The 4 Best Substrate for Snakes

Are you struggling to figure out what kind of snake bedding to fill your enclosure? 

Are you finding it difficult to wrap your head around all the different types? 

Understanding the best bedding for your snake is sometimes challenging. 

Luckily, this article will walk you through everything you need to know about the best substrate for snakes, including links to specific products we recommend.

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What Is Substrate?

Substrate describes the type of bedding you use to line your snake’s enclosure. 

It makes up the ground your snake will be slithering around on. 

A good substrate is defined by a few things: the ability to retain moisture, absorb urine without leaving a foul odor, allow burrowing if needed, and avoid being eaten or inhaled. 

You’ll also want to take into account price and how easy it is to clean and replace. 

The best bedding for your snake will be based on their specific requirements, as different snakes have different needs.

Best Substrates for Snakes Based on Common Species

You may be wondering which type of substrate your specific species of snake requires. 

You need first to understand what environment they’re used to and whether or not they like to burrow. 

Snakes from more humid environments will need bedding known to retain moisture, while this may not be as important for a snake from a more arid climate. 

Your bedding options are cypress mulch, aspen shavings, coconut fiber, orchid bark, and artificial turf. 

If you’re hunting for cheaper alternatives, you may use newspaper, paper towels, or carpeting in certain circumstances. 

Below are some of the most common domesticated snake species and the bedding they prefer:

Corn Snakes

Corn snakes are native to the southeastern United States and thrive in places like overgrown fields and forests’ outskirts. 

Corn snakes enjoy burrowing, so you need to utilize suitable bedding. 

Most owners have a lot of success utilizing 1-2″ inches (5.1 cm) of aspen shavings or cypress mulch, both of which hold moisture well and control odor. 

Garter Snakes

The natural environment for garter snakes is usually humid. 

In the wild, you typically find garter snakes around lakes, rivers, and marshes. 

Like corn snakes, they also like to burrow. 

The ideal bedding for them would be aspen shavings, cypress mulch, or coconut husk bedding. 

Boa Constrictors

Boa constrictors don’t have as many requirements as some of the other snakes on this list. 

Unlike the snakes already mentioned, they do not burrow. 

While the substrates we listed before are all appropriate to use, boa constrictors are also happy with cheaper options like newspapers, paper towels, and carpeting. 

Though cheaper, these types of beddings will require more frequent changes to stay clean.

Ball Pythons

Ball pythons are also able to utilize some of the cheaper options, like newspapers and paper towels. 

However, if you’re able to afford it, the best options are cypress mulch or aspen shavings. 

Ball pythons don’t generally require much humidity. 

If you are utilizing bedding known to retain a lot of moisture, make sure you monitor the enclosure’s humidity level.

Kingsnake

We find Kingsnakes in a variety of environments, such as woodlands, deserts, and marshes. 

They also love to burrow, making a couple of inches of cypress mulch or aspen shavings suitable options. 

The cheaper options will not work for kingsnakes.

Substrates to Avoid

There are a few overall qualities to avoid when selecting a substrate for your snake. 

Substrate should not have a bad smell, be treated with chemicals, or be easy for a snake to swallow. 

Below are a few examples of readily available substrates which are not suitable for snakes:

Sand

While sand appears comfortable and aesthetically pleasing bedding for snakes, you should avoid it. 

Especially if your snake likes to burrow, sand can easily get trapped in their nostrils or be ingested. 

This is extremely harmful to the nasal passages, lungs, and bowels. 

Ingested sand will cause issues with your snake’s digestion and result in an impaction.

Cedar or Pine

Some bedding options will contain cedar or pine. 

Both are harmful to snakes as they release oils which are dangerous to their skin and respiratory system. 

Snakes cannot escape these fumes when they are within an enclosure, so please pay attention to substrates to ensure they do not contain either of these ingredients.

Cat Litter

Even though cat litter works great to pick up the urine and excrements of our feline friends, we don’t recommend it as a substrate for snakes. 

Cat litter is easily ingested and can cause digestion issues and impaction, similar to sand. 

The grainy texture can cause your snake to develop abrasions or bruises. 

Lastly, the dust can irritate their nasal passages and lungs, making it more difficult for your snake to breathe.

Our Review of the Best Substrates for Snakes

best substrate for snakes

Now we’ve finished discussing the different factors and options you need to consider before purchasing substrate, so let’s talk about some of our favorite products, which are all available on Amazon. 

Below you’ll find highly rated products we recommend for your little slithery friend:

Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding

Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding (24 qt)
  • #1 Preferred snake bedding by professional herpetoculturists worldwide!
  • Provides a safe, naturalistic substrate that allows snakes, lizards, and small animals to form burrows and nests as they...
  • It has a 191% absorbency rating and is odorless-safe for all snakes.

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There’s a reason this product is so popular amongst reptile owners. 

This aspen snake bedding created by Zoo Med boasts a 191% absorbency rating and is made from renewable resources. 

It doesn’t contain the toxic oils listed above and is known to be easy to clean. 

People love using this substrate because it is easy to see where the droppings are for more efficient cleanup. 

It also claims to be 99.9% dust-free, which keeps your snake’s nasal passages and lungs safe. 

If your snake accidentally ingests some, it is non-toxic to their guts and won’t cause any impaction. 

It is one of the most versatile types of bedding. 

Aspen bedding is considered safe for most species of snakes and is particularly suited to burrowing snakes. 

If you have other reptiles at home as well, this type of bedding is generally also safe for lizards, tortoises, and turtles. 

Insects have also used it if you are breeding insects at home as food. 

This type of substrate can get messy, though. Make sure to buy it in bulk to save on costs.

Pros

  • Versatile use: useful for most snake species as well as other reptiles
  • Easy to spot clean
  • No toxic oils and minimal dust
  • Absorbs urine and moisture well
  • Available in bulk

Cons

  • Often messy to handle
  • More costly

Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Substrate

Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding Substrate for...
  • Optimal substrate for terrarium set-ups incorporating reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates.
  • It can be used with tropical species or desert dwelling as it can be used Dry or Damp.
  • It has superior Humidity retention capabilities.

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This product by Reptile Farm is made from coconut husks and is considered eco-friendly, compostable, and recyclable. Other coconut substrates can have a fine, powdery consistency. 

This one does not have the same issue, though it does tend to break down over time. 

It holds shape well for all the tunnels your snake might create if it enjoys burrowing. It also retains heat well and hides odors with excellent absorbency. 

The consistency does not get muddy with moisture.

It holds humidity well for snakes, which require a more humid environment without risking mold. 

If you’re having trouble regulating your enclosure’s humidity, this may be the substrate you need. 

The company specifically removes dust from their products, ensuring there won’t be any airborne particles your snake can inhale. 

It has a natural appearance in the cage if you want to mimic outdoor conditions, meaning it can give your enclosure a more aesthetically-pleasing look if a natural style of environment is desired. 

In addition, any snake owners with a green thumb can utilize this substrate as a potting soil for plants.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly, compostable, recyclable
  • Absorbs urine and moisture well
  • Hides odor well
  • Maintains tunnel integrity for burrowing snakes
  • Cost-effective
  • Stays warm and maintains a heated environment
  • Has been used as an alternative to potting soil for plants

Cons:

  • Can break down into finer material

Galapagos Cypress Tank-Mulch

Galápagos (05054) Cypress Tank Mulch Forest Floor...
  • High Absorbency: Controls Tropical Humidity
  • Smaller Bark Facilitates Natural Feeding Habits
  • Sustainable Timber By-Product

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Galapagos Cypress Tank Mulch is made entirely from cypress trees and has the consistency of smaller pieces of bark.

It also boasts a high absorbency capability, which allows it to control tropical humidity well. 

It is screened for chemicals, toxic oils, and parasites. 

The company also ensures it washes and sieves its products to remove any tiny particles or dust trapped inside. 

They don’t use any artificial dye to get their appearance. 

This mulch is compatible with heat lamps, as it keeps warm while also retaining moisture. 

It is perfect for burrowing, though it doesn’t retain tunnel structures. It is easy to clean up and will dry quickly when it gets wet. 

It stays odor-free after absorbing urine. 

Part of its slogan is “for humidity-loving reptiles.” 

While it is an excellent option for enclosures which require a lot of humidity, you must take care to ensure humidity levels don’t get too high.

Pros:

  • High absorbency
  • No chemicals or toxic oils
  • Washed and sieved to remove small particles and dust
  • Great for retaining humidity

Cons:

  • Does not retain the integrity of tunnel structures for burrowing species
  • Comes in smaller quantities
  • Can make the enclosure too humid if not careful

Fluker’s Labs Repta-Bark

Fluker's 36005 Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding,...
  • Prevents excessive moisture and absorbs waste
  • Natural bedding for all high humidity loving reptiles
  • All Natural Bedding

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This Repta-Bark by Fluker’s Lab is another suitable substrate when you want your enclosure’s floor to resemble nature, particularly a forest floor. 

The bedding predominantly consists of fragments of orchid bark. 

It prevents excessive moisture and absorbs waste well. 

This substrate works ideally for enclosures, which require higher levels of humidity. 

Beware, though, this type of substrate will mold if the humidity gets too high. 

The individual pieces are also large enough to avoid ingestion and inhalation. 

It doesn’t leave small pieces of residue in the water bowl. 

If your snake likes to burrow, consider this substrate. 

The company recommends using 3-4″ inches (10 cm) for this purpose. 

Repta-Bark is useful for protecting hot surfaces, such as on a hot rock or below a tank heater. 

This will prevent your snake from slithering on surfaces too hot for their bellies.

Pros:

  • Good at absorbing moisture and maintaining humidity
  • Reduces odors
  • Comes in bulk at reasonable prices
  • Not messy to handle

Cons:

  • At risk for molding if humidity is too high
  • Sometimes associated with a higher ratio of dust

Commonly Asked Questions

Can substrates be mixed? – Yes! Most substrates are safe to mix. 

For example, if you notice the humidity in your tank is getting too high with your current substrate, you are allowed to mix in a drier substrate to balance everything out.

How often should I change bedding? – This will depend on the activity level of your snake; as a general rule, you should spot clean the bedding on a daily or weekly basis and do a deep clean with substrate replacement every month. 

Sometimes you may go longer if the bedding still appears clean, and there are no foul odors.

How do I deep clean the tank? – First, remove your snake and place it somewhere safe. 

Clean all bowls and accessories. 

Remove all old substrate and scrub the enclosure clean with hot soapy water and rinse well before replacing it with a new substrate.

Conclusion

Deciding on the best substrate for your snakes is often a challenge, especially with so many different substrates on the market. 

We appreciate you want the best for your pet. 

Remember to first learn as much as possible about the natural habitat of your pet snake, as this can help you figure out how to replicate their surroundings best. 

Pay close attention to humidity requirements and burrowing needs. 

Once you have a good grasp of these concepts, refer to our reviews to find out which bedding you should purchase! 

Your little critter will be so happy you did.