Ball Python Substrate Options


This page contains paid links (details here) as well as links to the official ReptiFiles store. Purchases made from these links help fund my reptile welfare research and educational efforts. Thank you for your support!


“Substrate” is another word for bedding. There are good ball python substrates, and then there are bad substrates you should never use. Avoid the bad and choose what works best for you from the good:

Good Substrates

  • DIY tropical mix — 40% organic topsoil, 40% Zoo Med ReptiSoil, 20% play sand. Inexpensive and holds humidity well. 1 bag of topsoil + 1 24qt bag of ReptiSoil + 1 bag of play sand works well for an average 4’x2’x2′ enclosure. For best results layer with sphagnum moss and leaf litter.
  • The Bio Dude Terra Firma — Bioactive-ready natural substrate that retains humidity well and nourishes live plants. Expensive, but lasts a long time, so it’s worth the investment. I recommend getting The Bio Shot with it!
  • Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding — Expensive, but holds humidity well, isn’t dusty, and absorbs odors.
  • Zoo Med ReptiSoil — Potting soil made specifically for reptile enclosures. Reasonably priced, drains well, but can get a bit muddy. Great if you plan to use live plants. I prefer to mix it with organic topsoil and play sand as mentioned above.
  • Reptichip — Branded coconut husk substrate. Absorbs odors and moisture very well.

Okay Substrates

These beddings aren’t very natural, but they do a decent enough job as a ball python substrate.

  • Zoo Med Eco Earth — Coconut fiber. Cheap, fluffy, and holds humidity well. Many complain that it has a tendency to get stuck in a ball python’s heat pits.
  • Zoo Med Forest Floor — A pure cypress mulch substrate. Attractive, holds humidity well. Not very eco-friendly, though, and the larger bits can be problematic if accidentally ingested.
  • Paper Towels – Cheap, easy to replace, but doesn’t hold humidity well.

Bad Substrates

  • Reptile carpet – Can’t handle big messes, difficult to keep clean
  • Carefresh — Dusty, can’t hold humidity
  • Aspen shavings/chips — Molds quickly in the presence of moisture
  • Pine/cedar shavings — Oils may cause neurological damage in reptiles
ball python substrate - coconut fiber
Photo contributed by Kent Pimental


Whichever substrate you choose, spot clean as necessary. Due to the nature of snake urine and feces, complete changes of bedding and tank cleaning may be required frequently. If for some reason your python has managed not to make a mess for an entire month, substrate should be replaced monthly, or at very least once every quarter.

Although one can often save a lot of money by buying non-reptile branded items, substrate is often an exception. Cypress mulch in particular can be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, or even mites.

If you are still worried about contamination after purchasing cypress mulch from the pet store, soak the bag of substrate in water, spread on a baking sheet, then bake in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour or so (until dry).


Read more about ball python care:

  1. Introduction to Ball Pythons
  2. Your Shopping List
  3. Terrarium Size Guidelines
  4. Lighting, Heating & Humidity
  5. Substrate Options 
  6. How to Decorate the Terrarium
  7. Feeding Your Ball Python
  8. Handling Tips
  9. Health & Diseases
  10. Additional Resources