Are you looking to get a snake as a pet? Snakes are arguably one of the most effortless pets to care for.
They’re low maintenance, affordable, hypoallergenic, and fun to watch. These animals can offer you company and relieve stress after a long day.
According to National Geographic, there are more than 3000 species of snakes. If you’re unsure which one to get, here are two snakes that you might want to consider.
Corn snakes vs. ball pythons, which snake is the better pet for you?
Corn Snake vs. Ball Python Origin and Habitat
To select and create the perfect enclosure for your pet snake, you must first know the places they inhabit in the wild.
Corn Snake Origin and Habitat
Corn snakes originated from the Southeastern United States. People first noticed them in the corn storages of Native Americans.
In the wild, they’re the most abundant in Florida.
It’s a popular belief that they got their name from the markings on their bellies that look like corn. Others say that they received the name because they hung around grain stores to hunt mice.
Corn snakes create their homes in wooded areas with plenty of wood stumps and leaf litter. They can also be in barns, meadows, rocky hills, and abandoned buildings.
Ball Pythons Origin and Habitat
Ball pythons originate from West and Central Africa, near the equator. They began as regular pets that sold at $15 apiece.
Ball pythons got their name from their habit of curling into a ball when met with danger.
According to Reptiles Magazine, their popularity as a pet in the United States started in the 1990s when an albino ball python got sold for $7,500. Breeders realized the value of ball pythons and scrambled to develop new colors.
In the wild, you can find ball pythons in tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Snakes like these tend to burrow underground where humidity levels are high.
Corn Snake and Ball Python Physical Traits
There are few activities to do with pet snakes. Most of the time you’ll only watch them do their own thing.
That’s why you might want to think about which snake makes you happy based on its appearance.
1 – Skin Pattern and Color
An interesting fact about these two snakes is they can come in a beautiful array of shades.
Corn Snake Skin Pattern and Color
Regular corn snakes in the wild have a reddish to orangish hue. They have bellies that look like a chessboard.
They have diamond-shaped patches that run along their back. These patches have a thin, black outline.
In captivity, breeders have created corn snakes that have striped and banded patterns. A few breeders even develop corn snakes with no pattern at all.
Corn snakes in captivity may have lavender, caramel, white, cream, and sunset colors. Mexican corn snakes can have silver heads and greenish hues.
In 2000, a corn snake with white skin and brown flecks emerged. This Palmetto corn snake sold for $4,000.
Ball Python Skin Pattern and Color
Ball pythons have even more variety than corn snakes when it comes to color. Breeders refer to their difference in appearance as morphs.
They can come in white-gold, bright yellow, black, tiger, oreo, banana, and pastel morphs to name a few. Our favorite would be the pied ball python, which has a similar pattern to a cow.
Because of new varieties that emerge each year, ball pythons have become collector’s items. They’re so desirable that a rare lavender albino python once sold for $40000.
2 – Length, Width, and Weight
Corn snakes grow up to four to six feet, and are one inch in diameter. Adults weigh about two pounds on average.
Their bodies are sleek and not that muscular.
Meanwhile, ball pythons are more muscular and weigh about three to five pounds each. Male ball pythons grow about three feet in length, and females grow up to four to five feet.
They could have anywhere between four and six inches in diameter.
3 – Head and Eyes
Corn snakes have heads that are slender and sleek. It’s hard to tell where their head ends and their body begins.
Their eyes are yellow with big black pupils that are round. Corn snakes have terrible eyesight and rely on scent to find prey.
On the other hand, ball pythons have heart-shaped heads which they hide in the presence of predators. They also have pits in their heads that can sense heat to detect prey.
Their eyes are all black, and they have short-sightedness. They can’t see colors very well, and can only focus on moving objects.
Corn Snake and Ball Python Nature and Characteristics
Corn snakes and ball pythons are two of the most popular species of pet snakes today. A contributing factor to that is their temperament when handled by humans.
1 – Temperament
Corn snakes belong to the group of the most docile species of snakes. That being said, breeders will never be able to make a snake that doesn’t bite.
When met with danger, corn snakes will first attempt to run away. If you insist on chasing it, it’ll go into self-defense mode and strike at you.
Ball pythons are a little bit friendlier. They don’t usually bite, but younger snakes may be more aggressive than adults.
Owners of ball pythons claim that ball pythons are head-shy. This means that they hide their heads as a self-preservation method when encountering a predator.
2 – Handling
To avoid triggering your snake’s instincts, here’s how you can handle it.
Corn Snake Handling
When handling a corn snake, you’ll have to slowly put one hand under its head, and another under its body. Lift it gently, and not in a jerking motion.
Only handle corn snakes for 15 minutes at most. Otherwise, its body temperature might plummet and it might bite you.
Be aware of the warning sign that your snake is about to bite. If it leans back and forms an S-shape, lower it back into its vivarium.
Don’t handle snakes after touching their food. The scent may still be on you and they might mistake your fingers for food.
Ball Python Handling
Humans are way bigger than snakes and they may view us as a threat. When it sees you, a ball python may curl up and hide its vulnerable head under its body.
To combat this, you have to remain quiet and try not to make sudden movements. Slowly introduce your palm to the snake.
Avoid touching a ball python’s head until it’s comfortable with you. Daily handling sessions will reduce your snake’s head-shyness in the long run.
3 – Bites
Sometimes, accidents happen and you could get bitten by your pet snake. Luckily, both corn snakes and ball pythons aren’t venomous.
If you compare the two, corn snake and ball python bites are similar. Getting bitten might result in scratches, bruises, and sometimes even puncture wounds.
To avoid getting bitten, make sure that your pet is never hungry. Don’t feed it with your hand, and always approach and handle it slowly.
Be aware of your snake’s biting range. Snakes can reach a distance that’s half of their body length.
In case it does happen, treat your wound before anything. After that, check your pet for injuries and return it to its housing.
4 – Relationships
Snakes are solitary animals that won’t get along with any other pets.
If you have cats and dogs, your snakes can get harmed by these larger animals. Cats, in particular, can take down adult corn snakes and ball pythons.
Should you put two snakes together, they’ll most likely fight and compete for food. There’s also a chance the stronger snake eats the weaker one.
In case you have kids around, ball pythons may be the better choice since they’re gentler than corn snakes.
Corn Snake and Ball Python Care Tips
There are differences when it comes to caring for corn snakes and ball pythons.
1 – Enclosure
Snakes need proper vivariums with the right size, heat source, substrate, and hiding spots. It should be easy to clean and have the right living conditions.
In general, the vivarium size should be long enough for your pet to be able to fully stretch its body. It should have a sliding screen for your snake’s safety.
Both species of snakes should have a 40-gallon tank at the very least. Juveniles may have a 20-gallon tank.
Temperature, Humidity, and Lighting
For corn snakes, there should be a heat lamp on one side of their tank to create a basking area that’s 82°F. The other side of the tank should be colder at about 68°F.
You’ll need a hygrometer to check your tank’s humidity levels. Corn snakes need to be in a constant 40% to 50% humidity.
In the case of ball pythons, the hot area should be 86°F and the cool side should be 75°F. The humidity of the tank should be 50% to 60%.
For both snakes, the hot side of the vivarium should have a UV tube as a light source. Turn this lighting off at night.
The substrate is the foundation of a vivarium where plants and animals grow. Like bedding, a substrate contributes to your snake’s well-being.
For corn snakes, the best substrate would be aspen. Aspen is a loose and easy-to-clean bedding that’s great for burrowing.
For ball pythons that need higher humidity, aspen isn’t the best substrate since it can get moldy under humidity. Instead, go for bioactive soil.
Bioactive soil can retain moisture and is perfect for tropical snakes like ball pythons. Another advantage is you can place live plants in this soil and create a mini ecosystem.
2 – Food
Corn snakes and ball pythons both eat rodents in the wild. You can purchase frozen mice and thaw them out before giving them to your snake.
Select mice that are the same thickness as your snake’s midsection. Snakes can’t chew and they’ll need to swallow mice whole.
Young snakes need a feeding time of once every 5 days. Adult corn snakes and ball pythons need to be fed once every 14 days.
During feeding, you might want to mimic the movement of live mice by holding them with feeding forceps and wiggling them. As a treat, you can give your snakes a fresh quail egg once every few weeks.
3 – Tips for Snake Shedding
Shedding is a natural process that can affect your snake’s health. Shedding can cause complications and it’s natural for your snake to stop eating during this period.
Corn snakes shed once every three months, while ball pythons shed once a month. You can tell they’re about to shed when their eyes turn blue and they become reclusive.
To help in shedding, you’ll have to make sure that the humidity level in the tank is high. If their skin is too dry, they may shed in pieces and get infected by bacteria.
Take your snake to the vet if it’s having trouble shedding.
4 – Lifespan
With the proper care and attention, your corn snake will live up to 10 to 15 years. Ball pythons can live even longer up to 25 years.
To increase its life expectancy, make sure to clean your snake’s tank daily. Change its water daily and take out any feces and skin from shedding.
If you’ll get a snake, make sure that you’re committed as they can become life-long partners.
The most affordable corn snakes may cost $30 each while regular ball pythons may cost $50 each. Take note that pythons with rare morphs can cost way more.
Aside from that, there will be costs for food, care, and housing.
Corn snakes will eat smaller rodents than ball pythons. You can feed a corn snake for $10 per month while ball python food might cost $30 a month.
Initial costs for ball pythons are higher as well. You’ll need more equipment and substrate that can maintain tropical conditions for these snakes.
As we mentioned before, ball pythons are more like collector’s items. Rare morphs can cost a pretty penny, which may be why there’s a shady market for these snakes.
Tens of thousands of ball pythons get exported from West Africa. A great number of these snakes get captured from the wild on the off-chance that they have a mutation that’ll be the next hit on the American market.
Should you want to buy a ball python, your priority should be getting it from a reputable source. However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be purchasing it ethically.
In terms of sustainability, it would be better to buy the local corn snake instead.
Snakes can have a lot of differences when it comes to habitat, characteristics, care, and expenses. They’re lifelong partners for those who decide to take care of them.
Choosing the right snake will give you a better experience in owning one. We hope this guide helped you decide between corn snakes vs. ball pythons.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.