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While some snakes, like green tree pythons, enjoy elevation, most spend the majority of their time on the ground. Your snake won't be comfortable with just the unadorned glass or plastic that make up most snake enclosures, and so will need a bedding where they'll spend most of their time.
Bedding serves a variety of purposes, with different options providing their own strengths and weaknesses. When selecting a 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.
A go-to bedding option for many snake owners is paper towels or newspapers, which are 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.
Finding the right alternative bedding can depend on your snake's preferences and how you maintain their enclosure, but there are some varieties and brands that are more likely to work well for your snake.
Here are our favorites—the best bedding options for your pet snake in a wide variety of circumstances.
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. Plus, since it’s also 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. Some snake owners complain of mold growth if the bedding stays too wet, but regular cleaning should make mold easily avoidable.
Best Bark: Zoo Med Premium Repti Bark Natural Reptile Bedding
Can be washed and reused
More expensive than some other bedding options
No color options
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 and can be rinsed and reused. It may cost a little more up front but it will last longer since it doesn’t have to be thrown away as soon as it's dirty. 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 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: Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate
Loose or brick options are available
Can be used wet or dry to obtain specific humidity levels
Needs to be soaked and dried or broken apart prior to use
No color options
Not good at holding heat
Zoo Med is a high quality reptile product company so you can’t go wrong with their compressed coconut fiber substrate. These bricks expand to fill about a 10 gallon tank and since they come in packs of three or twelve, you’ll have plenty of bedding for your snake. 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, the coconut fiber can be added to your compost, rather than a landfill.
To use compressed reptile substrate, soak it in water first, which will help it break apart. Then dry or wring it ot before using in your snake enclosure.
Best Sand: Zoo Med Reptisand
Great for snakes from dry climates
Good for burrowing
Not for snakes that need higher humidity levels
Does not absorb odors
If you have a desert dwelling snake like a hognose or sand boa then sand is your best option for bedding. Zoo Med's Reptisand provides great burrowing opportunities, but with enough weight that it's nearly dust-free and isn't too easily spread around. Reptisand also doesn't contain any articial dyes that could rub off on your snake. Plus, it's easy to spot clean with a sand scooper.
While more expensive than other substrates, sand also tends to last longer since it stays dry and is less likely to grow mold. This means you likely won't have to change a sand bedding as often.
It’s hard to go wrong with any Zoo Med product but their Aspen shavings (view at Chewy) are a favorite among snake owners. They are 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 Zoo Med’s Eco Earth compressed coconut fiber (view at Chewy). This reusable bedding is great for maintaining a high humidity while still being a natural and affordable substrate for your snake to burrow in.
What to Look for in Snake Bedding
Before you purchase bedding, there are a few things you should consider. 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. If you choose not to provide a natural substrate though, newspaper or paper towels are safe and easy to clean. 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.
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, a bedding that helps hold in moisture can be reserved for one part of a terrarium, while a 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 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.