Corn Snake Vs King Snake: Differences & Similarities

There are about 4,000 species of snakes in this world, from the northern part of the planet all the way to the southern part. Except Antarctica, there are snakes in every other part of the world, because in Antarctica the ground stays frozen all the year round. Among such a large number of snakes, thankfully, only 600 species are venomous. The rest kill their prey by other methods.

In this article, you will know about two such non-venomous snakes, the corn snake vs king snake. They make great pets and exist in an extensive array of beautiful colors. They are not high-maintenance either and will surely attract a large number of curious visitors to your humble abode. Without further ado, let’s explore the mysterious world of corn snakes and kingsnakes.

A Glimpse Into The Slithering World Of Corn Snake And King Snake

Snakes are one of the most exquisite works of nature. These limbless, hissing, crawling, and hobbling reptiles, belonging to the order Squamata, and suborder Serpentes, never cease to marvel at us with their dangerous beauty. Snakes are fierce and can survive the harshest of climatic conditions, and therefore can be found everywhere except Antarctica.

Corn Snake

Source: @thereptilereportofficial

Pantherophis guttatus, commonly known as the corn snakes, belong to the family Colubridae. Corn snakes are named so because they frequent grain stores for food, and prey on the mice and rats that in turn feed on harvested corn. Other sources claim that they are named so because their body color and patterns resemble the kernels on variegated corns.

King Snake

Source: @snake_n_snek

Kingsnakes belong to the same family Colubridae, with their genus name being Lampropeltis and the species name is elapsoides. Kingsnakes are nonvenomous so they make good pets. An attractive feature of these reptiles is the color of their body.

There are 26 species, and 45 subspecies of kingsnakes wriggling about on the earth’s surface, and though some are muted brown and black in color, most of the others are red and yellow, with beautiful markings decorating the monochromatic background with speckles and stripes.

Similarities Between King Snake And Corn Snake

Corn snakes and king snakes have plenty of commonalities in between them. After all, both belong to the same suborder and family of serpents, are non-venomous and make excellent pets. The sheer size of king snakes especially will make people be a little sneaky around you, and you will soon know why. Both are North American colubrids and share similar habitats.

The two snakes like to slumber most of the day and as soon as the lights go out, they become more active. Both king snakes and corn snakes eat rodents, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and their eggs. The size of the two snakes are more and less similar and their hunting tactics are also almost indistinguishable. It is because of so many similarities that it has become crucial to know their differences so that we can tell them apart.

Corn Snake Vs King Snake: A Deeper Look

Some of the shades of colors that corn snakes come in are eerily similar to the appearance of certain king snakes. Take the Okeetee corn snakes, for instance, which look quite similar to the California mountain king snakes because of their reddish-orange tinge. Therefore, you should know the differences by heart so that you do not end up bringing the wrong one up as your pet.

Heredity Background

Source: @dna_snakes_cornsnakebreeder

Heredity Background

Corn snakes do not have many species but are available in various color morphs. King snakes have a lot of species and subspecies, but have limited color morphs. 

Corn snakes belong to the genus Pantherophis which is a genus of colubrid, non-venomous snakes and includes the rat snakes and fox snakes. There are apparently 2 or 3 species of corn snakes but this number is slightly debatable. However, due to selective breeding and hybridization, there are over 800 color morphs of corn snakes in the world currently.

In the case of king snakes, there are 26 species and 45 subspecies, with Californian king snake, Florida king snake, and Mexican black king snake being the most popular as pets.

King snakes belong to the genus Lampropeltis. The word, in Greek, means “shiny shield” and this is mainly because of the dorsal scales that cover its smooth, shiny body.

Body Size

King snakes are longer and larger than corn snakes. 

Corn snakes are usually between 3 feet and 5 feet long, with the maximum length being 6 feet. Corn snakes barely ever exceed 6 feet. On the other hand, certain species of king snakes, like the Florida king snakes, could exceed 8 feet in length! Californian king snakes and Mexican black kingsnakes, however, are as long as small sized corn snakes and make great pets.

King Snakes Body Color

Source: @theeastbayvivarium

Body Color

Corn snakes are available in more colors and patterns than king snakes. 

Corn snakes exist in both lighter shades like opal and lavender, and also in darker shades like brown and charcoal. The depth of color depends upon the density of melanin present in their skin. More the melanin, darker the color. The other color morphs corn snakes go by are orange, red, gray, blue, black and white, and yellow. The patterns on these snakes are to die for.

King snakes, as mentioned earlier, have fewer color morphs, and are more subdued in appearance and patterns. The colors they are available in include yellow, albino, chocolate, black and white, and banana, with some of the species flaunting mosaic patterns on them.

One species of king snake that stands out as a pet is the Mexican black king snake that has an extremely smooth, black glossy body. They look elegant and magnificent.


Corn snakes and king snakes are almost identical in feeding habits, the only difference being that king snakes are ophiophagous animals, while corn snakes are not. 

Adult corn snakes will eat anything that falls within its preference without demonstrating any fuss but at times, could be a bit fussy, and let’s face it, which animal isn’t? Their diet consists of rodents, small mammals and reptiles, and even birds and eggs. Baby corn snakes are a tad difficult to feed because their mouths are too tiny.

Within human supervision, feeding corn snakes one rodent every 10 to 12 days, like the frozen pinky mice that are found in stores, would be great for their nutrition supply. Can corn snakes be cannibalistic? They can be but only when threatened and never under normal circumstances.

One medium sized pinky or adult rodent every 2 weeks makes a great diet for young adult or adult king snakes. Baby kingsnakes are much larger than baby corn snakes and can open their mouths large enough to gulp down a pinky mouse.

However, scarlet king snake babies are too tiny and finding the correct diet for them becomes particularly difficult sometimes. Earthworms, lizards or slugs could be fed to them.

King snakes feed solitary and not in groups. They are a bit territorial and placing food in the same box for several of them to share could be disastrous.

One thing that sets the king snakes apart from corn snakes is that king snakes eat other snakes as well, even the venomous ones. They are cannibalistic in nature even under normal circumstances, whereas corn snakes could be cannibalistic when it has no other choice left.

King snakes are more active and curious than Corn Snake

Source: @that_guy_kameron


Corn snakes are gentler than king snakes. King snakes are more active and curious. 

Corn snakes are so much more docile, gentle, and easy to handle. If you want a fuss-free snake as a pet then look no further, because corn snakes are here to give a, slightly awkward, “coilsome” hug. They are more active during the daytime so you can enjoy their sweet little activities during your waking hours. They are partly terrestrial and partly arboreal.

They are the most active at dawn and dusk while during the rest of the day they sleep or stay inactive. When they feel slightly threatened, say when you have newly got them from the pet store or taken them to the vet, they vibrate their tail like the rattlesnake, in defense.

King snakes are much fussier and tend to demonstrate aggressive feeding behavior at times. They tend to strike at anything in motion so they may bite you on your fingers, therefore you need to be a bit careful. One thing to be explained here though, since king snakes kill their prey using the constriction method, their bites have not evolved to be that powerful.

On a sweeter note, king snakes are more active and curious. They have a more pronounced personality than the corn snakes and are more fun to watch. Florida king snakes, for instance, are a bit fussy about their temperature needs. They like warmer conditions more.

King snakes are diurnal at other times of the year but nocturnal in summers. They can live on the ground and on trees and tend to be more mobile at dawn and dusk.

King snakes Habitat in North America

Source: @obxwildlife

Distribution And Habitat

Habitats of king snakes are more varied. They can live in the deserts and mountains too. 

Corn snakes can be found wriggling and slithering in cornfields, on trees, flatwoods, farms and the grasslands of the South-eastern United States.

King snakes, on the other hand, can be spotted all over North America, especially in the United States and Mexico. They can survive in the tropical forests, shrublands, rocky deserts, and the mountains.

California king snakes and Mexican king snakes are more suited to live in temperate climates. But Florida king snakes are subtropical and need higher temperature and humidity to feel comfortable.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sizes of males and females vary; females have thinner tails than males. 

In female corn snakes, the tail narrows down after the cloacal opening, while in the male the tail stays just as wide. Also, the females have fewer than 130 scales starting from the cloacal opening to the tip of the tail, while males have more than 140 scales. In the case of corn snakes, males are usually bigger than the females.

In the case of Prairie king snakes, males are longer. However, in an usual king snake family, females tend to be longer than males. To get a more dependable distinction, you can visit the vet. The vet will probe into the cloacal opening and if the probe goes quite deep into the body, it is a male, otherwise it is a female. Also, in females the tails taper off, but not in males.

Special Adaptations And Hunting Tactics

Source: @reptilerefugeandmore

Special Adaptations And Hunting Tactics

They both bite to grab the prey and then squeeze to suffocate them. King snakes are immune to the venom of other snakes.

Both the corn snakes and king snakes kill their prey using the constriction method. Neither of them has fangs, like grass snakes, vipers or cobras, so do not worry. They have some 20 to 30 small, brittle, thin and evenly-sized teeth, angled and arranged in uniform rows on the top and bottom jaws, with the upper jaw flaunting more teeth than the bottom jaw.

Corn snakes and king snakes use their teeth to get hold of their prey so that they cannot escape, and they constrict the animals to suffocate it. They are non-venomous so they depend on this method to hunt.

One interesting thing that corn snakes do is that they mimic the venomous copperhead snake when they feel threatened. Guess what, it works like magic! The super power of king snakes is that they are immune to the venom of other snakes, because, as mentioned previously, they are snake-eaters. Milk snakes produce a foul smell to keep predators at bay.

Corn Snake Vs King Snake: Maintenance Of Living Conditions Within Human Care And Supervision

Once you have set your mind to adopting a snake, a helpful advice would be to get a baby snake rather than introducing a giant, 6-foot long serpentine in your house, especially when you have never dealt with snakes before. In this segment, we will talk about how corn snakes and kingsnakes could be taken care of properly at your own home.


Both corn snakes and king snakes are okay to live in 40-gallon enclosures or tanks, however, corn snakes are more sensitive to fluctuations in the levels of temperature and humidity. King snakes, on the other hand, are more adaptable to new surroundings.

Corn Snake Maintenance

Source: @thejoephelan

Corn Snakes
  • A 40-gallon tank would be better than perfect which would only mean that the snake will have more space to explore, but a 30-gallon enclosure is good enough. There should be spots of varying temperatures around the tank as it is a reptile you are dealing with here.
    The average ambient temperature must be around 29 degrees Celsius. Apart from this, there should be a ‘basking spot’ at 32 degrees celsius, and a ‘cool area’ of 27 degrees Celsius. At night the temperature can drop between 18-21 degrees Celsius. Introducing a 75 to 120 W bulb could help with this.
  • Humidity levels could fluctuate between 50 and 60%, but best if it stays as close to 50% as possible. Correct humidity level prevents respiratory infections in snakes. Introducing a UVB lighting bulb or fluorescent lamps, specially made for reptile tanks, would be a great idea to help moisture level maintenance.
    A moisture retaining substrate or automatic misters or foggers are alternatives to maintain an optimal moisture level. High moisture is crucial during molting because if humidity is low then molt or shedding pieces get stuck to the reptile’s body, Getting a water pot or tank also affects humidity.
  • The final thing that you must take care of is the substrate, which is basically the floor of the tank you will be placing your reptiles in. The substrate should mimic the snake’s natural habitat. Best substrate materials for corn snakes are coconut fiber and shredded aspen. Also include log pieces, rocks, plants, or exo-terra reptile caves made of resin.
    Place a thermometer and a hygrometer on each end of the enclosure to measure temperature and humidity. Include a water dish for snakes to bathe in.
King Snakes Maintenance

Source: @sandhills_hiker

King Snakes
  • A 40 gallon enclosure would be a better choice for king snakes since they are bigger than corn snakes. A 29-degrees Celsius average temperature must be maintained which is the same temperature requirement as in the case of corn snakes. The basking spot should be around 31 degrees Celsius maintained by a 50-100 W light bulb.
  • Humidity levels in a king snake tank should be between 50 and 60%, along with appropriate lighting provided by UVB lighting bulbs or fluorescent lamps especially made for reptile tanks. Humidity level for king snakes is the same as for corn snakes, but king snakes can adapt to humidity changes more comfortably.
  • A few inches of substrate to mimic natural habitat must be present on the floor of the tank. Coconut fiber, aspen pieces, cypress logs, rocks, plants, and sphagnum moss, work great for creating a substrate bedding.
  • Cute looking Exo-terra reptile caves are available online in varying sizes for your snakes to hide in and enjoy some solitary moments. Do not forget to place a thermometer and hygrometer at the opposite ends of the enclosure to measure temperature and humidity.
  • Try to decorate the tank of king snakes a little more than the tanks of corn snakes, because king snakes are very active and curious. They are more prone to getting bored or frustrated if they do not find interesting things to play with or explore.


Before you get a corn snake or a king snake in your house, get to know them a bit better. You may want to glance through these FAQs to answer further questions you may have.

Q: Do corn snakes and king snakes have teeth or fangs?

Ans: Corn snakes and king snakes do have small and brittle teeth, but they do not have fangs.

Q: How painful are the bites of corn snakes and kingsnakes?

Ans: King snakes and Corn snakes do bite but they are non-venomous. The teeth are tiny but sharp and can draw blood, but the bruises are minimal and superficial. However, their bites contain bacteria so clean the cut carefully and bandage it properly. Bite pain is sometimes compared to pin pricks.

Q: Which snake is more powerful– corn snake or kingsnake?

Ans: Kingsnakes, like the California king snake and the Speckled king snake, have been found to be extremely powerful, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. They are even more powerful at constricting their prey than the boa constrictors, pythons or anacondas.


Corn snake vs king snake– which one is better as a pet? Corn snakes are docile and mild-mannered so they may be considered as more manageable by some snake enthusiasts, especially those who have not kept snakes as pets before. However, more experienced pet keepers should go for king snakes as they are more fun to watch due to their active nature.

Both the snakes have a potential to bite but the bites do not hurt as much because they kill their prey by constriction, not by poisoning or biting them. They have tiny teeth that they sometimes use to defend themselves when they feel threatened. Provide suitable temperature and humidity conditions to these beautiful reptiles, inside a comfortable tank, and they will adore you.

Hi dear readers! This is Rebecca, the lead analyst and blog writer for Snake Insider. Following in the footsteps of David’s guided path, I feel highly encouraged to make the most interesting snake-facts to a mass audience! In due time, I believe we’ll be able to present some jaw-dropping insight on snakes that’s sure to leave you begging for more! Personally, I’m a strongly motivated person to explore the most extreme environments should my work demand it. In many cases, I’ve ventured deep into territories that were never considered certain snake habitats and brought back necessary information. Rest assured I’ll surely be sharing them with you over the course of time.

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