Choosing the best snake bedding, whether it’s for your ball python, corn snake or anything else, can be confusing at best. The reason for this is that there are a variety of options available and some of these can be good, bad, or potentially deadly for snakes.
Zoo Med Aspen
Zoo Med Eco Earth
Zoo Med Eco Carpet
It a misconception that all reptiles can use the same sort of bedding. Snakes can, in fact, safely use a lot of different types of bedding such as newspaper, AstroTurf, wood shavings or soil just to name a few.
In this guide, we’re going to firstly go over some of the best snake bedding products you can get. After the product reviews, we’ll dive a bit deeper into some of the dos and don’t of snake substrate and why you should choose certain types over others.
Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding
Zoo Med is one of the most popular brands of pet snake and reptile equipment. It’s for that reason that we’re including more than one of their substrate products, with the first being aspen.
The Zoo Med aspen bedding is 191% absorbent and odor free, making for a pleasant snake terrarium. This is the ideal substrate for snakes that love to burrow, providing a natural style of bedding,
Furthermore, it helps to keep the terrarium dry by absorbing moisture well if any water is spilt. This helps to prevent bacteria build up and odors. This aspen lasts well, too. Although it is recommended that you change is every 30-60 days, it can actually last longer if you take good care.
There are several different buying options; you can buy as little as 8 quarts or as much as a four pack (24 quarts).
Zoo Med Eco Earth
Another fantastic product from Zoo Med is Eco Earth, a high quality loose coconut fiber substrate. This type of substrate is excellent for snake that need to be kept at a specific humidity and as a result, it needs to be kept slightly damp for it to work properly.
You should take the time to get to know the most suitable level of humidity for your snake and either dampen the substrate further or replace it to get it right. Additionally, this type of bedding is really good for burrowing snakes. Ideally, you can build up a layer of the coconut fiber up to 2 times the height of your pet so that it has plenty of room to burrow.
Producing a sort of earthy smell, this choice of substrate provides a very natural looking bedding for your snake terrarium.
Zoo Med Eco Carpet
The final Zoo Med product we’re taking a look at is the Eco Carpet. This is a soft, non-abrasive carpet which is ideal for making your snake feel comfortable. One of the biggest benefits to using the Eco Carpet is that nothing can be ingested.
The carpet is absorbent and unlike other types of substrate; it doesn’t have any particular smell which makes it a pleasant option. Moreover, it’s one of the easiest substrates to clean and works best if you have a couple of pieces in rotation.
Galapagos Cypress Tank Mulch
People love to use cypress mulch because it is naturally moist and is highly absorbent. Both of these qualities help it to control your terrarium’s humidity levels so that it suits your snakes.
What’s great about this specific product is that it has been cleaned so that there are no small particles which could pose a risk for your snake. Also, there are no harmful chemicals or oils used with the cypress mulch.
The only niggle we’ve got with this is that the bag is fairly small and unless you have a tiny terrarium, you’re going to want to purchase more than one bag at a time.
Imagitarium Terrestrial Turf Reptile Carpet
Simply put, this is a mess-free and easy option when it comes to reptile substrate. It works, of course, similarly to the Zoo Med carpet as it is easy to clean and provides a natural looking bedding.
You should choose fake turf/carpeting like this only if your snake doesn’t burrow. If your snake is of the burrowing kind, then you should consider another option, like aspen, coconut fiber or cypress mulch.
This carpet can be rinsed with cold water and reused and again, it is useful if you have more than one of them in rotation so that you can clean one as you’re using the other.
What to Know Before You Hit the Buy Button
Now that we’ve shown you some of the top rated snake substrate products available for you to buy, we’re going to take a closer look at each type. We’re also going to look at why you actually need substrate.
Primarily, your snake needs good bedding in order to absorb feces and moisture. A substrate, or bedding, which can absorb moisture will help to keep your snake’s enclosure free germs and funny smells caused by bacteria.
Don’t Use These Types of Substrate
Firstly, it is important to say that people a contradicting opinions on what not to use. We’ve done our fair share of reading on the topic and can only advised based on the information we have read.
The types of potentially dangerous snake bedding which come up time and time again are cedar, bark, sand, and gravel. Cedar shavings and certain bark, like pine, are toxic for snakes due to aromatic compounds. These irritate snake skin and, even worse, are known to degenerate cells in the respiratory tract which can lead to a variety of infections.
Sand and gravel, although possibly not quite as dangerous, are also generally advised against. Both aren’t particularly effective in absorbing moisture, which means that bacteria can build up easily and cause a nasty smell. The build up of bacteria can also lead to infection.
Sand can be easily ingested accidentally by snakes which can cause internal injuries in the digestive tract. Not only can it be ingested but it can also be an irritant to a snake’s skin and eyes when they’re burrowing. The same is true for gravel.
These Are Considered Safe
Aside from simply being able to absorb moisture, snake bedding is useful to allow your snake to adjust to different temperatures and to act as a barrier between the snake and source of under-bedding heat.
Like we mentioned, cedar and pine shaving can be incredibly harmful to your snake. Aspen, on the other hand, is one of the most popular options for substrate. Aspen is a hardwood an is very absorbent. It tends not to have a strong smell compared to other substrate.
In addition to being unlikely to injure your pet, aspen is also relatively easy to spot clean and it doesn’t need completely replaced all that often. Aspen holds its shape well, meaning snakes can tunnel through it more easily.
This is a naturally moist product which helps to increase the humidity of the enclosure, ideal for particular snakes. Sometimes this can even be useful if your snake is having problems with shedding skin.
On top of that, cypress mulch is a nice looking substrate and fits the look of a snake enclosure. Although it has a stronger smell than aspen, it is by no means unpleasant.
However, often due the increased humidity, you’ll probably need to clean the terrarium more often so that bacteria and infections don’t build up.
AstroTurf or Artificial Turf
Artificial turf is a popular option among snake owners. It tends to stand the test of time, being super durable. That said, repeated wash can damage the look of it but it can remain effective. For cleaning purposes, it is useful to have two pieces of turf in rotation because it can get tricky to get all dirt out.
Mimicking real grass, snakes find artificial turf comfortable and gives the illusion of a natural environment but the downside is that there isn’t any option to burrow in it. With astro, you don’t need to worry about your snake ingesting anything.
Coconut (Coco Fiber) Bedding
Coco bedding is growing in popularity and is somewhat similar to aspen in that it’s good for absorbing moisture. Snakes tend to like this kind of bedding because it is soft and comfortable and good for burrowing.
Coconut bedding is great for keeping odor to a minimum. You can either buy it as a brick or in bags. If you buy it as a brick, you’ll need to soak it and allow it to expand and then wring out any excess moisture or dry it in the sun.
There’s one thing we can all agree on; newspaper isn’t the most attractive form of snake bedding but it is effective. One of the main advantages to using newspaper is that it is incredibly easy to obtain and you can generally either get it for free or cheaply.
Due to the low cost and material, it means that it can easily be replaces when your snake soils it. Of course, newspaper isn’t good for burrowing so you should use this on a snake which doesn’t burrow.
This is another type of substrate which is good for snakes which don’t burrow. Carpet will require you to wash it regularly, so it is useful to have a couple of pieces in rotation, just like artificial turf. Carpet can often be obtained easily as many people have spare, unwanted pieces.
Cleaning and Maintain Your Snake's Enclosure
Maintaining and cleaning out your snake's enclosure as is a hugely important process as a snake owner. This often requires completely changing the substrate to prevent a build up bacteria and unhealthy germs. A thorough clean out is required at least once per month. In between times, you can perform what is called 'spot cleaning' which involves cleaning out individual items when necessary.
When it comes time for a thorough cleaning of your snake's enclosure, here's what you should do:
- Have everything you'll need for cleaning at hand i.e. sprays, trash bags, water, and spare items like bedding.
- For the snake's benefit, disinfect your hands before handling it.
- Firstly, relocate your snake into a separate container with air holes - something like a large plastic Sterilite box will do.
- Unplug any sources of electricity and place all the items of the enclosure into a basin or tub.
- Remove the substrate. Some types of substrate will be easier than others, like newspaper. You might even need to use a vacuum to get all the last pieces.
- Clean the enclosure with water and paper towels to initially get rid of dust and muck and then work around it with a disinfectant.
- Clean all the individual items with an antibacterial soap and hot water. If anything is particularly dirty and hard to clean then you might need to soak them overnight.
- Once the enclosure has fully aired and dried out, add in the new substrate and all of the cleaned items.
One of our top tips for cleaning out a terrarium is to have spares of things, for example a spare substrate for when you're cleaning one. If you use an astro substrate, it becomes a huge time saver investing in two - one you can use as the other one is being cleaned and dried.
So long as you keep on top of it, cleaning out the enclosure shouldn't be a big task. Your snake will be much more comfortable and healthy in a well-kept enclosure, saving you from any future problems like illnesses and refusal to eat.
Handling Your Pet Snake Properly
When you're changing over or adding in your substrate, you're going to need to handle your snake. This is a vital skill for any pet snake owner and understandably, you might be nervous if its your first one. If you choose one of the popular species, the snake should be tame enough and reluctant to bite. However, for some individual ones, it can take a few times being handled before the become accustomed to human touch.
Depending on its size, you should consider investing in small-medium tongs and a hook to help with the process. They help to support the body, keeping the snake calm and put you at a bit of a distance. Although your snake is unlikely to bite, it can certainly help to reassure you as much as the snake.
Hooks are also useful so that the snake begins to associate it with being handled rather than you opening up the enclosure for feeding time. Make sure that your movements are slow and deliberate so as not to startle it. A happy snake will be one that is less likely to bite - keep this in mind.
You should always aim to support the body as much as you can because this will ensure maximum comfort. Aiming for the middle of the body for the support is best and you can also place the tongs just behind the head, too.
You can expect, but not be afraid of, mild aggression or nervousness in new and young snakes the first few times they are handled. Don't worry about this, just try to keep it relaxed by small and slow movements. Any aggression should pass over time as it becomes more used to you.
Controlling Humidity with the Right Substrate
The overall humidity of an enclosure plays a crucial role in your snakes health. For example, if your snake is struggling to shed its skin or is refusing to eat, it could be a sign that the humidity isn't right.
You can control the terrarium humidity in a few ways such as using a humidifier in the room or getting a special device within the enclosure. Additionally, some substrates are more suited to keeping it at a higher humidity than others.
Aspen shavings are known to dry out quickly and need more maintenance to keep it at a decent level. On the other hand, cypress mulch and coconut husk are two of the best for increasing humidity. You can give the terrarium and substrate a light misting with a hand-held spray. If you do this, make sure you don't oversaturate it.
Cypress mulch is a very popular bedding for snakes for this reason. Furthermore, it is lightweight and packs loosely in an enclosure. As well as it holding water incredibly well, the fact that it packs loosely means that it also evaporates well and helps to prevent it from being over saturated for too long. The evaporation process is what helps to increase the humidity level.
Coconut bedding works in a similar way and is usually used for snakes and other reptiles/amphibians which require higher than normal levels of humidity. It is highly absorbent and doesn't break down water as much as other substrates.
It largely depends upon your snake and what it requires and could take some experimenting before you get it right every time. You'll soon get an idea, based on its behavior, what actions you will need to take. It's not uncommon to mix different kinds of bedding, either. For example, coconut husk works well when mixed with another low humidity substrate to help it from rising too high.