Black Pastel Ball Python Care, Appearance, Genetics & Health

The first black pastel ball python was bred in 2002. It was highly prized by experienced breeders for its unique color and genetics.

This stunning morph changes the typical dark brown of a ball python to an even darker brown. These dark brown hues make the unaltered tan markings appear much brighter and vibrant.

Today black pastels are one of the most widely available morphs. They are easy to find and can be bought for $150, sometimes even less. But just because these snakes are common does not mean they are any less beautiful!

Keep reading as we share how they are bred, their appearance and genetics. We also discuss how to care for one and important health issues.

Black Pastel Ball Python Overview

black pastel ball python morph

Black pastels are a type of ball python morph. They are a naturally occurring mutation of the wild type royal ball python (Python regilis).

Wild type royal ball pythons have a color pattern that can be broken into two categories, a dark brown base color with tan splotches. These tan splotches can be various shapes and sizes that extend from the back down to the belly.

Black pastel ball pythons darken this brown to a much darker cocoa brown, while leaving the tan splotches unaltered. This makes the tan markings appear much brighter and vibrant.

Other than the darkening of the brown base color their appearance is very similar to wild type specimens. Both are stocky, medium sized snakes with long blunted snouts and the characteristic temperature sensing pits.

There are no documented cases of wild black pastel ball pythons, but that does not mean this morph cannot exist in the wild. In fact, there are several reasons to suggest they do occur naturally.

They look very similar in color and pattern to a wild type ball python. This means in the wild they will not stand out as dramatically as morphs like the banana. Because of this they can better camouflage and have a lower chance of being preyed upon.

Unfortunately their similar appearance to wild type individuals means they are often mistaken by inexperienced breeders. It is also possible beginners may not recognize this morph.

Another reason this snake may occur in the wild is because of their genetics. The number of chance events needed to breed this morph is much lower than albinos. As documented cases of wild albino snakes exist, it stands to reason the black pastel morph also exists in the wild.

The low number of chance events needed to breed this morph also makes them much more common and affordable. Black pastel ball pythons are one of the more affordable and common morphs.

Species Overview

  • Common Names: Black pastel.
  • Scientific Name: Python regilis.
  • Range: Central to western Africa.
  • Size: 3 to 3.5 feet (males), maximum of 5 feet (females).
  • Color: Cocoa brown with tan patches.
  • Lifespan: 15 and 30 years.
  • Diet: Rodent only.
  • Tank Size: 30 or 40-gallon enclosure.
  • Temperature: No lower than 75°F with a basking spot of 88-92°F.
  • Humidity: 50 to 75%.
  • Price: $100 to $150.

Origin

The first black pastel ball python was bred by gulf coast reptiles in 2002. They were bred around the same time as the very similar “cinnamon” ball python bred by Greg Graziani.

At first it was unclear whether the cinnamon and black pastel morphs were different from one another. Both morphs look very similar as they both have a dramatic contrast between the dark brown and tan splotches on their bodies.

However once the snakes were bred with other morphs it became clear that these were two genetically different varieties. The gene responsible for this trait is completely different from the one that generates the cinnamon morph.

Black pastel morphs darken the typical brown of a ball python and leave the tan splotches unaltered. Cinnamon morphs lighten the tan splotches, while leaving the dark brown base unaltered.

Soon after 2002 these morphs exploded in popularity. Originally keepers wishing to get their hands on one were restricted to dealer’s markets or reptile conventions.

How To Breed A Black Pastel Ball Python

pastel ball python

Wild type ball pythons with the pastel gene can produce black pastel ball pythons. However, the odds of generating this mutation by chance are extremely low. Breeding a pastel mutation from a wild type specimen simply involves frequent breeding and lots of luck.

Instead you will likely need to start with a parent who is already expressing the gene. Once the mutation is present you can easily breed it into new generations.

Any of the morphs listed below when bred with a wild type ball python can produce black pastel offspring:

  • Black Pastel Morph
  • Super Black Pastel Morph
  • Black Pastel Banana Morph
  • Black Pastel Albino Morph

The key to producing a true black pastel is to make sure the other allele present is the wild type variety. Because of this it is best to breed this morph with a wild type ball python. This will mean a 25% chance of successfully breeding.

Through careful arrangement of breeding pairs and some luck, you can create what is referred to as a Super Black Pastel. These morphs have a 100% chance of passing on the pastel genes. However, Supers are prone to health problems which makes using this method less common.

The breeding chart below gives a good example of the chance of breeding this morph:

Parent 1 Parent 2 Chance of black pastel offspring
Wild type Black Pastel 25%
Black Pastel 50%
Wild type Super Black Pastel 100%

To understand how the breeding process for these morphs works it is best to understand a little bit about genetics.

Snakes have two copies of each DNA strand, with one copy coming from each parent. Each copy of DNA is broken up into different genes which cause traits (e.g. blue eyes). Traits have different versions (i.e. alleles) and which one is shown normally depends on if it is dominant or recessive.

In most cases recessive traits are only shown when both DNA copies have the same recessive allele. However, a dominant allele only needs to be present on one allele. The third case is when not all genes express two traits. One example of this is called co-dominance.

Black pastel ball pythons are one example of this. One copy of their DNA expresses the black pastel variant and the other expresses the normal unmutated version of the wild type gene.

The chances of successfully breeding a baby black pastel are high because of the fact that this morph occurs via co-dominant mutation on the wild type gene.

Price

Because black pastel ball pythons only require a single mutation of a wild type gene they are very easy to find. The availability of this morph is much higher than those requiring a rarer genetic composition like the blue eyed leucistic python.

It is now not uncommon to see black pastel ball pythons being sold in pet stores for $100.

An independent breeder may sell them for $150. This increased price is often due to pedigree. Pedigree information on reptiles sold in pet stores is often unreliable or unavailable.

There are several things you should look for when buying a black pastel ball python to make sure they are healthy.

First and foremost you will need to look at their appearance for signs of parasites and malnourishment.

Most external parasites such as mites can be detected with the human eye. They will typically appear as small brownish black dots between scales or skin folds near the snake’s cloaca. If the snake you find has any of these symptoms it will likely require lots of care.

Malnourishment is another sign to look for and can indicate a wild-caught individual. Wild caught snakes are much more reluctant to take food and in some cases may starve themselves to death. Signs of malnourishment include sunken eye sockets, hanging skin and a triangle shaped trunk.

If the hatchling passes these visuals checks, it is then a good idea to try handling. Most black pastel ball pythons are docile by nature, but a healthy hatching most likely will attempt to flee.

Appearance and Size

black pastel ball python
(c) Instagram

Wild type ball pythons typically have a brown base color with splotches of tan outlined in light yellow. These tan splotches occur all across the back and side of the snake and are various shapes and sizes. Interestingly one keeper even bred one by accident with face like patterns.

Black pastel ball pythons look very similar to the wild type, but there is a difference in color.

The dark brown background color of wild type individuals is replaced with an even darker brown. This brown is often described as cocoa brown in color. The darkened background tones make the unaltered tan splotches appear much brighter and vibrant.

These exaggerated colors create a stunning contrast highlighting the truly unique markings these snakes can have.

Black pastel ball pythons are the same size as wild types and will typically grow at a similar rate.

On average males will max out around 3 to 3.5 feet, whereas females can potentially achieve a maximum length of 5 feet. Females normally reach a larger adult size than males.

You can check out or ball python size guide for a sizing chart of both sexes at different ages.

Types of Black Pastel Ball Pythons

Species / Morph Appearance
Black Pastel This is the original version of the black pastel morph. It occurs naturally but is also selectively bred. These morphs change the dark brown base color of the wild type ball python by turning it an even darker shade of brown. This creates a beautiful contrast with the tan splotches that make up the remainder of the pattern.
Super Black Pastel These morphs occur via breeding two black pastel morphs together. They are widely sought after due to their ability to breed more black pastel morphs. Supers have a dark greyish brown color and a whitish tan belly. They do not have the classic tan splotches or markings.
Black Pastel Banana This morph is bred via mating a black pastel with a banana morph. Black pastel bananas dramatically change the color from a dark brown to a light pinkish cream. The splotches are also changed by removing the tan portion and widening the yellow borders. These snakes may also have small black speckles.
Black Pastel Albino The black pastel albino requires two genes, similar to the banana morph above. Black pastel albinos look very similar to the black pastel banana, but their body is titanium white, not pinkish cream. They also have striking red eyes from the albino genes.

Black Pastel vs. Super Black Pastel Ball Python

super black pastel morph

To produce a super black two normal black pastel ball pythons must mate. Even after this happens each offspring only has a 25% chance of being a Super.

The only difference between these two snakes is their color and pattern.

Supers have a striking dark greyish black color and a whitish tan belly. They have no pattern whatsoever.

Black pastel morphs have a cocoa brown color with tan splotches.

There are risks associated with breeding super black pastel ball pythons that make breeding healthy individuals rare and difficult. There is a higher risk of birth defects such as duckbills, spinal problems and eye problems.

The increased risk of producing deformed or unhealthy individuals makes attempting to breed a Super questionable.

Care Sheet

Black pastel ball pythons and wild types are no different when it comes to care. They share the same habitat needs, diet and behaviors. To learn how to care for ball pythons we recommend you read our care sheet in full.

Enclosure

Adult ball pythons will require a 30 or 40-gallon enclosure, whereas juveniles can be kept in smaller 20-gallon enclosures. It is best to house juveniles in smaller tanks, as a larger enclosure as this age can stress them.

All ball pythons are ectotherms and rely on their external environment to maintain healthy body temperatures. In their tank they will need a thermal gradient that reaches no lower than 75°F on the cool side and a basking location between 88-92°F.

Humidity should fall between 50 and 75%, with closer to 50% being best. If humidity falls below 40% a light substrate misting with a spray bottle may be necessary.

Substrate can be aspen shavings, coconut husk or sphagnum moss and be at-least ½ an inch in depth.

A minimum of two hides (one at each end of the tank) will be necessary. These hides should be large enough to completely cover your snake.

Diet

Ball Pythons are sit and wait predators that can go multiple days at a time without eating. In the wild these snakes feed almost exclusively on small rodents. Their diet as pets should mirror this too.

Generally speaking juveniles will require more frequent feedings of smaller prey items than adults. As your snake grows they will eat larger food items at less frequent intervals.

Age Quantity Prey Frequency
Up to 12 months 1 Subadult to adult mouse Every 5 days
12-24 months 1 Subadult rat Once a week
2-4 years 1 Small adult rat Every 7 to 10 days
4+ years 1 Medium adult rat Every 10 to 14 days

Health Issues

Pet ball pythons typically live longer than wild species. It is common for them to live for between 15 to 30 years versus 10 years in the wild. Wild species face threats like a lack of food and predators.

These snakes can be prone to some health conditions such as obesity and stuck shed.

Overfeeding can cause your snake to become obese. Signs of obesity include no spinal indentation and visible rolls of fat, these are more easily observed while your snake is coiled. If your snake does begin to show signs of obesity, you should try to reduce feeding frequency and not prey size.

It is rare for black pastel ball pythons to have difficulty shedding their skin, but it can happen. If stuck shed is left unmanaged it can cause bacterial or fungal build ups. If you notice patches of stuck shed, try raising the humidity of your tank to 75% and offer a warm water bath for your snake to soak in.

Behavior

Adult ball python
These adorable snakes have wonderful personalities and make great pets.

Ball pythons have fun personalities that are unique and varied. Some are shy, while others are more outgoing and love to explore. Their most notable behavior is the tightly coiled “ball” they form when shy or threatened. This defensive behavior is where these snakes get their name.

RELATED: Top 1,000+ Best Snake Names

You may also notice your ball python frequently flicking their tongue in and out. This behavior allows them to smell their environment.

Handling

Ball pythons are generally considered among the friendliest pet snakes, black pastel morphs are no exception. These snakes adjust to their owners very quickly and even begin to recognize them.

When attempting to handle a ball python you should present a single hand first by lightly pacing it on the substrate near their head. After this you may gently scoop them from underneath the head, while simultaneously scooping up the body with your other hand.

As a general rule it is important to wash your hands before handling and to wait 24 hours after feeding to handle. The stress from handling may cause them to regurgitate their meal.

Summary

The stunning black pastel morph adds a unique splash of variety compared to the more common wild type ball python.

A ball python’s already dark brown base color is made an even darker shade in this morph. Many breeders describe their color as cocoa. This darkening creates a beautiful contrast with the lighter tan markings and makes them pop out even more dramatically.

Even though black pastel ball pythons are a different color, these snakes have the same charm, care needs and diet as all ball pythons.

Those wishing to buy this morph can find them in pet stores or from professional breeders for between $100 and $150. Super Black Pastels should be avoided because of the increased risk of birth deformities and health issues.

About Nigel Robert

Nigel Robert Nigel is a lifelong reptile lover and has kept pet lizards since childhood. His first was a pet Leo which was shortly followed by a Beardie named, Rocky. For the last 10 years he has kept over 20 different species but his favorite is his Banana Ball Python, Monty.

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