Corn Snake Substrate Options: The Good, Bad, and In-Between

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“Substrate” is another word for corn snake bedding — the material that you use to cover the floor of your pet’s enclosure.

Using the right substrate in your corn snake’s terrarium can help regulate humidity and promote good health. Using the wrong substrate can be unhygienic and can even kill your snake in severe cases.

  • PRO TIP: If you opt for a loose-type corn snake bedding, take care to layer it about 2-3” thick and replace every 1-2 months as needed.

Best corn snake substrates

These are substrates that best mimic a corn snake’s natural habitat. Click any of the links below to see what products we recommend.

  • DIY naturalistic mix — 40% organic topsoil + 40% Zoo Med ReptiSoil + 20% play sand. Cheap and effective!
  • The Bio Dude Terra Firma — Bioactive-ready natural substrate that retains humidity well. 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.

Good corn snake substrates

  • Aspen chips — Affordably-priced, moderately absorbent, odor-resistant, and safer than aspen shavings. This is the most popular substrate among corn snake keepers. Note: Aspen shavings do not retain humidity very well, and may not work for keepers in particularly dry climates.
  • Lignocel — This is a fine, dust-free aspen substrate very popular with snake keepers in Europe. Possesses qualities similar to aspen shavings.
  • Hemp — Extremely absorbent, chemical-free, and low dust. An eco-friendly alternative to wood-based substrates.

Corn snake substrate options - coconut husk

Okay corn snake substrates

  • Paper towels — Absorbent and disposable, which is convenient. However, corn snakes like to get under it and make a mess, and the towels must be replaced each time the snake urinates. A good substrate for hatchlings and small juveniles, but not adults.
  • Reptile carpet — Not very absorbent, but more eco-friendly than paper towels, as it can be washed with hot water and chlorhexidine in a washing machine and reused. A good substrate for hatchlings and small juveniles, but not adults.
  • Contact paper — Not absorbent at all, but wipes clean easily and comes in an array of attractive designs. Make sure whatever you choose doesn’t have VOCs.

Bad corn snake substrates

  • Pine/cedar bark or shavings —  (ReptiBark) The aromatic compounds in pine and cedar (what makes it smell good) can cause neurological damage in reptiles.
  • Sand/gravel —Not absorbent at all, which promotes bacterial and fungal growth. These substrates are also abrasive to a corn snake’s scales, and can cause injury if the snake attempts to burrow.
  • Bark/wood chips (of any kind) — These can cause impaction and even damage to internal organs if accidentally ingested.


Keep reading:

  1. Introduction to Corn Snakes
  2. Shopping List
  3. Terrarium Size & Lighting Guidelines
  4. Temperature & Humidity Requirements
  5. Substrate Options (YOU ARE HERE)
  6. How to Decorate Your Terrarium
  7. How (and What) to Feed a Corn Snake
  8. Handling Tips
  9. Common Diseases & Other Health Info
  10. Additional Resources