Corn snakes and kingsnakes are a lot alike.
They are both easy to handle. Neither corn snakes nor king snakes get very aggressive.
Corn snakes and kingsnakes never get so large that they are hard to handle. And they are both relatively inexpensive and easy to find.
Both snakes are suitable for beginners, but one is much more manageable than the other.
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to choose between getting a corn snake and getting a king snake, and why a corn snake is easier to keep.
A Quick Comparison of Corn Snakes and King Snakes
Here are the essential facts about corn snakes and kingsnakes,
Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
- Colors: Black, orange, red, and yellow (in the same snake)
- Adult Length: 3 to 5 feet (90 to 150 cm)
- Lifespan: 15 to 25 years
- Diet: Mice, also rats and quail of suitable size
- Venomous? No
- Originates in southeastern United States
King Snake (Lampropeltis species)
- Colors: Black, red, and yellow.
- Adult length: 14 inches to 6 feet (35 to 180 cm)
- Lifespan: 15 to 30 years
- Diet: Mice, also rats and quail of suitable size
- Venomous? No
- Originates in California and the western United States
Corn snakes are escape artists. They can squeeze through tiny cracks between their cage and its lid to escape into the rest of your home.
A corn snake needs a 20-gallon (80-liter) tank, or larger.
King snakes get their name from the fact that they dominate, and sometimes eat, other snakes. In the wild, kingsnakes sometimes eat rattlesnakes.
Kingsnakes are easy to handle, and not quite as escape-prone as corn snakes.
Now let’s look at the similarities and differences between corn snakes and kingsnakes in more detail.
All snakes are carnivores. Because snakes swallow their prey whole, as long as they are fed healthy animals, they will get all the nutrients they need.
The first food for either a corn snake or a kingsnake is pre-killed, previously frozen pinky mice brought up to room temperature without microwaving.
Never feed a snake cooked food. It won’t have vitamins in the form that a snake’s body uses them.
The larger the snake, the larger the mice you feed it. If you don’t like the idea of feeding your snake rodents, you can feed Reptilinks.
These sausage-like servings of ground-up prey animals for snakes and other reptiles give your pet all the nutrition it needs, without the eww factor.
However, you may need to start your snake on Reptilinks from its first meal, or it will not recognize that they are food.
Corn snakes generally make laid-back, docile pets.
Corn snakes usually don’t mind being held. When they feel threatened, they will let you know. Corn snakes can make a sound with their tails that sounds a lot like a rattlesnake.
You can train your corn snake to play a game of “boop,” nudging your finger with its snout.
Corn snakes are highly unlikely to bite you, unless you get in their way at feeding time.
However, corn snakes use their noses to test every possible escape route from their cages, sometimes lifting the lid off their enclosures.
Kingsnakes are more excitable, especially around feeding time. You need to offer them their food with tongs, so your fingers don’t get in the way of their bite.
Kingsnakes don’t rattle when they are frightened. Instead, they release a smelly musk from glands on either side of their anus.
You should be sure that you can stand the odor of the musk before you make a Kingsnake your pet.
Kingsnakes are constrictors. If you let them out of their enclosures to pet them, they may wrap themselves around your arm. When this happens, just unwrap them and return them to their cage.
But don’t leave two kingsnakes together unattended. The larger kingsnake may eat the smaller kingsnake.
This even happens in mating couples, although there is a part of the sex act in which the (smaller) male holds down the (larger) female with his mouth.
Also read: Do Corn Snakes Like to Climb?
Adult corn snakes can be happy in a 20-gallon enclosure, if it includes a place to hide.
To feel safe, corn snakes need a hide that is just big enough for them to curl up in. If the hide is too large, they won’t feel safe.
You can place a decorative hiding place into their enclosure to give it the look of natural habitat.
Or your snake might be happy with a couple of pieces of bark over some kind of substrate it can burrow into. Even an old shoebox might work.
Adult kingsnakes aren’t notably larger than adult corn snakes, but they benefit from more spacious accommodations.
An adult kingsnake does best in a 60-gallon tank that gives it room to stretch out and fully inflate its lungs.
Kingsnakes also like hiding places. They prefer to have not just one but several hides in their enclosure.
Rocks and bark look natural in a kingsnake terrarium.
But you can also use half of a large coconut shell or even a cardboard box. Kingsnakes also like to burrow into the soft substrate in their hiding places.
Warm-blooded animals like humans, cats, and dogs generate their body temperature by generating their own heat.
Cold-blooded animals like snakes regulate their body temperature by moving to locations that are warmer or cooler.
Corn snakes prefer an air temperature of 80° to 85° F (27° to 29° C) in their enclosures during the day, dropping to about 75° F (23° C) at night.
When they are digesting their food, they like a slightly warmer basking temperature of about 88° F (31°C).
Like other snakes, corn snakes prefer one end of their enclosure to be cool and the other end to be warm, but the differences aren’t a lot.
Having one end that is at most 10° F (6° C) warmer than the other gives your snake a chance to warm up to digest its food and to cool off to rest.
Kingsnakes prefer slightly cooler temperatures. They’re fine with 70° to 85° F (21° to 28° C) air temperature during the day with a 10° to 15°F (2° to 5°C) drop at night.
They also need a basking area that is slightly warmer than the rest of their tank.
Both corn snakes and kingsnakes will use hides at either the warm end or the cool end of their tank.
Hides increase humidity and protect your snake from sudden fluctuations in temperature, and should be bought at the same time you get your heating pads.
Remember, don’t expose your snake to a naked heating element. Serious burns can happen.
You will need more or less the same heating equipment for either a corn snake or a kingsnake. You will need more of it for a kingsnake, because they need a bigger tank.
Also read: Do Pet Snakes Need Heat Lamps?
Corn snakes originated in the American southeast.
They prefer high humidity levels. For corn snakes, 85 to 90 percent humidity is ideal. Just don’t make the tank so humid that it condenses on the glass.
Kingsnakes originated in the drier climate of California and the American West. They prefer 40 to 60 percent humidity. They don’t do well in “soupy” atmospheric conditions.
Keep a hygrometer (a humidity cage) in the tank with either kind of snake to monitor the amount of moisture in the air. If the enclosure begins to dry out, be sure your snake’s water dish is full.
The only time kingsnakes need supplemental humidity is just before they are about to shed. You can tell your snake is about to shed by its eyes.
They will look blue. The skin will also look filmy.
If you live in a high-humidity climate, a corn snake will be healthier than a kingsnake. If you live in an arid climate, the opposite will be true.
Corn snakes and kingsnakes benefit from the same kinds of substrate. But what is a substrate, and why do you need to put it in your snake’s tank?
Snakes can’t get traction on glass or plastic. They need substrate lining the bottom of their cage to help them move.
A substrate also adds a layer of insulation between the snake and a heating pad and slowly releases moisture to humidify the air.
Even old newspapers can serve as a substrate, but they look terrible. Both corn snakes and kingsnakes do better with:
- Astroturf. Some snake owners cut two pieces of Astroturf to line their snake tanks. They put one in the tank. and keep the other piece for those times the first piece needs to be washed, sanitized, and dried out.
- Aspen shavings. Corn snakes and kingsnakes enjoy the feel of wood shavings made from aspen wood. Never use cedar, pine, spruce, or redwood shavings, because they contain irritating essential oils./
- Reptile carpet. A reptile carpet is washable and reusable. You can place your snake’s food directly on the reptile carpet without any worry that your snake will eat its substrate.
Corncobs, soil, and sand harbor bacteria and fungi that can make your snake sick.
Want to breed baby snakes?
As a general rule, female corn snakes are at the ideal age to breed when they are three years old, three feet long, and weigh 300 grams (10 or 11 ounces).
However, both males and females can breed as early as 18 months after they hatch.
Their eggs are more likely to be viable if they go through brumation (the snake’s equivalent of hibernation) the winter before they mate.
Mating should be timed so the female is “pregnant” during the summer months when it will have a stronger appetite to provide more nourishment for the eggs.
Corn snakes may lay as many as 30 eggs at a time. Once the female has laid the eggs, it is no longer interested in them.
Kingsnakes lay just six to 15 eggs at a time. And there is a real danger that the female will eat the male after mating!
But kingsnakes can reproduce when they are just 18 months old.
King Snake vs Corn Snake – Which One Should You Choose as a Pet?
Kingsnakes are a little more challenging as first pet snakes than corn snakes. They will be fussier when you feed them, but corn snakes will be more likely to try to escape.
There is, however, a good way to choose the snake that you will enjoy the most:
Find the morph you like the most.
Both kingsnakes and corn snakes come in dozens of morphs. You can find the exact snake you want to keep as a pet for many years if you pay just a little more.
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- Can Two Corn Snakes Live Together?
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- What Do Corn Snakes Eat?
- Are Corn Snakes Good Pets?
- Ball Python or Corn Snake — Which One Makes a Better Pet Snake?
- Cost of Keeping Pet Snakes? Detailed Breakdown!
- Gopher Snake and Rattlesnake—What’s the Difference?
- Rat Snake Vs Corn Snake (Behavior, Diet, Habitat, Adopting As Your Pet)