Corn snakes belong to the Colubrid family, a large group of related nonvenomous snakes, many of which are popular pets. Corn snakes are calm and easy to care for, and come in a huge range of colors and contrasts. They are very popular among pet owners, with one downside—they are skilful escape artists!
How do you make a snow corn snake? This light-colored, designer morph is often confused with the blizzard corn snake—but they are different! To make a snow corn snake, you need to breed albino and anerythristic type A corn snakes together. Simple as that! Or is it?
Closely related to rat snakes, corn snakes are sometimes called ‘red rat snakes’ because of their reddish and yellow-orange coloration. But it is not known for sure where the corn snake got its name. Some put it down to the kernel pattern on its belly; others suggest it comes from the corn snake’s preference for corn fields; a third school of thought believes the name stems from the fact that corn snakes like to live in corn storage barns, where rodents feed on corn and other grains.
Regardless, corn snakes are the most commonly bred species of snake in the United States (according to the Animal Diversity Web). The snow corn snake is an example of a compound morph, or a combination of two morphs. I’ll get into that in more detail later. For now, think about the total number of corn snake morph combinations…
In theory, there are over 500 million possible combinations of corn snake morphs. This is because of the large number of base morphs, which are grouped into loci—for example, the ‘hypo’ locus contains hypomelanistic, strawberry and Christmas genes, each of which affects the melanin content of a snake’s pigmentation.
In this guide, I will cover snow corn snake genetics comprehensively. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to identify snow corn snakes.
- What the differences are between snow corn snakes and blizzard corn snakes—these two are often mistaken for each other.
- How snow corn snake genetics work.
- What heterozygous and homozygous mean, and why these words are relevant to (snow) corn snake owners and breeders.
- How to breed snow corn snakes – different gene combinations.
- How much snow corn snakes cost to buy, and how much you can make selling them.
- What you need to know, besides genetics, about how to raise and breed snow corn snakes.
- I will also list a large number of secondary snow corn snake morphs, which are made by combining snow corn snakes with other simple or compound morphs. This is where it gets complicated!
As you can see, we’ve got a lot to get through! So, without further ado, I’ll start with the basics…
1) What is a Corn Snake?
Native to North America, corn snakes are non-venomous, medium-sized and relatively docile. This makes them an easy to care for, comparatively low maintenance subspecies of snake. They belong to the Colubridae family, which contains over 1700 other species.
While the colors of normal corn snakes are red, orange, yellow and black, there are approximately 45 other unique base color morphs. Some have enhanced coloration, or lack certain pigmentations.
Corn snakes, like rosy boas and ball pythons, present breeders with an exciting array of pattern and color combinations. For this reason, they are very popular among pet owners and herpetologists alike. There is a color combination for everyone!
Remember that despite the big differences in coloration and patterning, all corn snakes are basically the same! Imagine 45 artists painting onto 45 identical canvases. The results would all look different, but they would still all be made out of wood, canvas and paint.
2) What does a snow corn snake look like?
Snow corn snakes, also known as ‘complete albino corn snakes’, grow to the same length and girth as any other corn snake. Like I said, they are all fundamentally alike. They can grow up to 6 ft in length, but a more typical length is between 4 and 5 ft.
Adults usually weigh about 2 pounds (900g), but could be a little over or under. They are all constrictors, which wrap their bodies around their prey and squeeze the life out of it before consumption.
What sets snow corns apart from other corn snakes is that they lack melanin—which is why they are sometimes called amelanistic corn snakes. As hatchlings, they begin their lives a pale pinkish color, like cotton candy, with white blotches, or the other way round. Their markings are clear and defined, and are contrasted by their relative lightness.
As they get older, the pink mellows out into a yellow color, which is at its strongest in their bright yellow faces. They are easily identifiable by this distinctive yellow neck and throat region. This coloration is a result of carotenoid retention in their diet. Their blotches and background colors may also have subtle shades of yellow, green, pink, beige or ivory.
3) Snow corn snake vs. blizzard corn snake: what’s the difference?
Snows corns and blizzard corns are both designer morphs. As their names suggest, they are both light in color. You would be forgiven for assuming that snow morphs are the lightest in color, but actually blizzards are lighter. Snow corns possess a tinge of yellow, green or pink, whereas blizzards do not.
Blizzard corns can mature to a complete, solid white. They get their name from the solid color they grow into. They also possess the characteristic red eyes of any snake bred from an albino.
Blizzards turn out completely colorless because of the morphs which necessarily precede them: anerythristic B corn snakes, otherwise known as charcoal corn snakes, lack yellow pigment; albino corn snakes lack melanin, or dark pigmentation. A snake which lacks both light and dark pigments is almost completely ‘pigmentless’.
4) How do corn snake morphs work?
In genetics, DNA dictates appearance. As a result, different snake morphs depend on the genetic makeup of each parent. ‘Normal’ snakes tend to be camouflaged, in order to blend into their habitat. Camouflage is an evolutionary advantage, honed over eons of evolutionary history.
Sometimes, mutations occur—these may or may not be advantageous to the snake. Snake morphs are examples of genetic mutations. Some occur in the wild, but most are the results of careful experiments by snake breeders, who combine two morphs to create a new one. Albinos and charcoals are examples of naturally occurring morphs.
New morphs, whether they are naturally occurring or captive-bred, are highly sought after, and can be incredibly valuable.
5) How do corn snake genetics work?
Snows come from combining an albino and an anerythristic A corn snake—but that’s a simplification of the process.
As with most animal reproduction, the offspring inherits not one, but two sets of genes. One comes from mother, the other from father. But it’s not entirely predictable, because these sets of genes compete with each other for which one shows in the phenotype—the physical manifestation in the offspring.
The genes can be categorized into three types:
- Dominant genes—when it comes to the phenotype, the expressed genes, dominant genes always beat recessive genes.
- Co-dominant genes—these appear alongside other genes, dominant or recessive.
- Recessive genes—in the genetics game, these are the losers, and are always beaten by dominant genes in the race to be expressed.
The next important thing to get to grips with is the difference between heterozygous and homozygous snake genes. I’ll only cover them briefly here, but you can read about them in more detail in our in-depth snake genetics breeding guide!
What are heterozygous and homozygous snake genes?
If a snake inherits a normal gene from one parent, and an albino gene from the other, they have only one copy of the albino gene—this means they are heterozygous for that gene. Heterozygous applies whether the gene is dominant, co-dominant or recessive.
The albino gene is recessive, so if a snake inherits albinism from just one parent, it will not be expressed, i.e., they will not be albino. But it could still pass on the gene to its own offspring, so it’s important to know the genetic makeup of your pet snakes if you intend to breed them!
Homozygous is the opposite of heterozygous. A snake is homozygous for a particular gene if it received two copies of it. So, to continue the example, if a snake receives an albino gene from its mother, and one from its father, it will be homozygous for the albino gene. As a result, it will express albinism.
The word heterozygous is often replaced by the abbreviation ‘het’, so if you read that online, or hear it in a video guide, that’s what it means! The same doesn’t go for homozygous; I’m afraid you have to use the whole word for that one.
6) Step by Step: How to make a corn snake!
What genes does a snow corn snake have?
The two component corn snake morphs which go into producing snow corns are an albino and an anerythristic type A. Be aware that anerythristic type A corn snakes look similar to anerythristic type Bs – so that’s a sticking point you’ll have to watch out for. Look out for the higher contrast pattern—that means you’ve got a type A.
OK, now, are they heterozygous or homozygous?
The snow corn snake is heterozygous for both albino and anerythristic type A, meaning: it inherits albino from one parent, and anerythristic A from the other. It doesn’t matter which way round it goes. It is doubly heterozygous either way.
Dominant, co-dominant or recessive?
The genes which code for anerythrism and albinism are both recessive. This means that an albino corn snake’s parents must both carry the albino gene. Likewise, an anerythristic corn snake’s parents have to both carry the anerythristic gene for it to be expressed in their offspring.
If two recessive genes come together, they will behave like co-dominant genes, and will both be expressed. In the case of snow corns, the albino’s lack of dark pigmentation is expressed alongside the anerythristic’s lack of red pigmentation.
What is the pigmentation for, exactly?
The function of dark pigmentation is to protect an animal from UV rays. This is why animals (and humans) who have evolved to live in parts of the world with stronger UV rays have developed higher rates of melanin in their skin, hair and eyes. By contrast, people who live in the far northern reaches of the world have paler skin, hair and eyes.
Now, let’s get down to breeding.
To breed a snow corn snake, you need to successfully mate together an albino, or amelanistic corn snake (or amel) with an anerythristic type A (or anery A).
- Before anything else, you need a healthy breeding pair. Female corn snakes reach sexual maturity at approximately 3 years old, whereas males are sexually mature at 18 months. You might have to plan in advance, as the introduction of the female to the male usually takes place in spring.
- Though not entirely necessary, corn snakes are usually put through a period of cooling called brumation, before they mate. This lasts 60-90 days (2-3 months) and takes place during winter. This cycle imitates their natural period of brumation in the wild.
- Corn snakes brumate at 50-60°F (10-16°C), during which time they should be given only very limited sunlight, and not disturbed—that includes feeding. At the end of this period, slowly warm the tank and reintroduce food.
- Shortly, the female should shed. After the first or second shed, she is ready to meet the male. Introduce her to his enclosure. She should produce certain pheromones in order to attract the male. In turn, he will engage in a process of courtship, by means of tactile and chemical cues. The actual mating period lasts up to half an hour. Intercourse is straightforward. If the female is ovulating at the time of ejaculation, the eggs will be fertilized.
- If successful, you should have baby corn snakes a little over a month after fertilization! Females usually lay 12-24 eggs per deposit. You should make sure there is a warm, moist, hidden location in which she can lay her eggs. Some say the eggs should be transferred to an incubator, while others say they are best incubated in the damp moss in which they are laid. There is plenty of information on the internet on the subject.
- Corn snake eggs have flexible, leathery shells, and are almost oblong in shape. Once laid, the mother abandons them and does not return. Approximately 10 weeks later, they will start to hatch. They take up to a day or two to actually emerge after the first crack, so don’t be concerned if they seem slow-moving!
So, let’s go over your checklist:
- Healthy breeding pair.
- Cool season ahead.
- Ability to effectively maintain a 50-60°F enclosure.
- A warm, moist and secluded nest box for laying.
- Spare boxes or enclosures for the hatchlings.
- Time enough to look after them all!
Commonly, snow corn snakes are selectively bred to bring out the pinks and greens of their subtle coloration, as these are deemed the most attractive by breeders!
Useful to know: If you fancy getting hold of a corn snake, do not catch and domesticate a wild one. Mortality rates are very high among wild corn snakes which are introduced to a captive environment. They don’t adjust well. Invest in a captive-bred corn snake, as they are already adjusted to the captive environment, and will not suffer shocks when they are introduced to your home!
7) How Much Does a Snow Corn Snake Cost?
Because of the wide variance in coloration and patterns among the different corn snake morphs, they come at a similar range of prices.
Even under the umbrella of snow corn snakes, there are a number of variant morphs—coral snows, salmon snows, cotton candy snows, etc. Prices depend on rarity and attractiveness. Obviously, attraction is subjective, so you might find the cheapest is the one for you!
Currently available on the US market, prices range from $80 (pink snow) to $235 (tessera snow). These could be higher or lower, as outliers come and go, but $100-200 is generally a safe price to pay for a basic snow corn snake morph.
Note that rarer morphs may cost substantially more! The most expensive morphs are those which are newly discovered, or bred. This is because of the earning potential of a first generation morph.
8) Other snow corn snakes morph and colors
Snow corn is a compound morph, meaning it results from the combination of two pre-existing morphs. But it doesn’t end there. You can make new combinations using snow corn snakes—you could think of them as secondary compound morphs.
I’ll run you through the extensive list of morphs which are made using snow corn snakes, including what ingredients make them. This list is by no means exhaustive, as new morphs are being developed all the time!
Triple Traits are those corn snakes which display the amelanistic and anerythristic genes, plus a third:
- Avalanche (Diffused Snow) – amelanistic + anerythristic + diffused
- Charcoal Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + charcoal
- Hypo Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + hypomelanistic
- Lava Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + lava
- Salmon Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + strawberry
- Scaleless Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + scaleless
- Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley
- Snow Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + stripe
- Snow Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + tessera
- Sunkissed Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + sunkissed
- Xanthic Snow – amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel
Quad Traits display four unique traits:
- Avalanche Stripe (Diffused Snow Stripe) – amelanistic + anerythristic + diffused + stripe
- Dilute Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + dilute + motley
- Dilute Snow Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + dilute + stripe
- Hypo Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + hypomelanistic + motley
- Hypo Snow Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + hypomelanistic + stripe
- Lavalanche (Diffused Snow) – amelanistic + anerythristic + diffused + lava
- Salmon Snow Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + strawberry + stripe
- Salmon Snow Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + strawberry + tessera
- Scaleless Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley + scaleless
- Scaleless Snow Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + scaleless + tessera
- Snow Motley Buf – amelanistic + anerythristic + buf + tessera
- Snow Motley Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley + tessera
- Snow Stripe Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + stripe + tessera
- Sunkissed Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley + sunkissed
- Sunkissed Snow Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + stripe + sunkissed
- Toffee Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley + toffee
- Toffee Snow Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + tessera + toffee
- Xanthic Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel + motley
- Xanthic Snow Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel + stripe
Five Trait corn snakes take it one step further, and display five genetic traits:
- Caramel Snow Tessera Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel + motley + tessera
- Caramel Snow Tessera Stripe – amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel + stripe + tessera
- Caramel Strawberry Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + caramel + motley + strawberry
- Snow Motley Toffee Tessera – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley + tessera + toffee
Just when you thought it couldn’t go any further, there is even a snow corn snake which exhibits six genetic traits:
- Hypo Strawberry Sunkissed Snow Motley – amelanistic + anerythristic + motley + sunkissed + het hypomelanastic + het strawberry
Now hopefully you see how far the breeding game can be taken! There are also selectively bred morphs, which diverge from the parent morph by having certain elements or hues brought out through a process of controlled breeding. These include (but may not be limited to!) Bubblegum Snow, Green Spot Snow, Strawberry Snow, and Strawberry Snow Stripe corn snakes.
What’s more, there are a few documented but unproven morphs of snow corn snake. These come up when individual breeders claim to have produced a new morph, through the breeding process. For two examples, visit IansVivarium and check out the Paradox Snow and Paradox Snow Tessera. They are called ‘unproven’, or ‘contested’, because they have not been confirmed by multiple breeders or herpetologists.
If you think you have bred a completely new corn snake morph, make sure to upload it to this site!
The last two submorphs I will mention are hybrids: the Kisatchie Snow and Snowsicle. These are the results of breeding selectively bred morphs with other secondary morphs. They are very rare and are often one-offs, or specific to a particular area where certain features are encouraged by breeders.
Much of the time, the aesthetic differences between two related corn snake morphs are very subtle. Some need expert eyes to tell them apart. This is why some morphs are contested, or remain unproven – because if there’s no way to tell two morphs apart, their genetic records are the only proof that exists.
When the distinction between two snakes rests upon a database entry, it becomes academic and less relevant for the average pet owner!
Corn snakes are very popular for beginners. So if you are just starting out on your serpentine adventure, a corn snake might be the perfect starting point. Other popular first-time snakes include rosy boas and ball pythons.
Now that you know just about all there is to know about snow corn snakes, from identification to breeding, why not get out there and start on your own herpetological journey? Sure, there are many breeders with a head start, but it can be incredibly rewarding, whether as a pastime or a profession.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences relating to snow corn snake genetics and breeding. Or, if you’re just a regular owner with a story to tell, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below! Share this guide with anyone who might find it useful, and make sure to check in with us again soon!