Corn snakes make wonderful pets when cared for properly, and though they may not eat as often as other pets, they have needs unique to reptiles. Snakes require heat to move, hunt and eat; you'll often find them spiralling their bodies around a heat source or their owner's arm for warmth. Before purchasing any snake, read up on things such as shedding skin, milky eyes, eating habits and common illnesses. To care for a new corn snake, you'll need a place to house it, a heat source, a hideaway, pet-safe bedding and a water bowl.
Purchase a 10- to 20-gallon tank for your new pet so that it can stretch out and get a bit of exercise. Make sure your aquarium includes a wire top and safety clips so the snake can't get out. Avoid housing snakes together; each snake should have its own aquarium.
Cover the bottom of the aquarium with pet-safe bedding or smooth tiles. Avoid using sand; it can lead to impaction and other health issues for your snake.
Place a heat lamp on the lid of the cage and keep it on all day. You can also use a heat pad meant for reptiles by sticking it on the outside of the aquarium, preferably on the bottom. Make sure the heating pad isn't covered by something inside the tank that your snake can't move on its own; otherwise, it won't be able to get warm.
Include a hideaway, such as a sculpted cave, box or Tupperware container, inside the tank so your snake can hide from view. Note that snakes will also use these additions to rub against when shedding. The rough surface will help your snake shed its skin more easily and without outside help.
Feed your corn snake day-old pinkies or day-old mice once a week. Feed them older mice as they mature. Place the mice into the cage using tongs to keep your snake from confusing a human's scent with that of food.
Spot clean the cage whenever your snake uses the bathroom. This usually happens once or twice a week, depending on how much and how often you feed your snake. However, you might want to consider scrubbing down the inside of the tank once a month to remove any bacteria. Use a pet-safe cleaner found at your local pet store or sprays meant for reptile cages. Place your snake in a smaller tank or have a family member hold it while you clean its cage.
Keep a water bowl in the cage at all times. Some snakes will bathe or rest in their water while others will only use it for drinking. Change the water on a regular basis to keep bacteria away.
When picking out your snake, look for one with clear, bright eyes that's alert to its surroundings. If possible, ask an associate for help in getting the snake out of its cage so you can get a good look at it. Note that if its eyes are milky, it's getting ready to shed. Don't plan on feeding it until after the shedding is complete; it cannot see well enough to hunt.