Ball pythons and corn snakes are two of the most popular pet snakes.
Both ball pythons and corn snakes are inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to feed.
They are available from breeders, so they don’t go through the trauma of being caught in the wild and transported to the other side of the world for sale.
They are each fascinating pets in their own way.
Ball Python vs Corn Snake – How are they different?
So, which snake will make a better pet snake for you?
The differences between the two kinds of pet snakes aren’t huge, but for some owners, they make a difference.
Individual snakes can have their distinct personalities, but both ball pythons and corn snakes generally are calm and gentle around people and adapt well to handling.
Corn snakes move around more when they are being handled than ball pythons do.
This means that you will get more skin contact when you hold a corn snake than when you hold a ball python.
It also means that a corn snake is more likely to try to get away from you. Ball pythons, however, are a “big snake in a small snake package.”
Ball pythons move around less but, being thick and muscular, can be harder to control.
Corn snakes like to move around in their enclosures. They will move in and out of their hides, and they like climbing.
Put a piece of driftwood in their enclosure, and they will explore it and make going up its part of their daily routine.
Ball pythons are not as active as corn snakes, but some of their activities are unique.
They got their name by their defense mechanism of rolling up into a ball with their head tucked inside. This is an activity you will never see in a corn snake.
Also read: Do Ball Pythons Like to Climb?
Adopting either a ball python or a corn snake is a long-term commitment.
One ball python in the Philadelphia Zoo lived for 47 years and 7 months. It is not unusual for ball pythons to live to be 30 years old in captivity.
There is an undocumented report of a corn snake that lived to the ripe old age of 51.
It is not unusual for a well-cared-for corn snake to live to be 30.
If you want to breed snakes to produce unusual color morphs, either ball pythons or corn snakes are a good choice.
There are at least 25 color morphs of corn snakes. There are over 4,000 color morphs of ball pythons!
Corn snakes can interbreed with king, rat, and gopher snakes.
It is challenging to get hatchlings to survive, but the reward can be a rare color or personality characteristic that is almost impossible to find in a pet shop or at a reptile show.
Just be prepared for genetic problems that are inherited with rare colors of scales in ball pythons.
Cost to Buy
A ball python in the familiar brown and yellow morph will cost just US $40 to $80 in a pet store or at a reptile show. Unusual morphs, however, can cost much more.
Bumblebee pythons, with the dark horizontal dots and stripes extending the length of their back on yellow scales, cost about $150.
“Albino” ball pythons with a pale yellow pattern repeating over their bodies cost about $170, but blue-eyed leucistic ball pythons, that don’t have any patterns at all, cost twice as much, around $350.
A GHI Mohave ball python with its light black base and yellow stripes going down the length of its spine may cost between $500 and $600. Rare morphs can cost many thousands of dollars.
Corn snakes are available for $20 to $50, depending on whether you buy them from a pet shop, at a reptile show, or from a breeder.
Candy cane corn snakes, with pink and orange bands running the length of their bodies, cost about $50.
Okeetee Tessera corn snakes, with their splotchy calico patterns and a dark stripe running down their backs, sell for about $100.
Coral Snow corn snakes, with a white and pink pattern, are the most expensive corn snake morph commonly available. But they only cost about $150.
Cost of Setup
Ball pythons require a 30- to 55-gallon terrarium. Corn snakes can be happy in 20 to 55 gallons.
The costs of the enclosure, basking lamp, substrate, silk plants, snake hides, and climbing toys for either snake are about the same.
Expect to spend $250 to $500 to get started with your pet snake’s enclosure.
Ball pythons are heavier than corn snakes and eat more at each meal.
However, they come from an environment in which food is abundant at some times and hard to find at others. Ball pythons usually want larger meals, but don’t feed as often as corn snakes.
As a result, the cost of feeding the two different kinds of snakes is about the same.
However, corn snakes are easier to feed than ball pythons. Corn snakes aren’t fussy eaters, and they eat about every 7 to 10 days.
Ball pythons may stop eating during their breeding season, especially if you have two ball pythons in the same enclosure, or even in the same room.
Male ball pythons won’t eat when they sense a nearby female ball python is in heat, even if she is ovulating for weeks at a time.
Female ball pythons may not eat while they are carrying their clutch of eggs and become ravenous as soon as they lay them.
Ball pythons won’t eat if their cages aren’t clean, if the temperature isn’t right, or if their owners try to feed them food they haven’t eaten before.
They may go months at a time without eating, which may or may not be unhealthy for them.
Still can’t decide which snake is for you? There is nothing wrong with asking a snake seller to let you take a “test drive.”
Get them to take the snake out of its display terrarium so you can see how you interact with it. Simply holding a snake can give you a feel for how you would like it later.
Or read some more about the special care and feeding each kind of snake can require.
Checklist: Caring for Ball Pythons
Ball pythons are easy to care for, but some issues come up that every snake owner doesn’t want to deal with.
Scan this list to see if there is anything about ball pythons that is a dealbreaker for you.
- Ball pythons are nocturnal. They are more comfortable moving around when it is dark. They are more likely to interact with you at night than during the day.
- Ball pythons are not venomous but they can bite. They are most likely to bite if you don’t make a habit of moving them to a second enclosure for feeding. Otherwise, they may think every time you open their enclosure is feeding time, and strike at your fingers.
- It is OK to start a hatchling ball python in a 20-gallon enclosure, but as it grows, it needs a home that is large enough for it to stretch out completely. By the time a ball python is three years old, it needs at least a 40-gallon breeder tank. Double the space if you are placing two ball pythons in a cage for breeding purposes.
- Ball pythons often have allergies to pine bark and cedar shavings, or, more precisely, to the essential oils in them. Use shredded paper, aspen shavings, or reptile carpet for the substrate in their enclosure.
- Ball pythons need a temperature gradient in their enclosures. They need a cool end where the temperature is about 78° F (25° C) and a warm end where the temperature is about 95° F (35° C). Use two thermometers to monitor the temperature of the two ends of their enclosure. Check both thermometers every day, and take action to keep the cage appropriately warm and cool.
- Infrared heat lamps work better than light bulbs that keep your ball python’s enclosure brightly lit at night. Ball pythons prefer to eat in the dark and then to hide while they digest their food.
- Scientists have confirmed that ball pythons don’t really need UV light to make vitamin D the way humans do. They get their vitamin D (and vitamin A) from the fat and livers of the animals they eat. However, keeping a cycle of light and dark to give your ball python the experience of day and night helps them be more active. Some ball pythons require darkness to want to feed.
- Ball pythons need fresh, clean water at all times.
- Ball pythons can be fussy eaters for life if you start them off on an exotic food (for instance, baby gerbils) when they are hatchlings. You will never get them to eat “normal” snake food if they are started on something hard to find.
- Burns from heat lamps are a common problem for ball pythons. Make sure your ball python cannot raise itself into its heat lamp.
Checklist: Caring for Corn Snakes
Corn snakes are also easy to care for, but some issues come up that every snake owner doesn’t want to deal with.
Scan this list to see if there is anything about corn snakes that is a dealbreaker for you.
- Corn snakes are diurnal. They are more comfortable moving around when their enclosure is well lit. They are more likely to interact with you during the day than at night. However, you still need to be sure to turn off overhead lights at night to give them a rest period.
- Corn snakes, like ball pythons, are not poisonous but they can bite. They are most likely to bite if you stick your bare hand into the cage when they are hungry, especially if you have recently handled the frozen mice or baby quail they like to eat. Wear gloves when you transfer them to their second enclosure for feeding time.
- Corn snakes aren’t as fussy about their food as ball pythons. It is still a good idea to start them on the food that will be easiest for you to get for the rest of their lives. Usually, this is pre-killed frozen mice, small rats, or quail, which you thaw and bring to room temperature (never in a microwave) before feeding them.
- It is OK to start a hatchling corn snake in a 10-gallon enclosure, but as it grows, it needs a home that is large enough for it to stretch out completely. By the time a corn snake is three years old, it needs at least a 20-gallon tank. Double the space if you are placing two snakes in a cage for breeding purposes.
- Corn snakes often have allergies to pine bark and cedar shavings, or, more precisely, to the essential oils in them. Use shredded paper, aspen shavings, or reptile carpet for the substrate in their enclosure.
- Corn snakes need a temperature gradient in their enclosures. They need a cool end where the temperature is about 72° F (23° C) and a warm end where the temperature is about 92° F (3e° C). Use two thermometers to monitor the temperature of the two ends of their enclosure. Check both thermometers every day, and take action to keep the cage appropriately warm and cool.
- Infrared heat lamps work better than light bulbs that keep your corn snake’s enclosure brightly lit at night. Corn snakes don’t need to eat in the dark, but they do like to have a hide where they can digest their food.
- There is no scientific evidence that corn snakes need the UV rays of the sun to make vitamin D the way humans do. They get their vitamin D (and vitamin A) from the fat and livers of the animals they eat. However, keeping a cycle of light and dark to give your corn snake the experience of day and night helps them rest so they are more active (and more fun to watch) during the day.
- Corn snakes, like ball pythons, need fresh, clean water at all times.
- Corn snakes usually aren’t fussy eaters.
- It is important to hang your corn snake’s heat lamp where it can’t reach it, to prevent burns. A heat mat is usually safer for your snake, but make sure it does not overheat.
- Corn snakes are much more likely to be playful than ball pythons. They are good with children, under supervision. A corn snake might play a touching game with a child, touching back as it is touched. Ball pythons, on the other hand, can be entertaining in a different way, for example, by rolling into a ball.
You can’t really go wrong with either a corn snake or a ball python for your first-time reptile pet.
They have slightly different care requirements, but they are both inexpensive and highly rewarding pets.
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