You might be thinking, “What is substrate and why does my ball python require it?” if you’re new to the world of reptiles in general or Ball Pythons (opens in new tab).
Substrate, in essence, refers to what may be referred to as the flooring of a reptile’s enclosure, to put it simply.
A reptile will have substrate, much like your house may have carpet, wood flooring, or tile.
In the world of reptiles, can the flooring in our houses have much of an impact on their health, despite the fact that it normally doesn’t?
Let’s just say that maintaining appropriate husbandry DOES dramatically shorten the lifespan of a ball python, and substrate plays a MAJOR factor in this.
Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that choosing the RIGHT substrate will be one of the most important steps in organizing your ball python’s setup.
Your pet’s wellbeing is greatly influenced by the kind, source, and depth of the substrate.
Therefore, rest certain that this guide will help you if you need a little direction in choosing the best ball python substrate.
What to Look for When Purchasing Substrate for Ball Pythons
Prior to going over all of your substrate alternatives, let’s first go over some factors you should take into account while contrasting various substrates.
In the next part, the top 6 substrates will be ranked using the eight criteria listed below. Therefore, becoming familiar with them now will guarantee that you make the best decision for you and your great pet.
8 Criteria to Consider When Choosing Snake Substrate
Humidity Impacted by Water Retention. African woodlands and grasslands, where there is perpetually a high level of humidity, are where ball pythons first appeared. The degree of humidity in your enclosure will vary according on the substrate.
Habits of tunneling. Some ball pythons could like digging in their substrate and burrowing, despite this not being a particularly frequent pastime. The life of your captive snake can be enhanced by loose substrates that permit this.
fungus and parasite risk Some substrates have a reputation for bringing scratchy mites to your vulnerable pet or promoting the spread of mildew in humid settings.
Cost. For the majority of snake keepers, cost comes in second, after ensuring that the substrate is suitable for a ball python. Every time you clean the cage, this can be anything from cents to $50.
Cleaning simplicity The substrate may make or break the ease of a work like cleaning the enclosure, to speak of it.
Purchasing convenience. A trip to a speciality shop or an online order may be necessary for certain straightforward solutions, while others may be obtained from the grocery store or may be ordered in that way.
Aesthetics. It is absolutely up to the individual to choose this alternative. The housing of your ball python in a rack or a clear plastic tub won’t matter much, but display enclosures will need more consideration.
Risk of Impaction and Ingestion. This might mean anything from a flat-out “no” to a very little chance of your pet consuming the substrate.
Is Aspen good for Ball Pythons?
Aspen is excellent for ball pythons despite not being the most popular. In fact, it could be one of their greatest bedding options. It has to be in the form of chips rather than shavings and should preferable be utilized in tubs or racks rather than vivariums due to the fact that it isn’t very good at keeping humidity.
What should substrate depth be for a ball python?
For your ball python, you don’t need to add a lot of substrate. Your ball python needs no more than 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) of compacted substrate, but bigger cages or cages with higher humidity levels may benefit from up to 6-7 inches (15-18 cm).
Best Ball Python substrate for humidity
The substrate and the container you employ may both have a significant impact on humidity, which is something you should be aware of right away.
Humidity is crucial for healthy hydration, shedding, and feces in Ball Pythons, as you will know if you’ve read any of my writings on this site. It’s crucial to pick a substrate for your pet’s enclosure that won’t become overly dry because of this.
Large open spaces, such as wooden vivariums, bigger glass tanks, and PVC setups, have more air volume, which causes more desiccation and lower humidity. A substrate with good humidity retention is necessary for these containers! Coco chips are the greatest substrate for reliably maintaining humidity, at least according to what I have discovered so far.
In contrast, the ventilation and air volume are reduced in plastic tubs and rack systems. With less reliance on substrate, they can sustain greater humidity because to this. Almost any of the substrates I explain in the next section may be used to maintain a suitable humidity level in these enclosures.
We’ll examine some of my favorite substrate options and talk about how well they hold onto humidity throughout this post. Additionally, we’ll discuss if you ought to think about a DIY substrate and how secure and hygienic they are.
Bad substrate options for ball pythons
For your ball python, you must also avoid utilizing some types of substandard substrate (bedding). These substrates are potentially harmful to your ball python or can make them sick. For ball pythons, undesirable substrate choices include:
Hazardous cedar chips or shavings
Toxic redwood chips or shavings
When breathed, highly fragrant pine, cedar, and other wood shavings contain phenols that are hazardous.
Sand poses a risk of impaction and is not suited for ball pythons.
Use only in emergency situations; reptile carpet is difficult to clean and traps bacteria; paper towels or newsprint are preferable.
Alfalfa: moldy and dusty when first planted.
if swallowed, walnut shells are hazardous and pointy.
Impaction danger and abrasive properties of gravel or stones
Corncob: unpleasant and maybe impaction-causing
Dusty but with care
Please avoid using any damp towels or other pieces of fabric in your ball python’s tank besides the substrates mentioned above. Some might advise moistening a towel to improve humidity by applying it to one side or within the hide.
But your ball python could attempt to ingest a piece of cloth. This holds true even if the material doesn’t smell like food. Your ball python might even choke if the fabric is too thick.
Best bioactive substrate for Ball Pythons
A bioactive vivarium is a challenging alternative for Ball Pythons, as I have already said several times. However, a bioactive enclosure is still possible. To be hygienic, just employ common sense. Be a little dubious if someone claims that you never need to clean them! In my care sheet’s hygiene section, you may find further information about this.
The finest ready-made bioactive substrate is definitely Josh’s Frogs ABG Mix. For some time now, this has been a reliable and well-liked option.
The substrate can also be created from scratch. A good bioactive substrate must have some sterile soil, coco fiber, maybe some orchid bark or coco chips, and a little amount of sand. To prevent it from becoming overly compact and restricting plant development, the bigger components will be used.
40 percent soil, 30 percent coco fiber, 20 percent coco chips, and 10 percent sand are the proportions that I would personally choose. Add some activated charcoal, some lava rocks, or something similar, for drainage, and another layer of same material underneath. I would layer moss, cork, magnolia leaves, and other similar materials on top of the substrate as well.
However, you are not need to adhere to these instructions precisely; as an example, you might substitute compost for the coco chips. Before doing it, it is advisable to do extensive study and confirm that it is appropriate for the plants you wish to utilize.
Coconut fibre substrate for Ball Pythons
The idea that Ball Pythons inhabit rocky soil like that found in gardens is a widely held misconception. With this fallacy lies the notion that you should buy them some coconut fiber (Eco Earth) or similar fine-particle substrate to make them feel at home! The truth is, though, that this isn’t quite the case.
Ball Pythons are most frequently found hiding in tiny animal burrows, according to sources who have captured them in the wild. Some people also make use of termite mounds or other hollows they may locate.
Small animal burrows typically have well-trodden and smooth floors due to all the scampering around that they do, as can be seen if you’ve ever dug one up and studied them. Some of them are actually excruciatingly tough to touch. They don’t resemble a recently cultivated flowerbed.
I think it’s likely that Ball Pythons dislike having soil-like substrates like coco fiber stuck in their labial pits! Personally, and never have I, I won’t use it by itself. Although it does have a role in DIY substrates and bioactive substrates, coco fiber.
Ball Python Substrates To Avoid
After learning which substrates are the greatest for raising ball pythons, you must learn which ones you ought to avoid. There are several types of wood chips. Ball pythons and many other reptiles are particularly prone to respiratory infections, according to a report in the Virology Journal.
Sand. The false notion that sand makes a suitable substrate is held by some people. But that’s not the case. In the wild, ball snakes like meadows and woodlands. Moreover, sand can become lodged between a snake’s scales, resulting in gruesome sores.
Wood shavings made of cedar or pine. The additional oils in the wood of cedar and pine trees are poisonous to snakes. Substrates composed of cedar or pine should be completely avoided since these poisons induce respiratory illnesses.
Gravel. Neither liquids nor odors are absorbed by gravel, making it a challenging material to clean. It will thus fail to satisfy any of the requirements your ball python has for its substrate.
The worst part is how easily urine and excrement may become wedged in between the gravel’s tiny pieces. A breeding environment for dangerous germs is being created by this residual waste, which is hard to entirely clear out.
Dirt. The bottom of your ball python’s enclosure should not simply be lined with dirt from your garden, since this might give your snake a severe illness. In soil, bacteria, parasites, mold spores, and other creatures dangerous to snakes are common.
Sawdust. Snakes have delicate, prone-to-infection respiratory systems. When your ball python inhales dust particles from a very dusty substrate, such sawdust, it might become quite ill.
Is potting soil safe for Ball Pythons?
If the potting soil has been sterilized, generally by baking, Ball Pythons can use it without any problems. This is the greatest approach to guarantee that it doesn’t contain mites, parasitic worm eggs, or other pests and fungus.
When using potting soil that was obtained from a region where native snakes are present, this type of care is very crucial. It may seem excessive, but it’s always better to be cautious than sorry!
Wrapping Up Ball Python Bedding
The options for substrates are plentiful and both safe AND excellent. According to your circumstances and tastes, you and your ball python can make the BEST decision.
Try new things at will! You might not experience the same results as another keeper. Even combining several, secure substrate types would be worth a shot.
Fortunately, you can always switch out the substrate when you clean the cage the following time if you’re not delighted with the one you choose.
It’s possible to find out which one your snake prefers if you vary it enough and watch them closely.
Undoubtedly, a happy ball python depends on the substrate it is kept in. Still, there are a lot of other things to think about!
Your ball python’s health, for instance, is impacted by keeping the proper tank humidity and temperature.
What is the best substrate for Ball Pythons? (My opinion)
Coco chips, often known as coconut husk, and newspaper are, in my view, the two best substrates for ball pythons. Coco chips are fantastic for preserving humidity, as I said previously.
Additionally, they have a weak antibacterial activity that helps prevent mold. With the occasional spot clean and a total change once a month, it is simple to maintain excellent hygiene.
The easiest, least expensive, most practical, and sanitary substrate currently available, at least in my perspective, is newspaper. Each time the snake leaves a mess, you may quickly replace it entirely. Especially if you give the cage a brief wipe down with some diluted veterinary disinfectant at the same time, this greatly minimizes the bacteria burden.
Personally, whenever I have young ball pythons, I always give them paper towels. Why? Because they can be moistened to maintain high humidity and because they are even more affordable than newspaper!
Do not misunderstand me; I am willing to pay for my animals’ best interests. But young Ball Pythons have more fragile bladders than adults and urinate every other day. For them, an inexpensive, readily disposable substrate that meets strict hygiene requirements makes the most sense.
Reptichip is one of various coco chip solutions available for reptiles. You can see how to make it in the video below.
DIY Ball Python substrate
Obviously, newspaper and paper towels are the simplest and most affordable DIY substrates. However, they are most effective in tubs, which is a downside. Furthermore, they do not in the least appear natural.
It goes without saying that you want it to appear natural if you’re building a bioactive enclosure or a naturalistic one. After all, making all of this effort was for that purpose!
A effective technique to lessen a substrate’s visual homogeneity is to make your own DIY substrate. To give the enclosure a forest floor feel, for instance, you may use 30% Cypress mulch, 30% Coco chips, and 40% Orchid bark.
Sphagnum moss may be added on top to complete the effect, which would make it appear extremely natural.
Summary on choosing a substrate for your ball python
When you first bring your ball python home, be sure to quarantine it on paper towels or newspaper. After that, you can change to a loose substrate with greater ornamentation.
Based on the relative humidity where you reside, choose your substrate. You will want substrates that can maintain humidity if you reside someplace very dry, such as cypress mulch, bark chips, or tropical soil blend.
Check the bag for any bugs or other such items before using any substrate. You can boil the substrate and let it cool and dry before utilizing it if you find any. To get rid of any potential pests, you can also bake certain substrates.