There are so many beautiful ball python morphs, but they aren’t all genetically healthy snakes. The International Herpetological Society (IHS) has banned royal pythons that have the spider gene from being sold at their events, for example, because they’re prone to ‘head wobbles.’
Blue-eyed Lucy (BEL) and coral glows are among the most beautiful ball python morphs, and are largely free from genetic problems. You should avoid snakes with genetic issues, like head wobbles and kinks, such as caramels and spiders.
We’ve looked at the most popular color morphs, provided detailed descriptions, and included an indicative price guide. We’ve also covered how to tell ball python morphs apart, and why some morphs have genetic defects that will have a serious effect on your snake’s health.
Table of Contents:
How Are Ball Python Morphs Created?
There are two ways for a breeder to create snake morphs. The first is to import new snakes from their natural habitat. Occasionally, a new morph will be discovered and imported. These are known as base morphs.
This is beyond the reach of a regular owner or breeder. These snakes cost tens of thousands of dollars. People are willing to pay that because they believe they can breed the snake for large sums of money.
When the snake arrives, they will then attempt to breed it. This will prove that the color or pattern is genetic and inheritable. If confirmed, they will then sell the offspring to other breeders.
The other way to make a morph is to breed existing morphs together. So, for example, you could breed a lesser with a lesser, or pastel with a Mojave. This is something that a regular breeder, with just a couple thousand dollars, can do.
Ball Python Color Morphs List
|Albino:||Albino ball pythons are a light pink or cream color with yellow patches, and pink or red eyes.||$300|
|Axanthic:||Axanthic ball pythons lack the gene that produces yellow pigmentation. They don’t have light yellow, cream or brown to their scales. They look monochrome with shades of gray.||$375|
|Anerythristic:||Anerythristic ball pythons, or ‘anery’ snakes, lack red pigmentation. They look monochrome but can have flashes of yellow.||$100|
|Pied:||Pied ball pythons are white with sections of normal pattern and color.||$300|
|Pastel:||Pastel ball pythons have enhanced yellow coloration. They’re easy to breed as the first generation often have clear colors.||$100|
|Blue-eyed Lucy (BEL):||BELs are pure white, much like some people imagine albinos. They have bright blue eyes.||$500|
|Scaleless:||These scaleless snakes can be any color when bred with other morphs.||$3000|
|Banana:||Bananas are an orange-yellow color with a bright pink pattern.||$350|
|Candino:||Candinos look like banana ball pythons. They’re a cross between candy and albino morphs, so they have pink/red eyes too.||$400|
|Chocolate:||Chocolate ball pythons are a dark, rich brown. Their pattern is smoother than other morphs.||$100|
|Cinnamon:||Cinnamons are darker brown than the average ball python, especially in the lighter areas of their pattern.||$70|
|Butter:||Butter ball pythons look similar to lesser ball pythons, and get brighter as they age.||$90|
|Coral glow:||Coral glow and bananas have the same gene, but come from a different bloodline. So, coral glows are orange and purple like bananas are. They may also have black spots.||$350|
|Fire:||Their dark pattern is a dark rich brown. However, the area of their light pattern is larger than usual. It’s also a smoother, cleaner, and lighter color than usual.||$400|
|Ghost:||The ghost is a morph with less black pigmentation. Ghost ball pythons have a hazy aspect to their color.||$90|
|Ivory:||Similar to BELs, but without the blue eyes. They’re a more colorful off-white. They also have a slight yellow stripe running along their back.||$300|
|Mojave:||Mojaves are dark brown and yellow. Their underbelly is completely white. Both Mojaves and lessers can be bred to make BELs.||$70|
|GHI:||GHI, meaning ‘gotta have it,’ have a smooth, glossy black pattern with caramel highlights.||$5000|
|Lesser:||Lesser ball pythons have a light brown, not a dark brown, pattern.||$90|
|Mystic:||Mystic ball pythons look like Mojaves. Their colors are dark, and their pattern is smooth.||$150|
|Phantom:||Phantom ball pythons are similar to Mojaves. Their dark pattern blushes from dark brown to tan. Their light pattern is an orange-yellow color.||$150|
|Pinstripe:||Pinstripes are a caramel color. But more importantly, it’s their pattern that makes them distinctive.||$100|
|Super blast:||Super blast ball pythons are pinstripes crossed with pastels. Their color is light orange, and their dark pattern is faded and thin.||$250|
|Spotnose:||Spotnoses are a few shades lighter than a normal ball python, with some bright yellows. They have small white spots on their upper lip, which gives them their name.||$150|
|Vanilla:||Vanillas are almost identical to normal ball pythons. However, their colors are brighter and clearer, while their head colors are faded.||$200|
|Yellow belly:||The yellow belly has rich colors, with more yellow showing through. They also have a small light marking on their head as well as distinct yellow-red flames coming up the side of their belly.||$150|
Healthy Morphs to Breed
No one morph is the ‘best’ to breed. It depends on your taste, and your budget. Select a morph based on whether you like the way they look and behave, and whether the snake is actually healthy.
A good start would be to pick a male that has two, maybe even three morph genes. You could then breed the male with one or two co-dom females. This would be a fairly basic setup that you could start for $800-$1000. Good starter morph options include:
- Pastel ball pythons. Pastels can be bred with most other morphs to brighten up their colors and patterns.
- Mojave ball pythons. These can be bred with pastels to produce pastaves, more Mojaves, more pastels, and BELs.
- Fire ball pythons. These create great combos when bred with other types of morphs.
Morphs That Are Unhealthy
Not all morphs are created equal. Some are striking and beautiful, while others look dull. The genetic variations in some morphs cause them to develop health problems. The reasons to avoid such snakes include:
- Low quality of life. The snakes will find it hard to move, eat, and shed.
- The offspring will be less valuable on the open market.
- The snake may become sick and die.
These genetic issues occur because morphs are genetic changes. While breeders are only interested in the color and pattern of a snake, sometimes genes do two things. So, a gene that makes a snake turn pure white may also affect the eyes (as happens with BELs).
While breeders care about the health of their snakes, some accept compromises. So while a spider ball python looks impressive, it also has genetic neurological issues.
So, which ball python morphs should you avoid owning? Here’s a list of the main morphs, and why they don’t make good pets:
|Spider:||Spiders are light brown, black and white. They have a thin and narrow dark pattern, like a pinstripe.||Head wobble|
|Bumblebee or killerbee:||A snake with enhanced yellow pigment. The best specimens have a black and yellow pattern, like a bumblebee. Derived from the spider.||Head wobble|
|Champagne:||Champagne ball pythons are a tan and/or orange color. They have irregular striping and a white belly. Derived from the spider.||Head wobble|
|Spider x sable:||When you breed a spider and a sable, it makes the head wobble worse.||Very bad head wobble|
|Caramel:||Light brown and reddish color.||Kinking.|
|Super spotnose:||Looks similar to a spotnose.||Severe neurological issues.|
|Desert:||Deserts have a sandy yellow background pattern. Their dark pattern is between brown and black.||Fertility problems|
|Super black pastel:||The super black pastel is a deep black color.||Duckbill|
|Super cinnamon:||Similar to the super black pastel. Colors range from a rich brown to a gray-black.||Duckbill|
Ball Python Genetic Issues
There are genetic issues that certain morphs can have. We’re going to look at each of these genetic problems, and how it affects the snake.
One of the most severe genetic conditions some morphs have is the head wobble. This is where the snake has trouble balancing. Symptoms of head wobble in ball pythons include:
- Head will wobble from side to side
- The snake finds it difficult to strike
- The snake finds it difficult to tell up from down. You might find them lying upside down, not knowing how to flip themselves upright
The head wobble is a neurological disorder. Many breeders refuse to breed snakes that have this condition. It affects the following morphs:
- Spider ball pythons
- Woma and Hidden Gene Woma
- Super Sable
The first of these to have a recognizable condition was the spider ball python. Any other morph that was created from a spider also has the head wobble. It ranges in severity. There doesn’t seem to be a link between the parent’s wobble severity and that of the offspring.
However, it is proven to be a genetic issue. It’s related to the spider gene. You can tell because the regular offspring of a spider won’t have the wobble, while those that ‘express’ the spider gene will.
The issue also doesn’t seem to be related to inbreeding. It’s not possible to breed spiders with low wobbles. A spider with a low wobble can produce high wobble or low wobble offspring.
The more stressed the snake, the more the wobble shows itself. During handling and feeding, the wobble will be worse.
Kinking is a condition where the snake’s body isn’t properly formed. The back has a kink in it, which is a sharp bend to one side.
The severity of kinking varies. A snake may have just one kink in its back, and not at a sharp angle. Or, it may have several kinks at severe angles.
The more kinks the snake has, the more difficult it will be for it to move. Its organs may also be squeezed up against one another. That’s why kinking can kill the snake in severe cases.
Kinking can affect any morph, but it does affect some more than others. Disproportionately affected morphs include:
- Caramel albino
- Super cinnamon
If kinking is extreme, then the snake won’t hatch successfully. If it hatches, then there’s a higher chance that it will die soon after.
This is a mutation, named because the snake’s skull changes shape. The mutation causes loss of bone in certain areas of the skull, which makes it more difficult for the snake to breathe or eat.
It’s noticeable as a dip between the skull and the nose. The overall effect is to make the nose appear smaller. Since this is where the vomeronasal organ is located, it’s unclear whether this makes it difficult for them to smell.
It may also stop them from being able to breathe as normal. When a snake’s mouth is closed, it pushes its glottis (the tip of their windpipe) against its nostrils. This allows it to breathe more easily when eating, for example.
The morphs that this issue is known to affect the worst are the super black pastel and super cinnamon.
Certain morphs have trouble producing offspring. These include:
- Caramels, and morphs bred with caramels
Deserts have poor fertility in several ways. They frequently become egg bound when trying to lay. And, of the eggs they do lay, most will not be fertile and won’t successfully hatch. This may be because deserts have thermoregulatory issues.
Caramels have several issues, kinking being the best known. However, they also are subfertile. This means that females struggle to produce enough eggs (far fewer than a normal clutch). Of the eggs they produce, most are slugs. Slugs are duds, unfertilized eggs.
Morphs can have slightly different eyes. This usually is to do with the color, e.g., BELs or albinos. However, the eyes can also be a different shape. Some ball pythons, for example, can be born with:
- Large, rounded eyes that stick out (bug eyes)
- Smaller eyes than usual
- No eyes at all
Snakes born with tiny eyes, or no eyes, have a decreased quality of life. These snakes find it challenging to move around comfortably.
Morphs That Won’t Survive
Through extensive testing, breeders have discovered that breeding certain morphs with other morphs results in unhatchable offspring. The offspring always die. The reason why is often unclear.
This is separate from other hatching issues. This has nothing to do with poor temperature control. This problem is purely genetic. Deadly morph combinations include the following:
- Champagne and spider
- Champagne and Woma
- Super champagne, i.e. champagne and champagne
- Super spider
- Woma and Woma
If you breed these combos, most or all of the eggs won’t hatch. There’s something about the genetic changes in these morphs that means they can’t function biologically. That doesn’t stop breeders trying, however.
While the best ball python morphs are the most colorful and unique, breeding genetically unhealthy snakes should be avoided. A royal python with a head wobble or kinked spine will have severe physical limitations. Others will have a reduced life expectancy, and/or live a life of pain.