Best Substrate For Ball Pythons

Substrates are an important part of Ball Python enclosures, without the proper research into the different types of substrates out there, it could lead to potentially life-threatening injuries and illness to your beloved pet.

In this article, I am going to list you the 5 best substrates to use for Ball Pythons and 6 substrates to avoid.

Substrates Overview

A substrate is used on the bottom of your Ball Python enclosure as flooring.

Herpetologists have placed the substrate types into two categories, loose-particle substrate(LPS) and non-particle substrate (NPS).

When providing Ball Pythons with a substrate, you’ll want to replicate their natural habitat as best as possible.

5 Best Substrates For Ball Pythons

Bioactive

A bioactive substrate is a mixture of loose particle substrates to create a self-sustaining ecosystem within the enclosure. They’re used by experienced reptile owners and I don’t recommend attempting this if you are a beginner.

Bioactive substrate requires a lot of work and monitoring to ensure you’re achieving the correct mix for your Ball Python, however, it provides the most natural-looking and enrichment-filled environment. The most common mixture for bioactive substrates is; 

  • 40% Organic topsoil
  • 40% Reptisoil
  • 20% Play sand 

I recommend providing sphagnum moss into the mixture to assist in retaining humidity within the enclosure.

Pros

  • Natural looking environment
  • Allows burrowing
  • Enrichment opportunities
  • Holds humidity levels well
  • Long lasting

Cons

  • For experienced owners
  • Impaction risks
  • Regular humidity monitoring

Cypress Mulch

This substrate is made from chopped chunks of cypress wood, it’s a very good substrate for Ball Python enclosures because it’s antimicrobial meaning it has a natural ability to resist mold, fungus, and bacteria buildup.

There are concerns with potential impaction when using this kind of substrate, however, this can be prevented by feeding on paper towels and newspapers.

Pros

  • Holds humidity levels well
  • Natural looking environment
  • Antimicrobial
  • Inexpensive
  • Long lasting

Cons

  • Impaction risks
  • Difficult to spot clean
  • Prevents adequate burrowing opportunities

An alternative to cypress mulch is orchid bark, however, in my experience, this tends to be a more expensive option.

Coconut Husk

Coconut husk is made of large chunks of chopped coconut. It absorbs large amounts of water making it a great substrate to increase and maintain humidity levels within the enclosure. Similarly to cypress mulch, it’s antimicrobial.

The main issue with coconut husk as a substrate is the lack of burrowing enrichment it provides for your Ball Python to burrow, the chunks are too large.

Pros

  • Holds humidity levels well
  • Antimicrobial
  • Long lasting
  • Natural looking environment

Cons

  • Expensive
  • prevents burrowing opportunities
  • Impaction risks

Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding

Lugarti is an expensive substrate, however, it comes with its benefits. It holds humidity levels well whilst absorbing odors and not emitting dust particles into the enclosure.

Pros

  • Holds humidity levels well
  • Prevents odors
  • Provides burrowing opportunities
  • Does not emit dust particles

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t look natural

Newspaper/Paper Towels

Newspaper and paper towels are used by many reptile hobbyists around the globe because of their easability to obtain and maintain. This substrate does require regular replacing to prevent bacteria buildup but it’s cheap and easy to replace. 

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy to maintain and replace
  • No risk of impaction

Cons

  • Doesn’t hold humidity
  • Isn’t natural
  • Doesn’t provide burrowing opportunities
  • Requires regular replacing

6 Substrates To Avoid For Ball Pythons

Sand

Sand is among the worst substrates to use in a Ball Python enclosure, because of its high impaction risk, it promotes bacteria and mold buildup within the enclosure, and it reduces humidity levels. 

Pine/Cedar Shavings

Pine and Cedar shavings pose health risks to your Ball Python, they release harmful oil and chemicals into the air, leading to respiratory sickness and even permanent neurological damage.

Walnut Shell

This substrate doesn’t just cause impaction, due to its sharp edges when crushed, it’ll cause lacerations to your Ball Python.

Gravel

Gravel is not a safe substrate to use, it’s a choking hazard, has a rough and uncomfortable surface, and shouldn’t even be considered when choosing a substrate.

Artificial Grass

Astro turf is not recommended as a substrate for Ball Pythons, although you may think this is an easy choice to clean, it’a the opposite. 

It has no absorption properties, causing odors, and after only a couple of cleans, the material will begin to break down.

The temperatures you have for your Ball Pythons enclosure will also cause the material to disperse harmful chemicals into the air similar to pine and cedar shavings.

Summary

Ensuring you do research on substrates is important to your Ball Pythons health. I recommend the use of these substrates;

  • Bioactive (Experienced reptile owners)
  • Cypress Mulch
  • Coconut Husk
  • Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
  • Newspaper/Paper Towels