Choosing The Substrate For Your Ball Python
When creating a habitat for your Ball Python, you may be trying to figure out the best substrate for Ball Pythons. There are many different Ball Python substrate options that you can choose. In this article, we will be comparing different options so you can decide which substrate is best for your Ball Python.
What Is The Best Substrate for Ball Pythons?
Ball Pythons are healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a loose substrate (a.k.a. “bedding”) that imitates the conditions of their natural habitat and facilitates moderate to high humidity levels. Natural soil is generally best for meeting this need. Provide a substrate layer that is a minimum of 2-4” deep. Although Ball Pythons don’t dig into their substrate, deeper substrate is better able to maintain the humidity that Ball Pythons require. Provide a generous layer of dried leaf litter on top, plus sphagnum moss if desired.
Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Non-bioactive substrate should be completely replaced once every 3-4 months.
How To Make Bioactive Enclosure for Ball Pythons?
To create bioactive substrate for a Ball Python, you will need to create an environment to support a cleanup crew - typically isopods and springtails. A typical tropical blend consists of 80% soils and 20% play sand, with a layer of leaf litter on top. Josh’s Frogs Tropical ABG mix is an all-in-one substrate mix if you’d like to purchase a pre-made mix instead of making one yourself. The most common soil used for bioactive mixes is organic topsoil. Ensure that whatever soil you choose does not have added fertilizers or weed inhibitors. Zoo Med Reptisoil, Zoo Med EcoEarth, and ExoTerra Plantation Soil are the most common substrates found in brick and mortar stores that can be used in bioactive mixes. ReptiChip (coconut chips) and ZooMed Forest Floor (cypress mulch) can be mixed into bioactive substrate to create a chunkier mix.
Solid vs. Loose Substrate. What’s the difference?
Substrate is the term used for the “bedding” inside a reptile’s habitat. Opinions of substrate options for Ball Pythons vary widely by keepers and professionals in the reptile hobby.
A solid substrate is a liner used at the base of the enclosure. Some commonly used solid substrate options used for Ball Pythons include:
- Newsprint / Newspaper / Paper
- Puppy pads
- Shelf Liner
Pros for Solid Substrate:
- Easy to clean
Cons for Solid Substrate
- More difficult to maintain higher humidity
A loose substrate is any sort of bedding that is made up of “loose” materials like dirt or sand. Some common loose substrate options include:
- Commercially available soil mixes
- Coco chip
- Cypress mulch
- EcoEarth / coco coir
- Bioactive mixes
Pros for Loose Substrate
- Provides a natural environment
- Easier to maintain high humidity levels
- Less maintenance (bioactive setups)
Cons for Loose Substrate
- Higher initial cost
Substrate options that are not recommended:
Some solid and loose substrates, even though are commercially available, are not appropriate for Ball Pythons. Please see the attached list and reasons why:
- Reptile carpet: Harbors bacterial growth and threads can wrap around the animal and cause injury or strangulation.
- Softwood shavings (such as pine or cedar): Releases volatile oils that can be harmful to the respiratory system of reptiles.
- Aspen shavings: Some may use aspen shavings without issue, but wood shavings do not hold humidity well and are prone to molding in high moisture environments like that of a tropical species.
Need Some Enclosure Inspiration For Your Ball Python? We Got You…
The Zen Habitats Animal Care Manager, Kasey, recently created a large 4x2x4 Meridian PVC Reptile Enclosure for our Ball Python, Chip! We noticed how much he loves to climb and slither around in higher places, so we decided to give him some extra vertical space, fit with branches and tons of basking spots. We also chose to provide our Ball Python with a loose substrate, to mimic a more realistic environment. Check out how we built the entire enclosure right here: Creating A Large, Enriching Ball Python Enclosure! – Zen Habitats or watch the full video here: HUGE Snake Enclosure Upgrade For Our Ball Python! | Zen Habitats
More Care Guides For Happy and Healthy Ball Pythons
We have created multiple of care guides, enclosure inspiration articles, general snake enrichment articles, videos, and more, all for Ball Pythons! Check out everything you need to know about Ball Pythons here: Reptile Enclosure Care & Resource Sheets | Zen Habitats