Corn Snake Temperature: How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be?

Providing the right temperature for your pet corn snake is of vital importance. Fortunately, this is easy to achieve thanks to the range of equipment now available. In this article we’ll discuss the perfect temperature for your corn snake, and how to achieve this easily and cheaply.  

Does a Corn Snake Need Heating?

Corn snakes are cold-blooded reptiles. Unlike many other animals, therefore, they need to absorb warmth from their environment. A corn snake that is kept too cold may refuse their food, stop moving around or be more likely to suffer from illnesses. Kept cold enough for long enough a corn snake could even die. 

In almost all cases corn snakes a corn snake will require artificial heating when kept as a pet. 

There are many different types of heating that can be used successfully, depending on your personal circumstances. For example, keepers with warmer homes may get away with a low-powered heater. In contrast, keepers in colder areas may require a slightly more elaborate heating system to keep their corn snake healthy.  

How Warm Should My Corn Snake Cage Be?

In the wild, corn snakes would spend part of the day basking in the sunshine to warm up. Once they reach a comfortable body temperature they then go off to hunt and explore. It is important to mimic this temperature gradient in captivity to permit natural behavior. 

There are two elements to consider when heating your corn snake vivarium: 

  • First is the “basking area” which should mimic the sun’s rays. This is the hottest part of the cage. Most people will use one end of the cage as a basking area.
  • Second is the “ambient” temperature experienced when your corn snake is away from their basking site. 

The tank should therefore provide a hot end for basking, with the other end being noticeably cooler. In this way your snake can thermoregulate as they would in nature, moving between warmer and cooler areas as they see fit. 

The ideal temperature for a corn snake cage is 25-30 degree Celcius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) at the basking spot. The cooler end of the cage should sit at 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit).

Do Corn Snakes Need Heat at Night?

When the sun sets the temperature naturally drops. It is therefore perfectly acceptable for the temperature in your corn snake terrarium to also fall at night. That said, there are limits on how cold you should let the cage get. 

Many keepers opt to turn off the powerful heater over the basking site, while leaving some gentle background warmth on to prevent their snake getting too chilly at night. 

A drop to 20-25 degree Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) is perfectly acceptable during the hours of darkness.

Types of Heating for Corn Snakes

Heating your corn snake cage to the right temperature needn’t be difficult. A range of different heaters are available for reptiles, so let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular options available…

Heat Lamps

As the name suggests, a heat lamp is essentially a bulb that has been designed to produce warmth. Not all of them actually produce light. Ceramic bulbs, for example, give out little or no light, but can still get incredibly warm. 

Simple Deluxe 150W 2-Pack Ceramic Heat Emitter Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb No Light Emitting Brooder Coop Heater for Amphibian Pet & Incubating Chicken
  • Long lifespan: the ceramic heat emitter for use in standard E26 lamp base and easy to install, rated for up to 10, 000 hours
  • No light emitted: bulb does not emit any visually detectable light that can disturb the sleep cycle of your pets
  • Specification: Voltage: AC 110-120V; Power: 150W; Material: ceramic, metal, NiCrAl; To avoid scald, please wait at least 1 hour to cool down after turning off the bulb

Heat lamps can be an ideal solution for creating a toasty-warm basking spot for your pet corn snake. They can get very hot indeed, and will produce “directional” heat, gently warming one part of the cage. 

That said, great care should be taken when using a heat lamp. Heat lamps can get very hot, which can have repercussions. Firstly, it’s important to prevent your snake from coming into direct contact with the bulb itself. Corn snakes can climb well, so you’ll need to use a bulb guard to prevent the risk of burning your snake. 

A second consideration is that heat lamps can lead to overheating if you’re not careful. A temperature that is too high is just as dangerous as one that is too low to your snake. It is crucial, therefore, to use a suitable thermostat to control the temperature.

Pros:

  • Can get very warm, creating a suitable basking spot even in cold homes
  • Cheap to buy and freely available
  • Directional heat is perfect for creating a basking spot

Cons:

  • You will need a specialist bulb holder capable of withstanding very high temperatures
  • A reflector can be handy for directing the heat to one spot in the cage
  • You will need to install a bulb guard to prevent contact burns
  • You will require a thermostat to control the temperature
  • All this additional kit can add to the cost of setup
  • Be careful not to burn yourself during tank maintenance
  • Ceramic bulbs can melt plastic, so additional care is required in their use

Additional equipment required: ceramic bulb holder, bulb guard, thermostat.

Under Tank Heaters (UTH)

Heat mats are another popular way to warm a corn snake cage. As the name suggests, these heaters are often placed below the corn snake cage itself. 

Heat mats don’t produce as much warmth as heat lamps. As a result they can struggle if they’re placed under a cage made of wood, or one with a thick layer of substrate. In these cases some keepers opt to place the heater into the cage itself. 

Tikaton Reptile Heat Pad - Temperature Adjustable Under Tank Heater for 10-20gal/30-40gal Tank, Terrarium Heat Mat for Turtle/Snake/Lizard/Frog/Spider/Plant Box
  • UPGRADED DESIGN: Temperature can be adjusted manually. POWERFUL FUNCTION: Helps reptile for daily activity, appetite and metabolism. It can keep reptile tank warm without any harm to your pets and also won't disturb animals sleep pattern.
  • Durable material: made of high quality PVC material, its soft surface can be flexible and folded. The heat mat is easy to clean, convenient to use and low energy.
  • ENERGY-SAVING: This heater uses a solid state nichrome heating element Which only use 8 watts of electricity and costs only pennies a day to operate. HIGH EFFICIENCY: High-quality heating wire heating, stable performance and long service life.

If you live in a warm area then a heat mat may be enough to create the basking spot that your corn snake needs. In many cases, however, a heat mat won’t get quite as warm as your snake needs. As a result, heat mats are most commonly used to produce gentle background warmth for corn snakes, with a heat lamp being used alongside for the basking spot.  

Pros

  • Generally speaking heat mats are cheaper to install
  • They don’t get as hot so are easy to work with
  • No complicated setup procedures
  • Cheaper to run than a heat lamp

Cons

  • Only produce a gentle heat so may not be suitable on their own
  • Still require the use of a thermostat to prevent overheating
  • May not be as effective for wooden vivariums

Additional equipment required: thermostat.

Hot Rocks

As the name suggests, a “hot rock” is a reptile heater that resembles a rock. They can get very hot indeed. Most hobbyists and breeders recommend against their use, as they can cause burns and other injuries to corn snakes. I have included them here, therefore, just to highlight something you should avoid. 

What is the Best Heater for Corn Snakes?

Choosing the best heater for your corn snake can depend on a range of factors. Some important considerations include:

  • How cold does your house get during winter?
  • What is the ambient temperature in your home?
  • What is your corn snake cage made from?

Generally speaking the best corn snake heating is likely to consist of two parts: a heat lamp to create a suitable basking spot and a heat mat to produce a gentle background temperature. At night the heat lamp can be turned off, while the heat mat remains on to prevent the cage getting too cold. 

How Do I Know If My Corn Snake Cage is Warm Enough?

There are two ways to check whether your corn snake cage is warm enough. The first is to purchase a digital thermometer and take regular readings of the cage. The second method is to pay close attention to the behavior of your snake. 

A snake that is warm enough will be active and alert, willingly accepting their food. A snake that is too cold may be more likely to refuse food (though this is far from the only reason). They may stay hidden away more. Their digestion may move more slowly, so you’ll notice fewer faeces being produced. 

Furthermore, all snakes are individuals, and corn snakes are no different. This means that any article discussing corn snake temperatures can only give you a good “starting point”. The wise reptile owner will pay attention to how their pet behaves, and make adjustments to the tank conditions in response. 

For example…

My Snake Never Comes Away From the Basking Area

If your snake never seems to move from their basking spot then it may be that they’re unable to warm up sufficiently. Perhaps it’s colder in the cage than you realised, or your snake appreciates it a little warmer than other corn snakes. It can be handy to use a handheld digital thermometer to take temperature readings. Compare these against the recommended temperatures to ensure everything is working properly. You may need to consider upping the temperature in your corn snake cage.

My Snake Cowers At the Opposite End to their Basking spot

A snake that cowers at the opposite end to their basking spot may be having trouble getting cool. The basking spot may be too hot, or you may not have enough of a temperature gradient. In these cases consider turning down the temperature on the basking spot and/or heat mat to see how your snake’s behavior changes. 

What If My Corn Snake Tank is Too Cold?

If you set up your corn snake cage in the summer then you can often be taken by surprise as the seasons change. That formerly warm and cosy cage can quickly get a lot colder than you expected. So what can be done to quickly warm up a cold corn snake vivarium?

Increase Ambient Temperature

An easy start is to simply increase the ambient temperature of the room in which your corn snake is housed. Either turn up your household heating or add a heat mat to your corn snake cage. 

Turn Up the Thermostat

All reptile heaters should be controlled by a suitable thermostat. If your corn snake cage is too cold then consider gently turning up the thermostat to see how it affects your snake. 

Upgrade Your Heat Bulb

Heat bulbs vary in their power output. While high-power bulbs in small cages can lead to overheating, lower-power bulbs in large cages can prevent the basking spot getting warm. Take a temperature reading at the basking spot, and if necessary consider upgrading to a higher wattage bulb. Be aware that thermostats are designed to control specific bulbs, so check that your thermostat is compatible with the new bulb before installation. 

Add More Insulation

One final trick is to add more insulation to your corn snake cage to prevent warmth from escaping. You could add cork tiles to the outside, for example, or reduce the ventilation a little during the coldest months. 

Richard Adams

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