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When selecting bedding for your snake, you'll want to consider not only aesthetics but how well the bedding absorbs urine and other smells, how it insulates or maintains humidity, and whether it provides adequate coverage for burrowing snakes.
Finding the right bedding can depend on your snake's preferences and how you maintain their enclosure, so we've found selections for a variety of snake species. We searched in particular for beddings and brands that stand out for high-grade materials, consistent quality control, and unique specifications, speaking with veterinarians and other experts with in-depth knowledge on what works best for your snake's health and well-being.
Here are the best bedding options for your pet snake.
Best Overall: Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding
No pre-washing necessary
Odorless and dust-free
No color options
Can encourage mold growth if it stays wet
Aspen bedding is one of the most popular types of beddings for pet snakes. These wood shavings are nearly free of dust, don’t have a smell that will irritate your snake’s respiratory tract (like pine and cedar can do), and are free of dyes. Aspen is very absorbent, so it’s great for containing messes. Zoo Med's Aspen Snake Bedding is fluffy enough that snakes can burrow and nest in it. Plus, since it’s a natural substrate, you can keep your terrarium looking clean but wild.
A 24-quart bag is more than enough bedding to fill a 40-gallon tank, making Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding an economical option as well. It's also a more sustainable option than other wood-derived bedding, since aspen trees are fast-growing, with multiple sprouts branching from the same root system.
Some snake owners complain of mold growth if the bedding stays too wet, but regular cleaning should make mold easily avoidable. Zoo Med recommends fully replacing its bedding every 2-3 months.
Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding is available in a variety of sizes, including, 4-quart, 8-quart and 24-quart sizes, in addition to bundles of multiple bags.
Best Bark: Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Reptile Bedding
Can be washed and reused
No color options
May contains mites/metal
If wood shavings aren’t quite what you’re looking for, then perhaps you’ll like Zoo Med’s Repti Bark instead. This all-natural wood bedding is made from fir tree bark. It may cost a little more upfront, but it holds humidity very well for your reptile's enclosure. This dark brown bedding adds more of a tropical feel to an enclosure and is also great at absorbing moisture. Some snake owners prefer this bark over Aspen shavings because crickets can’t hide in it as easily.
As with any natural bedding product, mites are a possibility. But this is easily solved by freezing your bedding prior to using it in your snake's enclosure.
Best Mulch: Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding
Helps retain moisture in enclosure
Great for burrowing
May contain mites
Only available in the natural brown color
It’s not quite chunks of bark, and it’s not quite shavings, so it must be mulch. Zoo Med continues to provide high-quality snake bedding options, this time in the form of cypress mulch. Their Forest Floor bedding is a great natural option that also helps to hold in moisture. This bedding is great for snakes that like to burrow and also helps with odors. As with any natural substrate, freezing prior to use is recommended in case of mites.
Best Coconut: ReptiChip Coarse Coconut Chip Mix
Loose or compressed brick options available
Can be used wet or dry to obtain specific humidity levels
All-natural and organic
Coconut fiber is all-natural, so it’s perfect if you want to keep your tank looking wild while ensuring your snake's comfort. After use, these 100 percent organic coconut fibers can be added to your compost rather than a landfill. Reptichip Coconut mixes are selected for minimal mineral content, as they leave out impurities like potassium and sodium. Their chips are also washed three times to eliminate as many of the tannins that can stain the inside of your enclosure.
Reptichip sells a variety of coconut fiber chips for reptile bedding, ranging from small chips suitable for hatchlings to larger, more coarse varieties ready-made for pythons and boas. They also offer a compacted "Breeder Block" if you're looking to fill large or multiple enclosures.
Best Carpet Liner: Zilla Terrarium Liner
Attractive alternative to paper liner
Cannot be ingested
Can be cut to size
Easy to clean
Not suitable for burrowing
Doesn't hide or absorb waste as well as other bedding options
Requires measuring in advance
If you like the simplicity of paper but want something a little more attractive, then Zilla Terrarium Liner is an excellent alternative to traditional beddings. Rather than pouring in the bedding by volume, Zilla liners can be cut to fit the exact footprint of your terrarium. They come in a variety of sizes, so you can get the closest match right out of the box.
Carpet liner has several advantages over bedding. Most importantly, it can't be ingested, making it a good pick for anyone with a young reptile that is not well-acclimated to eating around bedding. It's also highly reusable: simply pull out soiled bedding, rinse it under cold water, and allow it to air dry. However, this comes at the cost of absorbency. While Zilla Terrarium Liner can absorb quite a bit of liquid, it's not going to hide and contain solid waste as well as wood shavings or other types of bedding. Plus, you have to take out the whole carpet to clean it, rather than just scooping out and replacing soiled portions of bedding.
Still, if you prefer liners or paper to bedding, then Zilla Terrarium Liner is an excellent, carpet-like option, which is available in either brown or green.
Zoo Med's Aspen Snake Bedding is a favorite among snake owners for reason. It's affordable, all-natural, readily available from multiple sources, and practically free of dust. Snakes will enjoy burrowing and slithering in these shavings. But if you prefer something that looks more like you’d find in a rainforest, then check out ReptiChip's Coarse Coconut Chip Mix. This reusable bedding is great for maintaining high humidity, while still being a natural substrate for your snake to burrow in.
What to Look for in Snake Bedding
First, determine what your snake needs. Dr. Beth Bystrom of Sea Island Animal Hospital recommends researching the natural habitat of your specific type of snake to see if it requires higher humidity levels, burrowing opportunities, or something else from its bedding. Next, make sure you know how big your snake’s enclosure is so you can buy enough bedding to cover the bottom of the tank. Finally, make sure you avoid any potentially toxic bedding options like cedar or pine, and freeze any natural substrates prior to use to kill any mites that may be lurking.
If you choose not to provide a natural substrate, newspaper or paper towels are safe and easy to clean, making them a go-to bedding option for many snake owners, since it's easy and readily available. But while a layer of paper might work for absorbing waste liquids, it's not very comfortable, and can be a particularly poor choice for burrowing species of snakes. It's also unsuitable if your snake has trouble shedding its skin since paper bedding absorbs ambient humidity and makes shedding more difficult.
How often should you change snake bedding?
Dr. Bystrom recommends weekly bedding changes, but this can vary depending on the type of substrate you choose. For larger enclosures and snakes that primarily eliminate in water, spot cleaning can often be done weekly. If bedding stays too wet or dirty, mold and bacteria can grow and cause health issues for your snake, so be sure to keep things tidy.
Can you mix different types of bedding?
“You can mix different types of bedding as long as they are both safe for snakes," Dr. Bystrom told The Spruce Pets. For example, bedding that helps hold in moisture can be reserved for one part of a terrarium, while bedding more suitable for burrowing can be used elsewhere. You can even try custom mixes to achieve the best combination of strengths for your snake's habitat.
Can you use potting soil for snake bedding?
Potting soil can contain fertilizer and other chemicals designed to help plants grow, which makes it an inappropriate medium for snake bedding. Soil collected from outside may not have artificial fillers, but it's nevertheless a poor substrate that's most likely to just turn into mud.
Can you use mulch for snake bedding?
Dr. Bystrom says yes, “You can use mulch for snake bedding, and it’s great if your snake requires a lot of humidity.” Just be sure that the mulch you choose doesn’t contain fertilizers, pesticides, or insects. Mulch designed for outdoor flower beds should not be used as bedding for your snake. As with other bedding made from natural materials, be sure to freeze mulch before using it in your snake's enclosure.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
Adrienne Kruzer is a Registered and Licensed Veterinary Technician in three states and has been writing on pet and vet topics for over a decade. She is also Fear Free Certified, has a special interest in exotic and pocket pets, pet nutrition, and loves researching, learning, and problem-solving in order to better help pet owners. Her years of working in various animal hospitals with dogs, cats, wildlife, and exotic pets like snakes, alongside her formal college education and elective continuing education classes, have provided her with a wealth of experience and knowledge to help snake owners select the best bedding for their pets.
Dr. Beth Bystrom is a veterinarian at Sea Island Animal Hospital in Beaufort, SC. She enjoys treating dogs, cats, and exotic pets, including snakes, and also earned her certificate for small animal abdominal ultrasound and echocardiology to continue her education. She has a passion for all things scaly, feathery, and furry and loves helping pet owners care for their pets.