So you've got your basic tank set up and ready as described on our keeping corn snakes page.
You may recall that I said it was practical and cost effective but not particularly exciting.
I know lots of people, particularly those with large collections, who use this method of corn snake care every day and are perfectly happy with it.
A 10 minute job.
But I personally like my cages to look a little more natural, so I spend just a little extra time and money, using a pleasant-looking substrate as available from reptile stores, and I use cork bark as a hide.
It's only a simple change, but it makes quite a difference to the impact of a cage.
But whichever you choose, once you've got your cage set up, what else do you need to know to care for your corn snake?
Firstly, though snakes require far less of an investment in time than most domestic pets, you will still need to devote some time each week to your hobby.
Corn snake care includes spending time handling your corn snake. Whilst as I have said they are one of the most even tempered of species available, and are ideal for those of us (myself included) who like to handle our reptiles, like any other pet they need to have that trust reinforced regularly.
Another wise investment of your time in corn snake care is spending a short amount of time each day just casually watching your corn snake.
This is interesting enough in itself, but has the additional benefit as you get to know your individual pet that you soon ealrn what is "normal" for your snake.
This means you're better placed to spot anything "abnormal" that may be as a result of illness, distress or nothing to worry about at all such as just the natural annual cycles.
Regarding these annual cycles, coming from temperate regions of North America, it is natural for corn snakes to go through cooler winter periods during which they eat virtually nothing at all and all their basic systems slow down.
In corn snake care this is often utilised to prepare sexually mature snakes for breeding, and often helps stimulate activity in this area.
But for now, we're just talking about basic corn snake care so unless you're going to try and breed your snakes this year - and that's a topic far too broad to cover right now - it's best not to worry about cooling down your snake then warming it back up again.
This cooling period can, if done incorrectly, pose serious health problems for your snake, and your snake's growth will be that much greater without the cool period.
On a related subject, some people use artificial lights in their corn snake cage, either to help in stressing these annual cycles (the artificial "daylength" is shortened in the "winter" period), or simply to make the cage more attractive.
As we've said, we're not too worried about creating an artificial winter, but whether you choose to add a light for aesthetics is up to you.
I personally just shine a desk lamp in from a safe distance so prevent overheating of the cage.
They're cheap and easy to get hold of, and many modern lamps give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to angling the head.
It's important in corn snake care to ensure you check the temperature of the cage regularly.
Many reptile keepers will recommend a thermometer stuck on the side of the tank, but I must admit I'm not a huge fan of this technique.
Why? The reason is simple.
Firstly, some of the dial thermometers sold for corn snake care can "stick" and so the temperature in the cage is different to what's actually registering on the dial.
But most importantly, the undercage heat mat I suggest you use warms the substrate more than anything. Yes, it will heat the air slightly, but with the mesh lid for security, much of that will escape anyway.
No, I prefer to use two other methods in combination.
Firstly, the element of corn snake care spent simply observing your snake as outlined above will help you know whether your snake spends all day on the heat mat (the temperature is too low) or all day cowering at the other end or immersed in his water bowl (too hot).
The other is simply to put your hand into the cage and place it over the heat source on the bottom of the cage. If you can feel a gentle, pleasant warmth then the mat is working fine.
If you find these temperature problems happening you'll need to adjust the temperature of the mat.
You can, if you wish, buy a thermostat to add to your mat which will help control the temperature, or you can use other methods.
For example, consider switching the heating off altogether in the summer months, or use the polystyrene tiles used to put under fish tanks to distribute the weight evenly and place a few under your heating mat. This will help insulate it and ensure even more heat is pushed up into the cage itself.
Lastly, if you do opt to use a thermometer as part of your corn snake care regime, the new digital thermometers that have a probe attached to a wire so you can put them right over your heat mat are in my opinion the best option.
Feeding your corn snake is very easy indeed, but young hatchling corn snakes are fed twice a week on pinkies.
As they grow, slowly increase the number of pinkies until they'll happily take 2 or 3 at a feeding.
Then move onto just one fuzzy at a time and as they grow again, increase the food to 2 fuzzies per feed.
If you've spent time watching your snake as I have suggested, you'll learn to be able to spot feeding behaviour. You'll be able to spot a snake that is hungry and is actively searching the cage for food when none is present, so consider increasing the volume diven in your corn snake care regime.
On the other hand, a snake that takes little interest in it's food and waits for more than 5-10 minutes when you provide food before digging in really isn't interested and so you should look at reducing the amount of food provided to prevent obesity.
Then when your corn snake is happily taking 2 fuzzies it's safe to move up to an adult mouse, once a week.
Beware you're not providing food that too large to be safely consumed and digested, following the guidelines in the free ebook.
Now let's take a look at how to handle corn snakes....