Best Substrate for Ball Python – 2023 Guide

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The substrate that you choose for your ball python’s enclosure or terrarium is very important for the well-being of your pet. (For the uninitiated, the substrate is what you add to the floor of the terrarium). Naturally, your python will glide and move over it- which is why the choice of substrate is so important.

The substrate you select will go a long way in deciding the longevity of your pet. It will help your ball python maintain the right body temperature while being gentle and non-irritating to its skin.

Since a ball python is a burrowing snake, your chosen substrate should allow it to satisfy its natural digging and burrowing instincts.

Based on these requirements, we are enlisting six high-quality substrate choices that are suitable for ball python enclosures. We will also discuss which substrates are right and not-so-right for this species’s bedding.

Best Substrate for Ball Python – 2021 Top 6 Picks

1. Our Editor’s Choice: ZooMed Forest Floor (Cypress Mulch) Bedding

ZooMed cypress mulch bedding is a natural forest floor bedding ideal for ball pythons and other reptiles or amphibians. It retains moisture easily and adds humidity to the terrarium – a necessity for ball pythons. Being soft, it also encourages the burrowing instinct in your pet.

Simply boil the bricks of ZooMed substrate before you use it. This will kill any mites and bugs present in it making it cleaner and safer for your python.

Your snake’s terrarium will develop a natural forest floor look and create a safe and inviting habitat for it.

  • Cypress mulch forest floor creates a natural-looking forest flooring
  • It is easy to clean
  • Encourages burrowing
  • Holds humidity
  • Easy to use
  • Known to contain gnats and mites – which boiling can eliminate.
  • A few bags were a bit moldy.

2. Best Overall: ReptiChip Premium Coconut Substrate Reptile Bedding

Professional breeders and serious hobbyists use the ReptiChip coconut substrate bedding for their ball python, turtles, and other reptile or amphibians.

It has several features that make it a great choice for ball python substrate:

First of all, you get a lot of substrate in every pack – nearly 10 lb. of safe bedding compressed in 72 qtr.-bricks. The substrate also features superb humidity retention which will help your ball python thrive.

Secondly, it is low in dust and non-irritating. Also, being 100% organic, it can be recycled and can even be sustainably developed.

ReptiChip Company also cleans their substrate thoroughly so you can rest assured there are no bugs in it.

  • Holds moisture
  • Easy to clean
  • Mold resistant
  • Easy to use – easy to expand and add.
  • Soft and comfortable when hydrated
  • Deodorizing
  • Not 100% dust-free

3. Best Budget: Exo Terra Coco Husk

Exo Terra coco husk substrate is naturally anti-fungal, absorbent, eco-friendly, and bio-degradable. It is also low in dust and resins and can be mixed with potting soil to increase drainage, airflow, and also make sure that your terrarium occupants thrive.

Exo Terra coco husk is a fantastic choice in substrate for amphibians, reptiles like ball pythons, and other rain-forest dwellers. This substrate forms the best nutritional bedding for tropical plants and retains humidity for your pets’ wellbeing.

Being naturally hygroscopic, it absorbs excess moisture and prevents fungal growth.

Exo Terra coco husk undergoes testing, quality analysis, and heat treatment to deter salts, bugs, and other contaminants.

Last but not the least, it is made with sustainable resources which makes it easily recyclable as well.

  • Easy to use and clean
  • Highly absorbent 100% natural substrate
  • Stimulates burrowing in ball pythons
  • Extremely stringy. Some snakes got it in their mouths while feeding.
  • Doesn’t expand much as other bricks.

4. Best Absorbent: Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding

Professional herpetoculturists use the Zoo Med Aspen Snake bedding for its high absorbency. This reduces fungus and keeps the bedding safe and clean for snakes.

Being soft and naturalistic, your ball python can easily burrow in it. Compared to other bedding types like cypress, aspen bedding has low toxic essential oils too. This makes it safe for burrowing snakes – even if they eat it, it won’t cause any impaction.

Aspen bedding is lighter in color – which makes it easy to find snake poop, so you can easily clean it out.

  • Highly absorbent
  • Soft, so won’t poke your pet’s eye
  • Deodorizing
  • Mite-free
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Safe and non-toxic.
  • Lightweight – easy to carry around if needed.
  • Tends to dry easily
  • Also not 100% dust-free – not suitable for people with allergies.

5. Best Organic Substrate for Ball Python: Reptile Prime Coco Fiber Bedding

Reptile Prime Coconut fiber bedding is proudly made in the United States. It is 100% organic too which makes it eco-friendly, sustainable, and naturalistic for your burrowing python.

The versatile coco fiber substrate can be used damp or dry and is suitable for rainforest and desert species of amphibians and reptiles.

It is easy to clean and comes with superior humidity retention capacity making it one of the best ball python substrate choices.

  • Highly absorbent
  • Deodorizing
  • Easy to clean and use
  • Made in USA
  • 100% organic
  • Small pieces of bark can get into your python’s mouth. Lay down something over the substrate when your pet is feeding.

6. Best Bioactive Substrate for Ball Python: Josh’s Frogs Bioactive Bedding

Bioactive substrate closely mimics the naturalistic soil that ball pythons love. Josh’s Bioactive Substrate may seem expensive, but you need not change/replace it for years and that saves you money and time!

Being just like natural soil, it looks attractive and gives your terrarium flooring a very natural appearance. It is soft and encourages your python to dig.

Another advantage of Josh’s Bioactive Substrate is that it deters bacterial contamination and helps prevent diseases in your snake.

  • ive, natural, and encourages plant growth
  • Deters bacterial growth
  • Doesn’t need frequent changes or replacement
  • Expensive.

What’s The Best Substrate for a Ball Python?

The best substrate for ball pythons are cypress mulch, coconut fiber, and aspen shavings. These substrates have the following features that are important for pythons:

1. Natural and sustainable

Your python needs a natural flooring reminiscent of the tropical rain forest flooring it is used to. When you choose coco fiber, cypress mulch, or aspen, you know these can be recycled and are eco-friendly. They won’t add to the landfills and are also sustainably developed.

2. Comfortable and safe for your python

The substrate or flooring you add to the terrarium should be non-irritating. Your snake will glide over it, so the material should be soft and not hurt its skin. Moreover, it should satisfy your python’s natural burrowing instinct.

Additionally, the substrate choice should be such that it does not produce toxic elements or essential oils that might harm your pet. There should be no sharp pieces of debris that could enter your pet’s eyes and poke it. Nor should your python develop impaction in case it accidentally swallows it.

High-quality substrate should also prevent bacterial and fungal elements both of which can cause diseases in your python. It should also absorb foul odors and deodorize the flooring of the terrarium.

3. Retain moisture and provide humidity

Ball pythons need a relative humidity of 60-70%. So choose a substrate that retains moisture and does not get too dry. Ensure that the substrate retains optimum humidity inside your python’s enclosure.

4. Is easy to use and clean

Choose a substrate that does not require too much of prepping before use. You should be easily able to bake or boil it before use. The bricks should expand easily and you must get value for money as far as the quantity is concerned.

Don’t forget to change the substrate from time to time. So choose one that is easy to replace. Also, you may want to make weekly cleanups and spot cleaning to remove the snake’s waste. A light colored substrate can help you easily see the snake’s poop making cleanup easier.

FAQs on the Best Substrate for Ball Pythons?

1. What should a ball python enclosure include or contain?

Ball python enclosures should have plenty of objects under which they can hide. You can use overturned clay pots or planters, plenty of plants, plastic flowerpots, curved and hollow barks, branches, sticks, etc.

2. How big should my ball python enclosure be?

A ball python enclosure should ideally be 40 gallon-sized tank. A standard size for their enclosures is 36 (L) x 18 (D) x 12 (W) inches. Note that too large an enclosure could stress out your snake.

3. How much bedding/substrate does a ball python need?

You need at least 2.5 to 3-inch substrate depth so your snake can burrow comfortably. Choose cypress mulch, coco fiber, or Aspen shavings substrate which offer optimum burrowing.

4. How often should I change my ball python’s substrate?

Ball pythons are clean animals and they need a clean and porous substrate that retains moisture. Make sure you spot clean the tank once or twice a week because that is how often ball pythons defecate. Remove the snake’s poop weekly. You can deep clean the tank 1 or 2 times a month with 5% bleach.

How often you should change your substrate depends on how worn out or broken down it is. Bioactive substrates do not need replacing for years. Other types of substrates can be changed once every 1 or 2 months.


The best floor substrate for a ball python is absorbent, retains moisture, deodorizes, is easy to use, easy to clean, and non-toxic. It should not poke your pet in the eye nor should it be uncomfortable for it to burrow in or slither upon.

Ideal substrate choices for ball python racks are cypress mulch, aspen shavings, and coco fiber. You can also opt for the long-lasting bioactive substrate.

We recommend the Zoo Med Cypress Mulch Forest Floor Substrate since it is natural, easy to clean, retains moisture, and also maintains relative humidity that is optimal for your ball python.

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