Preparing for our first corn snake! resource help please?

Tl;dr: I’m brand new here and I’m hoping for some direction regarding reliable resources, there is so much contradictory information out there and I want to make sure that I’m reading the right stuff so I set up my new family member for a long, happy, and healthy life with us.

I have owned a leopard gecko in the past so I’m not totally inexperienced with herp keeping, but I have a fair amount of questions i would like to get good answers to, and a resource I can bookmark for future inquiries. Many many years ago, we won’t say exactly how many, I was mislead by a poor resource and I lost my first gecko within 3 months because i did not have her set up properly and that’s not something I want to repeat, or have my daughter experience with her first reptile.

So! what resources do you utilize? Websites/Books?

I have a library card, Prime, and like 4 whole uninterrupted, free days to dedicate to reading/making lists/purchasing/setting up before my kiddo comes back from her dad’s.
Any guidance navigating the deluge of information available would be so appreciated.

Examples of the info I’m trying to confirm:
Only needs a day light- no blue or red heat lamp for nighttime needed?
Can be moved from beginner(inert) 20 gallon long tank to a bioactive 40 gallon tank once they outgrow the 20g (basically, won’t be harmed by moving to a bioactive enclosure from a non-bioactive enclosure)
Can stay in 40 gallon tank as a full grown adult?(some things say yes, others say they need 120gallons fully grown? that’s a pretty significant size range for a healthy sized enclosure 40-120! it makes me skeptical of both resources accuracy
how many freaking inches deep should a baby’s substrate be!?!?! ina 20 gallon long

and like, a bunch more- but these seem like the sort of things I really need to sus out FIRST and anything else can be researched in time once i know where to look.

sorry for the novel!!! if you read this far you deserve a cookie :cookie:
Thank you! Hope everyone reading this far has a lovely day!!!


Hi, welcome to the forum! This forum is a good resource for corn snake care info. Also lots of good info over on The reason you see so much conflicting info for corns is because they can thrive in a variety of setups! As for your specific questions, I’ll let you know my personal preferences that have worked well for me over the last decade of keeping corns, but others might have other preferences that work just as well. So try not to stress on what the perfect setup is! You can also check out Kathy Love’s book and Don Soderberg’s. Some of the info is a little old, but they’re still solid choices and cover a lot of the basics. And of course, post more questions here if you think of any!

Lighting - I don’t use any lighting, but I do keep the blinds open in the snake room so they have access to a natural day/night cycle.

Inert to bioactive - no issue whatsoever, but whenever you drastically change the environment, give the snake at least a few days, up to a week, to settle back in and find the heat source and hides before you feed.

Tank size - I think a 40 gallon tank is enough for most corns. Particularly large or active adults can use more space. And if you want to go larger, you certainly can. I would not put a baby directly into a 120 gallon, though.

Substrate - an inch or two is fine. You can do more, but it will make finding the baby more challenging!


Thank you so much!
I’ll definitely check out those authors!

And i’m glad to hear a 40 will most likely be enough, and if not, it will be based on size/temperament so i would have time to set up something larger if needed.

My (evolving) plan is to start in the 20 gallon with plenty of hides and 2-2.5in of the same type substrate I will use in the bio-tank so it’s at least slightly familiar. And I will have plenty of time to establish a healthy bioactive environment in the 40g and monitor it a bit before introducing the snake. I had read that they would need more space than 20gallons between 6-12months/3-3.5ft long so they could stretch all the way out.

Their tank(s) will be set up in the living room, across from the windows but not directly in front of them- i’m a night owl so the blinds are almost never opened and I have a mix of heavier and sheer curtains. But it’s enough light that there is an obvious change from day/night- so i wasn’t too worried about circadian rhythms as much as temperature regulation/basking spot. I’m not comfortable using under tank heaters, heat rocks, or heat tape- and I live in Northern NJ and it can get pretty chilly in the apartment.

So all things considered and in light of your reply- i’m thinking- 1 day/heat light, but lower wattage and in a lamp stand not directly on the mesh top positioned above a basking spot?

and- where their tank will be, there will be walls/tall furniture on 3 sides- and only open to “traffic” on 1 side- is it necessary to get tank backgrounds? will the baby be stressed by open glass all around?

thanks again for your reply!


Hello and welcome to the forum @lockenessa! You most certainly have found the right place for anything you want to know about corn snakes and/or just about any other reptile you might have questions about! There are corn snake experts/breeders and keepers here and you have already gotten advice from one of them.

Corn snakes are great beginner snakes because they are very easy to care for and also very forgiving for husbandry mistakes. However in my very humble opinion I would highly recommend using an under tank heater. Considering where you live and the fact that if the only heat source is an an overhead light, when that light is turned off at night, your corn may get too chilly. Snakes need belly heat to digest their food so an under tank heater, again imho, is necessary.

However, if @solarserpents disagrees with this, then she is the one to listen to!

Again welcome to the forum @lockenessa! I love that name! :blush:

Edit to add: btw I use under tank heaters and heat tape (not together of course) on all my enclosures.


Welcome. I don’t keep Corns but this is the best place to get good information. I will say both red and blue lights are bad. There is still some debate about wether or not reptiles can see them but recent research shows that they interior the circadian rhythms just as bad as leaving lights in all night.


Thank you for the advice and warm welcome.

I will look for an under tank heater with a thermostat to hopefully prevent over heating-
and I’m off to watch some videos on how to install one properly with a plain glass tank and not a terrarium that has the space underneath built in.

I’m glad to hear that you use them without ill effect- I’m somewhat of a worrier/overthinker and I’ve seen a burned snake before, from a heat rock, and well, it definitely sticks with you and makes you nervous!
but of course, I want to do what s in the best interest of the animal.
Thank you again!!!


Hi! and thank you for the welcome!
I had read the same thing regarding the night time lights and research regarding whether or not snakes can “see” the red light, fascinating stuff!


I would like to say I have had really good success using exclusively over head lighting. Since north american rat snakes are diurnal, over head lighting is actually a really good option. Also, with enclosure size, I really would recommend a 4x2x2 especially since it is your only reptile, the little extra space taken up really isn’t that much while providing loads more space for you corn snake. Also, 4x2x2 enclosures allow for more decor as there is more space and can add really cool plants.


Hey there again @lockenessa! Heat rocks and heat mats/tape are TWO different things all together. I have never and won’t ever use a heat rock for the reason you stated. They are dangerous.

You will be more than fine with a probe/thermostat/controller and temp gauge to go along with your heat mat, which is probably the best heat source for your purpose. If you have questions about these then feel free to come back here and you will get plenty of help! And remember that there is no dumb question here either! We don’t put each other down. We lift each other up! :+1:

This is a wonderful place to be and we all help and support each other! :heart_eyes:

Keep us updated on your progress and we all love pictures too! :heart:


Welcome to the community, @lockenessa ! Kudos to you for doing the research ahead of time. Your future snake is going to be in very good hands. :+1: You’ve gotten very good advice to get you started.

I’ll chip in my two cents’ about UTHs. I’m a fan. I use various things to provide belly heat for mine, including. several heat mats, heat tape, and heat cables. You’ll be using a thermostat so your snake will have proper temps and the heat source shouldn’t ever get too hot for the surface it’s on. Still, thermostats can fail (true for any heat source) and it’s important to ensure safety. Some matts have adhesive for attaching them to the tank. It’s reeeeallly sticky. I prefer not to use this so I have the option to move or remove them. Instead, I use a thin piece of heat-safe material such as insulation or tile protect the surface on which the tank sits. The UTH is held up to/very near the floor of the tank by this material.

Corns are technically crepuscular in the wild, typically most active at dawn and dusk. You may notice your snake doing likewise, with additional activity at night or during the day. I don’t think that a tank backing is necessary; though of course you can have one for fun if you like. Corns are wonderfully adaptable. Your snake should adjust to your household’s schedule. So long as s/he feels safe in its enclosure, with plenty of places to take cover, all will be well. When I was teaching, I kept corns in my classroom in glass enclosures with three or four sides exposed. Once they had a bit of time to adjust to their environs, all was well.