If you are interested in owning a pet python, it will most likely be the ball python that will end up in your home. They make good pets because they are smaller in size than some members of the python family, and because they have a friendly disposition. They are also quite easy to care for.
Central and western Africa are the natural homes of ball pythons, as they love the tropical climates there. They are held in high regard in some African regions, where they are sometimes called royal pythons.
Experienced reptile keepers and first-time snake owners can both get a kick out of having a ball python as a pet. Breeders also love them, as they can breed them to create color and pattern variations on the python that have never been seen before.
Where does their name come from?
The ball python tends to curl up into a ball when it is frightened, hence the name.
Baby Ball Python Information
At birth, the baby ball python is about 10 inches long. Female adults grow to be 3 to 5 feet long, while males are smaller, at an average of 2 to 3 feet long, making the female the dominant one in terms of size. 5 Feet is considered to be on the long side for a ball python, although some measuring 6 feet or longer have been seen.
The Best Cage for a Ball Python
Ball python owners have some flexibility when it comes to a cage for their pet. Basic cages are perfectly fine, especially when you consider that a lot more work has to be put in to maintain a cage that has a lot of items inside.
You will find that a standard plastic box, such as those created by Rubbermaid, will work just fine. Some owners prefer a glass aquarium, but it should be noted that the screen tops on these types of tanks can make it tougher to control the humidity levels required to keep your ball python comfortable.
Young ball pythons like to feel secure, which is why a smaller cage suits them best. Putting the little ones into a larger cage can lead to unnecessary stress. You will also find that the adults are more than happy with a basic enclosure, with a cage measuring 36 X 18 X 12 inches usually more than adequate for an adult ball python.
Keeping the cage clean at all times is a must, so be sure to remove feces and urine as regularly as possible. A total breakdown of the cage for a deep cleaning should be done once a month, using a 5% bleach solution to get things nice and clean.
Once the main cleaning has been done, the enclosure should be rinsed with water and allowed to dry before placing the snake back inside.
Accessories in the cage are optional, but one things that you should always have in there is a hide box. Ball pythons are shy creatures that like a little privacy, so they will appreciate this accessory.
Two boxes are even better, with one placed at each end of the enclosure. Flowerpots are a cheap alternative to hide boxes that are perfectly acceptable to the ball python.
Morphs and Genes of the Ball Python
There are more than 100 different pattern and color combinations of ball python available. As far as genetic variations go, no other animal on the planet can beat than number.
The earliest ball python morphs came in the 1990’s with African farm-raised pythons. Many of the more unique patterns and colors uncovered ended up on pythons shipped to owners in the US. Among the first ball python morphs were piebald, albino, clown, hypo, pastel, axanthic, caramel albino, and more.
Breeders wanted more ball python morphs, and were willing to pay big money to get their hands on new ball python morph discoveries. When we say a lot of money, we mean tens of thousands of dollars changing hands for a single baby ball python.
The prices only started to drop once the new ball python morphs became more common. That said, we still see one or two new ball python morphs produced through breeding, while some new ones are still being discovered in the wilds of Africa.
New ball python morphs are created annually through breeding, which makes keeping track with them all very tough indeed. The creation of new morphs is not something that can be done by just anyone, though, as it takes a real knowledge of the genetics involved in order to breed these snakes successfully.
While we don’t have enough space here to list all the ball python morphs that are out there, we can look at some of the most famous.
Albino Ball Python
The characteristics of the albino ball python are a bright yellow and white body and pink eyes, with absolutely no dark pigments to be seen.
The albino was the first to have the recessive ball python mutation, and as such is very collectible. The good news is that it is actually among the more affordable ball python morphs for serious collectors.
You will find standard albinos in both low and high contrast varieties. When they are first born, the differences are not very obvious, but as they grow, the low contrast albinos will start to lose their white markings, to the point where they become almost totally yellow.
The high contrast albinos maintain the white parts on the body. The patterning and blushing of the snakes used to create albinos will determine whether the babies are low or high contrast.
Scaleless Ball Python
A snake with no scales is most definitely a unique creature. The look of these snakes is so different from what you are used to that it never gets old to look at them. The very first scaleless snakes were discovered in the wild more than seven decades ago, but have only recently becomes popular as pets.
These snakes are hard to describe, and you can’t really start to fully appreciate them until you have seen one up close. We suggest using Google to find pictures, or better yet, a trip to your local zoo, where there will almost certainly be a scaleless snake on display.
Banana Ball Python
You might see the name and imagine a yellow snake, but the banana ball python is actually a purple and orange albino, that is quite arguably one of the more beautiful ball python morphs in existence.
Ask any lover of ball pythons which one morph they would take over all others and you would likely find that it would be the banana ball python that go the majority of the votes.
The reason it has become this way is because of the exorbitant prices being asked for the male of the species, which takes most breeders out of the equation.
The banana ball python has been in demand since the day it was discovered, although there has been a little bit of confusion surrounding this stunning morph. The belief among many snake enthusiasts was that the coral glow and banana were in fact two completely separate ball python morphs.
This led breeders to believe that they would be able to have plenty of these snakes available on the market in no time at all, at least until they discovered that this ball python morph was sex-linked, which changed the game completely.
There were many people who refused to believe that, too, but we have now reached a point where we understand that the coral glow and the banana are indeed the same ball python morph.
Bumblebee ball python
As the name suggests, this snake is a yellow and black ball python that is quite docile, perhaps because it is not a ball python morph that is naturally occurring.
The bumblebee ball python is a totally man-made morph that came about via very deliberate breeding attempts. There were a lot of genetics involved in the creation of this one, which we will try to explain below:
Understanding the Genetics of the Bumblebee Ball Python?
There are at least two different mating schemes that can be employed to create the bumblebee ball python. The first of these, which was the original method used by breeders, a spider ball python and a pastel ball python are mated to create the bumblebee.
It is the spider that serves as the dominant mutation in this pairing, while the pastel is co-dominant. This is not to suggest that every single mating attempt using these two types of snake will produce a bumblebee ball python.
The fact of the matter is that you are looking at about a 25% success rate when mating these two snakes to create a bumblebee. The second breeding method is done by breeding a bumblebee with what is known as a wild-type ball python, which is one that is free from mutation.
Pastel ball python
The pastel ball python comes about due to what is referred to as a co-dominant mutation that intensifies the yellow pigmentation to different levels. The eyes on this snake tend to be pale or green, and white lips are also usually visible.
When pastels are born, they tend to have heads that are faded in color, but they do get a little darker with age. You will also see that this snake has a very clean underside.
Pastels that have a reduced pattern, extensive blushing, and a more faded head than normal are considered to be the super form of the species. The type of pastel delivered will depend greatly on what types were used in breeding.
Pastels tend to be a very wise investment for breeders, mostly because you tend to get excellent results in the first generation. One of the things that makes this type of snake so appealing, besides how easy they are to breed, are the fantastic colors that they sport.
Yellow, black, and white are the predominant colors, while the belly of the snake always remains patternless. If you are thinking of having a ball python collection, the pastel should be considered a must have.
Spider ball python
The features of the spider ball python include green eyes, a light coloration with white sides, and a black pattern reminiscent of barbed wire. The spider was one of the morphs responsible for kicking off the whole designer ball python craze, and it still ranks as one of the most commonly sought after morphs out there.
The reasoning for this is simple, and it’s because you tend to get some fabulous combinations when you breed a spider with another type of ball python. This is a ball python morph that breeders love to experiment with, just to see what wonderful creatures they can create.
Piebald ball python
The piebald ball python comes with a recessive trait that will leave it partially unpigmented, opening the door for a variety of color and pattern variations. The piebalds tend to have a cloud-like pattern that is truly unique to most morphs.
Part of the fun of breeding piebalds is that you tend to get very random returns, especially when talking about the amount of white that the offspring will display. As wild and crazy as the body may appear with all the different patterns, you generally always get a head that is relatively normal in appearance.