more problematic. Ideally corn snakes should be housed in a cage where you can easily lay eyes on them at any time, in order to ensure they are in full health.
Many baby corn snakes are kept in clear plastic containers measuring little more than 18” long by 8-10” deep. Such a container is suitable for the smallest of hatchlings, but of course over time your snake will need to be rehoused as it grows.
Types of Corn Snake Enclosures
In theory, any container which effectively meets the guidelines provided earlier can make a suitable corn snake enclosure. In reality, there are a limited number of “tried-and-tested” cages which tend to work best for corn snakes in captivity…
Glass Aquariums with a Suitable Lid
One of the more popular corn snake enclosures is a suitably-sized glass aquarium. Such a cage provides excellent visibility of your pet and is both easy to source and to clean. There are, however, downsides. Firstly, of course, glass aquariums can be heavy to get home and to move around.
Secondly, it is critical to purchase a suitable reptile-safe lid. This lid should not only prevent escape of your pet, but should also prevent too much heat from escaping in colder months. Increasingly, a small range of specialist glass tanks are being made available to reptile keepers, complete with a specially-made lid which offers the maximum in security.
Possibly the most popular option of all for housing larger corn snakes is a wooden vivarium. These tanks are available online or from most good pet stores, and often for rather less than an aquarium.
With their ventilated sides for air movement, and the sliding glass doors at the front, wooden snake vivariums offer all the practicality needed with an attractive design and easy access.
The solid sides and roof also offer other benefits; not only do they allow your corn snake to feel rather more secure than having glass on all sides, but they also help to hold the heat on cold winter days. As a result, keeping your corn snake warm and comfortable becomes easier and cheaper.
Lastly, note that the wooden construction can make it easier to affix the electrical components necessary. It is simplicity itself to drill a small hole in the side, in order to feed through a heater, light or thermostat cable; something that is far more challenging in a solid glass tank.
For these reasons, my own personal preference when keeping corn snakes is for one of the reasonably-priced, highly practical wooden vivariums.
Glass Exo Terra Cages
For smaller corn snakes glass Exo Terra cages can work very well; offering a compromise between wooden vivariums and glass tanks. The Exo Terra is of all-glass construction but offers a number of carefully-designed benefits.
For one thing, the lockable front-opening doors make accessing your snake very simple. The raised glass floor also makes fitting a heater beneath very simple indeed. Exo Terras also come with built-in cable holes, which can be closed easily, making it easy to install any electrical equipment required.
Lastly, if you opt to provide artificial lighting for your snake, or heat the cage from above, then Exo Terra also offer custom-designed cage hoods, complete with bulb fittings, into which your chosen lighting solution can be fitted.
Exo Terras come in a wide range of sizes, making them ideal for corn snakes of many sizes, from tiny hatchlings right up to full-grown adults.
A faunarium is a low-cost corn snake enclosure, suitable for smaller specimens. It is made of rigid clear plastic, with a closely-attaching ventilated plastic lid. Larger models tend to also have a “trapdoor” in the middle of the lid, to enable access to the enclosure without removing the entire lid.
To me, these are a solid solution for smaller snakes. Indeed, you may see some reptile shops placing multiple faunariums into one single large vivariums, with each one containing a baby snake.
Due to the size that your corn snake should achieve, however, these are unlikely to be suitable for larger snakes, however they can be a cheap solution while you’re waiting for your corn snake to reach a suitable size for their own wooden vivarium or Exo Terra.
Really Useful Boxes
Other escape-proof plastic containers have also become popular among exotic pet owners over the years. Of these, arguably the Really Useful Box (or “RUB” for short) is the most popular. These sturdy, stackable boxes have the distinct benefit of offering a “locking” lid thanks to two blue devices which “click” over the lid, preventing escape.
RUBs are also quite cheap to buy, and due to their solid design it is very simple to drill some air holes in the side using an electric drill. These are arguably the most practical enclosure of all for very small snakes.
What is the Best Corn Snake Enclosure?
One of the more common questions I receive through my contact form is what the best corn snake enclosure really is. Of course, with the wide range of cages available there is no easy answer to this question. Some are far more practical than others, while prices can vary considerably between the different options.
My own personal preference is to opt for one of the smaller Exo Terras if I’m buying just a single baby snake. The appearance and practicality of these cages is, I think, exceptional. Of course, if you’re keeping a number of baby snakes then these can quickly become expensive, in which case you may opt for something less visually appealing but far cheaper – such as a suitably-sized RUB.
For adult corn snakes I think the best enclosure is a wooden vivarium. These come in a range of different colors, look fantastic, and offer both security and practicality for you – especially if combined with a low-cost cage lock.
That said, I would encourage you to consider your budget, and the size of the snake you’re planning to buy, to decide what the optimum compromise is for you regarding price, size, practicality and appearance.
Siting Your Corn Snake Enclosure
Alongside buying a suitable corn snake enclosure another critical aspect relating to corn snake enclosures is where to place the cage in your home. Like other reptiles, corn snakes are sensitive to noise and vibrations, as well as to a range of common household chemicals.
In terms of which room to place your corn snake enclosure in, the kitchen and bathroom are therefore best avoided. The best option is a quiet bedroom or office where your snake won’t be regularly disturbed. The enclosure may alternatively be placed in your living room, assuming you won’t have children running around and causing stress to the snake.
Being sensitive to noise, it is best to place your corn snake enclosure away from such sources – ideally they should be housed away from TVs, stereo systems and washing machines for example.
Being cold blooded creatures, requiring artificial heating in all but the warmest weather, also think about drafts or areas of your home where temperatures may fluctuate excessively. Don’t, for example, place your corn snake enclosure near an outside door, or against a radiator that may warm up rapidly in winter.
Lastly, be aware that direct sunlight can rapidly heat up a glass cage, leading to dangerous temperatures inside your corn snake enclosure. Keeping tanks away from windows – especially those facing south – is therefore also recommended.
While this may sound like a long list of requirements, it is normally quite easily achieved in most homes. A dimly-lit spare bedroom away from a radiator, for example, is a perfect site for your corn snake’s cage, where they will be away from noise, vibrations and fluctuating temperatures.
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