Do Corn Snakes Need A Heat Lamp to Survive and Thrive?

Corn snakes, like other reptiles, are ectothermic, which means they rely on external temperatures to control their body heat.

Providing your corn snake with the optimal environment will help your pet stay healthy and happy.

But does your corn snake need a heat lamp to survive?

A corn snake will benefit from having some form of light during the day, but it does not require a heat lamp. As long as you have a type of artificial heat source and you maintain a temperature gradient in the enclosure, your corn snake will thrive and stay healthy.

A temperature gradient allows the corn snake to warm up and cool down as necessary.

Lighting in your corn snake’s enclosure will help the reptile maintain its circadian rhythm when the light is turned on during the day and switched off at night to mimic a typical day and night cycle.

Keep reading for more information on how to provide a source of heat in your corn snake’s enclosure, either with or without a heat lamp.

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Corn snakes need heat, but do they need a heat lamp? Let’s talk about it!

Adding A Heat Lamp to Your Corn Snake’s Enclosure

An easy way to add heat to your corn snake’s enclosure and create a basking area is to add a heat lamp.

Since adult corn snakes do not have access to natural sunlight in captivity, the heat lamp gives them an area for basking.

To create a correct temperature gradient, the heat lamp needs to be placed near the top on one side of the enclosure.

You may use a hanging lamp ballast or clip the heat lamp directly to the enclosure.

Use a thermostat with the heat lamp for better temperature control to ensure the enclosure does not get too hot and cause your corn snake to become overheated.

It is also wise to have a protective guard around the heat lamp, so your corn snake is unable to accidentally burn itself by touching the bulb.

When using a heat lamp, it is important to remember to turn it off at night to avoid disrupting your corn snake’s circadian rhythm.

A lighting timer will automatically turn the heat lamp off at specified times if you have trouble remembering to turn it on and off consistently.

The Ideal Temperature Range for Your Corn Snake

It is essential to create a proper thermal gradient in your corn snake’s enclosure, so the reptile can warm up and cool off again as needed.

The heat source needs to be entirely on one side of the corn snake cage, so the other side can cool down naturally.

Temperatures on the cool side of the enclosure will be close to 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C), and they should not fall any lower than this.

The corn snake temperature range in the middle of the enclosure should be between 75-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C).

The temperature in the warm basking area of the corn snake enclosure needs to be close to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), but no higher than this.

Most reptiles rely on warmer temperatures to aid in digestion, and they generally need cooler temperatures for sleeping.

Use high-quality thermometers attached to each end of the enclosure to ensure the temperatures do not get too high or too low for your corn snake.

While it is ok for the temperature in the enclosure to vary by a couple of degrees, wider fluctuations are not healthy for your corn snake.

Monitor your corn snake’s behavior for anything unusual which may indicate the temperatures need to be adjusted.

If your corn snake is spending a lot of time on the cool side of the enclosure, the reptile may be consistently too hot.

Likewise, if your snake is always on the warm side, the animal may be too cold.

A thermostat will help you adjust the temperature more efficiently by controlling the output of the heat lamp or other heat source.

Avoid keeping your corn snake’s water dish on the warm side of the enclosure as this will not only make the water evaporate quickly, but the heat will encourage bacterial growth in the water.

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The Difference Between UV and Heat Lamps

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Corn snakes don’t need UVB and a heat lamp if the tank is warm enough.

Not all types of reptile lighting are created equally.

There is a difference between reptile heat lamps and UV bulbs.

Incandescent and infrared heat lamps are designed with the sole purpose of creating heat in your corn snake’s enclosure.

These heat lamps do not produce UVA or UVB rays because they only give off heat.

UV-spectrum bulbs are just the opposite, as they do not give off heat, but they produce UVA or UVB rays.

There are a few hybrid varieties of reptile bulbs that produce both UVB rays and heat.

While most lizards cannot survive without UVB lighting, it is not necessary for snakes.

Snakes will benefit from UV lighting, but they do not need it to use the calcium in their diet.

While your corn snake does not need UV light, it requires a heat source of some kind.

Other Methods of Warming the Enclosure

While incandescent and infrared lights may be used to add heat to your corn snake’s enclosure, there may be times when you need to use an alternative heat source.

Heat mats or heat tape are commonly placed under the bottom or on the sides of the enclosure to add warmth.

If you use a tank heat pad or heat tape, it is essential to use a thermostat to control the device’s output.

If the heat mat gets too hot, it might melt plastic or cause the enclosure’s glass to crack.

You also want to ensure the heat mat, or heat tape is not getting hot enough to burn your corn snake.

A ceramic heat emitter is also an excellent way to provide warmth for your corn snake’s enclosure without adding any light.

The ceramic heat emitter is usually placed on the warm side of the enclosure, so the other end is able to naturally be cooler.

Using a loose substrate made from aspen shavings or cypress mulch will also give your corn snake a place to burrow for warmth.

Never use heat rocks in your corn snake’s enclosure.

Heat rocks are notorious for having faulty thermostats and causing reptiles to severe burns when they overheat.

Should You Turn Off the Heat Lamp At Night?

To avoid disrupting your snake’s circadian rhythm, turning the heat lamp off at night is essential.

If the room’s ambient temperature where the enclosure is located is consistently lower than 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C), you will need to provide a different heat source at night to keep your corn snake warm.

You will be able to maintain the temperature of your corn snake’s enclosure with a heating pad, heat tape, or a ceramic heat emitter.

It is always important to use a thermostat with your chosen heat source, especially at night when you are not available to constantly monitor the temperature.

You need to ensure the heating device is safe for your corn snake and does not get so hot it causes burns or overheats your pet.

To help maintain a consistent temperature gradient, keep your corn snake’s enclosure away from drafty windows or air vents. 

Check out our full guide on how to set up a corn snake enclosure.

How Long Can a Corn Snake Go Without Heat?

As long as the ambient temperature in the room does not drop lower than 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C), your corn snake will be able to go without heat for up to three weeks.

While temperature is not a huge concern with corn snakes, you do not want the enclosure getting too warm or too cold.

Some reptile owners even do not provide any supplemental heat for their corn snake at night after turning off the heat lamp.

This may be fine for a short period at night, but you also do not want the room to get too cold every night.

Your corn snake will not do well if it constantly has to deal with wildly fluctuating temperatures every day and night.

It is always important for the enclosure to be warm enough for your corn snake at night, and temperature variations of more than 20° degrees in either direction are not ideal for your pet.

If there is a major power outage where you live, it is crucial to keep your corn snake’s enclosure away from any drafty areas.

You need to maintain the warmth in the enclosure for as long as possible to avoid any ill health effects from happening to your corn snake.

What Happens When a Corn Snake Gets Too Cold?

If your corn snake cannot get warm for an extended period, its health will suffer greatly, and the animal may even die.

Corn snakes are only able to withstand colder temperatures during brumation.

However, the temperatures drop very slowly before brumation, so the reptile has time to prepare for prolonged inactivity during the winter months.

If the temperatures drop rapidly without any warning, your corn snake will likely go into shock and suffer from hypothermia, which may be deadly for the reptile.

When a corn snake is unable to find a basking spot to draw warmth from, the reptile will not adequately raise its body temperature.

Corn snakes also need belly heat to aid in digestion.

If the corn snake gets too cold, it will be unable to digest its food properly, and it may start regurgitating frequently.

Without the nutrients from food, the snake’s body will slowly shut down, resulting in death.

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