As far as pet snakes for beginner reptile owners go, corn snakes and kingsnakes are excellent options.
But which one is the easiest to care for?
Is one or the other more expensive or difficult to house in captivity?
Corn snakes and kingsnakes have similar care requirements, but corn snakes are generally regarded as slightly less expensive, more docile, and more handleable. However, if you enjoy observing your snake, keep in mind kingsnakes are a bit more active overall.
Keep reading to learn more about these great species of snakes and which one is best for you.
We’ll go over how they’re different, how they’re alike, what each one needs to thrive under your care, and any other questions you likely have about them.
Table of Contents
Corn Snakes Vs. King Snakes: How Are They Different?
Both corn snakes and kingsnakes are relatively small North American colubrid constrictor snakes. However, corn snakes are a type of rat snake, while there are five unique species of kingsnakes, with the California kingsnake and milk snakes being the most popular types kept as pets.
At a glance, the corn snake and kingsnake family seem very similar–because they are!
Both are nonvenomous, very small and manageable in size, and both have very docile hardy temperaments.
Their scale patterning and color are very different, but their body shape and size are roughly similar.
They’re also somewhat distant relatives!
Both types of snakes are classified within the Colubridae family, including mostly nonvenomous snakes that don’t fall under the elapid, viperid, or Atractaspis families.
This group is massive, with hundreds of different species, and historically, Colubridae has sort of been seen as an umbrella group for snakes who don’t fit neatly into any other established families.
Today, researchers still have a lot of debate about classifying colubrid snakes, but this is the best way to group them until we have more research to better define them.
Regarding the snakes’ behavioral differences, the two have slightly different temperaments and overall handleability.
Corn snakes are generally more docile and easy to handle than kingsnakes.
However, kingsnakes are also more interesting to observe because they’re a bit more of an active snake overall.
These are the biggest differences between the two.
Both of these cool snakes are diurnal, though, so you’ll be able to watch your snake explore their enclosure regardless of which you choose!
Are Corn Snakes or Kingsnakes Easier to Keep?
Corn snakes and kingsnakes are easy for even a beginner reptile owner to care for properly. They have similar care needs regarding enclosure space, substrate, temperature and humidity conditions, and habitat type. Corn snakes are slightly easier to care for, though they are more finicky eaters.
If you’re looking for the most low-maintenance, beginner snake to keep as a pet, both corn snakes and kingsnakes are almost equal in terms of costs, care requirements, and even their dietary needs.
Corn snakes are generally regarded as being a bit easier, if only by a tiny margin.
This is primarily thanks to the corn snake’s slightly smaller size and ever-so-slightly more calm and mild-mannered temperament.
In addition, corn snakes are slightly less expensive to purchase from breeders and a bit easier to find due to them being more popular pets than kingsnakes.
Check out our guide for how to breed corn snakes easily.
At the end of the day, though, which snake you choose should come down to your personal preferences, as the differences in care between the two are pretty minimal.
Since corn snakes and kingsnakes are diurnal and native to roughly the same geographical range in North America, their enclosure setups are very similar.
Both will be comfortable in a typical 40-gallon long enclosure with a similar range in temperature and humidity.
Bear in mind, however, corn snakes are known as being slightly picky eaters on occasion and are a bit more sensitive to changes in their enclosure setup.
Kingsnakes are hardier and better eaters overall, so if you don’t have much experience feeding snakes, perhaps a California kingsnake would be a better choice.
Are Corn Snakes or Kingsnakes More Expensive?
Kingsnakes are usually slightly more expensive than corn snakes, but the two have almost identical care needs. Your initial investment will be a bit more expensive with a kingsnake, but the cost of caring for the two snakes in the long term is virtually the same.
Another great thing about corn snakes and king snakes is how affordable they are, even for a total beginner to the reptile pet trade!
Since they are both common types of reptiles as pets and breed so easily in captivity, breeders typically don’t charge much for them.
If we’re looking at things under a microscope here, though, the typical kingsnake is a tiny bit more expensive in general.
For the most common morphs, corn snakes usually cost only around $30 to $50 when purchased from a reputable breeder.
However, as we touched on earlier, there is a wide variety of kingsnakes, so their prices have a wider range from $50 to $100 for a basic morph.
They’re also not quite as popular as corn snakes, so they’re a little harder to find.
Keep in mind if you’ve got your eye set on a specific morph of either snake, like an albino or piebald, these prices will potentially be a little to a lot higher!
Morphs are sort of like different colors and patterns of a specific reptile, and they take time and careful, selective breeding to develop.
In this case, we’re talking about snakes, but you’ll also see the term used when referring to lizards that breed readily in captivity, like bearded dragons and leopard geckos.
Aside from the initial purchase, the overall cost of care for both types of snakes is almost the same.
They both require similarly sized enclosures with almost the same setup, and they’re nearly the same size, so they cost about the same amount to feed in captivity.
They’re also both known for their ease of care!
What Do Corn Snakes Need As Pets?
Corn snakes require at least a 30-gallon (ideally 40+) enclosure with an air temperature range of around 77-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C) with a basking spot of around 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C). Their humidity should be kept at around 50% to 60%. An adult corn snake should eat one appropriately-sized rodent every 10 to 12 days.
If you’re a total beginner snake owner, a corn snake is a perfect option!
Because they are fairly small, they don’t need much space in captivity, and their dietary needs are very easy to manage, provided you don’t mind handling frozen mice.
Pinky mice are ideal; just thaw them before feeding.
Additionally, thanks to their hardy and adaptable nature, corn snakes are very forgiving if you make a small mistake with their enclosure setup here and there.
However, it’s a good idea to fully set up your snake’s enclosure, regardless of the type you choose, before bringing your new pet home.
This will give you time to experiment with lighting and humidity to get things just right, so you’ll have a healthy snake from day one.
In short, your corn snake’s enclosure will need the following supplies/conditions:
- A gentle temperature gradient, or a range of temperatures from the cool side to the warm side/basking area of the tank; this is easily achieved with a typical 50 to 100-watt basking bulb like this one
- A few inches of proper substrate, ideally aspen like this, cypress, or coconut fiber for burrowing
- A thermometer and hygrometer like these to measure temperature and humidity, ideally one of each at opposite ends of the enclosure
- Natural-looking decor, like logs, plants (artificial is fine!), and rocks
- At least one or two fully sheltered hides like this one
- A water dish large enough for your snake to soak their body in if they feel like it
- UVB lighting is optional, but anything with around a 3% to 5% output like this is beneficial to their health
For more details, look at our corn snake care requirements including humidity and temperature.
What Do Kingsnakes Need As Pets?
Most types of kingsnakes need at least a 30-to-40-gallon enclosure. The tank should have a temperature range of around 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C) with a basking spot around 88° degrees Fahrenheit (31° C). Humidity should be kept at around 50% to 60%. Your kingsnake should eat at least one appropriately sized rodent every two weeks or so.
As you’re probably already able to tell, kingsnakes have almost the same enclosure requirements as corn snakes.
The two are native to the same regions and are similar types of snakes of roughly the same size and dietary needs.
Kingsnakes are slightly less forgiving than corn snakes regarding fluctuations in their habitat setup, but they are still extremely hardy and adaptable.
Like with corn snakes, just be sure to set up your kingsnake’s enclosure before bringing them home if possible, so you’ll be able to do a “test run” of the temperature and humidity settings.
Your kingsnake will subsist mainly on frozen (again, thaw before feeding) rodents like pinky mice when it comes to diet.
Adult snakes should eat an appropriately-sized prey item every 12 to 14 days.
In short, your kingsnake’s enclosure will need the following supplies/conditions:
- A gentle temperature gradient from the cool end to the warm side with the basking spot (This also is easily achievable with the same type of basking bulb listed above in the corn snake section!)
- A few inches of substrate for burrowing; commercial substrates, such as aspen (like the one listed above) or Repti-Bark, are also the best options for kingsnakes
- A thermometer and hygrometer, ideally one at each end of the enclosure, to monitor temperature and humidity settings
- Natural-looking decor, like plants, rocks, and logs for enrichment, as kingsnakes are very active and curious
- At least one or two hides, ideally a humid hide with a small amount of moisture-retaining substrates like sphagnum moss and a dry hide with aspen bedding
- A water dish large enough for your kingsnake to soak their body in
- UVB lighting is also optional for kingsnakes, though something with a 3% to 5% output is similarly beneficial to their health