Bedding for Snakes
There is no single ideal substrate or bedding for snakes as different snake species are adapted to different types of climate and ground conditions. When you are selecting a substrate or bedding for snakes you need to find out as much as you can about the particular species you own, taking specialist advice if necessary. The main thing is to find out as much as you can about their natural habitat, and then try to provide an environment which is similar. The most important features to mimic are the level of dryness or moisture which should be present, and the granularity of the substrate.
Here we look at a range of options often used as bedding for snakes and examine the suitability of each one. We also note how using SmartBedz can help to provide a suitable substrate for many types of snake, as well as making life easier for owners.
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Types of Bedding for Snakes
Sand is widely used a snake substrate as it is cheap and also looks attractive. However it is not a suitable substrate for snakes unless the species is a native sand dweller.
Sand is hard for snakes to digest if they eat it and can cause compaction. It causes additional problems for many species as it can get caught under scales and cause irritation or infection.
Apart from the health issues, it is not absorbent and needs to be changed very frequently. This is tedious for the owner and disruptive to the snake.
Astro-turf (an artificial grass mat) or carpet is used by many owners. It avoids the health problems of sand and is a lot easier to keep clean. Astro-turf or carpet mats can be machine washed, depending on size, and having two or three mats allows rotation and cleaning. However, astro-turf is plastic and has no absorbency or odour control properties whatsoever.
Cypress mulch can be a good substrate for snakes that need a more humid environment and it certainly makes an attractive display. The main problem with it is the difficulty of maintaining hygiene. It can harbour mite infestations which is hard to control except by a complete replacement. And being dark and moist, spotting solids is difficult and seeing wet areas is impossible. This makes any type of selective spot cleaning virtually impossible. If bought from a garden centre, cypress mulch may need baking in the oven before use to ensure it is sterile and free from bugs.
Newspaper and paper towels are a good choice in many ways, assuming no toxic inks are involved. In their favour they are reasonably absorbent and it is easy to see when your snake has been to the toilet making it feasible to carry out selective cleaning. On the downside, an enclosure filled with newspaper is not the most visually attractive option. It is also not suitable for any snake species which likes burrowing as they will quickly find themselves on the smooth glass or plastic surface of the enclosure.
Aspen bedding is attractive to look at and is especially good for small species which like to burrow. It can be a problem for larger snakes, however, as the shavings can get in between belly scales and cause irritation.
SmartBedz avoids many of the problems listed here and makes a good substrate for larger snakes. It also has many of the positive qualities mentioned above, especially absorbency, excellent odour suppression and ease of spot cleaning. It is also visually attractive in a similar way to the mulch or shavings options. However, its precise usage does depend on the species so we describe this in more detail below.
Using SmartBedz as a Snake Substrate
The best way to use SmartBedz as a snake substrate will depend on the species of snake and especially how dry or humid their overall environment needs to be.
For snakes who like a dry environment, SmartBedz makes a great choice of bedding. It is chemical and dust free so will not irritate delicate noses and eyes, and is heat treated in manufacture to ensure it does not carry any bacteria, mould or bugs. Simply place a good layer throughout the snake’s enclosure. Use thicker layers if it is a burrowing snake. If you are using a heat mat for heating, do not use too thick a layer of SmartBedz as straw is a natural insulator and may cause the mat to overheat. Remove solids as soon as they are seen and scoop out wet areas (indicated by swollen pellets) regularly. Although SmartBedz comes in dry pellet form, it breaks down easily when moist and should therefore not create any compaction problems if eaten.
SmartBedz is not recommended as a primary substrate for snakes that need a high humidity environment, as the SmartBedz pellets will absorb moisture from the air and may be over drying to the snake’s skin.
However it may be useful as a bottom layer, underneath a moist substrate such as mulch. This will help to absorb excess moisture and liquids filtering through the mulch layer and will greatly help with odour suppression. Using SmartBedz in this way lengthens the life of the mulch and should help reduce cleaning frequency.
Although the SmartBedz layer will absorb moisture from the moist layer over time, this can be replenished by spraying water over the top to keep it damp. This is usually necessary in any case as the heat lamp will cause evaporation.
If you have been using newspaper and paper towels up till now (a favourite choice of many owners) but would like to improve either absorbency or odour control, you may like to consider using a layer of SmartBedz as a base layer and then adding a layer of your usual paper product. The paper can still be easily removed when wet, along with any swollen SmartBedz pellets. This may provide a solution for owners who are happy with paper but want to provide their burrowing snakes with something to dig into.
Regardless of usage, the whole enclosure will need to be completely changed when it starts to smell.
When it is removed from the snake enclosure, soiled or wet SmartBedz can be easily disposed of as it is fully biodegradable. Place it directly on the garden or add it to compost heaps. Small quantities produced by spot cleaning can be flushed.
Some snakes can live for 20 years or more so it is important to weigh up the commitment before deciding to get a pet snake. Only one snake should be kept in any particular enclosure as they are solitary and cannibalistic. Snakes are cold blooded and found mainly in the tropics and temperate regions. Snakes may be kept in an aquarium with a secure lid (and ventilation holes) and it is advisable to provide at least 3 to 4 square foot of floor space per foot of length of snake. The floor of the aquarium should be covered with a suitable substrate such as SmartBedz or other material depending on species.
Snakes require an external heat source to keep warm enough to operate and to regulate their temperature. A heat lamp should be placed towards one end of the enclosure in order to create a heat gradient within the space - the snake can then move closer or further from the lamp as it wishes. In addition, it is good to provide hiding spots in different parts of the cage where the snake can curl up and hide. At a minimum, there should be at least one on the warm side and one on the cool side of the aquarium. It is important to control both the temperature and humidity in the aquarium so sensors and controls must be fitted and monitored regularly. The desired temperature and humidity will depend on the particular species of snake.
Sleeping, Nesting and Hibernation
Snakes can be either nocturnal or diurnal depending upon the particular species. You can’t tell if a snake is asleep as they have no eyelids so appear to sleep with their eyes open. Instead of an eyelid the snake has a transparent covering that acts in the same way.
Some species of snake naturally hibernate when the weather gets cool in the winter. This is because in the wild the winter climate of their natural habitat is often too cold for the snakes to operate. To let your snake hibernate you will need to keep its enclosure in a cool dark room and monitor the humidity and temperature as well as providing clean water as necessary. Although it is not necessarily essential to allow your snake to hibernate - but it is necessary if you are going to attempt to breed.
Food and Drink
All snakes will need a large dish of water for drinking and soaking. Since snakes will climb into and over water bowls it should be something which is fairly heavy to avoid tipping and fairly large to allow the snake to dip itself in. A large ceramic dog bowl would be ideal as it is heavy enough not to tip over too easily.
Bedding for Snakes click here to buy our universal bedding litter from our online shop