Decorating your corn snake’s enclosure is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the snake-keeping experience.
It’s generally wise to keep your pet’s habitat relatively simple at first, but once you’re sure he’s established and has settled into his new digs, there’s nothing wrong with sprucing his home up a bit. In fact, some types of decoration are necessary for the health and well-being of your pet.
We’ll talk about these types of decoration, as well as some that you can include for purely aesthetic reasons below. We’ll even identify a few of the very best decorations available, including store-bought and custom-scavenged varieties.
Decorations for You; Decorations for Your Pet
It is important at the outset to understand that your pet’s needs for decoration differ from yours. Your corn snake needs things like dark, confined hiding places and climbing opportunities; but he does not care what they look like, or if they match the other items in his habitat. Meanwhile, you probably do care about the way the decorations look together, if the aesthetic theme makes sense, and if you simply enjoy looking at the enclosure.
Fortunately, these differing needs are entirely compatible. But you should start by satisfying your pet’s needs first. Then, you can begin focusing on the visual appeal of the decorations you’re using.
The 10 Best Corn Snake Tank Decorations
There are scads of different things you can use to decorate your corn snake’s tank, but the following 10 are among the most worthy of consideration.
1. Cork Bark
- Safe for all reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids (i.e. tarantulas).
- Can be easily cut to any desired length or shape
- All natural green" product"
Personally, I consider cork bark to be the best single enclosure decoration for any forest-dwelling reptile. This not only includes corn snakes, but green tree pythons, leaf-tailed geckos, and box turtles, among others.
Cork bark is the bark harvested from cork oak trees. It not only looks real (because it is), it has a cork-like texture (hence the name), and it is very lightweight, making it pretty safe for use in your pet’s habitat. In fact, because it is so light, you can affix it to the walls of your enclosure with a little Velcro or pet-safe adhesive.
Cork bark can also be used to create hiding places, introduce visual barriers to the habitat, or simply provide more of a three-dimensional look to the aesthetics. You can also use it to provide elevated perches or basking spots. If you select “rounds” (as opposed to “flats” – cork bark comes in two basic varieties), you can construct faux trees for your pet to climb.
2. Live Plants
It’s a bit tricky to incorporate ecologically appropriate plants in your corn snake’s habitat, as most house plants in the garden center are from tropical lands, while your corn snake is from the southeastern United States. However, this isn’t strictly necessary; your snake won’t care about the ancestral homeland of the plants you use.
Plants like golden pothos will generally thrive in a corn snake enclosure, and they’ll not only improve the air quality inside the habitat, but they’ll also raise the humidity and provide hiding places for your pet. There are countless other plants you can use too – as long as the plant doesn’t produce harmful spines, thorns, or sap, it should be safe for your pet. Just stick to those that’ll thrive in low-light situations for the best chance at success.
Some keepers like to install live plants directly in the substrate, but it is easier to keep them in their pots. Just use a little cork bark to obscure the pot or arrange the leaves so that they provide a bit of camouflage.
3. Farm Artifacts
This one is a bit of an inside joke among experienced keepers, as it seems that every corn snake enclosure at every zoo in the world is based on a farm motif. It makes sense, as corn snakes are, in fact, frequent visitors to agricultural areas. But it’s just been done, and done, and done, which has turned off some keepers.
But I still think it’s a pretty neat idea, with tons of room for creativity.
You can build a variety of different shelves or “lofts” for your snake. You can include a million different tools or other common items, ranging from old pots and pans (which could also serve as hiding places) to rakes or shovels (which may also serve as climbing branches). Your imagination is truly the limit.
Just be sure to keep your pet’s safety at the forefront of your mind. Don’t use anything that could cut or puncture your snake, and be sure that anything you introduce is clean, free of dangerous residues, and unlikely to “trap” your snake in any way.
4. Climbing branches
- Natural and 3 dimensional branches
- Heat treated
- Ideal for both rainforest and desert terrariums
I almost consider climbing branches to be essential husbandry items for corn snake maintenance (given their tendency to climb), rather than decorations. However, they certainly serve both purposes.
You can certainly purchase commercially prepared climbing branches, but you can also harvest them yourself. Beginners are best served by opting for commercial varieties, and it’ll just help you avoid a bunch of headaches (such as bugs living inside the wood). Additionally, most climbing branches sold commercially are either “self-supporting” or equipped with hardware to make mounting easy.
You can even cover the climbing branches with live or artificial plants. This is not only a good way to improve the aesthetics of the enclosure, but you can also do so as a way of camouflaging the hardware.
5. Shells, Bones, and Skeletons
Bones and bone-like things are not everyone’s cup of tea. They could conceivably be considered a bit macabre, or even juvenile. But they also offer some really interesting opportunities.
The “go-to” way to use bones in a snake cage is to throw a cow skull on the bottom of the tank. Cow skulls are reasonably easy to obtain and they provide some visual interest. However, there are better options, in my mind. For example, an old box turtle or slider turtle shell can serve as a fantastic hiding place, and both these species live alongside corn snakes in the wild.
Seashells aren’t quite as ecologically appropriate, but they’re pretty effective too. Just be sure to avoid using any type of shell that may trap your snake inside.
6. Enclosure Backdrops
- This rain forest scenic background is sized to wraparound 3 sides of a 20L glass terrarium.
- Measures 10.1875”(H) x 54.375”(L). Printed on moisture-resistant, UV-resistant, PVC material.
- Simply attach to the outside of your terrarium with clear adhesive tape.
One of the easiest ways to give your pet’s habitat a completely new feel, without having to worry about the husbandry implications of doing so, is by affixing a photographic or painted image to the back wall. Most keepers choose a realistic-looking image, but there’s no reason you can’t select something more creative – your snake won’t care either way.
In fact, generally speaking, there’s a ton of room for creativity when using backdrops. You can purchase such a commercially produced background or do all the legwork yourself. You can also put it on the outside or inside of your tank (assuming you’re using an aquarium for an enclosure). It’ll usually look better if you place the backdrop inside the habitat, but that approach has some obvious drawbacks.
For starters, it’ll wear out more quickly if placed on the inside of the back wall. You’ll also have to figure out a snake-safe way to attach it to the glass. And finally, your snake may repeatedly cause it to fall when climbing and crawling around near it.
Mirrors aren’t necessarily decoration per se, but they can be very useful in changing the aesthetics of the habitat.
Mirror-backed enclosures are popular with many keepers – particularly those who maintain elaborately planted enclosures. The mirror not only “multiplies” each of your plants and other decorations, but it also makes the enclosure “feel” larger (to observers, not your pet).
You can also install small mirrors yourself. One interesting option is to use mirrors near your snake’s hiding spot. With a bit of experimentation and ingenuity, you can likely arrange the two in a way that allows your snake to hide, while still allowing you to see him clearly. In other words, your pet may crawl into a piece of cork bark that blocks your view completely from the front. But, by placing a small mirror behind the cork bark, you may be able to see him while he hides.
8. Artificial Plants
- Color: Green; Size: 11 x 14 x 23cm / 4.3" x 5.5" x 9.1" (L*W*H); Material: Plastic,Resin; Net...
- Appealing decoration for landscaping your terrarium or aquarium.
- Creates natural hiding spots for your reptiles, add fun for their lives. Use in those spots of the...
You don’t have to go to all the trouble of installing live plants if you don’t want to; just use artificial plants instead. No, they do not look as good as live plants, but they can still make your pet’s enclosure look more interesting. And the artificial foliage will still provide hiding places and visual barriers that’ll help improve your snake’s quality of life.
Artificial plants will also save you a bit of money over time (particularly if you struggle to keep your plants alive). Plus, you can often find artificial plants that resemble species that’d be hard to maintain in live form. Pine trees, for example, are typically not possible to grow in a standard corn snake tank. But there are plenty of artificial “pine trees” available, that can contribute a neat feel to the habitat.
It’s also worth noting that you can combine live and artificial plants. You may, for example, place a live plant in a conspicuous, “center stage” spot in the enclosure, and use artificial plants to help fill in some of the bare spots. If done with finesse, this can create a pretty realistic-looking effect.
9. Artificial Vines
- Comes with suction cups to affix to the tank and are made of non-toxic polythylene material for easy...
- 6 feet in length
- Lifelike & natural looking.
Vines provide a fantastic way to break up the enclosure interior and introduce a little “three-dimensionality” to the habitat. They are also pretty affordable and can be used in many different ways. Finally, vines – if adequately secured – provide additional climbing opportunities for your pet.
The only tricky thing about installing artificial vines is that it can occasionally be difficult to mount them. My preferred method is to attach them to wooden climbing branches with screws or other hardware (just be sure that no sharp surfaces are present). You could use a permanent (and pet-safe) adhesive, but this will make it difficult to keep the vines clean.
10. Custom Faux Backgrounds
If you’re willing to invest the necessary time and effort, faux enclosure backgrounds can really elevate the aesthetics of your pet’s cage. There are a variety of ways you can do so, but there are two common approaches.
One utilizes large pieces of solid, carved foam, which are then covered in pet-appropriate paint or grout to provide texture. The other primary approach involves using expanding foam. Once the foam has hardened in place, it can be covered and decorated further.
Many times, these types of backgrounds are designed to resemble rock work. But, for corn snake maintenance, tree-like backgrounds are more ecologically appropriate. Once again, this will only matter to you – your snake won’t understand or care whether you’re trying to create fake rocks or fake pine trees. So, let your tastes and desires guide you.
General Corn-Snake Cage Decorating Tips
Whether you choose some of the decorations discussed above or come up with things to spruce up your pet’s habitat on your own, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind. This includes:
- Keep enclosure hygiene in mind when picking decorations. It’s important to remember that you’ll have to clean anything you place in your snake’s habitat. This means – among other things – that you’ll need to either select things that can be replaced easily and economically, or you’ll need to pick durable items, which will stand up to repeated removal and cleaning. Additionally, it is generally wise to select decorations that have as few nooks and crannies as possible.
- Consider buying two of everything. One excellent maintenance practice is to purchase two of every cage decoration you intend to use. That way, you can use one inside the enclosure, while you’re washing and drying the other one. Additionally, by leaving decorations to “air out” away from the enclosure periodically, they’ll likely hold up better and harbor fewer bacteria and fungi.
- Select decorative water bowls with care. Many keepers are drawn to the decorative water bowls that are so common on the market. But while some of these water reservoirs are good choices, others will prove difficult to clean or maintain over time. Always be sure to select water bowls with smooth interiors, and keep the weight of the dish in mind, as you’ll have to lift it frequently.
- Make sure that you keep basic husbandry principles in mind while decorating. You don’t want to install decorations that’ll block your pet’s access to his basking spot, nor do you want to want to disrupt the temperatures in your habitat by adding massive, heat-retaining items (at least, not without making any necessary adjustments).
- Be mindful that your snake’s habitat is warm and slightly damp – some decorations will deteriorate quickly. Generally speaking, you’ll want to avoid installing decorations that may rot or serve as food for bacteria and fungi. In other words, lean towards things made of plastic, bone, seashell, or ceramic, and avoid those things that will not last as long.
Decorating a corn snake cage is often fun, and – if done correctly – it can improve your pet’s quality of life too. Just be sure that you only use decorations that are safe for your pet, and that you don’t overcrowd his habitat by becoming overzealous.
With a bit of practice and some experimentation, you should be able to transform your pet’s habitat from a boring, plain-looking enclosure to a realistic recreation of a southeastern forest.
Last update on 2020-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API