What Substrate is Good for Ball Pythons?
Snake Vivarium Setup

What Substrate is Good for Ball Pythons?

The best substrate for ball pythons is essential. This species of snakes make good pets, but they can easily become stressed, refuse to eat, and fall ill. The closer you can come to replicating a ball python’s natural habitat, the more likely they are to live a happy and contented life.

Pulverized coconut husk, cypress mulch, and Aspen shavings are the best bedding for ball pythons. These substrates help to control humidity in your snake’s habitat and are good for burrowing.

There is much to learn about the pros and cons of different types of ball python substrate. This guide will take an in-depth look at which bedding is best for your pet snake’s requirements.

Why is a Snake Substrate Important?

The substrate is the bedding, or base, of your ball python’s terrarium. As your ball python will crawl around on their belly, what is on the ground is essential. The bedding will need to maintain a comfortable temperature, and not irritate your snake’s skin.

It is vital that you select a good substrate for ball pythons. These pet snakes are very docile, but they are easily stressed out and upset. Your python could get health problems if they do not feel comfortable in their new enclosure.

You should aim to replicate a reptile’s natural habitat when choosing a substrate. This doesn’t just mean the climate, but also the surfaces that make your python feel comfortable. A typical environment of a wild ball python is relatively open and comparatively arid.

alternative snake bedding

These could include:

  • Overgrown greenlands
  • Forests with a limited wildlife population
  • Tropical grasslands

Also, ball pythons are fond of seeking shelter and hiding. You may find these snakes in:

  • Burrows built by mammals such as rabbits
  • Mounds built by insects such as termites
  • Hollow logs and trees for climbing
  • Abandoned barns and outhouses

There are a vast number of options available when it comes to a substrate for your snake’s terrarium. Each of these has different advantages and disadvantages.

Just remember that every reptile has a unique personality. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to pet care.

A ball python will prefer a substrate that is not too woodland-centric. Also, ensure that their terrarium contains sheltered spots that will not sacrifice heat.

What Makes a Good Substrate for Snakes?

These are the things that you should be looking for in a substrate:

  • Simple to Clean. You’re going to have to clean up your snake’s home. You’ll also have to do spot cleaning of urine or feces, so you’ll want a substrate that is easy to clean.
  • Comfortable for your Ball Python. Remember, this is where your snake will be spending their days and nights. You will need the substrate to be non-abrasive on your python’s skin.
  • Consistent Temperature. Your choice of substrate must retain a constant temperature and level of humidity. Constantly changing conditions will cause your ball python stress.
  • Easily Available. Once your snake grows used to a particular substrate, you’ll want to continue using it. Ensure that your choice is readily available, and that it’s affordable in the long term.
  • Coverage and depth. Remember that ball pythons like to keep themselves to themselves. This means that you should have enough substrate for them to burrow into.

You will also need to introduce many additional elements to your python’s terrarium. You can purchase logs and stones from a reptile-specialist pet store.

What Are the Best Substrates for Ball Pythons?

There is a vast range of different options for a snake habitat, each of which has pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the most popular options:

Are Pulverized Coconut Husks Safe for Ball Pythons?

Coconut Husk substrate for snakes

Coconut husk is arguably the most popular choice of substrate for many ball python owners. Bed-a-Reptichip is a particularly popular and highly regarded option, so click on this link for more information and up-to-date pricing at Amazon.

There are numerous advantages to this product:

  • It’s environmentally friendly.
  • It’s very absorbent, and masks smell well.
  • It can be purchased in brick form and broken up, allowing for easy storage.
  • It’s soft enough to allow your python to burrow.
  • It absorbs moisture very quickly.

The only potential downside of coconut husk is that it is slow to dry. This can create a great deal of humidity. If you spot wet coconut husks in your python’s terrarium, remove and replace them ASAP.

Is Cypress Mulch Safe for Ball Pythons?

cypress mulch substrate for snakes

Yes, cypress mulch is safe and popular as a snake substrate. You’ll be able to pick up
Fluker’s Premium Cypress Bedding from Amazon by clicking this link. Your ball python will enjoy burrowing in the mulch, and it masks smells quite well.

The only real issue with cypress mulch comes with the cleaning. You will need to empty a terrarium of this material with regularity, and it gives the habitat a thorough clean.

You should also bake mulch in the oven for 30 minutes and allow it to cool. This will kill off any bugs that may be living inside.

Are Aspen Shavings Safe for Ball Pythons?

Aspen Shavings substrate for snakes

Although more associated with small animal pets such as rodents, aspen shavings make fine python substrate. They will be loose enough to allow your snake to burrow if they wish.

The light color also means that you will be able to spot any waste easily. Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding is highly recommended, so click this link for further information on Amazon.

The only problem, you may experience is that aspen shavings are extremely light. This means that your ball python may accidentally pile all shavings at one end of their terrarium. This could make half their home uncomfortable, and necessitate regular rearrangement.

One alternative is beech chippings. These will perform the same task but are a little heavier than aspen shavings. However, they can be considerably costlier, and some snakes struggle when accidentally consuming beech.

Is Forest Floor Bedding Safe for Ball Pythons?

The opinion is divided on the efficiency of this product for ball pythons. On the one hand, a forest floor bedding will replicate the natural habitat of your snake, and make them feel right at home. It also holds humidity very well.

The flipside of this is forest floor may hold humidity too well in some terrariums.  This can make your snake’s home damp, and lead to health problems and discomfort.

Also, there may be some unwelcome insects living within this form of bedding. This is unlikely to cause your ball python any damage, but it may necessitate more cleaning.

Is Pine Bedding Safe for Ball Pythons?

No, pine and Cedar shavings are hugely dangerous to ball pythons. The oils found in these substances are toxic to snakes and can cause a litany of health problems.

Notable issues caused by pine and cedar include respiratory problems and damaged scales and skin.

Alternative Snake Bedding

You do not always need to purchase specialist bedding for your ball python. You could always use some alternative household items as substrate. Some popular options include;

  • Newspaper. This is very cost-effective, and it’s easy to change and spot clean. However, your snake may miss burrowing if you line their terrarium with paper.
  • Kitchen Towel. Again, this is a cheap – and soft – alternative to mulch or bedding. You could even use the cardboard tubes as toys and shelter for your snake.
  • Carpet or Artificial Turf. These will be permanent solutions for your python’s terrarium, and they will be very soft under their belly. However, your snake will not be able to burrow. Also, these materials can require a great deal of spot cleaning.

Any of these solutions could be ideal for a ball python owner on a restricted budget. Overall, however, it is always best to purchase a specialist substrate from a reputable pet store or breeder.

Do Ball Pythons Like Sand?

Some snakes live in the desert, so you may think that sand is a suitable substrate. After all, it’s easy to clean using a hoover, and it can hold moisture. What’s not to love?

You should never use sand in the terrarium of a ball python. This substance will clog up the pores of your snake, making them uncomfortable and impacting upon their vision.

Also, it will get trapped in the scales of your ball python. They may even accidentally ingest the sand while feeding, causing digestion problems.

good ball python snake bedding

Imagine how frustrated you feel after a day at the beach, and find sand everywhere afterward? Well, your python does not enjoy getting wet and cannot take a shower in such a scenario. This makes sand particularly unpleasant for these snakes.

What is the Best Ball Python Substrate for Humidity?

Humidity is a tricky element to master for ball python owners. These snakes are at their most comfortable with a humidity level of 55-60%, and humidity is necessary for shedding. You should never allow the humidity in your python’s habitat to drop below 50%.

The average home has a humidity level of 35-45%, so bear this in mind. You should get a hygrometer for your snake’s terrarium.

Popular opinion among ball python experts suggests that aspen shavings are the most effective bedding for humidity. Again, you can use this link to buy the one that we recommend on Amazon.

However, it is also universally agreed that heat lamps and arrangements are more important. If your snake’s terrarium has the appropriate set-up, any substrate should be suitable.

How Often Should I Change My Ball Python’s Substrate?

You should empty and clean out your snake’s substrate no less than every other month. Once monthly may be better, or possibly even weekly – use your discretion. It can be a fine line between keeping your snake’s terrarium clean and upsetting them with excessive change.

When the time comes to clean your snake’s home, it’s a simple procedure. Make up a water solution with roughly 5% bleach or vinegar, and clean the terrarium from top to bottom.

Leave the habitat to air dry after this, but make sure it is completely dry before returning your snake. Also, remember that ball pythons tend to be master escape artists. Make sure you are keeping them somewhere secure while you are cleaning their usual home.

Not every clean of your python’s home needs to be a complete overhaul, though. Remember to do spot cleaning every few days. If you have noticed that your ball python has eliminated, you should clean it up. This typically happens maybe once or twice a week.

Think carefully and do some research before settling upon a substrate for your ball python. It may take a little trial and error before you find the best option.

Also, whenever you change your snake’s substrate, keep an eye on your python. If they show any signs of distress, clean out their terrarium and try something else.

Remember the golden rules with ball python substrates. You need a material that controls humidity, retains moisture, and makes your snake feel entirely comfortable. Once you have a winning formula, stick with it. Your ball python will be hugely grateful.