Planning to buy your first ball python but unsure of what morph to get? The spider morph piqued your interest, but you soon learn that there is something wrong with them. The same ball python might have genetic problems that you are not aware of.
Among the most common ball python morphs with health problems there are 1) spider, 2) woma, 3) champagne, 4) hidden gene woma, 5) super sable, and 6) powerball. Morphs within these complex have higher chances to show wobbles from mild to severe. Other problems might include abnormal eye size, spinal kinks, and infertility.
Ball python morphs are diverse and beautiful looking. Unfortunately, what can be pleasant to for our eyes might not be good for the python itself. Genetics is something beyond the physical and visible trait.
Inborn abnormalities in ball pythons are most commonly found in some specific morphs. They are commonly caused by a number of conditions and genetic combinations which are results of selective breeding.
It has been scientifically discussed that there is a correlation between lack of pigment (hypopigmentation) and a disease called the “spider-wobble” This affects ball pythons within the spider complex.
Another proven defect is infertility in desert ball pythons that are females. There has been no success in clutches produced by female deserts but the cause of this defect up until this date is still unknown.
Besides morphs from the spider complex, other minor issues relating to the eyes, spine, or infertility are common in specific morphs. Though most of them are aesthetical defects, they are often harmless to a ball python.
“Wobble” is a neurological disorder that impacts a ball python’s understanding of spatial orientation and movement. It is caused by a malformation in their inner ear. Ball pythons within the “spider complex” morphs exhibit this abnormality. 
Signs of a mild wobble are head-shaking and incoordination. In severe cases, symptoms can be corkscrewing, head tilting, and the inability to turn itself back upright when flipped over.
This ball python defect cannot be cured but are often non-lethal. Remember, a mild or non-visible wobbler can have offspring with the same (or even worse) issue.
Though some say that it can be reduced especially when you follow appropriate husbandry parameters for a ball python.
Other keepers also say that it can be more severe as time passes by especially if a ball python with a wobble is taken care of poorly. Stress is also one factor that can lead to a worse defect.
Breeding ball pythons that belong to the spider complex can produce offsprings that have a wobble or worse, deceased. Some of these morphs are: 1) spider, 2) woma, 3) champagne, 4) hidden gene woma, 5) super sable, and 6) powerball.
Breeding ball pythons in these morphs will produce offspring with mild-severe wobbles. Some combinations are also proven to be lethal and I discourage breeding within this complex.
A Spider ball python’s wobble can vary from mild to severe. Offsprings can also have a wobble issue even if their parents have no visible signs of it.
The spider gene is the most bred-out gene in ball python morphs. Some say that constant inbreeding caused these innate defects in the spider complex.
Hypopigmentation is also correlated with wobble syndrome.
The spider ball python is the most common morph that consistently produces ball pythons with a wobble. The spider morph can be described as having a web-like pattern on the dorsal spine.
A Woma ball python’s wobble can vary from mild to severe. Offsprings can also have a wobble issue even if their parents have no visible signs of it.
Woma ball pythons are very similar to the spider morph. Spider ball pythons have lighter shades of white compared to Woma ball pythons. A spider’s head also has a hint of white which a Woma does not have.
A Champagne ball python’s wobble can vary from mild to severe. But some reports say that Champagnes have a higher chance of having a severe wobble. Champagne ball pythons can also have a wobble issue even if their parents have no visible signs of it.
Champagne ball pythons are an incomplete single gene morph that also produces offspring with a wobble. This can be described as having a brown-tan coloration with a dark broken line pattern along its spine.
Even though they are different from a Woma, Hidden Gene Woma (HGW) ball pythons can also have mild-severe wobbles. HGW ball pythons can also have a wobble issue even if their parents have no visible signs of it.
HGW ball pythons are often close in color to a normal ball python while having the same patterns as a Woma. HGWs can be distinguished from Womas in how different looking the offspring they produce.
A Super sable ball python can also exhibit wobbles ranging from mild-severe. Even though Sable ball pythons are often normal, if two of this same morph are bred together they produce offsprings with a wobble.
Super sable ball pythons are a combination of two sables producing a darker pigmentation compared to a sable. Patterns of a super sable are typically darker with brown coloration.
A Powerball ball python can also exhibit wobbles ranging from mild-severe. Even though Spotnose ball pythons are often normal, if two of this same morph are bred together they produce offsprings with a wobble.
Powerballs are a combination of two Spotnose producing a lighter snake with yellow hues. A prominent line is also observed along its dorsal spines.
Besides wobble, some ball pythons morphs can also have issues like bug/small eyes, kinking, and fertility irregularities. These malformations are less harmful than wobbles but are still worth mentioning.
Super lesser/ Super butter ball pythons often have an inborn condition called “bug eyes”. This is a harmless condition in which their eyes seem to be bulging out or larger than other morphs.
There are no reports or pieces of evidence which indicates that ball pythons with “bug eyes” can have a bad quality of life. I recommend making sure its eyes are clear and healthy-looking.
Lesser pied ball pythons often have small eyes. This is a harmless inborn trait in which their eyes seem to be noticeably smaller than other morphs.
There are no reports which indicate that ball pythons with small eyes have impaired vision. I also recommend making sure its eyes are clear and healthy-looking.
A “duckbill” is a common deformity in super cinnamon and super black pastel ball pythons. This is a condition where the middle part of their snout is more narrow giving an illusion of having a duck bill. They are also prone to rare spinal kinks.
Even though the duckbill deformity may often be harmless, there are rare severe cases in which this deformity affects the way a ball python eats.
Caramel albino ball pythons are notorious for having a high percentage of offspring affected by spinal kinks. A spinal kink is a deformity along the spine of an animal ranging from mild to severe.
These spinal kinks can be placed in different spots but it is common around the base and in the middle.
Unlike wobbles in spider ball pythons, kinks in caramel albinos are not proven to be guaranteed in every clutch. But many breeders have already expressed this common problem in their caramel albino clutches.
Kinks in ball pythons may get better or worse. Whether inborn or through an accident, spinal kinks can progress unpredictably as time passes by.
Desert ball pythons have infertile females. There have been no records or experience of a successful clutch laid by a female desert ball python.
The reason why desert females are infertile is still unknown. I highly discourage breeding using desert females. There are reports of female deserts that passed away while laying eggs.
One case study even documented that even a cesarian operation led to an unsuccessful clutch but thankfully the mother survived the operation.
Breeding ball pythons within the spider complex can cause serious complications to both the mother and the babies. Complications such as severe abnormalities and wobble are often lethal in the following combinations
|Morphs of Parents||Issues|
|Sable x Spider||Difficult to hatch, severe wobble, Can be lethal|
|Champagne x Hidden Gene Woma||Severe wobble or can be lethal|
|Champagne x Spider||Lethal|
|Champagne x Champagne||Lethal|
|Spider x Spider||Lethal|
|HGW X HGW||Lethal|
|Woma x Woma||Lethal|
I highly discourage producing “supers” that are in the spider complex morphs. Pairing a wobbler with another one is also discouraged due to the proven fact that it is lethal.
Ball pythons with inborn deformities and problems can live a normal life if treated with special care regarding 1) feeding, 2) enclosure, and 3) handling.
Ball pythons with neural issues and bug eyes are not recommended to be fed live feeders. Compared to regular ball pythons, those that have issues tend to be more vulnerable.
Ball pythons with wobble are often good feeders and will almost always accept food. However, they may have a harder time getting their food and striking at random spots.
For ball pythons with “bug eyes”, their eyes are more exposed which makes them increasingly vulnerable to bites and scratches from a live feeder.
Ball pythons with wobble are recommended to be given an opaque or dark-colored enclosure with less clutter. For those with spinal kinks, a shorter enclosure is recommended.
If you have a wobbly ball python, I recommend for the enclosure be at least translucent. This will help them to be less stressed from movement outside the enclosure. I also discourage the usage of hard/sharp hides and designs in the enclosure.
Since they sometimes strike at random spots during feeding, they have a higher chance of injuring themselves. Their weird movements also lead them to be stuck and sometimes injured in tight spaces.
A short enclosure is recommended for ball pythons with kinks. These will prevent them from falling which can make their deformities even worse.
When handling any ball pythons with deformities, being gentle is a must. Handling them is not that recommended but it is possible with precautions and limitations.
In handling a wobbly ball python, their weird movements are sometimes unpredictable and can lead to them having fractures or injuries while you handle them.
I suggest that when handled, both hands must always be used to provide support. Being very attentive while handling them is also recommendable
For ball pythons with kinks, I suggest that they are handled gently and from a low height. This minimizes the risk of them getting hurt and falling.
Can I counteract the spider wobble in ball pythons?
Recent threads show that if you combine a Blackhead and a Spider morph, you can produce hatchlings that show no signs of wobble.
But, offsprings of this combination do not have the famous spider pattern. So in the end, you can get rid of the wobble, but the desired spider patterns would not show.
Are spider wobbles curable in ball pythons?
There is no cure for a wobble. But providing these ball pythons with the proper care also shows signs of wobbles decreasing.
But some keepers say that the amount of wobble will vary on how stressed or excited a wobbly ball python is. For example, when feeding spider ball pythons they can often be more wobbly than usual and this is because they are in feeding mode.
Is it ethical to breed known ball python morphs with issues?
In my opinion, it is ethical to some degree. Yes, there will be rare cases of severe wobble, but the normal “wobble” is not shown to reduce their quality of life.
There is also no proof or signs that ball pythons with wobble suffer or are in pain. But this breeding practice will be unethical if misinformation is spread.
Another unethical practice is the breeding of ball python morphs that leads to the fatality of hatchlings. Some ball python combinations are fatal and should not be tolerated in the breeding side of the hobby.
Breeding ball pythons that belong to the spider complex can produce offsprings that have problems like wobbling. Some of these morphs are spider, woma, champagne, hidden gene woma, super sable, and powerball.
There are also some morphs that can produce ball pythons with issues like abnormal eye size, kinking, and fertility issues. There are even some combinations that are proven to be lethal.
If a ball python has inborn deformities, it is recommended to be cautious of factors like feeding, enclosure, and handling.