Top 5 Best Substrate for Ball Pythons: Reviewed by Experts

Ball Pythons also known as the Royal Pythons are very popular pets and loved by beginner pet owners. If you have a ball python, and you are worried about which substrate (Bedding) is best for its enclosure, you have come to the right place. It is very important to pick the right substrate for your pet and many things are needed to be considered before buying it.

Here is a list of the Best 5 substrates with their key features and price

Name of the Substrate Features Price
Bio-Active Bedding$10-15 for a roll that can be used multiple times.$30-35
Cypress Mulch$10-15 for a roll that can be used multiple times.$15-20
Coconut coir/fiber/husk/chips$10-15 for a roll that can be used multiple times.$20-30 per large bag
Orchid bark Holds humidity well
Breaks down bad odorAbsorbs fecal matter and other waste
Carpet/ Paper towels//butchers paper/ newspaperThis also holds moisture nicely and is splinter-free
It is not prone to developing mold
$10-15 for a roll that  can be used multiple times.

Top 5 substrates for Ball Pythons

best substrate for ball pythons

Bedding is a very important part of petting a ball python. Before everything else, you need to set up the enclosure for the snake. Here is a list of the top 5 substrates that are most commonly preferred by pet owners.

#1. Bioactive Bedding – Josh’s Frog BioBedding Bioactive Substrate

Bioactive Bedding

A bioactive substrate is biologically active which means that it has live insects in it. It can support plant growth and it gives a very natural habitat feel to the pet. It contains natural soil and a drainage system which helps in regulating the environment of the enclosure. 

However, this bioactive enclosure can be a little difficult to set up. It can also be high maintenance in the beginning. Once you get used to it, it is going to become an absolute pleasure. It looks amazing and very attractive when it is on display. 

This bioactive bedding looks natural and is very attractive. It can have live plants in it without any extra maintenance. The plants help in balancing the humidity of the space. It does not need to be changed monthly. Therefore, reduces cost for us and stress for the python.


  • This substrate holds humidity very well
  • Because of its natural looks, it is very pleasing to the eyes
  • Very healthy for the snake’s skin
  • Do not require often change which leads to cost reduction. 
  • Gives an amazing natural habitat looks and feels to the enclosure


  • It is more expensive than other types of bedding
  • It needs to be maintained carefully which can be tough for the beginners

It has more pros than cons. It is the most suitable bedding for your python. The ball pythons need high humidity and nearly high temperatures because of their origin in tropical regions of Africa. This bedding would help in maintaining the high humidity. These substrates help snakes in living a more natural life when they are in captivity.  The humid nature, the low cost, and the attractive natural looks make it the ideal substrate for your python pet. 

Editor’s Note
The Bioactive substrate is the best bedding option for your snake. Its highly active biological components help in keeping the enclosure aerated.

#2. Cypress Mulch – Zoom med Forest Floor bedding

Cypress Mulch

Cypress Mulch is also known as forest Floor Bedding. It is made from the bark of the cypress trees. The ball pythons naturally live on the tropical forest floors which is very similar to this cypress mulch. It is a fantastic choice of substrate for your pet pythons. 

Cypress is very easy to use and very quick to set up. It has natural looks and texture which makes it a perfect choice for your python’s enclosure. This substrate retains high humidity and moisture. It needs less maintenance than a bioactive enclosure. It is a completely natural product and harmless to the python. It is a great alternative to the Bioactive substrate.

Cypress mulch is splinter-free and does not contain any sharp pieces in it which might cause harm to your python’s skin. It is a serious concern for all pet owners. Your friend Python is going to enjoy this comfy homely bedding. 


  • It holds moisture well
  • It is splinter-free
  • It is easy to clean
  • It is completely natural
  • Do not hurt the python’s skin


  • There might be mites in it, you need to bake the mulch on a low setting in your oven to kill them off. 
  • This substrate can become compacted which might be tough on the snake’s belly. 

While Cypress Mulch has a lot of features that make it a great option for your Python, it can become packed down easily. To prevent this, you need to manually loosen the bedding every couple of days.  However, It is not ideal for burrowing or nesting. 

It is a great choice as it retains moisture very well and looks very natural and attractive. It lacks the hassle of a bioactive enclosure. 

#3. Coconut Coir/Fiber/chips/husk – Repti Chip coconut chip substrate

Coconut Coir

Coconut coir/fiber/chips/husk is a good substrate for your ball python as it holds humidity well. This coconut chip substrate by Reptichip has superb humidity retention capacity. It does not become hard or compacted. This means that your snake can easily burrow in it to feel more secure, warm, and home-like.

Coconut substrates are very cheap and easy to maintain for beginners. You just need to add water to this coconut chip to expand and your bedding is ready. This is a good purchase for seasoned reptile owners as well. It does not go bad under high humidity levels, because of the nature of the coconut chip. It also encapsulates waste products, making it a healthy environment for your pet. Coconut chips absorb large amounts of water which helps in maintaining moisture levels. 

The entire lot of substrates only needs to be replaced every six months. The coconut gets completely soaked in water, it expands and eventually breaks into small pieces.


  • Holds moisture well. 
  • Superb humidity retention capacity
  • Absorbs foul odor
  • Completely natural 


  • Needs to be replaced every six months
  • Needs to be spot-cleaned daily
  • If you leave it unchecked, the humidity level might get too high

Coconut products like the Reptichip coconut chip as a substrate for your ball python are a great way to make it a natural habitat. Ball pythons naturally come from tropical regions, so it is good for them to have a home-like feel. You’ll have to change the substrate every six months which is a relief. However, this is not the best substrate for your snake to be burrowing. While coconut products are naturally antimicrobial, they can harbor mites sometimes. It is one of the most expensive substrates. 

#4. Orchid Bark – Zoo Med Reptile Bark

Orchid Bark

Orchid bark products like the zoo med Reptile bark are another great substrate for ball pythons. These are natural and hold humidity well. Humidity is very important for pythons to thrive in captivity. It is a natural product and very eco-friendly. It is more friendly for young pythons as it has less impaction risk. 

The large pieces of the bark do not get compressed and packed together by the python’s heavy body. This makes it the ideal substrate for python enclosure.

This substrate is also very easy to clean because of its loose nature. It is larger than other loose substrates which is good for young pythons as they cannot swallow the substrate. 

But, once your snake grows larger, it may swallow the pieces unintentionally. To avoid this, feed them outside the enclosure space.

Orchid bark is anti-fungal which helps in keeping the python healthy and free from any potential infections.


  • It absorbs fecal materials
  • Retains humidity well
  • Absorbs bad odor
  • Completely natural


  • It needs to be replaced every month
  • Not an ideal choice for adult snakes

The Zoo Med Reptile bark is an excellent choice for younger ball pythons. It looks great, holds humidity well, and is dust free. It protects the snake’s skin and respiratory system. It is antifungal. 

It is a great purchase for you. But it is not suggested if you have a large python. Also, it is troublesome to replace it every month as compared to the coconut chips which only need to be replaced every six months. If you want to cut down your maintenance work then this might not be the best option for you. 

#5. Carpet/Mat – Ceadyxiao large reptile carpet liner 

reptile carpet

Reptile mats are cheap and easy to install into the reptile enclosure. It is a budget bedding option for any reptile and is very suitable for ball pythons. The liner is very soft and smooth. The non-adhesive and non-abrasive material used to make the mat is very gentle on the body of the snake. The textured surface helps in protecting the snake from slipping or any injuries. 

This mat does not absorb the waste material. This means that spot cleaning takes much less time than other substrates. It is effective at keeping the enclosure safe and hygienic. You just need to roll up the mat and put all the garbage on it, shake off loose pieces, and hang it to dry. 

If the floor mat is too big for the terrarium you can cut it down easily. This mat is suitable for a variety of reptiles, including geckos, ball python snakes, leopard geckos, turtles, etc. It can be quickly replaced.


  • It is very cheap
  • Easy to clean 
  • No risk of ingestion impaction
  • Gentle on python’s skin
  • Customizable as per your needs


  • It is not natural
  • Do not control humidity
  • Needs to be cleaned frequently
  • Not a very comfortable substrate

Using the reptile mats are a surprisingly cheaper option as compared to other substrates. It will go easy on your pocket. It is also effective and durable. Cleans up easily and saves you time. However, it is not like the natural substrates. It is not the prettiest option, but if you are looking for cost-cutting then this is the best for you. It will get the job done!

Besides this mat, you can also use craft paper to cover the enclosure of your ball python. Using newspapers and other paper sheets will be cheaper and thus cost-efficient. However, if you want a natural habitat for your snake then go for the other substrates which are made from natural products.

Editor’s Note
As pocket friendly as it might sound, it is better to have a natural substrate for your Python. The humidity retention helps the python grow in the enclosure.

Things to keep in mind while buying substrate for your ball python

Your budget for the substrate


Before picking your substrate, you need to have a look at the size of the enclosure and how much substrate would be required to complete the bedding in it.

Ball pythons get very large-sized, so they need big enclosure spaces as well. This might get a little expensive for you to fill it with the substrate. There are different types of substrate and their changing needs also vary. Some need to be changed within a month and some go up to 6 months. 

It is advised that before buying consider your budget for the substrate and then choose the right fit for you! 

Age of your python

adult ball python

Younger pythons accidentally swallow the small chunks of substrates which are harmful to them. You can consider keeping your young ball pythons on a carpet or paper while they grow so that there is no risk of them eating the substrate and harming themself. 

It is wise to consider this as if your young pythons swallow something, it is going to be harmful to the belly. Once the risk of accidental swallowing is passed, then you can shift the python to a better substrate option. 

Water retention capacity and effect on  humidity 

Ball pythons are from forests and grasslands of Africa where there is high humidity. Due to this, they have a natural insistence on living in high-humidity spaces. 

Different types of substrates provide different moisture and humidity levels. Consider it before purchasing a substrate. 

Burrowing habits of your Python

ball python burrow

Some snakes have a habit of burrowing and excavating in their substrate. Loose substrates that allow this can enrich and enhance the life span of your Python.

If your python is enjoying burrowing then choose loose substrates which do not compact easily. 

Preference of your python

When you pick a bedding for the enclosure, try to observe the python’s reaction to it. They have their preferences for the material they spend their whole life on.

If you see that your python does not come out when you have cypress mulch on, and is very active on coconut coir then you should be using coconut coir. In this way, the python will tell you what they need. 

Ease of cleaning 

The ease of cleaning the enclosure highly depends on what substrate you choose. So choose it wisely!

Your experience level

The more experienced you are at handling snakes, the easier it would be for you. If you are in tune with their behavior and requirements then it would be quick for you to change anything necessary.

More experience means you can tackle the substrate that requires high maintenance such as a bio-active substrate. 


Which Substrate Is Best Among All? 

This purely depends on your needs and budget. However, a natural substrate with humidity balance is good for python growth and development in the enclosure. 

Is It Okay To Use Newspapers As Substrate?

As inexpensive as it is, it would be easy on your pocket to just use a newspaper as bedding in the enclosure of your ball python. It would be easy to clean and throw away, however, you would be facing problems in maintaining moisture and humidity in the enclosure. 


After knowing about all the best substrates, now you can make an informed decision on what is best for your Python. If you are a beginner, do not be intimidated by all this, you are going to do your best! It just needs a little bit of your time and consideration and you are already halfway there. 

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