Updated: May 9, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell
While you are setting up your new snake’s enclosure, at some point, you will probably ask yourself: what is the best bedding for snakes?
It turns out there is no real one-size-fits-all option when it comes to substrate. Different species of snakes need different kinds of bedding. Some need bedding they can burrow into, some need bedding that will hold humidity well, and some do not need any bedding!
Snakes that are completely arboreal (live in the trees), will not come down to the floor of their enclosures until they need to poop, lay eggs, or give birth. Other than those tree-dwelling species, all snakes need some kind of substrate on the bottom of their enclosures.
There are many kinds of bedding out there, and pet shops have shelves overflowing with bags upon bags of the ‘perfect’ bedding for snakes. This can be overwhelming and very confusing, especially if you are a first-time snake owner.
Not to worry, though! This article will detail five different bedding options and suggest the best product for each option. Each of the five options will suit different snakes, budgets, and personal preferences.
Read on to find the best bedding for your snake!
The number one pick for a substrate for snakes in general would have to be Josh Frog’s BioBedding. This helps simulate the natural environment your snake would be in. If you add a clean-up crew of springtails and isopods, they will keep your enclosure clean and healthy, and the natural look is very attractive!
The Best Substrates for Snakes
1. Bioactive Bedding: Josh’s Frogs BioBedding Tropical Bioactive Substrate
A bioactive substrate is exactly what it sounds like: biologically active. This type of substrate is designed to support both live insects and plant life, and it mimics the natural habitat of your snake. This is because it contains a drainage system as well as natural soil which helps regulate the environment.
A bioactive enclosure can be slightly difficult to set up and maintain in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it will be an absolute pleasure that you and your snake will love.
- Bioactive bedding looks natural and is very attractive.
- Having a bioactive bedding in your enclosure means you can have real live plants, which help balance the humidity and provide a natural environment for your snake.
- The bedding does not need to be changed monthly.
Bioactive enclosures do not have to have their bedding completely thrown out once a month like most other substrates. If they are managed properly with the appropriate drainage layers and insects, then the bedding can last for years with it being topped up every couple of months!
The bedding is meant to be maintained by a clean-up crew! Springtails, isopods, and superworms can all live in harmony in the bedding. These bugs eat your snake’s poops and they process the bedding to keep it fresh and healthy.
Along with the bioactive bedding substrate, you will need to purchase the isopods, springtails, or superworms to add to the enclosure. These can also be purchased inexpensively from various online distributors or local breeders.
The bioactive bedding will need to be misted daily to maintain humidity levels. If you have a snake that needs especially high humidity levels, then think about adding some sphagnum moss to the bedding mixture.
- Holds humidity well
- Very healthy for your snake
- Does not need to be changed often which cuts down on costs
- More expensive to set up than other bedding
- Needs to be carefully maintained
Bioactive substrates help your snake live a more natural life when they are in captivity. The bedding is attractive for you to look at as well as being incredibly functional. It can be a little tricky to set up properly, but once it is set up, it will go forever!
2. Cypress Mulch: ZooMed Forest Floor Bedding
Cypress mulch is an excellent option for bedding for snakes. Cypress mulch is also commonly called forest floor bedding. It is the bark of the cypress tree that has been broken down into small bits.
Cypress mulch is very easy to use and set up for your snake’s enclosure. It is natural-looking and is a perfect option if you are wanting something aesthetically pleasing with high humidity but without the maintenance needed for a bioactive enclosure.
- Cypress mulch bedding looks very natural which is great if your snake’s enclosure is on display.
- It is easy to add moisture and maintain humidity levels.
- Completely natural.
Cypress mulch has a natural feel to it, which is great for making your snake feel comfortable without the effort of a bioactive enclosure. The bedding holds humidity well but does require frequent misting for it to hold enough humidity for a tropical species.
Some natural bedding options contain small, sharp pieces of wood in them that can pierce your snake’s skin. The nature of cypress mulch does not lend itself to this, which means your cypress mulch will be splinter-free, and you do not need to worry about your snake getting hurt!
Some natural bedding options also stain reptiles’ skin and the hides and decorations in the enclosures. Cypress mulch does not stain at all!
This substrate option can become packed down, especially if you have a heavy snake and a very humid enclosure, which means it is not ideal for burrowing or nesting. However, you can avoid this by manually loosening the bedding every couple of days.
- Holds moisture well
- Splinter free
- Not prone to developing mold
- Easy to clean
- Completely natural
- Some bags can sometimes contain a few mites (spread out the mulch and bake it on a low setting in your oven to kill off the mites)
- Can become compacted and be tough to burrow in
Cypress mulch is an excellent option for snakes that need high humidity. It holds humidity very well but does not soak the snake and cause problems. It is also a great choice if you want the natural look but not the hassle of a bioactive enclosure.
3. Coconut Coir/Fiber/Husk/Chips: ZooMed Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate
Coconut coir/fiber/husk/chips is a perfect bedding option if you have a snake that loves to burrow! The bedding holds its shape but is not hard and compacted, which means your snake can bury itself as well as dig burrows in the substrate as it would in the wild.
Coconut bedding is very easy to maintain and is not prone to molding or going bad. This makes it a great natural alternative to a bioactive enclosure if you do not want or cannot maintain one.
- Holds constant humidity levels very well, even for tropical species of snake.
- You need to spot clean the enclosure daily and only replace all of the bedding every six months, making it a very cost-effective option
- Coconut bedding has a natural appearance and is healthy for your snake.
- If the coconut fiber gets completely soaked in water, it will expand and eventually break down. This means that it is a completely recyclable and eco-friendly bedding option!
Coconut fiber/husk/coir/chips are a softer option than some other natural bedding options. This means it feels good for your snake to move around. Some natural bedding can become hard after a couple of months.
This coconut bedding, however, stays soft and supple for your snake! This makes it perfect to use in nesting boxes for when snakes lay their eggs or give birth! Check out our guide on what snake eggs look like.
The coconut fiber also smells great and helps neutralize the natural musty odor of your snake. We all know how bad snake poop smells, and coconut bedding helps break down the poop and the smell!
Keep in mind the enclosure needs to be spot cleaned as soon as your snake poops or pees. However, you only need to do a full replacement of the bedding once every six months!
- Breaks down odor
- Holds humidity well
- Perfect for burrowing
- Breaks down poop and pee
- Completely natural
- Can be messy
- Some bags have contained mites
- Needs to be spot cleaned regularly
Zoo Med’s Eco Earth coconut bedding breaks down slowly, and all you need to do is add to it as you see the level drop. This is the perfect substrate for a snake that has precise humidity needs and loves burrowing.
4. Enclosure Liners: Zilla Reptile Terrarium Liners
Enclosure liners are a great bedding option if you do not mind having an artificial aesthetic in the enclosure. The liners are completely safe to use with snakes because they are soft and will not catch on your snake’s skin.
Liners are also super easy to clean; all you need is some gentle dish soap, a scrubbing brush, a hose, and some sunlight or a warm place to dry them! This means you can reuse the liner and save money in the long run!
- Each liner can be cut to size to fit your snake’s enclosure properly
- Liners are soft and will not irritate your snake’s belly.
- Liners do not have loose pieces and cannot be swallowed and pose an impaction risk.
- Liners have a biodegradable enzyme in them that helps to break down natural snake odors.
Snakes can be smelly beasties, and Zilla’s enclosure liners help to combat their odor very well. Additionally, once the liner is dirty, you do not need to throw it away! Simply take it out of the enclosure and hose it off! If there is a particularly nasty poop mess, then you can soak it and gently clean it with some dish soap to get rid of any lingering bacteria.
If you buy two liners, you can take one out to clean and put the other back in immediately and just rotate them. This makes cleaning the enclosure an easy process for you and reduces the amount of stress on your snake.
- Easy to clean
- Cannot be swallowed
- Reduces odors
- Absorbs messes
- Does not look natural
- Does not hold humidity
Zilla’s enclosure liners are an eco-friendly (and budget-friendly) bedding option because they can be cleaned and reused many times. Plus, they are solid pieces, which means there is no risk of ingestion and compaction issues.
5. Paper: Bryco Goods Brown Kraft Paper Roll
The best budget bedding option is plain old paper! You can use newspaper, paper towels, butcher’s paper, or kraft paper to line your snake’s enclosure with. Our suggestion would be to use kraft paper. This option is cheap, and super easy to keep clean up. If your snake is not a burrower and you do not mind the look of paper, then opt for something like this to save some money!
Kraft paper is fairly heavy-duty, which means it is absorbent and will absorb pee and water spillages fairly well. Once the paper has a mess on it, you simply need to remove it, throw it away, wipe up any remaining liquid, and put down another piece.
- Kraft paper is cheap and readily available in stores or from online distributors, meaning you will never have to go without bedding.
- Kraft paper is very absorbent and will hold onto the messes until you can throw the paper away.
- Kraft paper is completely recyclable, so it is environmentally friendly!
Using kraft paper as bedding means you can buy it in a huge roll and just cut it down to size as you need it. This means you can re-cover the bottom of your snake’s enclosure for an entire year for a very low cost!
Kraft paper is twice the weight of normal copier paper. This makes it very durable, which is great if you have a large or active snake.
While you’ll probably initially buy this substrate for your snake’s enclosure, nothing is stopping you from using it around the house, too, which makes this a great multi-use product, and nothing will go to waste!
- Can be bought in bulk and will not go bad
- No risk of ingestion
- No risk of impaction
- Completely customizable to your enclosure
- Does not look natural
- Does not hold humidity
Using Bryco Goods’ kraft paper as a bedding option for your snake is a great way to keep costs down while maintaining the health of your snake.
FAQs Snake Beddings
Can I use sand as bedding for my snake?
Sand is not the best option to use as bedding for any reptile unless they specifically need it like the Kenyan sand boa. Sand can get accidentally ingested during feeding which leads to impaction.
Impaction is a blockage of the digestive tract which is painful for the snake and, more often than not, needs surgery to fix. The impaction itself as well as the surgery can both be very stressful, painful, and even deadly to snakes.
Is all substrate clean and ready to go in the tank?
Pay careful attention to your bag of substrate before you open it up and dump it in the enclosure. Some distributors can be careless and introduce mites and other insects to their substrates and then sell it without knowing.
If the bag has mites in it, they will infest the enclosure and your snake, which means you will need to do a full cleanout and sanitation of the enclosure as well as treat your snake for a mite infestation.
If you see creepy crawlies in your bag of substrate, contact the distributor immediately, and do not open the bag!
When my snake poops, do I need to replace all of the bedding every single time?
When your snake poops in its enclosure, you will need to remove the poop and any contaminated substrate as soon as you can. However, if your snake has pooped in the corner of its enclosure, you do not need to remove and replace all of the substrate!
Check out our guide on how snakes poop!
Choosing the best bedding for your snake can be a daunting process because of all of the options out there. Hopefully, at this point in the article, you will have picked the bedding option that suits your snake’s needs and your preferences the best!
The best opinion for your snake’s bedding would be a bioactive substrate. However, keeping snakes as pets can become quite expensive, so it is always great to have a budget option to fall back on! Your best budget option would be kraft paper!