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Due to their relatively small size, corn snakes can generally live their entire lives in a 75-gallon terrarium, or even smaller. No matter what size it is, it should always be large enough for your pet to be able to fully stretch out without touching any part of the glass. It should also have a secure lock on the lid. Snakes are known escape artists and their ability to squeeze through small spaces should never be underestimated.
The bottom of any terrarium should be covered with some sort of substrate. Some common materials used to create substrate are bark chips, mulch, coconut husks, unbleached paper towels, and pelleted bedding. Substrate should never be made out of jagged rock pieces, printed paper towels, or cedar shavings, as they can affect the snake’s lungs and cause skin blisters.
Some hobbyists like to include live plants in their terrarium. While living plants look beautiful, they cannot be decontaminated and may harbor harmful organisms. Also, these plants are very easily destroyed by any snake. Artificial plants, however, are easily cleaned, hardy, and can make a very natural-looking addition to any terrarium. Ferns, vines, and other plants with large leaves are great options.
Another important part of creating a snake terrarium is providing hiding places. In the wild, snakes are able to hide from predators and they need to feel this security in captivity, even though there will likely not be any predators around. A snake that has no where to hide will quickly become stressed and may eventually refuse to eat. Some common hides include hollow logs, clay pots, PVC pipe, and commercially available hide boxes.
Many snakes have very specific lighting needs, but corn snakes are not among them. While providing your corn snake with some sort of ultraviolet light will be beneficial for his overall health, corn snakes do not require ultraviolet light to metabolize their food and vitamins. Standard incandescent light bulbs will provide light for the aquarium and also a considerable amount of heat. The terrarium should have an area where the temperature is kept between 72° and 75°F and a basking area that remains between 82° and 84°F.
For more information, read Corn & Rat Snakes (T.F.H. Publications, Inc.).