Albino Ball Python Breeding and Genetics Uncovered

Ball pythons are many things—boring is not one of them. As we’ve said in other guides, ball pythons (along with their friends, the rosy boas and corn snakes) provide breeders and herpetologists with a playground of experimentation. Their huge and vibrant range of color morphs, along with their relatively docile temperament and ease of handling, make them incredibly popular among pet owners.

What is an albino ball python? Albinos are melanistic, which means they have no dark pigmentation. Albino animals are very pale, and ball pythons are no exception. They are bright yellow and white. But the most important thing to watch out for is their characteristic red eyes. Spooky!

Many animals can be albino

You may have seen other animals exhibiting the albino gene—humans, mice, etc. If a creature exhibits albinism, it means they do not possess dark pigmentation. This usually results in very pale skin, white fur (if the animal has fur) and characteristic red-pink eyes. Albinism is a naturally occurring genetic mutation, which is why you can see examples of it in the wild. But it is especially important in breeding ball pythons, because breeders combine the albino gene with other color morphs in order to create new and exciting secondary, or tertiary color morphs.

Albino ball pythons are beautiful snakes, and have been available from captive-breeding environments for 20-30 years now. However, they are very high in demand, and can command very high prices—especially the rarer designer morphs! You can put this down to the unusual (you could say recalcitrant) breeding habits of ball pythons, as well as the natural rarity of albinos. It takes a long time to produce hatchlings, and the length of the process is reflected in their price. More on that later!

Contents

In this guide, I will cover all aspects of albinism in ball pythons, from how to identify them to how much they cost to buy, and more. Here’s a breakdown of what I will talk about, with some handy quick answers. Keep reading for more detail!

  • Who created the first albino ball python? The wild!
  • Do albino ball pythons exist in the wild? Yes, but they’re very rare.
  • How large do albino ball pythons grow? 3-5 feet.
  • How much does an albino ball python cost to purchase? Aim for $200.
  • How many morphs are there within the albino ball python umbrella? According to World Of Ball Pythons, 6892 so far!
  • How do you breed albino ball pythons? Just like you breed regular ball pythons.
  • How do you use albino ball pythons to breed more complex secondary morphs? This is where it gets interesting!

I will also cover the basics of ball python genetics, with some important technical terms and definitions.

As always, there’s quite a lot to get through, so let’s get started!

Who created the first albino ball python?

Trick question—it’s naturally occurring. No one knows for sure when the first albino ball python emerged from its egg. But it was first described in 1802, by George Kearsley Shaw, an English botanist and zoologist. Back then it was named Boa regia, and its name went through a variety of different iterations before its current Latin name – Python regius.

Python regius, meaning ‘royal python’, alludes to the legend that these magnificent snakes used to be worn decoratively, as jewelry ornaments, by rulers in Africa. Cleopatra, in particular, has been identified for contributing to this legend.

Its common name, ball python, refers to its tendency to curl up into a tight ball when frightened or stressed. It’s the smallest of all the African pythons, and probably the cutest. It’s a non-venomous constrictor, which is one of the reasons it makes for a popular pet in the United States.

Many more base morphs have since been discovered, and literally thousands of designer morphs have been developed by herpetologists, working within the ball python species. But the albino ball python was one of the first! The albino gene was actually the first known and documented recessive mutation of the ball python species.

Can they be found in the wild?

Well, yes and no. Albino ball pythons can be found in the wild, but don’t bank on it—they’re very rare. There are two reasons for this, which I’ll go into below. First though, let me give you the basics on where the normal ball python species can be found.

Ball pythons are native to central and western Africa. They can be found from Sudan and Uganda, in central Africa, all the way to Ghana, Benin, Tongo and Senegal in western Africa. They live in open, dry forests, and grasslands, as well as agricultural areas. When it comes to albino ball pythons, however, it’s quite a different story.

Albinism in most animals presents a strategic problem. By the process of natural selection, snakes evolved to exhibit a very specific set of physical traits. For example, many have stripes, blotches or kite-shaped patterns which help them to blend into their natural environments. Habitats shape appearance.

Imagine going into the jungle dressed in a bright yellow and white hazmat suit and spending a night there. I think you’d feel pretty exposed, not to say vulnerable! The predators would spot you easily, and ultimately your high visibility would result in a decreased chance of survival.

This is what it’s like for albino animals, including ball pythons. They stand out in their habitat, which makes them easy prey.

The other thing to take into account is that the gene which codes for albinism is recessive. Two matching recessive genes are required for the gene to be expressed. There are a few technical, genetic definitions here which I’ll go into later, in the How to breed albino ball pythons section.

For now, suffice to say that wildly occurring albino ball pythons are relatively rare. On top of this, their coloring makes them easier to spot for predators. Put these two together and the result is that albino ball pythons are certainly not a regular sighting in the wild!

How large does an albino ball python grow?

Ball pythons are fairly small – in fact, they’re the smallest African python species. They tend to max out at 5 feet (1.27m), but can be anywhere in the range of 3-4 ft. Females are generally larger than males, and hatchings are usually 8-12 inches in length. As snakes go, ball pythons are relatively broad and robust, with short tails.

Albinos of any species do not, by default, grow more or less than their melanistic brothers and sisters. The thing about color morphs is that they manifest only in the outward appearance of the snake. On the inside, and in terms of the snake’s mechanics, they are fundamentally the same snakes as non-albinos.

The same goes for albino humans – they don’t grow less tall because of their albinism, they just don’t produce melanin. So if someone asks, now you know!

If you see an adult albino ball python in the wild, and it is obviously smaller than a regular ball python, the reason could be indirectly connected to its albinism. Like I said earlier, albino ball pythons have a rough ride of it: their visibility makes them vulnerable. If a snake is constantly scared of being eaten, it might burrow and hide for longer than normal. Malnutrition can result from not eating regular meals, so this could be an explanation for a diminutive albino.

But in captivity, albino ball pythons should grow no longer, or smaller, than their melanistic cousins.

How expensive are albino ball pythons?

Current market value seems to hover around $200-250 for hatchlings. It varies according to state, age, health and so on, and fluctuates with the market, but if you use this is a starting point, you should be on the right track.

Prices for adults fluctuate even more. Before the market crash 10 years ago, you would expect to pay $1,000-3,000 for a healthy female albino ball python, and $750 for a male. A year later, and prices dropped substantially, to $400 for males and $500 for females. Now, you can buy a hatchling for as little as $160.

Compare this to the price of a regular ball python though, and albinos still seem very dear! You can pick up a normal ball python for as little as $20, so albinos have still retained a lot of their value.

What makes them more expensive?

Like I said in the introduction, albino ball pythons can command much higher prices than ‘regular’ ball pythons, because of their rarity. The albino gene is recessive, so two matching genes are required for albinism to be expressed in the phenotype of the offspring (phenotype: physical body).

On top of this, ball pythons can be tricky to breed. They reach sexual maturity at a relatively advanced age – two and a half to three years old. In the snake world, this is later than average. Then, once they are ‘of age’, it takes a full 12 months to complete the breeding process. Whew!

The next hurdle, once you’ve successfully mated your male and female (albino) ball pythons, is ensuring the fertility of the eggs. The drawback here is that you can’t do anything to ensure the fertility of the eggs. It’s all down to the mating pair!

What else makes albino ball pythons special?

Albino ball pythons are favorites among breeders looking to create funky new ‘designer morphs’. A designer morph is essentially a combination of two color morphs, put together in order to create a new pattern or coloration. I’ll give some examples below.

Breeding works fairly mathematically, so if you know the genetic makeup (or genotype) of two given snakes, you can predict with some accuracy the phenotype of the resulting hatchlings. Put two basic morphs together and you have what some call a ‘secondary morph’, with two descriptives. Mate this with another basic morph and you have a tertiary, and so on.

You can see how this can go on indefinitely – for example, the Albino Black Pastel Het Red Axanthic has so much going on, it’s hard to keep track! Here’s a non-exhaustive list of ball python morphs displaying albinism, with their basic characteristics…

Types of albino ball python morphs

  1. Lavender Albino Ball Python

This ball python has a lavender base color with yellow pattern and deep red eyes. The yellow is often sharp and well defined, with rich, golden yellow undertones. This is a ‘high contrast’ snake, and is coveted in private collections. Both lavender and albino are recessive. This morph was first documented in 2001.

Price: from $400.

  • Albino Pied Ball Python

First produced in 2006, this combination of two recessive genes is remarkable. Pied morphs are partially un-pigmented, making them quite striking. With a base cream color and oversized, overlapping yellow blotches, the albino pied ball python is quite a sight to behold. It has pale red-pink eyes and a mystic, unpredictable quality to its appearance. Sometimes mostly white, sometimes mostly yellow, these can fetch very high prices.

Price: from $800.

  • Black Pastel Albino Ball Python

Albino is recessive, while the black and pastel genes are co-dominant. The result is a whitish base with irregular yellow rings, appearing to morph like globules, or cells in ectoplasm. In some specimens, the patterns gel along the dorsal line to form a single, thick yellow stripe which runs from the back of the head to the tip of the tail. Others, however, just have the off-circles. Black pastel albinos have middle-red eyes, and are comparatively affordable.

Price: from $300.

  • Albino Banana Ball Python

The appearance of the albino banana is similar to that of the black pastel albino, but the pattern is more squished, bunched together, and seems somewhat watered down. The shapes meld into one another, and the pattern sometimes becomes an almost full coating of orange liquid. Otherwise known as paradox ball pythons (which explains the ethereal, beguiling richness of their coloration and bizarre patterning), these can fetch high prices, and impress guests! They have dark red eyes.

Price: from $475.

  • Caramel Albino Ball Python

First produced in 1996 from two recessive genes, caramel and albino, this ball python is one of the more readily available, and therefore cheaper, of the albino designer morphs. The snake displays varying shades of cream, brown, yellow and even lavender, with dark red eyes. This mutation goes by a variety of other names, including T+ Albino, Xanthic (which is the opposite of axanthic), etc. Caramels have functional tyrosinase (hence the T+), which means they actually do produce melanin. Tyrosinase contains copper. This explains the relatively dark coloration on a caramel albino, because there are two conflicting pulls regarding pigmentation!

An important downside to consider regarding these beautiful snakes is that caramels occasionally produce offspring with congenital defects, such as kinking. This is by no means, common, but it occurs more among caramel ball pythons than other morphs.

Price: from $175.

  • Albino Spider Ball Python

Spider is the dominant gene in this designer morph first produced in 2003. The phenotype is an enchanting, pale yellow bodied snake with irregular white stripes running across its body. These stripes are actually the thin gaps between large, bloated blotches, but appear as irregular stripes. Some run width-ways, while others run lengthways. Some are lined with darker orange coloring, which borders the yellow blotches. Albino spiders have dark red eyes. This is a highly desirable morph, and can fetch a high price, depending on the intricacy of the pattern. On the other hand, they can be affordable too!

Price: from $200.

  • Albino Clown Ball Python

This double-recessive designer morph was first produced in 2005. It has an irregular, blotchy and partly faded pattern of yellow on cream-white. Its eyes are a murky red, and because of its rarity, it can be very expensive.

Price: from $1200.

  • Albino Pastel Ball Python

Pastel is a co-dominant gene which, when paired with the albino gene, produces a very unusual pattern. Its background color, like most ball pythons which possess the albino gene, is strikingly white. Its yellow pattern can take the form of thick blotches, ringlets or even saddle-like shapes. The contrast level varies from snake to snake. Its eyes can be dull or fiery red.

Price: from $400.

  • Het Albino Ball Python

This only sort of belongs on this list, because it looks like a regular, or ‘normal’ ball python. The word ‘het’ refers to heterozygous, which I define below. It basically means the snake carries only one albino gene, which, because it is recessive, does not display in the phenotype.

Price: from $40.

  1. Albino Black Pastel Ball Python

These snakes display the co-dominant black and pastel genes, alongside the recessive albino gene. Its irregular, distorted ringlet pattern can appear pixilated against the stark white background, because of the level of contrast. There is rarely any fade. They are beautiful snakes, with an alluring aspect. Their eyes are bright red.

Price: from $200.

  1. Albino Pinstripe Ball Python

This is one of the few examples which displays a dominant gene—pinstripe. The effect this has on the phenotype of the ball python is to make it almost entirely yellow, with thin white lines running down its length as well as some white fading towards the belly. Its eyes are a washed out red, and it is relatively affordable.

Price: from $200.

  1. Albino Butter Ball Python

This snake can appear crinkled, due to its pattern of overlapping, faded yellow circles. It has a pale, off-white background color and relatively pale red eyes.

Price: (estimated) $300—currently unavailable on MorphMarket as a two-trait morph.

  1. Albino Cinnamon Ball Python

Cinnamon, co-dominant, displays similarly to the black and pastel morph combination. The pattern is irregular, high in contrast, and melds into a single orange-yellow dorsal line, running from head to tail, sometimes broken into segments. Its eyes are an eerie, bright red.

Price: from $250.

  1. Albino Bumblebee Ball Python

While unlisted on World Of Ball Pythons, the albino bumblebee morph is available for purchase on MorphMarket, though it is a rare designer morph. It has a very pale, low contrast aspect, with only a faint yellow pattern on the whitish background color. Its eyes are spookily dark, though still red, and show up high in contrast to the pale visage.

Price: from $300.

How to breed albino ball pythons

How old does a ball python have to be to breed?

Ball pythons take a relatively long time to reach sexual maturity. They tend to be ready to take the plunge at around 2½ to 3 years old. On paper, that may seem young, but compared to many other similarly sized animals, it’s quite old!

Still, relative to their total lifespan—up to 30 or even 40 years in captivity—being able to breed at 3 years old leaves a long time for you, as breeders, to experiment.

Before I give a recap and rundown on how to breed albino ball pythons, I will define some important terms.

Genetic definitions in the nutshell

  • Genotype = genetic type, or the set of genes present within a cell/organism.
  • Phenotype = physical type, or the way in which those genes are expressed.
  • Heterozygous
    • If a snake (or any animal) is heterozygous for a gene, it only possesses one copy of that gene. For example, sperm and egg cells are heterozygous—they contain only one copy. When they get together to form a zygote, their genes are combined. If only one of them contains an albino gene, then the zygote will be heterozygous for albinism—and will not BE albino.
  • Homozygous
    • This is the opposite. If an animal is homozygous for a gene, it contains two copies. A ball python must be homozygous for the albino gene in order to actually be albino. That’s why the het albino above looks like a normal ball python—because it is!
  • Recessive genes
    • Two recessive genes are required for a trait to manifest in the phenotype. In the struggle to be expressed, they always lose to dominant genes.
    • The gene which codes for albinism is recessive.
  • Dominant genes
    • These are, in effect, stronger than recessive genes. They are always expressed when paired with a recessive gene. If paired with a dominant gene, they become co-dominant.
  • Co-dominant genes
    • When two dominant, or two recessive, genes are paired together, they are both expressed. In this situation, they are co-dominant—like two recessive albino genes being expressed in the phenotype in the form of albinism.

So, how do you breed albinos?

In general terms, to breed ball pythons, the best you can do is make sure they are relaxed and ready—conditions must be perfect. Indeed, if the conditions aren’t just right, the ball pythons may switch off completely, and refuse to mate at all.

  • Males must weigh at least 1.5lb (700g), and be at least 1 year old. Find out if your male is sexually mature by applying gentle pressure to the cloaca. If white, cheesy matter is produced, the male is ready.
  • Females should be at least 3 years old and weigh 3.75lb (1700g).
  • Lower ambient air temperature to mid 70°s F (low 20°s C) – replicate central African winter.
  • Gently, periodically, introduce male and female. When they are familiar, return the enclosure to its regular temperature.
  • If possible, place a number of males together for 10-20 minutes, in order to produce sexual excitement.
  • Place female and male together, and let nature take its course. They may stay connected for up to 48 hours. Do not interrupt! Minimum 3-4 hours is required for effective coupling.
  • If you plan on breeding the male again, give him a week to recover his potency.
  • The sperm can remain in the female’s system for up to two years! So don’t panic if she doesn’t become gravid immediately. Be patient!

If you make it to egg-laying, and they are certifiably fertile, congratulations! You will probably have a maximum of four eggs. Again, this is a pretty modest sum compared to other snakes, which can produce clutches of 20 or more eggs at a time. Corn snakes lay 10-30, kingsnakes lay up to 24, and even rosy boas lay up to 7 or 8 hatchlings.

Your mother ball python will wrap herself around her eggs, curling up to protect them. This period of incubation can last anywhere from 2 to 4 months. At the end of it, you should have 4 healthy ball pythons.

If both breeding parents are albino, i.e. are homozygous for the albino gene (see below for genetic definitions), then all their offspring will be albino. This is because, in the genetic game, the offspring takes any 2 alleles from a selection of 4 albino alleles. They have no choice but to be albino.

If one or both of your breeding parents are not albino, then it falls to statistics and mathematics to predict whether or not each hatchling will be albino. Good luck!

Last bits…

What are your thoughts on the albino ball python? Or the ball python as a whole? Many find them to be fantastic pets—even-tempered, not too large, unaggressive, etc.—but you may have different experiences. Let us know in the comments below! We’re always interested in reading about the thoughts and experiences of our readers.

As always, feel free to share this guide with anyone who you think might find it useful, or who is just curious about one of the world’s favorite snakes!

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