There are many different varieties of snakes to consider owning as a pet.
Corn snakes and ball pythons are the two most common snake breeds kept as pets today.
So which one makes a better pet?
Even for first-time snake owners, corn snakes and ball pythons make excellent pets. Deciding which one is right for you depends on several factors, such as differences in size, enclosure requirements, diet, health, temperament, appearance, and cost.
Deciding to purchase a pet snake is a big decision, so you need to learn the care requirements and significant differences between different breeds.
Keep reading to learn the distinct differences and similarities between corn snakes and ball pythons, so you are able to determine which one will make a better pet for you.
Table of Contents
What To Consider When Choosing a Corn Snake or Ball Python
When deciding between a corn snake and a ball python, you may be tempted to base your choice strictly on the animal’s appearance.
Corn snakes and ball pythons both have a wide variety of brightly colored morphs to choose from in addition to their standard colors.
However, there are several other factors to consider before acquiring a snake.
One crucial factor is the overall size of the snake.
If you live in a home with limited space, a large snake may not be ideal for you because it requires a larger enclosure to accommodate it.
A snake’s temperament is also a factor, especially if you intend to handle your snake regularly.
If you want a snake you are able to take out of the enclosure and handle, the last thing you want is an aggressive snake, which is more likely to bite you.
Cost may also be a factor when choosing a corn snake or ball python, as ball pythons tend to be more expensive.
Corn Snake Vs. Ball Python Quick Comparison Chart
|Element||Corn Snake||Ball Python|
|Size||2-5’ feet; 500-900 grams||2-6’ feet; 900-3000 grams|
|Temp and Humidity||75-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C); 40-50%||76-83° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C); 55-60%|
|Diet||Appropriately sized rodents (best if frozen and thawed)||Appropriately sized rodents (best if frozen and thawed)|
|Life Span||15-20 years||25-30 years|
|Health Issues||Not prone to major illness; stomach issues, dermatitis, respiratory infections, and parasites||Not prone to major illness except Inclusion Body Disease; otherwise the same as a corn snake|
|Temperament||Mild; social and friendly in many cases||Mild; tend to be shyer and may become aggressive if pressed|
|Appearance||Narrow head, slender body||Diamond head and thick body|
|Overall Cost||$150-300 for enclosure; $10-20 each month after||$150-300 for enclosure; $10-20 each month after|
What Is A Corn Snake?
A corn snake is a non-venomous snake native to North America, and they are typically found in the Central and Eastern parts of the United States. Because of their nocturnal behavior, captive corn snakes do not need any special lighting requirements, but they require a warm basking area in the enclosure.
Corn snake colorings are usually light brown or gray with reddish-orange blotches, and they are part of the rat snake species.
However, there are also various corn snake morphs ranging from white to color patterns with vivid reds and oranges.
They have a relaxed temperament and tend to stay smaller in size.
What Is A Ball Python?
A ball python is a non-venomous snake native to Central Africa, and it is considered a tropical species of snake. Ball pythons prefer a warm, humid climate, so you will need to set up a temperature gradient with a basking area in their enclosure.
The standard color of a ball python is a combination of brown, black, and gray markings.
Still, they are also available in white, yellow, orange, and lavender color combinations.
These tropical snakes are generally shy and may grow very large.
Corn Snake And Ball Python Size
Corn snakes and ball pythons grow to a similar average length, but ball pythons usually have more girth. Unlike other snake species, there is not much difference in size between male and female corn snakes. For ball pythons, the females are bigger.
The average length of a corn snake ranges between 2-5′ feet, with males being slightly longer than females.
Adult male corn snakes weigh between 700-900 grams, and females weigh between 500-700 grams.
In adult ball pythons, the difference between sexes varies quite a bit.
Adult male ball pythons range from 2-3′ feet long and weigh 900-1500 grams.
On the other hand, female ball pythons will grow from 3-5′ feet long and weigh 2,000-3,000 grams.
Find out how ball pythons grow with our chart and related information.
Temperature And Humidity Enclosure Requirements
The enclosure setup for corn snakes and ball pythons are slightly different due to their native climates and activity levels. Corn snakes require a more balanced habitat, while ball pythons need somewhat warmer temperatures and more humidity.
Corn snakes are nocturnal, so they do not need any kind of special lighting.
Supplemental heating is usually necessary, and you may use a heat mat instead of a heat lamp to increase temperatures in the enclosure.
The ambient temperature of a corn snake’s enclosure needs to be between 75-82° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C), with a warm basking area ranging from 88-92° degrees Fahrenheit (33° C).
Corn snakes require humidity levels between 40%-50%, the average humidity in most homes.
Learn more about corn snake enclosures in our article on if corn snakes need a heat lamp.
If you live in a dry climate, you may need a humidifier to keep your snake from getting too dry.
Since they are from a tropical climate, ball pythons require slightly higher temperatures and humidity.
Ball pythons sleep during the day, so lighting is not necessary as long as there is adequate light in the room for the animal to have a day and night cycle.
A heat mat or ceramic heat emitter will work well as a heat source as long as they have a thermostat to keep them from getting too hot.
Ambient temperatures in a ball python enclosure should range from 76-83° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C) with a basking area between 88-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
Ball pythons need humidity levels between 55% to 60%, and anything below this will cause issues with shedding.
The water dish in the enclosure will provide some humidity, but you may need to invest in a reptile humidifier if you live in a dry area.
Monitor temperatures and humidity regularly to ensure they do not fluctuate too much.
Both snakes need an enclosure to be at least the length of their body so they can stretch out, and they need hides to make them feel more secure.
Adding plants to the enclosure is optional, but they will help regulate humidity and give the snakes some climbing areas if your enclosure is tall enough.
Corn Snake Vs. Ball Python Diet
Corn snakes and ball pythons are both easy to feed, with the only difference being a ball python’s ability to eat larger prey items. Corn snakes have a smaller diameter, and an adult will not eat anything larger than a large mouse, while ball pythons can eat a large rat.
Juveniles of both breeds will eat pinky and fuzzy mice as long as they are appropriately sized for their body.
Never feed your snake live rodents, as they may pose a risk for injury to your reptile.
Frozen thawed rodents are the best option, and you will be able to buy them in bulk for convenience.
Place the rodent in a Ziploc bag and thaw at room temperature at least 2-3 hours before feeding time.
To make the prey more palatable to the snake, you may run the bag under warm water for several minutes.
The life expectancy of a corn snake is between 15-20 years, while a ball python may live for up to 25-30 years.
In the wild, the life span of both snakes is significantly shortened due to predators.
Corn snakes will only live up to six years in the wild, while ball pythons only live for eight years.
Potential Health Issues For Corn Snakes And Ball Pythons
Corn snakes and ball pythons are hardy reptiles, and with proper care, neither breed is susceptible to illness. The only disease more likely to affect ball pythons is Inclusion Body Disease or IBD. IBD is a viral illness affecting the lungs or digestive tract, usually fatal.
Both breeds of snakes are prone to common reptile diseases such as infectious stomatitis, dermatitis, respiratory infections, and parasites.
Excessive humidity coupled with lower temperatures is the leading cause of respiratory issues in snakes.
Respiratory diseases are prevented by maintaining proper temperature and humidity levels in the enclosure.
Most other reptile illnesses are easily prevented with a nutritious diet and proper care.
Corn snakes are very social and friendly, and they very rarely display any aggressive behavior. On the other hand, ball pythons tend to be shyer and may become aggressive if not handled properly.
It is very rare for an adult corn snake to strike or bite, and even if it does, the bite does not usually hurt or break the skin.
Corn snakes are known to be docile snakes.
Ball pythons are very reserved, but they may strike if threatened.
Unfortunately, the bite from a ball python may be quite painful.
This tendency to be aggressive makes a ball python more difficult to handle than a corn snake.
Handling your snake at least 2-3 times per week is recommended, but never right before or after feeding.
Handling a snake before it eats may cause it to strike out of hunger while handling it after eating will cause the reptile to regurgitate its meal.
Avoid making sudden movements while handling your snake, so the animal isn’t startled.
Once your snake gets used to being around you, handling will become easier, and the reptile will not be as defensive.
Corn Snake And Bally Python Appearance Differences
Corn snakes and ball pythons look completely different from one another. Corn snakes have narrow heads and slender bodies, while ball pythons have diamond-shaped heads and very thick bodies.
Both snakes are available in various color morphs, which may sometimes be very expensive.
The common color of corn snakes is brown with reddish-orange blotches, and ball pythons are usually a mixture of brown and black patterns.
In both snakes, the common colors tend to be less expensive.
Initial Cost And Availability
A corn snake is generally a more affordable snake than a ball python. A common corn snake will cost $20-$40, while a standard ball python will be priced from $40-$50.
On average, rare color morphs of corn snakes, such as albino corn snakes, are usually not more than $100.
Ball python color morphs are much more expensive, with rarer morphs costing between $200 to more than $5,000.
The reason ball pythons are more expensive is because it is more difficult to breed and replicate certain color morphs.
Cost of Corn Snake And Ball Python Ownership
For corn snakes and ball pythons, expect to spend between $150-$300 on an enclosure and all of the items you will need for proper care, such as hides, substrate, plants, and food and water dishes. It will cost around $10-$20 per month for ongoing food costs and maintenance.
It is also important to invest in the best thermometer and hygrometer to accurately measure temperature and humidity levels in the enclosure.
You will need to replace the substrate whenever it gets too soiled, and investing in a reptile-safe cleaner is also a wise choice.
If you are able to buy frozen mice in bulk, it will not only save you some money but reduce the number of trips you have to make to the pet store to buy more food.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Put A Ball Python And Corn Snake Together?
Not only are the enclosure requirements too different to keep a ball python and corn snake together, but they are also incompatible for breeding.
Despite the fact they are both snakes, they are simply too different to be cross-bred.
Are Male Or Female Snakes Nicer?
There are generally not many differences in the temperament of snakes due to gender.
Female snakes are thought to be more docile, but the overall temperament depends on the breed of the snake.
Do Corn Snake Bites Hurt?
Adult corn snakes very rarely bite, and even if they do, it is not likely to cause you any pain.
A corn snake bite is said to feel like a small pinch, and if they do manage to break the skin, there will only be a very small amount of blood.
Corn snakes are not venomous, but it is still important to clean the bite wound.
Can Ball Pythons Share A Tank?
Ball pythons are very antisocial, and putting two of them in the same enclosure will only lead to problems.
Even in the wild, two ball pythons will only share a burrow if necessary.
In captivity, one ball python would assert its dominance over the other, leading to aggressive behavior, health issues, and problems during feeding time.
Having two ball pythons in the same enclosure will also cause stress in the reptiles and lead to a lowered immune system, which will make the snakes more prone to diseases.
If one ball python is larger than the other, this may cause cannibalistic behavior.
While this is extremely rare, it has occurred and is worth mentioning.
Cannibalism may also happen if the hatchlings are left in the same enclosure as the mother.