Ball pythons, like other snake breeds, don’t all look the same. Their breed has “morphs.” Because of this, their beauty comes in many shapes and forms. But “morph” may not be a well-known phrase for those of you who don’t know much about ball pythons or other snakes.
What are ball python morphs?
A morph is a genetic mutation that alters the appearance of the snake though it remains the same breed. Ball pythons have at least 26 different morphs aside from the regular ball python and are significantly more expensive than typical ball pythons.
Before we get started, I am not an expert on genetics or mutations. If you want a more accurate authority on snake morphs, the best thing to do would be to visit a scientific website with all the facts and science to back them up. Here is a website that has much of the history of ball python morphs.
What is a Morph?
Whenever I hear the word morph, I think of that old television show and book “Animorphs.” This show had regular teenagers slowly turning into animals and they were the only ones who knew what they could do. We’re not quite talking about the same thing as that show. It’s sort of similar… I guess.
A morph is a snake of the same species which is a different color and shape. They are the exact same kind of snake, but the color of their scales and sometimes their eyes are different.
Do not mistake birth defects for morphism.
Guess what? Albinism and Leucism in snakes is a type of Morphism. I bet you didn’t know that. There’s probably a lot that you did not know about ball pythons. We will be talking about this in depth later in the article.
You may be wondering what causes morphism. Well, morphism seems to be described as a part of evolution. Snakes change their colors as a way to protect themselves from their attackers. That is not the only reason, but it has a great deal to do with it.
The actual cause of morphism is the mutation of genetic material. Morphing, by definition, means a variance in the individual of a certain species. Bascially, the genetic material is changing. It isn’t lacking in anything, it has merely changed.
If you want to know more about morphs, how they work, and some of the debate over them, I recommend this article we wrote all about snake morphs.
History of The Morph
In the early 1990’s, the regular ball python was a common creature which no one really owned. After a little while, they became more popular and many people started out with a ball python as their first pet. It’s kind of hard to believe a time when the great ball python was not popular.
In the later 1990’s, the ball python became more popular when a man named Bob Clark became interested in an albino ball python from Africa. Clark wanted to own the creature. He wanted to try and breed it.
Through some effort and work, Clark eventually made a deal with someone and got a hold of the albino ball python. He began breeding it, which resulted in the first bred albino ball python.
Once that happened, the ball python morph industry exploded. Before this, most people thought of albinism in ball pythons, and other snakes, as a rare occurrence in nature. Once Clark discovered how to breed and create his own, people became interested and created others.
At the time Clark was working on this, someone broke into his lab and stole some of his research- that’s how interested and desperate people were to create these morphs.
Now, there are tons of different types of ball python morphs. Ball pythons became one of the most popular reptiles to have, and their diversity may cause them to remain popular for many years to come.
How Many Morphs are There?
There are 26 different kinds of Ball python morphs. (That is not including the subspecies of morphs.) Below is a list of the popular and primary morphs. All the other morphs are a combination of several of these morphs and are named accordingly.
- Albino Ball python- This python has a recessive ball python mutation. This means it has to come from both sides of the parents. This snake is not all white. It has the familiar pink eyes, but its scales have a yellow pigment along with the underlying white which indicates albinism. Sometimes these snakes can be almost completely yellow with no white but typically will have both colors. Albino ball pythons were the first ball python morphs to become relatively affordable. A particularly popular subspecies of this is the Lavender ball python. If you want to know more about the albino morph, I suggest you check out this other article we wrote all about them.
- Axanthic Ball Python- When a ball python is axanthic, only the red and/or yellow pigments are suppressed. This ball python has the ball python pattern, but its coloring is primarily silver/grey, white, black, and brown. As they age they may turn more brown, but they are black and grey at their birth.
- BEL (Blue Eyed Leucistic) Python- This python has blue eyes and pure white scales. They are often called the ‘Blue Eyed Lucy’ and are extremely popular. These can only come about by breeding mojave, butter, and/or lesser ball pythons with each other. More information about this particular morph will be later in the article.
- Bumblebee Ball Python- This snake is rightly named because of its bumblebee scales. They are black and yellow. This breed can only be found if bred. They are not found in the wild. They are bred by mating a spider ball python and a pastel ball python (more on these further down the list). For more on this special morph, we wrote another entire article all about cool Bumblebee Ball Python facts.
- Candino Ball Python- The Candino is a type of Albino made with the same genes with a few different ones added. Instead of being white and yellow, they are often grey and yellow. Very little information is public about this morph.
- Champagne Ball Python- Light tan/orange color with irregular stripes and colors. Its belly is all white. This ball python is also a dominant morph. Champagne ball pythons were once called Puma ball pythons, but the name didn’t stick. There are also several subspecies to this morph such as the Champagne Enchi.
- Butter Ball Python- The Lesser ball python and this ‘Butter’ ball python can be confused with each other because their appearance is very similar. As they age, these ball pythons’ scales get brighter.
- Chocolate Ball Python- This ball python has a darker brown and black color. It’s a lot darker than the ones mentioned up till now.
- Cinnamon Ball Python- A dark brown and cinnamon color to its scales. This gene is co-dominant.
- Coral Glow Ball Python- Purple and orange scales. These are only males, no females. These are also known as banana balls. Some breeders list this morph at $3500, but others had much lower prices.
- Fire Ball Python- This one can be used to make a Blue-Eyed Leucistic. It is a lot lighter than a regular ball python and its patterns are different.
- Ghost Ball Python- The black pigmentation in these ball pythons are significantly reduced. Their color will always seem to be a bit hazy and faded, which may make them look like they are shedding constantly.
- GHI (Gotta Have It!) Ball Python- This snake is a gem snake owners only dream of. This snake has the ball python pattern, but it is extremely dark. As they grow, the color lightens a bit and makes gray on the sides more obvious. This snake is one of the newest discovered morphs. Quite popular.
- Ivory Ball Python- This python can at first appear to be Leucistic, but it is more yellow. It is the combination of yellow bellies. (It is also called the Super Yellow Belly ball python.)
- Lesser Ball Python- This snake is used to make other morphs. It is a common breeder tool. It has the ball python pattern, but it is more brown and yellow. It tends to enhance color and blushing in the morphs it is used to create.
- Mojave Ball Python- The Mojave is famous for the “Mojave Pattern”. They a different pattern on its scales than the normal ball python, and its underside is completely white. This article we wrote explains more about this uniquely patterned morph.
- Mystic Ball Python- When they are young, they have a slight purplish color to them and grow into a light grayish-purple color. Often they will have a few dark stripes or spots.
- Pastel Ball Python- This snake’s pattern is very closely pressed together and it has an intense yellow pigmentation to the scales.
- Phantom Ball Python- The Phantom is very useful in creating some of the more exotic and popular morphs. They seem to portray all the familiar morph colors in its scales.
- Piebald Ball Python- This python is extremely unique. It is partially un-pigmented. This leaves big chunks of that white-scale color of the leucistic and other chunks of normal ball python pattern.
- Pinstripe Ball Python- This one has stripes all along its backside, with the base of the body having a caramel brown color.
- Spider Ball Python- The coloring for this one is light brown, black, and white. It has the striped looking pattern on its back and patches of white on its belly. Learn more about this unique and controversial morph in our article here.
- Spotnose Ball Python– These are named for the spots on their nose. They also have a faded head pattern.
- Super Blast Ball Python– A bright yellow snake with a light lavender head. These are a mix of pinstripe and pastel ball pythons.
- Vanilla Ball Python– These are brighter in color, but their head is rather faded. Over time, they become lighter and lighter.
- Yellow Belly Ball Python- named for its yellow belly and is used to make the Ivory ball python. It looks pretty normal aside from the yellow underside.
Most Popular Morphs
There are a few types of ball python morphs that are particularly popular for breeders to try and make. By combining certain types of morphs together, a breeder has a good chance of creating several of the more popular morphs.
BEL Ball Python: One of the most unique morphs. This morph is a combination of a Lesser and a Mojave, a Mojave and a Phantom, or a Phantom and a Lesser ball python. This unique snake is all white with striking blue eyes.
They are mysterious-looking and they are extremely popular. It is expensive to buy them and even more so to breed them. (Mostly because you need two of the three previously listed snakes which are all some of the most expensive of the morphs.)
If you want to learn more about BEL ball pythons, we wrote an entire article about them including how much they usually cost and where to get them.
Albino Ball Python: If we’re talking about these creatures naturally occurring, the albino ball python is the result of two regular balls pythons.
They are high in demand and take time and money to breed. Once they are bred, however, they will sell for a very high price. Their color and pattern make them a precious commodity.
Spider Ball Pythons: These pythons are known for their cuteness and that cuteness is super controversial.
Crazy right? What can be so controversial about a different colored snake? Well, for spider ball pythons, genetics don’t only affect the color.
Most morphs experience a color change and only a color change, but for a spider ball python, there is a possibility of inheriting the head wobble.
Basically, the snakes can’t keep their head still and stable. When they move, their head jerks back and forth. Some people consider this extra cute and others really don’t.
The head wobble is one of the biggest arguments against breeding morphs. For more about this debate, check out the spider ball pythons link in the list above.
Albinism Vs. Leucism
Ball pythons with Albinism and Leucism could easily be mistaken for each other. You may not have known this, but they aren’t the same thing.
Albinism is a complete lack of pigmentation that is melanin. This lack of melanin will usually turn the snake’s eyes pink and its body almost white. Though, in pythons, they generally have a bit of yellowing to their pattern and are not completely white as you would expect.
Leucism is a lack of many pigmentations.
This lack does not affect its eye color and Leucistic snakes retain their natural eye color. The BEL python is most popular for its blue eyes and white scales. Leucistic snakes are completely white and do not have any other colors.
There is another type of this morphism, but it is called, “Pied ball python”. These snakes are only partially Leucistic and have a part colored, part white pattern to its scales. They are patchy and can sometimes only have a small palm-sized patch of coloring to its scales.
Birth Defects vs Morphism
As mentioned earlier, birth defects and morphism are not the same thing. Morphism is a mutation in the proteins in the body. This results in a different look in the ball python, but the same capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
A birth defect is a lack or excess of important genes which are needed to make a regular ball python. Their anatomy turns out to be slightly different because of a lack of the necessary components.
Birth defects can affect the python’s quality of life and ability to live in the same way as other pythons with no defects.
They must adjust to their environment in a different way and sometimes cannot survive in the wild because they lack all the necessary components to defend themselves or to catch their prey.
Ball pythons with birth defects may also die at birth due to the inability to adequately function. Defects such as a crooked backbone may be cause for a snake death or snake euthanasia. (Snake euthanasia is another subject entirely.)
Not knowing how to properly breed is a danger in morphs because of the combining of several different types of genes. If you are not sure what you are doing, you can breed two snakes that are not compatible.
This lack of compatibility can cause defects such as infertility, wobble head (lack of mobility in the neck and head of the snake), crooked spines, no eyes,…etc.
Not all these birth defects are cause for morph deaths, but they are a possibility anytime you are breeding. Even experienced breeders can have these things happen. It is not super common, but it can happen.
Are Morphs More Expensive Than Regular Ball Pythons?
Oh, yes! Morphs are a lot more expensive. Ball pythons used to be more common and were not as exciting. You could go to the store and buy a python for about $10-$20 dollars at your local pet store. With its rise in popularity, that has changed.
Now that there are morph versions of this species, their value has gone up. They’re like people! All of them are ball pythons; the same skills, the same abilities, and the same insides, but how they look makes them somehow more valuable than your regular ball python.
A regular adult ball python will come out to be about $60. (If you were to buy a baby it would be less.) The price of the most popular ball python morph, the Lavender Albino ball python, is said to be about $40.000. (Less pure breeds are more in the $1000-$4000 range.)
That’s a huge difference! That’s more money than I’ve ever had in my whole life! If I bought that thing, I’d have to live in the street and only take care of it. Forget about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A snack would be my daily meal.
That’s the most popular morph. The other morphs can get to be quite high in price as well, but they stay within the $300-$800 range. It just depends where you go to buy it.
Morphs have significantly grown in their popularity. However, I’d advise choosing a lower-priced ball python. Even though the other Ball python morphs are beautiful, I could definitely only afford one of the lower-priced (apparently not as desirable) ball python morphs. Someone’s got to root for the little people.
So seeing all of these different morphs and the potential profit to be made from selling morphs, how does one start breeding?
Breeding is a complex process and requires that you know a lot about snakes, that you take care of a lot of snakes, and that you learn a lot about genetics.
It also needs a lot of patience. You are working with living creatures that have minds of their own. Not only that, but you are working with genetics which
Make sure you know your stuff. Learn what snakes need, what the initial costs would be, or if the payoff would actually make up for it. Talk to other breeders and ask what their techniques are.
There is no single way to breed snakes, but you can learn a lot from people who are already doing it. You may be able to avoid some rookie mistakes that way too.
Before you ever get a snake, gather all of the supplies you will need to care for your snakes. Remember, you will end up with several snakes, so have as many enclosures of snakes available. Most snakes are solitary creatures when they aren’t mating, so keep them happy in their quiet single enclosures.
Once you do have the snakes, treat them as well as you can. This is a business you are running. If you want the snakes to give you babies, you need to prepare them physically and keep them extremely comfortable.
When it comes to actually mating, don’t push the snakes too much. If the female is young, she may be able to lay eggs, but it could put a lot of stress on her body and health, possibly resulting in her not laying eggs for several years.
This is damaging to the snake and to your business, so it is in both of your interests to take things at a slower pace.
Males can be younger than females when they begin breeding, but they do sometimes stop eating during breeding season. If this happens when they are small, they may drop too much weight to stay healthy during this time. Waiting until his second year might be better for his weight.
Most ball pythons will lay eggs in the spring, but ball pythons are perfectly capable of laying eggs at any time of the year.
In the wild, they do wait for spring simply because it increases the likelihood of survival for the baby snakes, but in captivity, the temperature, food, and safety are consistent enough that the pythons can mate at any point in the year.
When pairing the snakes, make sure the females are ovulating at the time of pairing, otherwise, the mating will go nowhere. When a female is ovulating, she gives off strong pheromones that alert the males to the fact that there is a fertile female in the area.
This will draw the male to the female so that they can mate. So no ovulation, no mating, and no babies. Simple as that.
If after mating the female becomes pregnant, she will shed about two weeks after the fertilization. About thirty days after that, the ball python female will lay her eggs. Once the eggs are laid, they need to be incubated.
This can be done by you or the female, and if you have several snakes at once, it will probably be easiest to let the female incubate the eggs herself. Ball pythons don’t abandon their eggs, so don’t worry about the mother leaving the eggs to die.
However, when a female is incubating her eggs, she won’t eat any food because her focus is protecting her eggs. This means that she might not build up the body weight needed to lay again the following year. Some breeders will incubate the eggs themselves for this reason.
After the eggs hatch, you have successfully bred your ball pythons! Remember, if you want to breed morphs, you will need to carefully pair the snakes at mating time.
Otherwise, you may end up with a different ball python than you planned on, and it might not be as profitable to sell.
Are there other snakes that have morphs?
Ball pythons are not the only type of snakes that have morphs.
There are several different snakes which also have different versions of their same species. To name just a few of them: Corn snake, Kingsnake, rattlesnake, and pretty much any other type of snake out there.
Are some morphs more aggressive than others?
This is a common question and is an ongoing debate. Some believe that the darker morphs are more aggressive.
Others believe that it’s morphs in general that are aggressive. However, there are people who believe it’s just the origin of the snake which makes it on and has nothing to do with the fact that it is a morph- that it depends on the individual snake.
Whatever the case, whether they are more aggressive is unclear.
Have there ever been any snakes with a birth defect that has resulted in legs?
It would be an interesting defect if a ball python morph were born with legs.
However, in my research, I did not find any evidence that there has ever been any case of legs being reported as a birth defect. It’s not very likely that that will happen.