If you’re looking for the best substrate to line the bottom of your ball pythons enclosure, then you’ve come to the right place. With all of the options for different types of substrate, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which is best and will be ideal for your pet snake.
This comprehensive buying guide tells you everything you need to know to decide what your best substrate will be and how to use it most effectively.
IN A HURRY? HERE’S OUR TOP PICKS…
ReptiChip Premium Reptile Substrate
- 🐍 CREATE A HEALTHY HABITAT for your ball python or leopard gecko with ReptiChip Coconut Substrate for reptiles. Its superb humidity retention helps form a tropical paradise in turtle and reptile terrariums.
- 🐍 72-QUART COMPRESSED BRICK equals 10 lbs of safe, comfortable reptile bedding for professional breeders and serious hobbyists. Just add water to expand and our pet snake substrate is ready to use.
- 🐍 ODOR-ABSORBING ReptiChip Coco Substrate encapsulates waste product, making your bearded dragon, python or turtle bedding a healthy environment for your pet and ensuring your own home is pleasant-smelling.
- 🐍 100% ORGANIC coco chips are highly sustainable and earth-friendly. ReptiChip Breeder Blocks have been meticulously cleaned to ensure a dust and dirt free hermit crab or ball python snake bedding.
- 🐍 VERSATILE BIOACTIVE SUBSTRATE can be used as gecko or tortoise bedding. Its multifunctionality makes it an essential addition to your ball python tank accessories and hermit crab supplies.
The ReptiChip premium reptile substrate is ideal for any snake, but great for ball pythons in particular. It is a household favorite brand and product used by hundreds of snake owners.
This is an excellent all natural substrate with the standout features being that it is odor absorbing/eliminating making your snakes and your own home environment far more pleasant.
Coconut substrate is one of the best types to place in your ball pythons enclosure, plus its great for the environment too!
Its great to look at whilst it is inside the enclosure plus it naturally holds humidity very well.
Its all that you can ask for in a substrate.
Things we like
- Easy to work with use (easy to expand and break apart),
- Environmentally friendly,
- Odor Absorbing/eliminating,
- Does not mold,
- Ensures optimal humidity levels,
- Retains a decent amount of moisture.
Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding
- Recommended terrarium substrate for many species of snakes, lizards, land turtles, tortoises, frogs, toads, salamanders, tarantulas, and other invertebrates
- Recommended terrarium substrate for many species of snakes, lizards, land turtles, tortoises, frogs, toads, salamanders, tarantulas
- Great for snakes, amphibians, or tropical species of tortoises
- Reptiles and amphibes
The Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding does exactly what its name suggests; provides a natural environment and flooring for your ball python. It consists of a natural compound known as cypress mulch.
This substrate closely resembles the flooring found in a snakes wild habitat, helping your snake to feel more comfortable and at ease.
It is excellent in the two most important elements of a substrate: retaining moisture and holding humidity.
Its naturally very soft and comfortable for your snake, and you can easily cover the enclosure. Plus its easy to clean up and replace!
Things we like
- Lasts a long time before requiring a change,
- Economical sized bag,
- Does not mold even with high humidity,
- Doesn’t stain a ball python.
Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding
- Green product made from a renewable resource
- Easy to clean
- Included components: all
- Age range description: all stages
The Zoo Med Aspen Snake bedding is a best seller for this particular substrate type.
Aspen shavings are made of a soft wood; they are very comfortable, is generally very affordable and versatile. Plus, not harmful toxic chemicals are present within this brand of shaving.
Again, this is a very natural substrate which enables your snake to live according to their instincts and behavioral patterns. Its completely odorless, giving your snake the impression they are living in their innate environment.
During testing, Zoo Med acquired a 191% absorbency rating; fully experienced by many of the satisfied users of this product.
Its very easy to work with, and spot cleans are effortless as snake poop stands out and is easy to find and locate.
Things we like
- Snake-safe whereby your ball python cannot accidentally swallow any particles,
- Prevents any type of mildew buildup from spilled water or other waste,
- Known to last longer than the 30-60 day lifespan of substrate,
- Substrate settles quickly after each new lay.
Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Substrate
The Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber substrate was designed with snake owners in mind. Its a great, well-reviewed product that many ball python owners frequently purchase.
This substrate is made from an organic Coconut Coir; the husk which has been composted and all sand and dust is removed before it is packaged.
The result is that this product is extra absorbent, holds humidity for longer and reduces the chance of any fungus forming. Meaning it lasts longer for you and your snake.
Plus, there is no chance of you or your snake ingesting the dusk particles. Its very safe, comfortable and natural too.
Things we like
- Organic, natural and environmentally friendly,
- No dust released with this substrate,
- Completely odorless, easy to clean out and identify poop and waste,
- Gentle and comfortable for snakes and other reptiles.
Exo Terra Coco Husk
- 100 percent natural substrate; Ideal for natural terrarium set-ups
- Increases humidity in terrariums
- Stimulates natural digging and burrowing behavior
- 7.2 quarts
Exo Terra are a notorious brand in the reptile and snake industry, their husk is another reputable product across their range.
Just like all of the other recommendations in this list, it is a completely natural substrate that is very natural for your snakes to lay and move upon.
Consisting of a premium coco husk, it retains and increases humidity in a safe and effective way.
The Exo Terra Husk has been designed with excellent and ideal sized pieces, ensuring that your ball python can shed their skin without issue.
Things we like
- Promotes natural burrowing behaviors,
- Pleasant fresh ‘wooden’ smell,
- Bug and mold-resistant.
Choosing The Right Substrate For Your Ball Python
There are a lot of things to consider when picking out a substrate for your ball python, and it can become confusing fast. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered! We’ve compiled everything you need to know to choose the best substrate available.
Types of Substrate
A substrate is used as a bedding to line your ball pythons enclosure. A good substrate will retain moisture well, not eliminate any bad odors by absorbing urates from your snakes waste, and not be easily ingested or inhaled by your pet snake.
When looking for substrate, you want to know how much moisture it can hold, how easy it is to clean, whether it collects bacteria, and of course how much it will cost. Substrate for snakes must also be appropriate based on the species and their own unique requirements.
Its important to note that not all types of substrate are safe for pet snakes. Sand, as an example, is likely to be ingested by your snake which can lead to many digestive issues and consequences with symptoms arising in hard stools/constipation. Other substrates to watch out for include those that contain cedar or pine because these contain oils that are released and will harm your ball python.
Let us now look at the most common and safest types of substrates for a ball python:
Coconut fiber has become one of the most commonly used substrates by ball python owners. It is an environmentally friendly, soft and comfortable bedding for snakes. It also enables and supports a snakes natural burrowing behaviors.
From a hygiene perspective, a coconut fiber-based substrate will naturally have odor-eliminating properties which will ensure your ball pythons enclosure smells clean. It also can break down snake excrement well and is not difficult to clean/replace. You’ll only need to scoop out soiled substrate (which is easy to detect) without the need for changing all the substrate.
Coconut substrate will also hold an appropriate humidity, but can also be kept dry if required for a specific species of snake.
ReptiChip Premium Coconut Fiber Substrate from Amazon is a favorite in this category – it does not contain any dust, preventing any risks of respiratory issues in your ball python.
Aspen shavings are a light, naturally odor-eliminating substrate that is easy to maintain. Due to its pale color, snake excrement can be easily detected so that you can quickly spot clean the enclosure. Again, you will not need to remove all the substrate during this time.
Aspen shavings can become moldy with too much moisture; so this is something that various snake owners need to consider. This substrate is therefore best suited to snakes that do not require too high a humidity, like ball pythons. Ball Pythons require 60% humidity, which makes Aspen shavings ideal for them
When looking for a product of Aspen shavings, you need to be careful not to purchase one that has been dyed into a different color, or infused with compounds like chlorophyll. This makes the effectiveness of the shavings much less, and will prevent the odor-elimination and moisture absorbency from being as effective. They can also stain your snakes scales.
This is just one of the reasons in why the Zoo Med Aspen shavings from Amazon are so popular for this type of substrate. Its entirely natural and free from any additives.
Snakes are fond of cypress mulch substrate because it is soft and allows them to burrow relatively easily. Cypress mulch looks great when it is placed down in a ball pythons enclosure. It also has a light wooden scent.
A lot of ball python owners report to use cypress mulch, with Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding from Amazon being the most common and best-reviewed brand. This particular substrate is known to hold a lot of moisture and is good for the general maintenance of humidity which is essential for a snakes habitat.
One of the main benefits from a cleaning perspective is that you only need to remove the soiled mulch, replacing it with fresh new bunch.
If you like, or want to have living plants within your ball pythons enclosure, cypress mulch will enable you to do so.
The major downside of using a mulch substrate, is that you run the risk of mites and introducing them to your snakes enclosure. These can be a challenge to remove.
Therefore it is advised to ‘bake’ substrate for around 30 minutes before you place them down inside your pets habitat. This will kill any mites that are living within the mulch.
Laying Substrate In The Tank
As we have previously mentioned, substrate is used as a bedding for your snake. It is what your snake will predominately live on.
When it comes to laying the substrate, the manufacturer will provide recommendations for how much to use and how often to change it. You will be able to find this information on the side of the packet.
But generally, you want to lay enough substrate to cover the base of the enclosure.
You will need to change the substrate often; particularly soiled substrate. A clean environment is essential for keeping your ball python healthy.
The better substrates enable you to detect excrement. This makes cleaning generally easier as you can remove only soiled substrate and keeping the rest that is still clean and in-tact.
Keeping Your Ball Pythons Enclosure Clean and Hygienic
Your ball pythons enclosure should be kept clean and sterile; which is essential in keeping and raising a healthy snake.
Unfortunately, bacteria and germs thrive in humid and warm conditions; which is of course, the environment that you are looking to produce with your ball python.
When it comes to cleaning your ball pythons enclosure, it will require a quick daily clean and a much more thorough (yet irregular) deep clean.
Daily Enclosure Cleaning
You should be removing any soiled substrate and excrement every day, and also look to wash the water bowl daily too.
Weekly Enclosure Cleaning
Once per week, you need to provide a more thorough deep-clean. Remove and throw away all substrate and then wash and disinfect the enclosure and all of the accessories contained within (hides, heat lamps, etc.) You’ll need to refrain from using products with harsh chemicals.
Sand, cat litter and walnut shell are substrates that should not be used in a ball python enclosure. All of which are not suitable for snakes, and your ball python can ingest/swallow particles, they do not retain moisture/humidity, they mold easily and are generally uncomfortable. Plus they are very hard for you to clean and replace!
Ball pythons, like many species of snakes, are not considered dirty pets. While they will naturally produce waste, they are not known to poop very frequently. They do release ‘urates’; a liquid urine. A good substrate will retain waste produced by your ball python and will be naturally odor-eliminating. You will need to remove dirty and soiled substrate daily/weekly to keep your ball pythons’ environment clean.
Ball pythons will naturally keep themselves clean and bathe themselves in water provided in their enclosure. You therefore must provide a suitable area for your snake to bathe themselves. If you snake does however need a clean, e.g. if they have feces on them, you can place them in a bowl of luke-warm fresh water and let them soak. Just be careful not to do this before they are due to shed as this can remove oils from their scales required.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.