Best Substrate for Ball Pythons

Ball pythons need a suitable environment in order to thrive in captivity. This includes the proper selection of enclosure, hides, proper condition as well as a substrate that will serve as their floor.

When you are setting up a habitat for your ball python, one of the most important decisions is choosing the right kind of substrate. The substrate you choose will impact your snake’s health, comfort, and overall well-being in its enclosure. 

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the best substrates available and discuss why they are superior to other options. 


Good Substrate for Ball Pythons

Cypress mulch

Cypress mulch is an excellent choice if you want something natural and visually pleasing in your enclosure. It holds moisture better than other forms of substrate so it is easier to keep humidity levels stable without having to water frequently. It also provides a secure hiding spot for your snake while still allowing them plenty of ventilation space.


Orchid bark

For those who want an aesthetically pleasing reptile habitat that requires minimal maintenance, orchid bark makes an excellent option for a ball python substrate. Not only does it look nice, but the pieces of bark are large enough that they won’t be eaten by your pet. Additionally, orchid bark helps keep humidity levels in the enclosure high, which is essential for creating a comfortable environment for your pet snake. It also absorbs odors well and can be easily removed from the enclosure when it needs to be replaced. 


Bioactive soil

Another excellent choice for ball python substrate is bioactive soil. This type of substrate has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its ability to naturally cycle nutrients and maintain humidity levels inside the enclosure without requiring a lot of effort. 

Bioactive soil is made up of different layers which create an ideal environment for your pet snake. The layer has soil on top with drainage layers underneath that allow the excess moisture to escape while still keeping humidity levels consistent. Additionally, bioactive soil contains beneficial bacteria and fungi that help break down waste products released by your snake into usable nutrients which can then be used by plants in the enclosure.


Newspaper is an inexpensive option but needs to be changed regularly or else it will become soggy very quickly. 

To use newspaper as a substrate, layer several sheets on the bottom of the tank and change them out every few days or when they become dirty or wet. Newspapers are not as absorbent as other substrates so it has to be changed from time to time.


Paper towels

Paper towels are also one of the easiest and cheapest options for many pet owners. They are easy to clean and can be replaced when necessary. It can also hold moisture well and can provide your pet with proper humidity. Paper towel is easy to clean, you just need to replace the paper towel whenever it is dirty.


Commercial paper cage liners

Commercial paper cage liner has several benefits when used as a substrate for ball pythons. First, it’s lightweight and easy to clean. All you need to do is remove any soiled areas with a damp cloth, then replace them with fresh pieces of the liner. The liner also absorbs moisture well, which helps keep the humidity levels in your snake’s enclosure within the proper range. Lastly, it’s relatively cheaper compared to other types of substrates.



Aspen is a popular choice among pet owners because they are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. They provide some comfort and insulation for your snake, but they tend to hold moisture which can lead to mold growth if not monitored closely. 

Coconut Husk

Coconut husk is becoming increasingly popular among reptile owners because it is lightweight yet provides great insulation. However, it needs to be replaced often due to its tendency to mold or become overly dry after prolonged exposure to air or water vapor depending on its surroundings. 

Coconut Fiber

Coconut fiber is a natural material made from the husks of coconuts. It is often referred to as coir, which is the name given to the fibers when they are extracted from the husk. Coconut fiber has been popularized over recent years due to its sustainable nature and its ability to hold moisture better than other substrates such as sand or wood chips.  It holds water well while also providing good drainage, making it ideal for creating humidity in an enclosure. 

Bad Ball Python Substrate

As pet owners, we want what’s best for our animals. When it comes to ball pythons, the substrate is an important factor to consider when setting up a habitat. Unfortunately, some substrates on the market can be dangerous and even potentially harmful for your pet. 



One of the major risks associated with using sand as a substrate for your ball python is impaction. This happens when your reptile accidentally consumes some of the sand while eating its food. 

As the stomach digests the food, it also tries to digest the sand particles along with it and this can lead to serious complications. If you do decide to use sand as a substrate, make sure you choose one without sharp edges that could cause injury if ingested. It’s also important to monitor your ball python closely while they eat so you can remove any errant grains of sand before they become a problem. 

Pine and Cedar Shavings

Pine and cedar shavings have been used as bedding for small animals for many years, but they can be dangerous when used as substrate in an enclosure with a Ball Python. While they may seem like an attractive choice due to their natural scent, they are not actually safe. Both pine and cedar contain phenols which can cause serious health problems. 


Gravel is one of the most commonly used substrates for snakes, but it can have some serious consequences. Not only can it puncture or irritate your snake’s skin, but it also poses a choking hazard. When a snake moves around in its enclosure, gravel has a tendency to get stuck in its mouth or between its scales. If left unchecked, this could lead to serious complications such as infection. Gravel may also contain bacterias and parasite that is detrimental to your snake.

Artificial Outdoor Carpet

Artificial outdoor carpets can also be hazardous when used in an enclosure with a Ball Python. While this material may seem like an ideal choice because it is easy to clean up and does not need to be changed often, there are several potential problems associated with its use. First, its not absorbent so the urine will remain on its surface which could lead to skin irritation or infection. Second, artificial outdoor carpeting is made from plastic materials which means that heat cannot pass through easily. This could lead to issues such as overheating during hot summer months or cold temperatures during wintertime. 


Although astroturf is an easy-to-clean alternative to natural substrates like dirt or mulch, there are some potential risks associated with using it in your pet’s enclosure. The synthetic fibers used in astroturf can rub against your reptile’s skin and cause irritation or discomfort, which is obviously something that you want to avoid.

Criteria to Consider When Choosing Snake Substrate

When it comes to owning a snake, selecting the best substrate for your pet is essential. A substrate is a material that lines the bottom of your pet’s enclosure and serves as bedding. Different types of substrates offer unique benefits, so it’s important to make an informed decision when choosing one. 


One of the first things you should consider when choosing a substrate for your snake is what material benefits it offers. For example, paper towels are easy to clean, but they don’t offer any humidity benefits or provide a natural look as mulch substrates do. Consider what benefits you would like from your substrate before making a selection. 

Another important factor to keep in mind is safety considerations. Some substrates may contain materials that could be hazardous if ingested by your snake. For instance, wood shavings have been known to cause respiratory problems in some reptiles if they are inhaled. Additionally, some substrates may contain sharp edges that could injure your pet. Hence, you should make sure you inspect any potential substrate carefully before bringing it home.  

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