Normal ball pythons generally come in varying shades of brown and black with pale yellow or white markings.
Thanks to selective breeding, several variations, or morphs, of ball pythons are available.
These morphs range from vivid yellows to deep chocolate browns and everything in between.
There are even white, gray, and lavender ball python morphs.
So how are these color morphs produced?
Producing ball python morphs starts by determining which traits are dominant, co-dominant, and recessive. By understanding the dominant characteristics of a breeding pair of ball pythons, you will be able to produce new morphs by combining these traits through breeding.
This process is not always predictable, as co-dominant traits may appear in the offspring, but you will have a general idea of what to expect.
Recessive traits are usually hidden by dominant and co-dominant traits.
However, it is still important to understand your breeding pair’s genetics in order to prevent potential health issues from being passed to the offspring.
Keep reading to learn more about how to breed ball python morphs with success and how to keep your snakes healthy throughout the process.
What Is A Morph?
The ball python is consistent in its natural colors and look.
They are usually brown or black in the body with lighter colored spots on top and a lighter gold or brown color on the bottom.
However, morphs open up a whole new area of colors and patterns to look into.
In animal breeding, especially reptiles, “morph” is the word used to designate a different coloration, pattern, size, or skin texture.
In general, a morph is a variation on the standard look of the original species.
Morphs are created through a process called selective breeding.
A simplified version of the process is described here.
The breeder sees a male and female ball python whose browns are deeper than normal.
They choose to breed these two together in hopes of creating baby ball pythons with an even deeper coloration.
Some will appear normal in the next generation, and others will be an even deeper brown/black.
The breeder takes the darker ball pythons through several breedings and other pairs and breeds them together to create a few even deeper color morphs.
They continue to do this creating a new morph whose colors seem unlike the original ball python.
How Many Ball Python Morphs Are There?
There are currently 26 identified and accepted ball python morphs out there.
Note: Morphs exclude congenital disabilities as these cause health problems and shouldn’t be sought after.
The morphs on our list don’t affect health greatly and are created through a combination of selective breeding and natural chance.
Here’s the list in short (in alphabet order):
- Albino Ball Python
- Axanthic Ball Python
- Blue Eyed Leucistic Ball Python
- Bumblebee Ball Python
- Butter Ball Python
- Candino Ball Python
- Champagne Ball Python
- Chocolate Ball Python
- Cinnamon Ball Python
- Coral Glow Ball Python
- Fire Ball Python
- Ghost Ball Python
- Gotta Have It Ball (GHI) Python
- Ivory Ball Python
- Lesser Ball Python
- Mojave Ball Python
- Mystic Ball Python
- Pastel Ball Python
- Phantom Ball Python
- Piebald Ball Python
- Pinstripe Ball Python
- Spider Ball Python
- Spotnose Ball Python
- Super Blast Ball Python
- Vanilla Ball Python
- Yellow Belly Ball Python
Check out this post for a great list of ball python morphs (pictures included) for a more exhaustive list.
How To Identify Ball Python Morphs
Identifying ball python morphs comes down to two main strategies which are useful when combined.
The first is to track the identified morphs in the parents and generations.
This may be difficult when starting with breeding, but chances are, you got your initial ball pythons from experienced breeders.
Talk to them and see if they can give you a starting point.
Keeping a spreadsheet will help you track identified traits better.
This is especially useful in snakes not displaying the desired gene, but it’s still a recessive trait.
The other method is to identify the morph trait by its looks.
This is accurate though, in some cases, it’s difficult to tell the difference between two closely colored morphs.
This also will leave out ball pythons with the recessive genes.
This video may help you to visually identify which morph or color pattern you’re looking at.
Steps To Take Before Breeding Your Ball Python
Before you decide to breed your ball pythons, there are a few things you need to do to ensure your snakes stay healthy and the process is successful.
When the weather naturally gets cooler outside, you will need to lower the temperature in the enclosure to around 5° degrees Fahrenheit on both the cool and warm ends.
This cooling process mimics the natural seasonal weather changes.
The cooler temperatures also stimulate follicle growth in the female, making her more likely to have viable eggs.
When the weather warms back up in the early spring, and you return the enclosure temperatures to normal, this signals the start of the breeding season to the snake.
It is also essential to ensure your snakes are of the proper age and weight for breeding.
Female ball pythons are not ready to mate until they are three years old and weigh at least 1,500 grams or more.
Male ball pythons become sexually mature between 16-18 months of age.
It is vital for the female ball python to be sexually mature and have adequate weight.
Females may lose up to 28% of their body mass during gestation and egg-laying.
You will also need to be prepared for what happens when the female lays her eggs.
Once the female ball python is done laying her eggs, her enclosure will need to be cleaned and sanitized, and the snake will need to be given a bath.
If the scent of her eggs is not washed away, the female snake will try to incubate inanimate objects in her enclosure, such as her water dish or hide.
This may cause her not to eat, and she will become inactive.
You will also need to have enough space for enclosures to house the baby snakes once they have hatched until they are ready to go to their new home.
How To Breed Ball Python Morphs
Breeding ball python morphs is much like breeding ball pythons, just more specific.
We break it down into four main parts for you in this section.
#1 Identify Morphs And Pairs
The first step we touched on above is identifying the morphs and color qualities you’re looking to breed.
It may be helpful to label each ball python cage with a name and other morph-related information.
Even if a ball python isn’t a clear morph, you may see a desirable quality you wish to breed.
For example, look for:
- Changes in color (lighter, darker, more or less of a certain pigment)
- Unique patterns or sizes in the spots
- Difference in the textures of the skin
- Other unique elements
Now, find another adult ball python of the opposite sex with similar or the same quality.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the closer they are, the better the chances of passing down these traits to their offspring.
Pro-tip: It makes the whole process so much easier to keep track of parents, traits, and other information in an organized way.
Many large-scale breeders use labels or a code linked to a spreadsheet of some kind.
If you’re smaller scale or just getting started, you may not feel like you need this now, but down the road, it gets much more complicated to balance the information in your head.
Dominant And Recessive Traits
For help with predicting morph traits, take a look at this table.
The large “A” is the dominant gene, and the small one is recessive.
The outside labels are the parents’ genes and the inside predicts the odds of the morph trait showing through.
Dominant genes always win out and show up, but the recessive ones can come out if both pairs of genes are recessive.
When the parents mate, they randomly give one of their gene pairs to the children.
In this example, one parent python shows the dominant gene with one hidden, and the other shows the recessive trait.
As a result, there’s a 50% chance their offspring will show the dominant trait and a 50% chance they’ll show recessive.
Tracking the genes and what shows will give you a better idea of what to expect the offspring to show and get you morphs more often.
#2 Pair Ball Pythons
Now you’ve found ball pythons to pair; it’s time to encourage them to mate.
The ball python breeding season is interesting.
In short, the ball python is always ready to breed.
As long as your python is big enough and old enough, they’ll be able to breed.
Click to learn more about ball python breeding season and requirements.
For males, the general rule is to wait until they’re two years old.
For females, the rule is to wait until they’re three years old to attempt mating.
Feel free to attempt this earlier or later and watch to see if the ball pythons are interested.
If they’re not, just give them more time a few months later.
When you’re ready to pair ball pythons, put the male inside the female’s cage and check on them throughout the day.
Male pythons will lock onto the female as they mate.
They mate anywhere between 1-3 times typically.
The locking may be done in minutes or take up to 24 hours.
You need to be around to check and see if they’ve locked.
Keep track of this information as much as possible.
After 48 hours, move the male back to its cage, whether they’ve locked or not.
Warning! Don’t attempt to pair ball pythons and feed them at the same time.
Also, don’t attempt a pairing during a shed.
If the male never locked on the female, increase the protein in the snake’s diet, and attempt again in 2-3 months.
#3 Watch For Pregnancy And Incubate Eggs
Once a pairing is successful, it’s time to check if the female ball python is pregnant.
In general, you’re looking for a thickening body, unusual behavior such as lying upside down, and intensification of colors.
2-3 weeks after pregnancy signs appear, the ball pythons will go through an extra shed called the pre-lay shed.
This shed is a sign in 30 days almost to the day; the female will lay her clutch.
For more details, check out our full guide on how to tell if your ball python is pregnant.
Note: Ball pythons can store sperm for months at a time, so you may not see signs of pregnancy immediately.
This is why you should wait to pair a female 2-3 months after a successful pairing.
The female will lay her clutch and wrap herself around the eggs.
You have the choice of leaving her there or incubating the eggs yourself.
Since you’re breeding them actively, you’ll want to incubate them yourself to increase their chances of survival.
55-60 days after incubation, they’ll hatch babies.
You’ll know the eggs are ready to hatch when they begin to collapse into themselves.
Soon after, the ball python will use its egg tooth to cut its way out.
Don’t cut the eggs open yourself until you see one of the ball pythons breaking free.
Even then, this isn’t needed.
#4 Track And Record Baby Ball Pythons
The final part of breeding ball python morphs is more paperwork.
Label and track each baby ball python.
As they age, their colors and morph qualities will become more visible.
You’ll notice some of them (the amount depends largely on how strong the morph was in the parents) have the morph quality more or less than the others.
Label and track these.
When they become sexually mature, consider breeding those with similar morph qualities to intensify the color or other changes.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll create a whole new morph category.
We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about how to breed ball python morphs.
The process isn’t hard when you look into it.
The hardest part comes from managing all the different ball pythons you’ll have as part of the process.
Fortunately, ball pythons are easier to care for and have easy cage setups.
Click the link to see ideas for ball python cage setups.
If you’re interested, use this information to help you dive in and experiment yourself.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can you breed any ball python morph?
Any ball python morph may be bred with another morph to produce endless combinations of colors, patterns, and textures.
Some morph traits will dominate other traits, so you will need to do some research before breeding your ball pythons to ensure you get the desired results.
It is also important to research different morph traits to prevent passing potential health issues to the offspring.
What is the rarest morph of a ball python?
The pastel zebra morph is the rarest ball python morph.
The genes for this vivid yellow and brown morph were discovered in 2005, but it was not successfully bred until 2015 by Roussis Reptiles.
The coloring of the pastel zebra ball python becomes brighter every time the snake sheds.
What is a Scaleless ball python?
The Scaleless ball python morph does not have any scales on its body except for the ocular scales protecting its eyes.
A Scaleless ball python may have any color or pattern, but its skin will be smooth.
Use a softer substrate in a Scaleless ball python enclosure, and increase the humidity up to 75% when the snake is shedding to make skin removal easier for the animal.