what is an axanthic ball python?
Questions About Snakes

What Makes an Axanthic Ball Python?

Discovering, breeding, and learning more about new ball python morphs is what makes them so interesting. One that stands out is the axanthic morph, which is old, but still one of the best.

The axanthic ball python is a base morph that is black, gray/silver and white. Their color changes because of a recessive gene. Some axanthics will ‘brown out,’ i.e., turn browner, as they age.

They are popular with pet snake breeders as designer morphs involving axanthics can be expensive. With so many morphs available, axanthics are still unique. If you’re interested in getting one, read on to learn what they look like, how to breed axanthic ball pythons, and much more.

What is an Axanthic Ball Python?

Axanthic ball pythons are a kind of morph. They’re a base morph, which means that they can be found in the wild. But that doesn’t mean you could find one in the wild easily.

Breeders like axanthic ball pythons for several reasons. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they can produce snows. Snow ball pythons can be pure white, and can fetch a lot of money.

Some breeders specialize solely in axanthics. JD Constriction is one that’s known to produce high-end, expensive axanthic designer morphs, for example.

What Does an Axanthic Ball Python Look Like?

Axanthic ball pythons are striking. They are entirely black, white, and gray/silver all over. If you look at a photo of one, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a black and white picture.

axanthic ball python vs. normal

Their brown and yellow colors have completely faded away, leaving just black, gray and white. That’s why they were given the name ‘axanthic.’ Axanthic comes from Greek, and means ‘lacking yellow’.

There are several lineages of the axanthic ball python. Some will look almost the same from the moment they’re hatched until they age. Others will develop a slight brown tinge in the pale part of their pattern as they age.

Axanthic snakes rely on a mutation in their genes to appear the way they do. All ball python morphs are the same in that way.

VPI vs. Snake Keeper vs. Jolliff vs. Marcus Jayne

Axanthic ball pythons, like other morphs, come in several lines. The four lines are VPI, Snake Keeper, Jolliff, and Marcus Jayne. If you’re a beginner, these snakes are minimally different. You don’t need to worry about which line your snake is from.

In terms of appearance, each line is very similar to the others. Some breeders think that VPI snakes hold their color better than other lines. The other three tend to ‘brown out,’ i.e., get a brown tinge, more than VPIs.

What’s far more important than the line, is the distinctive appearance of the snake. Ask any breeder and they’ll tell you that they’ve seen both beautiful and ‘ugly’ examples from each line.

However, if you’re thinking of breeding them, you have to do your research. VPI, Snake Keeper and Jolliff lines are all incompatible with one another. You can’t breed them to create new axanthics.

Is the Axanthic Ball Python Gene Recessive?

The axanthic gene is recessive, just like the albinism gene. If you don’t know much about genetics, it’s quite simple. All animals have genes from both their parents, mixed together. If you have green eyes, you might have inherited them from your mother, for example.

But what happens if you have two sets of genes for eye color? You might have inherited green from your mother and blue from your father. Well, there are three kinds of gene that an animal can have:

  1. Dominant. These genes work in a way that means they ‘override’ any other relevant gene. That means that only the dominant gene will be ‘expressed,’ i.e., show.
  2. Recessive. Recessive genes are the opposite. They will never ‘beat’ a dominant gene. The only way to express a recessive gene is if you have a pair of them.
  3. Codominant. These genes will be expressed. However, they don’t override other genes. That means that both the codominant gene and the other gene are expressed.

The axanthic gene is recessive. According to NCBI, this means that a ball python needs to have two sets of the same axanthic gene in order for the snake to be black and white. This means that the gene is ‘homozygous,’ i.e., both genes are the same (‘homo’).

The opposite is ‘heterozygous,’ i.e., the pair of genes are different from one another (‘hetero’). This is important to remember if you want to breed axanthics, or any morph with recessive genes.

Axanthic Ball Python vs. Normal

The main difference between axanthic and normal ball pythons is their color. Axanthics are black, white, and gray. Normals are a mix between medium brown and dark brown, veering on black.

But aside from this, axanthics and normal ball pythons are much the same.

  • Their pattern is the same
  • They grow to the same length and weight
  • They live to the same age
  • They feed, mate and shed the same way
  • They can experience the same health conditions

The only difference is in color. If you saw a picture of one, you’d assume it was edited. But the difference is stark.

How Much Does an Axanthic Ball Python Cost?

Axanthic ball pythons vary in price. There are many reasons why. The first is that many of them will ‘brown out,’ which messes with their monotone look.

These snakes are much cheaper. You can buy them on second-hand sites for just $50. But it’s not a good idea to purchase these snakes as they often have mites, ticks or infections.

Somebody might also be selling a breeding-age female. Breeding females of any morph tend to be more expensive. That’s because if a person were to keep one, and breed them, they would make money back. These would cost several hundred dollars.

Whatever the case, axanthics aren’t that common. Far more common online are axanthics that are crossbred with other morphs (designer morphs). These snakes go for $200-300, or more if it’s a good looking snake. Here’s some further information on how much snakes cost.

Axanthic Ball Python Morphs

Like all base morphs, axanthics have been bred with other kinds to produce designer morphs. Designer morphs tend to be rare, apart from those that are exceptionally popular. But they are the most exciting and expensive ball pythons around.

Below is a table with some of the more interesting axanthic color morphs. None of them are commonly available from breeders. They certainly can’t be found in pet shops. Most have been bred by just one breeder.

That’s why we haven’t included information on how rare or expensive they are. All of them are rare, and all of them are expensive, if you ever find one to buy.

Black Axanthic Ball Python:An axanthic line that’s especially black.
Red Axanthic Ball Python:A different morph that has a light tan, and slightly red hue.
Super Pastel Axanthic Ball Python:These snakes are white and black, with a little gray in between. They often have extensive blushing.
Axanthic Clown Ball Python:Look like regular axanthics, but with the clown pattern (a dark stripe along the back).
Stormtrooper Ball Python:Not a true axanthic morph. Starts out as clear and crisp black and white, with no gray color in between. Turns smudgy as it ages.
Axanthic Albino Ball Python:Normal looking, but het for snow.

These descriptions don’t do justice to the way that these ball pythons look. Below is more expansive information on how they look, and when they were bred.

Black Axanthic Ball Python

Black axanthics are a new line of axanthics, first bred in 2008 by Tracy Barker. They’re a base morph rather than a designer morph, and haven’t received much attention yet.

They’re so-called because while they lack yellow, they also don’t have the light grays/silver axanthics usually do. They also only have little outlines of white that aren’t so obvious.

Not all examples are quite as dark. They range from almost regular axanthics to very dark indeed. Even better, they don’t brown out like other lines do.

Red Axanthic Ball Python

Red axanthics are a completely different kind of snake to regular axanthics.

Their mutation is codominant (co-dom) rather than recessive. That means that heterozygous red axanthics are still a visual morph, and that a super morph is possible.

As the name suggests, they have a red hue to them. They may also have a slightly different pattern (a pure black back).

Super Pastel Axanthic Ball Python

The super pastel axanthic is a variable snake. It starts out as pure white and black. It may also have lots of white blushing in its dark black pattern.

Over time, it will fade out a little, almost like regular axanthics experience ‘brown out.’ Instead, the super pastel axanthic will get lighter as it ages. The blush in its pattern becomes more prominent, and the high contrast between white and black disappears.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful snake, though. It’s like the reverse of an axanthic. Rather than appearing dark because of all the gray, it appears light because of its bright white.

Axanthic Clown Ball Python

Clown ball pythons don’t just have a different color, but a different pattern. Again, their mutation is recessive. They get a reduced pattern overall, but also a wide dorsal stripe (along their back).

In some specimens, the pattern of stripes along their sides is almost or absent. Their name comes from the original clown ball python, which had dots underneath its eyes, which looked like a clown’s makeup.

An axanthic clown takes this pattern, but keeps the axanthic color. They have a stripe running along their back that may have a small amount of white/silver blushing. Their sides are silvery gray.

Stormtrooper Ball Python

The stormtrooper ball python isn’t a true axanthic snake. When it’s born, it has an incredible black and white contrast. That’s where the name ‘stormtrooper’ came from, i.e., the black and white soldiers from Star Wars.

When it was first on sale, it wowed potential buyers. Unlike axanthics, it has no gray, the white is pure white, and the black is pure black. Nobody had ever seen anything similar. That’s why it was initially listed for prices of $50,000.

But as the snake aged, its color and pattern changed. The black pattern started to spread and smudge. Whereas before it was clear and crisp, it became blurry, like ink spreading on paper. It’s like the reverse of the super pastel axanthic.

In the end, the snake became almost equal parts black and white. It was smudgy, splotchy, and could even be called a little ugly—compared to what it looked like before. But it’s still a unique snake.

Axanthic Albino Ball Python

Axanthic albinos aren’t a very interesting morph to look at. They come out looking like healthy offspring. So, if you were hoping for an interesting color and pattern combination, you’re out of luck.

But what you do get are normal snakes that are het for snow. This means that when you breed a pair of these snakes together, there’s a 1/16 chance that the offspring will be a snow.

These aren’t better odds than you get with other breeding pairs that produce snows. So, breeding axanthic albino ball pythons so that you could make snows would be a strange thing to do.

How to Breed Axanthic Ball Pythons

how to breed axanthic ball pythons

The axanthic gene is recessive. This isn’t just scientific information; it’s practical too. It’s vital to whether you’ll be successful or unsuccessful in breeding them.

Because the axanthic gene is recessive, it means that the snake has to be homozygous for the axanthic gene.

It needs to get the axanthic gene from both parents, not just one. Otherwise, the normal ball python appearance genes would be expressed.

Ball Python Recessive Gene Breeding Program

What you do have to do differently is that you need to breed two homozygous axanthics together. If you do, then 100% of the offspring will be axanthic. In the breeding world, this is a real bonus, as many programs don’t guarantee a certain offspring.

It is possible to breed two heterozygous axanthics together. These snakes don’t display the axanthic gene, because it’s recessive. They look normal.

If you breed two het axanthics, there’s a much smaller chance of axanthic offspring. 25% of the offspring will be normal, 50% will be het axanthic, and 25% will display the axanthic gene.

Breeding Axanthic Ball Pythons

The first thing you should know is that the breeding of these snakes isn’t any different. That involves following a process, for maximum effectiveness. That process is as follows, step by step:

  1. Buy everything you need in advance. That means tubs, substrate, an incubator, and any extra males/females you need.
  2. Temperature cycle your ball pythons. Lower the ambient temperature in November by around ten degrees. This simulates winter.
  3. Raise the temperature at the beginning of March. Do so slowly over a week.
  4. Feed your male and female to get their weight back up.
  5. Introduce the male to the female. Leave them for an hour to see if they start mating.
  6. If they don’t, you should put the male with another male for an hour. This encourages them to compete for the female.
  7. Reintroduce the male and female every other day. Continue introducing them until the female isn’t interested. This likely means she’s pregnant.

Once the snake becomes gravid (pregnant), follow conventional breeding protocols. That means keeping the eggs inside an eggbox, inside an incubator. Here’s our guide to incubating eggs. Like all ball python eggs, they will take between 53-55 days to hatch.

Aside from that, there’s nothing more to learn about axanthics. We would recommend them for owners, whether beginner or pro. They also make excellent breeding snakes as designer morphs involving axanthics can sell for high prices.