There are a variety of bedding materials you can use in your pet snake tank. This article will help you pick the ones that are most suitable. We will examine each type of bedding based on the following 5 criteria:
- Personal opinion
This isn’t meant to be a full comprehensive list of all possible types of substrates just the ones that are most common among snake owners.
- There are a number of different specially packaged sands available for reptile owners in your local pet store. Generally they are colored pink, green, red, or something else. A lot of the time they’ll be supplemented with calcium which is more for lizards than snakes.
- It is very easy to find sand that is touted for use as reptile substrate. Almost any pet store will carry it especially the larger chain stores like PetCo and Pet Smart. You can also easily order it online from a variety of sources.
- Sand is relatively cheap even for the specially supplemented kind. It will cost you around $6 or $7 for a 5 pound bag. Of course “special feature” sand will cost more such as the kind that glows in the dark.
- Sand is messy. It is also dangerous for your snakes. It is well known for causing impaction because they can’t digest it. It also gets under their scales (including the ones that cover their eyes), but is especially known for getting under the belly scale.
Beyond the health concerns it is also difficult to work with. Each time your snake goes to the bathroom you need to completely remove all of the sand, clean the tank, and replace it with fresh sand. It doesn’t take long before it gets very tedious.
- As mentioned before it comes in a variety of colors and “styles”. It makes for a very pretty bedding as long as you keep it cleaned out and changed frequently. The glowing in the dark and multi-colored features are kind of neat especially for younger kids.
- Personal Opinion
- Sand is a bad horrible idea for use as a substrate in a snakes tank. First and foremost due to the health risks it poses. Most people also have a tendency to just scoop a little of it out when it has been soiled, but because of how it absorbs moisture you really need to start completely fresh each time. Save the sand for the sandbox or the bottom of the fish tank. It does NOT belong in with your pet snake!
- Synthetic grass isn’t just for football fields anymore. It has also found a place in the hearts and minds of snake lovers.
- Astro-turf is readily available. You can find it at almost any pet store and barring that you can find it at Home Depot, Lowes or almost any other garden center in your area. You might also find it under the generic names of artificial grass and/or artificial turf.
- Astro-turf is relatively inexpensive but unless you buy it from the pet store you will most likely end up with far more than you need. For example a 10 foot x 10 foot square is a common size. Most owners of pet snakes have no need for anywhere close to that amount.
- A pet snake will feel right at home on astro-turf (as much as a snake can feel at home). It is easy to clean and easy to change out. Most people will get at least 2, sometimes 3 pieces of astro-turf for each tank. That way when one is soiled they just pull it out and throw in a clean one. Then they throw the soiled one in the wash, let it dry and repeat the process. Very convenient.
The downfall is that it can start to smell badly because it absorbs the odors from your snakes urine and feces. You also have to be very through in cleaning it both because of the odors and it tends to trap bacteria in the fibers.
- There’s not much to say about the appearance of astro-turf. It looks like fake plastic grass. The older it gets and the more worn the less like grass and the more like plastic it looks.
- Personal Opinion
- In the past I’ve used astro-turf and while it does the job it certainly isn’t my first choice. Far better than sand, but inferior to a number of other substrate choices. This is one of those situation where it won’t hurt anything to use astro-turf, but there are better solutions.
- Cypress Mulch
- Cypress mulch is often touted for its ability to hold humidity thus making it easier to raise when necessary. It is readily available at the pet store and fairly inexpensive.
- Just about any pet store will either have it in stock or be able to readily obtain a supply of it. There is of course always the online option as well if you prefer to have things shipped directly to your door.
- You can find 24qts of cypress mulch for about $25 average price. Your milage may vary. You can also get lesser amounts for less cost, but it actually goes fairly quickly if you use it right.
- Like mentioned before cypress mulch is touted by snake owners for its ability to help hold moisture and thus raise humidity. It has a nice “woody” smell to it, but isn’t over powering. One of the biggest problems with cypress (or any other wood-based mulch) is that if you have a mite infestation it becomes very difficult to get rid of them because they will thrive in the cypress.
- Cypress mulch looks like a forest floor. Chunks of brown and black wood substance. It makes for a nice base in a display case where you are showing off your pet snake.
- Personal opinion
- This is by far my second favorite substrate. If it weren’t for the number of snakes I have this would be my choice as a bedding. If you are looking for a natural substrate that will do what you need it to do then consider using cypress mulch.
- Newspapers, and paper towels
- Cheap, convenient, and easy. Hard to beat these as substrate for your snakes cage.
- You can buy paper towels by the roll and good sales come up all the time. Newspapers on the other hand you can easily get for free. Go into any McDonald’s in the later morning and you’ll see newspapers all over the place. Grab a few of them. Actually go into any restraunt that serves breakfast and grab some of the papers sitting around on the tables. You can also grab handfuls of free newspapers at the grocery store where the local town paper is often set out and distributed for free. Finally if all else fails go talk to a neighbor who gets the paper. Chances are they’d be more than happy to have you take it off their hands.
- Paper towels will cost you a few dollars, but they are inexpensive and a roll can last you quite a while. Assuming of course that you use it only as replacement bedding in your snake’s tank.
As I mentioned above you should have no problem finding free newspaper. Even if you can’t for some reason get any for free buying a sunday paper should get you enough newspaper to last for a few weeks. At least if you’re the average pet snake owner and only have a few for your personal enjoyment.
- Aside from being cheap and easy to obtain newspaper and paper towels are also extremely easy to use. They get dirty you pull them out, clean out the tank and put new ones in. Literally it takes about 30 seconds to give your snake fresh, clean substrate.
By no means is it the perfect substrate however. With paper towels you need to be sure that you don’t get perfumed as it can cause respiratory issues for snakes. You’ll also find they have absolutely no tolerance for moisture. Once they get wet you’ll need to replace it all instead of just scooping out the general area. The same is true for newspapers.
Another issue with newspapers worth mentioning is the fact that some people are concerned with the ink and the possibility of it being toxic. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of ink used in modern newspapers is made of organic pigments. It is the same kind of ink and dyes found in tattoos, and cosmetics. Here’s an article that tells you about using newspaper bedding for livestock and talks about things like toxicity.
- In a word: UGLY. You won’t be winning any decorating contests using newspaper or paper towels.
- Personal Opinion
- Newspapers are my favorite substrate followed closely by paper towels. Cost plays a huge factor and then the fact that they are so easily replaced when soiled by a snake. If you’ve never tried it before I highly suggest giving it a shot.
In the end the substrate you choose to use must first and foremost provide a suitable medium for your snake and then it needs to be something you can both work with and afford. There are other choices for snake bedding such as crushed coconut shells that weren’t mentioned in this article. That’s because of time and space limitations not because they are a poor choice.