So, you’re considering buying a pet snake, and debating between a Corn Snake vs a Ball Python. First, congratulations! We are thrilled you are considering taking on the new adventure of snake ownership. Both Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes are great species of snakes to own as a pet.
This is an exciting step! Snake ownership is a fulfilling hobby, and it opens a ton of doors and facilitates curiosity about the reptilian world. Plus, they are down right cool to talk about and show off to friends and family. While snakes may not be a typical pet to own, they are known to be very comforting and affectionate at times.
Buying a snake is a big decision. Both species have a lot of similarities in how they need to be kept. That said, there are some key differences to take into consideration before taking the leap to pet snake ownership. There are also several other great beginner pet snakes to take into consideration when choosing a species.
With all of this in mind, its’ time consider what’s best for you: a Ball Python, or a Corn Snake?
Corn Snake vs Ball Python Similarities and Differences
Ball Pythons (Python Regius) are a tropical snake native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They prefer more humid, tropical climates.
Corn Snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are native to North America, and are a species of Rat Snake typically found in the East/Central parts of the US.
Length and Size
Size and length is likely the highest criteria on your list for purchasing a pet snake. Consequently, the last thing a first time snake owner wants is a 15 foot python growing in their basement. Some quick research will help you understand which species of snakes don’t get too large.
In the case of these two species, neither of them grow to be very long. That said, Ball Pythons have a greater girth compared to a Corn Snake.
Both species reach about the same range of maximum length: 3-4 feet. All things considered, that’s not too long and more than manageable for a first time snake owner.
Pro Tip: When Buying a Corn Snake vs Ball Python, Ask About Sex
Asking about a snake’s sex before buying is key. So when talking to a breeder, be sure to inquire about if the snake in question is male or female.
With most species that are common for pet ownership, female snakes tend to grow larger than male snakes. Now, the size difference between sexes varies across species. So, some species have bigger differences than others. When it comes to Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes, the differences are there, but they aren’t too significant. In any case, we highly recommend asking your breeder about the sex of the snake you are thinking of buying. That could influence your decision if size/length is a factor in your buying decision.
As for girth or thickness, Ball Pythons tend to be much more “wide”. In general, tropical snakes that fall under the python or boa species tend to have much more girth than other species.
In summary, Corn Snakes and Ball Pythons will reach about the same length (3-4ft), but Ball Pythons will weigh more and look larger due to their wider girth.
Habitat and Cage Climate
The two different species in question vary quite a lot when it comes to habitat and climate. To start, Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes are native to two very different regions that have vastly different climates. To clarify, BallPpythons are more tropical snakes, while corn snakes are native to a more balanced, even-keel habitat.
Now, while there are differences in the climate, humidity, and recommended temperature, both species can be housed in similar size snake cages. That said, there are a few aspects of the habitat to consider when choosing a Corn Snake vs Ball Python.
Corn Snake Humidity, Temp, and Lighting
Corn Snakes are a little easier when it comes to maintaining a snake terrarium. They are native to the US and enjoy a climate similar to that of a typical US home. Meaning, no special humidifiers (in most cases), and no complicated or expensive maintenance is required.
First, Corn Snakes don’t require lighting. A heating mat will do just fine for regulating temperature in it’s terrarium. That said, you’ll need to provide a corn snake with basking and ambient part of an enclosure. Best practice is to have one side of the terrarium between 75-82 degrees F and the other side between 86-89 degrees F. That way, your Corn Snake can warm up and cool off at it’s own convenience.
Lastly, Corn Snakes prefer a humidity between 30-50%. In most cases, your Corn Snake will be OK without any additional equipment. If your enclosure is in a basement, or if you live in the desert/a very humid area, you may need to consider a humidifier or a dehumidifier for your terrarium. Again, only take precautions if you know your climate is unlike the norm. For reference, the average humidity in the US is about 30%.
Ball Python Humidity, Temp, and Lighting
On the contrary, Ball Pythons require a slightly different setup than Corn Snakes due to their native tropical climate. They come from a place that has a much different climate than the US. Consequently, they require more attention when it comes to setting up a proper Ball Python terrarium.
There is one similarity, though. Like Corn Snakes, Ball Pythons don’t require any kind of timed lighting in their terrarium. That said, the heating and humidity varies from the formerly mentioned species.
First, Ball Pythons enjoy a basking temperature that ranges between 88-90 degrees F, and an ambient temperature that ranges between 76-83 degrees F. Like a Corn Snake, these temperatures can be achieved with a heating mat that goes underneath the tank.
Also, Ball Pythons prefer at least 50% humidity in their enclosure. While it’s somewhat similar to a Corn Snake’s preference, you’ll want to make sure this is precise. Allowing the humidity to drop below 50% could cause issues with shedding and discomfort to your pet snake. This can be prevented by installing a humidity tester and if needed, a small reptile humidifier.
Lifespan and Longevity
When it comes to the lifespan of Corn Snakes vs Ball Pythons, there is a pretty big difference in how long each species lives. This is an important factor in choosing between one of the two, because it will determine how long you will need to plan to look after your pet snake.
Ball Pythons tend to live much longer than Corn Snakes in captivity and in the wild. In captivity, Ball Pythons have an average lifespan of 25-30 years old. Some even live up to ~35 years. That’s a long time for a pet snake! So, if you plan on taking the leap to own a Ball Python, either be ready for the long run or have a plan to make sure it has a dedicated home down the road.
On the other hand, Corn Snakes live a much shorter life in captivity. Typically, Corn Snake will live to be about 15-20 years old on average. While that is a difference of 5-15 years compared to a Ball Python, it’s still a very long time to have a pet. Similarly, if you choose to own a Corn Snake, be sure you have at least somewhat of a long term plan.
All-in-all, it’s a commitment to own a snake. Whether you choose a Ball Python or Corn Snake, both species can live 2+ decades. Make sure you’re ready to own a snake for that long, or have a plan to give them to another aspiring snake owner!
Ball Python vs Corn Snake Color and Look
Corn Snakes and Ball Pythons look vastly different from one another. Corn snakes have a narrow head, along with a consistently narrow body. On the other hand, Ball Pythons have a diamond shaped head, and grow very thick in their main body when older. Additionally, both species come in a variety of different “morphs”. If you’re new to snake ownership, you may not know what a morph is.
Essentially, most snakes that are the same species can be bred to look very different with different patterns, colors, etc. These different “looks” are called “morphs”.
Standard Ball Pythons are brown and black, while standard Corn Snakes are orange and brown. Both of these common “morphs” tend to be the cheapest.
Here are some different morph names for each breed:
Ball Python Morphs:
- Enchi Vanilla
- Asphalt Specter
Corn Snake Morphs:
Cost of Ownership and Availability
When it comes to owning a pet snake, there are a few key costs to take into consideration:
- Cost to purchase a pet Ball Python/Corn Snake: For most snake owners, especially for beginners, Ball Pythons and Corn snakes will range between $20-$60 to purchase. For more advanced enthisiasts interested in unique “morphs”, the cost can be anywhere from $200 all the way into the thousands of dollars.
- Getting the right cage setup: Regardless which species you choose, you need to plan on getting the right setup for your snake. While you can be thrifty, plan on spending $150-300 as an initial investment into your snakes enclosure.
- Ongoing maintenance and food costs: You’ll need to plan to spend ~$10-20 dollars a month feeding and maintaining one snake. Most of the costs come down to food and keeping your snake’s enclosure clean and sanitary. Pro tip: if you buy frozen mice in bulk, you can reduce your costs per mouse and you won’t have to worry about making a trip to the pet store every week.
How Much do Corn Snakes Cost vs. Ball Pythons?
The standard Ball Python morph will cost usually around $30-50 dollars. Some of the rarer morphs can be anywhere from $200 all the way up to $,-$5,000+ dollars! The reason being is because some morphs are harder to breed and difficult to replicate.
On the other hand, Corn Snakes tend to be slightly less expensive than Ball Pythons. Usually, a basic Corn Snake will cost around $20-$40. More unique morphs like Albino Corn Snakes can cost up to $100. Corn Snakes tend not to be more expensive than that, though.
Handling and Temperament
Good news: When it comes to handling Corn Snakes vs Ball Pythons, neither pose many issues or require any special handling.
That said, there are some differences between the two when it comes to temperament. First, Corn Snakes tend to be more friendly and social. Plus, it’s extremely rare for a Corn Snake to bite and become angry/violent. Even if a Corn Snake does strike or attempt to bite, it rarely, if ever will hurt or break skin.
This is a big plus for Corn Snakes. They tend to be easier to handle, and require less precaution when removing from their enclosure.
Quite oppositely, Ball Pythons are more shy, can show aggressive tendencies, and require more patience and care when handling. By nature, Ball Pythons are more reserved animals. They spend a lot of their time curled up under some kind of obstruction or in dead trees, and tend to avoid open areas. While Ball Python Bites are fairly uncommon, they do happen and can be somewhat painful.
This is a minus for Ball Pythons. While they are really cool, and are a very common pet snake, they tend to be more difficult to handle when compared to a Corn Snake. All that in mind, Ball Pythons are still excellent pet snakes, even for beginners.
Handling Best Practices
Whether you choose a corn snake or a Ball Python, it’s important to handle them on a regular basis and pick up on behavioral signs. Best practice is to handle your snake at least 2-3 times per week.
Avoid handling Corn Snakes and Ball Pythons right before or after feeding.
Lastly, be sure to “listen” to your snake when it’s trying to tell you something. If the snake wags it’s tail at you, coils up, or looks like it is stressed, it’s best to give it some time to settle down and try to handle at a later time. Most of the time, they will be happy to see you. Sometimes, you may startle them and they will go into defense mode.
Ball Python vs Corn Snake – Which is Better for You?
Pet snakes are low maintenance, often hobby-driven pets to own. Additionally, Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes are both very common species to own. Especially when it comes to first time pet owners.
Now that you know the biggest differences between owning a Corn Snake vs a Ball Python, Which one is best for you?
You may like a Corn Snake if:
- You want a great starter snake that won’t grow to large or girthy
- You want a more social, less hands on snake
- Variety of color, pattern, etc. aren’t that important to you
- You don’t mind having a snake that isn’t a Python or tropical breed
- You want a snake that won’t live up to 35 years
You may like a Ball Python if:
- You want a lot of different morphs and looks/colors to choose from
- You want a tropical snake or more of an “enthusiast” species
- You’re in it for the long run, because Ball Pythons live a lot longer than Corn Snakes
- You’re OK with a snake being fairly large and girthy
- You are patient, and don’t mind if your snake is a little more shy/reserved
All in all, both species are great for long time enthusiasts and for beginners. Good luck choosing, and we hope this article helps you choose the slithery friend that’s right for you!