Coral and corn snakes are some of the most peculiar snake species you can find. First, because they are similar in many aspects, causing many people to confuse the two.
Then it’s the fact that confusing the two species can lead to rather unpleasant situations, given that coral snakes are venomous, while corn snakes are not.
Today, we will discuss the main differences and similarities between the two in case you’ve decided you want to have them as pets.
So, let’s start with the basics!
What is a Coral Snake?
Coral snakes are small reptiles that can be found throughout the American continent. They are adaptable, colorful, and slender-looking, with the head being of the same width as the rest of the body. We’ll discuss this feature more in-depth shortly.
Unlike corn snakes, this species is venomous and can deliver a debilitating neurotoxic bite.
This makes this one rather unsuitable as a pet, although this doesn’t stop many snake keepers from tackling it. It’s just that you require extra caution when handling the reptile.
What is a Corn Snake?
Corn snakes are non-venomous and inhabit the southern US for the most part. They are similar in appearance to coral snakes, which can cause many people to confuse the two.
However, there are some visual differences that you can rely on distinguishing between the species, which I highly advise learning.
Interestingly, both species are beneficial for humans due to their predilection for rodents.
This causes both coral and corn snakes to roam around human settlements, especially greeneries, which serve as gathering spots for generations of mice and rats.
So, the presence of a corn snake next to your home tells you that you might have a rodent infestation, and the cleaning crew has come to assist.
Comparison: Coral Snake vs. Corn Snake
These two species are similar in some aspects and different in others. So, let’s look into that!
Coral snakes have a very distinct appearance, meant to inform their potential predators of their venomous nature. Several coral snake species exist, each with its own color display but with a similar color pattern.
The snake’s body exhibits a banded display, usually with 3 dominant colors charging the vertical and wide bands. We’re talking primarily of white, black, yellow, red, orange, and even blue in some species.
The Malayan blue coral snake is among the few coral snakes that diverge from the standard pattern. This species has no banded pattern.
Instead, the body contains different nuances of blue with a red underbelly and head. The body is covered by visible thick scales.
One interesting feature is the anatomical characteristic meant to improve the coral snake’s survivability in the wild. The body presents the same color pattern from head to tail.
When combined with the head having the same shape as the tail, this can create visual confusion regarding where the snake’s head is.
This can cause predators to attack the snake’s tail because they confuse it with its head, allowing the snake to detach its caudal appendix and flee the scene.
Corn snakes have a similar appearance but are not identical to coral snakes. Their body has a broken banded pattern, contrasting with the coral snake’s clean bands.
The body is just as slender and athletic, but the head has slightly wider jaws, contrasting with the long and thin tail.
The color palette is also warmer, with dominant colors like gold, orange, yellow, and light brown. Some species also exhibit a subtle color gradient between the front and the backside.
Size and Growth
Both species are very similar in this sense. Coral snakes can grow up to 2-4 feet, while corn snakes can reach 2-6 feet. Despite the slight difference in maximum size, the two species usually remain about the same in their adult form.
The snakes’ maximum size and growth rate depend on their diet, environmental conditions, and even genetic makeup.
These apply to both species with slight differences, depending on the analyzed metric.
To house either of these snakes in ideal conditions, consider the following:
- Terrarium size – The terrarium’s size should be approximately 40 gallons for an adult corn snake. Aim for general dimensions of 3 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 2 feet in height. This should be enough to accommodate this semi-arboreal species. You can always go for larger tanks, depending on your snake’s size and comfort level. The same applies to coral snakes.
- Layout – Both species are excellent climbers but also spend a lot of time at ground level. Consider adding a variety of climbing elements that are stable enough for your snakes to use for exploration and rest. Have a tank lid on to prevent these escape artists from doing their magic.
- Temperature and humidity – Both species require a temperature gradient that would mimic their natural conditions. Aim for temperatures around 75-85 F with a basking spot around 90-95 F. The basking spot should occupy 30% of the terrarium’s surface at most. The nighttime temperatures can go as low as 70 F. Humidity requirements vary a bit. Coral snakes come from more humid environments and thrive in areas with 70-80% humidity levels. Corn snakes don’t quite reach those values, as they inhabit more arid habitats. Aim for humidity values of 50-60% max for them.
Proper UV lighting is also necessary for both species to provide them with a stable day/night cycle and adequate vitamin D and calcium absorption.
Coral and corn snakes are both shy and timid overall and require some time to get accustomed to their new home.
They require a natural-looking habitat with a varied layout, climbing spots, and at least one shaded hiding area. The snakes may be more skittish and reclusive during the first weeks after bringing them home, so they’ll spend more time in hiding.
They’ll come around eventually when they familiarize themselves with their new home. Remember that these are feral animals you cannot tame the same way you can tame a dog.
They remain wild in nature and can become aggressive and bite if provoked or stressed. Learn your snakes’ behavior and overall temperament and respect their boundaries.
I don’t recommend handling your snake pets too often, no matter the species they belong to.
Reptiles are not fond of petting and being handled and prefer solitude and peace. You should especially avoid handling shortly after a meal, as this can cause the snake to regurgitate its food.
Also, avoid petting and handling during the shedding period to avoid any complications during the process.
Dysecdysis (abnormal or incomplete shedding) can lead to life-threatening complications.
Not to mention, all reptiles are particularly sensitive and aggressive during shedding because they are more vulnerable; in this context, the risk of biting increases significantly.
Both species can live approximately 15-20 years, with some specimens going above that. However, the average lifespan is in the neighborhood of 8-12 years, depending on the specimen and quality of care.
The main factors influencing a snake’s lifespan and quality of life include diet, environmental parameters, overall stress, and the level of medical care.
Everybody wants their snake pets to live as long as possible. To expand your pet’s lifespan and increase its quality of life considerably, consider the following tips:
- Ensure a varied and nutritious diet with a stead feeding routine
- Have a good UV light source and supplement your snake’s diet with calcium and vitamin D if necessary (this is to prevent calcium deficiency and Metabolic Bone Disease, which is deadly)
- Keep environmental parameters stable and according to your snake’s biological needs
- Minimize the pet’s stress over the years, with the most notable triggers being improper habitat conditions, frequent parasitic or bacterial infections, frequent handling, etc.
- Always assess your snake’s health, so you can detect any health issues in time and provide proper medical assistance
Neither species isn’t particularly demanding, so they should be fairly easy to care for. It all boils down to the diet, environmental parameters, the snakes’ stress levels, and adequate medical assistance. Reptiles are generally hardy animals, although they are prone to some problems under the wrong circumstances. So, let’s discuss those!
The following issues plague reptiles in general, not just snakes:
- Nutritional deficiencies – Snakes have slow metabolisms, so they eat rarer than warm-blooded animals. This means that every meal should count. It’s not like the snake has several meals per day, in which case one more nutritious meal could make up for one or two less nutritious ones. Improper diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies, with calcium deficiency being the most consistent problem. Metabolic Bone Disease is the aggravated form of calcium deficiency and is known to become deadly fast. There’s also no cure to speak of.
- Parasitic and bacterial infections – These are often the result of poor husbandry, causing a bacterial overgrowth in the snake’s enclosure. Bacterial and parasitic infections can start mild and aggravate fast. Proper terrarium hygiene is necessary to keep your reptile pets in good health.
- Respiratory or skin infections – These are the result of improper terrarium parameters like inadequate humidity or fluctuating temperatures. Always keep your snake’s environmental parameters stable to avoid such problems.
- Dysecdysis – This refers to improper shedding, leading to skin infections or gangrene. The latter is more often the result of incomplete shedding around the tail, causing the snake’s skin to cut blood circulation in the area and leading to tissue necrosis. Skin infections are also a notable danger in cases of problematic shedding.
- Digestive problems – These can occur due to impaction (ingesting hard objects that block the intestinal tract), food poisoning from consuming improper food, or low temperatures. The latter is interesting because snakes will exhibit digestive issues when kept in extremely low temperatures. The reason is that the low temperatures will impact the snake’s metabolism, causing the digestive system to slow down. If the snake has just eaten, the food will rot in its belly because of it, leading to food poisoning and even resulting in death.
Stress is another health problem to consider because stressed snakes experience dysfunctional immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to a variety of health problems.
This shows that reptiles require sustained and personalized care over their entire lives, and this goes beyond coral and corn snakes. The same applies to lizards and other species of reptiles, no matter their provenance.
Price & Cost
Coral snakes are more expensive, reaching up to $200-$500 per specimen.
The price can vary considerably, depending on the snake’s age, morph, size, the seller, the reptile’s provenance, and several other factors.
Corn snakes are more affordable, primarily because they are easier to get. Expect to pay between $50 and $200 per specimen.
The snake’s price also varies based on the same factors that apply to coral snakes.
Diet & Feeding
Depending on the case, both species have similar food preferences, including rats, mice, and small lizards.
A well-sized prey can provide your snake with proper sustenance for 5-6 days, but always check your snake’s behavior to learn the appropriate feeding approach.
Generally speaking, snakes tend to eat more frequently when they’re younger, with their metabolism and appetite gradually decreasing with age.
I also recommend speaking to a reptile vet to adjust the reptile’s diet properly in case you also need to consider supplementation with vitamins and minerals. This becomes more necessary as the snake gets older and requires more careful dietary planning.
When it comes to feeding, always mind the prey’s size. The prey shouldn’t be wider than the snake’s head, or the snake won’t be able to eat it. Live prey is also preferable since it allows the snake to hunt naturally but keep an eye on the situation.
Live mice and rats can sometimes hurt the snake during their attempts to avoid being digested. If you worry about your snake’s safety, consider serving the meals dead.
Just make sure the food is safe for consumption, aka freeze the meals and warm them up before mealtime.
There’s a noticeable difference between these two species in this regard. The main point is that coral snakes are venomous, whereas corn snakes are not. The venom is also quite dangerous to humans, as it can lead to paralysis and death when lacking proper medical assistance.
Corn snakes are not venomous, so they’re safer than the former. Regarding overall aggression, neither of these species is more dangerous than the other.
Both prefer to hide in their safe place when threatened or scared and will only bite if that’s the only option left.
Coral Snake vs. Corn Snake – Which is Better for You?
The answer is the corn snake. There isn’t even a competition here. For one, coral snakes are venomous, and their neurotoxic bite can send you to the ER before you know it. Then you have the legality issue of buying and keeping a coral snake in the first place.
Many states have banned venomous snakes from their acceptable pet list. You can own venomous snakes in some states, like Florida, but you need a permit for that. If you think that the effort is worth it, go for it.
Just note that I’m against the idea of keeping venomous snakes as pets. Not that that would matter, of course.
In essence, these two species are different in many aspects but similar in others. They are both fascinating animals, but there’s no denying that one is more fitting as a pet than the other.