If you’re feeling confused about choosing the right corn snake terrarium size, you’re not alone! Here’s how to make an educated decision that will help your pet be happy and healthy over the long term:
According to the Mindestanforderungen für die Haltung von Reptilien, a summary of Swiss reptile housing standards (some of the best animal welfare in the world!), the minimum floor dimensions for housing snakes of the genus Pantherophis is (0.7 x snake length) x (0.5 x snake length). This formula can also be used for calculating the minimum square footage that should be provided in case you want to use an enclosure with alternative dimensions. For example, if you have a corn snake that you expect to grow 4′ long, then its enclosure should have a footprint no smaller than 2.8′ x 2′, or 5.6 ft². This also follows the common rule that a snake’s enclosure should have a length and width that add up to equal to or greater than the
Based on my research on promoting optimum reptile welfare in captivity, I like to take this rule and push it a bit further: a corn snake enclosure should 1) provide enough space for the snake to stretch out to its full length and 2) that its dimensions facilitate both terrestrial movement and climbing. For these reasons, my preferred rule for determining minimum corn snake terrarium size goes like this:
- length = snake length
- width = half snake length
- height = at least 2′ / 60cm
Corn snakes average between 3-5′ (.9-1.5 m) long as adults. Of course, that’s a rather wide range, so if you have a corn snake that has not yet reached its adult size, you may be confused about what enclosure size to go with. Should you expect it to get 3′ long or 5′ long? The best way to predict how long your pet will be when fully-grown is to ask the breeder about its parents. Males are likely to be similar in size to their father, and females similar to their mother. If you are unable to get information about your pet’s parents, best practice is to estimate high rather than low.
The absolute minimum corn snake enclosure size recommended by ReptiFiles is at least 48″L x 24″W x 24″H (120 x 60 x 60cm). Considering that corn snakes are enthusiastic climbers, an even taller enclosure would not go unappreciated.
When in doubt, remember: Larger is always better!!
What about baby corn snakes?
Hatchlings and juveniles have a predator avoidance instinct which compels them to stay hidden while they are small and vulnerable. It also compels them to avoid open spaces, as those are the most dangerous for a young, virtually defenseless snake. For this reason, many people recommend keeping young corn snakes in tiny enclosures.
This works well for breeders, but not necessarily for pet owners. Hatchlings are too young to go to a new home, anyway. So you can put a young corn snake in a well-secured, adult-sized enclosure from the day you bring it home. You can accommodate their predator avoidance instinct by providing lots of tight hiding places!
The predator avoidance instinct weakens as corn snakes age and grow larger. By the time they are adults, they have become much more confident, and thus will explore their enclosure more and hide less. Providing a larger enclosure with lots of vertical climbing materials will best accommodate this activity and encourage better muscle tone and overall health.
That being said, young corn snakes are tiny, and masters of the art of escape. For this reason, if you are planning to get a corn snake <1 year old, it may be best to start them in a smaller glass “grow-out” terrarium with hinged doors on the front, as these are the most secure. Starting with a smaller enclosure also makes it easier for your new pet to feel secure in its environment and for you to keep track of where they are and how they’re doing.
What are the best corn snake enclosures?
Front-opening terrariums are the preferred method of housing for many snake keepers because they are more secure, make terrarium access easy, hold heat and humidity well, and are fairly attractive to boot. It’s also best for the enclosure to have a mesh top. Because corn snakes like to climb, a mesh top allows you to install heating and lighting equipment above the enclosure rather than inside of it, maximizing the amount of useable space inside the enclosure.
However, appropriately-sized glass aquariums may also be used to house your snake. Keep in mind that if an all-glass enclosure is used, three of the four walls should be blacked out/covered to help the snake feel more secure. You will also need to take extra measures to keep the snake from escaping, as they’re not particularly secure for housing snakes.
ReptiFiles recommends the following commercially-available enclosures for corn snakes:
- Custom Reptile Habitats 4′ Reptile Enclosures
- Zen Habitats 4’x2’x2′ PVC Reptile Enclosure, with wire port plug
- Zen Habitats 4’x2’x4′ PVC Reptile Enclosure, with wire port plug
- Dubia.com 4x2x2 (120 Gallon) Reptile Enclosure
- Toad Ranch Luxury Reptile Habitats BC48 4’x2’x2′
- Carolina Custom Cages Extra Long Terrarium
Custom Reptile Habitats, Zen Habitats, and Toad Ranch also have taller options available!
Securing the Terrarium
Because they are small, slender, and love to explore, corn snakes are particularly talented escape artists. The best way to prevent an escape is to secure the lid properly — remember, paranoia is your friend! However, whatever you do, DON’T USE TAPE! Tape is notorious for injuring snakes who accidentally come in contact with its sticky side.
If you’re using a glass aquarium, invest in at least 4 (more are required for larger tanks) lid clamps to keep it firmly in place.
If you’re using a front-opening terrarium, a lock or latch will keep it secured.
If your snake still somehow manages to escape, here are some tips for finding a lost snake.
Can 2 or more corn snakes be kept in the same cage?
Why not? There’s a variety of reasons, including risk of cannibalism, disease/parasite transmission, stress-induced appetite loss, stress-induced weakened immune system, etc. You get the gist — cohabiting corn snakes is simply a bad idea and we don’t recommend it.
Keep reading about corn snake care:
- Introduction to Corn Snakes
- Shopping List
- Terrarium Size Requirements
- Lighting, Heating & Humidity
- Substrate Options
- How to Decorate Your Terrarium
- How (and What) to Feed a Corn Snake
- Handling Tips
- Common Diseases & Other Health Info
- Additional Resources
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